Thursday, January 28, 2010

There's More to Life Than Coffee?

I made a tongue-in-cheek status update on Facebook this week:

Since I started drinking coffee most mornings, my kids have gotten older and more responsible, I drive a nicer car, and my overall quality of life is good. I love my well-creamed coffee!

My FB friends know me well enough to see my humorous intention. But this got me thinking about what really has brought growth over the last six or seven years (the amount of time I've been a coffee drinker.) Here, in no particular order, are my thoughts.

Experience Oh, man, have I had experiences! The ones I've learned from, the ones that eventually brought some added quality to my life, were the tough ones. I've had plenty of those. It may have been Albert Einstein who said, "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." Okay, so I've learned to try different responses to yukky stuff, and it's helped.

Bible reading and pondering A few years ago, my pastor encouraged the congregation to read the whole Bible in a year. "Dude," I thought, "I'm an abstract-random perfectionist. I could never!" Instead, I began reading at Genesis and making an entry in my private journal for every chapter I read. I'm slogging through the prophets now, but I loved the life stories in the historical books. Hmmm... come to think of it, I could relate to the people very well, but now I'm learning more about the nature of God. When I finish this read-through (in a few more years), I plan to start over but read in a different order. Abstract-randomness rocks!

My sons ARE older Different situations, different daily routines, different expectations. I've learned that I should not treat them the same way I did when they were much younger. Duh! One of my personal philosophies comes into play here. I believe that everyone does things for a reason. People don't intend to be dumb -- maybe they're working on a faulty foundation, but they're doing the best they can. Therefore, it's okay to let them make mistakes... and hope they learn from them. Of course, MY sons are wonderful and bright and witty and fascinating and insightful. But if they make mistakes, they're old enough to accept the consequences and begin to work them out.

Counseling, 12-step groups, and good friends These have all contributed tremendously to my continued growth and maturity and sanity. At times, each has met a specific need in my life, and I am eternally grateful for their influence. I can't say enough about the people who have impacted me, and I attribute these blessings to God. He has provided a host of folks who encourage, exhort, pray for, and affirm me when I need it.

God Himself I used to pray -- plead, really -- for God to fix whatever was causing me pain. I cried and cried, but the changes that came were never as complete as I had planned and hoped. Finally, over a long time, I realized I could either abandon all hope or accept what He had allowed into my life. I didn't want to become bitter, and knew I couldn't afford to relinquish what little faith I had, so I chose to hold more tightly to the loving God. He does love me, intimately, incredibly, impossibly. Although He wants what's best for me, that doesn't mean I'll get what's comfortable for me. It'll all work out in the end, and I'm okay for the here and now.

Humor The most important component of sanity, in my opinion. The person who can't laugh at himself has more issues than... well, you know what I mean. Introspection is my middle name, but there's so much about life that is downright laughable. Even though I trust that everyone has a reason for the dumb things they do, I still find it funny sometimes. In fact, the way I know I'm in a safe, healthy place is when I can laugh the hardest at myself. Folks, I do the silliest things! I should write a book. Oh, wait -- I am!

So there you have it. In addition to coffee with sugar and cream, here are the top six building blocks in my personal growth. Blackie would be proud, but Rufus says it's time to GOFORAWALKMOMNOWLETSGORIGHTTHISMINUTE!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Vague Comments on Liturgy and Rings

Do you ever wonder about... stuff? Inconsequential, unimportant, details of life, things that don't really matter, but are you curious about why this habit or how that mannerism came into being? Sometimes I notice things and ponder them for a while.

Recently, I spent time with a friend who is blind. We were chatting, and somehow I started commenting about men's jewelry. A Lutheran pastor whom we both know happens to wear four rings on his fingers. Four! I said that I can't think of any Baptist pastors who wear anything beyond a wedding band. Come to think of it, the male clergy with whom I've been acquainted seem to fall into two groups. The "liturgical" ones are likely to wear jewelry and show a little more style in haircut and clothing than the "fundamentalist" pastors.

