Tuesday, March 31, 2009

If You Are Going To Be That Way

We've had some remodeling done in our office. It's meant extra work for the facilities people. When the first round was done, we thought about doing something for them. It fell right with the holidays, so that noble idea got squeezed out.

Today they started doing a bit more. It's a short bit and they will finish tomorrow. A coworker and I decided late in the afternoon to revisit that idea. We looked at the department phone list and discovered that there are between 30-40 of them. We opted to go simple and surprise them tomorrow with brownies for the whole department since they serve us all year round.

As we were talking, she said that she could do brownies but not cookies. I was astounded to find out that she had only ever tried to make them once. She said that she had burned them and then, "If they are going to be that way . . . ."

I laughed. "So, the cookies burned themselves?"

She laughed too. But it got me thinking. How often do we write something off as someone else's issue and then abandon them altogether if they are going to be that way. A couple things seem perilous to me here.

  • There is a lack of owning up to our own stuff.
  • We abandon people (if it is their stuff or not) with a shrug and placing it all on them, "If they are going to be that way." Realistically, some of it may be their stuff, but in a throw away society, we are often to quick to even throw away people.
No, she wasn't serious. It was an off the cuff remark. But it did get me thinking. Where do I say, "If they are going to be that way . . ." and fail to take responsibility for my part or, at the very least, my part in my response to the interaction?

Somehow, I don't think Jesus ever got miffed and said, "If they are going to be that way." What if we stopped saying or thinking it? Would it transform our relationships?


Sunday, March 29, 2009

Cool Runnings

I'm horrible with movie trivia, but do remember a family friendly film put out years ago called Cool Runnings? It was about the first Jamaican bobsled team that went to the winter Olympics in Canada. They trained in the heat of Jamaica going down grassy hills. (It was funny and worth watching or sharing with your kids if they haven't seen it.)

Of course the appeal was partly the team doing a winter sport in a country that was so obviously hot. It was a paradox.

I feel a bit like I'm living a paradox with the running thing. I've always thought that I could never be a runner and I would really never be a runner in the cold. Even though it is technically spring, the weather in Illinois is cold. It was in the thirties yesterday and there was actually a very wet snow on the ground this morning.

But with an odd determination (perhaps like that of the first Jamaican bobsled team), three of us in the Tiger (transitional or really slow group) Catch the Wave running program ventured out into the weather yesterday. We bundled up and were warm after our five minute walk warm up and first interval of running 2 1/2 minutes and walking 1 1/2 minutes.

A necessity break took us into a downtown Normal establishment. Honestly, it felt like a sauna to us. My face was beat red and I was dripping sweat when I told Chris and Katie I was waiting outside.

To add to the scene, imagine huge drops of rain that pelted us as we headed back north on the trail.

After braving the cold and even the rain, we decided that maybe we really are runners. Only runners are crazy enough to go out in the elements, right?

We did a 3.15 mile trek. We estimated a 14-15 minute mile. Slow in the world of runners, but it made us feel like we accomplished something.

Wed. night when our group meets again for Catch the Wave, we are suppose to run 3 minutes and walk 1 minutes. It sounds challenging, but I think we were all feeling more confident after yesterday. I do need to get another run in sometime tomorrow....

Is there anything you ever thought you would never seriously attempt that you are working on or praying about working on?


Thursday, March 26, 2009

The Sanctuary of the Word

I do not remember a time before words. Perhaps no one does. It is words that help us construct our reality. Why else would Eskimos have 32 words for snow when I can only think of 4 related terms: snow, flurries, blizzard, freezing rain. (All of which, by the way, make my blood turn cold just typing them. I'm a hotter-the-better kind of gal and will use my down comforter into May.) Words tell us what is important. Words help us make meaning.

Words (written, not spoken) and stories were my solace growing up. My family was on the extreme end of the dysfunctional continuum. I learned to be seen and not heard. It was infinitely safer that way -- physically, emotionally. But the words poured out of me on every scrap of paper. At night, when things were scariest, I put myself to sleep by making up stories.

