Wednesday, October 31, 2012

A Valley

I was young. I don't remember how young exactly, maybe seven or so. It was near Christmas, and snow covered the mountains, hills and ridges that hem the Columbia River Gorge.  It sat in fluffy heaps on the bows of the evergreens that decorate that part of the country, and made the steep gravel drive to our house on the top of a ridge somewhat treacherous.

I remember looking out the window toward the river, as I often did, and this time I looked down a bit at the ridge itself. For the most part this means peering over the peaks of tall trees, but there was one spot down the hill a ways, where a pristine little valley nestled.  There was not a single footprint, no gray slush from tires, no pocks from animals even. Just pure untainted snow rimmed by stalwart trees.

Even at that age it captured some part of me. I loved the purity and longed for my own secret place, beautiful and just mine. I never told my family of it, I just hoarded the loveliness and mystery for myself. I may have been watching The Secret Garden a lot at that time, I don't recall. But day after day I would go check on the valley to see if anyone had found it, trod across it.

No one ever did.

There is a book called Captivating about the heart of womanhood and God's heart toward us of the female persuasion. It talks of this desire, this longing for something too complex for mere words to define. Romance, they call it, and yes it is. But not in the cheap sense as this world defines it, not in the bodice-ripping sense. Romance as in the desire for and calling out of one's soul by another who loves completely and revels in each facet.

The way God loves, the way he romances, us.  Me. You. Zephaniah 3:17 is my new favorite verse. "The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing."

There is a place in each soul that is designed by and for the greatest Romance ever conceived. The faithful, wild, rich, and unmeasurable love of an Almighty God. But there is also a place in that same stunning God that longs for me. For you. There is a snow-covered valley where he calls me away, just the two of us. He doesn't want from me, he wants for me. And he reveals it, more often than I notice for sure, in moments and scenes and the experiences that will always remain crisp and 3-D in my mind no matter how much time passes.

It takes my breath away. Thank you for you, a romantic God whose love never fails. For the moments you create for just us. For that valley, untainted, for whispers and glimpses of your vastness.  I love you with all of me, now and forever. Please, give me more "us" moments. Give me eyes to see, ears to hear, and overwhelm this heart that is forever yours.

Monday, October 29, 2012


I was out of town for about two weeks and had some wonderful friends take care of Jellybean and Buckley.  JB and the Buckster are pretty easy. You just have to give them water, kibble, and something to chase and they're good. Oh, and a clean litterbox.

Today, I resumed cat care. I refreshed the water, refilled the kibble, and thought about changing the litterbox.

The whole process made me grateful for a number of things. First, that I don't have to use a box, but also, and significantly, that I don't have to eat kibble.  Every day, JB and the Buckster eat beige triangles produced by Science Diet.  They seem content, though they do get really excited about the occasional cat candy.

But me? I get tired of a food after, oh, a few days.  Refilling the gray food bowls this morning reminded me how grateful I am that I get to eat fresh fruits and vegetables, soy protein (aka fake meat, aka feat--though that doesn't sound as good) and a number of grains and sauces. So much to choose from!

I do like me a good meal, but I don't often stop to be grateful for the expanse of flavors, textures, temperatures, and combinations that we humans get to enjoy. However, it only takes a moment of thinking of my own bowl of kibble, meal after meal, day after day, to be grateful for the variety and richness God made edible. In fact, taste is the only of the sense that cannot be quantified outside of human input. Sound, tactility, sight, and scent can all be measured by computers and standardized. Taste? Uniquely a human experience. And what a good one!

Thank you, Lord, for veggies, for tomatoes and onions and peppers and tofu and Thai sauce, and soy, and all the people who figure out how to modify soy protein into feat. Thank you for variety! And that one day we get a one-thousand year feast. And for being the bread of life.  You, oh my Jesus, you...I will never tire of you in my life. You are infinitely rich, infinitely unique and diverse, infinitely wonderful. All my love!

