Monday, January 31, 2011

Love Potion No. 9

One word frees us from all the weight and pain of life. That word is love.

This is the time of year to sell love. Grocery stores are stocking up a month in advance on candies and cards to fuel the annual tribute to love and romance. Expectations are high, and the pressure is on for would-be lovers to come through in the clutch with flowers, candy, jewelry and mass-produced 'personal' cards. The economic impact of Valentine's Day in this country was $14 billion last year. That's big business in anybody's book.

But the mark and measure of real love - as compared to swiping plastic for some expected gift - is not even to be uttered in the same breath as greeting cards and candy hearts. The saccharine substitution that passes for love and romance in TV ads, digital billboards and cardboard grocery displays will never be mistaken for the real thing. To know a love that goes the distance? A love that abides? That's the kind of love I honor.

And so I must disagree with the ancient Greek sage on this quote above. I believe it is primarily because of love that we experience the depths of anguish in our human experience and the often unbearable weight of grief when we face the loss of a great love. A friend once called it "the high cost of loving" when we walk that lonesome valley.

I believe there is far greater comfort and truth in the source that reminds us that we do not walk it alone, but that Christ, through the Spirit, is very present:

I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

Ephesians 3:16-19

Read it again if you like, for this portion of scripture is richer than a box of chocolate truffles. Each phrase can be savored....spoken slowly...rolled on the heart and mind with delight as we contemplate the unsearchable love of God who draws us close in our times of despair as well as in moments of great joy. Jesus, lover of our souls, never stops loving us nor stops helping us to love others.

Data from the National Retail Federation

Friday, January 28, 2011

Fresh Insights

A foolish consistency
is the hobgoblin of little minds....

Ralph Waldo Emerson 1803-1882

Genius, in truth, means little more than the faculty of perceiving in an un-habitual way.

William James 1842-1910

Habits are hard to break. We can become addicted to our own habits and patterns, making them rituals in our day. There is both comfort and confinement in this routine. Emerson's excerpt from Self-Reliance mentions a foolish consistency. Note, he did not discourage consistency, only that which is unexamined.

Take a fresh look at what we do day to day that becomes the cumulative expression of our priorities and convictions. Let us examine our habits to see if our actions align with what we say we value and hold dear. If there is 'foolishness' there - unhealthy patterns and things that do not add to the quality of our relationships or support the needs of ourselves or others - then make a change.

Consistency is sorely needed in child-rearing, in communicating love and respect, and in maintaining healthy relationships, but that consistency is best fueled by wisdom. To be able to change course as needed and to alter our behavior and habits is not whimsical or ephemeral, but necessary as we respond to a changing landscape which is the terrain of our lives.

Be willing to be misunderstood by others, to be different and swim against the flow. A slavish adherence to popular culture and opinion binds the mind and heart. A heart and mind constricted results in small thinking. Be open to fresh insights in the day. God can touch us in the most unexpected moments when we are open to a fresh brush with the Spirit.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Watch and Pray

Waiting. Waiting for hours. For some, waiting for months. I even feel restless just writing the words. It is another night watch for many.

Try waiting for hours in the ER, then hours more for an open room. While I am at home in my routine it is easy to live unaware of those who are waiting somewhere. Waiting on - quite literally - their next breath. We get the phone call or the message, and suddenly we are thrust into a new reality of sharing the burden of waiting. Then I think of all the people who populate those hospital beds which are too full to allow a critically ill friend his room, and know that countless families are squeezed into waiting rooms everywhere. The enormity of it is overwhelming on any given day.

I am living in that place of the virtual waiting room with several dear friends right now, and I imagine you are too. We wait with others who are at the bedside of mothers, of precious loved ones, of babies who are struggling with life and breath, of a dear friend who tonight finds the simplest act of breathing death-defying.

We can feel helpless to do anything. And we can be fearful. Or we can take seriously the call to prayer. Or maybe we are fearful, AND we choose to pray in earnest. That's probably more honest. So I pray for for comfort....for God's peace in the midst of turmoil....for assurance that we are not alone, though we may feel alone. As I told Stephanie, the Great Mystery that is God's Presence with us bears witness that God is there and is not silent, even when we cannot be physically present. Yet our anticipatory grief of what may lie ahead clutches at our hearts.

When God draws near to the brokenhearted there can be inexpressible comfort even as there is undeniable grief and deep loss. It is an unfathomable mystery. As Corrie ten Boom's sister, Betsy, said, "No matter how deep the pit we are in, God's love is deeper."

