life

Doubly Blessed

 

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My daughter snapped a picture of her graduation cake before we headed to the ceremony. She posted it on Instagram and immediately got tons of likes and an occasional, “I don’t know if I should laugh or cringe.”

“Laugh!,” she replied, “it’s hilarious.”

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“It’s not every day you get hooded,” she said.

And she was right. It was a special day.  Seeing the procession of hooded faculty entering the arena and then watching my daughter exit wearing a hood of her own.

I felt grateful all day.

“Do you feel more important now?,” I asked on the way to the restaurant.

“Not more important,” she replied, “just more accomplished.”

Good distinction.

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Celebratory dinner at The Common Grill. So delicious.

This morning I said, “I get why being hooded yesterday felt special. It’s kind of like you’ve entered the realm of sages, like you’re Obe Wan Kenobe.”

So my daughter is now a Jedi Warrior therapist who will begin her brand new job at 6:00 tomorrow morning.

This morning she got up early to run an errand.

When she returned she presented me with a Mother’s Day card and a beautiful bouquet of flowers.

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I handed it right back to her.

“I didn’t get you flowers yesterday so these are for you.”

“We’ll both enjoy them then,” she said, as she put them in a vase.

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Happy Mother’s Day to me!

Happy Mother’s day to you!

 

 

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the friends

Rambunctious, Gorgeous & Free

As you know from my last post, my family and I are shopping for free and inexpensive Christmas spirit.

Saturday it was a big screen showing of White Christmas, where magic was in the air.

Sunday afternoon my daughter and I walked through a lovely Christmas market.

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Is it just me, or do the trees look like sparkling martini glasses? Though this is a photo of the market at night, we were there in the sunshine.

After dinner my daughter dressed the friends in sweaters and we all – the hub, my daughter, the friends and I – piled into the car, turned the radio to a Christmas music station and drove 20 miles to a drive-through live nativity.

The plan was a quick drive out there, a quick drive through the nativity and home in an hour. But when we crested the hill, we saw a line-up of headlights that looked over an hour long. We thought about aborting our mission, but we got in line instead.

The hour-and-a-half wait was a little hard on the beagle (the hound dog sat patiently in his seat like a good boy), but the program was well done and she was gifted with a dog biscuit by the people who were handing out free HOT (thank you) chocolate and cookies. The beagle tried-to-climb-out-the-window-LOVED the scene that included children and goats. Wish I had snapped a picture of the precious little boy who waved to her, but I was too busy wrestling 20 pounds of tail-wagging enthusiasm.

It was a memorable and completely free family outing – except for the donation, which was freely given.

Last week I was invited, sans family, to two beautiful Christmas events. First, Advent by Candlelight in a stunning setting.

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In a beautiful room filled with gorgeous tables.

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I arrived a little early in order to get a good parking space because my date uses a walker.

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My date: a little blurry, but beautiful inside and out.

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Our lovely hostess was still putting the finishing touches on her table when we arrived.

That gorgeous and soul-warming event was followed the next day by Christmas Tea at a very lovely country club.

I might have snapped a few photos of the posh beauty there, too, had I not been leery of embarrassing my hostess with a faux pas.

Tonight I’ll teach a final lesson before Christmas break and then there will be time to create some beauty right here at home. Lights and ornaments on the tree that is standing here bare and smelling wonderful.

And then it’s cookies to bake and brittles to make…presents to wrap, cocoa to drink and sappy Hallmark-Christmas-movies-that-always-end with-a-kiss to watch.

It’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas.

P.S. If anyone has a brilliant suggestion for this weekend’s free or nearly free, I’d love to hear them. Christmas concerts at church are already on the list.

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life

It’s the Little Things

The wind has died down, the sun has finally come out and the hub has gone fishing.  But before he left he read to me.  From the Bible.

“Read some of Jesus’ words,” I said.  “I’ve heard enough from Paul.  Not that he didn’t have some good things to say, but he’s not God.”

You all know how I feel about that.

Anyway, with me still on crutches, that was our church today.

And then the hub hightailed it to the lake, leaving me here on the sofa, with a beagle snoring gently beside me, continuing worship by recalling some of the things for which I was grateful this week.

On Tuesday my cleaning lady came.  (Don’t judge me, she only comes EVERY OTHER week.)  She is a huge Slurpee fan and she often tells me about her latest favorite flavor.  This time it was Vernors.  I am not a Slurpee fan – brain freeze – but, what proper Detroit girl doesn’t love Vernors?

As she was leaving, she mentioned that she might stop for a Vernors Slurpee on her way home.

“Hey,” I said, “why don’t you stop at the 7-11 here, near me?  That way, if they have Vernors today, you can text me and  I’ll have the hub stop and get me one on his way home.”