Friday, October 26, 2012

On the road again

I've been in seven states since Sunday.  I've driven to/through six of them. I'm grateful for Monster (the blue kind) and for Starbucks and the Starbucks app that finds them for you, even when you're in Mississippi, and for cruise control. Oh, am I grateful for cruise control.  And sunglasses, too.

I'm also grateful the cats haven't gotten feral enough to give up on the litter box, that they remember me in the very least as the person who makes the red dot appear so they can chase it (laser pointer use number 2).

I'm grateful also for books on CD, for Christmas carols and ipod email updates...not that I would ever check it while driving.  And for McDonald's bathrooms and forty-four cent waters.

And other stuff too.

Servers and Protectors

I'm a day late! Sorry.  (Unless you didn't notice, and then I'm not late, or sorry).

Yesterday we had Safety Day at the OKC office.  Our presenters included a fire chief, a police sergeant, and yours truly, the ergonomics most-official-person-in-the-office.

The policeman started his talk on personal safety by sharing crime stats for OKC proper. Oh. My. Gosh. Let me tell you, it was rough. I was ready to fit my keys between my fingers, sprint to my car, and dive in (after checking for assailants around, under, or in it) and hit the gas back to Little Rock ne'er to return.  Do I know Little Rock is better? Not at all. But a girl can hope.

Thankfully the good sergeant didn't stop there.  He gave us helpful tips on how to prevent becoming a target and talked about all the initiatives and hard work the police do to fight crime.  He answered all our questions patiently, and even offered to take an employee's daughter on a ride-along so she could see that yes, bad things do happen and your mama is trying to look out for you.

I am always grateful for cops, more when they're in the office than when they're behind me, blue lights flashing...I mean, if that had ever happened...ahem.  But I appreciate the men and women who daily put their lives on the line to serve and protect the rest of us and ensure those crime stats don't grow unchecked.  It was a good reminder to see a man with a face and a family who has done this for years and seen awful things so I don't have to.

So, today I'm grateful for the boys and girls in blue, and all other public servants, for a government where the people in uniform are trustworthy, for the sergeant who came and spent time with us. And, that I live in Little Rock.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Rest In Peace, Pumpkin

A few weeks ago I bought a nice round pumpkin to sit by my fireplace. This is the extent of my fall decorations.  Last week, said pumpkin started to sag in on itself.  It was kind of gross. Also, a little depressing to think about how the same will happen to me one day.  It was covered in little bugs, which I will never let happen to me, though.

Needless to say the pumpkin had to go.  But, I let it stay a few more days, not out of sympathy, but rather to avoid carting it down two flights and all the way to my car, then from my car to the dumpster.  I have to stay on top of myself or I'll let all the trashes get to full for the same reason.  I don't like handling garbage. Somehow the minute anything--a cupcake, a napkin, a geriatric pumpkin--enters the white plastic bag, it instantly becomes icky by association.  So the idea of carrying it with me, putting it in Dirk's trunk, and then heaving it into a dumpster just isn't appealing.

But today I was thinking, it could be worse. What if there was no dumpster? What if there were no waste managers to come empty the dumpster?  What if, like in ancient times, all the refuse and pumpkin carcasses were tossed along the edge of the street?

I think my nose would stop working in protest. I'd get used to the mess, then depressed, and end up writing dark poetry about the scent of abandonment on a non-biodegradable bag, the blood of pumpkins on my hands, the destruction of the nuclear family of a fly, and other heavy topics.

So, anyway, while I wish my pumpkin had lived a bit longer, I'm glad it's gone, and I'm super grateful for the waste management system, the good men and women who man those giant trucks, and that two flights and a spin around the parking lot is really not that far to take my trash in exchange for low-odor living quarters.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Out of the Blue, gold.

I'm in Chicago for a meeting for work.

This in itself is not all that unique.  This is my third trip to Chicago this year. However, this is a leadership meeting which means I get to network more, I'm expected to know more, and the some of the people we hear from are more interesting...not that the people we normally hear from are anything less than fascinating, but it's a new face is all....ahem.

