Monday, May 31, 2010

A Moment of Rest

Ah! Home again! Finally I can put my feet up and listen to silence. No giant snakes that need fixing, no teenager that needs guiding, comforting, or least not immediately. All that needs to be done is unloading a van that is bursting at the seams and held together with duct tape, washing and folding and putting away 10 loads of laundry, grocery shopping for the barren larder, walking the 5 extra pounds or so off of our pudgy agility dog who apparently ate well at Dog Camp this week, and planning the trip in 2 weeks to see Anders and my folks. Ah! Relaxing!

All seems well here at home, except for the smell of mold which I hope is just the dirty laundry. Oh, and also except for the disturbing fact that Honeybun ate through a crate at Dog Camp.... the second crate she has eaten at HCF Dog Camp. I hope HCF puts her in a wire crate next time. I think even HB can't eat through wire. Maybe that extra 5 pounds is consumed crate. Who knew crates were caloric?

It is like we have been away for a thousand years. The tiger lilies are all blooming in my "garden" ( for those of you who have a hard time identifying which part of my yard is garden in case you have seen our yard- it is the section where the weeds struggle to maintain hegemony with the perennial flowers that even I can't kill), the grass is a jungle, we need a new roof, and the rusty attic fans aren't working. Oh wait.... all that was true when we left a week ago except for the lilies. Drat.

Still it is good to be home, and resting, even if it is only resting in theory. I did put my feet up briefly and contemplate my toes, even the broken one. I realized it hadn't hurt in a while and took off the buddy toe wrapping. I squeezed it gently. No pain. I walked a little on it, with visions of bone splinters breaking free and shooting into my corpus collosum making communication between the two halves of my brain forever impossible. But none of that happened. It didn't hurt. I think it is healed.

I know my checklist before the trip had been all neatly checked off, but a few seconds after watching my toes take a deep sigh of relief, I already had a new checklist with bright, beckoning boxes. Oh well. Praise God I have toes that aren't broken any longer to hold me up as I dash off to my new list. But not quite yet. First I will pause and prop my feet up on the comforting memories of a week of a beloved son reaching a monumental milestone, a dear daughter delighting in friends and doing well in a major competition, and the laughter of children from all over the planet finding joy in each other..

Genesis 2:3
And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.

Sunday, May 30, 2010


We return home today after four days of competing, walking at least a hundred miles a day, climbing hills that never go down, eating food that is very bad for us, sweating ourselves so dry that all our eyeballs shrivelled up, and using towels that will be reused next week as sandpaper. This is fortunately just the short list of negatives.

Yes, it is true I expected us to do much better and even our affiliate director didn't understand why we were scored as we were. We were 18th of 80 teams but we do need to keep it in perspective- they are supposedly the best in the world. Still, after working so hard all year I would have preferred to win.....

As we were dressing to attend closing ceremony , I knew we had little chance of a medal as our scores were low but the kids had had a great week, shown unexpected spurts of maturity and kindness, and it had been a fantastic experience. They had done their best and I was proud of them.

My phone rang as we returned to our room in soaking wet bathing suits to get ready for dinner and closing ceremonies. One of my team members had been chosen to be in the main event on the arena floor that evening!. 50 kids out of 12,000 were selected. The odds of that were even more astronomical than us winning first. Her dad , my assistant at Globals was almost in tears when I told him Kathryn was chosen and we had to race off to the arena now, two hours earlier than planned.

It was a great moment for Kathryn and our team cheered her on with immense pride.
And as I filmed the event, I thought about how much of life is not what we plan or hope for. But we are all chosen, against astronomical odds to live it anyway with grace and humility for a purpose we sometimes don't know or anticipate.
I bet way more than 12,000 angels are watching and clapping their wings, cheering us on.

Deuteronomy 7:6 For thou art a holy people unto Jehovah thy God: Jehovah thy God hath chosen thee to be a people for his own possession, above all peoples that are upon the face of the earth.

Nothing is impossible with God

Laughing in the rain

When we weren't wilting from the heat, we were dashing through thunder and rain but somehow the team had the energy to play one of the funniest practical jokes I have observed in a while.

I know practical jokes have a way of returning on you and escalating- a cold war of anticipated revenge. Still, this one was particularly good

The girls took mini Oreo cookies and filled half of them with white playdoh.
Then while we were at dinner, they told the boys that they had invited two girls from another team to come trade pins with them. They called the fictional girls Pam and Suzy and told Walter, one of our team boys, that Pam was really his type.
"She loves food," they said.
"Sweet or healthy?"
"Sweet. "
So Walter couldn't wait to meet Pam. My biggest problem as a DI team manager with Walter is getting him to stop eating long enough to work.
"Where is she from?"asked Walter.
I saw the girls pause and as team manager knew I had to step in and guide.
"Korea," I told him.
After dinner the boys went to shower in anticipation of meeting Pam and Suzy while the girls prepared the Oreos. They left half the plate normal Oreos which they would eat to entice the boys and the other half of the plate had the playdoh Oreos.

When the boys came in, I ran to my room and pretended to get a phone call from Pam. I spoke slowly and carefully as I would to anyone whose native tongue was not English. The boys listened and asked what Pam had said.

When I got off the phone I told them Pam and Suzy would be late.
"But they will be bringing dessert."
Walter's eyes lit up.
"Koreans are well known for their delicious desserts," I added.

So Lucy began eating one of the good Oreos and offered them to the boys. Jacob brought one near his mouth and paused.
"I don't mean to be rude but these smell funny - kind of like
"Oh that's just the packaging," I told him.
Walter, never coy with food, popped one in his mouth, made a face and popped it back out again. I snapped a picture to capture the moment for eternity.

I am going to have to stretch hard for the spiritual message on this one. I know God has a sense of humor and seems especially fond of irony. It is fitting that Walter, who never met a sweet that he wouldn't consume no matter whose mouth it had been in, should fall prey to such a scheme. Still, I suspect I should be repenting and I intend soon as I stop laughing.

Genesis 21:6
God has brought me laughter and everyone who hears about this will laugh with me.

Nothing is impossible with God

For the least of us

We are here in Knoxville for Global finals with a few other creative kids- 12,000 of them. I understand there are mountains all around us but all these creative brains are emitting so much smoke that all I see are amorphous images of joy, and quirky delight.

We perform this afternoon and while I slept little in anticipation ,the kids are still snoring. Oh to be young and have your most pressing worry be what's for breakfast!

While we were on our way to the opening ceremony which looked just around the corner on the map but was in actuality 7036 miles
away, it began to rain. Buckets of fat rain. We ducked for cover in the library and found a silent corner. A cleaning woman came over and asked if we had pins. The kids go to Globals not for the glory but to trade pins with kids from all over the world. The pins are the most valuable things on earth for them this week.

Lucy told her that, yes, she had pins.
"I don't have any. Can I have that one?"
She pointed at the most coveted pin with the highest trading value.
"Sure," said Lucy.
I wanted to be sure Lucy knew what she was doing and told her this was not a trade as the lady had no pins to trade.
"I know," said Lucy and gave the overjoyed woman the precious pin.

Fortunately I had a cache of very valuable pins ready to award to the kids for any acts of random kindness above and beyond the call of duty. I gave Lucy the pin of meritorious behavior but until that moment she had not known I had any pins at all.

Our team performs today and with a thousand teams here ,it is not likely they will win a medal. But I feel pretty certain that there is a special medallion on a heavenly ribbon waiting to adorn Lucy.

Jesus said,"Whatever you do for the least of these, you do for me. "

Friday, May 28, 2010

Out of the fog

Early morning is shrouded in fog here in the mountains. When I first awaken I see vague shapes, undefined blurs of distant peaks with slivers of blue between the stretches of hungry clouds devouring the land. Slowly the cloud burns away and

the city emerges.

As our team performed yesterday in the midst of creative geniuses from all over the world, it is easy to feel like a beautiful mountain, hidden by the fog. There are so many clouds taller and thicker. And there are times when the fog doesn't lift all day. But there is eventually a time when the mountain, quietly growing it's lush forests will find the sun. And when it explodes into view, we realize it had been there all along and all it needed was the light and warmth of the sun. My team,nurtured and supported by the warmth of loving parents and friends, did their best yesterday. It is probably not enough to win a medal, but the mountain of character and skill is growing and preparing for the moment when it bursts out of the fog.