At 10 I got my favorite Christmas present -- a little blue typewriter. Christmas day I pecked out my version of the Christmas story on it. Then my sister and I began to write and write and write. The stories were always the same at heart: children who banded together to form families when their own were dangerous or torn away, children who overcame odds, children who ultimately found safety.

In high school we got a computer with the REAL floppy disks. Together my sister and I constructed our own world. She would write a section. I would respond by writing a section. We wrote three single spaced works each totaling about 300 printed pages. We couldn't talk about all that was going on in "real time." We could "talk" about it in these strange narratives.

So, words have always been part of my life. They have been a sanctuary of sorts -- a place to find safety. As I've gone along, I've continued to write. And then to speak. And over the last two years to blog. As I've opened myself up, things have blossomed and I've discovered that my writing is not just for me but that it is also a sanctuary for others.

And I am reminded of the power of the Word: to create, to heal, to give life.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. (John 1:1-3)

What I've learned about the Word from P31 has refreshed my soul and healed me in deep places. As I've continued to relate to them through reading blogs and such, they have even influenced me to start to run. (The operative word is start.) She Speaks, P31, is a place of safety where God can whisper your name and that you are deeply loved. Yes, the information is wonderful and helpful, but it is so much more than that.

I have gone to She Speaks twice now: once as a writer and once as a speaker. I feel somewhat selfish posting for a scholarship. (Click here for Scholarship contest info).I had planned on funding my way and worked the last year to try to do that. A car repair, miscellaneous mishaps, and finally an unrepairable broken refrigerator have put funding it all myself out of reach. I am living without a cushion.

I had hoped to go and go early. I talked to LeAnn Rice about coming in early and helping out. She warned me that none of it would be glamorous work -- more moving things, fixing tables, unpacking books -- scutt work. But I didn't care about that. I wanted to give something back since I've gotten so much my attending.

If you can go to She Speaks -- go. Don't hesitate. There is an abundance of blessings awaiting you there. If I go or not, I will be praying. If you read this and are going, please leave a prayer request below. I will print it out and pray for you as you prepare to go or, if you are a P31 person, as you serve.

If you just want to know about my experience at She Speaks there are three posts you can click on: one (She Speaks, God Delights), two (I Hope You Dance), and three (The Whimsical Side of She Speaks).


Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Catch the Wave Run Fun?

Okay, so a couple weeks ago I joined the Lake Run Club in Bloomington-Normal, IL. They have a beginners class called "Catch the Wave." I joined 2 weeks late and quickly discovered that I was in group 10 (the slow group.) Last week, they added a "transitional group" for those of us who were unable to run for 6 minutes straight. Of course, by last week, everyone was up to running 8 minutes walking for a few and running 8 . . . .

I felt a bit let down to drop into the transitional group. Last week we walked 2 minutes and ran 2 minutes. I managed to stay towards the front of the group.

Tonight I can actually said I had fun while running. Yes, I know this is hard to believe. But I was able to run the two minutes and only do one minute of walking. Amazingly, I could do it and hold a conversation. All tallied up, I ran about 20 minutes and between warm up and the walk intervals, exercised an additional 20. Total exercise for the day was 40 minutes.

But the amazing part is that I actually enjoyed it. Three of us are getting together Saturday for a "run."

Add to that, I've been working out at Curves. They have a machine that measures body fat. While I won't tell you my weight or what my total body fat count is, I will say that when they measured it yesterday it had gone down by three pounds of fat.

And at work, my office is participating in a county wide health challenge. It lasts 8 weeks. We participate as a team and get points for various activities (exercise, eating fruits/vegetables, reading something about health, drinking water.) Monday I managed to earn 45 points. Tuesday I earned 42 points. Today, earned 52 points. It's actually kind of fun to do as a group.

I just never imagined thinking of a run (/walk)as fun.


Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Supporting a Future Farmer in Rwanda

I was so excited yesterday to see the Compassion envelope in my mailbox marked "A Letter From Your Sponsored Child." It was the first thing I opened. To my great surprise, it also contained two pictures. The first one was of Kayirnagwa and a sheep. Her birthday was in January, so I had sent money for a birthday gift. Last year, the money was used to buy a hen so they could have eggs. This year they managed to buy a sheep to breed! I think I am supporting a future Rwandan Farmer! It is fun to know that they gifts will be put to such good use.

