Old pictures and fond memories

My dad with me and my brothers, Tim and Jim, in Bowen, Ill., sometime in the early 1960s.

Because you are sons and daughters, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba, Father!” Therefore, you are no longer a slave but a son or daughter, and if you are his child, then you are also an heir through God. (Gal. 4: 6-7, Common English Bible)

I’ve been scanning old family photos and it’s been an entertaining experience. Besides coming across such classic 1960s images as my brothers and I in Indian headdresses (not sure why we had those) or me wearing my light blue cat-eye glasses, I’ve found some sweet photos of my parents as young parents themselves. There’s one from the early 1960s of my dad with the three of us out in our yard on a sunny Sunday morning. It might have been Easter, judging by the rather pristine quality of my brother Tim’s suit and my dress. Jim looks like he’s about 2, so Tim must be about 4 and I would be 5 ½. Dad is looking at the camera, but he’s also got his fingers on Jim’s shoulders to keep him from wandering off. (Jim seldom stayed still for long.) It’s a cute picture, but it also reminds me of how much my family’s life revolved around the church. Dad was a minister, so I suppose that was natural. But we grew up understanding that even if Dad had been a carpenter or a farmer, we would have been in church every time the doors were open. While I may have resented it at times, I’m thankful now that my parents modeled a life of faith for us. They loved and served God and taught us to do the same. I know not everyone has had a father that modeled the Christian life, but we all have a heavenly father who has chosen us as his sons and daughters. Because of Christ’s sacrifice, we can know true freedom. I hope on this Father’s Day you’ll remember that God offers healing and hope no matter kind of family we come from.

New Year’s Thoughts

Well hello, 2010. Nice to see you. I’m really not sure where 2009 went, but it’s still nice to greet a new year.

Actually, 2009 was fairly eventful and 2010 promises more of the same. We’ll be getting ready for two weddings: Tim is getting married in August and John is getting married early next January. And then there will be other, unexpected, things I’m sure. Some will be good and some will not be so good, but I know that God will be with us through all of it.

Once again I’m starting the new year with a resolution to be more faithful about Bible study or at least some kind of quiet time. I’ve started using the Daily Texts from the Moravian Church (frequently recommended by Brad Boydston). They’re short, but they also allow you to go deeper if you want.

I may or may not blog more regularly. I do have several months of newsletter columns to post, so maybe I’ll at least get caught up on that. I’m sure I’ll find some books and music worth writing about, too.

I think as I get older I realize how hard it is to really plan for the year to come. Things can change so quickly and yet God is at work through all of it. I think it’s better to have a general idea of what you hope to accomplish and be flexible about the details.

So welcome, 2010.

Can a kitten and a Christmas tree peacefully coexist?

Tiger in the Christmas tree

Tiger liked the Christmas tree.

Well, the kitten thought so. Me? Not so much.

Perhaps I was overly optimistic. I thought that if I left the tree up for a little bit, the novelty would wear off and Tiger (our three-month-old kitten) would get used to it. It quickly became apparent that the novelty would not wear off. Tiger batted at the branches, grabbed the light string and then climbed the tree. This would be a source of endless amusement and a disaster once I started putting ornaments on the tree. So, this year, we will not have a Christmas tree. I put out other decorations (out of Tiger’s reach) and we’ll just leave it at that.

15 books … (more or less)

I’m a sucker for memes and facebook quizzes. So when Chris tagged me in a note called 15 Books That Have Shaped You (for better or worse), I had to make my list. It’s on facebook, but I’ll post it here, too, with a little commentary. (And these are probably not in any particular order, other than roughly chronological.)

1. Black Beauty
2. King of the Wind
I read these two horse stories more times than I can count and I loved them every time.