Genesis 22:14
On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.
Nothing is impossible with God

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Promise of dawn

The birds have asked me to stop making so much noise so they can go back to sleep. The car is packed and I slept miraculously well. Clearly God knows I have a mission in Knoxville that must be fulfilled. So off we go to DI Globals while the sum sleeps and the angel wings are still wrapped around a quiet land filled with all the promise of daybreak.

No Internet for a few days as I travel to the dark side of the moon. On a wing and a prayer, I will see you on the other side.

Psalm 46:10

Be still and know that I am God.

Nothing is impossible with God

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Enjoy the View

We didn't know where the golf course we were walking towards was located but we gave ourselves half an hour to reach it or turn around. Asherel had hoped to spend the morning working with the horses at the nearby stable but a day of rain and muddy trails cancelled that activity. So with the time honored parenting technique of a bribe (candy in exchange for uncomplaining walks with us) we headed off on an utterly silent and peaceful country road. In this country all the roads are hilly and only go uphill. Asherel, looking forward to her candy didn't exactly complain but she did have a stopwatch going and reported at frequent intervals how many minutes to turnback time.

Arvo and I were enjoying the quiet and the lovely scenery.

"Look at that little creek and the beautiful flowers along it."

"Three minutes. "

"And that orange and yellow mushroom!"

"Two minutes and thirty seconds."

"So peaceful and beautiful with the mountains in the distance..."

"Two minutes!"

And then just as the countdown hit ten seconds we saw the golf
course atop the mountain we had climbed. We sat in adirondack chairs on the porch and rested, looking out on mountains and forests and stillness.

It had not been a monumental or important goal. Just a walk in a pretty place. Still, with our self imposed schedule, we almost missed seeing the goal and reaching that quiet place of rest.

After we climbed back to our cabin, Karissa and Matt met us at the pool and then we had yummy grilled food and fun games on the outdoor porch. Nothing monumental. Just peaceful and quiet places of rest.

I am far too often guilty of planning and scheduling to the point that disruptions in the plan lead me to distress or following the schedule prevents me from enjoying the journey. Worse yet, sometimes I stop just short of victory because the road is hard and I am certain I should have reached my goal ten minutes ago....

It is good for me to remember this lesson the day before we head off to our DI Global Finals competition. It is the journey that makes a life and the goal is simple. Hear the voices of loved ones along the way, keep travelling even when it all seems uphill, don't give up too quickly, and rest and enjoy the view when you get there.

Job 22:21
Submit to God and be at peace with Him.

Monday, May 24, 2010

A hope and a future

As the graduation diploma portion of the ceremony began, the emcee announced that he knew it was hot and if once a graduate's name was called parents and grads wanted to leave,that was fine. So Joe Aaaable with a lucky last name at the start of the alphabet would have a full gallery of cheering fans but Lenny Zuckerman would likely collect his diploma to the gentle clapping
of two people- mom and dad.
Matt , sitting with the k's, only had to suffer through half the procession. I watched his curly head with the mortar board perched precariously atop the thick corkscrews, those thick dark locks part of my DNA as well.

I passed many things on to my son, few that he would be likely to thank me for. My multiple allergies, my poor arches, my difficulty calming my hyper nervous system so that sleep is ever elusive .... The list of trials I have provided him, with my genetic inadequacies goes on and on. However he is the sweet forebearing graduate who smiled for countless photos in the blazing sun yesterday and even put his arm around me so when I look back on that proud day, I will feel the touch of love on my heart. Sometimes beautiful and wonderful things happen despite us. And it didn't really matter if he had been the last grad collecting his diploma to an empty stand. To the small group clapping, he was the only person their eyes were on anyway.

Jeremiah 29:11
For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to proser you and not to harm you. Plans to give you a hope and a future.

Nothing is impossible with God

Sunday, May 23, 2010


Small towns lock up early. We met Matt and Karissa for dinner on the latish side since it was a 6 hour drive and we got in later than planned. As we finished our meal, the waitress was standing there tapping her toe, and the moment the last bite went in our mouth, our plates were whisked away and a bill slammed down. She stepped back to cross her arms and tap her toe waiting for Arvo to sign it.

As she ushered us out, she locked the door behind us. It was not even 9:00 on a Saturday night.
We headed off looking for the Tastee Freeze down the street, but they were also sweeping floors and locked up. No wonder country boys have to resort to tipping cows for entertainment. Everything else is closed.

It is raining, but the diploma ceremony for Matt's graduation isn't until noon, so we have hopes of sun peeking out before then. I can't get on the internet with my iPod here without paying ransom or offering them our first born son, so I have no pictures for my post, and then after Tuesday, we will be totally without internet. However, I am storing up pictures, sitting on the screened in porch overlooking a lovely, albeit wet forest, and log cabins dotted around us.

It is a meaningful day. Everyone who has had a kid graduate from anything knows how I feel. Everything big seems impossible when you begin... things like homeschooling, raising children, graduating from college, paying college loans, rescuing vicious dogs.....

But somehow, if you just put one minute after another, and one hour after another, soon you have grown children that warm your heart, college graduates, a faith you never thought would blossom, and dogs that are no longer vicious but are missing teeth. The impossible is really just an incomprehensible series of possible steps.
And when you are there, looking back, you wonder why you ever doubted. Instead of locking doors behind you closing you out because you have arrived when the Owner is weary, i hear the chorus of heavenly voices singing, "Well done! Come enter in our joy!"

Matthew 19:26 (New International Version)

26Jesus looked at them and said, "With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible."

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Always Something....

The car was all packed, the dogs seatbelted in place for their ride to their Doggy Vacation Isle, all my forms for the big Double Header this coming week (Matt's graduation and DI Globals) neatly collated and stacked and carefully placed in chronological order in my zip case, when the first of the inevitable "always something" happened.

"The snake doesn't work," said Asherel, reading a last email before we shot out the door.
My bones turned to slime and I oozed to the floor.
The snake is a pivotal character in our DI Skit and I don't want to spoil any secrets right before Globals, but he does some amazing things when he works. Which now, he doesn't. We had sent the giant snake off to another team member's house for safekeeping and transport to Globals since my van is full and also waylaid first at a UVa graduation. Giant snakes are not invited. It didn't matter that our day was chock full.... we had to fix the snake. We made some hurried arrangements with the family to return with duct tape and ingenuity after dropping the dogs.

When we saw our beloved dog guru, I asked how she was was and she was not fine. Dogs were everywhere and one had apparently spent much of the day peeing on her floor. The house smelled and looked great to me, but as you may have surmised from past posts, my standards leave much to be desired.
"I don't get paid," she said, and added something along the lines of there was always something horrible happening.
I handed her my check,"Yes you do!"
"No, I don't , this goes right to the vet."

We hurried home after our dogs were escorted to their rooms and served champagne and sirloin bones, to the giant malfunctioning snake. None of the things that were supposed to work on the snake were working. And this was just after being transported a half mile. What would happen over the 4 hour drive to Knoxville? He might be a giant wombat by the time he arrived!

But Asherel and team went to work and 2 hours later, the snake worked.... sort of. They hope with more duct tape and repairs and fairy dust in Knoxville, they will get him up to full working order. We wrapped him in a giant sleeping bag so that only his fangs showed, and that we tied closed. He looked like Little Red Riding Python.

So, relieved that dogs were settled, snake was working, and I was almost all packed and ready, we sighed a huge sigh and walked into the barkless house. All was still and quiet. If I squinted, it looked clean.....except.... what was that on the floor?

I know you all are thinking that God in His infinite wisdom and desire to shower me with blessing left me the other diamond earring, the pair to the mysterious one I found a couple of days ago. If I were God, that would be the happy ending of this story. But, it may surprise you to learn, I am not God, and that was not to be the happy ending of this story. On the floor was a tooth. A large molar. That is really bad enough, but it was not a whole tooth. It was half a tooth. That means half a tooth remained dangling, likely throbbing, perhaps infecting in someone's mouth. I ran my tongue over my molars.

