Thursday, December 29, 2011

The worst ribbon ever found.

I heard about these people called haulers, who go online and blog about what they got for Christmas, and while that is tempting--okay, I will brag on some wicked cool gel pens I got--I will stick to something else I'm grateful for.

I spent the last week with the fam and drove home yesterday with Jellybean and Buckley snug in their carrier. All was well until Buckley made a little gagging face, then urped on his brother's tail. Understandably, Jellybean was  ready to be done with the trip then. But, alas, we had four more hours to go.

Well, despite his protests, we kept going and made it home. I unloaded the cats and their litter box, and not five minutes later, the source of Buckley's upset tummy became apparent. Six inches of curling ribbon came out the other end.

Just so you know, eating curling ribbon is a bad idea.  While it may emerge intact, the accompanying odor could kill you.

I would have preferred if Buckley hadn't eaten ribbon. Or since he did, if he would have expelled it in the litter box instead of on the carpet. But honestly, I'm just grateful that he waited until we got home or, they'd three gassed bodies in a blue Impala on the side of the road.

Thank you, Jesus, for small mercies.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Zack gets His Wish

I just love the Christmas story.  Everything about it. The more I read it the more I see how brilliant and symbolic God is.
Sending his own son as a baby to this earth? It doesn't get more renegade than that. That's straight up bold. Inviting angels and people who lived in the fields with their animals to the same shindig? Clearly His love and Salvation are an all-skate.
But what stood out to me recently was something that happened a tad earlier.
Zack was a good man. A priest from a good family, with a wife from a good family. They'd been married for a long time and if you could retire from being a priest, he'd be getting toward that point.
His job required some travel to the temple when he was on duty, but he liked the work. Well, one day while He was on, as they cast lots to see who got to go in the temple and burn incense before the Lord. It was like being chosen to talk with the CEO about life on the front lines, only much cooler and with incense.
The lots rolled, and Zack's number came up. Sweet!  There was no guarantee that would ever happen in his lifetime, but it just had. No doubt he was a little nervous. I mean, this is God. Talk about a career make-or-break scenario.  So Zack gets up early, brushes his beard, puts on his nicest priest outfit and hat, and goes to the temple, hoping nobody else can see his heart pounding behind his robes.
When the time comes, he tries to play it cool as he enters the inner court.  The thick curtain mutes the sound of singing and prayer from those in the courtyard. As his eyes adjust to the dimness, he takes a moment just to inhale. The rich, familiar scent of the incense is a boon and a weight. He's smelled this for years, wreathing the Holy of Holies, caught a whiff of the prayers of the saints and been reminded he worshiped a God who hears, even if He had been silent for a long time. Like, oh, five hundred years, including all of Zack's life.
But it was this God, this timeless God, who he now shuffled forward to honor by burning the incense. It was he, Zack, priest, father of none, who honored the Lord of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob this day.
He bends to put his lamp flame to the incense, and out of the corner of his eyes, a flash.
He straightens, and suddenly, he's not alone. A golden man in cloud-white robes stands there.
Um, is this supposed to happen?  Who is this guy and how did he get in here? But no, he's not...normal. He couldn't have come in behind me. He must have come from... Why has no one mentioned before that some man appears when you light the incense?
"Don't be afraid," the guys says, in a voice that Zack can feel in his bones. Like James Earl Jones, only bigger. Then he tells him that he'll have a son who will pave the way for the Christ.
Zack is no doubt blinking furiously and rubbing at his ears. It's all too much. Like that last part. A son? He'd prayed for a son for decades.
Every. Day. For. Years.
And his wife had none. He loved her anyway, and he'd even given that wound, that unmet desire over to God. He'd decided that God's people would be his children. He'd love on them. And now, a glowing dude pops up in the temple and says He's going to have a kid?
I might have asked about that too.
But the man doesn't respond by slapping his own forehead, and saying, "Oops, your Zechariah, I was supposed to talk to Pechariah. I'm sorry for the confusion."
No, he tilts his chin down, eyeballs Zack, and says, "For real? I'm an angel. Of God. I literally stand in His court every day."
Oh, right. The God Zack has served for a lifetime. The God who has promised to rescue his people. Who had given an heir to old folks before.  That God.
But the angel isn't done. "And now, so you'll be certain, blammo." He didn't really say blammo, but that's probably what it sounded like when His words twined around Zack's vocal cords.
Well, darn. Now he can't talk, can't explain what he saw. It's a bit of a reprimand, but I bet it was also a blessing. When Zack woke up the next morning--when the hype had muted, and his roommate gave him the cynical eye--if he opened his mouth to say, "It might not have happened. I mean, I forgot to eat breakfast yesterday, so maybe I imagined it," the words wouldn't come. He couldnt' speak.
It was true.
He was about to be a dad! And his son would be weird, but Godly. He'd be an outsider on earth, but precious to heaven and to his own, old, parents.
I love that the lifelong priest didn't get it just right. I love that God didn't revoke his blessing or Zack's place in His will because of this. I love that when all hope seemed lost, God granted the desire of an old couple's heart.
It's all one more example of the kindness and love of a good God who rarely makes sense but always makes good.  Thank you, my Lord, my love, for your vastness. Thank you for every drop of you I have seen, heard, felt, and known. And thank you for the many more to come. I long for you, to know you, to see you, and I can't wait for more. And thank you for your stunning grace. That even when I mess up, you are faithful and you won't retreat from me, you'll just grow me.  All  my life, all  my soul, all  my heart, all my love.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

