Monday, December 22, 2008

Christmas Challenge

It's easy to be cavalier about money when you have it.

It's easy to give love when you are filled with it.

It's easy to help others when you have time.

It's easy to give generously when you're overflowing.

Easy stuff is, well, easy.

The challenge is to do something difficult. The challenge in life is to give, help, offer and love when you don't feel like it, when you're sure you can't do it, when you're positive it will zap you dry.

The widow who gave her few coins epitomizes our directive to give and trust whether or not we have some to spare.

I am going to challenge myself to follow her example.

Thursday, November 27, 2008


I'm thankful for...
my family
my friends
my community
the love I have from those around me
our home
my life
God's love
Hubby's meat cooking skills
my job
my coworkers
saving lives everyday
making a difference where I can
listening to audiobooks
listening to my kids play, laugh, ANYTHING they do
talking and laughing with Hubby and drinking coffee
eating, cooking, drinking, tasting, spending time in the kitchen with Hubby
baking with the kids
our health
our church
our Life Group
living in the USA
our skills and talents to share
my truck
the kids' school
playing Wii with the fam
Heroes, 24, football, Netflix
being able to be thankful

Happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

romans 12:2

So, Romans 12:2 came up again. It was in large print on two of the three screens at church today.

It says...Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

"Renewing of your mind" is the part that captivates me. Or, better put, God is laying out for me to chew on.

So, pastor uno was talking about the only real change happening when we change how we think, our paradigms, because that affects how we act and the results with which we end up. Our hearts dictate our mouths.

As John Eldredge puts it--in a good book I'm reading (Walking With God)--he found himself at a point in his twenties (or thirties?) where a 17 year old was giving him advice. He had to reexamine a belief about God he'd formed at 17. He need to reanalyze it as an adult. How many times do we do that? Come up with a philosophy at a point in our lives where we're ill prepared to make it, and yet then still have it dictate our lives?

I need to work on renewing my mind. There are concrete philosophies I hold as truth, yet I know I've come to those conclusions at times in my life when I wasn't on point. What beliefs do you hold true that were formed when you were less apt to make good decisions? Or, have you always been perfect?

Sunday, November 9, 2008

to succeed you must first fail

We watched "Meet the Robinsons" and one scene really stuck out. The main character, a boy inventor, tried to fix one of his inventions and failed. The group of people around him cheered, "You failed!" as if he'd won the pennant.

Their thinking: failure is a step toward success.

We can't be so afraid of failing that we don't try lest we fail. If we fail to fail we fail to learn, grow and finally, succeed.

How many times did Lance Armstrong finish last? How many intercepted passes did Brett Farve throw? How many goals did Wayne Gretzky miss? How many elections did Abraham Lincoln lose? We don't remember the failures, we remember the successes. But there is never success without failure.

One character in the movie said, "You learn from failure, from success, not so much."

How true.

Sunday, October 26, 2008


Halloween is here. And it's time for the "question." It pops up as frequently as pumpkin "farms" on every vacant lot between Apex and North Raleigh. The perennial Christian query, "Do you celebrate Halloween?"

As if true Christians would actually partake in pagan rituals.

"Why, yes," I answer, "we do. Tomorrow we're dancing naked in the backyard and drinking the blood of a stray cat."

C'mon people. We celebrate Halloween like we celebrate Valentine's Day. It's not about worshipping the devil. It's a day for the kids to dress up as their favorite princess or superhero and have a little fun. Lighten up.

We take our kids trick-or-treating. (I know: GASP!) It's a social time for our neighborhood. We've done it every year since we moved here, my son's whole life. The two cul-de-sacs get together and walk our kids around our neck of the woods. We adults have time to talk and catch up. The kids have fun. The older kids watch out for the younger ones. There's plenty of laughter to share.

It's Norman Rockwell. It's harmless. It's communion with our community. Trick-or-treating can be a mission in itself when you reach out to your neighbors with different backgrounds and different beliefs.

And, isn't that what we're supposed to do as Christians? Share the faith by showing how we live and commune with others?

Sunday, October 19, 2008

god sign

Obedience doesn't come naturally. I watch my children and it's bold face underline obvious.

Same with me. I'm striving to be obedient to God and mostly that means to dive into scripture and keep my mouth shut.

On Friday, I went over "the list." Galatians 5:22, the fruit of the spirit. So, I'm counting them off on my hands. 9 to be exact. Starting with the index finger on the right hand: Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness; and moving to the left thumb: Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness and Self-Control.

Out of that counting, I get my own gang sign. Like a God sign. With the ones that I've got covered, like Joy, the finger goes back to the palm. The others stick out...pretty much like they stick out in my life.

Patience, Faithfulness, Gentleness and Self-Control. Yo, yo, God, what up?

What's your God sign?

Oh, and a caveat: if you only have to work on Joy or Gentleness, or both, don't show your "God sign" to your pastor or neighbor.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

pain in the neck

I'm a pain in the neck. No, well, yes maybe, but more clearly I have a pain in the neck. It's been there for about a week. I can't figure out what to do about it. I'm popping Ibuprofen like candy and I'm I stressed? Do I sit un-ergonomically at work? Is it a sign? Am I sleeping strangely?

So, what to do? Typically, hit it on all fronts. Isn't that what we do?

I'm buying new pillows today. I'm cutting back on computer time. I'm going to powerwalk today. I've taken my pills. Man, that's gotta have some effect on something, if not my neck...

Everytime we get a kink in our life, we stab at it. We make it go away a hundred different ways. We do this and that and then someone suggests something else and we do that, too.