"Asherel, do you have all your teeth?"
"Last I checked."
"Check again."

I emailed our doggy concierge. It is highly likely that one of our dogs has half a tooth. If your vet feels he needs to have it pulled, let us know.

And I remembered her prophetic statement, "It all goes to the vet."
We don't operate a dog rescue so our pay doesn't all go to the vet...though more than I would like does indeed go that route. But it goes to doctors, and dentists, and roofers, and repairmen, and curriculum developers, and Lowes Depot for giant snake construction..... All money is used for is redistribution. None of us are really "paid".... we are all just momentary holding pens, some more momentary than others. And there is always something to be upset about.... always.

I begin to see more and more why James in the Bible admonishes us to "count it all joy when we encounter trials...."
I think there are many reasons for this, but not the least of it is that much of life is trial... and if you don't count it joy, joy might be hard to find. In the final accounting, the joyful life is probably not the one who only found diamonds, but the one who found broken teeth and still smiled.

James 1:2-3
2Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.

PS- blogs may be few or even absent over the next many days while we attend graduation and DI globals.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Tiny dogs

Our neighbors just got a dog from the humane society that is smaller than many flowers. For a few seconds after meeting her, Lucky forgot to strain at his leash and growl his typical socially retarded greeting because he didn't realize she was a dog. He thought she was a squirrel on a leash. She is the sweetest creature and I suspect wasn't snatched up sooner from Humane Society Lookyloos because they thought she was a speck of dust.

She has other unusual attributes besides having been clearly shrunk in the wash. We have not heard a single sound out of her. Most little dogs are yippy, and bitey, and hyper. Little Piper (so aptly named since as far as we can tell, she doesn't pipe or bark or growl or possess any vocal apparatus at all) must have been removed from her mother before she could be taught canine sounds. Her mother also did not have time to teach her typical annoying little dog habits. So Piper is gentle and quiet, and calm. We are helping the neighbors out this week, walking her midday while they are at work. She rolls over in the sunny grass, which is much taller than she is, and quietly implores us to rub her belly. The neighbors not only have this sweet peaceful little creature that barely takes up 2 molecules of space, but have an immaculate house. When I walked in with Asherel to pet and help with the little dog (we each got one molecule of dog), I stopped in the portico and sniffed.
"What's that smell?" I asked.
"I know," said Asherel, "I have never smelled it before either."
I glanced around at spotless white carpets, shining counters, gleaming honey wood floors, white walls without a single hand print on them.
"I suspect it has to do with the condition of this home. I think it is a clean house smell."
"Oh," agreed Asherel, "That is probably why we couldn't place it..."

A tiny seed of jealousy the size of Piper began to nibble at my soul. How do people do this? How do some people manage to get peaceful gentle dogs that don't bark and homes from the Planet where filth and clutter don't exist? I have a nagging suspicion it isn't luck.

So I won't go over there much. This is Asherel's job anyway and walking in that house and breathing that fresh clean air is just too convicting of my shortcomings. Unlike that tiny dog that will forever be tiny, my discontent never stays tiny. I am forever running into circumstances that make me long for anything but what I have. This is stupid. I don't use that word often, but I think shock therapy may be my only hope. Contentment in little things is perhaps the greatest key to satisfaction in life. Funny how that tiny little dog named for an attribute she doesn't possess reminds me to reach for magnanimity of spirit that makes me content despite what I don't possess.

Because of course, what I do possess is bigger than the universe.

1 Timothy 6:6-7
But godliness with contentment is great gain. 7For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

The Monster

Packing, planning, shopping, map-questing, cleaning, washing.... ripping hair out, they all go together like peanut and butter.
Trips are such fun, aren't they? Especially when they are really emotionally important ones like college graduation of the son who used to bounce like rubber off every surface in the house. Add to that the hopes and dreams of a worldwide competition for the beloved daughter tacked on right after graduation and you have the perfect recipe for......


Yes folks, you all have met her. Perhaps you have become one, yourself. Perfectly sweet and gentle souls are known to throw open closets bulging with clothes and scream in horror, "I haven't anything to wear!!!" and then sometimes go to the extreme of cutting their own bangs. On occasion they even suddenly feel the need to repaper the bathroom and reupholster the couch, but only in extreme situations like when they have 5 minutes left before they leave, and are anxiously tapping their toes wondering why the rest of the family is not in the car.

I have seen the monster and tried to slay him. Still, everyone's motives become clearly directed at just ticking me off. Loved ones all ask stupid questions that I have answered a thousand times and then don't understand when they ask what day is Memorial Day and I hand them the constitution and remind them that our founding fathers would not have forgotten Memorial day and it is time they reread what makes our country great. In fact while they are at it, I tell them I think it is best that they repeat 7th grade while I load the van.

Once I get out the door, the Monster will retreat back to whatever latent cellular hiding place it calls home. I try as hard as I can to curb it. Sometimes then it morphs into anxious incompetency, needing reassurance that I am well prepared, this trip is not crazy, and all will be well. Details are poured over and over and still the important facts don't seem to seep in, like what was the name of that boy who is graduating and has he been my son that long already?

As I gaze out at the van bursting with props and suitcases, duct tape hats, a small kayak (just in case the river in Knoxville floods....), I envy Moses, who just had to pack a few tents as he traveled to the Promised Land. He didn't even need to bring a cooler, as God sent Manna each day and brought forth water from rocks. But even Moses cried out at one point, "It is too much for me! I cannot handle this burden alone!"
Poor guy. I can relate. Being responsible for others is a wearisome task. Fortunately, we really don't need to handle it alone. And it probably is not His plan that I call in THE MONSTER to help.

Deuteronomy 1:12-13
12 But how can I bear your problems and your burdens and your disputes all by myself?

13 Choose some wise, understanding and respected men from each of your tribes, and I will set them over you."

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Hidden Worth

We are furiously packing and preparing for both Matt's graduation and then the DI Global Finals. We will be spectacularly leap-frogging from one to the other. I always plan to fit 10 days of everything I need in one small suitcase, and somehow I can never pack less than ten large suitcases. And then of course there are the last minute things that we will think of and we need backpacks for those few things... and before I know it, there is no longer any room in the van for us.

But I was cleaning a rather old and nasty backpack out to give me just one more thing to pack those few trillion last minute items in.... and had to dump our fishing gear out of it.
It is always astonishing to find what collects in old backpacks. This one had 3 year old snacks, a collapsible bowl in case we ever caught a fish and wanted to watch it swim before we let it go, 50 different lures, none of which have ever fooled one single fish, sinks and bobbers, which people who know how to fish have told me I attach incorrectly, several broken but once lovely shells, two collapsible fishing poles which are about the cutest little things you have ever seen, bandaids for the inevitable hook in some fleshy section of the body, neosporin for the inevitable carnage of ripping hooks from fleshy sections of the body, several napkins, needle nose pliers (for crushing barb against hook so we don't hurt the fish), and ( this next one flummoxed even me) bicycle gloves. I am not quite sure why I had bicycle gloves in my fishing backpack.

After dumping all the fishing stuff in a different container so I could clean the backpack, I turned it inside out so I could scrub the inside. There was a "ping" on the counter top and out of the bowels of the empty backpack, a little diamond earring plinked out. I blinked at the sparkling gem. Now where had that come from and why was it in my fishing kit? I examined it closely. It looked like about a half carat, and it sparkled like it was brand new. It certainly looked real. I have always wanted diamond earrings but no one has ever taken the hint and gotten me any. I don't have a huge materialistic streak, but I do think diamond earrings are beautiful. However, I am not sure what I can do with just one diamond earring. I do intend to take it to a jeweler and either be laughed out of the store for asking the value of a cubic zirconium, or perhaps being escorted to a velvet chair and served Perrier while the jeweler staggers at the value of the perfect diamond. If it is a real diamond, I will ask what it would cost to have a matching earring made, or maybe I will make it into a necklace.....or maybe I will trade it in for the prize behind door #2. So many possibilities await me!