It's time...or is it?

So I have Netflix--the online version--and lately I've been watching Frasier. It's a super funny show, and in watching it I've noticed that the humor is based on 1) Frasier's own hypocrisy, 2) puns, and 3) really bad timing.
There are a lot of times when I fall victim to number three, and too many times I fall victim to number one. And, occasionally I fall victim to number two, I suppose.
It's so frustrating when time feels off. When I worry I've missed the boat, or that I was two seconds away from the life I should have led. It's tempting, especially when I feel dissatisfied, to think I've missed out on life because I wasn't paying attention. It's not true. I have a great life, and I love it...usually. But sometimes a girl starts to wonder.
 So, today I'm grateful today that I belong to a God who is big. Bigger than my propensity for bad timing. Even if I did all I could to mess up God's plan for me, I couldn't, because He won't let that happen. He's got too much going on in me, through me, and for me. I don't have to worry about having missed the boat because maybe I wasn't born for boating. Maybe there's another boat coming and it's better for me. Or maybe I'm a flier.  Either way, time has had a mind of its own lately and I'm glad to know I can rest in Him.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Mrs. Lyon and the first song

Growing up we had a glossy black baby grand piano. We used it to practice on with no idea how lovely the instrument really was. I remember dragging my heels all the way to the black leather bench to run scales and practice songs for the required 30 minutes. For seven years I did this between three and five times a week, then put a check mark on the practice sheet Mrs. Lyon sent home. Oh, who am I kidding? I filled out my practice sheet on the day of my lesson because if I brought it back I would get to pick one of the bright jolly ranchers from her basket of rewards.
Two things stand out about Mrs. Lyon even now. She always had incredible jewelery. Pins, necklaces, earrings, the whole sparkly nine yards. And second, she was always cheerful and warm. This is amazing enough for anyone, but when you consider she had to sit through hours of unmotivated, marginally talented kids like me, the word saint comes to mind.
For years I sat and plunked out the tunes she'd assigned, my skill growing more slowly than my stature.
Then one day, things changed.
I'd had a really rotten day and hadn't had anyone to tell about it. I sat down at Mrs. Lyon's piano, and opened my book to the assigned piece. I think it was called Angel's Voices. It really was beautiful. It had lots of runs from the deep, throaty notes all the way to the silvery ones. And it was simple enough that I could play it through without hitting a wrong note and jarring myself out of the piece. I'd enjoyed plunking it out all week.
Well, on that bad day I sat in front of the keys, and with nowhere else to pour my angst, I let it run down my arms and into the music. It was like the song felt it with me. Though I hadn't voiced my frustrations and hurts, they'd been heard. It felt good. Liberating.
When I finished, I straightened and looked to my teacher for evaluation. Mrs. Lyon sat there for a moment in complete silence. I wasn't sure what that meant and started to get a little nervous. Then, she said, "Kim, that was beautiful."
It wasn't even the words, it was the way she said them. She was a very encouraging instructor, but this time it was different. She was choked up. As if she was able to feel what I'd poured out in song.
That was the first day I realized that music, that art of any kind, can truly convey emotion. That it can tell others our hearts. And that sometimes it can reach deeper than words themselves.
After that, she lent me a piece of music called Exodus. It is drenched in power and emotion, and with my limited talents and boundless unshared emotions, I did all I could to guide it to its potential. Mrs. Lyon gave me that sheet music after my lesson and I still have it. Still wring it out of the keys on the rare occasions that I have access to a piano.
I love music. I rarely do anything without listening to it, including writing. Heck, especially writing. It helps bridge the gap between my head and my heart and my soul.
Anyway, it was a beautiful memory to chance upon while I readied for bed. It made me remember how grateful I am for music, for the way God knew that words could never be enough to express his beauty or even our own meager hearts. I'm grateful for the mad crazy talent he gave composers, and the mad crazy patience he gave piano teachers like Mrs. Lyon.
My Jesus, I am stirred to you by song and I can't wait to listen to it by your side.  All my love.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Vaccines and whatnot.

