Friday, November 30, 2012

Friday Felicities: Nov 30

Friday Felicities

Good writing days
Early Christmas gift from the hubby
Ballet video sent to my phone
Naming characters
Packages ready to mail
The feeling you get once a procrastinated task is complete
Mel Brooks on Conan
My sister has a job interview
Doctor Who
Corey attended his last seminary class!!!
Mom's meatloaf
David enjoying his piano (thank you generous friends)
Kentucky hired a football coach
I got a new blue coat
My "relentless optimism" shirt

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Felicities on Saturday

Friday Felicities
(1 day late)

Olivia faces
Sophia cuddles
Country pumpkin ice cream from GD Ritzys
Sleeping till 9
Road trip with the bestie
Freshly bathed babies
Funny texts with the hubby
Spanish soap operas
Writing daily on the new story

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Sunday Poem: The Kingdom is Open

The Kingdom is open to everyone.
You don't decide
who comes inside.
You have no say
in the issued invitation.
You can't choose some words
from whatever verse in
your black leather bound
God, the book that has replaced
your Jesus.
You turn to Deuteronomy
and quote from harsh
but you ignore the words
of Jesus,
"if they are not against me,
they are for me."
The Kingdom is open,
but your heart is so focused
on closing the doors,
you'll soon find yourself
left alone.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Friday Felicities: November 9, 2012

Friday Felicities

Cheri thinks I look like Kiera Knightly. *swoon*
New jeans
No kids at home today
I wrote 2500 words yesterday.
Reading a good book
Wearing Kentucky blue
Lots of orange boxes in the mail (Shutterfly!)
Text convos with my sister
Happies almost ready to mail
Brownie in a mug
G2 pens in black and purple

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Heaven: That's Just Not Good Enough

So, having confessed to my skepticism, I may as well share one of the areas in which I struggle to accept what I am supposed to believe.

Five years back, my friend died. Natalie was a beautiful faithful 33 year old with two kids and a talent with words. She was one of the few people in this world who read more than me. She died from stomach cancer, one of the worst kinds (to my mind) because it is rarely found before it's too late. I also lost an aunt to stomach cancer when I was just a wee thing. Her funeral is one of my earliest memories. According to my dad, it is quite likely that his mother died with stomach cancer as well. I never got to meet her, and that has always been a sore spot for me. Anywho, I digress.

After Natalie died, I started having panic attacks. I would try to imagine her in heaven. I thought that would help me be okay with her dying, but it didn't help at all. Everything I had ever been taught about the afterlife suddenly seemed too little too late, flimsy cardboard ideas meant to comfort small children.

As a matter of fact, I realized just this week that Natalie's death wasn't the start of my struggle with heaven. When I was ten, the same age as my oldest son, my Papaw passed away. He lived with us, and he died while we were at church. He was home alone. I vividly remember begging to see him and Mom saying no. I can't say I blame her. I would have done the same with my own children. I sat in our brown recliner, and Preacher (that's what we called him) came over to talk to me. He told me about heaven. Twenty years later, what I remember thinking is this, "That's not good enough."

And I still feel that way. Pearly gates, streets of gold, angels dancing around a throne, blah blah blah blah blah.

Someone, trying to be helpful after Nattie died, handed me a copy of 90 Minutes in Heaven. Well, perhaps it is a good book. I can't tell you objectively. What I can tell you is this: the author's experience of heaven was exactly what everyone tells you heaven is like. It was exactly the kind of place I'd been taught to imagine. Instead of bringing comfort, the panic attacks got worse. I could not finish the book. I'm not discrediting the author's experience. I'm only saying that his account did not help me. Could it help you? Sure. Many people raved about that book. I'm glad it was good for them. Some of the youth from church have tried convincing me to read Heaven is For Real, and that's just not happening.

Later, I was listening, with my sons, to the audio of The Wizard of Oz. Most of you know the story, how Dorothy's one desire is to just get back to Kansas. I can't remember which character asks, perhaps the Scarecrow, "Where's Kansas?" And Dorothy tries to explain. In the end, the best she can say is something like, "I don't know how to pinpoint it on a map, but it's home, and that's what matters."

That was my first clear breath of peace. I was at last able to relax into the thought that I can't pinpoint heaven on a map. I can't outline its borders or describe its contents. But, I trust God and wherever God is, that's home. Jesus said he went to prepare a place for us. I don't need to know the specifics of the place, because I trust Jesus. My kids didn't need to know the detailed floor plan of this house before we bought it. We're their parents, and they trust that we won't make them live in a tin shack with no running water.

