Friday, January 29, 2010

Yesterday evening I flew home from Chicago. It has been a long, full week and I was, I admit, not the most sunshiny of travelers. I love to be other places, I am just not keen on the 'getting there' part. There were jetway issues, so as I stood at the very back of the plain--yes, the very back--and waited for the jetway, and waited for 37 rows of people to disembark, I was on autopilot. I was not looking for good in people or joy in the moment, I was pretty much picturing my dinner set before me on the coffee table with The Office on in the background. I carried that image along with my two bags down all 38 rows, up the jetway, and through the terminal, a determined, if stoic pilgrim among the masses.
And then, up ahead, a teenage guy dropped to the ground and swung his body around and around on the floor. He did the breakdancer's pose thing, then spun on his upper back and contorted his body in ways I can't imagine even trying.
It was seriously cool. It busted through the blase determination I'd erected and pulled a smile out. It's funny how one little image, one moment of art or surprise, can change everything.
Thank you, God for the unexpected blessings you drop on the airport floor even when I'm not looking for them.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Turn it up

I am so incredibly thankful for central heating. I am in Chicago and its cold enough that the steam rising from my coffee actually formed tiny particles of ice. Okay, not really, but it felt that cold. For ten minutes my poor Southern skin was battered by the frigid lake effect winds.
And then, bliss. I stepped into the office and was instantly cocooned in man-made warmth. Sigh. Technology is seriously underrated. I am amazed by the power of the human spirit in that cities like Chicago thrived years ago before such comfort existed. I'm pretty sure I'd have been restricted to a life between the tropical lines. The Lord doesn't promise us comfortable lives, and in fact, I'm increasingly convinced he doesn't want us to be entirely comfortable. When I'm cozy things are great, sure, but I'm not very motivated to move or change. But, I am grateful He was good enough to hold off introducing me to the world until someone had devised central heating. I intend to stay inside for the duration of the workday, including lunch. But, in about eight hours and fifteen minutes, when I walk back to the hotel, I'll be thanking God again.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

You have to see this

So, part of what I want to do is post an actual snapshot of something cool once a week. Unfortunately for me, my battery charger has magically vanished into thin air. But, picture this. A bean. Not just any bean, a 66 foot long silver bean. If you've been to Chicago, you know what I'm talking about. The sculpture is technically called Cloud Gate, but Chicagoans affectionately and accurately call it The Bean.
You wouldn't think a giant legume could be beautiful, but the splendor of art, in my humble and uneducated opinion, is to find beauty in the obscure, or freeze joy in a moment.
Last night I arrived in Chicago for business and decided to go for a walk in one of our country's prettiest cities. It was only seven, but completely dark. Elegant buildings with an extinct craftsman's beauty glowed against a backdrop of the purple-black sky over the lake. And there, perched low and smug in their midst, was The Bean. It wasn't directly lit, but is is sleek and reflects the city glow, and morphs the image of the great buildings, so it looks like their bending their heads together. It was snowing lightly, tiny flakes drifting slowly amongst the bustle of cold people on their way somewhere important and taxis and buses and cars.
I'm grateful for a Creator God who never stops creating beautiful inspirations for His people. I'm grateful for art and for people who take risks, like building a giant bean. I'm grateful for moments when I'm not in the bustle and can stop for a moment in the snow.

Monday, January 25, 2010

One Step at a Time

Unlike most of the country, I didn't go the gym on January 2. I didn't work out at all in 2010 until a week ago Sunday. Let me tell you, after a month in which my movement was limited to switching which direction I curled my feet up on the couch, it was not fun. I have learned to resist the urge to "power through" on that first workout back and try to make up for a month of missed runs. Inevitably you end up so stiff you walk like a Barbie doll for days, and for me, that is usually the last work out for a while. So, instead, I took it relatively easy. I am still not going to say it was fun, or it even felt good, but I did stagger away with a sense of accomplishment, which was rewarding enough to get me back in three more times last week.
Even on the best of days I wouldn't say I've experienced a runner's high (that, or else its greatly overrated), but yesterday, I finally worked my way back into the groove. I felt my muscles get hot and tense, and periodically it got really hard, then eased up again. And when I was done, I felt like Rocky and Prefontaine rolled into one.
Victory! A sense of accomplishment, purpose and edification surged and I strutted out of there feeling as powerful as one of those bald dudes in a back belt who bench press VW Beetles.
There are times that I wish I could work out once and be done. Forever. Alas, its not meant to be, as my body is quick to remind me. But, today I'm glad for that.
If all things were easy, or instantaneous, I would miss out on the sense of freedom and power that self-discipline evokes. Each day I have to make decisions that will have an impact on my future. I know at the time what that impact will be, and fairly often I make the poor choice anyway (just ask the half-empty pan of brownies in the fridge.) But, God, in his goodness, has given us lives that are built a day at a time, undefined by any one action, good or bad. I'm never going to reach a point where I can stop working towards the person I want to be. But I'm never too far gone, either.
And when I do make good decisions, that beautiful freedom He offers rests sweet on my brow calling me down the right path where the long-term rewards outweigh the momentary cost...say, sore muscles or an unsatisfied craving (I'm talkin' to you, brownies). And after a while, when I look back and see where I've come from--see the success and triumph, the stumbles that I didn't let hold me down forever--I sigh deep in my chest and feel the peace that comes amidst the struggle. And that peace is enough to draw me one step further.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Being: Overwhelmed

