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Monthly Archives: December 2009

Small Town Girl

I grew up in a small town. I learned to drive in a small town. I went to school in one and learned to kiss in one. I learned how to get into trouble in a small town. I spent my whole life trying to get out of this very small town…this very one that I’m in right now.

And when I graduated from high school, I did. I left. Only to return and go and return and go and return again. After 27 years, I have learned to love my small town – the good, the bad, and the ugly. It’s interesting, though, to see where my peers ended up and what they have ended up doing.

It seems growing up, there were kids in my small town that seemed to know who they were from birth. They didn’t need to find themselves. They knew who they wanted to be, had their own style, their own way. If they wanted to leave, they did. If they wanted to stay (or return) they did that also. Some are still drifters just as they were in high school, hippies floating from place to place. Some are adventurers. Some are professionals. Some are still partyers. Some have kids and aren’t married. Some have kids and are. Some have no kids and are not married. Some have even died. In the 10 years that we have been out of high school, the people that were in my class are really no different. The town that I grew up in is still small and not too much different than it was before I left. The ones who knew exactly who they were, still do.

Yes, we’ve aged, matured even. But I know that I still don’t know who I am or what I want to be. I know that I still wouldn’t fit in in any one clique. I know that I still compare myself to others and that my confidence (while at least now it does exist) often wanes. When I graduated from high school I couldn’t leave dust trails fast enough. I just couldn’t get out of this wretched town fast enough. I was destined to be a professional city girl. I know now that that is not my path. I’m a small town girl. I love knowing everyone. I love them knowing me. I love that if I’m in trouble, I have people who are willing to help. Our community will pull together. I love that my family is here. My memories are here – good and bad. My life was built here. I know every inch of this small town, every crack in the sidewalk, every cross in the road. It’s cozy and comfortable and safe…well, for the most part. I want to travel the world some day. I want to have opportunities to see things and do things and for our children to too. But I think, wherever we land, if it’s not in this same small town, I will always want to live in a small town where the families are tight knit and the stores are close by, where the tractors roam, and where the dogs can run free, where the post office is within walking distance, and where my family will be.

Each year that goes by is one less year that I have to figure this life out, one less year to really figure me out. So, at the very least, while I may still not know who I am, what I’m doing, or where I’m going, I do know where I am and that for right now at least, I am a small town girl. Here’s to another year of….figuring things out.

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Joy After Christmas

1 When the LORD brought back the captives to [a] Zion,
we were like men who dreamed. [b]

2 Our mouths were filled with laughter,
our tongues with songs of joy.
Then it was said among the nations,
“The LORD has done great things for them.”

3 The LORD has done great things for us,
and we are filled with joy.

4 Restore our fortunes, [c] O LORD,
like streams in the Negev.

5 Those who sow in tears
will reap with songs of joy.

6 He who goes out weeping,
carrying seed to sow,
will return with songs of joy,
carrying sheaves with him.

Psalm 126

After Christmas, I am generally overwhelmed by how I feel. It’s like a trapeze artist swinging from one trapeze to the next…how they feel in the middle. I wonder how I’m supposed to feel – sad that Christmas is over, happy that it was so blessed, ready and/or anxious about the new year? What do we feel? There’s a mourning in my heart when Christmas is over. For a few days out of the year, peace is prominent amongst many people. And after those few days are over, chaos begins again right where it left off. For a few days everything is right with my world (or at least I can pretend it is), and the joy of Christmas blinds me to my troubles. The thing about Christmas is that it does give us joy, joy in celebrating Christ’s birth, joy in giving to others, but that joy should continue throughout the year. We should always remember the birth, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Surely if you do not believe in him as our Savior, you have been affected in some way by someone who does (hopefully, in a good way). That in itself produces some belief.

The pastor of our local church preached a wonderful sermon on the above Psalm yesterday. He said, “Joy is a matter of coming home.” Where is our joy after Christmas? We often live with the myth that joy is something to be obtained, and then life will be easier – it will be all downhill. But joy is something we should have no matter the circumstances and it should last…but it doesn’t. We have ups and downs.  We have anger and sorrow.  We stray from God’s grasp and are called home.