I had to take the kitties to get their vaccines today. They're both sleeping it off on me right now. Last time they got mad and slept it off out of reach. It made me glad I'm done being vaccinated. And that at the times when I do get shots, like when I go overseas, they don't pull at the skin at the back of my neck and inject there.
In three months they go back to the vet. Not for vaccines this time. (It rhymes with tutor. Yeah.) Which makes me glad I'm not a cat.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Once Upon a Thursday

Yesterday was one of those work-from-home-in-my-pajamas-until-three kind of days. These days are few and far between, but when one comes along, I've found its best not to fight it. One of the perks of living alone and working from home is that when its after lunchtime and my personal care routine stopped just after my teeth were brushed, no one has to know.
Thus, when a knock sounded on my door at ten a.m. I considered not answering. I mean, I'd hate to be responsible for inflicting PTSD on an innocent UPS man, especially around the holidays. I padded silently up to the door and peered through the peephole, hoping he'd driven away like normal, but it wasn't the brown uniform I saw. It was some fresh-faced kid.
Now I'm going to scar one of my neighbor's cousin's for life. And when the paramedics show up to cart of his catatonic body, it'll be the same scenario, and next thing you know, I'll have a pile of unresponsive victims on my Welcome mat.
I thought again about not answering, but I was pretty sure the kid had seen my eyeball through the little hole. So, after a quick prayer for both of us, I opened it.
The little angel didn't even flinch, God bless him. No, instead he asked if I was Kimberly Buckner, then handed me a red vase brimming with lilies and carnations. It was beautiful. It took me a minute to accept it because its been so long since I've gotten flowers. But he'd said my name, so I took them.
They were a thank you from a friend and totally unexpected. It positively made my day. Nay, my week.
So, I'm grateful to my friend for the lovely bouquet. and to the nice delivery boy for his stoicism in the face of terror. I'm also grateful to God for so many things, including the brilliant idea of making flowers just to be pretty and smell pretty.  All my love.