Why do we do that? (Or maybe we don't. Maybe it's just me.)

Shooting a fly with a shotgun will make the fly go away, but what about the walls and furniture?

Friday, October 17, 2008

work in progress

I have to preface this by saying that I love my Beta Group, I love the people in it, I'm excited about where we're going as a group, and I believe we all have the intention of Life-ing together. It's going to be a great experience.

But, group makes me anxious. Not because I'm hosting. That's a no-brainer. I love having peeps in my space...but last week and this week, I've been on edge. I'm feeling prickly and not satisfied when we finish. I feel like I'm in the room but not in the group. I feel like I'm not "getting it." Last night I cried before bed.

It dawned on me when I hit the morning with a hot shower and a fresh perspective--that only a night's sleep can bring--that God wants to work on me. And, he wants to work on me through this group.

If all things were perfect, I would want group to be only a place of refuge and refuel. However, that's only one slice of a large pie. God also (or mainly?) wants group to challenge me to grow, to see things from other perspectives, to learn about him through the knowledge and experience of others. And, frankly, to realize I'm not always as right as I think I am.

I'm excited about that. But, I'm also sad because it IS going to be work.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

where you lead I will follow

Part of the new path for the Lewis Household is to trust where God is leading us. That means giving up. Giving up my desire to live in warmer climates, Howard's desire to live in developed countries, my desire to shop, his desire to make a certain salary, my desire to have a bigger house, his desire get the picture.

So, we have to completely give it up and let God tell us where to go. Without filters. Without desires. Knowing he'll take care of our needs.

It's scary to give up the desires, the shoulds and the gotta haves. But, then you do it, and you feel calm. Yes, calm.

I don't know where God is leading us. Maybe it's just for Howard to get a new job here in the Triangle and our life goes on as before. But...maybe it's something different.

It will be interesting to listen and learn.

Saturday, October 11, 2008


We do a horrible job of listening these days. We're so busy talking and writing emails and texting. We have so much to say and so little time to say it. We rush in, apologize, and blurt our bit. When we're done, we're on to the next thing.

How many times a day do we say, "I've got to tell him..." "I need her to know..." "I have to write..." It's all about ouput.

The prayer series journal at my church is causing me to think about silence. I have talked to God all my life. I'm very comfortable carrying on a conversation with him, or informing of something, or petitioning him in prayer, or praising him for a glorious sky. Sometimes he answers. Sometimes my constant chatter causes him to shout.

So, I sat down and tried to listen to God. Sounds easy. In reality, a totally different story. I couldn't shut up my mind. Like the Energizer bunny it just kept going and going and going. I found it nearly impossible to simply listen.

At first.

Now I've gotten up to a whole 45 seconds. Doesn't sound like much and you're probably laughing at me. But, hey, that's the best I can do right now. And, the first time I tried I think it was something like 0.45 seconds. So, while I might not be a chatterbox of a person, my mind is a regular Chatty Cathy.

How's yours?

Saturday, October 4, 2008

While the Cat's Away

While the Cat's been away the mice have been playing...

I'm learning to juggle working full time with home and family. It's a different life now. Blogging is something that will either go away or evolve for me. It won't be like it's been. It will be new and different, like my life.

I will attempt to condense my thoughts into snippets, turning verbose musings into concise blasts of observation. Pages will turn into not quite a page, paragraphs into sentences and words into a word. My blog will become a movie trailer, not the movie, a Reader's Digest version of what I would prefer to expose, or espouse, or put more directly, an (gasp!) abridgement. Every writer's nightmare.

It will work, or it will not. But it cannot continue in it's present form. I haven't posted in a month! So, if there's anyone still out there seeking curiously with me, we can do it in shorthand.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

gender and politics

So, Hillary Clinton was right.  I see it now because I've seen it from the other side.  Sarah Palin is getting it.  And, it's surreal.

Sexism is alive and well, and nurtured in the media.  I wouldn't have believe it.  Until I looked closely.  

Would anyone ask Sen. Biden what suit he planned on wearing to the convention?  Would anyone question whether Sen. Obama could parent his young children effectively if he ran for the White House?  Would anyone ask for a DNA test from Sen. McCain to prove his biological children are his?  Would anyone question the leadership ability of a man if his children got into trouble?  Has CNN or Fox News spent any amount of time on the hair styles, foot wear and accessories of the candidates who aren't women?  Has anyone noticed the weight gains or losses of the men in the race?

Hill-Dog and Barracuda are the most recent women politicians striving to have their ideas captured by the cameras pointing primarily to their tailored suits, latest coiffure, and trendy glasses.

That said, doesn't Palin look hot?!  (I know, I just lost all credibility for this post.  However, you will notice my new glasses in a few weeks...)

Sunday, August 24, 2008

lessons from mom

The only time I saw glee on my mother's face was in a department store, and it only happened once. My sister and I sat witness at Bloomingdales, or Saks, or Macys, who knows, on a little fake suede couch and watched with disbelief our repressed and infinitely dissatisfied mother do a little happy dance.

She was buying a new wardrobe to attend a class reunion. Why she couldn't just wear any of the hundred and fifty articles of fine linens, wools and silks in her closet was beyond my limited scope of understanding. New. It had to be new.

So, sis and I sat on a fru-fru couch in a chi-chi section of some overpriced, overly self-impressed fine clothing section observing our mother's spending spree. For some reason I can remember the cream pants and red blazer pantsuit, and if I were British, I would call the outfit "smart." But those weren't the clothes that brought on the shuffle of delight.

