Sunday, November 30, 2008

1st Snow

This is what I woke up to. I suppose if I paid any attention to the weather on the news I would have known it was coming.

While it is very pretty, snow always makes me feel melancholy and antsy. I hate the thought of being snowed in. I think it is probably that I am snowed in with just myself and the cats.

Though, so far it doesn't look too bad out. The main road looks pretty clear and I've cleared my drive way. I think I'm going to dash to the store for a bit. And then I have to be at B&N at 2:00. Hopefully, the weather won't get worse before then.

I did use the opportunity to take a picture of the tree. I've just placed an email photo order at Walgreens for a pictures of trees in the summer, trees in the fall, and this one of a tree in winter. I am going to send them to my Compassion International children.

Hope you are having a great Sunday.



I'm taking a poll about my blog. If you have a moment, will give me some feedback. It is at the top of the sidebar to the right.



40 to 40 (Gratitude 25)

I am grateful for the gift of writing. It has always been part of who I am. I remember learning to read as a child and then trying to make up stories and write them out as young as the first grade. My sister and I took the last page of Bambi where Bambi's mate gives birth to twin fawns and made a story around them. We painstakingly traced pictures of the fawns to use to illustrate our book.

When I was in the fourth grade, we got a little blue typewriter for Christmas. We hunted and pecked out stories on that typewriter. And then in high school we got a computer. It was one that had those "real floppy disks." We wrote and wrote on that.

My mom use to get frustrated with how much time we spent on the computer. She didn't need to be. We weren't playing games, we were writing. My sister would write a section and then I would write one and on and on it went. We wrote 3 single spaced novels between 200 and 300 pages each.

In a family that didn't express themselves much, writing was my way of processing feelings. It became the primary way I made sense of the world.

I am thankful for that outlet that it was and is.


Saturday, November 29, 2008

40 to 40 (Gratitude 24)

I am thankful for a good, safe holiday and the feeling that I have changed. I spent Thanksgiving in Indiana with my friends Jill and Mark's family. This meant a meal at Mark's sister's, a meal at Jill's sister's, and a visit to Mark's father's house. We spent the nights at Jill's parent's home.

Lots of times in these kinds of situations I get very shy and quiet. Occassionally, I probably did get quiet, but someone mentioned that I was "holding my own" in a couple of conversations with people I don't know well.

It was a good holiday.

I spoke with one of my sisters. I need to brag on my neices and nephews. My oldest neice is a freshman in high school. She has been saving money since last year and now has almost $1,000 towards a trip her senior year to France. My one nephew is extremely bright and has a great well, rounded personality. He was a joy to talk to. My other neice is in a Spanish immersion school. She is in the 1st grade and reading at a 5th-6th grade level in Spanish and 7th-8th grade level in English. (Since it is a Spanish immersion school, they don't even teach reading in English until the second grade.) They've had to start giving her third grade spelling words to challenge her. Actually, all of my sister's children are extremely bright, nice kids.


Friday, November 28, 2008

Change -- Hope Chronicles 80

I had the pleasure of spending Thanksgiving with Mark and Jill, their kids, and their extended families. I am thankful that they included me.

As we were driving back, I told Jill that it was coming up on a year since I started the Hope Chronicles. That was my goal -- to write for a year about different aspects of hope. Now my question is, do I keep on with them or do I change them to some other attribute like faith?

A couple weeks ago (Hope Chronicle 78) I shared a quote about how "hope tightens the heartstrings." I asked the question if any of you had seen a change in me. (Thanks for those who took the time to respond.) I also said that I would share, after hearing from you, what I thought.

I honestly think sharing and thinking about hope in a meaningful way has changed me. In A Bridge Called Hope, Kim Meeder writes:

In every honest, balanced, and meaningful way . . . hope stretches us to a new capacity . . . a previously unkown capacity to change.

I think that has been true for me. Writing about hope has stretched me. It has made me see hope in a different way. It has kept my thoughts focused on the positive instead of the negative.

Have there been bumps in the road? Yes. And I think that anytime we set our heart or mind to something like this, the enemy attacks. Satan hates hope. He hates the thought of it. He hates the hope we have.