Today, as I walked with a director through the pre-drizzle shroud of fog, she said one of her agents would be addressing us.  On the outside, I was like, "Oh, wow, that's great," complete with complimentary inflection.  On the inside, I was like, "Well, that should break up the day some, and be a little interactive."

Then she said he's a gold medalist from the 2002 Olympics in speed skating.  On the outside, I was like, "Wow, really? That's so great, I'm looking forward to it."  On the inside, I was like, "Wow, really?  That's so great, I'm looking forward to it."

Sure enough, Casey FitzRandolph shared his story of incredible dedication through times of promise and even times of unfair and unforeseeable trial that got him to the gold in Utah.  It was cool to hear from a world class athlete what that kind of dedication looks like from the inside. It made me want to go win something.

If that weren't enough, he did bring the gold. I've never seen a gold medal in person, and it was awesome. I wanted to touch it, but I didn't have the nerve, so I settled for craning my neck to read the inscription.  Here, so you can experience it vicariously.

If Casey hadn't come, the meeting would still have been a chance to connect with old friends, network with colleagues, and learn a little more about how my day job works.  But, it's always nice when, out of the blue, you get a once in a lifetime (or at least once in a long time) moment. 

Definitely, best meeting ever.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Roller Thingies

Although merely foundlings with unknown parentage, I think Jellybean and Buckley are handsome.  Buckley is gold and white and Jellybean is black and white.  Their hair is soft and bright and in these adorable patterns.

That same hair, when adhered to my person is not at all adorable, and seeing as its Jellybean’s goal to rub against everything, and Buckley’s to sit on everything, this happens a lot. They play king of the hill only with clothes.

Thus today I’m grateful for the little sticky roller thingy that I use daily to de-hair. It keeps my reputation as a cat lady somewhat in check, prevents other people’s allergies from activating at proximity, and lets the black I so love to wear actually look black instead of mottled gray.

Thanks, Lord, for whoever thought to put the tape roll inside out on a handle, probably someone at 3M, for Jellybean and the Buckster and that they’re at least short-hairs, and for all those clothes that I have in my closet to de-hair.  All my love.

Friday, October 12, 2012

When God closes a window...

Things that are good to recycle:

  • glass
  • plastics
  • clothes

Things that are not good to recycle:

  • food
  • hairstyles
  • air

I admit I'm not as diligent as I should be about the first three, but I'm pretty solid on the others. I only ever eat my food once. I have just said no to big eighties hair, and I open the windows whenever the weather is nice enough. It's a good practice to breathe new air every now and then.

Yesterday was an open-window day, but alas, the screen on one of my windows is partially off. There's a goodly sized gap that I'm sure a number of insects would locate and utilize.  I tugged on it for a few minutes and nothing happened, so I called the apartment office to ask for a repair guy to fix it.

Today when I got home there was a work order, but woe-among-woes, the gap was still there. I deflated, contemplated whether or not I was going to be grown up about it, then went back to check the work order. They did something, I just didn't know what.

Well, something must have gotten lost in translation when I called the office, because the work order didn't say window screen. Nay, it said screen door.

I didn't even know you could order one of those.  But, I went to the patio and, joy-among-joys, I now can slide open the door and not be massacred by a million greedy moths.  People say that when God closes a door, he opens a window. Well in my case it was the opposite.

Thanks, Lord, for apartment people who install things, for screens, a simple but indispensable invention, for fresh air, and for a misunderstanding that gave me a door.  All my love.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Purple notes

At work I get to talk to lots of interesting people about things that range from interesting to, well, not. Today I spent two hours walking with a guy through and around a huge building to look at sprinkler risers.

If the whole of my job consisted of conversation and the occasional trek through a warehouse it would be pretty much perfect. However, as nothing this side of Heaven is perfect, my chats and treks are a means to gather information, which I then must put into a report.

