Sunday, November 28, 2010

The First Sunday in Advent

Yesterday I took some Turkey Tetrazzini and a salad to a dear friend from church who lost his wife this past fall. If you were to meet this gentleman, within the first twenty minutes of conversation you would know two important things about him. First is his incredible faith in God. Second, and as apparent as the first is his love for his wife. My friend and his wife had been married for over 40 years, and he still cherishes her as much today as he did the day they got married.

We visited for a while, and talked about all sorts of things, including, of course, his wife. She died suddenly, just like her mother did. She had told my friend many times that when it was time for her go too, that she prayed it would be quick and painless, just like her mother. My friend is relieved that her prayer was answered.

As I was getting ready to leave, he took me by the shoulders, looked me in the eye, and told me he was doing well. He said that he was at peace with his wife's death, and that he was at peace with his life without her. I believe that he believes this is true.

But I am also anxious for him as we move into the holidays and beyond. The holidays can be difficult for any of us. We struggle with expectations, our own and those that others have of us. We struggle with how busy things are this time of year. As a Christian, I struggle with how to make sure the reason for the Christmas season shines through in the midst of the commercialization and greediness that is a poor substitute for worship and contemplation, and spending time with those people you love. This Christmas will be more difficult for him, his first one without his dear wife. But my friend has many people who love him, and who will take some extra time to make sure he's got company and attention (and food!).

There are many others who aren't that lucky. So, this Christmas season, pay attention to the people around you, and take some time to help those in need. People in need of money, but also people in need of conversation. People in need of a coat, but also people who just need a smile. Be aware of how your words and actions can affect people - those you love and those you happen upon in your day to day life. This holiday, give the gift of yourself and your time. The gift you get back will be better than any box under the tree.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Happy Birthday Carole!

Today is my sister Carole’s birthday. Carole is way, way older than I am (well, 18 months older than I am so she’ll hit 50 before I do). She’s beautiful and smart and funny and just basically a great person.

Carole and I were fairly typical siblings as we were growing up. Because I was a little bit younger and more than a little bit annoying, I drove her crazy. My older brother Phillip and I did the real fighting, and Carole would sort of cower in the middle, trying to stay out of the fray. But we had fun too. Carole’s bed was two twins stuck together to make a king sized bed, and many nights she’d let me sleep with her. We’d pretend the bed was a boat, and that we were either stranded somewhere, or on a great adventure. The greatest adventure that happened in that bed was the night that Phillip hid under the covers at the end of the bed and waited quietly until we had settled down and turned off the light. Then he pounced out with a great growl and scared the you-know-what out of us. The other great adventure of our childhood was at St. George Island when I was about 5 and she was about 7 (I think this picture of her is from that particular trip). The grownups had a pot of boiling water in which to put a bunch of freshly caught crabs. The crabs didn't like the hot water, of course, and they frantically moved around enough to overturn the pot of water. Crabs were crawling all around the house, and Carole and I climbed on the dining room table and screamed.

As we got older, we got closer. From the time she left for college until now, she’s been my best friend, my confidant and great supporter. When Rick and I moved to Atlanta we moved into her neighborhood and Carole and I spent many hours together – walking in the morning, playing cards on the weekend, hanging out at the pool, camping with our families. What a gift for me, to be that close in proximity and in relationship to her. Now she and her family live in Cumming, and that’s still pretty close, but we don’t get to see nearly as much of each other and I miss her.
Carole is a fantastic mother. Just take one look at Kelsey and you’ll know that. Kelsey is brilliant, delightful and beautiful, and you can tell, just by looking at her and talking to her that she has great parents. Carole is a fantastic wife. Just look at how she interacts with Derek, and watch how he interacts with her, and you can see that they have a marriage that works. They’re friends, and they talk, and they have fun together. Carole is also a fantastic daughter. She’s thoughtful, caring and present. But for me, Carole is a fantastic sister. She’s been there for me when I needed anything – a sympathetic ear, a good talking to, a good laugh or even money (fortunately a long, long time ago). I cherish the times we get to spend together and wish it could be more frequent.

And so, on the anniversary of her birth, I say HAPPY BIRTHDAY CAROLE! I love you!

Monday, November 8, 2010


Readers of this blog who don’t know me well may think, based on my posts, that I’m always positive, happy and spiritual. While I am a “glass half-full” kind of gal, I am also plagued, like most people, by self-doubt, fears and anxiety. My experience in middle school and early high school did serious damage to my self-confidence for years, something that still afflicts me from time to time. I know now that my experience probably wasn’t much different than many other girls – it’s a hard age, and girls are especially tough on each other! But common or not, it made an impact on my psyche for years.