Interestingly, this summer when I was feeling most hopeful, I feel like he attacked full force and brought me to my knees. For two weeks I had trouble writing/blogging about anything at all. He brought me to my knees. In some ways, that was a foolish thing to do, because on my knees in prayer was exactly where I needed to be. And I am thankful that God sent a supply of people to pray for me as well.

Hope has stretched me and changed me, but I have difficulty putting words to the change. It is a change of heart, a change of mind, a change of attitude.

It's interesting to write that after the beginning of last week. I was reminded of how much more change there is needed. Even my response to those words were not words of hope. I quickly threw up a wall of self-protection. The problem is that there is little hope alone behind a wall. But I am still feeling hurt and very vulnerable.

But after this year, I should know there is hope. There is hope to change because Jesus is all about changed lives. As impatient as we are with ourselves and others to change quickly, Jesus says, "I am here for the long haul." There is a world of hope in that.

Have I changed? Yes. Is there more to come? Yes.

But I wonder, should I continue on this adventure of hope or should my focus shift?

So, I'm setting up a poll. Please give me your feedback!


40 to 40 (Gratitude 23)

I am grateful for a good education. In my family, there was never a question if we were going to college. We just were and I never thought to question that. But then I am also a natural student.

My dad had a semester or two of college but never finished. My mom finished high school. But they both instilled a value in education in us.

My twin graduated a semester ahead of me due to some advanced placement testing. She earned the distinction of the first person on my mom's side to finish college. We both went to the University of Evansville in Evansville, IN. I got my MA at Bradley in Peoria, IL.

Interestingly, not only did all three of us kids go to undergrad, we all have master level degrees.

Though there was pressure to achieve in school, I am thankful for having that value of education and that I was able to go both to undergrad and grad school.


Thursday, November 27, 2008

40 to 40 (Gratitude 22)

I never imagined myself in a government job or doing much in retail. But that is what I am doing at the moment -- working with mortgages and deeds and books. (Well, the book part comes naturally.)

While I never imagined this employment scenario, I can say that in today's struggling economy I am blessed with not just one, but two jobs. And I enjoy the people I work with.

So, thank you, God for providing for me even if it isn't in a way I ever anticipated.


Wednesday, November 26, 2008

40 to 40 (Gratitude 21)

I'm a time person. I like spending time with significant people in my life. I guess some people would classify that as one of my love languages.

One of my favorite days was a couple Thanksgivings ago. I had made a major change in my life and I wanted some import on a decision which involved looking at various spaces. My friend Jill went with me as I was trying to make the final call. After looking at the spaces, we went to Culver's for lunch and then headed back to her house to do some prep for Thanksgiving the next day.

I don't remember anything significant about the conversation. I just remember truly enjoying the time spent with her.

I am grateful for friends who spend time on me.


Tuesday, November 25, 2008

40 to 40 (Gratitude 20)

I am grateful for some of the unique opportunities that God has given me. One was spending 8 weeks in Russia on one of InterVarsity's Global Projects. There were a handful of staff and 23 college students who went to teach English to Russian students and learn a little Russian as well.

Our bigger purpose was to be a witness of who Jesus was in our lives. We lived, ate, and studied with our Russian counterparts. In the off times, we planed fun events as well as Bible studies that the Russians students were free to come to or not.

Honestly, it was a very challenging time for me. I struggled to connect to my Russian roommate. She was all glitz and well, I'm pretty low maintenance in terms of make-up and all of that. She was pretty enough to be a model. We had nothing in common. Add to that culture shock and it was a rough couple of months. But it was also an eye opening month to things in the world and with in me.

St. Basil's Cathedral in Red Square, Moscow.

The most precious and heart rending time for me was the afternoon we spent at an orphanage. Some children are there because they have been given up for adoption. Others are there simply because their parents can't take care of them. This little guy stole my heart. He was one of three who trailed after me. I wanted to smuggle all three home with me.

The sad part is that we saw probably some of the healthier children there. But all of them looked younger than their stated age. They were hungry for touch and any kind of attention. The rule was that we were not allowed in the building. The orphanage had a facade to maintain by presenting us, for the most part, with their healthiest children.