3. Little Women — I think I related to bookish Jo, always the outsider, the most. The four March girls old friends I like to visit now and again.
4. Jane Eyre — I first read this when I was about 13 and I think this is the book that really awakened me to literature. (up until then I read a lot, but I don’t think I’d tackeled anything very challenging) Sure, it’s gothic romance, but it’s gothic romance at its best, with rich characters and thrilling conflict. I was enthralled.
5. The Moon is a Harsh Mistress and Stranger in a Strange Land (both by Robert Heinlein)  — I should probably also mention a book by Andre Norton, but I don’t remember what it was called. But it was one of the first science fiction books I ever read. I was probably about 15 or 16. Then it was on to Isaac Asimov and  Heinlein and Arthur C. Clarke. I was hooked on science fiction.
6. The Left Hand of Darkness (by Ursula K. LeGuin) — I first read this one weekend while I was in college and it was one of those books that so completely sucked me in that when I would come up for air, it was a bit of a shock to find myself in a college dorm room and not on the planet Gethen. LeGuin is a master storyteller and in this book she was at her best. I still love it.
7. The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings — I discovered The Hobbit in high school and had never read anything like it. So then I tackled the Lord of the Rings. It took me a couple of tries to read it all the way through, but I’ve been a resident of Middle Earth ever since.
8. The Chronicles of Narnia — I didn’t discover these until I was in college. We were fond, at my little Christian college, of using passages as devotions. But I think even if you never knew anything about C.S. Lewis or about Christianity, the beauty of the stories would speak to you. They’re all good, but my favorite is The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.
9. To Kill a Mockingbird — I actually read this in high school and I’ve returned to it many times since. I love the voice and the way Harper Lee wove the story. It’s as if someone were sitting on the front porch and telling it to me.
10. Mysteries by Agatha Christie — My mom is a mystery lover, so I suppose it was only natural that I’d start delving into her collection. I’ve read most of her books and enjoyed them a lot, though I have found that they aren’t the kind of books that hold up to rereading. But she was very good at writing mysteries and I don’t think I ever figured out who did it very much  before the end.
11. Mysteries by Ngaio Marsh — I discovered Ngaio Marsh after I was grown and found her stories to be a little meatier, at least in some ways. Her characters seemed deeper than Christie’s. I think I liked her later books better (especially the ones where Inspecter Allyn’s wife appears).
12. Gaudy Night, by Dorothy L. Sayers (as well as her others, but this one’s my favorite) — and then I discovered Dorothy Sayers and most English mystery writers have paled in comparison ever since. I can reread some of Sayers’ books, especially Gaudy Night. I realized that a mystery story could be good literature, too, and I just loved the way she told the stories. Some of them are a little rambling and seem dated, but the characters and scenes are still vivid.
13. Peace Like a River, by Leif Enger — it’s beautiful and what else is there to say. Enger has a way with words and with characters.
14. On Writing, by Stephen King — I’ve read a lot of books about writing, but this is my favorite. And I’m not even a big Stephen King fan. But I liked his approach — telling his story and then telling about writing. It all fits together somehow and it’s entertaining as well as instructive.
15. In This House of Brede by Rumer Godden — I think I first read this in a Reader’s Digest Condensed Book and loved the story of nuns in Britain. I’m not Catholic, but Godden brought that faith tradition alive. But it’s also full of very human characters and it’s a good story.

I could go on and on (and have sometimes). But I would say that these are some of the books that have had the most lasting affect on me. What about you?

Where have I been?

My daughter, grandson and dad, with me, as we celebrate Dad's 80th birthday.

My daughter, grandson and dad, with me, as we celebrate Dad's 80th birthday.

As you can probably guess from the picture above, we had a great time celebrating my dad’s 80th birthday in May. Most of my immediate family (siblings, kids, etc.) were able to come and we had a lot of fun. It was chaos at times, but my parents were so glad we all came and I know we were all glad to be there, too. Dad got lots of nice cards from people, too, and he still enjoys them, I think.  It’s a memory we’ll all treasure.

Earlier this month, I got to spend a week in beautiful downtown Des Moines, Iowa (and that’s only a tiny bit of sarcasm you here). I was at a conference for work and it went well, other me forgetting my poster and having to recreate it. Fortunately, the FedEx/Kinko’s downtown was very helpful and I was able to do an acceptable job. I completed the ACE Leadership Institute, too, and I think it will help me in a lot of areas, as well as my job.