Her eyes brightened and her mouth formed a smile.  She was clearly pleased and heartily agreed to do so.

About ten minutes later the garage door opened.

What’s the hub doing home so soon?

It wasn’t the hub, it was Becky.  Bearing a gift.

Yes, that's a Christmas coaster in June.

Yes, that’s a Christmas coaster in June.

Thanks God, for the little kindnesses that make life wonderful.

P.S.  My brain only froze once.  So that was good.   Momentarily very painful, but good.

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life

Gratifood

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Chilean Sea Bass with Cilantro Beurre Blanc (the silkiest, most delicious beurre blanc I’ve ever had – oh my, oh my), and Pico de Gallo. Oh yes, please.

They say our moods mellow with age.  I would add that the spiciness we enjoy in our foods does, too.  When I was young I liked it the hotter the better, with absolutely no repercussions the next day.

Beggar’s Banquet was a favorite in my college’s town.  They rated each day’s batch of chili according to the number of beers you would need to finish a bowl.  I think they called beer “sympathy for the devil.”  In my case sympathy was pepsi because I’ve never liked beer.  If they had served milk, I might have had that.  Because milk coats and fireproofs the tongue. But more likely I would have considered milk the drink of amateurs.

Now that I am gracefully mellowed, I no longer like my food hot and wild.  Nowadays I like it intelligently spiced:  A subtle kick; a slight warm heat at the very back of my tongue and palate; a perfect balance of flavors – of sweet and heat, warm and cool.

Palates, like people become more sophisticated as they age.  They appreciate the beauty and nuances of subtlety and balance.  And if they’ve been cooking all those mellowing years, they’ve been learning how to achieve it.

Today’s list of the gifts for which I am grateful is all about the food God has given us:  the variety of colors and flavor combinations; culinary artists who know how to extract amazing flavors and inspire us to do the same; flavors that burst in our mouths; stunning presentations of plates and platters.

You, God, could have made the nourishment of our bodies bland – mere utility eating.  But You didn’t, You made it glorious.  Like You.  Thank you.

Taste and see that the Lord is Good.

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faith

I Kinda’ Think My Heart Has Been Blessed.

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Movies about Jesus almost always portray Him sitting on the side of a mountain, surrounded by a listening crowd, quietly delivering His epic sermon in a monotone voice.  But that’s not the way my Bible reads.

“Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down.  His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them.”  Matthew 5:1-2 NIV

He went up on a mountainside.  He, not the crowds.  His disciples came and joined Him, not the crowds.  He began to teach them – His disciples, the subject of the sentence to whom the pronoun refers – not the crowds.

Jesus looked down at the dappled crowds – broken, mourning hearts here; meek spirits there; the pure-hearted and the peacemakers mingled with the persecuted and the poor – and He called them all blessed.

He wasn’t talking to the crowd, He was talking about the crowd.  He was giving His disciples a glimpse of His perspective on the people who were following them.  Most of them were needy and all of them were blessed.  Blessed because things were about to change.

Jesus wasn’t teaching crowds of people that if they did this or that they would be blessed with this or that.  He was teaching His disciples that the crowds were already blessed.  Blessed because He had plans and rewards they knew nothing about.

I wonder whether there was excitement in His voice as He swept His arm slowly above the crowds of followers below and declared them blessed.

“Look at them!  They are about to inherit heaven, and they have no idea.”

One of the things I love about God is that He always lets at least one person in on what He is going to do.  Sometimes it is hundreds of years before He does it, sometimes it is immediately before, but He always tells someone.

“For the LORD detests the perverse but takes the upright into His confidence.”  Proverbs 3:32

He takes the upright into His confidence!  I love, love, love that!  That day, on that mountainside, Jesus took His disciples into His confidence.

Some might think, “Who cares whether Jesus was talking to the crowd or about them?”  I care.  For one thing, Jesus deserves to have His story told accurately, and for another, I love the thought that He talks not only to me, but also about me:

“Look at that precious one, doing the best she can with her feeble faith; hungering and thirsting to understand what I really mean.  She has no idea how blessed she is.”

Then He turned to His disciples and said, you are blessed, too.  When people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me, you will be fine.  You will be more than fine because you are going to have a reward in heaven.  A really good reward.  A really good eternal reward.  All hardship and evil nonsense is temporary.

All of us who follow Jesus – the weak, the strong, the persecuted, those whose faith is old, those whose faith is new, the rich, the poor, the mourning and the dancing – we will all be fine.

This post was inspired by one I read yesterday, and especially by the author’s reply to my comment:  “I kinda’ think my heart has been blessed.”

Have a wonderful day.