When there is fear and anxiety, God can soothe and heal our anxious moments. I want to cast abroad the message I believe we need to hear: fear not, dearly beloved. Do not be afraid. When everything else around us seems to be cratering, our fear is a natural human response. But as believers we are called to live beyond our strength and beyond our fears.

I sought the Lord and He answered me and delivered me from all my fears. Psalm 34:4

Does that mean if we can sufficiently mask the fear or quench the anxiety we will have proven ourselves faithful and have earned the right to healing - sort of a Crucible, a final test of the faithful? Absolutely not. We come before the Lord God in need of any miracle God wants to give. We come pouring out our hearts like water before the Lord, honestly asking for mercy and grace without limitation. We approach a sovereign God.

Sometime we experience the cure.

Sometimes we experience the healing we seek before death; sometimes it is only after death that we can know restoration and renewal. Another great mystery that is outside the grasp of our limited experience but not beyond the reality of our faith.

And sometimes we are called to extend that same mercy and grace to others when we least expect it.

To show mercy is an act of love just as powerful as fighting for the life of another. The lines bleed, and it is hard to know which one is more loving in the in-between - the times of fighting for any chance at life. And yet, there may come a time when we can know that it is time. Some call this a time of release. It is not a time of giving up, but of giving over. And it can be a tender, poignant time of sweet release. Time to put down the plowshares and implements of working so hard, and to pick up the hand of another and simply express, once again, that deep human longing to love and be loved. That, too, is a glorious act of love.

The waiting room is a good time for remembering that we are not alone...that we do not have to be afraid....and that we are held in the grip of God's grace, even though we live in this broken world with all its diseases and frailties. May God bless our families and friends who even now are dependent upon this day's breath. May we watch and pray fervently with them while waiting.

Friday, January 21, 2011

I'll Have What She's Having

My friend, Anna, shared this story about one of her young children who was acting out a bit because the child's sister had just opened many birthday gifts. The child was displaying her displeasure when Anna took her aside and gently sought to make it a teachable moment:

"I know your sister has lots of new Barbies and toys today, and you don't. But today is her birthday, and these are hers. This is called coveting, when we want what someone else has, and we do not want to covet."


I love the picture of denial and definition in the same response. We learn early, do we not, to deny the presence of undesirable practices or traits in our lives while we manifest them just the same. It is part of the human condition. We only get better at this with age.

"You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight." James 4:2

We do not have to be four or five at a birthday party to see the truth of this scripture. It is as near as our family gatherings, office meetings and political discussions; pretty much wherever people are present there is evidence of the universal experience of selfishness at the heart of coveting. We want what we have, and we want more.

It is not enough to have our needs met, we want more.
It is not enough to have more than most in the world, we want more than others in our zip code.
Selfishness then drives us to think that we are somehow entitled to more which fuels humans' desire to act on that motive.

Jealously, envy and that little-used word, covetousness, are roots of the same thorny tree which snags our shirts and holds us while we think we are free of' its grasp. We are told that we deceive ourselves if we say we do not do this (I John 1:8). I can laugh at the little girl's story above, but do not like to see pieces of me in the story.

I recall a grainy photo on 8mm movie film (before the days of the dvd and cell phone camera) capturing a dark haired little girl near a bakery cake with icing roses for her four year old birthday. I stood beside my two year old brother with open arms spread cautiously around the cake so his finger would not stray near the icing. Yes, that may be normal child-like behavior. But that image has stayed with me as a check point - a kind of visual short hand - for recognizing a similar display of selfishness in adulthood.

Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child...but when we become grown, we learn to put away childish things.....

Rev. Dr. Maxie Dunnam, our former pastor, wrote with his daughter The Seven Deadly Sins workbook which we studied with small groups in the past. It was enlightening. We do not talk much about sin today in America, but we would do well to see how behaviors stemming from self interest and covetousness manifest themselves to damage our lives and relationships. Interestingly, there are corresponding virtues - positive traits - to each of what we call the deadly sins. Picture a spectrum with attitudes and behaviors located along it from one extreme to another if that is helpful.

While there are predispositions and inclinations toward selfishness in us, we face choices daily to act on them or not. We are not victims. "That's just the way I am," is no excuse and does not absolve us from responsibility for our actions.

We can choose to live generously with an open hand, or to live close-fisted lives. With God's help we can become aware of our selfishness and live empowered to overcome it as a driving force for us. The lives of those I admire and seek to emulate are people who have learned to live graciously and generously, whether they give out of their meager resources or out of plenty. It is not a matter of how much someone has, but how much we are willing to let it go in order to grow out of selfishness.
For it is in giving that we receive....(attributed to St. Francis of Assisi).