Thursday, December 8, 2011


I have given up on teaching my cats to ignore the shiny ornaments on the Christmas tree, perfect for batting and rolling. I have given up on teaching them that the little computer table really needs to stay upright if possible and that tablecloths are for draping, not for pulling loose to use in a mad game of hide and seek.
One thing I have not given up on is teaching them that counters are no place for animals. Here I will take my stand.  Buckley is pretty easy to dissuade since he's not real big on new experiences anyway. I just clap really loud and say, "no," in a school-marm voice, and he leaps back to the carpet.
Jellybean is different. When I go into clapping school-marm mode with him, he stares at me, like, "well if you can use the counter, why can't I?"
Thus, today he got swiped off. It took me longer to recover from our behavior modification lesson than him. I felt kinda bad and fought the urge to sit him down and explain all the reasons why cats and counters don't mix and that his ejection hurt me more than him. While I worried about my cat-rearing skills, he landed on his feet,  lay down and started licking himself. I chose not to interpret that as a message. Before ten minutes had passed, we were on good terms again and he was no longer pursuing access routes to the counter top.
I read Psalm 74 earlier this week. In it, the composer, Asaph, bemoans the plunder of Israel, asks God how long he'll let his own sheep suffer. He even refers to himself as God's dove. As in, "Do not hand over the life of your dove to wild beasts..."
His dove.
The OT is full of Israel running from God, facing the consequences, then running back. God is forever accepting them again until their next episode. And not because he has to. And not resentfully.
These are his doves. His beloved.
As am I. As are we.
I don't even realize it sometimes, but I can slip into a valley where I see God with his arms crossed, white beard twitching as he shakes his head at me. When I climb the counter and get knocked off, he points and judges and hopes I won't be dumb enough to fail again.
But that is so not the God who calls me His dove. I think it truly does hurt him more than me when I fall. He aches when I land and wants to hold me close. And tomorrow if I climb again and fall again, he'll still ache. He won't put me in a cardboard box on the front stoop with and write, "Free Kimberlys" on the front. No, He'll put the ornaments I knock free back, and nurture me until I learn, and even if I don't.
The best part of this whole analogy is how ridiculous it is. 
While I may be something like a found barn cat, I am NOTHING like God. All my goodness is a smudge in comparison.
I do love my kittens. I love it when they curl up with me, when they look at me and meow like I might interpret what that means, when they fight over who gets to sit in the Christmas basket. I am glad to pay crazy sums for these free cats at the vet, and to haul them to Oklahoma on holidays.
And all that is just silliness when compared to how God loves us. His love is so big it would blow my head apart if the thought ever really fully entered in. So big that He did insane things like create cats and fir trees and smart people who invented the two-hour fire log. So big that He sent his only Son  to be born and to live on this planet.
Even when I fail, even in the moments when I deserve to be punished, even when that happens....I am his dove. Wow. Today, grateful doesn't begin to cover it.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Call me Frazier...the Fir. Get it? Frazier fir?

Nothing completes the holidays like the fresh scent of a fir wafting through the living room. Except perhaps white lights and shiny red globes dripping off that same fir.
My Christmas tree is twinkling merrily by the window and except for the ornaments my cats have knocked loose, it's absolutely coated in Christmas cheer.
Now, I'm not a woodsman. I'm not even a gardener. I have a condition known as  brown thumb. This affliction is characterized by the uncanny ability to forget to water anything that can't make noise. So, if it were up to me to go out into the Ozarks, scrounge up a five to six foot tree, and chop it down....well, my holidays would probably revolve around the decoration of a coffee table. However, thanks to Home Depot, Frazier the fir is all but singing carols and the season is in full swing.
I have heard several fables about the origins of the Christmas tree tradition. I am not sure which is accurate, but to be frank, I don't much care. I am just grateful for whoever it was that said, "You know what would make this Christmas more festive? If we cut down a tree and brought it inside. I know, I know, lets put stuff on it, too."
I don't know that this tradition has any religious significance. Jesus was born in a stable in the desert and not in December. But for me, it is a visual reminder of the loveliness of that time when God came. God, the original gardener, who made a rich and abundant creation to give his people a glimpse of how glorious he is. It is a picture of extravagant beauty, like the angels who set the sky ablaze with light and song when Christ breathed his first. It smells fresh, that earthy smell of life, like the sense in your soul when the Holy Spirit blows a fresh wind through you. And it glows warm, like the heart of God toward His Son on earth and all who would follow Him, like the heart of Mary to her baby, like my own heart toward the Christ who braved this world like the rest of us, all for the sake of his mighty love.
So, tonight I'm grateful most of all for Jesus and the greatest coup ever. It still stuns me that the Almighty would risk birth and childhood and all so he might share life with us. I'm grateful to my friend Ann and my sister who helped make this tree glow with holiday spirit. I'm grateful for the folks way back who started the tree tradition, and for the good folks at Home Depot who lined up the five-to-six foot trees in a neat bin and spared me from decorating a coffee table.