Kay wrote that she had a good Christmas. The Christmas money was used for bread and meat for her family. She wrote that the dress she is wearing in the picture above is the one that she wore for her church Christmas program. I am so encouraged that she is going to church.

The second picutre is of her family. This was real treat! I've asked questions about her family, but I don't usually get concrete answers. It looks like there are 4 children in her family, with Kay being the eldest. Aren't they adorable?

At the end of the letter, she wrote that her whole family loves me and prays for me. Who is getting the bigger gift -- her or me?


Wednesday, March 18, 2009


Realistic expectations are not really my strong suit. I am a perfectionist and I expect myself to do things -- if not perfect -- reasonably well the first time. Last Wed. I attended my first "Catch the Wave." I was trying to run a bit on my own, but it is a hard thing to start and everyone else had a two week jump on me. I was in the slow group -- 10. At first, I stayed towards the front of it, but I was struggling and dropped to the middle.

This week they decided to offer an additional group. It's a transitional group for those of us who cannot run 6-8 minutes without stopping. Tonight, we did 2 minute runs and 2 minute walks. The goal they've adjusted for us is to be able to run 5 and walk 2 by the time May 2 and the 5 K rolls around.

They've named us the Tiger group. I was a bit bummed that this is where I sorted out best, but at least I'm running. I'm thankful they didn't call us turtles. While I doubt I could out run a tiger, I'm pretty sure I could out run a turtle.

And then there is that old story of the tortise and the hare. The race is not always to the swift but to those who keep running (moving), right?


Monday, March 16, 2009

Scrappy Gifts

My paternal grandparents lived on a farm. Of course, barn cats (half wild) come with the territory. My grandmother routinely put out a mix of cat food and table scraps for them. Periodically, a cat would leave her the gift of a dead bird or dead mouse. If you can move past the "Oh, yuck!" reaction, you might see the heart of the gift. I'm not trying to over humanize these four legged creatures, but there is something about giving what comes from the heart, something we value.

Think of it another way. Sometimes children give us gifts of things that don't have much worldly value: dandelions, crayon streaked coloring pages, a sticker, rocks they collected, . . . . By the worlds standards they don't hold much value. But, by the heart's standards they can mean the world.

I've gone threw a bit of a phase of feeling like I don't have much to offer. I've felt myself thinking that I only have scraps to give. I want to offer God things that are so much bigger and better. The problem with that is that anything I give is like a scrap. Accept that like the bird or the gift from a child, it comes from the heart.

That is really what God wants -- my heart. He wants it even if it is a bit scrappy and worn. He wants it because even if it doesn't mean much to the world at large, it is of infinite value to Him. In that way, no heart felt gift to God is scrappy.


Sunday, March 15, 2009

Just an Observation

I worked today at Barnes and Noble doing customer service. A little boy about 5 or 6 came up to the desk and asked us to page his mom since he couldn't find her. (Unfortunately, this is a common thing. People think the store is safe since it is a bookstore and let their children browse in totally different sections of the store. Don't get me started on this....) While we were waiting for his mom to show up, David and I engaged him in a conversation.

"What do you want to be when you grow up? President?"


"I know -- a baseball player."

He shook his head.

"Let me think. Hmm. I'm thinking you want to be a Jedi Master."

Big eyes. "Yeah!" He pretended to hold a light saber.

"How do you think I knew that? Think I'm psychic?"


"Nope." I winked at him. "I read your shirt. It's got Star Wars all over it."

I tend to have difficulty with small talk -- unless it is with small children. But the interaction today got me thinking. Maybe the key is observation. Even adults give us clues as to what they are interested in. So, maybe tomorrow will be an observation day.


