Saturday, November 30, 2013

Victory! (It isn’t what you think, Kathryn.)

I made the decision to post a daily blog during the month of November because I was challenged to do so by a daughter who came by her competitiveness naturally. It seemed like a dare I couldn’t refuse. I doubt if even the loving daughter who threw down the gauntlet expected me to make it. I know I didn’t!

Today, the last day of November, I am declaring victory! This is no easy win over the daughter who made it a competition. Ignore the fact that her loving older brother suggested I post a double columned chart of days with links to our respective published blogs. It would have been tempting to call her out using a graphic reminder that I wrote more often than this mother of three, but it would miss the point.

The victory I declare this evening is not a win over the efforts of another person. This victory is personal and internal, and so I share with you, in no particular order, what makes this a triumph and ten things I learned in the process.
  1. I really did finish what I started. This is no small task for a woman who is the Princess of Half-Completed Projects. If you doubt this about me, I can show you two nearly finished quilts in a drawer that accuse me regularly. They are the matching comforters I began when my now middle-aged sons were 3 and 5.
  2. I discovered I have more control over my time than I thought possible. I kept my commitment to write for one hour every day. This was an average. Some blogs were written more quickly. Some took hours. One was the result of weeks of thinking before the writing began. But in the end, I squeezed out the time. My world did not come to a dreadful end, as I had feared.
  3. I learned that I could have a small, but potentially meaningful impact on people. This surprised me more than you might think. I accepted the writing challenge in order to stimulate my own thinking--and because I thought it was a dare. I wrote for the discipline of writing without much thought for the audience. (I know that one of the first rules of writing is to think of your audience, but I didn't know I would have an audience.) I was blindsided by the blessing it proved to be for a few faithful followers.
  4. I discovered how small our world is. I learned I could have a global impact from a colloquial environment. I wrote the blog from at least four different American cities and discovered that people from at least 10 countries were reading my words.
  5. I learned that every day has it's own beauty. Someone told me what she liked best about my entries was my ability to see the unique in the ordinary. Thinking through the meaning of my days in order to blog about them painted my hours with richness I had not foreseen.  
  6. I experienced first hand the writer’s mantra that good writing is less inspiration than perspiration. For many years, I only wrote when an inspiring idea coincided with enough time to put it in writing. When I made the commitment to write daily, I assumed God would magically give me 30 insightful moments worthy of sharing. This was not the case. Instead, on most days, I began writing without the ‘aha’ moment in mind, only to discover a spiritual truth showed up before I reached a conclusion.
  7. I learned to reassess how I spend my time. I couldn’t give up an hour and not have it make an impact somewhere. I made room for a new hour in every day by giving up less productive pursuits—one that I am now free to devote to other worthy endeavors.
  8. I learned new boldness in talking about my faith. At first when I realized other people where following my blogs, I wanted to demonstrate I had things to communicate on many subjects. I didn't want to put people off by too much God-talk or have them write me off as having religious OCD. I discovered I couldn't write apart from the reality of who I am—that I do not have a story to tell that doesn’t include the reality of the eternal life within.
  9. I concluded that my best blogs were the ones I wrote about other people who have touched my life. They brought a triple dose of joy. They blessed those about whom I wrote, blessed their friends who read the stories and blessed me as I remembered them.
  10. I discovered that my mind was clearer when I emptied it once a day through writing. Blogging proved to be a workout routine for an undisciplined brain. I’d like to hope it improved my ability to think, giving me a mind unhindered by the fanciful, free-floating words that have so often hijacked my train of thought.

Day 30. I’m done. A month of daily blogging is at an end. On a daily basis it was a difficult experience. In retrospect, it was an enriching one. I have loved doing it, but I don't know where to go from here.

What I do know, and in this I have confidence, that whatever work God is doing in and through me for his glory will continue by his hand, in his time and according to his will.

And I am convinced and sure of this very thing, that He Who began a good work in you will continue until the day of Jesus Christ [right up to the time of His return], developing [that good work] and perfecting and bringing it to full completion in you. (Philippians 1:6 Amplified Bible)

Friday, November 29, 2013

A Practically Perfect Day

Light from the sun peaked round the blinds. In squinted amazement, it marveled that it had arisen before me. Where was the woman who regularly paces the floor in sleep-hazed anticipation of the dawn of a new day? What could it mean, these two extra hours in bed? With a morning like this, anything could happen. The options seemed as open as the vast sunlit sky above.

