Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Bullets and Bones

I am reading The Girl who Kicked the Hornet's Nest (about a year after reading the first two books) and I was struck by an image in the beginning.

A girl (Lisbeth Salander) has been shot in the head, but she is still alive. The bullet is lodged in her brain and the surgeon needs to remove it. He realizes quickly that the bullet can be removed with little trouble (relatively speaking). However, all around the entry wound, there are tiny shards of bone embedded in the brain matter. Some of the shards are actually microscopic. He has to remove each of them. One at a time (with the world's smallest pair of tweezers, I'm sure), he extracts each sliver of bone.

Isn't that often the case with life? We reach the end, not because of the bullet, but because of the shards it left it its wake. I am reminded of my aunt who died not from her first bout of cancer and not from her second bout of cancer but from residual damage caused by her cancer treatments. However, in this instance, I am thinking more metaphorically.

Someone says something hurtful to us. They apologize for the words, and we move on, but everything is not okay. In the days and weeks (or even just seconds) after the hurtful thing was spoken, our mind started reeling. It sorted through past issues with the person talking. It pulled up every incident that might be considered the least bit negative. It pulled up positive happenings and washed them over with a coat of distrust. Our minds remember other people who have said similar things about us. Perhaps my mother once complained about the very thing this person is now complaining about.

The word can be taken back, but the entry wound remains. There are tiny shards of history and shattered trust. The hard part isn't forgiving the hasty insult. The hard part is continuing to search out the residual damage and repair it, bit by bit. Years and years may pass and then, out of the blue, another sliver is brought to the surface. It takes a microscope focused directly on our life to find it, but eventually we do find it, and then we must remove it.

Our actions are bullets, and they cause a lot more pain that can ever be accurately measured or atoned for.

Be careful, people. Please, please, please, be careful.


The heart of the righteous weighs its answers, but the mouth of the wicked gushes evil. Proverbs 15:28

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Shaped into a Vessel : 2012

In the first chapter of Luke, Gabriel visits a young Jewish girl named Mary. Mary is engaged to be married and surely knew what awaited her if she turned up pregnant before becoming Joseph's wife. She was not naive in her acceptance of God's will for her. She even argues with the angel a bit, expressing her disbelief that she could possibly conceive a child without involving a man. In the end, Mary says the now famous words, "Let it be" (KJV).

I always think about Mary during Advent. Each year, something new strikes me. In 2003, I was struck by the idea that she could not have possibly known what lay in store for her son. One year, I spent time thinking of real childbirth and how bringing Jesus into this world was a painful experience for His mother. This year, I keep hearing her words, "Let it be."

Months ago, I felt God nudging me toward my theme for 2012. Sometimes a theme is dropped in my lap and I cannot argue with it. Other times, like this year, the theme begins as a lump of clay on the potter's wheel and I watch, entranced, as it is formed into a word or phrase that I can cling to in the year to come.

The lump of clay was the word "gentleness." That's a fruit of the Spirit I struggle to bear, much as Mary must have struggled to bear Jesus. As the wheel spun, the word became a conviction. I do not have a gentle mouth. I am sharp-tongued and sarcastic. I tend to cling to these characteristics as evidence of superior intellect and the mind of a writer, but they are not helpful when it comes to parenting. I tend to see my children as extensions of myself, so I speak to them as I speak to myself. Instead, I need to speak to them in the same compassionate tone I use with my friends.

As this conviction turned within me, I tried to mold it into a theme, but it didn't work. Nothing felt right. I took my hands out of the clay and let God get back to making art. In other words, I waited. The theme would come and it would fit.

Thinking on Mary again, during a Sunday sermon, my theme came off the wheel, shaped into a vessel fit to carry God's only son...


2012 is the year of Mary, the year of "Let it Be."

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

And I Read: 2011

In January

We dove into homeschooling, head first.
I made a timeline to track Haydn's biography reading.
It snowed. A lot.
I fell in love with Instagram.
David and I made a storyboard.
Haydn made cupcakes for my birthday.