A permeating fog moved over the city last night. It is still here. The rain has been intermittent. Yesterday morning these would have seen like points in the con column, but not this morning.
My church had a Night of Worship last night. We met to pray for Haiti, for each other, and for the city of Atlanta, our friends and coworkers who don't know Jesus. We took communion, which always gets me. And we sang some kicking songs to the Almighty God of the Universe. One of the songs is called How He Loves, by Kim Walker, and compares God's love to a hurricane and we are trees, "bending beneath the weight of your wind and glory."
I LOVE THAT! So often I get distracted by the tangible dimensions of the world and forget that the most powerful force on this earth is God's love. For me! Wow. Every now and then my little pea brain wraps around that concept, just for a moment or two, and I am undone. I can scarcely breathe, I smile and cry (and I do not cry) and I feel my heart grow so full I fear it will shatter from joy. And then, when I look around and see thousands of other hearts turning their focus upon the Lord, its like I know what life is supposed to be like.
So, this is why I love the rain and fog. It seems almost every time my church has a night of worship it rains buckets. But instead of bad weather, it reminds me of the way God lavishes his love on us. 1 John 3:1 says "How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!" It's like the Georgia rain. Drops the size of my thumb falling so thick and warm that in seconds your soaked, every inch of you. And it keeps coming. You can smell it, taste it in the air, inhale it. And when the passionate rain ceases, the Holy Spirit descends like fog and wraps around you, kissing your eyelids with tiny beads of moisture and making the world go away for just a minute, so you can focus and feel without the clamor of a thousand distractions.
See? I get carried away. But I'm okay with that. My Dearest Jesus, carry me away forever!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

It's a grande kind of day

This morning I hit snooze three times. I'm normally a one-hit snoozer. Sometimes, though, it's just hard to get up. The rainy gloom outside my window didn't help, nor did the fact that I ran out of milk.
But, amid the gray of the morning there was a lovely blessing that made getting up seem possible, if not enticing. Coffee! Or, more specifically, caffeine. I know some people tout the evils of a heady cup of rich, warm, liquid joy. To those people, I will supply the following facts.
First off, the many studies performed on coffee and caffeine over the past 30 years have confirmed that more is, in fact, better…unless, perhaps, you have an ulcer. While regular coffee drinkers are 80% less likely to develop Parkinson’s disease, ensuring you get your daily two cups will also reduce the likelihood of colon cancer by 20% and cirrhosis of the liver by 80%. For those of us who drink six cups or more per day – don’t be shy, raise those mugs- we are at least 30% less likely to get type 2 diabetes.
Just the heat seeping into my palm from my hazelnut coffee warms my soul. And though the sky is still gray, the day is looking much brighter.
So, the Lord is my strength, as Psalm 28 says. But coffee doesn't hurt either.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010


While I am a huge fan of holidays, Valentine's Day has always scraped its butt against the asphalt at the bottom of the totem pole. I don't think it will forever stay there, it may get a leg up on Presidents' Day in the event that I have someone special for a Valentine. But until then, at least I get President's Day off! Thank you, leaders of our country.
But, even Valentine's day has certain elements that make me grateful for it. Namely, conversation hearts. Yes, I am one of the twelve people among the Westernized nations that celebrate February fourteenth who actually likes those little rainbow sugar-hearts and their endearing, if trite, messages of affection. How often does your dessert actually love you back? And, thanks to our propensity to begin looking toward holidays long before we ought to, I already have a six-pack of the little cardboard boxes.
Now, this is a small blessing, I know. And I don't think God particularly esteems conversation hearts, but He was good enough to give me taste buds, and good enough to make sugar cane, and good enough to make smart people who developed all those artificial colors and flavors. So, Dear God, I am grateful for the taste and availability of the sweet little things in life. Like Conversation hearts.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Wee little blessings