There was no pressing task for this day. A potpourri of options lay scattered for the taking, or for not taking, should that be the choice. There was work to be done, but it didn’t have to be done—at least not on this day. Oddly enough, knowing it didn’t have to be done made it more appealing to do it.

Soft pillows, still warm from my sleep, cradled my back as I finished mending a dress for my daughter. It was a small job, really, and nice to complete while contemplating the rest of my day. Sweet satisfaction.

There was a knock on the door, and my son handed me a just made mug of coffee, brewed in a French press from freshly ground beans. He had added soy milk, just the way I like it.  Could a day get better than this?

And so the day continued. Each new event as pleasant as the ones it succeeded. A healthy breakfast was followed by doing some ironing—something I wanted to do. It was pure joy to complete this pleasant household chore, both because I enjoy doing it and also because I knew it was something my delightful daughter-in-law would rather not do.

Buying the Christmas tree was a family adventure, as was troubleshooting a malfunctioning computer. We were all in the kitchen foraging among the tasty remnants of yesterday’s meal for lunch. Each plate around the table reflected the particular cravings of the one who assembled it.

There was time for reading and time for watching football. There was time for sharing recipes and cookbooks—and sometimes laughing at grandma’s recipes from the 1970s when every recipe seemed to call for either cream of mushroom soup or Cool Whip. There was time for discussion of church traditions and religious cultures.  There was time for what seemed right for the moment with time left to spare—and so we ended the day by watching a family movie.

Days like to today don’t come along very often in a ‘work every day world.’ Although I began the day with no set agenda and no electronic master prodded me to stay on task, I accomplished a great deal today.

It was a practically perfect day--one that I didn't plan but that couldn't have been better planned for my enjoyment. I am grateful.

There is nothing better for a man than that he should eat and drink and make himself enjoy good in his labor. Even this, I have seen, is from the hand of God. For who can eat or who can have enjoyment any more than I can—apart from Him? For to the person who pleases Him God gives wisdom and knowledge and joy; but to the sinner He gives the work of gathering and heaping up, that he may give to one who pleases God. This also is vanity and a striving after the wind and a feeding on it. (Ecclesiastes 2:24-26 Amplified Bible)

Thursday, November 28, 2013

A Plentiful Feast

Some people take pictures of the Thanksgiving table laden to the breaking point before the family erases the delectable evidence of a morning spent in the kitchen. Apparently I am not one of them. As the mouthwatering dishes appeared from the kitchen to have a glorious, but short-lived, moment in the spotlight, I completely forgot any intention to record the moment digitally.  A singular impulse to dig in usurped any fanciful idea of creating a photographic commemoration of the occasion. On this day dedicated to giving thanks, it was an act of the will to slow down long enough to offer thanks for the meal.

In place of photographs of steaming vegetables and roasted turkey, I offer as evidence the menu that met me as I entered the back door to my son’s home on Wednesday. I’m not sure whether he or his wife began the list, but I learned that she had added the times stamps for Thursday morning hours and Wednesday’s make ahead dishes. After my introductory glance at the list, I returned time and again, reading, asking questions and anticipating the feast we would have on Thursday.

This would be no ordinary green bean casserole and Jello salad Thanksgiving repast. The menu promised the kind of culinary masterpieces that ensure a gastronomical delight. The menu had been precisely planned. The freshest ingredients had been Whole Foods purchased or garden picked. The turkey was obtained directly from the farm where it had been walking freely just two days before. Recipes were gathered from Bon Appétit or read on cell phone from online sources.

Such a feast. Sweet potato with rosemary soup. Green beans with walnuts. Baked Brussels sprouts. Potatoes. Gravy. Turkey. Freshly baked rolls. And then the desserts: pumpkin pie brûlée baked in a chocolate crust, plus a Louisiana pecan pie.

We ate until we were full. There was food left to spare. We are looking forward to the remnants tomorrow.

There is joy and comfort at a bountiful table. Stories are told. Family ties are strengthened. Gratitude abounds.

A family Thanksgiving opens our eyes to a kingdom truth. The plentiful holiday feast is a reminder of the table our Father sets before us daily. It reminds us he gives us our daily bread and that his Son is the bread of life, that he feeds our bodies and nourishes our souls. For those who are focused on an eternity with Christ, it whets our appetites for wedding supper of the Lamb.

God’s children can be grateful. We have a lot of feasting going on.

And you shall eat in plenty and be satisfied and praise the name of the Lord, your God, Who has dealt wondrously with you. And My people shall never be put to shame. And you shall know, understand, and realize that I am in the midst of Israel and that I the Lord am your God and there is none else. My people shall never be put to shame. Joel 2:26-27