But I look at this picture and just see sad eyes. The toy looks happier than he does. God broke my heart for orphans that day.


Monday, November 24, 2008

How Is The Gratitude Going?

Tomorrow, will be gratitude 20. That means I'm half-way through my 40 days of "Practice Gratitude" posts. If you'll remember the reason that I started them was because I will be turning 40 Dec. 15th. My life looks nothing at all like I thought it would look like. And sometimes I can get down and resentful about that. 40 just seems like a big marker because of not being married and not having kids and all of that.

It is getting a little harder to come up with things each day. I'm beginning to run out of the obvious and have to dig a bit deeper. But that isn't necessarily a bad thing.

Honestly, today stunk. I had a lunch meeting that did not go anything like I had planned. I'm praying, at the moment, for God to show me something from that meeting to be grateful for. Everything about it felt like rejection and a door getting slammed in my face with my head half-way through what I thought was an open door.

And then I read Rachel Olsen's post at the Proverbs 31 daily devotions. (Click here to read it.) It was on "Thank You Power." I'm putting some of it in here. The words in blue are Rachel's. But in the midst of a hard day and in the midst of my 40 days of gratitude, it seemed to affirm what I am doing:

The researchers found that grateful people report higher levels of positive emotions, more satisfaction with life, and more vitality and optimism . . . . They also found grateful people show lower levels of depression and stress.

What’s more, they found that people who keep journals about gratitude on a weekly basis are healthier. They exercise more regularly, report fewer physical symptoms, and feel better in general than people who journal about neutral or negative life events.

Finally, the research showed that people who daily count their blessings report higher levels of alertness, enthusiasm, determination, and energy. . . .

Christian poet John Milton once wrote about every grey cloud having a silver lining. Purposing to give thanks, no matter the weather, will train us to look for it. Continuing in this manner day after day ensures that gratefulness will become our normal mode of operation.

I did not know all that when I started this "Practice Gratitude" idea. I think I'll hop over to Rachel's and tell her what an encouragement knowing all of that is! I might say a big "THANKS" while I'm there.


40 to 40 (Gratitude 19)

I am grateful for all the time that I got to spend at InterVarsity's Cedar Campus. It is in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan right on Lake Huron. Once I tried to tally how many weeks of my life I spent up there as a student and staff. There was the one week my first year, 5 weeks including the Leadership camp the next year, three weeks on staff the following year, . . . . I think I easily topped a year over my life, in small chunks spent at this beautiful place.

Cedar Campus stands as a place of peace for me and also a place of spiritual growth. It was hear that I really learned to dig into scripture and have it come alive. It was here that I began to hear God speak in a new way in my life. It was hear that I heard the call to go on staff with InterVarsity for a time. It was here that I saw God use me to impact the lives of students. I am thankful for this place and hope to go back to visit sometime. Though, I know it won't be the same without all the old, familiar faces.


Sunday, November 23, 2008

40 to 40 (Gratitude 18)

When I was a senior in college, my sister and I started a small group with four freshmen women. The group blossomed to 20! I Whole heatedly believe that it was because we prayed.

When it was just the six of us, we prayed that more people would come and held each other accountable to inviting others. When people started coming, that core group of six started meeting at 7:00 AM one day a week to continue interceding for the group. It was an amazing time of fellowship and we were astounded at how God brought people to us and how bold He made some of us in inviting others to join us.

I am grateful that God hears our prayers and is moved by them. Not only that, I am grateful that the Holy Spirit sometimes prompts us to pray for others, helping us to join in God's plans.


Saturday, November 22, 2008

40 to 40 (Gratitude 17)

I am thankful for the internet and this strange new world of blogging that God has opened up before me. My friend Jill says I'm a natural blogger. I must confess that I do enjoy it; though, at times I wonder if becomes an obsession.

The thing about blogging for me is that it is a community. Perhaps that is what I am grateful for -- the blogging community. There are people that I leave comments or visit (sorry not always comments) on a regular basis. I love keeping up with me.

Then there are people who join me here. You all have been good for my self-esteem. Seriously, in many ways I think you have helped me find a voice as a writer. You have stretched my thinking and made me laugh. You have prayed and I have prayed for you. Blogging has taught me a lot.