It was a little black number. Shiny, frilly, and showing some leg, but in a maturely demure manner. Something maybe Diane Keaton would wear to a benefit dinner. Mom modeled for us. Yup, that was the one. She looked at the tag and giggled (my mom does not giggle) and went into the Ginger Rogers routine. Sis and I were glad to be sitting on the little poufy couch, otherwise we would've been hurtling to the floor.

Why was she looking at the tag? I thought maybe the dress was on sale. Or, maybe it was overpriced. Who knows what would send her into such an unnaturally joyful state?

Turns out the dress was a size 4. A size 4.

Size matters is the lesson I learned from my mother who sent me to Weight Watchers when I was in the sixth grade. I have never been a size 4. I will never be a size 4. But, even with all my little grey cells in motion and the calm of my loving family, the Lord, and the fact I might actually and astonishly like myself, I have this nagging little voice in my head that tells me size matters.

Now, how to get rid of it?

Saturday, August 23, 2008

training by the numbers

Just got back from a week away in Charlotte. Glad to be home. Glad to hug my fam three.

If I had to assign numbers to the week for the class:

38 hotel breakfasts, 38 hotel appetizer "dinners" consumed

Approx. 140 beers and 20 glasses of wine slurped

3 stories told that ended with the class in tears (everyone!)

12 tanks of gas burned

and $36.00 worth of mini-Hersheys devoured.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008


I'm training with the American Red Cross in Charlotte this week. Observations...

People with positive attitudes can change the world.

A sad story can send you to your room to sob.

Sitting by the pool in the sun while talking with altruistic peeps is an awesome way to spend lunch or dinner.

Listening to your hubby and kids on the phone is like having the world's best chocolate poured into your ear canal.

Hubby is doing an awesome job at home and is handling some tough situations with fortitude and flair.

My job is not a job, it's a privilege.

Single mothers are saints.

After pooh-poohing them during the opening ceremonies, I've become addicted to watching the Olympics.

Hotel soap always smells better than mine at home. We're talking "white ginger"--don't know, don't care, I just want to hit the tub again.

I promised myself I wouldn't eat any of the mini chocolates from the dish at our table in the training room, but I think, "yeah, riiight," as I pop another Hershey's.

I did work out, but only because a TV is hooked up to the eliptical and I can watch Fox News, but only while I rant and sweat.

Free beer is good. Free beer that comes in pints is good. Free beer that comes in carafes is dangerous. Free beer that doesn't end is deadly.

The young ones head to the hot tub. The old ones head upstairs.

(No need to guess where I am.)

Sunday, August 10, 2008

more about shoes

Walking in another's shoes seems to be the theme of the last coupla weeks.

So, I thought, why don't I begin a period of time (a day, a week perhaps) where I keep that thought at the forefront of my mind and vow to live each human encounter from another's perspective?

A friend and I had talked about this.  We both had read an article about a book that teaches how to do this very thing.  A major issue for her, as she always leaps to the conclusion that someone's bad day is targeted directly at her.  To her defense, people can treat her differently, as she comes on way stronger than she realizes--which can work to her benefit, too, when she wants to be the savior or center of attention.  The coming on strong issue is parallel for me: sometimes I just don't know how powerfully I present myself in verbiage, intonation, and volume--and I also, can use it to my advantage when I want the group to go a certain way.

But back to shoes: understanding that someone's bad day is not a personal attack, or that someone's lack of diplomatic skills doesn't mean they're siding with the enemy is critical to human interaction.  A squinting glare may be a sign she holds you in contempt, or a projection of that morning's fight with her spouse, or maybe she just forgot her glasses at home.  We, as humans, tend to take things, well, rather personally.  We make all sorts of assumptions when we walk blindly into contact.  We project all kinds of past experiences, hurts and triumphs onto others.  

Which means we can wrongly downgrade or even elevate someone's behavior beyond their intent.  A touch on the shoulders while staring into one's eyes and asking "how're you?" can feel more intimate than intended to a person who's needful or lacking self-esteem.  And this a major reason why people in positions of counseling, teaching or ministering to others need to be careful.  Oftentimes their subjects will be emotionally immature or broken and can mistake actions or words differently than planned.  Human interaction is delicate.

Until about 3 pm yesterday, I'm thinking this a good thing to do, see the world from another's perspective.  Then I'm faced with a "traffic gesture" in response to my accidentally turning up a one way street in Raleigh.  Okay, not the most shining moment of my driving career, but I managed to keep a cool head with four lanes of cars speeding toward me, and I actually calmly accelerated toward them because I knew I had to proceed another 500 feet forward to duck into a parking lot.  (God's work.)  

So, I'm conflicted with the shoes of my brother living.  The "hand movement" guy was also the guy who alerted me to the fact that I'm headed the wrong way.  I'm thinking, thanks, buddy, for flashing your lights.  You're a big help.  And, in the next instant I'm thinking, hey, I made a mistake, and I got out of it without messing anyone's day, why give me the "signal?"

Humans are complex, and encounters with them are complex to the power of 100.  In the old days I would run away, hide and stay out of intimacy's way.  That's not a way to live for God's creatures.  We all need and crave human interaction, that's why the worst punishment is solitary confinement.  That's why churches have small groups, so no one gets lost in the congregation.  You are known, you are loved, you are safe.  It's not always easy or trial-free, but you can be authentic in your group.  You can have human interaction and regardless of what happens, you know you'll be okay.  God takes care of it.

Which leads me back to the shoes.  And, I think this will be ongoing...       