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faith, life, restoration, Stories from the Island

Crossing the Water

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I was planning to tell you about June today.  But then my daughter shared her blog post with me, and she did a wonderful job of introducing Brenda.  So Brenda it is.  I would love to just reblog her post except that it would give away my identity.

So, with her permission, I am pasting it here, minus any identifying information:

Shelby and Lesley and I weren’t the only ones on the island this past weekend. We brought women with us. Women who deserved to be blessed. Women who needed to know how God felt about them and who He created them to be. Women who had stories to tell, stories that would allow us to learn from each other.

We brought former prostitutes and addicts. We brought women who used to work the streets, and women who currently go out and minister to those who still do.

Really, my mom brought them. She planned the whole retreat and listened when God told her who to invite. Perhaps I don’t know all the factors that were taken into consideration when she chose the hotel on the island as our location, but I don’t think any of us thought about the significance of crossing over water to get to an island until Brenda did.

Brenda was one of the women who came with us. When she shared her story last night, we found out she had been gang-raped at the age of fourteen, an incident that propelled her into prostitution, promiscuity, and drug use until she eventually surrendered her life to Jesus.

During introductions on the first morning Brenda said “I know that God brought us across the water to cleanse us from everything that happened over there. When we go back, it’s going to be over.”

I got chills. And I am just so thankful for everything that this weekend was, and a God who brings His children across the water.

Amen.

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faith, life, restoration, Stories from the Island

Surprised By Joy

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I guess I expected them to arrive somewhat weary and heavy-laden, downtrodden and in need of rest. Instead they were lively and strong.  Pure joy entered the welcome reception on Friday night as each woman looked me in the eye, introduced herself and shook my hand.  All except one.  One offered only her fingertips and looked me over with suspicious eyes.  “I’m not here to judge,” is what I thought.  “Welcome!” is what I said.

The women helped themselves to a spread of cheese and crackers, sliced melons, grapes, pineapple, assorted veggies and assorted dips, smoked whitefish with a beautiful array of fancy toppings and a variety of lemonades and punches.  It was just right.  Polite, jovial conversation centered around the freshness, sweetness, deliciousness of the food.

Then my daughter entered with goody bags, one for each woman, personalized with her name on it.  A handshake would no longer do.  One got up and gave me a big hug.  “Ohhh, I like hugs,” I exclaimed.  That brought several more to their feet to give hugs.  One massaged my shoulders when I mentioned that her hug felt good against my achy back.  It was going to be a good weekend.

After the reception the chicks and I walked to town for pizza while the hens stayed back to talk.  While we were gone Margaret, the one who greeted me with caution, had a seizure.  She has brain cancer and in all the excitement of the trip she forgot to take her medicine.

Over lunch on Saturday Margaret told me that she is blessed.  She had heard of the Island and had seen it on tv, but she never thought she would actually get to visit.  She told me her story – about how she became acquainted with the other women through rehab.  About how someone slipped her a drug when she was a young teen and she was hooked right off the bat.  She loved the way the burn moved through her body.  She loved the effect it had on her brain.  Some people don’t like that effect, she said, but she did.  She was proud to report that she never sold her body for drugs.  She sold things.  Things that she had stolen from Home Depot or Lowes.  Her father was a sheriff in the Chicago area so she got away with a lot as a teen.  But eventually she caught a bus to a new town so that her family wouldn’t know how addicted she was.  She left children behind.

But now she is blessed.  Blessed because she is clean.  Blessed because she and her boyfriend live in a loft – something that has always been on her bucket list.  Blessed because today she was on the Island.  Blessed because her children were cared for by someone who assured them that it wasn’t them, it was the drugs.  Blessed because she has been recently reunited with her children and they have forgiven her – have always forgiven her.

Margaret said that through it all she was aware of God’s love for her.  She would often talk to Him in the drug house, to the chagrin of the other visitors.  One day she told the drug man that she was  done.  She was going to get back with God.  Surprisingly, he directed her to a Christian rehab facility.

As I got to know the women, heard their stories and marveled at their joy, I began to really understand what Jesus meant:

When one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, he went to the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table.  A woman in that town who lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, so she came there with an alabaster jar of perfume.  As she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.

When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is—that she is a sinner.”

Jesus answered him, “Simon, I have something to tell you.”

“Tell me, teacher,” he said.

“Two people owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty.  Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he forgave the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?”

Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt forgiven.”

“You have judged correctly,” Jesus said.

Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.”

Church, as I have known it for too many years, has been mostly a gathering of Pharisees.  Oh how I long for the fellowship of those who love much.

It was such a sweet weekend.  June, who you’ll meet next, kept flying “first annual” up the flagpole hoping I would salute.  First annual it is.  If my little ministry could afford it, it would be first semiannual.  I love those women.

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