(image courtesy

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Hope for the Helpless

Psalm 10:17 "Lord, you know the hopes of the helpless. Surely you will listen to their cries and comfort them."

The hopes of the helpless.....

Even the helpless have hopes, dreams, aspirations. And they need a champion...someone who cares enough to intercede for do what they think they cannot do for themselves.

And without taking too much liberty here, it occurs to me that God is the help of the hopeless as well. Our very present help in time of need...

This has been a day of facing loss with friends. Bereavement, grief, fear, emotional distress and deep loss have left their mark on this day as I have shared it with others who have felt the white-hot edge of life and known the searing impression left behind. It began as any other, but the hours that made up today are damp with tears from several people.

These life events will not make the nightly news. No one will report on their great sadness, and few will take notice outside a caring circle. And yet we are wise to remember each day that we never know the condition of those we pass along the street or in a hallway. As our South African friend, Dr. Ross Olivier, would say, "Each one next to us is sitting in a pool of tears."

As my momma says, "We're all just hanging on by a thread."

Hang on. Hold fast. Cling to hope that we can experience the comfort of our loving God even as our lives feel unraveled in this broken world. Sometimes those who love and care for others are actually part of God's provision of comfort and hope. The image above is a picture for us: building a nest together thread by thread. That's what we help do for one another: shore up with love and carefully placed stitches the broken places in our lives.

At other times, we need to be on the receiving end of grace and comfort. That is a picture of the ebb and flow of life to me....having seasons of dryness and abundance. Thanks be to God who never slumbers when His children cry in the night watch. And thanks for God's faithfulness and mercies that are new every morning.

God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. 4 He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us 2 Corinthians 1:3,4.

In the Words of a Child

"I never like a jail!" a young boy boldly declared, broadcasting his words through a nearby microphone and interrupting Sunday's children sermon. The leader, Lori, did not miss a beat, and said that yes, jails are not a fun place to be.

She turned their attention to her topic - patience - then said how hard it is to wait patiently for something we really want. She used words to paint pictures of the challenge of waiting. Another interruption:

"I never like to wait patiently!" the same little boy exclaimed. He was not a plant in the audience, but his sentiment fed into her message perfectly. Adults nodded in amusement or laughed aloud because he had said what we were thinking: we do not like to wait patiently.

Waiting. We can expect routine waiting throughout the day and week. These times will prove to be mere inconveniences in light of real problems one day. We may even have extreme times of waiting that try our souls, such as:
Psalm 69:3 I am weary of my crying: my throat is dried: mine eyes fail while I wait for my God.
So go ahead and speak aloud the words on your heart. Pour out your heart like water before the Lord....Say boldly to the Lord exactly what you are thinking in times of impatience, distress and great anguish. God is big enough to take it. No veil can conceal the condition of our hearts and thoughts before God. Be honest. Wrapping our words in a cloak of acceptability or trying in vain to disguise our true intention is futile. Are we fooling anyone?

And thanks be to God for the witness of scripture that reminds us how to keep our focus when life's frequent interruptions keep jarring us and demanding yet another opportunity to practice patience:
Psalm 40:1 I waited patiently for the LORD; and God inclined unto me, and heard my cry.
We do not like to wait patiently, but we will continue to get more chances to practice being patient. I pray these life lessons will drive us to the heart of God as we await God's provision and as we grow in grace. I pray that peace and patience will be among our gifts discovered in the coming year.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Strength Under Pressure

Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer (Romans 12:12).

We are all standing in the need of prayer, but some seem to take that need to heart more than others. An amazing young woman, Katie Almy, whose journey of faith and life is lovingly chronicled in her writings [see and click 'latest on Karis' tab] has pinpointed the verse above as a focus for 2011. I am piggybacking on her pinpoint.

One might say that a mere eleven word sentence is hardly worthy of a year's meditation and application, but, since few have mastered it, maybe it is worth the effort. Initially, I infer from 'to rejoice in hope' that one is in a situation where hope is sorely needed, and that can be a bleak place. For that which is seen does not need hope, because it is present already; however, 'hope consists of the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.'

Put another way more clearly:

Now faith is the assurance that what we hope for will come about and the certainty that what we cannot see exists (Hebrews 11:1 International Standard Version 2008).