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Fear and Shoes

Thoughts on fear...

Many years ago we were in Switzerland visiting the other half of the fam.  We were in a gondola with my dad's cousins and I was freaking out.  Okay, not so onlookers were concerned, but my party knew I was "not right."  The rush of relief upon stepping once again on terra firma was like stepping into the presence of God.  

I have major panic-attack fear of heights.  Airplanes, cliffs, even ski lifts.  My fear does not stop me often, but sometimes it's just too overwhelming.  I've traversed the world in aircraft, swooshed the best slopes in the Rockies and Quebec, lived, worked and dined in skyscrapers, and even rode a camel down a slippery sand dune to the riverbed of the Nile.  However, I stayed in the lobby while others visited the top of the Empire State Building, canceled a plane trip to visit an old friend for a girl's weekend, and walked down the edge of the Grand Canyon rather than trust a donkey's footing (hoofing?).  I make it through obstacles most of the time, but not all of the time...

So, we're lunching atop a Swiss alp and dad's cousins are poking fun at my fear of heights.  As expert mountain climbers who pick (quite illegally) edelweiss, my gondola reaction is inconceivable to them.  Then, the subject turns to their upcoming trip to the States.  What will they see, do, explore?  Dad recommends rafting down the Colorado River.  

"Nein, nein!" screams Hildegarde. 
"Whaat?" we exclaim, thinking dad's botched his Deutsch.

The meaning was clear, just seems Hildegarde is deathly afraid of water.   

Oh, my dad asks in perfect German, like Cat is afraid of heights?

Aha!  Beyond overcoming a language barrier, we have now navigated adeptly into the realm of walking in another's shoes.

As a new vampire for the Red Cross, I've come to realize that people actually have a problem with needles and blood.  It never enters my mind personally.  I don't even think about it.  Others are not so blase.  To them, needles or blood are HUGE issues.  

A friend emailed me and wished me congratulations on my job, but he said, "you may not have my blood." 

I offered to hold his hand and everything--we at the Red Cross are full service employees.  Yet the answer was still, "nein."

I inquired as to why and he replied that he has an "unexplainable, undesired, uncontrolled psychological response" to needle sticks.  Whoa.  

When I put myself in his shoes, thinking what it would be like to have to hop on a chopper to give a pint of blood, the understanding literally pulsed through my veins.  Putting your fear in place of someone else's fear gives you close perspective to their pain.

I vow never to push anyone to give blood.  But, if you can, we need it.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

switching roles

So, you already know that Hubby is stay-at-home dad this summer and I'm bringin' home the bacon.

It's been the greatest gift to our marriage and our children.

While I've spent the last 7 years at home with the kiddoes, he's been uber-business man. Now, over temper tantrums, Kung Fu fighting, and soggy PB&J's, he's getting to know our kids intimately and vice versa. Tremendous opportunity for all three.

Hubby and my switching of the shoes has been eye-opening. Our marriage was super before--best friends, partners, parents, lovers, yadda, yadda--and now it's leapt to a whole new level. We have firsthand experience of each other's roles and a newfound respect for the challenges and benefits to each.

He now fully understands that three hours of day camp is really just one errand or a shower, and you have to choose. I know that coming home from work means coming home. I have to turn off the work switch in the driveway before walking through the door.

We are having a rare chance to live each other's lives and it's been incredibly enriching.

We've learned alot...I know why it's difficult to plan an early exit when you have reports due and your boss is asking for a concall at 4:30. He knows why you never, ever, under penalty of death offer dessert until you've checked first to see if you have it. I understand fully the morning longing for bed when the kids have crawled in, but my alarm has harshly told me it's time for a shower, so I must stumble sadly to the bathroom leaving behind three sleeping, warm lumps. Hubby grasps the blissful concept of kid-free grocery shopping, and has learned that active kids need activities.

Mostly, I learned too quickly to get used to a quiet car. He's learned that maybe he can relax.

We'll need to learn more. But for now, it's fun to wear each other's shoes and see how God is molding us into better partners and parents.

Friday, August 1, 2008

More Living Less Talking

Funny how a full time job gets in the way of my posting.  Soooo, much to report, just no time to write for the present.

"I love you so much that you are like my star up in heaven." Daughter quote.

The little puffball named Bibble in the Barbie movie "Fairytopia" got a ball to the stomach (ooof!), and son says, "Heh, heh, that's awesome."

Swimming again with the fam after work today was divine.  Eating leftover Thai and watching Fairytopia with the kids was a riot.

Life is good.  Sometimes ya gotta live it, not talk about it.


Sunday, July 20, 2008

grapes for sale

I was at Food Lion yesterday, buying out the entire store.  I'm heading to Charlotte for a week of training and desired to leave my cupboards stocked.  Not that I'm so naive to think that McDonald's or Burger King won't enter the picture, it's just that I want to give Hubby options.

I had put the Southern peaches in my cart (yea!), and was turning around for the grapes when an older gentleman called out for the produce guy.  It was one of those awkward moments where I watched the man call for him and the produce dude didn't hear him, so the man called out again--truthfully not loud enough--and I was wondering, okay, should I help him?  What should I do?  A few more tries and finally Mr. Produce heard.

The gentleman wanted the deal on grapes.  It was explained to him that it had been a one day sale on Wednesday.  The man apparently didn't understand.  I snuck in to grab my grapes with an "excuse me" that wasn't heard by either.  As I moved on to broccoli, their seemingly unending conversation loop continued.