But the message is not lost on me, despite the blinding and blunting aspect of avarice on one's normally pristine character. It is sometimes the old, the discarded, the neglected, the disregarded that harbor something deep at its core of inestimable value and worth. Two neighbors have gotten rescue dogs in the past week, both headed for euthanasia, both thought of no worth. Both are the sweetest most wonderful dogs on earth, loving and gentle and returning mountains of joy to their new families.

And how many times have I looked at the outer trappings of some old, odd, or grumpy,rumpled person and not bothered to love what is the core of his precious humanity, created by God for a purpose? Oh how I long to look on all creation with the eyes of my heavenly Father, seeing deep into the soul of a perhaps lost and wounded spirit longing to be set free....a diamond waiting to be released from a deep and dusty cavern.

1 Peter 3:3-5 (New International Version)

3Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. 4Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Sleeping in the Rain

"Surely he is not sleeping in the rain. He must be dead," I thought as I glanced out at Lucky on the spattered wet deck. He did not appear to be breathing and he was stretched out while the rain soaked into his fur. His bedraggled ears were flattened against his soaking face.

"He was alive just could he be dead?"
so I called his name.
One ear went straight up, but otherwise he remained comatose, eyes still closed.

It is not like he had to sleep in the rain. He has 2 beds inside, 2 allowed couches, several unallowed chairs and couches, and a dog door that he can use at any time to access this assortment of dry and comfy cushions. So why does he choose to lie on the hard, wet deck and be drenched by the rain? Honeybun sat at the door (inside, warm and dry) watching him with me. There is little doubt she was thinking to herself, "I have a moron for a stablemate."

It was not a soft gentle drizzle. It was a pelting rain. Yet there he lay, eyes tightly closed, rivers of rain streaming over and around him. Why would a creature with access to all the blessings of comfort, contentment, joy, food, water and companionship choose instead to lie in the wet, cold, hard rain?

"You do have a choice, here," I said, as Honeybun glanced at Lucky and at me with her dark unblinking eyes,
"You don't have to be miserable." Lucky opened one eye.
"Do you want to come in?" I asked him. He hopped up with alacrity, shedding both gallons of water and any doubts that perhaps he was sick, and bounded inside.

I laughed and recognized that there are many times when I too stand "outside", weathering misery and despair because I am too proud or weary or guilty to enter a place of refuge. Yet time and time again, God stands near watching me, shaking His head and calling me, "Come in, you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest."

Matthew 11:28-29

28"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Learning to Ride the Waves

We took our beloved friend Lucy kayaking with us yesterday and terrorized her. We didn't mean to terrorize her, but we were on a quest for the cheapest way to kayak, so went to the free public boat launch on Lake Wylie. It was a beautiful Sunday afternoon, so the lake swarmed with power boats, and the power boats were big fat oil guzzling beasts that were churning the water with waves as big as ocean waves.

I realized as we bobbed like corks in a whirlpool that Lucy had never kayaked alone on anything but the tame and tiny little lake near home, and that only a handful of times. She is not a risk taker, and tells us that we have forced her to be brave. This is not true. Lucy is one of the bravest kids I know, stoically dealing every day with juvenile diabetes.... but I will take the praise anyway because it is in such short supply in my life.

What is worse is her dad had been concerned about the lake being so busy on such a fine day and I assured him we stay close to shore. And we do, but shore was being battered by the biggest waves of all as they crashed and splintered against the skull crushing rocks.

We started by practicing in a little cove where the boats moor. As long as the giant boats weren't in the process of mooring and unmooring which was never, the cove was quiet and a good place to test our skills. Each time a boat went by, Lucy asked me stay near, which I did, and her face looked grim as the kayak rocked in the wave.
"I promise you Lucy, the only way that kayak will tip over is if you want it to."
Lucy was riding what Asherel calls the floating pancake. It is a wide, flat kayak and virtually impossible to topple. I knew Lucy was in no danger of capsizing, but Lucy didn't. She had to take my word for it.

But I know what it feels like to be on an unfamiliar boat for the first time and have it battered by wind and waves. It is terrifying until you have enough experience remaining alive on it to realize you really are going to survive.

So we paddled in the cove for about half an hour, at which point Lucy felt safe enough to brave the open waters. The waves were by far the largest I have ever ridden in my kayak. My dear little $35 inflatable rode them admirably, not taking on any water. It was like being on a water bed. We tied Lucy's boat to Asherel's and for the first 5 minutes riding the giant waves, I could see Lucy could either realize this was a ton of fun, like a roller coaster, or she could disassociate into multiple personalities to escape the trauma. I prayed for the former and reminded her the water was only 6 inches deep where we were.

"Keep reminding me of that!" she said. And a little while later she said, "This is fun." And a little while later she said, "Can we go find more waves?" She was so courageous by then that when a fish jumped up, and she noted something must be chasing it, I didn't think it was too cruel to joke, "Must be a fresh water shark."
I glanced back, "I am kidding, you know."
"Yes... I thought you were...."

So we kayaked for 2 hours, chasing ducks and calling them with our duck caller, which every well appointed kayaker keeps at hand. We kayaked all over the place looking for bigger waves, shouting and laughing as they tossed us harmlessly about.

So much of victorious living hinges on trust. In this case, Lucy had to trust me. She dared to try those huge waves as long as I was beside her. Similarly, though it really did no good, it was comforting to know she was tied to Asherel's boat. And ultimately, what had been a source of great trepidation and perceived danger, became thrilling joy and conquest.

The waves I have faced in life are sometimes small and sometimes overwhelming, threatening to engulf. But I know who alone can still the waves, and I tie myself to Him. And when we overcome those huge swells, I realize that fear should never prevent me from voyaging at His side. If I am smashed against the rocks, He is the only one that can scrape me off and set me safely Home.

2 Samuel 22: 5, 17
5 "The waves of death swirled about me;
the torrents of destruction overwhelmed me........
17 "He reached down from on high and took hold of me;
he drew me out of deep waters.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

The Water is Bluer on the Other Side

It is good to know that in an emergency, Honeybun recognizes the need to obey without pause. We hadn't known that....before yesterday.

Up until now, we have been training the dogs to stay in the kayak on the large flat kayak (not Asherel's beloved "sit in" kayak), and only at the small lake where the most dangerous thing we have to contend with are snapping turtles. We had practiced trying to haul Honeybun in the boat should she fall out, but Asherel just was not strong enough to lift a soaked dog out of deep water herself. We practiced close to shore. However, we have kayaked on the lake many times now and felt HB was ready for a new challenge. She has never jumped out of the boat. Lucky is still unpredictable, and he may never be ready to kayak anywhere but the lake. We decided it was time to try the Catawba river with HB. Lots of people kayak in the area we go to, and the river is narrow and not very deep.
It is deep enough to drown in, of course, but we were determined not to do that and spoil the day. And for all you worrywarts, we do wear life jackets, even HB.

Asherel begged me to let her try HB in her "sit in" kayak. I had not thought it would work, but actually HB snuggled in the front of the the kayak body happily with her natural "den seeking" instincts and we practiced along the shore. Since Asherel was shoveling food in the dog's greedy little mouth, HB was content and all seemed well.

Within seconds of gliding into the deep water, a motorboat whizzed by and tsunami waves raced under our boat. HB had never seen a motorboat, let alone a tsunami, but all she did was perk her ears and furrow her brow. As of yet, she was still trusting we knew what we were doing.
We kayaked to a popular sandbar and pulled our boats ashore. We ate the lunch I had packed and watched a blue heron fly among the opposite shoreline tree tops. A flotilla of kayakers stopped to swim and rest and then floated away again.

After lunch it was time for serious kayaking. I have discovered that Asherel does not love the kayaking part of kayaking. She loves the dog being in a boat with her, and she loves getting to the sandbar to swim, and she loves the snacks I pack for us to kayak with..... but the actual kayaking part- not so much. However, I had acceded to her request to use her boat,not the safer flat top boat, and I had packed a fantastic lunch, and I had let her swim her dog at the sandbar.

"It is my turn now," I told her, "Now we will kayak, use these boats for what they were intended for, not just for floating kennels."