And I read

The Penlopiad by Margaret Atwood
The Memory Bank by Carolyn Coman
Fireflies in December by Jennifer Erin Valent
Wesley the Owl by Stacey O'Brien
Imperfect Birds by Anne Lamott
Eragon by Christopher Paolini (audio)
Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout
Little Bee by Chris Cleave
Charlie Bone and the Time Twister by Jenny Nimmo (audio)
The Singer by Calvin Miller
Taking the Mystery out of Learning Styles by Carolyn Morrison
Strangers and Neighbors by Maria Poggi Johnson

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Nine Loves

I am going to skip the generic answers like husband, family, children, God... That's just sort of a given.

1. Peanut butter and chocolate: Dove bars, Reese's cups and pieces, Peanut butter M&Ms, and the list goes on. Actually, a Hershey bar and a jar of peanut butter works just fine.

2. Books: I like soft-covered trade paperbacks, leather bound volumes, hard covers, old library books, brand new signed books, antique first editions, kindle downloads, etc... I like stories. I go through phases of reading certain genres, but the general rule is, if it is a good story, I want to read it. Not just big stories, either. Simple stories that are more about the characters themselves than any specific activities. Love those. Fantasy, Scifi, YA, Middle-Grade, Historical, Memoir... I like good stories told well.

3. Gadgets: I am a pretty simple girl in most things. I don't wear a lot of make-up or require designer jeans. The only jewelry I wear on a regular basis are my wedding rings. My nails are short and usually plain. But, I love gadgets. I had a Nook, sold it and bought a Kindle. I was recently gifted a beautiful Macbook Pro. Her name is Nikki. She and I are tight. Even when I know, 100%, that I do not need any new gadgets, I will still fall in love with one and pine for it.

4. Kentucky: I was born in Eastern KY, and it is home. It is home, because I can feel it in my blood. When I cross the state line, something inside of me shifts. No matter what I do with this life and where I go, the hollers of Eastern Kentucky are born inside of me just as I was born within them.

5. 90s Pop Music: It takes me back in time, and I am young again.

6. Church Book Group: Once a month, I meet with an amazing group of people from our church. There is so much collective wisdom gathered there, and I get to bask in it for a solid hour. They make me feel special every time I show up. I am blessed to have them.

7. Good conversation: There are some conversations that just flow. No one has to watch their words. A meeting of minds has taken place. I love those conversations.

8. Those Friends: You know what I mean. There are certain friends that just get you. You may talk every day or once a month or not for years and then meet again. It doesn't matter. When you do talk, everything falls into place. No one has to explain back story or worry about offending the other person. You just ARE.

9. Quiet: Yeah, I like quiet. A lot. I love when the house is empty and I have a good book and something yummy to eat. Naps and peace. Love.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Jesus Doesn't Need Walmart to Love Him

The AFA released their Naughty and Nice list of retailers today. Makes my blood boil. Stores have exactly nothing to do with Advent and the birth of Jesus. They can recognize it or not recognize it. I just don't care. You can tell me Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays or just "Goodbye" when I leave your store. So long as I was treated with respect and finished my shopping happily, I just don't care what your religious beliefs are or how you choose to express them.

Remember Herod? Great guy, right? Wrong. See, when the Wise Men arrived, looking for the king that had been born, Herod said, "Hey, this is great. I want to worship Him too. Tell me when you find Him, and I will come right away."

Well, the wise men weren't called wise for nothing. They did not tell Herod where to find Jesus, and he went about killing all the babies in the area in an effort to get rid of this child king and keep power.


What about today? Who worships Jesus today? Wise men, lowly workers (shepherds), angels of Heaven, you name it. We got them all. What about Herod? Is he still around.

Yes. His name is "Christmas Shopping."

No, really, hear me out. I buy gifts at Christmas, so I am not judging you for doing likewise. I just want to point out something that has never changed, when it comes to celebrating Christ's birth. Herod was there in the beginning, and he is still striving for power today.

What does a retail establishment want from you at Christmas time? Do they want you to tell them about Jesus so they can worship too? No. Of course not. No matter how many times they say Merry Christmas, what they want from you is money (money = power in America). Cold hard cash. Please, don't give that money to the poor. No! Come in here and give it to us. Don't spend more time with your kids. Instead, spend more time shopping for your kids, giving us your money.

