Monthly Archives: November 2012

Dare to Hope

I love Christmas. Really, I do.

pink poinsettias

it’s beginning to look a lot like…

I love that our culture still reserves a time to celebrate Jesus’ birth. But the churning of the holiday season is a mixed bag for me, and I’m not the only one.

After I published the bah-humbug-ish post Saving Duck this past Tuesday, my best friend, my closest cousin, and my brother all contacted me within a three-hour period. These people are more dear than I deserve, so their concern could be a coincidence. Just in case, I thought I better clarify.

First, I’m okay. You’re okay. God willing, we’ll all make it through.

Second, this is not a retraction of my thoughts from my last post. The unrealistic expectations of a perfect Thanksgiving-Christmas-New Year’s are destructive. They steal our joie de vivre and drain our bank accounts. We question our faith and our sanity.

Now I know there are a few of you who would prefer I only write about shiny, happy things. I appreciate that, and I wish I could meet your demands.

But I can’t.

It’s not my intention to be a negative Nelly. I do write about fun stuff as well from misread song lyrics to missing underwire, from discontinued lipstick to dismissed hair accessories. But to me, it wouldn’t be honest or helpful to present as if everything is sunshine and roses (or pink poinsettias) when it’s not.

Yesterday I hung out with some Christian girlfriends. One caught my attention when she said, “I don’t really like this season. I mean I like Christmas, I just don’t care for all that goes with it.”

Her courage struck a chord. One by one, every woman recounted personal stories of how painful the holidays can be. My December dread didn’t seem so abnormal after all.

The wisest of all the women shared a story from when her kids were younger. She and her husband piled their little ones in the car and drove across three states to visit a relative for Thanksgiving. The trip wasn’t a surprise visit; the relative knew they were coming. Imagine their shock to arrive just in time to stand in the driveway and wave good-bye.  Grandma had made other plans to go out with friends for Thanksgiving dinner instead.

chocolate turkeys

don’t be a turkey

“We laugh about it now,” said my friend. “We joke and say, ‘Remember when Grandma left us on Thanksgiving?’ But at the time, it wasn’t funny.”

This is in part why we need other people in our lives. It’s why we need to tell each other the truth. It’s why some of us write and read and comment. How good to know we’re not alone. Others have walked this road or on it with us now. Many have survived. Maybe we will, too.

Walk on, pilgrims. Walk on.

Yet I still dare to hope
when I remember this:
The faithful love of the Lord never ends!
His mercies never cease. Lamentations 3:21-22 NLT

He Walked a Mile by Clay Crosse. An oldie but a goodie.

Do you still dare to hope? Tell me more.

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Filed under blogging, family & friends, life, women's studies

Saving Duck

Remember the Duck Index two posts ago? How we’re going to do more of what we want to do and say no without guilt to everything else? Yeah, I talk a big game.

two ducks by Richard Broderick creative commons license

two ducks are better than one, image by Richard Broderick, creative commons license

No sooner did I write those words than the calendar page flipped and tossed me into the most wonderful stressful time of the year.

The time-sucking, sanity-sapping specter of shopping, cards, decorating, overeating, and road trips seized my duck with the sole intent to lop off his head, smoke, and serve him for New Year’s brunch.

I suspect the true target is me. 

The marksman crouches low in the dried cattails along the late autumn shoreline, his quiver full of guilt-tipped arrows. Silently, he pulls back his bow and launches the Dickens three-pronged attack.

Zing! The arrow of Christmas Past hits me in the chest. Memories of years long gone by and loved ones lost steal the air from my lungs. Zip! He hits me again. Christmas Present lodges squarely in my left shoulder. Pain shoots across my back with the knowledge that I can’t possibly do all of the things I’m supposed to do to make this the best. holiday. EVER. Pop! Christmas Future pegs me right between the eyes. My head aches with premonitions of a time when I’ll be too old, alone, and destitute to jingle even the tiniest silver bell.

I’m not dead yet, so the duck slayer gingerly lobs the Martha Stewart arrow. It’s carved of Quaking Aspen wood, finished with Peregrine feathers on one end and a rare, Native American arrowhead chiseled from Yellowstone Obsidian on the other. It slices through the skin on my right arm like a whalebone-handled table knife acquired at a tag sale in Connecticut slices through artisanal butter. I bleed enough to ruin the linens of an otherwise perfect holiday table setting, but the injury’s not fatal.

Korean Arrows by garryknight, creative commons license

Korean Arrows, image by garryknight, creative commons license

The archer selects the Good Christian Men arrow in an attempt to finish me off. This arrow screams as it flies at me, “Rejoice already! What’s wrong with you? Rejoice! Rejoice! It’s what good Christians do!”