My heart was sad for the older gentleman who appeared unkempt and very needful of a sale on grapes.  I wondered about him and his situation.  Did he lose his wife?  Does he have adult children nearby?  Does anyone check in on him?  The imaginings in my head were making shopping difficult. 

So, I rang up God.
I prayed for him and his situation.  I thanked God for my blessings and my situation.  (It was difficult not to feel really, really blessed while filling my basket full of good food for my family.)

While checking out, I glanced outside the front door.  The same gentleman stood outside with three police officers.  He was being arrested for shoplifting. 

So, obviously I was a sobbing mess unloading groceries into my car.  And, what can I do?  If I started a crusade, joined an organization or helped an individual every time I drove around town crying, it would turn into a full time job.  God works on me, though, in those moments.  

He works on me, still, regarding the gentleman who wanted a sale on grapes. 

Saturday, July 19, 2008

culture vs colloquy

I yearn for a heritage to celebrate.  A rich, cultural backsplash to my life.  Something permanent with ritual and tradition shared by my group of peeps. 

Ethnic peoples have tight communities and millennia-old traditions and celebrations to bring them together to laugh, cry and fight in grateful praise of God, family and culture.

We of Western European descent claim regions of the Americas to define our belonging, and those lines are ever more blurred today in our mobile society.  Our ethnic identity arises from a geographical point of reference: Midwest, East Coast, West Coast, Southwest...etc.  

Depending upon where you grew up, you say: purse or pocketbook; couch or divan; highway 101 or the 101; y'all, or youse guys; kitty corner or catty corner; next week or this coming week; and, knapsack or backpack.  

If you end your phrases in prepositions, like "where do you live at?" or add "at all" to the end of a query, you're from the Midwest.  They will invite you to stay longer or stay over, and you will be expected to know to decline because no one would want to be an imposition. 

If you put "the" in front of a highway number or street name--even if it makes zero sense such as "the El Camino" (which translated means "the the road")--you're from the West Coast.  Ditto if you could correctly order a skinny half caf two shot latte in a local coffeehouse before Starbucks went national.

If you talk faster you're from the North, and slower, from the South.  Southerners will put a lacy blanket of gentility over any disparaging remark by adding "bless her heart."  Northerners do not talk to strangers in the elevator or on a train because that's suspect behavior.  Southerners will mean it but not say it.  Northerners will kinda mean it and say it forcefully.

If you're from Texas, you ask, "How are yooooou?"  And, you expect a one word reply.  If you don't own a gun they'll know you're not a native.  If you don't buy a gun soon, they'll know you "just ain't right."

Highway, Interstate, Freeway, and Parkway can all mean the same type of road.  Soda, Coke, Pop, and Tonic can mean any type of fizzy non-alcoholic beverage.

So for many of us, our cultural identity is defined by mannerisms and lingo, not by background, religion, shared history spanning the ages, or food--unless you count the yummy regional specialities like North Carolina pulled pork, Memphis ribs, Iowa corn-fed beef tenderloin, or Texas smoked beef brisket.  (You can tell I'm a carnivore.)

We celebrate the diversity of America, especially in the summer, with Fourth of July, Memorial Day and Labor Day picnics.  We shoot off fireworks and eat potato salad.  We take vacations to Disney World and the beach.  We pass each other on I-95 or I-80.  We share a culture of sorts.

But it's not the same.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

role reversal

Just finished a full week of work.  I haven't had a full time job for over a decade.  It was sad and wonderful, too.  Hated being away from the kids, especially since I'd planned to spend the summer with them, but loved being back in creative business building.  Fun!

Hubby's doing Daddy Day Care.  A total role reversal for us.

Lounging at the pool with the fam on Friday, Hubby turned to me and said to me proudly, "I managed to keep them alive this week."

"No," I responded, "they didn't kill you."

I didn't want to rain on his sunny day, but parents keep their kids alive until about age 5, and from then on, parents move into self-preservation mode or face peril.  

Don't believe me? Here's the evidence:
  • Kids will jump on you suddenly without notice and you will lose your breath, break a necessary bone, or choke on your bite.
  • Kids will speak loudly in your ear in the middle of the night and if you don't have a heart attack from the shock, you will most certainly fall down the stairs and break your neck while navigating Legos in the hallway shuttling them back off to bed.
  • Kids will disappear suddenly in crowded, unfamiliar territory and a lifetime later (usually a few minutes) a security guard will hand them back to you, regard your shaking, snorting, mascara-running state of disrepair and offer to call your husband because "you don't look like you should drive."
  • Kids will interrupt you every 2.4 minutes with all sorts of emergencies (hunger, not sharing, web issues, missing toys, etc.) and due to this constant interruption your brain will become spastic and you'll be unable to think, talk or stay continent.   
So, Hubby survived his first week as stay-at-home dad.  And, I'm proud of him.   

Here's something hard to admit: Hubby's much better at laundry than I.  He ROCKS at laundry.  Okay, maybe not totally rocks 'cause none of its folded, but still, it's all completely cleaned.  Our house harbors not one stitch of dirty clothes (ignoring what we threw in the hamper last night).  He was still managing loads on Saturday.  While I watched.

I've had the past nearly seven years with the kids on my own, now it's his turn for a summer.  I think this will be a good thing for all of us.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

newspaper article

So, Wendy Lemus is the editor of the Cary News. She sat down with Howard and me a few weeks ago and we unpacked some sexual abstinence fears, myths and stories with her. She is a remarkable woman and we had an interesting time chewing over secular abstinent dating, and highlighting the past decade of Reborn Virgin.