Saturday, March 14, 2009

The 411 About Supporting a Child

I had the privilege today of helping out at a Compassion booth at a Christian Women's Conference (Hearts at Home) that is sponsored here in Normal, IL, MN, and MI. I know a lot about Hearts at Home as the founder is a friend of mine. Still, not being a mom, I've veered away from helping out at the conference (don't want my I-wanna-be-a-mom jealousy meter to raise too high) and instead helped out with a couple of Jill's kids. But, they are out growing me.

Last week, Compassion contacted me and asked about helping out at their booth. I love what Compassion does and even though it risked tweaking that meter, I decided to do it. I am so glad that I did. We were busy the entire time. And I got to work with Lisa Martin from Compassion and learned a lot about how to answer the questions.

Here are some of the common questions we got and the answers:
How does this work?

  • For $32 a month you sponsor a child. It is a 1 to 1 relationship. No one else will be sponsoring your child. This allows you to build a relationship with the child. (I got to insert bits about the children I am sponsoring.)
Do the children really write you?
  • Absolutely. They have to write at least 3 times a year. However, they can write more than that if they want. I had taken along a couple letters that my kids had written to share.
What do you write about and can you send gifts?
  • Write about whatever is on your heart. When you do, you will find that your children's letters reflect their concern for you and that they are praying for you. Coming from such family oriented cultures, my children struggle to understand how I can be single and live by myself. They've offered up advice like joining the church choir. When a friend moved, one wrote that she wanted to come to me so I wouldn't be lonely.
  • If you have kids, write about them. I write about kids I know.
  • You can't send packages because of the cost involved and the fact that things might not make it through Customs in other countries.
  • You CAN send small, fun, flat things: pictures (They treasure these), coloring pages, pieces of bright colored paper, stickers. Think "Flat Stanley."
  • A couple times year you CAN send extra money for gifts for birthdays or the family or Christmas. The Christmas money gets pooled so that all the kids get things. On the birthday or family gifts, Compassion workers in that country find out what the child/family needs and they go from there.
How much of the money goes to the child?
  • 80 cents of every dollar is used to directly benefit the children. The other 20 cents is overhead. Compassion is a very fiscally well run organization. The money is used for education, food, spiritual development, etc.
What about if there are other children at home?
  • Typically, only one child (depending on the family needs) is involved in the program. But Compassion understands that in these countries, sharing is a strong family value. Children take home what they learn. They teach their siblings letters by writing in the dirt. They can tell their parents that the reason they get sick so often is that the water isn't boiled. The children become advocates.
  • The children at the center have their nutritional needs addressed. This means there is more to go around at home.
  • By only having one child in the program, Compassion can influence more families. If there were 5 families with 5 children each with each child enrolled in the program, that would be 25 children impacting 5 families. Compassion thinks bigger than this. By taking 25 children each from different families, they impact 25 families and a bigger segment of the community at large.
Is Compassion a Christian organization?
  • DEFINITELY. The program is run in conjunction with a local church. Families are encouraged to go to church but it isn't a requirement. Even if they don't go to church, the children are taught scripture during the day. Again, this is carried back to the families.
How do you pick a child?
  • If you are at an event, you can pick up a packet with the child's info and everything you need to get started. But how do you decide? For some people it is a country they are interested in or one they think they might visit. For others, it is wanting a child close to their own child's age.
  • You can go online (see the link in the sidebar) and search for a child that way.
  • Compassion can also pick a child for you.
  • There are priority children. These children have been waiting 6 months or more for a sponsor. Think how much it would mean to sponsor one of these children.
What do the communities think about Compassion?
  • Lisa shared with me how much the communites appreciate Compassion. Compassion typically tries to buy food and supplies locally. As a result, they are investing in the local economy.
Do the letters from sponsors matter?
  • YES!!! It is a tangible way that a child feels loved by the sponsor. If you support a child, please write!
  • It is also possible to go on Compassion sponsored trips and meet your child. I'm praying about that.
Why do I sponsor my two children? Because Jesus calls us to be people of compassion. Compassion is not just being moved by suffering but being moved enough to want to do something about that suffering. After working the booth today, I have a greater realization of the impact that my sponsorship has not just on my child but on the families and the community. It's a ripple effect.