I thought I was past the whole issue until I got a call from my mother, a call much like the one Cheri wrote about today, at Middle Places. My Uncle Greg was sick. Really sick. Lots of tests were run. Doctors were consulted. Treatments were tried. The phrase "Stage IV" flew from the telephone and started burrowing down inside of me. I felt, again, a great panic. Not Greg, I thought. He's the youngest brother. Besides, in his family, the men die of heart attacks, not cancer. Greg's cancer had already spread. It was eating him up from the inside out.

A dear friend, knowing I was struggling, suggested a book. She promised it was no first-hand account. It was, rather, a well-researched volume exploring what the Bible actually says about heaven. The book was called, simply, Heaven. It is written by Randy Alcorn, and it is a wonderful book. I was reading it when the next phone call came. I hopped on an airplane and made my way home for a funeral. I took Heaven with me and read bits of it to my family. Somehow, I ended up bringing the message at our family church on Sunday morning. The book didn't wrap and regift all of the pat answers people gave me over a span of years. It used logic and study, metaphor and analogy.

The next summer, I lost another uncle to cancer. I made it through with minimal panic. Then, this year, Granddaddy got sick. I mean, he's been in a home living with Alzheimer's for a few years already, but he started sliding downhill. We had him a birthday party in September. He was lucid, and we thanked God for one good day. He danced with his girlfriend. He hugged us all over and over. I sat beside him and he told me how much he loved me. He called me 'sugar.' We knew that he knew why we organized that party. But he seemed at peace with it all. On Halloween morning, while my husband held his hand, CJ Calhoun passed away.

He was so sick, at that point, I think we'd all been praying, "Lord, just let him go." Still, knowing he was gone... I distracted myself with a Halloween celebration and getting the house and laundry clean before leaving for the funeral. My oldest son took it hard. He reminded me of myself at his age, not understanding why Papaw was gone so suddenly. It seems sudden when you're a kid. Old age and illness aren't tangible things for a ten year old.

What helped me most, this time around, wasn't something that actually happened to me. My MIL and FIL went out for lunch, before the wake and funeral. A man they had never seen before stopped at their table. He said something along these lines: "The man you're worried about is fine. He's with God. You don't have to worry anymore."

Now, Granddaddy wasn't a regular church attender and he wasn't the kind to talk over his spiritual state. So, my MIL was worrying about him. That man at the deli didn't know them from Adam and had no way of knowing where they were headed. The encounter gives me chills every time I think of it. Had those words come from a friend or a book on death, they would have meant absolutely nothing. God knew that. He knew the words would have to come to us miraculously in order for us to believe them.

I still get tight chested over heaven, over death. I'm not 100% at peace with it. Maybe because I don't want to be. I have some ethereal idea that making peace with death is only done by dying.

However, I do trust the one I follow, wherever and whatever the afterlife may be.

Monday, November 5, 2012


I'm going to let you in on a secret. It's only recently that I realized this about myself.

I'm a skeptic.

I suppose it's only natural, having been raised by a faithful Christian woman on one hand and an intellectual question-everything father on the other. Somehow, I ended up a Christian, married to a minister, absolutely in love with Jesus and also completely skeptical, constantly questioning the Bible, the Church, other believers, and so on and so forth.

This can be beneficial to my faith, believe it or not. It means I am always looking for the answers and, to me, following Jesus is meant to be a journey full of questions. When someone stops questioning the authority of their religion, I feel fearful of and for them. I don't mean that I expect everyone to be tearing each other down and putting intellect above faith. Not at all. The Bible tells us to seek him with all our hearts and we will find him. How can I find him, then, if I am not constantly seeking his face?

There are aspects of my faith that grow and change, thanks to my persistent searching. The Christian I was ten years ago seems, to 30-year-old me, ignorant and cold-hearted. Was I ignorant and cold-hearted? Yes and no. I'm genuinely embarrassed to tell you some of the thoughts I had... things I felt were part of my faith in Jesus that I now believe to have been blindfolds sent to me, gift-wrapped by the devil. I'm grateful to have questioned those beliefs and the people who made me feel I should go on believing them. Breaking free from those chains did not endear me to the people anxious to keep me bound and burdened, but I have found and loved people I never would have considered worth my time or God's when I was a girl of twenty.

There are issues I cannot take a stance on, not a solid one, not yet. There are bits of theology or doctrine that I cannot find peace with. I will keep on questioning, and I am glad to do so. God always leads me toward an answer. The answer tends to leave me with ten more questions, and so on and so forth. But, so long as I question my own thoughts and ideas, I know I will not grow stagnant. I want faith like a rushing river or even a babbling brook, not a mud puddle in a ditch.