Am I getting myself into hot water yet? I don't mean to insinuate anything negative or positive; I'm just writing about what I think I've noticed. These comments are subjective and are based on my personal observations in a limited geographic region.

The liturgical pastors may take a liberal or a conservative view of Scripture and theology. Either way, they are still more stylish than their fundamentalist counterparts. Around the Pacific Northwest, the fundamentalists are currently leaning toward more casual attire. Blue jeans and open collars are proudly worn at Sunday services, without hiding behind a pulpit. (Pulpits and other churchy furniture are passe, as well.) Liturgical pastors might wear an extra ring or two, as well as a gold chain on the wrist or neck.

Fundamentalists, in my limited experience, do not own man-chains.

So, what do you think? Have you ever noticed pastors wearing or not wearing bling? Oh -- that brings up another point. The men I've been referring to would generally be white Americans. I'm not trying to be exclusionary, just trying to simplify my little study. How come it's okay for some clergymen to wear jewelry and have interesting hair styles, but not okay for others? What else defines these micro-sub-cultures? Any ideas?

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Laughing (at myself) All the Way

Mma Ramotswe was scrupulously honest, but this did not mean she was above self-deception.
And thus are we all!

I read The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith when my husband went to Namibia. Botswana, the homeland of Precious Ramotswe and her friends, borders Namibia and shares some climatic and cultural distinctives. It was wonderful to be immersed in a slower, gentler pace of life and introspection.

When I saw a recorded copy of Tea Time for the Traditionally Built, I decided to give it a listen. I wanted to know if my imagined pronunciations were anything close to the real thing. After all, how do you say Mma?

Tea Time has proven to be another delightful escape into a quieter time. I love the simplicity of thought and action, the lack of frenzied busy-ness, as Mma Ramotswe goes about her days. Although my audio-book selection had been mostly spy/adventure action stories, I'm now looking forward to the lyrical accents of African gentlepeople as I drive my car to work and back.

The quote at the top of this post, regarding Mma Ramotswe's honesty, made me laugh out loud and kept me smiling through a meeting. Yes, Mma, I am victim to the same condition of the heart. Honest? Of course... except perhaps when it comes to my own motives and shortcomings. Oh, well.

Oh, and about Mma. It's pronounced just as it looks, sitting on the double m's for an extra beat. Try it!

Monday, January 4, 2010

Aaaacccckkk! Happy New Year!

Hello, faithful reader(s). I'm back! Here's the rundown: busy with work, busy with family, nothing significant to write, and intense drama of the realistic kind. No energy to write more than a Facebook status update. My resolution for 2010? Ha! I'm way too abstract-random/perfectionist to make resolutions. But I do want to write.

This week, my friend and mentor is in town to discuss opening outreach centers for Lutheran Blind Mission. I've been able to sit in on two meetings already, with one more tomorrow, and have some good conversation and Q&A in between. One of the things I find interesting is to see how different churches handle their decision-making and action steps. Regardless of their official structure, every church has a personality or culture of its own. I appreciate being able to observe this, and to see how the individuals handle themselves within that culture.

It's good to have something big to ponder that's outside of me. As I mentioned, there's been significant personal drama over the last couple of months, and I'm a little tired of it. But again, it's interesting to watch how we are reacting to these things. I'm nowhere near able to objectively describe my family's culture, but I'm working on understanding me. It's all good, in the long run.

Thank you for your perseverance to check back here. Now that I've broken the ice with the first post of the New Year, I'll be writing again. I hope to get serious work done on novel #2, but that's a big project for which I'll need more energy and concentration. For now, just blogging and journalling are good. Oh -- and this particular post is brought to you courtesy of my middle son, who's letting me borrow his Mac when he's at work!

I hope you had a terrific Christmas and are enjoying a Happy New Year!