Our time was compiled in a piece on the front page of the Cary News on Wednesday. In case you missed it, check it out at:

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

email turmoil

Having major problems with email. If you sent me an email this week, I did not receive it. Please resend your thoughts. Always love hearing what people are saying about stuff. My old email is my newest: Perhaps this debacle is worthy of a post somewhere down the line...we'll see.

Monday, July 7, 2008

perfect fit


I know this job is going to be the best ever because it won't feel like a job at all.  I started today as a Blood Center Coordinator with the American Red Cross in Cary.  It's a perfect fit.  Great team, excellent boss, super company and my skill sets will be fully utilized.  I'm thrilled!  I can hardly wait to sincerely dig in.

Only thing is, I'm so incredibly happy that I feel weird about jumping around like an excited Chihuahua (yeah, really, I'm THAT excited) while my church is exploring "suffering" in a series.  They're having a prayer event tomorrow and have asked people to write their burdens on butcher paper taped to the walls.  We're to circle the ones over which we've prayed.  There's a lot of suffering in our church and in the world.  

And, I'm celebrating with glee.  

Hmmm...back to the waves.  Up and down, up and down.  Such is the course of life.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

nervous prayer

At lunch with James, he prayed over us and the meal I could literally feel God’s warmth encompass the table.  It’s not often that happens. 

Honestly, most of the time people pray, I’m nervous.  I try so hard to concentrate on their words and not let my mind wander.  I’m simultaneously embarrassed and honored if they’re praying for me. Life Group prayers make me really edgy.  Who’s gonna talk?  What are they going to say?  Will every single prayer request get mentioned, or is someone going to be left out?  Did Robin already pray for Ally?  How long will this bit of silence last?  I’m on the edge of my seat until the final “amen,” then I can relax.  It’s over.  (Blow out big breath.) 

I talk to God all the time.  Praying I guess.  He’s always there, and that’s a good thing.  I ask, wonder, yell, cry, beg, praise…the whole gamut.  It’s very comfortable for me, this ongoing private conversation with God.

Group prayers and someone praying for a group are uneasy positions for me.  Even in church, when my pastors pray, I’m holding my breath, trying to hear the words, waiting for it to end.  Yeah, yeah, just get to the point, I’m thinking.  Not disrespectfully, mind you, but kinda like swallowing chalky liquid medicine.  Choking it down, wishing for the water that comes after.  Just get it over with, God and I can hash it out later.

And yet, when two or more are gathered in His name…shouldn’t group prayer be something I’m driven toward and not away from? 

I don’t know why I have such a hard time with group prayer.  Most of the time, I’m not even involved so it can't be performance anxiety.  I just have to sit there in correct posture: hands together, head bowed, eyes downcast.  Pretty boring position, though, considering I’m used to addressing God while engaged in an activity: maneuvering through traffic, sorting laundry, or painting walls.       

But James’ prayer was comfortable for me.  Just the three of us, holding a circle of hands, heads bowed, and his sure words floating across the restaurant.  And, God there with us. 

I want that to be how I feel with every prayer.  I’ll be working on it…

Friday, July 4, 2008

lunch with james

If you’re not doing God’s purpose for you, you’re not doing anything. 

You can get sidetracked by even noble endeavors and never get around to God’s purpose for you, says James, waving his arms broadly, and you can see him playing basketball, even now in his button-down shirt and tie.  You have to be diligent to stay on course, he says emphatically.

Hubby and I lunched at the knees of a wise man on Thursday.  James, tall, lean, and graying, leads from experience and faith.  We covered a lot of ground in two hours over fish burgers and garlic fries at Red Robin.  (May I recommend Tyler’s Taproom by the way for the most excellent garlic fries.) 

We talked about God, “BC” life (life before Christ), Primerica, Reborn Virgin, basketball, family, death, happiness, and passion: a lifetime of wisdom and insight exuding as sage guidance from his lips between bites.

You can’t care what others think, he explains to me, leaning in intently as I confess my fear: when I promote RV people will think I’m after the money, when the reality is that I just want to help people live better lives.  He corrects my thinking: you have to concentrate on the goal, on helping people.  Others will believe what they will.  You can’t control them.  However, you can control what you do.

James turns to Hubby.  He addresses many concerns, but one stands out: you have to be careful to not run away from Primerica, like you did the corporate world 5 years ago.  You need to run TO something.  Find your passion and pursue it.

So, James’ message is basically, find God’s purpose for your life, pursue your passion with due diligence, focus on the goal not the distractions (whether iniquitous, imagined, or even righteous), and you’ll fulfill God’s will. 

Tuesday, July 1, 2008


No questions, just pray with me, first:

Dear God, please help the doctors taking care of Nicholas determine a correct diagnosis and begin a course of treatment.  Please watch over Stacy, Robert, Mackenzie and Nicholas and keep them in your loving care.  Give Stacy strength to take care of her sick little boy, and please heal Nicholas.  Amen.

Thanks for praying with me.  Nicholas is 2 years old and the sweetest little boy you've ever seen.  He has a winsome smile and "pinchable" cheeks.  He is suffering from an unknown ailment.  He is being attended by specialists from all fields of medicine at Duke, and has undergone so many tests in his young life that every time they get into the car he shakes his head in protest and says, "no doctor!"  

They can't figure out what's causing his illness.  He's recently taken a turn for the worse, being nearly unable to eat or move about much.  Even the top medical professionals are stumped by his unusual symptoms: extremely low iron, off the charts high B12, achy legs, eye problems (strabismus) and surgery, lethargy, out of breath, no appetite, etc.  They've started to test for rarer diseases because they've eliminated the more known varieties.  Everyone involved is desperate for a diagnosis.  