Businesses want my money at Christmas time. Some of them get my money and some don't. I don't really care if they claim Jesus or not, because it doesn't change what they want from me or what I want from them (whatever my kid asked for this year). Show me a business that doesn't want money, and I will show you a closed business. I can't blame them for wanting my money. It's how they survive.

What I am saying, in this mess of my ranting, is this:  Saying Merry Christmas doesn't make them a Christian establishment and not saying it doesn't make them an evil one. It simply doesn't matter. They want money. If they think saying Merry Christmas will make them more money, they'll say it. If they think NOT saying it will make them more money, they'll quit saying it. What's worse, AFA, not saying Merry Christmas or saying it because you know the Christians will give you more money when you do?

Jesus is not an Ad Campaign for crying out loud! Quit worrying so much about whether your grocery store cashier wishes you a Merry Christmas and worry a bit more about being merry and Christlike yourself.

This post is so all over the place, I must sound like a crazy person. But all the ridiculousness in the name of Jesus that shows up in December makes me a crazy person. Live like Jesus all year long and maybe more people will WANT to celebrate his birth.

Now, to shed these grouchy pants and find the happy ones.


PS Another good point, why say Merry Christmas when it isn't Christmas yet? It is Advent. Christmas begins on the 25th and lasts until Epiphany. For a much calmer take on this issue, visit John Leek.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Currently: Advent 2011

Current Books: I just finished a reread of The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Paterson. That was both for my own pleasure and as research for my latest manuscript. I have paused War and Peace. Basically, the beginning was wonderful, but I got bogged down by battles and soldiers. I'm just not interested enough. *hangs head* I am now reading Sarah Dessen's newest. This one is called What Happened to Goodbye. In the car, the boys and I have started the first Harry Potter book. It is just as magical the second time around.

Current Playlist: I have been picking this and that from Spotify, mostly gospel Christmas stuff (in an effort to force the spirit upon myself).

Current Shame-Inducing Guilty Pleasure: Baking. For myself. 'nuff said.

Current Colors: Black and gray

Current Fetish: Haitian art. I have been looking at images to get inspiration for a children's book.

Current Food: I just tasted my very first Oreo ball. I am hooked.

Current Drink: Diet Coke. What else?

Current Favorite Favorite: Kindle library loans

Current Wishlist: Ozma tattoo (where?), repierce my nose, new clothes, someone to run all of my errands for me so I can just stay home in my cozy pajamas and be a bum. Yeah, not gonna happen.

Current Needs: Dental work. Always and forever. My goal is to sell a novel and use the advance to fix every tooth in my head and have them whitened and shined. You think I'm joking, but I'm really not.

Current Triumphs: I have finished two novel manuscripts this year and started a third. I also wrote a grown-up short story for the first time in YEARS.

Current Bane-of-my-Existence: My hair. I have been "no poo" for about a month. It looks just as good as it did before the experiment, but no better. So, do I keep it long and continue with the daily ponytails or cut it off short again? Does it even matter? I mean, really... this is the worst part of my life right now? I should be grateful, huh? Ok, maybe it isn't the worst thing in life right now. Maybe it is just easier to fret about the unimportant problem of my hair.

Current Indulgence: Gooey Pumpkin Butter Cake

Current Mood: Is tired a mood? Corey has finals this week, and he's been studying and writing papers and reading in preparation. Add the Christmas season in ministry-land and Haydn's current bad attitude about anything that isn't a magic trick, a bit of origami, or a Lego, and you get whatever mood this is.

Current #1 Blessing: All finished with the Christmas shopping, except one more item for the boys and the things I will be making for my mom and sister.

Current Slang or Saying: Oy! is the most uttered word in my vocabulary.

Current Outfit: My big warm brown youth sweatshirt, brown tank, Arizona jeans, painted Toms

Current Link: I have enjoyed doing a little genealogy research.

Current Photo:  I really want a print of this: "Madonna of the Orb."

Friday, December 9, 2011

Ten Secrets

1. I have awful social anxiety. I will talk myself out of attending events I really want to attend, because I make myself sick thinking about them. I just don't know the right things to say and do sometimes.