She Speaks

I've made the very hard decision not to go to She Speaks this year. I was already registered and everything. The issue is financial. I've already been feeling financial stress and yesterday woke to a broken fridge. That needs to be replaced.

I am grieving not going. The content is great and I've learned things the last two times I've gone, I am more disappointed about not seeing the friends I've made. I do so wish I lived closer to people. I was even planning on going a day or two early and helping. LeAnn had told me it would all be grunt work (setting up tables and such) but I loved the idea of going and giving something back to P31.

I'm sure God has other things in store for me this summer, but I am disappointed.

However, I will keep the She Speaks counter going as a reminder for me to pray.


Catch the Wave

A couple of years ago, I asked a friend to teach me how to run. She was an avid runner and she readily agreed. We worked on it for a couple months but I made slow progress. She ended up moving suddenly and all of my motivation went out the window.

In my town there is the Lake Run club. They have a class/training program for new runners called Catch the Wave. I recently decided to join that even though I was joining late by 2 weeks. Last Wed I ran with the group for the first time in 27 degree weather. (Yuck!) I was in the slowest group but in the middle of that group. The slow group was a long snake. It was fun to run with a group of people.

So, I am working my way to running a 4 something miles in May. Please ask me how I'm doing at it! I need the encouragement.

What can I encourage you on?


Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Give Me Your Eyes -- A Compassion International Post

I am one of those pesky adults that likes to ask children questions. It can be the kids at church or a niece or nephew or one of the ones that come into the bookstore.

  • What did you do at school today?
  • What is your favorite color?
  • What is your favorite book?
  • Do you like puppies?
Not so often, but sometimes I ask (especially if there is a chocolate milk mustache), "What did you have for dinner?"

I've recently fallen in love with Brandon Heath's song "Give Me Your Eyes." Here is the chorus:

Give me your eyes for just one second
Give me your eyes so I can see
Everything that I keep missing
Give me your love for humanity
Give me your arms for the brokenhearted
Ones that are far beyond my reach
Give me your heart for the ones forgotten
Give me your yes so I can see

As I've listened to that song today, I've found myself imagining asking, "What did you eat today?" to children around the world. God has had me imagining wide eyes and distended tummies as His children look, crestfallen at the ground and shrug thin shoulders.

Compassion has a lot of information on children in poverty.
Here are some of the sobering statistics:

  • Over 600 million children in developing countries live on less than one US dollar a day.
  • 9 million children under the age of 5 die every year with malnutrition the cause of one third of these deaths.
  • 1 in 5 children does not have access to safe water
My sponsored children are involved in Compassion International (obviously) so they had at least one meal today. But so many others didn't. (And one meal? Is that enough?) As I write I have a full stomach. Here is what I ate today:
  • Breakfast: 2 Waffles, OJ
  • Snack: Juice, peanuts
  • Lunch: Peanut Butter Sandwich and fresh fruit
  • Dinner: 2 KFC Snackers and a pop
  • Safe water available at all times
By US standards, it wasn't a huge amount of food. By developing nations standards, by imagining big eyed children with rumbling tummies and parents that ache to feed them, it seems almost obscene.

Given the delay in posts being delivered, by the time you read this, it will be tomorrow. It's just one day, but for tomorrow I will fast and pray for all those children and pray that God shows me better how to reach the ones that He sees.

"Give me your eyes" could be a dangerous prayer. I wonder what would happen if I prayed that every day.


Friday, March 6, 2009

Let Peace Begin With Me

Memory is a strange thing. I can forget what I had for lunch two days ago but other strange bits of information from my childhood lodge in my brain just waiting for an event or for something someone says to dislodge them. For example, there is the Purple Cow poem I had to memorize when I was in the second grade. (I won't bore you with that rendition here.) More to the point, events over the last few months have dislodged the chorus to a song I learned for a recital in the sixth grade: Let There Be Peace on Earth.

I'm posting today at the Internet Cafe. Click here to finish reading this post.