Now I think I’m home for the forseeable future. So maybe I’ll do a little more blogging. I know I’m going to do a couple of blog tours this summer for Robin Parrish’s new book, Off World. It sounds good, so stay tuned.

I’m finishing up the layout for Relief 3.1, and I can tell you it’s a good issue. A little edgy, but that’s OK. And I’m working on a time-travel story of my own, so maybe I’ll be able to finish that. But in the meantime, I’m trying to stay cool.

Happy 80th birthday, Daddy

Today is my dad’s 80th birthday. God gave me such a great dad and I’m glad I still have him in this world. He changed my diapers, let me comb his hair, baptized me, walked me down the aisle on my wedding day and then finished the wedding ceremony, and all along the way he has modeled what a Godly father should be.

He served small churches in small towns, but I’m not surprised at how many birthday wishes he’s received all over. He’s touched a lot of lives, either in churches or at church camp or in the communities where he and my mom lived. So happy birthday Dad!


Reminders of eternity

I usually live very much in the present. I reflect on the past and dream about the future, but most of the time I’m preoccupied with what’s going on right now. And though I believe in God’s promise of eternal life, I don’t think about it much. But once in a while, I’m reminded.

Today I learned that a dear old saint in our church has died. I don’t know the details, but I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that Daisy went to sleep and never woke up — or rather, she woke up with Jesus. One minute she’s dozing over her paper, the next she’s hearing “Well done, my good and faithful servant.” And Daisy was a faithful servant of her Lord. She was quite elderly and didn’t get out a lot, but she cut out articles from our local paper about the kids in the church so our youth leaders could post them on the bulletin board. She always asked about our grown children and I know that a lot of kids from our church have been prayed for because of this dear woman. Daisy never married, but she loved her nieces and nephews and the children of her church family. She leaves a legacy of faith and service that puts me to shame.

Here’s another reminder: A few weeks ago my parents made a trip to Tennessee to visit some of my dad’s family there. They went up country to see my dad’s oldest half-brother, Uncle Avon, who’s 87 and dying of cancer. His son and daughter-in-law have come to live with him and look after him and he seems to be doing pretty well most of the time. Mom said they have a baby monitor back in his room (but he’s unaware of it), so they can here if he needs them. Mom said when they got to Uncle Avon’s house, before he knew they were there, they heard him singing old hymns to himself. His son says he does that most of the time these days. It’s pretty clear he’s living more in the next world than in this.

So much of the time I act as if my present problems and pleasures are all there is to life, but I know better. I’m thankful for Daisy and Uncle Avon for reminding me of that.

Good news and basketball

A couple things.

First, I’m excited about a volunteer opportunity that has come my way. As Coach Culbertson announced last week, I’m the new layout editor for Relief Journal. This is very cool. (And, apparently, I’m continuing a tradition of Coach’s Midnight Diner authors who like to volunteer to work for Relief.) I’ve worked in journalism for nearly 20 years and a good bit of my experience involves page design and layout. So I think I have some skills that could be useful to a publication like Relief. Sure, I do this in my day job, but I’ve been praying about and keeping my eyes open for opportunities to use these talents for God in some way. So when Coach put out a call for a layout editor a few weeks ago, I fired off an e-mail before I could lose my nerve. Now I get to layout something like 170 pages between now and early May. A little scary and but I’m looking forward to it. And I’m helping a good cause.

I’ve also been putting together an annual report for the Midwest Covenant Conference Women Ministries (I’m on the board) and that’s been fun, too. It’s short and it’s almost done and I think it looks pretty good. A few more tweaks and it’ll be ready for printing.

Now on to basketball. Yes, the time has come for me to give myself over to the madness that is the NCAA tournament. I’ve made my bracket picks, knowing full well that my bracket will be shot to pieces before the first round is over. But it’s fun anyway. For once, I have not picked KU to win it all this year — they’re good, but I’m not confident they can do it this year. K-State’s men’s team is in the NIT and K-State’s women’s team is in the NCAA tournament, so I’ll have multiple teams to cheer for.

And one more thing — it is definitely feeling more like spring outside and that’s a very good thing.