So, I'm not a naturalist in the classical sense. I've never hugged a tree. BUT, I do love to be outdoors when the weather is between 65 and 85. Maybe 87. One of my dearest pastimes is to sit in the shade of the balcony and read to the backdrop of birdsong and cicadas (they're actually nice to listen to if you don't think about the fact that they're ginormous bugs. Ginormous.) Well, it just so happens that after several weeks of, literally, freezing temperatures, yesterday was in the 60s! So, half of Atlanta went to Piedmont Park to revel in the springlike outdoors. I went with some friends, one of whom has doubled in size since I last saw him.
Don't worry, he's still only 25 lbs. Caleb turned one about a month ago. I went with my friend and her son and made a complete fool of myself, talking like Minnie mouse, sticking out my tongue and generally doing whatever was necessary to get him to smile.
The afternoon reminded me of Psalm 131:1-2
My heart is not proud, O LORD,
my eyes are not haughty;
I do not concern myself with great matters
or things too wonderful for me.
But I have stilled and quieted my soul;
like a weaned child with its mother,
like a weaned child is my soul within me.

I love the outdoors but I don't understand how it all works. I'm engineer, so I have a certain grasp, but still the delicate and profound balance that makes this world work is beyond me. But, if I accept it as a beautiful expression of the Creator God we serve, I am awed, amazed, inspired. I will smile like a child who is adored by her Father, a Father who has done and made so much for the sheer delight of his children.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Texting a :-)

Happy Martin Luther King, Jr. Day!
Okay, well yesterday, as it happens, was one of those days where a bunch of little blessing fell around me. But, to set a good example for myself, I will only pick one. A text. My older sister sent me a simple text that I read as I left church. It was sweet and thoughtful, but what made it mean so much was that it was entirely unexpected. I was reminded of the power of words, both creative and destructive. A word spoken, or in this case texted, shot a bright moment into a rather dreary Sunday here in Atlanta. It made me consider how often it occurs to me that I could say something nice, give a genuine encouragement or compliment, or just let someone know I'm thinking of them versus how often I actually do.
So my challenge for today is to 1) continue to be on the lookout for God's blessings springing up throughout my day, and 2) to speak and/or text some words of joy into at least one life around me.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Why am I Blogging?

So. Anyone who is reading this, hello and welcome to my corner of the web.
I have decided to become a blogger!
Why, you ask? Well, first of all, because I am a writer. Not published...yet...but it's in me to write. Second of all, because I'm not published yet. Writers who want to make that hallowed leap to authors have to go through a grueling process. Mine started two years ago. I have always wanted to be a writer when I grew up, and at a friend's wedding mentioned this. Her dad smiled kindly and told me I was grown up.
Gulp. But he was right. Thus, I decided to write a book. Words came. Characters formed. And 100 single-spaced pages later...nothing had really happened.
So I tried again. I developed characters, wrote meticulous details of their pasts, their foibles, their gifts. I committed to write every day, and I did. Three months later, I had a rough draft! Three months after that, I had a second draft I was pretty hyped about and decided to get published.
Well, my friends, that is just the beginning, let me tell you. Now, a year later, I have edited many more times, and my beautiful baby is ready for her debutante ball.
Last week I sent letters to a few agents to feel out their interest in this project. So far, two have said no.
This is not unexpected. Almost all published authors have a story of the vast number of rejections that they collected over five to ten years while waiting for one glorious, "I'd like to represent you!" letter.
Being a logical person, I thought knowing this is how the process goes would make it less painful.
Let me be clear. It doesn't.
Monday, upon receipt of my first rejection letter, I waffled between wine, a mocha, and a facial. I settled for six sugar cookies.
Today, after receiving my second, I colored my hair. For the next six to twelve washes, I'm a redhead. So far, I like it.
But, you can see my dilemma. I don't really want any tattoos, and I'm content with the number of piercings I already have. I can't afford to eat half a dozen cookies for the next thirty letters, and while I'm not willing to say no spa treatments, I can't really afford to make a habit of it.
Thus, the blog. My goal is to keep my eyes on things of above. (God.) This is going to be extra hard when the blows to my sensitive writer's ego start falling thick and fast. So I have decided, in addition to my morning devotion and prayer time, to look for God working in the small things all day. I rarely get divine insights, so don't expect revelations on these posts. But, I hope you may be encouraged to look for God in the people and situations around you, the snippets of life and snapshots of beauty, if you will.