She acquiesced, finally, and except for asking, "What time is it?" 7,543 times, showed no other indication of impatience. We wanted to see if we could find the boat launch area that is half the price of the place we had parked. However, 40 minutes of kayaking up river still yielded no sight of our goal, and Asherel was tired of pretending she was still having fun. It was a hot day and HB was whining. So we pulled over to shallow water, and HB hopped out of the boat. She dragged the laughing Asherel like a cart horse all over the shallow lagoon. Asherel was half-heartedly telling her to stop, come, and all those dog commands that some dogs obey. But HB was having fun racing through the water, towing the boat behind her.

Then suddenly, I heard Asherel's voice become deep and commanding.
"Honeybun, come!" she bellowed.
Honeybun whisked around to the boat, and jumped in. Asherel grabbed her paddle and with HB still standing one paw not quite in, Asherel began paddling like a windmill towards me. As she approached, her face a worried crease I rarely see on this unflappable kid, she said, "Snake."

Even the word snake makes me nauseous. I just cannot abide snakes, particularly since so many of them in NC are poisonous. I told her to have HB sit, so she paused long enough to do that, and we paddled hurriedly out of there.
"How big?" I asked, when we were a safe distance away.
"3-4 feet, and this big around." She held her fingers in a 5 or 6 inch circle. Her description of the color and markings makes me pretty sure it was a copperhead. Oh horrors. Ick.

So we learned two things. Number one, we will only get out of the boat at the swimming sand bar where everyone goes. The water is too disturbed too frequently for snakes to want to hang out there. Number two, HB listens to and understands emergency commands.

As we neared our docking area, I heard a splash.
"Honeybun," said Asherel, "What are you doing?"
Honeybun was ignoring lesson number one, and swimming. The water was still quite deep so no snakes were a threat but I sure didn't want to go anywhere near the shore where snakes by the millions were surely lurking.

I pulled my kayak up beside the swimming dog, and as Asherel hoisted, I got close enough so HB could brace a back paw against my boat. With a leap, she managed to get back in Asherel's boat.

Lesson 3 was a good one- with both boats we could haul a dog out of deep water.

We don't know why she jumped in. We suspect she was just plain tired of kayaking and wanted to be somewhere other than the boat. She quickly realized that swimming was exhausting, and the water was not any more fun than the boat, and a lot more work. In the end, in both minor emergencies that day, she decided her master really did know best.

It is so easy to ignore what is asked of us, expected of us, even required of us. The grass is always greener and the water always bluer where we are told not to wander. It is so easy to think of obedience as restricting, as undesirable. Good masters know that, and smart dogs eventually learn that the Master really does have their best interests at heart.

Deuteronomy 4:30
When you are in distress and all these things have happened to you, then in later days you will return to the LORD your God and obey him.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Chasing Turtles

The turtles did not have a restful day yesterday. Neither did the geese. Matt is like a Border Collie- he likes to herd.
We took Matt and Karissa kayaking in the new inflatable kayaks. We went to a small lake as it was Karissa's first time kayaking and we wanted her to live because we really like her.

While I taught Karissa some basics, Matt took off in his floating turtle hunter and immediately began sighting and stalking turtles. The poor turtles know that midweek, no one comes to the little lake and they can usually bask on the logs lining the shore undisturbed. When we arrived, their holiday was over. Every time Matt spotted a turtle, he would paddle steathily towards it, and then glide silently. The turtle always spotted him, however, and plopped into the water, leaving only swirling circles of waves.

And then he saw geese floating placidly nearby and enlisted all of us to try and catch the geese. We came within a few feet and then they flew away. But Matt has a kind soul and it was just the chase that enchanted him. He had no real desire to capture them. The few times he hooked a fish when we used to go fishing, he would watch with anguish as I removed the hook to set the fish free. We always filed the barb so that the fish would never be hurt.

When the geese flew away and we all bobbed in the water watching them against the blue sky, Matt told us about someone he knew who caught a goose once and broke its neck. I don't think the young man meant to, but his rough play led to that result. So he left the goose by the side of the path. Every day he had to walk by that dead goose on the way to and from class as it slowly rotted away. Every day, he was reminded of the consequences of his careless disregard.

I think maybe that is not too far off from what God sees. He sees our paths, and He sees the consequences of our careless disregard scattered in our wake. It doesn't matter if we do it with malice aforethought, or not. The result is the same. An angry word that pumps poison long after it has been spoken.... or words of love that should have been spoken but never fall on straining ears. Pride that pushes others aside. Living for self while loved ones languish. The list is long.

It is as impossible for me to catch a sinless day, maybe even a sinless hour as it was for Matt to catch a turtle. I close in on it sometimes, but it always slips away. I have heard many times "Only losers seek God" , and I think that is true. But winners find Him. And He doesn't try to escape.

Philippians 3:7-9 (New International Version)

But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Wearing Love

Matt and his girlfriend Karissa are here for a few days en route to a graduation week with a whole host of friends at the beach. They brought me a Mother's Day gift. They were very anxious for me to open it before we headed out to dinner, but since it was already quite late and we were starving, I promised to open it after dinner, grabbed my fanny pack, and we hurried off to dinner.

There are some fashions I am a slave to, but those who know me cannot miss the fact that when the fanny pack rage of the 80's came and went, I got stuck. I love fanny packs... though I call them belt packs because I never rotate it around to my fanny.... I carry it proudly on my small frame hanging it off my belly. I have a belt pack for all occasions. Small ones for when I just need my phone and keys, medium ones for when my camera might be handy, and mega packs that are like small suitcases strapped to my midriff for travel. I also have a velvet dress belt pack for formal occasions, and my latest acquisition is a kayaking belt pack that will keep my valuables dry should we flip and drown.

Over the years, I have received more than subtle hints that the days of the fanny pack went with the dinosaurs and that perhaps I missed the fashion news alert. Believe me, it is not that I am blind and don't realize I am the only one still sporting a fanny pack. It is that they are so comfortable and don't hurt my neck or shoulder muscles like purses. They leave hands free to cup daffodils and gently hold them close to sniff....or to pet a passing dog, or point at a distant hawk. My kids have not known a day that Mom has not been seen in a fanny pack, thus I assumed they just considered it what mothers do.

Karissa and Matt watched me anxiously as I tore open the gift after dinner. There was a magnificent and beautiful purse, with a long shoulder strap, and lots of zipped compartments. It was small so that my small frame would not struggle to hoist it, and had a little duck in the corner. It was a fine purse, I could tell that, not being a purse connoisseur, because it came with a registration card. I can tell you that no fanny pack ever came with a registration card.

Karissa has met me only once before, but apparently my fanny pack had made a deep impression on her. She assured me, that being thin, I could get away with wearing a fanny pack, but perhaps I would enjoy this lovely purse too? Matt and Asherel were both nodding vigorously and I laughed. I remembered my dad and how he used to ride a recumbent bicycle (which is like a couch on wheels) wearing a spandex bee suit- orange and black spandex when spandex was just coming out. At the time, I thought I would die of mortification should my friends glance out the window when he buzzed by.... but now, it is one of my favorite, quintessential memories of my dear old dad.

Have my kids been cowering behind my fanny-pack embellished body? I suspect so.
I love the purse and can't wait to transfer things out of my fanny pack. But I bet that if someone asked my children to paint a picture of their mom that embodied all that she is to them, it would be a stick figure wearing a fanny pack as big as the heart of God.

Ephesians 4:21-23 (New International Version)

21Surely you heard of him and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. 22You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23to be made new in the attitude of your minds

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Memoirs of a Nobody

I find myself waking up every day apologizing to God. Thank you Lord for this day, and I am sorry that I didn't use yesterday as I should have. Thank you for my family and I am sorry I took them for granted....again. Thank you for the wonderful ordinary people in my life who are struggling as much as I am, and I wish I could be more patient, and gentle, and understanding when their struggles bump up against my schedule.....

and so on.

I get mighty tired of failure. Fortunately, God seems to understand, even expect it. I am sure it doesn't thrill Him, but He keeps sending me little messages of hope and gentle nudges forward despite it all.