Tuesday, March 3, 2009

The Greatest Disease in the West

The other night I went to my small group from church. It turned out to be an extra small group. There were two of us plus the two leaders. Usually there are about 8 or so. At any rate, it gave us some time to chat that might not have otherwise been there.

We ended up talking about friends in a round about way. Being single, I spend the majority of my time alone. Okay, I am with others at work, but it isn't a friendship. Most people there wouldn't know much about my personal life. There isn't really much time or space to share there. And then there is what people would think of as appropriate or inappropriate things to share in a work environment.

I have this deep need to connect with people. But I seem to struggle with making the deep friendships. I'm not sure why that is. My counselor would say that I never saw it modeled. That is true. Ever fiber of me longs for the friend who knows me inside and out and has been there over the long haul. It also longs to know someone else that way.

I came across this quote from Mother Teresa:

The greatest disease in the West today is not TB or leprosy; it is being unwanted, unloved, and uncared for. We can cure physical diseases with medicine, but the only cure for loneliness, despair, and hopelessness is love.

Have you ever thought of loneliness as a disease? I think she is right. It's not a disease of the body, but it is a disease of the heart and soul. You can't catch it the same way you can a cold. But some of the same things that help someone ill feel better can help the lonely: being physically cared for (hugs), prayed for, shown care in tangible ways.

If a doctor prescribes an antibiotic, I can pick it up, take it, and get better on my own. But no one recovers from loneliness on their own. The heart of it is that we need each other more than just an occasional email or a text announcing (though I haven't seen you in eons) that you are one of my 10 or more BFFs. It requires being there for others in a solid way rather than the semi solid way our culture is breeding.

So, how do you make friends? What are your tips?

Do you think we have any cause for concern that the internet and such is building a false sense of intimacy? Yes, we can text at the speed of light, but does that preclude anyone really knowing us?


Monday, March 2, 2009

If We Really Saw Each Other

Okay, so we've had a new president for just over a month now. I cannot profess to be a whiz at all the political stuff and as I said in my last post, I usually just catch snippets hear and there. Tonight there were three:

  1. Hilary Clinton in her new role as Secretary of State has pledged some astronomically large amount of US money to rebuild Gaza. My question is, given the deficit and two war fronts and bank bailouts, where are we going to come up with that money? I suppose the key is "we" since it will probably come from taxes and such. I honestly don't get it. At the same time, I don't know that the US should follow an isolationistic policy like we did before WWII. (I remember that from high school history.) It seems there needs to be a balance....
  2. California is talking about going bankrupt. The news said that the way California goes, so goes the rest of the nation. Not good. There was a job fair at the stadium (Sorry baseball fans, I cannot remember the name) for 500 jobs. 4,500 hopeful people showed up -- engineers even applying for positions as ushers. Reminder: Be thankful for the jobs I have.
  3. Rush Limbaugh apparently said that he hoped that Obama's economic plan failed. If it fails, what will that mean for Rush? Probably not much economically. I think he is pretty well padded. What will it mean for the average American? I don't really want to think about that disaster.

The Rush thing bothered me. I never say who I voted for because for me it is never a black and white choice. So, it isn't that I'm "Hooray for Obama" or "Boo for Obama." I do think that he is our President and maybe that should entitle him a bit of respect.

Honestly, I get tired of the Democrat vs. Republican thing. Old, old stuff. I wish that somehow we could scrap everything and have our elected officials operate together instead of against each other. Seems like pushing in the same direction would get us further.

I also think Democrats and Republicans need to sit down and get to know each other -- not talking business but learning about each other. I bet the Democrat cares as much about his family as the Republican.

William Ury had this to say about humans and war:
We tend to think the problem is human beings have this natural tendency to kill, and yet in the middle of a hot war, WWII, a "good war," as it were, the US army was astonished to learn that at least three our of every four riflemen who were trained to kill and commanded to kill, could not bring themselves to pull the trigger when they could see the person they were ordered to kill and that inner resistance to violence is a well kept secret.

Maybe seeing each other would cure a lot of things: politics, school bullying, family feuds, genocide, . . . .

Who do you need to see?