The pastor said that joy always involves going home and it always involves planting seeds. We often wait to plant seeds until we’re in the optimal position (emotionally, financially, etc.), but we should plant seeds in any position. In order to find our ultimate joy, though, and the capacity to sow seeds, we must go home. We know where the house is, but we don’t come home.  Planting seeds, forgetting about ourselves…that is where the joy is.  We absolutely cannot plant those seeds unless we go home to God.  I hope that  God calls me back to Him, that He will not ever let me stray too far from His grasp.  I hope that, like the captives in the psalm that I can sow in tears and in laughter and that I will reap great joy.

“I slept and dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I acted and behold, service was joy.”

Rabindranath Tagore

A Walk to Remember

I cannot recall a time when it has snowed here before Christmas. As a matter of fact, I don’t think it has snowed before Christmas in my lifetime. But a couple of nights ago in our little town, it snowed. It was only about half an inch. But it was enough to put on the girls’ new pink snow boots, coats, and hats, and go for a walk outside. I just put a coat and hat on over my PJ’s since I didn’t think we’d be out that long. It was dark. The wind was blowing the snow everywhere, and it was frigid. As we walked, we threw little mini snowballs, chased one another around. We made footprints in the snow in all sorts of different ways. The girls laughed and ran around. It was a sweet family moment.

On the way home from out little walk, however, the winds picked up and it started sleeting instead of snowing. The Bean started fussing because her face and hands were frozen and the ice was hurting her cheeks. The Peanut was no longer laughing, talking, and running around, but walking, miserable, complaining of her wet hair and freezing cold hands. And my pajama pants, while flannel, were not enough to keep the frigidity from my skin and so my legs were almost numb.

In those few minutes that it took us to get home, Bloke and I talked about what it might be like if we weren’t walking home but walking homeless…with two small children who were freezing, trying to find a semi-warm or maybe just a sheltered place to stay. What do you say to your child when they’re cold? ‘We’ll be inside soon’ ‘We’ll be home soon’ or ‘in the car soon’ – all of these responses come to mind. Bloke and I realized how grateful we are that our home, while smaller than many submarines, is warm and dry and sheltered and we have it to come to. So many do not.

This sentiment was even further ingrained in my mind when, while stopped at a stop light the very next day after our walk, I saw a man with an “In Need. Please help” sign. It was super cold. I was overcome by the idea that there really are so many people who will be cold and homeless tonight. Some of them will even have children. It’s a grave realization to come out of the bubble of my home and know that as cold as I was on our walk home on that snowy, sleety night, I could go home, and many others could not.

This song reminds me of what our call should be. Where are heart should be. What our mourning should be for. O come, o come Emmanuel! Capture us and save us from the exile here!

O come, O come, Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

Meet My Friend, Angey

For those of you who don’t know her already, meet Angey! She is the sweetest most dear friend of mine (probably the best friend I’ve ever had really) and has stuck it out with me for almost two years now – and I know I haven’t been that easy ;-). She is a mentor, a confidant, a listener, a comedian, a photographer, a wife, and a friend to many.  She serves dilligently and with much love and devotion in our church and in her community.  She is just so full of life and the Lord, and her light shines on everyone around her!

Recently Angey let me take a glamour photo shoot of her! We had so much fun at the different locations,  and I learned a lot as well. Angey, thank you so much for constantly being there for me, for your wisdom, your photography help, and your love!  I”m so thankful to have a friend like you! I love you!  Happy Birthday!

It’s Beginning to Sound A Lot Like Christmas

I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old, familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men.”

Christmas Bells by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

As I said in my previous post, my daughter recently asked me if daddy is going to be home for Christmas. It was a painful reminder of last Christmas and our family’s separation. It also made me acutely aware of her memory and how well she processes things that are going on in her world. This is why I feel it is so very important for me to take every opportunity available to teach her about what Christmas is all about.