Like last night, I crawled into bed, and the litany of "wouldashouldacouldas..." crept into my thoughts.... and then I heard golf clubs clinking in the living room. I heard my husband giggling... and he is not a giggler. Then the door opened and he lugged his heavy golf club bag to my side. Each golf club had a fuzzy bright many colored bear covering it. The bears had arms and little pointy scarves, just like the Grateful Dead album bears. That my grown husband would find such delight in stuffed animals tickled my heart.

I had received a note from my hoped for agent. She had read my "memoirs" (the second book I have written) and while she says my writing is strong and I have something worth saying, no publisher will agree to publishing the memoirs of a nobody. Now that is not what she called me, but that is what I am. God works through nobodies all the time, but that is not what sells books.

So often I feel like a child trying to be an adult. Adults have a lot to deal with trying to raise real children trying to be adults. I know the weight of that responsibility weighs too heavily on me and on my husband at times. What a small blessing to see the playful, childlike joy of golf club heads with soft fuzzy ears and bright colors in my gloom. Sometimes God's messages are almost too subtle, and so easily overlooked. Today I am going to keep my soul wide open for the tickles of God.

Psalm 36:7-9 (New International Version)

7 How priceless is your unfailing love!
Both high and low among men
finda]"> refuge in the shadow of your wings.

8 They feast on the abundance of your house;
you give them drink from your river of delights.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Being Brave

I heard a speech yesterday that was among the best I have ever heard. I won't give many specifics because the speaker may prefer to remain anonymous. The young lady speaking is only 13 years old. This was the fifth public speech she had ever given. Many of the other speeches in this class had been about things like the 10 strangest creatures in the ocean, the ten most stupid criminals, and even the history of light bulbs. All were fine speeches and appropriate for the class. This young lady spoke about her sadness and fears for her dad who would be going away for a year to a distant land to help defend our country.

She spoke about how she had not dared to think about it, or talk about it, even to herself, because if she admits how sad and frightened she is, she may never stop crying. She talked poignantly about how when her dad was home, she would pretend he wasn't there.... to begin preparing for the reality of him leaving. She feared most of all he might not come back. As the oldest child, she recognized that she was responsible to be strong for her siblings. She said it was particularly hard for her because she relied so much on her father, his wisdom, his love.

Through it all, she said, she was overwhelmed by the love of family and friends, who were trying to help her. She knew that love would hold her family together as they suffered that year without their dad. She felt God had a special mission for her in this trial, and she would listen carefully to discern what she was supposed to do.

I try very hard not to take freedom lightly, to take the duties of citizenship in this great country seriously, duties like voting, volunteer service, civic care and pride. Our freedoms have not been won lightly. So many brave soldiers have fought to secure and defend them. And many very brave children and young people sacrifice perhaps the most.

Deuteronomy 31:6
6 Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you."

Tuesday, May 11, 2010


I am an island, a compulsive organizer in a sea of procrastinators. Neither extreme is very fun to live with- both in one household is a nuclear stand off.

You can always recognize fellow organizers. They arrive early to all events, and hold their hats on tightly to prevent the steam from shooting it off their heads as they await the procrastinators. The procrastinators are happy to be alive, as they saunter in 20 minutes late. The organizers are sometimes wondering why God allows the procrastinators to live.

The organizers tend to like rules and follow them. The procrastinators like rules at times, but have to break them since their procrastination has led them to a corner they can't get out of unless they smash the walls.

The organizers have sticky notes, with little boxes and many are checked off, usually in order. The sticky notes cover many surfaces of an otherwise neat home. The procrastinators may have sticky notes, but they can't find them under the 5 feet of papers and unopened mail they will read "tomorrow."

The procrastinators want to put their feet up, sip a nice tall glass of lemonade and enjoy the smell of dinner cooking that it is likely an organizer is making or the family doesn't eat til midnight. The organizer whisks the lemonade glass off to the dishwasher the moment it clanks down on the table, when there is still half a glass left.

Sometimes the organizer and the procrastinator cannot stand each other. They certainly don't understand each other. Each thinks God made a horrible error in creating the other. But as usual, God has the last laugh. It is no accident I am an island, an organizer in a sea of procrastinators. I am increasingly convinced that despite my attempts otherwise, I was not put here solely to reform all of them, a task which I seem to never be able to perform despite my best efforts. Sometimes, with increasing regularity, I am getting the urge to procrastinate, or at least pack only 2, not 3 weeks early.

I suspect the world needs both types, though between you and me, I think it would be better with just one.... I will leave it up to you to figure out which one. But ultimately, islands, while beautiful and distinct and unique.... are lonely. Waving to distant shores while writing sticky notes gets old. I think maybe it is best to try to be a peninsula, not losing all the qualities that makes one stand alone, but not losing the connection to the rest of the world. I will write myself a note to start that peninsula this afternoon.

Colossians 3:13
Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.

Monday, May 10, 2010

God Makes Ice

After having the new refrigerator installed and the Home Depot man telling us that the 25 year old spigot behind the new refrigerator had never been turned on, I spent a morning calling handyman friends to offer them the small plumbing job. No one was home, and in the meantime, our icemaker was off, as the Home Depot man had warned.

For you blog followers, you know the day the fridge was delivered was also the day of my broken toe, another book rejection, and clogged garbage disposal. I think the ruined screen from Lucky using the window as a door was the next day.

"Should we put on the icemaker just to be certain the water is off?" I asked.
"Can't hurt," agreed Arvo, and he turned it on. We stood there a moment waiting for ice to plop out, but it was still and quiet in the icemaking zone. Closing our new refrigerator door, we packed up for an afternoon of kayaking. I taped my broken toe to two buddy toes instead of just one, and walked pain free.

We discovered a new creek off of the Catawba river and kayaked for an hour upstream. I felt like Lewis and Clark. After gliding by a park, the deep wide creek was silent and devoid of people. Thick forests lined the banks and huge bolders speckled the edges. My toes were propped on the bow of my kayak where I could gaze at them and thank God for 9 unbroken toes, and for the kindness of the strong toes to brace and cover for the little broken one.

When we got home, I reminded Arvo it would be wise to turn off the icemaker as the literature said if you don't have water connected, be sure the icemaker is off. There was even a return call on the phone from a friend who knew how to do this plumbing task for us. (BTW- it is not just turning on the spigot apparently... there is something in the deep dark scary crawl space below the house that needs attention.... something that might involve slithering on your belly with the snakes that assuredly are down there.)

I was busily unpacking our detritus from the day, when I heard Arvo shout, "Ice!"
I came running over to see and we both stood rapturously before our ice maker which had churned out actual lovely cubes of perfectly formed ice.

"I guess the water was on ," I said, but after 25 years of no use, it had fooled the Home Depot man into thinking it was no longer usable. Or.... was God sending me another little piece of comfort in a small miracle?

Maybe neglect, even 25 years of it, can be healed. Maybe water can gush in the desert. Maybe a broken toe can be supported and cared for by her co-workers. Maybe the storm can be stilled, the blind see, the lame walk, and the unbelieving believe. Maybe a tall refreshing glass of water with ice cubes clinking in it can be a song of angels.

Deuteronomy 8:14-16 (New International Version)

14 then your heart will become proud and you will forget the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. 15 He led you through the vast and dreadful desert, that thirsty and waterless land, with its venomous snakes and scorpions. He brought you water out of hard rock. 16 He gave you manna to eat in the desert, something your fathers had never known, to humble and to test you so that in the end it might go well with you.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Ode to Mom

There are baby bunnies everywhere in our bushes. Every time I pull in to the driveway, a wide-eyed youngster is frozen there, wondering which way to scramble.
Where is your mother, I want to yell! Why is she not directing you to pay less attention to the clover and more attention to the four wheeled beast about to smoosh you flat? Is she off munching on my flowers, too concerned about her own needs to pause long enough to guide and discipline her baby?

I was lucky. I have a mom who cared enough while we were growing up to sacrifice her own desires and needs in order to raise happy, and relatively well-adjusted, productive children. Oh there were those lapses like when Amy was 7 and the horse knocked her into the mud and walked on her back, or when Holly at age 3 walked 2 miles alone to the local grocery store. But that, and a miniscule few other incidents were all survived and probably made us all stronger.