Thanks for caring about this cute little boy.  I will keep you posted.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

waves: highs and lows

Last week we were at the beach, frolicking in the waves, sun and sand.  It was blissful.

This week is not blissful.  

The news of the death of two children in our church community, our pastor's possible exposure to bloodborne pathogens while saving lives during a roadway accident in Haiti, our friend's son, 2, continues declining with a mysterious undiagnosed illness, closing our business, and my mother's further mental and physical downfall and being admitted into a full-care nursing home.

At the top of the world one moment, and crashing down into suffering the next.  (Fitting that the sermon series starting next week is about suffering.)

Last week juxtaposed with this week reminds me of our last day at the beach.  

The surf was up, dude!  And, the surfers were out, so fun to watch.  Even my daughter, 6, caught a few on her boogie board.  While son, 5, built castles to destroy on shore, Hubby was out in the thick of it as King Triton, body surfing, boogie boarding, and definitely in his element.  We rocked and rolled in the awesome translucent azure crests.  

Then princess got blasted by a big one and choked down some of the briny deep.  Screech!  The fun came to a crashing halt, and mom and child hurried to the umbrella for some dry towels and water.  As quickly as the fun had begun, it was turned off with a light switch.

Life is like that, and I'm figuring out where God fits into all this.  Smiling contentedly while lounging in a chair sipping diet coke with lemon at the beach club one minute, and fighting tears and screams the next with another bout of bad news.  

And, through good times and bad, God is always there, always comforting, always holding us.  The Casting Crowns song, "Love Them Like Jesus" gives me some direction.  Here's an excerpt.  My journey continues and I will keep you posted...

You’re holding her hand, you’re straining for words
You’re trying to make sense of it all
They’re desperate for hope, darkness clouding their view
They’re looking to you

Just love them like Jesus, carry them to Him
His yoke is easy, His burden is light
You don’t need the answers to all of life’s questions
Just know that He loves them and stay by their side
Love them like Jesus

Saturday, June 28, 2008

trophies in the trash

We're cleaning out our personal effects from the office so the new sub-leaser can move in.  

School pictures of our kids, shots of recruits on promotion days, snaps of us with various "important" people are still framed and stuffed into boxes littered with aspirin, tape, CDs, staples, tissues and batteries.  We're deciding how many of the twenty (TWENTY!?!?) three-ring binders to keep, what items to donate, and how to get the plants and the two pieces of furniture I want now in only one trip.

I'm scanning the piles of the past five years of our lives and I feel like we're emptying out grandpa's house.  "I want to keep this dish, oh, these are Tim's, that belongs to Jim, sure throw that old thing away, remember when we..."  There's a bittersweet quality to leaving a business, like leaving a house where you can't take everything with you.  

Trophies that we once held in pride now sit in a dumpster.  Susie's sweater smells like something the cat dragged in, yet can I really throw it away?  I don't even know where she moved.  When our sub-leaser moves out, should we sell the furniture on Craig's List or eBay?  Our current supply of coffee filters will last two full years!  Woo hoo!

So much of our business is irrevocably tied to this city, these people, our friends.  We never did business with strangers, even if we didn't know you at first.  We never did anything wrong.  We did our best every day, gave 110%, remained ethical and always truthful.  We always taught, believing that the best clients were ones who could make informed decisions.  We always thought that if we did what was right and just for our clients, that it would be enough.

It wasn't.

We learned a great deal.  We made some good friends.  We better understand our strengths and weaknesses, so Hubby can head back into the corporate world with broader skills, and I can find a job doing what I love.

And yet today was a necessary oddity: tossing trophies into the trash.  Okay, I kept a few good ones. 

Like when my grandfather died and my dad sat at the kitchen table going through his billfold.  "One man's life reduced to the contents of a wallet," dad had said and pulled out each item to examine.  That was another bittersweet moment in time, the memory of watching my father mourn his papa by caressing the pictures, driver's license, and business and member's cards, as if he could still touch his father.  Connecting to him through the things he left behind.  

And, today another mourning.  The life of our business reduced to the contents of a dumpster and a few precious boxes brought home.  When it's all said and done, you only have the memories.  The things wear out or break, and sometimes you just have to throw some stuff away, because do you really want your third grade spelling bee trophy sitting on the mantlepiece when you're thirty?

It's time to move on.  It's time for new challenges, and more hours with the family.  It's time for us to give up the "when...then" thinking that accompanies every great adventure.  We must give up those dreams and hopes, but also I'll gladly give up those fears and rejections.

They say it's much harder on men, being laid off or closing a business.  So much of their ego is tied into work.  Please pray for Hubby as we move through these difficult weeks.  He's going to need the support.  Thanks.   

Please also vote for our sub-leaser, BJ Lawson: (US Congress, NC 4th District).

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Gulping Air

Random thoughts as I gulp air between a family visit and our family vacation...

White bathing suits look good only on elementary school girls.

Transformers come in four difficulty levels, 1 is easy and 4 is hardest, and we always end up with 3's.

No matter how hard you plan something, it will turn out differently than you imagined.

Sugar, children and sitting quietly don't mix.

My husband's margaritas will puncture a hole in your brain.

If my sister is the special edition Christmas Bob Mackie Barbie you don't take out of the box, I'm the four years old one whose hair is mussed and clothes have come on and off so often they're soft and easy.

My daughter is the snuggliest girl on the planet.

My five-year-old son acts like a frat boy.