I love to write, it's true. But reports are to writing what brussels sprouts dipped in prune juice are to food.

However, recently I discovered a trick that makes the note-taking and report-writing less sprouty. It was an accident, really. I couldn't find my trusty blue ballpoint, so I pulled out a sparkly purple "I like to write" pen and took copious sparkly, purple notes. Later, when I had to type them up, I realized that glamorous ink is way less boring to read than plain blue. Now all my note sheets are covered in colors of the rainbow and the occasional doodle.

It's not unlike life on the grander scale. There are tasks, days, even seasons of life that are about as interesting as a report on fire sprinklers.  We have to go through them. We know it. But if we're not careful, the drudgery will drive us to try and pierce body parts with that stupid ballpoint pen, just for something to do.  

Thankfully, there is a breath of color that can make those brussels sprout moments less sour, if not thrilling. Yes, I speak of God. He makes all of life more fun, more colorful. When I take my eyes off the drudge and pry myself free of circumstance, there is a whole lot to be amazed at. God himself. He's funny, creative, and brilliant.  And while he's always more than enough, he also reminds me of the little joys. Like trees and sweatshirts and the way Buckley is about to hyperventilate trying to catch a bug on the other side of the sliding door. And even colored pens.

Thank you, Lord, my dearest, for my job, for colors, for living in an era where ink comes in gobs of shades.  Thank you for fun moments and fun days and fun years. Thank you for walking through them with me, and not just those times, but the blah times as well--or more accurately, the times I'm tempted to be blah.  Please don't let me. Forgive me for taking any day for granted. Color my life and sparkle in it. Let me not fixate on circumstances, even good ones, and miss out on you.  All my love.

Monday, October 8, 2012


Vaulted ceilings are cool. They make a space feel bigger. They also give bugs lots of space to exist out of reach.

I blogged not long ago about phobias, specifically Deniphobia.  Well, one of my other phobias is things-with-more-than-four-legs.  The other day while I popped out to clip some herbs, a moth popped in.  Jellybean and Buckley stalked him around the apartment, wishing their legs were ten feet longer.

I didn't. I was fine to let him live out his days in the upper reaches, especially if he kept to a different room than me at all times.

Well, tonight the moth broke our truce. I was about to wash my face, when who should decide to invade my space? He settled on the cupboard door and stared at me. It was a challenge, I could feel it.

Jellybean and Buckley wandered in to watch the showdown as I considered my options.
1) Spray bathroom cleaner at him. But I've learned that some things can fly a lot before the poison kicks in.
2) Hit him with a shoe. Things that are smashed can't fly. But they can also leave spots on the walls.
3) Move. Cede the bathroom and relocate to the office bathroom. Use only what makeup is floating in my purse and buy a new toothbrush. It could work, but who knew what that nasty little bug would do to my stuff while I wasn't there?

So, I got a kitten heel and prayed for strength, and swatted.  Unfortunately, my phobia kicked in, so I totally pansied out on my swing. The moth, in an act of pure aggression, fluttered straight at me. I screeched like a bad brake, danced like I was seizing, and probably traumatized my cats for life.

Okay, maybe a slight overreaction. I could use the excuse that I've had a bug stuck in my hair before, which is true, but honestly I would have flipped anyway. I started a frantic search for the moth to verify it wasn't somehow clinging to my person, and found it belly up by the cats' water.

It was dead...or was it?  I wanted to believe it, but I've seen too many movies to believe the bad guy dies the first time you kill him.  I didn't want to touch the thing, so I thought maybe I'd get the boys to do the dirty work (not my finest pet owner moment.) I sprinkled food in their bowl and sure enough they came running. They saw the moth but instead of poking at it, they focused on their kibble. But it didn't move, even with two cats hovering, so I figured it was dead. I got a wad of paper roughly the size of my fist, and prepared to dispose of the body.