No one really knows how hard it is to be a mother till you are a mother. All the things that miraculously happened to feed, clothe, nurture, protect you as a child..... Mom was largely responsible for. The clean toilets were not the product of the toilet fairy showing up at midnight. Being talked to and read to from the moment your eyes opened which paved the way for intelligent thought and limitless possibilities in your world may not be remembered, but it was Mom who did that just as your neurons and synapses were connecting. Even the greatest genius in the world might not have emerged if his mom had not nurtured that tender intellect.

There is no way to properly thank a mother. My tribute to my own mom is that I consider being a mother the highest and most glorious calling on earth. Happy Mothers Day, Mom.

Proverbs 31:27-29 (New International Version)

27 She watches over the affairs of her household
and does not eat the bread of idleness.

28 Her children arise and call her blessed;
her husband also, and he praises her:

29 "Many women do noble things,
but you surpass them all."

Saturday, May 8, 2010


The Terminex man came to work on the outdoor termite traps and so as I always do, I shut the dog door so the dogs could not get out and lunch on either termite poison or termite poison dispenser's legs. Lucky had been perfectly contentedly lying on his bed, until I locked the dog door, at which point, he became psychotically discontented, and began pacing and lunging at the dog door and then prowling along the house for some sort of escape hatch. I further barricaded the dog door with piles of furniture and then hobbled on my broken toe with a deep tired sigh and threw myself down to continue prep for my DI team.

A few minutes later, the Terminex man was knocking on the back door.... with Lucky beside him. I leapt to my feet, shrieked as my toe bore weight, and limped to the door.

"How did he get out?" I cried. The dog door was still locked, the piles of furniture blocking it undisturbed. The front door was closed, and indeed, Honeybun was barking like a fiend looking woefully out of that closed door. The Terminex man shrugged his shoulders, smiling. Lucky was smiling too, and wagging his tail. I let Lucky back in, which he acceded to cheerfully, and went back to icing my toe.

Knock, knock. The Terminex man was back at the door.
"I think I see how your dog got out," he said," The screen on your side window is broken and the window is open."
I hobbled into our bedroom to the screen that Arvo had just replaced a few weeks ago. The little table under the window was slightly shifted, and the piles of things I was gathering to pack for the DI global finals were scattered on the floor. The window was open 5 inches, and the new screen was flapping in the breeze. Lucky had climbed out the window, ripped open the screen and then dropped 7 feet to the concrete driveway below. He should've been walking on 4 crushed tibias, but instead, he was happily lying back down on his bed, now that he had proved his point.

It was not the best of days yesterday, and not just because of my broken toe, or busted window screen, or even backed up garbage disposal that I was unable to fix, or the water line to the new refrigerator not working. None of those events felled me. But as I checked my email for a final time that night, there was a message from the agent that had sent my book back for revision and been so encouraging.... and she said the Christian message in my book wasn't quite fleshed out enough for their readers, though the story was hard to turn down and the writing was much better in this revision. The last agent had turned it down because it was "too Christian". I have been writing and revising for two years now, and now it is not "Christian" enough.

I wrote her back, telling her my hope and prayer had been to keep the message subtle enough that a hurting secular world would be willing to read it, find hope and inspiration, and especially maybe God. I guess I was too subtle.

And then Holly my sister informed me that the tag-line from my iPod that I have been sending out for a week now which is supposedly the link to my blog is mistyped and no one can link to my blog from it. It says vicky kaseorg blogsot. Blog SOT. Not blogspot..... but Blog SOT. I must admit, being a SOT, and imbibing heavily of mind numbing and pain killing beverages did sound tempting, but it had probably not helped along my "Christian" message to my agent... or my once hoped for agent.

I wanted to praise God for my trials, knowing my character was being molded and refined. When God closes a door, Lucky finds a window....but I could not see any window that I could manage to climb out of with my broken toe throbbing. I was about to shut down the computer and go cry in bed, when there was another note from the agent, "But if you do revise, please remember us to send it to."

My toe is still broken, the screen is still flapping in the breeze, and I still feel like crying. But there is a little light squeaking through as the morning of a new day stretches awake.

2 Corinthians 4: 8-9
8We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; 9persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.

Friday, May 7, 2010

I Should Have Been Jumping for Joy.....

The bursitis in my elbow and tendonitis seems to be resolving. It still hurts to lift, but there is no constant pain anymore and I can wipe down the countertop without writhing in distress like a slug with salt poured on it.

Just in time for a new injury!

We were walking the dogs yesterday, which is ironically, the likely cause of the initial elbow injury, when Lucky decided he wanted to play tug of war with the leash. As he dashed away, he crashed into my little toe and turned it in a direction it should not and was never intended, and indeed DID not want to go. The result was like a watercolor painting of blues and purples, a masterpiece bruising as the broken little toe swelled. Fortunately it is on the foot that is not missing a toe nail, so now I have symmetrical grossness in my feet, just in time for sandal season.

When I told Asherel I thought I just broke my toe, she sneered. I am a hypochondriac, but that is partially because I really do constantly injure myself or get felled with illness. However, I do not suffer in silence, and that leads to marked disregard of true injury by my loved ones, who are sick of my whining. But this time, I really did do a very bad thing to my toe.

WebMd seems to indicate that most of the time, docs will do nothing for a broken toe, though it hurts like the dickens. (by the way, have you ever wondered what dickens are and why they cause so much pain? I looked it up and dickens means devil.... and I guarantee you that as much as this toe hurts.... it doesn't hurt that bad.)

Anyway, as I limped home, I realized that most of the time, I give my little toe absolutely zero attention. I do trim the nail from time to time. On occasion I look at it and realize that little toes are like little round blobs and honestly not very attractive. I walk all over it, and would likely not be able to walk or run as well without it, yet I never thank it or praise God for my little toe. But let it mutiny and decide to get broken and bruised and swollen and I certainly curse it. Suddenly this overlooked, inconsequential, inconspicuous teeny appendage is the most important thing in the world and is responsible for great angst, pain, and worry.

It is with some degree of shame that I realize that every morning when I arise, I should have been leaping for joy and praising my Creator for the blessing of an unbroken, whole, and working little toe. Why is it that I never seem to understand my blessings until I have lost them?

Ephesians 1: 3-4
3Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. 4For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Never Straight Paths

I often tell my art students that in nature you will never find straight lines. Emerging artists always draw edges of people, or tree limbs, or animal legs robotic-ally straight. But in reality, there are always subtle curves. Everyone then says, "oh yeh, what about tree trunks?" but I assure you that no tree trunk is completely ruler straight. Straight lines are man- made inventions.

Despite that, I never seem to follow a straight line in the world of man-made gadgets. My paths always veer and turn, and even come back on themselves. I want to take the short, and straight, and narrow road, but inevitably, especially if the road involves computer knowledge, I end up doing loopydeloops.

All I wanted to do was export my contacts from my computer onto my iPod. You would think the folks at Apple if they can put a little man inside that little box that controls the voodoo that makes marks appear with exact correspondence to where you touch could make exporting contacts from a computer child's play. And it is if you own an Apple computer. But if you are one of the savages that own a PC, you have to first make sure your contacts are put in Outlook, preferably the latest version, and then you call your computer guru friend. He gives you a three page step by step summary of what you are to do, with the last 3 steps saying, "The rest should be self explanatory." Yeh, right.

So determined to continue my progress out of troglodytism, I decided to do it myself. I would not wait for my husband to get home, or call my son, who would then not call back and add depression to frustration. How hard could it be for someone who does not really even know what a byte is let alone one word of programming? I knew that what I was embarking on was the equivalent of a 4 year old doing brain surgery blindfolded with a kitchen knife underwater with his hands tied behind his back, but that did not deter me.

I did manage to find the little box labeled "export contacts", which seemed a good place to start and gave me a snootful of confidence. Then I began to operate. Windows started popping open like the Black Plague, and no sooner would I close one incomprehensible blurb, when a new even more indecipherable window would splat on my screen. I think they were all in English, but it was an English that I had not yet learned. I wove like a drunk from one window to the next, trying desperately to guess the right answer. Finally, in total exasperation, I closed everything and admitted, this was a tad beyond my pay grade.