Living by faith rather than by sight through life's trials and challenges - that is, not seeing any visible progression toward what we hope for - is a place of anxiety and tribulation. We cannot conjure up a solution. We cannot create a cure. We cannot bring about healing of bodies and minds when a disease process takes over. Each of us may one day feel utterly helpless for the first time in our confident, American, magnolia blossom lives. That is when we begin to know the need - the desperate need - for something bigger than ourselves.

We need patience. Frantic activity and ceaseless fits and starts are the marks of desperation. Desperate people do desperate things which are not necessarily fruitful. How do we cultivate patience? Where do we find this elusive fruit of the Spirit when we are living in a heightened state of alert and see no help in sight? How do we practice patience even in the midst of our most heart-wrenching struggles? If it were so easy, everybody would be doing it.

But we can know the power of patience. I say power, because there is great tensile strength in the life of one who lives tethered in prayer and walks in the Presence of God. I am no physicist, but see an analogy here.

  • Tensile strength is the measure of force required to pull something to its breaking point. People talk of being pulled in too many directions. We can identify.
  • Compression strength is the measure of the ability of something to withstand pressure exerted perpendicularly - such as a hammer on concrete. Both of these measure to a breaking point. Have you felt that hammer? Many of you know the relentless action of pounding from illness, grief, financial instability or a host of causes. People can know the feel of being pulled and pounded. But wait, there's more.
  • Shear stress is the stress state in which the shape of a material tends to change without changing volume. Force is applied at an angle causing the squeeze and a resulting altered image. A rectangle becomes a parallelogram, for example, but it is unbroken. We, too, are shaped by the experiences we live when we are caught in the squeeze.
  • We can expect pressure to come at us from all angles. It's called life. Be prepared.

Those who are schooled in defending themselves from tribulation only by their own personal skill level and financial wherewithal will find one day that such an arsenal is insufficient to combat the foe. We will one day be overwhelmed....caught in some tsunami....and need a hand larger than our own.

Let practicing the presence of God be a discipline during quiet days when there is not much happening. On such days we tend to coast. We pull out the big guns of prayer and pleading for crises.

What if we reverse that pattern? What if we weave our ordinary days with prayer and practice trusting God with what we do not see, so that when what the writer calls tribulation comes and force is applied to our live from all directions, we can more fully trust God? God's grace and love come to us from an endless supply that is never exhausted. God's resources are never depleted; mercies are new every morning.

The way of wisdom reminds me that to 'be constant in prayer' as referenced above means constantly - as in all the time - not merely in times of major stress points. Some of you have been caught in the squeeze of unimaginable stresses. I know Katie Almy has, and we covenant to pray for you and your family. Thank you for lifting this little verse out for us to see today. May God strengthen you with patience in tribulation and persistence in prayer, even as you trust in His great love and provision for Karis.

We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed but not despairing; persecuted but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed... (2 Corinthians 4:8-9).

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

New Life for an Old Singer

After writing about the state of the union's grievous generation-skipping home ec skills, I have tuned in to recent news this week of twenty-somethings who are already well underway in various life pursuits which address the generational domestic deficit. Case in point:

Anyone who has used the old enamel black Singer sewing machine with its fancy gold scroll work will appreciate the joy of recycling that mainstay of American domestication for use in a new decade. A talented woman with an artful touch, Sallie Kate Dean, posted some classic Singer shots with her new projects that will bring back memories.

2. Fitness, Food and Faith was the public blog by one who inspires me daily as the writer shared her zest for life and her domestic prowess, putting me to shame. She is an original Pioneer Woman without the prairie. Her blog referenced here has been privately shelved awaiting another life stage at which I suspect it will emerge in full glory. The link was originally published in this post, but is not edited. We miss it, Sam!

3. Olivia, a young Northwestern University journalism grad with a good job (no small feat in itself in 2011), also attends culinary school in San Francisco to deepen her experience and knowledge base because she wants to be a food writer. Food critics and blogs are abounding in this decade for men and women as the industries supporting them are not gender specific.

I celebrate that these and scores of other young women in 2011 are free to choose to develop that creative part of themselves and share it with others. They are as confident in the kitchen as they are in the courtroom or boardroom or hospital ER or classroom. They are not only moving with assurance to accomplish what used to be called domestic tasks, they are doing it with style and wondering what the fuss is all about. It's just life, they might say.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Be Prepared

New year prompts so far:
Keep in touch.
Learn something new.
Today, be prepared.