This year I’m not just focusing on the birth of Christ but also the gift of the birth of Christ. He was a gift. I want Peanut (and the Bean too) to learn to focus on giving and not receiving. I want to focus on it too.

Every time I go out to a store or mall, I hear it. Sounds. Sounds of Christmas. Fighting, cheerfulness, grumpiness, voices, cars beeping. I hear “Happy Holidays!” and “That’s my space!”. I hear Christmas music.  I hear….bells. I never really paid any attention to the bells before. But for some reason this year I do. The bells remind me of poverty, of people who have less and who are doing worse than me, of people who can’t spoil their children with toys, games, and food. The bells remind me that there is always someone worse off than I, and I’m glad they ring. I’m thankful for the person that stands out in the cold ringing that bell.  I’m thankful for the organizations that send those people to ring them. The bells are comforting to me. They remind me that Christmas is about giving and about the love of God for us and that it is our job to give cheerfully and even when it may feel a bit uncomfortable.

You see, while many people may give the most at Christmas, and they may even give the most to those who are in need, I think we generally only give if we feel like we can.  Personally, when we get extra cash I either want to spend it on my own family or hold onto it for some other “need” which generally winds up not being a need.  It’s important to find that fine balance of taking care of our families and helping other people.  I should really assess if our family has what it needs, and if it does, then I should be more willing to let go of my talents, time, and resources to those who really do need them.  I adore my family, but I know that we really do have more than we need, and  I know that we are capable of doing so much more to give help to those who need it.

Happy Anniversary….Kind Of

***This was written yesterday, but I didn’t get around to finish it up and post until today***

“We are a work in progress with a lifetime contract.”

Phyllis Koss

My husband mentioned something to me tonight that wound up being significant. Today is an anniversary of sorts. It’s a day that reminds Bloke and I as a couple where we were a year ago and where we are now.

On this day one whole year ago, my mother drove my husband to a homeless shelter in a dangerous part of a town 45 miles away and watched him walk away with a man she didn’t know…a man my husband didn’t even know.  He had one bag filled with only the bare essentials.  On this very same day, while my mom and husband were in route to the shelter, both my girls managed to get into a Tylenol bottle for which we spent 6 hours in the emergency room of our local hospital.  It was a nightmare of a day.

Today, my husband came home from a steady job like he has for almost 6 months.  He laid on our bed in our bedroom, in our warm house with our two sweet, rambunctious, laughing children, and played with them there.  He ate with us at our kitchen table and we talked about our day.  And while our relationship is still often rocky at best, we are together.  We are making it work.  We are dedicated to making it work and to loving one another through our trials, through our fights, through the poverty.

We are laughing together again.  Trust is being rebuilt.  Lives are being repaired.  No one is living in a drafty house with windows that are covered by trashbags.  No one is rooming with 4 other men who are also homeless and of even more questionable backgrounds.  No one is sharing one heating source placed in the middle of the house.  We are home.

My oldest daughter is very astute.  Not too long ago, she asked me if daddy was going to be home for Christmas.  I suppose that somewhere in her little mind she remembers screaming out the window of our car for her daddy as we pulled away from the homeless shelter last year after spending only about an hour with him.  I suppose she remembers fighting, harsh words, anger, tension, and stress.  And I suppose she’s probably not completely over it.  I’m glad she asked.  I’m glad I could tell her that yes daddy would be here for Christmas this year.  And I’m so thankful that a year ago is not our lives today.

Loving our spouse is often not that easy or fun.  Staying married is often lots of hard work.  But both are refining processes that grow us to be less like ourselves and more like what God would have us be.  I don’t know what my future holds with Bloke, but I do know that love has kept us together.  The love may have not always been evenly distributed and surely it most likely won’t ever be, for marriage is a game of give and take.  One will always give more than the other at points.  But either way it is still love.  And true love is binding.

Anyway.  While it’s not really a day I want to remember, it’s still significant for us so happy anniversary….kind of.

“Many marriages would be better if the husband and the wife clearly understood that they are on the same side.”

Zig Ziglar