For a while, my skepticism scared me. I was afraid my questioning somehow made me less of a Christian. But, the more I read about Jesus, the more comfort I have... also the more discomfort (because that man asked his followers to go places and do things that are daunting even for the humblest of men). He let Thomas put his fingers in the wounds on his hands. He drew a broken Peter back to his side. He sent his mother away and then gave her a replacement son. He raised Lazarus from the dead, but he let other men die. He spared the adulterous woman but not the hypocrites. He said and did things I may never understand, but I think he likes that I want to understand, that I am trying to understand, that I keep on asking questions.

I'm telling you this, in part, because I think many of you feel the same way. I think we're afraid to admit we have questions, afraid to say, "I don't know everything about the way Jesus would have me to live." The most terrifying verses in the Bible, for me, are words from Jesus. *When he says, "You said Lord, Lord, but I tell you, I do not know you." That sends shivers of fear down my spine. So I am going to keep on asking questions. I'm going to try hard to be known by him. Maybe, when I make it to the other side, he will see me coming and say, "There she is, the girl who never shut up, never stopped saying, why, how, who, when, where." I'm okay with that. I want him to know me, and I want to know him.

The other reason I'm sharing this, as disjointed and spiderwebby as my thoughts may be, has to do with my theme for 2013. I have been clinging to Mary in 2012, thinking about her saying, "let it be." Recently, God gave me my next theme. I'll share more as this year draws to a close, but this confession of skepticism is a precursor to my theme.

My most prayed prayer is this one:

** "I believe, Jesus. Now help my unbelief."

* Matthew 7:21-23 ~ Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’

** Mark 9:24 ~ Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”

Friday, November 2, 2012

Currently: November--The Month of Crimson Sunsets

Current Books: A Sand County Almanac, In Defense of Sanity, and Reflections on the Psalms. In the car we're listening to Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. Haydn and I are reading Game Changers by Mike Lupica, and I'm reading The Adventures of Tom Sawyer with both boys.

Current Playlist: Nothing specific. A bit of Tom Petty, some old country and bluegrass, snatches of songs stuck inside my head.

Current Shame-Inducing Guilty Pleasure: I honestly can't think of anything. I should remedy that.

Current Colors: I wore Kentucky blue from head to toe for Halloween. :)

Current Fetish: All things Doctor Who.

Current Food: Whatever is quick to fix, for the most part. I made a really yummy Guess What cake, last week, as "research" for the Cake book. It is my Aunt Rosemary's recipe, and it turned out deliciously.

Current Drink: Coffee. Also, Starbucks has salted caramel hot chocolate and it is amazing.

Current Favorite Favorite: Designing fun Christmas gifts

Current Wishlist: Keurig coffee maker, less stress in my home, to feel sure about the next book I'm writing and plenty of uninterrupted time in which to write it.

Current Needs: A clone

Current Triumph: Trunk or Treat was awesome. It's not really MY triumph, but I'm excited for the ladies who run our children's ministry and the community created between our three churches.

Current Bane-of-my-Existence: Constantly having to say the same thing over and over and over, as though no one actually listens or cares the first time. If you open it, close it. If you turn it on, turn it off. If you spill it, clean it up. Trash goes in the garbage can, not on the floor or the table or the couch. Clothes should be folded and in drawers or hanging in closets, not strewn across the floor of your bedroom or bathroom. I'm sure all moms get tired of these things, but it feels exponential lately.

Current Indulgence: Closing my bedroom door to get work done. Not that people always heed the closed door, but it's as close as my introverted self can get to solitude right now.

Current Mood: Stretched thin and completely exhausted

Current #1 Blessing: My amazing man. I don't know how I would do all this without him.

Current Outfit: Jeans, long sleeved tee shirt, sneakers

Current Link: Please go visit my friend Lee Anne. She is trying to make the CNN Fit Nation Triathalon Team. Her video shares her absolutely amazing story, and it is well worth your time to watch it and leave her some encouraging comments.

Current Quote:  “The last word in ignorance is the man who says of an animal or plant: 'What good is it?” ― Aldo Leopold

Current Photo: My Halloween costume (the girls picked our theme: ermahgerd)

Title taken from this passage:

“It was November--the month of crimson sunsets, parting birds, deep sad hymns of the sea, passionate wind-songs in the pines. Anne roamed through the pineland alleys in the park and, as she said, let that great sweeping wind blow the fogs out of her soul.” 
― L.M. MontgomeryAnne of Green Gables

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