I’m drowning in guilt when here it comes, the mother lode. The hunter lets fly the I’ll Be Home for Christmas arrow. True, I’ll be in someone’s home for Christmas. My home now? My home back then? The home of my relatives or in-laws? Could home be an illusion that exists if only in my dreams? Perhaps I should pitch a tent along the interstate. Set up camp under the Eads Bridge on the banks of the Mississippi.

The archer is ready with more ammunition. There’s the You Busted Your Holiday Budget and It’s Not Even December Yet arrow. The You’re Going Out to Eat on Christmas Instead of Cooking a Meatless, Organic Feast of Locally-Sourced Winter Vegetables? arrow. And new this year, the special edition red, white, and blue Happy New Year’s Dive Off the Fiscal Cliff arrow.

I shudder, quite sure my punctured carcass will be thrown onto Frosty’s compost pile to melt into oblivion. When what with my wondering ears do I hear?

“Quack!”

Oh, sweet horn of Gideon.

“Ree, ree, ree, ree. Quack!”

My duck is safe and hungry. He chatters at me to get up. 

I leave the hunter and his arrows behind to follow this simple, ingenious, waddling creature. I watch as he steps into the water and floats. Can you do that?

He glides along the surface, his body the motor, rudder, and hull. He scoops up the bread crumbs I toss. He inverts and dives. He shakes off droplets, tucks his head, and rests. He flaps his wings and flies.

Surely He will save you
from the fowler’s snare
and from the deadly pestilence.
He will cover you with His feathers,
and under His wings you will find refuge;
His faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. Psalm 91:3-4 NIV

The Duck Song by Bryant Oden.

How will you save duck this holiday season?

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Filed under humor, life, women's studies

Happy Thanksgiving

Words to remember for the week: 

The verse ends, “…for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus. 

Bittersweet to me.

Bitter because not all circumstances naturally produce gratitude. Some circumstances seem to have no redeeming qualities.

Sweet, and I cringe a little as I write this, because if God asks us to be thankful, there must be in all circumstances cause for thanksgiving. The sort of gratitude we cannot conjure up by ourselves. The kind that relies on another verse, “I can do all things through Him who gives me strength.

I’m taking a blog break and plan to be back next week.

Until then, I pray God reminds me and you of those things for which we can be thankful no matter what. Things like life, breath, and peace with Him through Christ. What others come to mind?

Thank you for reading. I am honored that you do!

Happy Thanksgiving from everyday epistle.

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Filed under life, words to remember

The Duck Index

My yoga instructors offer a wealth of material for blog posts. 

Boomer explained a concept I must share with you. Something she learned from her yoga instructor. A practice called the Duck Index.

image by cursedthing, creative commons license

image by cursedthing, creative commons license

Many years ago, Boomer’s instructor gave her this advice: only do what brings you the joy of a three-year-old feeding a duck. 

“We all have to do things we don’t like to do,” said Boomer to my class. “We can’t only do the things we enjoy.”

True. We all deal with dirty dishes, smelly laundry, complicated tax returns.

“But imagine the happiness of a three-year-old feeding a duck,” she said. “We can choose to do more things that give us that kind of joy.”

Boomer put the joy of a three-year-old feeding a duck on a scale of one to 10, with 10 being the greatest. She called the scale the Duck Index and began measuring experiences against it. She started saying no to as many things as she could that didn’t rank six or more on the Duck Index.

No to another volunteer opportunity when her volunteer hours were already maxed out. No to lunch with a demeaning colleague. No to a last-minute dinner with friends when what she needed was a night off.

“I could have done those things,” she said, “but someone would have paid for it. Either I would have paid for it in resentment and fatigue. Or those around me would have paid for it because I didn’t really want to be there.”

Sometimes saying no without guilt is difficult. But the more I do it, the easier it gets. The more it makes sense. 

Do I want to do this? Do I have to do this? 

If I don’t want to and I don’t have to, who will pay if I do it anyway? 

Can I say no to this, so someone who wants to do it can say yes? 

Can I say no, so I can say yes to what I want to do?

“Shoulders back and down. Don’t wear them like earrings,” said Boomer as our class continued. “Pay attention. You control where your shoulders sit.”

I am not the center of the universe. I am not in control of all the events in my life, but I am not a martyr or a victim either. I can place my shoulders back and down. I can say no without guilt. I can say yes to what brings me joy. So can you.

Pay attention. Your duck is waiting to be fed. 

As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Ephesians 4:1 NIV

Wake on up from your slumber, baby, open up your eyes.

What scores 10 on your Duck Index?

 

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Filed under life, women's studies

Autumn’s Smile

December may argue with this quote, but autumn does hold a special beauty.

What are your favorite things about this season?

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Filed under life, words to remember

Famous Ham Sammies Recipe from Beyer Beware

Today we’re linking to two recipes from one magnificent cook. It’s a double dip of deliciousness!