2. Sometimes, I wonder if Haydn's Asperger's is a compounded version of all my "quirks." I can't stand the sound of someone swallowing loudly, like when the boys are really thirsty and down their water like they've never seen the stuff before. I have a very low tolerance for frustration. I prefer to be alone, nine times out of ten. I have obsessions. When I am overwhelmed, I just shut down. There's more, but that's enough confessing for now.

3. I like writing for kids better than for adults.

4. I like being smart. Pride goes before the fall, so I'm sure to do something incredibly stupid tomorrow. As if the incredibly stupid mistakes I made all week weren't enough.  Seriously though, I was called a genius by one doctor who tested my IQ, and I love that.

5. I don't enjoy major holidays. There is so much pressure to have family togetherness, and I just end up stressed out. Most of that pressure comes from me. This is also true for my birthday. I countdown to my birthday, but it rarely lives up to expectation, with a few exceptions. I mean, do I really expect the entire world to stop and shower me with presents? Yes, judging by the deflated feeling when that very thing doesn't happen, I do.

6. Food is my drug. I feed all of my emotions. I eat ice cream straight from the carton. I bake pans of brownies just for myself. Would I like to be as thin as I was pre-babies? Sure. Do I want a beautiful body more than I want the Pumpkin Gooey Butter Cake that just came out of the oven? Nope. Sure don't.

7. I am jealous of the fabulous bloggers who always get a bajillion comments. There, I said it. Not jealous in the "I hate you and want to tear you down for being better than me" kind of way. Just jealous in the, "Why don't people like me as much as they like her?" kind of way. Silly. I know.

8. I haven't finished college. As a matter of fact, I have spent so many years putting off going back that I will have to start completely over.

9. Connected to number eight, I am pridefully peeved about having to retake Comp 101 when I do return to school. Really? I didn't need Comp 101 the first time I took it. Why do I need it now?

10. Due to an encouraging note from my beautiful friend, Louise, I am going to write a letter to Nikki Giovanni. I have raved about her for years, loved her to the ends of me and back, and I always figure, "Why would a great woman like her care about a silly poet like me?" But, ya know what, everyone likes to know that they have touched someone's life. If my letter makes it to her, she will know how she has shaped mine.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Multitudes on Monday - 12/5

1000 Gifts (2751-2850)

Good worship music
I wrote 3000 words today.
Disc is Mac compatible!!
Stealing bites of hot fudge pie
Tiny keys on silver chains
Gooey pumpkin butter cake for tomorrow
Soul Surfer tee from hubby
Small group girls doing headstands
Less than 7000 words to go
Yummy deviled eggs
A fun day with Savannah
Haydn growing up
Silly David
Kitty asleep behind my head
Watching silly TV shows with Corey
Putt putt place open early
When people share images with me
Go Kart riding
Pink bowls from Leila
Sonic Blasts
Thanksgiving dinner
My lovely husband mowing the lawn
That same wonderful man working so hard to clean and teach the boys to clean this week
Haydn eating the same meal as us
Freshly cleaned bathrooms, thanks to all 3 of my men
Memories made
Writing more than a few thousand words today
Daddy writing a blog and saying he loves me and my children
Afternoon reading Pat Conroy
The way Conroy writes about Thomas Wolfe
Subscribing to Special Offers on my Kindle
40% off educational toy from B&N
Corey's first Christmas happy arriving in the mail
Deviled eggs with supper
Hitch on TV
Funny movies
Curling up in bed at the end of the day
Knowing I can sleep in tomorrow morning
Sleeping under a quilt made by my mama
1000 Gifts app
Birdie above door - makes me think of Mama
WWF games before bed
Scripture printed and displayed
Breakfast cereal
Diary of a Mad Black Woman - always a good movie
Hitting 50,000 words!!
Yard Sale game
War and Peace, free on Kindle
Lazy day after Thanksgiving
Newest Indiana Jones with hubby and kids
Haydn and Hocus cuddling
David and Pocus and a coin on the head
Hubby has Mickey Mouse feet.
Finishing a marvelous book
Haydn's origami
Pocus sleeping on my legs
Cuddling under Corey's AU Snuggie
Moon Pie ice cream
Seeing new skills at work
Revisions underway
Haydn completing his schoolwork with little complaint
Warm cozy sweatshirts
Ordering Christmas gifts online
Free shipping
Sewing book for Leila
Greeting card for Daddy is ready to mail.
Card I designed for Corey arrived
Enjoying War and Peace, thus far
Warriors poster on schoolroom wall
My Bible reading coinciding with Haydn's history lesson
Twelve days of Christmas project
All the supplies needed downstairs
Able to manage the frustration
Paper boomerang makes him smile
Understanding roles in childhood
Colorful ribbon
18 cards for Daddy
Haydn writing paragraphs
Camera on my phone
Family Advent cross
Haydn teaching David to cook a pizza
Being able to remember
Hearing the boys use their words
Advent devotional with kids
Pre-starting the car
Writing with a fountain pen
Stack of cards to mail
"Unto us a child is born, a son is given!"
Making this list by hand again
Nothing broken when the cat jumped on my table
2011 vocal tests printed
Interesting dreams
Email from Daddy, yesterday
Finishing first revision
Meghan offering to proofread
Instagram photos by 7th and 8th grade girls
Christmas parade
Beef float
Ugly Christmas sweater float idea for next year
Mexican for lunch
Summary written
The boys playing outside all day