But alas, the munchkins in the computer were hard at work, carrying out my clueless commands. I began getting ominous messages from an email address that I hadn't used in 5 years. I had awakened a beast in our PC and not only had I no idea how I had done it, I also had no idea how to kill it.

I turned off the computer and drew a picture. I was careful to not make any straight lines, because there are NO straight lines in nature....except one. There is One, I thought, with great joy and hope, one shining, glorious, victorious straight path.

Proverbs 3:6
in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010


I have another week left of my trial period with this iPod and so am challenging all my God given intellect to try to figure out how to move into the twentieth century. Or is it the 21 st? I can never remember.

Anyway, I listened to Asherel's great wisdom as she was born to this age of texting and techno. I was born to an age of watching the ocean and contemplating squirrels.

She insisted I needed a case for my iPod or awful things would transpire such as not color-coordinating my iPod to my outfit. Note the irony of this coming from the child I spent 2 months convincing she had to wear a dress to a formal wedding.

She wanted me to buy several cases so I was never in danger of clashing since everyone knows that you don't wear white before memorial day and your iPod and shoes should complement each other. However I nixed that and told her to find me something cheap and with a flap that would close to protect my screen. She came up with a zebra case which was cheap and of course matches all my outfits when I go on a safari.

Well as soon as the cheap case arrrived, with great excitement we put my ipod in it. I loved the way it securely snapped closed and found the zebra cover a unique additon to my eclectic wardrobe.

While the envy of every fashion conscious iPod user, every time I snapped the case closed, my iPod screen went black and I could not turn it back on. Asherel knew what to do to shock it back to life but clearly I had either a broken iPod or one who found zebra clothes odious.

But then I remembered the sweet words of my oldest son as he left the home of his youth to strike out on his own: "Never put a magnet near the hard drive, Mom".

Those tender parting words filled my heart and I realized I was putting the zebra case magnets,
so efficient at snapping the case closed, next to the iPod hard drive!

I tore off the case realizing now why it had been so cheap. My iPod began working again and I was proud of my deductive skill in an area that I am sorely deficient.

My spiritual screen goes blank for seemingly no reason too at times. The reason is always that I take my eyes off of Jesus, the only source of true power in my life. The concerns and snares of the world are magnets that suck the energy right out of my own hard drive, and I become a blank useless screen, wearing pretty stripes, but of no use to anyone.

Proverbs 14:27
The fear of the LORD is a fountain of life, turning a man from the snares of death.

Nothing is impossible with God

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Sheep Psychology

I was chatting with a Dog Agility class member last night about an upcoming trial in July. He said he would not be able to attend as he will be in a Sheep Psychology Class.

This, of course, got my brain instantly whirling. I would never have suspected that sheep were smart enough to have a whole class devoted to how their psyches operate. I instantly got visions of flocks of sheep all gathering around "Dog Evasion Handbooks" and plotting how to mess with the Border Collie's Head.

First sheep: "I say the best strategy is to play dumb...."
Second sheep: "That won't be too hard, as I believe, as it says in this manual, we ARE dumb."
Third sheep: "But DUMB is what the dog expects. Let's try SMART."
Fourth sheep: "I don't do SMART well."
Third sheep:"That's why we have this book. See, the chapter on Sheep Psychology tells us that dogs expect us to move together as a flock with no leader. I say we scatter.... Can you just see the look on his face?!"

I think I want to skip the Dog Agility Trial and attend the Sheep Psychology class myself. According to my friend, there will be no sheep actually present at the class. The class members will pretend to be sheep and mimic what a typical sheep might do.

First Student: "Baaaaaaaaaaaa."
Second Student: "Run! I see a predator!"
Third Student: "That is not a predator. This is a sheep dog trial, dope. They are trained not to kill us or they lose their national ranking. Let's just stand here and not budge."

Then students, pretending to be Border Collies will try to understand the psychology of sheep, and determine how best to get the flock to go through a series of gates, split the flock in half, and then round them up to go into a pen.

It is hard being an adult with all the responsibilities of adults. This sounds perilously close to kindergarten recess, but I think we all need that now and then. And afterall, what a wonderful thing to do, pretending to be sheep! I just pray we all would recognize the one Shepherd worth following.

Psalm 100:3
Know that the LORD is God. It is he who made us, and we are his ; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Butterflies and Prayer

While kayaking yesterday, in between bouts of fearing the dogs would capsize the boat, the snakes would slither on board, or the giant snapping turtles would devour our toes trailing in the water, I was in absolute peace.

As I slid along the shoreline, deep lush trees lining the sparkling shore, a bright butterfly flitted against the deep emerald leaves. He fluttered against the deep dark colors of the forest, and his path was clear, in its contrast to the darker tones. The contrast of the bright wings, tiny though they were against the immense but dark forest made him startling bright, capturing my full attention.

This morning, our Church is starting a week long devotion to prayer. People signed up for time slots, one hour for all 24 hours each day for a week to pray for our nation, our military, our church, our families, our world. I signed up for 8-9 this morning, thinking I would be up early, have finished my blog post and efficiently move on to prayer. My best laid plans were as usual, waylaid, not by mice or men but by insomnia. I was up most of the night..... so did spend much of it in prayer but that didn't count. I had signed up for 8-9 a.m., Monday morning.

As 8 a.m. approached, I snarled at my lack of foresight and grumbled a bit at all the things that would now be put aside that needed doing so I could pray. With this admirable attitude, I approached the Throne of Grace. Soon the lightness of soul that always contrasts so darkly with the cares of the world transported me like butterfly wings across the hour. I was shocked to see 9:00 had come and gone, and my hour of prayer had flitted across the morning, leaving a trail of peace and brightness in its wake. A butterfly to carry me on fragile wings to the Presence of God.

Psalm 63:7
Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Art is Not a Horse Race

The Kentucky Derby coincided this year with the last day for entries for the first National Hollow Creek Farm Children's Art Contest. I am one of three judges for that. Asherel and I, as we do every year, settled down with a yummy dinner 2 hours before the actual Derby run, and then listened to every tantalizing tidbit about the horses, the jockeys, the owners, the trainers, the past Derby horses, former jockeys, former owners and former trainers, and the future Derby horses, future owners, and future trainers. I am not allowed to speak during the Derby indoctrination session, as Asherel is studiously listening, remembering and filing away every minuscule fact she hears. If she would concentrate one tenth so hard on schoolwork, she'd be in post-graduate school by now.

So I took the time to sketch on my iPod, preparing myself for Round One of the art contest judging after the Derby. The Derby was wonderfully exciting, with history made as jockey Cal won his third Derby on a horse not expected to win, but the winner was unambiguous. The first horse across the line won, no subjective argument about who ran the winning race.

On to the art contest judging and a whole different scenario paints itself. All the artwork is lined up by age groups and the only information I have on each is the name of the HCF animal the piece portrays, and the person's age group. I do have an "objective" judging criteria sheet, with a certain number of points each artist can earn in 5 categories....but as soon as I looked at the first piece, I knew I was doomed. I wanted to give it the perfect 50 points.... but then what if the next piece was better? And can anyone reach perfection in art... and if they can't, how do you assign objective points to such a subjective endeavor?

"I know," I told my assistant, "Let's just throw them all across the room, and the one who lands furthest wins."
"This isn't a horse race," said Asherel.
OK, all you art entrants, don't panic. I made that part up. I didn't say it... but I did think it.

How do you not give points to a clumsily drawn picture that captures completely the essence of the animal he drew? Or how do you judge between three of the most exquisitely drawn dogs I have ever seen, all in different mediums? I praise God there are three judges, because I want to give each entrant first place.

I honestly had no favorites. Each piece carried such a spark of love, and joy, and bubbling creativity that each one I looked at was like a new flower, created just for that nuance of smell that only it can give. I hope each artist understands that, whether they win or not. I had never realized how hard it is to pick just one winner in an art contest. Now I have a little better sense of why God urges us all to work towards the Prize, the goal, the eternal award. If He were to choose only one of His creation to win, how could He? So we all get to win if we press on towards the goal. And the Judge isn't assigning points- He is cheering and standing at the Finish Line with open arms.

Phillippians 3: 13-14
13Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.