As soon as I brushed it, the moth flipped over and with a karate kid maneuver, charged at me again.
And I screamed again.
And the cats fled again.
I retrieved my shoe, let the Holy Spirit groan on my behalf, and flattened that sucker.

Is my phobia gone? No. But I will sleep tonight.

I'm grateful for shoes and their many uses, for neighbors who don't panic when they hear chaos through the walls, for screens and windows and pest control companies. And I'm grateful that the Lord is my strength in the big and the small.  His eye is on the sparrow. Incidentally, sparrows eat bugs.

Friday, October 5, 2012


It's raining the kind of rain that has a presence. It blurs the edges of everything and diffuses late afternoon light.
It has its own voice, it's own smell. Its sound is too light to be rich, too strong to be delicate, too familiar  and unique to really be well compared to anything else.It's like the scent of untainted life, if that is not too abstract.
It sheets between my patio and the rest of the world making my papasan chair here an island where work and high heels and need and disappointment and vegetables don't exist.
 It doesn't even touch me and yet I feel renewed. Baptized.
It reminds me that the loveliest things are natural, created by the loveliest Being. That I, at a fundamental level, belong not to the digital clocks or highways or treadmills or preservatives.
I belong with the other created beings who know no other existence than restful worship, and who, should we forget our place for too long, would rise up to fill it with their own voices.

Thank you, Most High and Most Beautiful, for the rain. All my love.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Don't worry. BE HAPPY!

Today I break the cardinal rule of blogging, because my entry won't fit on one screen, but I am doing it anyway. Because I care that much.

I recently had a conversation with this brilliant eighth grader about how God speaks to us. I haven't thought about the manner in which He and I converse in a long time, I'm just grateful when I hear him. But I told her that often when I hear God, he's very direct, borderline sarcastic.  He has a great vocabulary and doesn't pull any punches. But, and this is a massive, elephantine but, he is never condemning or judgmental.  When I was getting ready to unload on someone about a bad day, he said, "Don't you spew that ugly into my world." But because I know he totally, utterly, fully loves me, it wasn't at all harsh. Same as when he called me out for self-righteous anger that I was pretending was wounded dignity.  He was very blunt, but it's like being knocked backward off a pedestal into a pool of feathers, because he always catches and cushions me, protects me from condemnation.

It is a strangely lovely thing to be convicted by the Lord. It never carries guilt or a sentence, it only carries hope and a promise of better, more beautiful things in the future. It is the casting off of dead skin (I'm sorry, it's nasty but I couldn't help myself) or a spiritual corset, so that you can finally breathe and be free.

I heard two pastors this weekend in one service.  One gave a message about the joy involved in seeking God's great and enthralling glory. The other opened the service by accusing us parishioners of rushing into God's presence, and closed by saying we need to sacrifice our glory for God's.

It was crazy. Really. You'd think you were at two different churches.  First off, if I rush anywhere I want it to be into God's presence.  If my heart isn't still, He can deal with that. If I'm not focused, the Holy Spirit will woo me so nothing else seems to matter.

And as for giving up myself in order to glorify God?  When did I enter that picture? It's not a sacrifice when you have tasted God's glory. When you get to see Him flow through your fingers, your mouth, and when you get to feel His power go from you, nothing else compares. Humility is not a sacrifice, it is realizing who this vast, captivating, powerful, wise, brilliant, gentle, mighty, gracious, loving God is. When you look on Him, the rest isn't a sacrifice, it is that same dead skin I just don't want on my body anymore.

The experience highlighted how grateful I am that God is not a wrathful, vengeful, disappointed God.  I feel like a lot of Christians--of whom I was one for many years--see a god looking down who says, "I love you, but I don't like you very much." Whose always shaking his head, lips bitten, wondering when we'll stop shaming him.