Thursday, December 1, 2011

But Decades Pass

In our homeschool this week... we have been reading about Assyria and Babylon. Haydn has a great poster, from a book he was given last year, that illustrates warriors from different countries and time periods. It is neat for him to see the people we are talking about as we progress through history. Also, my personal Bible reading happened to match up to our History chapters this week. I love when that happens.

Places we're going and people we're seeing... We just had a week off for fall break, and the whole family traveled to Alabama to see my stepdaughter for a few hours. It was a wonderful day. She is twelve now and turning into a little lady. This week, Haydn and I had breakfast at Sonic one day, while out running errands, but mostly we've been homebodies.

My favorite thing this week... I love reading The Lost Hero with Haydn. The story is, so far, just as good as Percy Jackson. I enjoy the new characters we are following, and both of us are learning. Also, when Piper spoke French to the North Wind, I was able to read it and translate for Haydn. Having not touched the language since my junior year of high school, I am a wee bit proud of myself.

What's working for us... Well, I am hoping this will work. We are trying something new. I emailed Haydn with links to 3 different kid-science articles. He can pick whichever he wants and read it. I tried to choose topics I thought would interest him, and he loves science in general. However, my son has Asperger's, remember? This is not part of his regular routine. I started simple, just asking him to read an article. No questions after the reading, no tests to take or papers to write. Still, he took one look at the email and threw himself to the floor, crying. I gave him a few minutes and then told him he could read an article or he could spend all day lying on the floor, his decision. He went to the computer and started kicking and banging, so I sent him upstairs to calm down. We will push through. I have to stand my ground and, in a few weeks, reading a weekly science article will be part of his routine. He won't bat an eye at the assignment. I once said that the American church has Asperger's and this is a good example of what what I meant by that. When something new appears, the church digs in its heels and starts making noise. But decades pass, and the very thing the church fought against becomes the tradition to which it clings (singing hymns, for instance).

I'm reading... I am about halfway through Siblings Without Rivalry and am experimenting with the methods suggested by the authors. I am seeing small successes, and that is very encouraging. In the car, we are listening to Scat by Carl Hiaasen. I think all of us are enjoying it. In my Bible, I am reading 2 Kings.

I'm cooking... I made pizza soup this week, and I am planning some crockpot mac and cheese for today. I cooked a lot for Thanksgiving last week, and we have been eating leftovers. My favorite was the Pumpkin Gooey Butter Cake. Heaven on a plate.

I'm grateful for... My husband and I have been married for ten years today. I couldn't ask for a more supportive man.

I'm praying for... divine wisdom in teaching Haydn, the patience to help my boys manage conflict without fighting, and peace in my husband's heart.

A quote to share... “Practice is the hardest part of learning, and training is the essence of transformation.” - Ann Voskamp

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