That phrase is not the exclusive domain of the Girls Scouts and Boy Scouts, though they do a pretty good job at instilling the value of the motto in many languages around the world. I first learned it as a nine year old camping at Camp Wahi, and - like much of what we know first - it keeps coming back to me. Learning to plan for the expected and unexpected alike is a life skill we need to refresh.

We find ourselves squarely in the winter storm watch across the deep South today, and it is a good time to assess our collective preparedness. Warnings of extensive power outages scroll across the red bar of the TV screen as meteorologists rise to the occasion of their ratings highs. The frustrating experience of bursting water mains in this city during deep freezes has taught us to fill bathtubs with water and to keep frozen jugs of water available for both personal use and to keep cold foods frozen without power. We take inventory of the essentials we have on hand and know how we can meet the needs of family members when our usual means of operating are interrupted. These periodic check ups are a nuisance to some, but are helpful to sharpen our survival skills, lest we become lazy and forget how to live without coffeemakers, hairdryers and microwaves. Perish the thought.

A man visiting from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania today surely found it humorous to observe Mississippians in near-crisis mode as he heard about the imminent ice storm with predictions of 30 degree temps and as much as 1/2 inch ice accumulation. He had to laugh. Grocery shelves had been picked clean of water and staples, as well as the ingredients for snow ice cream (after all, we do not get snow very often, and the kids may not get another chance this year.) Then it occurred to me that beyond weather, a crisis is relative.

What may topple my equilibrium and send me tumbling may not even be enough to tip the balance of your harmonious life. One's orange alert crisis state can be merely another's routine way of relating to life - of living with low-grade crises so much that it is the norm. The sharp edges wear down with repeated exposure and pain becomes tolerable. They do not even recognize signs of a heightened alert situation because the numbing effect of its omnipresence has made them blind to the danger embedded in it. I have counseled women who have failed to see the signs of abusive husbands and dangerous family situations because they had so lowered their expectations that they no longer hoped for a changed relationship... until one day when there arises a tipping point that cries out for self preservation.

What is our crisis threshold?

We have no meteorological forecasts giving us a ten day personal outlook or an hour by hour satellite picture of how our lives will unfold. There may be no audible warning alerts sounding on city streets to advise of our approaching disastrous decisions. We must gain our early warning system alerts from other sources - consider wise counsel and prayer - and be prepared to act before and during a crisis.

We do know that storms and trials will come to each of us, so we can be prepared.
  • Have essentials on hand. What really matters? What is the spiritual equivalent of food, clothing and shelter to each of us?
  • Live with a working knowledge of how to cope when life gets challenging; it will.
  • Know why faith, hope and love endure.
  • Keep relationships in good repair.
  • Practice learning to live with contentment irrespective of our circumstances.
  • It is still a pretty good idea to be cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent.
Dear God of new beginnings and Ancient of Days, instruct us in the way of wisdom as we begin another year with You. Teach us what is essential in the faith we share. Give us understanding, and calm our anxious hearts as we follow You. Inspire us to be prepared as we grow in faith and give an account of the faith that is within us as You strengthen us. May we trade lives of quiet desperation for Your peace that abides and dwells richly within us. We pray in the name of the risen Christ, Amen.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Learn Something New

When does an apron become cool? Try 2011.

I put away some Christmas things this morning and discovered in the back of a drawer several gingham aprons made by my aunt Mabel. These are old fashioned June Cleaver pleated aprons that tie at the waist with hand stitching in little patterns on each. Those pink checks peeked out from the drawer and reminded me of a time not so long ago, when women wore aprons in the kitchen and cooked at home. In recent decades for many, that has been merely a quaint anachronism in the modern day of past-paced living and technology-driven lifestyles. But I feel a bit of connection to my forebears when I don a good apron and get in the kitchen to cook.

Just last night I listened on the way home from work as the public radio program's guests - hip young north easterners - touted the new value of 'reclaiming domestic competencies.' They used this phrase and others like it frequently, describing what it meant to a (I suspect) domestically illiterate audience. Growing your own food - even in pots or window boxes in the city, knowing how to cook healthy meals at home, discovering how to care well for one's self and others, living responsibly to manage natural resources and leave little waste in our wake are discussed in 2011 as though this is new discovery. They sounded a clarion call to a generation to 'wake up' and live well.

Sustainable agriculture and responsible lifestyle choices figure largely into the scheme of a new generation's mantra they called domestic skills. Seems like everything old is new again. Pepper a conversation with organic, reclaimed, and sustainable, and you're golden.