It is impossible for Him to be disappointed. To do so would mean he didn't know all. You cannot be disappointed in something you know and expect. And he doesn't get mad at us.
I listened to Graham Cooke recently and he asked a few simple questions. "Do you believe that Jesus's death on the cross paid the complete penalty for all sin?"
If you want to believe in any salvation, you have to say yes. Because if any margin remains, none of us will qualify.
He also asked, "Do you believe that the death of the Christ fully satisfied God's wrath and justice?"  Again, those of us who believe wouldn't hesitate to say yes.
He then made this startlingly simple, and life changing point. If all sin is covered, and all God's wrath is satisfied, then God doesn't get mad at you when you sin.
Yes, you read that.
It's a little uncomfortable at first. If he doesn't get mad at me, then what's to keep me from doing it again? If God isn't up there shaking his head and being hammered to the cross all over again, I might not have this guilt chaining me to a right lifestyle.

No, you won't. You'll have love.  You'll have the heartwrenching love of a God who delights in you, who sings over you, who revels in you. And how can you not love Him back? In that love comes the only obedience worth anything. The obedience given of a heart that is free and chooses to bind itself in love.

It would be madness to think human love could meet, much less exceed, that of the Divine.  So, if I desire my friends, loved ones, and eventually my spouse to relate to me through love, if I want the gifts they give, the acts they perform and the words they say to born of their love for me...why on earth would God desire less?  If it would break my heart to know that those same people only interacted, only gave, only spoke because they feared me and to stave off my anger, how much more does it break the Lord's?

So, I'm getting longwinded, but I'm just so madly in love with a God who is so madly in love with me, who is in His purest essence love itself, who can't speak without imparting joy and stirring my soul, whose presence makes my life hum instead of plod...I take offense to people painting this openhearted gracious giver as a being who is angry, negative, or harsh.  It's one of the Accuser's best lies because God's own children propagate it for him. I'm still not sure why, other than we fear sin and it gives us a sense of control to think God will get mad at people.

Deep down, I guess I don't care that much why, and when I dwell in his presence I don't even care so much that they do, because I know the truth, and every other thing on this planet dims in comparison.

God, the one and only Most High God, is love. He loves me. He loves you. He likes me. He likes you. His banner over me is love. He sings and rejoices over you. He is infinitely fascinating. He epitomizes compassion, generosity, provision, fun. He is good.

I'm indefinably grateful for who God is and that I get to know him. Lord, my dearest, most precious, I pray that your church the world over would see you. Silence the wrong, shout out who you are.  To us, to the whole world. You are glorious, you are good, you are my joy and my all.  All my love.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Fall la la la la

I've yet to start my shopping, and I won't get my tree for at least one more month. But Christmas carols, oh I love me some Christmas carols. I made it until August before breaking out my fave artists singing the classics. I've made sure to blend in some normal (read: bleh) music as well, just in case it were possible to get tired of Christmas Songs. How tragic would that be? However, it's worth the risk.

Me this time of year on carols: It is fall. A few ambitious trees are already turning shades of red. The sun is getting lazy, going to bed early and sleeping late.  Pumpkin spice runs rampant among coffee shops. And Christmas is less than three months away.

Me this time of year without carols: Summer is over. Leaves are dying. If the sun doesn't have to get up, why should I? I need more coffee to get through the morning but I'm  sick of the same old flavor. How is it only Monday?

As you can tell, it is for good reason that I'm grateful for Christmas carols.  Every year the band o' the month tries to sing new Christmas songs.  

Songs are not carols. Songs are like the ugly cousin of lovely carol. The one exception is Mariah Carey, whose Christmas songs are pretty tight.  But still, nothing can hold a candle to the hymns and festive melodies composed a century ago.  Bing and Dean are the chocolate souffle of music.  Ave Maria and Jesu, Joy Of Man's Desiring always make me want to be a prima ballerina. And the traditional hymns remind me how wicked cool it is the the Almighty God came to earth as a sweet little baby, all pink and vulnerable and worthy of all praise and all glory.

I will always love music, but like the star on top of the tree, Christmas Carols will forever be the most lovely.