The beach is a perfect place to have a vacation.  See you all next week!!! 

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Kung Fu Panda

Gotta love the way kids' movies are made these days.  Good stories, enough jokes to keep the parents entertained, and excellent messages.  Man, what a fun thing to do for a living, make these awesome creations.  Another life, perhaps...

It was so hot yesterday that it was hot inside with the AC on.  So, what to do?  Go to the movies.  (I brought a sweater.)  The kids have been counting down the days until June 6th, when Kung Fu Panda opened.  We caved, gratefully, for all concerned.  A sold out show, perfect seats 'cause we got there early, and a huge tub of popcorn--oh, and sweaters, too, for me and the girly-girl.  What fun!

Jack Black is a riot.  That guy expels funny from every pore.  I think the parents were laughing more than the kids in the theater.  And, when leaving the chill of indoors and hitting the heat of the blacktop, to hear my little kitten state emphatically the tag line and meaning of the film, well, let's just say it was a perfect moment.  I won't spoil it by talking about it here--though it IS worthy of a post.

Our kids are so lucky these days to have such awesome entertainment and life lessons all rolled into a star-studded cg cartoon.  Sure beats the Smurfs.  Shiver.    

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The Tipping Point

I was at the gym today and things started to get clear about 20 minutes into my cardio.  I realized that despite the upheaval, I feel at peace right now.  It's not an easy time, but I'm very peaceful about what needs to be done, and that God and I can do it together.

I was thinking back to the last time God spoke to me.  He gave me words to nudge me in a specific direction.  That moment was a tipping point in my life, and everything since has hinged on that one moment in time.  (Read Malcom Gladwell's book, "Tipping Point," for further info.) 

It was about 3 years ago.  I was standing at my kitchen sink washing the dirty dishes that failed to stuff into an overflowing dishwasher.  My house was  a wreck, with sticky spots and dust on every surface.  The floor was littered with little pieces of dried food threatening to impale the sole of an inattentive foot.  It was a disaster...much more than usual.

I was exhausted.  Hubby had been working stiff 12-14 hour days and even Saturdays, and I was the solitary caregiver to two kids still in diapers (they were both late trainers, or maybe I was the late trainee, who knows?).  This was not a good day.

So naturally, I was crying.  No, not really crying, I was sobbing.  Dramatically, I'm sure.  No one in the history of the world is as doomed as I am when feeling depressed.  Woe is ME!  (Back of hand on forehead, of course.)

I kept thinking, is this it?  Is this my life?  Dishes will pile up yet again.  Diapers will endlessly need changing.  The vacuum cleaner will continue to mock me.  I felt as if I were living the song, "Is That All There Is?" (first recorded by Peggy Lee, and later Bette Midler, Sandra Bernhardt and others).  Is that all there is to life, I asked myself?  Dishes, diapers and dirt?

Then a voice, a deep baritone, clear as a bell said, "This is not your purpose."

And calm washed over me.  Or, maybe shock.  I knew no one else was in the house.  I knew I was quite alone with my kids.  I knew without thinking about it that it was the voice of God. 

He's spoken to me a few times, but this was the clearest and most direct.  

Because He gave me those words, and saved me from wallowing in my own self pity, I have been very purposeful in my actions.  I believe, as things are unfolding in the next few years, God's purpose for my life will continue to emerge and my efforts blessed as pleases Him.  

I think back often to that moment in time, a tipping point in my life and purpose, to be sure.

Have you had a tipping point? 

Friday, May 23, 2008

Cake Photo Update

Well, I guess my dad the Schmidt-Dawg gets major kudos for not only reading my blogs, but paying attention.  He sent me a little "histoire" of the man with the cake photo.  Such a story!  Here's the Dawg's email to me...

Catski, the man in the photo is your great grandpa, Lyle Finefield's papa who lived in Rochester, IA, a town of about 80 people near Tipton, IA.  He owned the local gas station (no groceries).  (Frieda and Lyle owned a groc. store in Tipton that went belly up in the Great Depression.)

One day, when I was in dental college we got a report that he had shot himself.  Immediately we went there where the family was gathered in serious mourning, devastated by the 'suicide' report for public opinion ruled their lives. But, sure enough, his shotgun had blown off the back of his skull.

When I asked the Sheriff to reenact the scene, we went into his little gas station and laid out the gun and where his head had to be and where his brains still dripped from the wall, about a foot off the floor. 

I pointed out to the sheriff that the only way he could have done that was to lay on the floor, aim the gun at his head and push the trigger, a feat his arthritic arms could neither have reached nor accomplished. 

We, then, restaged the scene: It had rained that morning and swallows had congregated under the canopy, over his gas pumps. He hated swallows, so he got his gun, headed to the canopy to shoot a few swallows and, on the way, put his hand on the pop cooler to steady himself. But he slipped, fell to the floor and the shotgun went off into his head. We even found the indentation in the linoleum floor where the butt of the gun had hit which aligned perfectly with the brain drippings.

The sheriff promptly issued a statement that this was not a suicide but an accident.  And the family heaved a huge collective sigh of relief for a suicide was a horrible blight on a family in those days.  It was a grisly way to achieve hero status in the family.

The picture was taken on their back porch leading to the gas station.  Notice he has a crutch under both arms and the cake is probably propped against the crutch.

That Schmidt-Dawg has always been a bit of a CSI...and a graphic novelist. Seriously, it was kewl detective work. And, I'm glad to know more about the little old man who held that cake in the photo that made me laugh so uncontrollably.  I think that he's probably in Heaven smiling down about it.