First, we’re cooking a famous ham sammies recipes from my friend Leah at Beyer Beware as part of our instead of hot dogs series. Second, today also happens to be Monday, the day of the week Leah posts her Hunk of Meat Mondays feature recipe. Visit Beyer Beware for Leah’s latest feature, Philly Cheese Sloppy Joes. And click this link to see the recipe details for our dish:

King’s Hawaiian Roll Ham Sandwiches

As kitchen entertainment, my helper and I cook the ham sammies:
(Video link: http://youtu.be/C5bSBf6oOew)

Leah told me these ham sammies were addictive, and she’s right. The “secret sauce” makes these babies special. A few simple steps transforms ham sandwiches from simple to super.

Nice job, Leah. Carnivores everywhere sing your praises!

ham sammies

famous ham sammies

 For the despondent, every day brings trouble; for the happy heart, life is a continual feast. Proverbs 15:15 NLT

Might as well face it, you’re Addicted to Love and ham sandwiches…

If you make this recipe, let me know how you like it!

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Filed under family & friends, food & farm, recipes

Chicago Songs

When life takes the wind out of your sails, go to Chicago.

Chicago subway tile

Chicago

That’s what I did. In 1997, I was 26 and newlywed when my husband and I moved to the Windy City. My mother had died less than a year before. I was awash in grief, living 13 hours away from home, cloistered in a 35th-floor apartment, spending much of my time alone. Imagine a low-budget production of Lost in Translation set in America without Bill Murray.

I paced the streets. Trudged up and down Michigan Avenue, walking and waiting for something, anything, to strike me. Hit me. Wrestle me back to life.

Moody Church entrance

The Moody Church

One Sunday not long after we’d moved, my husband and I ventured into the historic Dwight L. Moody Memorial Church at Clark and LaSalle. That day I heard Dr. Erwin Lutzer talk about grief and heaven and what was to come when we died. He was preaching the sermon series that inspired the book One Minute After You Die.

Coincidence? I think not. This. This was where I needed to be. For our remaining 18 months in Chicago, we treasured our time at that church listening to that preacher. And we learned songs I hadn’t sung before.

A mighty fortress is our God. A bulwark never failing;

Yes, I know. It’s a textbook hymn of the faith written by Martin Luther. The churches where I was raised sang praise songs. Fine, scriptural praise songs. To my detriment, Luther and his brave, abiding words had been kicked to the curb.

Not in Chicago. There we sang Martin Luther and Charles Wesley, Walter Chalmers Smith, Samuel Trevor Francis, and Horatio Spafford. And we began to learn how to stand. When you’ve done all you can do, when there’s nothing left, when no one seems able to help—to stand. It’s a lesson I’m still learning today.

Our Helper He amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing.

Barack Obama was in Chicago the same time I lived there. We must have walked the same streets, felt the same icy wind blow across Lake Michigan. I wonder, did we eat in the same restaurants? Unknowingly, did our paths cross at the Harold Washington Library stop in the Loop? What different experiences we must have had in the City of Big Shoulders. How much has changed since then.

Fast forward to this week. The status updates on my Facebook feed tell the tale. So many people are hurting from the results of this past Tuesday’s election. They’re afraid. Disappointed. Confused. Awash in grief. Unable to understand the bent of the electorate and the heart of the President.

Did God forget the unborn Tuesday? Does He no longer care about them or their parents? Did He change His mind about stealing? Is taking something that belongs to someone else now fair and just in His eyes? Perhaps He is disappointed with His flock. In anger, has He disowned American believers struggling in a culture that careens toward destruction?

Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also—

There were calls to move to the middle. Move to the right. Establish a third party. Ban evangelicals. And then there was this from a pastor friend:

“Whether the election results leave you euphoric or stricken, let’s remember that whoever holds political power in America, the Lord holds sovereign power everywhere. He says, ‘By me kings reign and rulers decree what is just.’ Again, ‘The king’s heart is in the hand of the LORD; he directs it wherever he pleases.’ (Prov. 8:15, 21:1)”

Hancock building in clouds

Hancock building

Today the wind rushes across the Kansas prairie as powerfully as it whips through the concrete canyons of Chicago. It caresses the waters of Savannah just like it rocks the waves off Santa Barbara. It flies over the hill country of Texas with the same intensity it batters the ravaged and bustling streets of New York. We cannot tell where it comes from or where it’s going. But God knows.

This is a time to stand. Actively trust God and rest in Him. Examine ourselves, confess sin, and be restored. Return to the certainty of the Word that does not change with political pressure.

March fearlessly into the future of America, knowing that come judgment or prosperity, God Himself has ordained it. He will not desert His own.

The body they may kill; God’s truth abideth still: His kingdom is forever!

Our fight is not with people. It is against the leaders and the powers and the spirits of darkness in this world. It is against the demon world that works in the heavens. Because of this, put on all the things God gives you to fight with. Then you will be able to stand in that sinful day. When it is all over, you will still be standing. Ephesians 6:12-13 NLV

 What helps you to stand?

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Filed under America, faith, life