My Aunt Kate actually put a name to one of the things I struggle with – she calls it “The Imposter Syndrome.” Andrew Peterson, my favorite singer/songwriter, Christian or otherwise, wrote a song called “I’ve Got The News,” that has a line that describes it perfectly: “So you think…that you’re the only one who’s scared they’ll all forget you when you leave.” I’ve spent years re-introducing myself to people because I was sure there was no reason anyone would remember me from one meeting to the next.

I doubt. I doubt all the time. I doubt my abilities at work. I doubt my decisions. I doubt my choices in clothing. I doubt my cooking skills. I wonder if I really mean it when I say the prayers at Church and I sometimes wonder if they work anyway - if anyone’s really listening and cares about my little life. Why would they – I’m an imposter, right? I doubt, I doubt, I doubt.

I have anxiety and I’m lonely sometimes. I struggle with things that are too personal to post here in a public forum.

I’m not any different from anyone else.

That’s the thing - I’m just like just about everyone else. We all have fears and anxieties. We all wonder if we’re doing the right thing. I’d bet that most people who consider themselves at least spiritual, if not outright religious, struggle with doubt all the time. It’s easy to get bogged down with all this doubt. And what it can do to a person’s outlook can be isolating.

And so call me Pollyanna, but I try to see the silver lining and find joy wherever I can. Friday afternoon, in the midst of the grey clouds and cold I looked up into the sky and saw a small patch of blue sky. This reminded me of a grey summer day when I was a child, standing with a neighbor and looking up at the sky. “Look” she said delightedly, “there’s a patch of blue big enough to patch a Dutchman’s trousers.” Not a prophetic outburst, to be sure, but one that apparently made enough of an impact on me to allow me a smile on a grey day 40 years later. That was my silver lining – a childhood memory that gave me joy.

I get joy from a text, out of the blue, from one of my girls telling me that they love me. I get joy from my cat rubbing his face against mine as he tells me in his own way how happy he is to see me.

I try to balance out the doubt and disappointments of normal life by finding positives wherever and whenever I can. One of those positives is writing. The intense feeling of success when I hit “post” to this blog can keep me going for a good day or more. And Sara coming into my room last night to tell me what a great mom she thinks I am – well that’ll last a good long time!

So if I sound like one of those people who are always happy, please know that isn’t completely true, but also know that given time, I’ll find something good around me. And maybe my positive outlook can help someone else see good too.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010


The Gospel reading at church this weekend was from Luke (19:1-10), and it was the story about the height-challenged tax collector Zaccheaus who had to climb a tree to see Jesus. Jesus sees Zaccheaus and says “Hey – get on down out of that tree. I’m coming to your house tonight.” (Of course I’m paraphrasing – he probably didn’t actually say “Hey.”) Imagine it, will you, as I did on Sunday morning You’re walking down the street, or wandering the halls of your office or the grocery store, and God comes up to you and says “Hey – let’s go to your house for a while.” How would you react? And in this day and age, would you actually believe that it really was God? I, for one, would love to be able to say “Yes – I’d recognize Him immediately. And, yes – my house is ready to have such a visitor.” But the reality is that I worry whether or not I WOULD recognize Him, and goodness knows we’d like to upgrade the kitchen or at least run the vacuum before He showed up!

Later on in the day, I went back to church to serve at the 5:30 service. As a Lay Eucharistic Minister, my duties for the later services include opening up the church and getting the altar ready. As I was walking through these things, alone in the church, I considered that I was getting another home ready for God and His followers. In the quiet, I carried out the silver tray that was prepared with the bread, wine and water, placed the chalice on the altar, bowed and lit the candles. I looked carefully over the readings that I’d be doing, aware that my “presentation” might be the only time the people in the congregation experienced the scripture that week. Just prior to the service, Father Burtenshaw and I shared a prayer and opened the door. For me, St. Martin’s is an extension of my home, and each time I serve, whether it’s as a Lay Eucharistic Minister or as a member of the Bell Choir, I’m coming down from my tree and inviting God in.

But it’s easier to do that in the Church than it is in the balcony where I live. Preparing my home or my heart for God’s visit needs to be an intentional thing. It takes work, just like preparing the church for a service takes work. And up here in the balcony, it’s hard to be intentional sometimes, isn’t it? I’ve got to take the dog out, get the kids to school, do my work, get some sleep… And in the midst of all of this noise, I neglect to make sure my home (heart) is ready for God, whenever He shows up – or more accurately, whenever I remember to look and see that He’s already there. This week, I’m going to try to get down out of the tree and work on my house, so that whenever I hear the call, I can say “here I am” and not “hold on a minute, I’ve got to mop the kitchen floor!”