Serving farm fresh local produce is hailed on menus in swanky eateries.

Eating live grains (dating from Biblical times) is celebrated for health's sake, while buying highly-preserved, transfat-impregnated, artificially flavored food was last decade's triumph of convenience. (Note: Try Ezekiel cereal mixed with two parts Vanilla Almond Bare Naked granola - 1/4 cup total - for Doc's power breakfast for health, convenience and protein staying power.)

Swelling lists of courses and blogs are devoted to teaching a new generation how to farm organically, sew clothing for the family, eat fresh and local food, and live in harmony with nature and one another. Many are working to address the fact Americans really do not make anything anymore; we merely consume at an astounding rate. And we know how to do very little independently.

So, tell me...why did they do away with home economics?

I remember it well. Back in the day, junior high and high school girls took home economics and the boys took shop (or agriculture preparedness and maintenance courses) as electives. We made an apron, sewed our kettle cloth shift, studied cooking fundamentals and learned budgeting. The guys built a bookcase and picnic table and tackled welding among the life skills. My friend, Betty, said today that she took shop for a semester, and one benefit was that it demystified the unknown: "When you know how to use a hammer or saw, you are not intimidated by one."

Designed to equip them/us to face a future as a farmer or homemaker, this model remained entrenched until the social and political discord of the 60's and 70's caused tremors cracking fault lines in curricula across even the rural South. I was caught in the crack, so to speak, with one foot in two worlds.

Graduating from high school in '73 as the Betty Crocker Homemaker of Tomorrow (yes, there was such a thing), I spanned a changing landscape in that decade to begin practicing law in 1979. Most all of the women law students I spent the next few years with eschewed anything having to do with homemaking or confining women to traditional roles. We were trail blazers - fighters all - for the greater good of womankind! Power to the people, doncha know. I knew how to fall right in step, keeping my association with Betty Crocker well hidden.

Last month, by sharp contrast, I read the law school newspaper where a talented orator and award-winning competitor and law student wrote her Baking for Barristers column about chocolate chip pumpkin muffins. I stopped in my tracks, slack-jawed and mouth agape, as my father in law says. That would never have happened in the seventies. We were too defensive for our own good in the collective quest for more options for women. But this is now, when over half the nation's law and medical students are women. So maybe they are not as hypersensitive as their less numerous counterparts were decades ago; they exercise their options.

Time and life have a way of either mellowing us or hardening us. Our response makes the difference. I want to mellow gracefully.

Learn a new skill. Identify a domestic deficiency and do something about it. The internet is replete with advice for domestic divas who are discovering this concept for the first time, because they never had it in school and alarmingly few have had it modeled at home.

There is immense value - for both men and women - in having the skills to manage and maintain one's home and personal finances, to create a place of warmth and hospitality for family, and to provide healthy eating patterns and relationships. They are calling this new, essential body of knowledge domestic competencies, and they are saying we had better learn some soon, or no one will remember how it is done.

Where is Betty Crocker when we need her?

Note: Kudos to my friends, Vicki Daughdrill and Martha McIntosh - widely accomplished and fun women who have parlayed their college major of home economics into careers of world travel and textile promotion, and newspaper and book writing and publishing, in addition to being excellent cooks and having wonderful families. Who knew you would be so cutting edge this year?

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Thoughts for Living into the New Year

The following sequence of notes or posts is entered as they come to mind - and in no particular order - to lodge in memory some thoughts or practices I want to emphasize in the coming year.

The first note of the new year is: Keep in Touch.

This old French post card with its charming handwriting and lovely old stamps visually reminds me of the importance of correspondence. In 2011, few of us take the time actually to write letters. Texts are good for a quick answer but have no staying power. You cannot linger over a box of old texts, unwrapping each one carefully, to read your mother's letters or remember your grandfather's handwriting, or re-read old letters from Camp. Yes, I have saved them. They may be clutter to someone, but they are my clutter.

So in the year to come, I resolve to become reacquainted with the practice of writing letters more often. Handwritten words show intentionality and communicate a gift of time to the recipient. Little children spell love T...I...M...E. And our time is a precious thing indeed. So is expressing appreciation.

I want to be more loving and to cultivate gratitude. I want to learn to love as God loves - a steep climb from where I am today, but a worthwhile goal on this journey. I find inspiration for this bold desire in many places, but here is another, from I John 3:18:

Dear children, let us not love merely in words or talk, but in deeds and truth.

So, keep in touch. Write it down. Take the time to express appreciation. And be a channel of blessing in doing so.