And then there is the unexpected joy of traversing through blogland (that's what I call it) and discovering my blog listed on someone's site as a blog that would be good to visit. To my knowledge they have never left a comment, so we haven't been "introduced" in that way. But, to have it listed means it might just be that they are a frequent reader. That does a writer's soul good.

And there is the hope that I am challenging, encouraging, and helping others. So, I'm thankful for this bloggy family/community I have found myself in this past year.


Friday, November 21, 2008

God Sees You -- Hope Chronicles 79

For five years I met with a boy in the Residential Treatment Center here in town. We met once a week for 2-3 hours. He was fixated on gadgets. He wanted to put back together broken things even though he had no clue what he was doing. If it was electronic, he was convinced he could make it happen. Amazingly, he did manage a few things, but often he needed help of some kind. (Note: my help was worthless when it came to electronics.)

I introduced him to baking. At 8 he had never helped make cookies from scratch. The first time went well. The second time he insisted that he knew what he was doing while cracking the eggs. He didn't want me to remind him how. I let him try twice. Two smashed eggs later he reluctantly let me put my hands on his and gently tap the bowl and separate the shell. (Thankfully, I had the foresight to have him attempt to crack them in a bowl apart from the batter.)

Aren't we all a lot like him -- imagining we are wiser or stronger than we really are? Usually, it leads to a mess of some kind.

I was reading today and read Pslam 33. Here are verses 16-22 (NIV). The emphasis is mine.

No king is saved by the size of his army;
no warrior escapes by his great strength.
A horse is a vain hope for deliverance;
despite all it's great strength it cannot save.
But the eyes of the Lord are on those
who fear him, on those whose HOPE
is in his unfailing love,

to deliver from death and keep them alive in famine.
We wait in hope for the Lord;
he is our help and our sheild.
In him our hearts rejoice
for we trust in his holy name.
May your unfailing love rest upon us, O' Lord
even as we put our hope in you.

So many times we try in vain. We are a delusional people in some sense. We have never out grown the two-year-old saying "ME DO IT!" to something that they cannot possibly do. While most of us don't put our hope in horses, we do put our hope in our abilities, our gifts, our position, our education, . . . . All of these things are vain hopes.

But we can have hope because "the eyes of the Lord are on those who fear him." We can have hope because God sees us. He looks down from the heights of heaven and sees you. He looks down and sees me. Knowing this lets us rest in/hope in his unfailing love.

But it is a choice to rest because you know God sees you, because you know he is your shield and your help. It is sometimes an act of will to hope in the midst of the raw circumstances of life: injury, death, a flailing economy, loneliness, depression.

That act of will, that choice is something called trust. It's when you hand the "egg" to the Lord and let Him help you crack it. When you put your hope in His unfailing love, you can rest in the fact that His eyes never waver from you, you are never out of His mind or sight for even a millisecond.

Can you make the choice to trust that God sees YOU all the time, everywhere? Can you trust that He has your best interest at heart -- no matter what comes? That is what it means to hope. We cannot hope when we do not trust.


40 to 40 (Gratitude 16)

Today I was thinking about some of my old clients. A few were homeless. They may or may not get into a shelter at night. During the day, they were "kicked out" of the shelters to spend the day roaming the streets.

It's cold here now -- low thirties. I cannot imagine being homeless -- especially homeless in this weather.

So, I am thankful for my warm home, warm coat, warm pj's, all of it. Too often I take these things for granted. Today I am not doing that! I'm counting each one of my warm things as a blessing.


Thursday, November 20, 2008

40 to 40 (Gratitude 15)

I'm grateful for Julie. Julie is my counselor. Amazingly, she has worked with me for seven years now. I'm grateful for several things about her:

  • Her perseverance
  • Her desire to help even sometimes when I'm not sure what I want or need.
  • Her candidness with me
  • For letting me ask difficult questions
  • For encouraging me to talk about difficult things even when I'd rather not
  • For her genuineness
  • Her wisdom in knowing when to push and when to let something be for that session
  • Her kindness at all time
  • Her care

    Julie has been a real blessing in my life. I'm not sure where I'd be without her. I believe God had a hand in pairing us up.