Monthly Archives: August 2012

Joke Night

Confirmation. It’s a lovely thing to get. People look at you weird for what you are doing and for just a moment you begin to let those doubts creep in through those tiny little alleys of disbelief you left open. Then when you need it most, confirmation comes! It doesn’t always happen like that. Sometimes you already know you are on the right track, but the confirmation is just an added bonus. No matter how it comes, confirmation is a treasure.

We have done the Flag Page Test on every member of our family. After realizing that (out of the top two “countries” you could be assigned to) four out of the five of us totally love fun country. Let’s hear it for fun country! So what do you do with this information? My husband started a Friday night tradition, joke night. Friday night was already special, reserved for my famous beans and for many around the world – the beginning of the blessed peace of Sabbath rest. To this we added joke night. Each family member gets a turn at choosing the topic and all the jokes have to align with that.

Musical terms come up a lot as topics, as do things around the house that are in sight and inspirations from the activities of the day. We thought we had a terrible topic one night – porcupine, but amazingly it was one of our most creative. Example, what did the girl porcupine say to the boy porcupine when he picked her up for a date? Wow, you look sharp tonight. The running joke in the family is the “factory joke.” Somehow no matter what the topic is, there is always a joke based on a factory. You don’t really want to know.

So what does this have to do with confirmation? My husband was doing his usual surfing various pastoral ministry sites that he visits often and he found an article about the importance of bonding time in pastoral families, and especially humor. Thousands of pastors leave the ministry each year because the burden becomes so much. This goes across the board in just about any denomination. The impact of ministry burdens on pastoral families, as you can imagine, is enough to make some kids grow up and never step foot in a church again. If you haven’t thanked your pastor lately for all the things he/she does, many of which can’t be talked about because they were spoken in confidence, take the time to do so. Pastor Appreciation Month is coming up in October. You could start planning now. It just might be the lift your pastor needs during a difficult moment.

So as Karl read to me the data on the importance of pastoral families sharing fun times together, I was grateful we had our new joke night tradition each Friday. Special family traditions aren’t limited to pastoral families. I’m pretty sure nearly every family can benefit from more moments of quality time spent together in a fun and memorable manner.

How are you bonding with your family? How are you forging memorable connections that will keep those kids coming back each Christmas for years? I hope it makes you smile.

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One Step at a Time

Imagine the hero of a black and white B movie desperately overacting his line as he realizes his many attempts to save the world haven’t worked yet and he is tiring way too fast. “Must conserve energy.” Finally using his brains to figure out the best way to defeat alien invasion, he summons his last bit of strength to save the world!

Welcome to the life of many Crohn’s Disease sufferers. We often do feel trapped in this B movie drama every day, trying to conserve what little energy we have for the important things in life. I’ve had to develop a gravy principle: Get two things done each day and everything else is gravy – a bonus. I have to pace my speaking/presentation commitments enough apart so I have time to recover between them. Truly life is lived, one step at a time.

While I’ve suffered from Crohn’s Disease for more than 25 years, I’ve only known what I was battling since January. Yeah, it really stinks. Sometimes I wish I could jump back in time and knock on the surgeons’ heads who opened me up in an exploratory surgery, took out 18 inches of my colon and left me a parting gift of a lovely scar. “Hey guys! Did you ever think that damaged colon might be due to Crohn’s Disease? Maybe you should follow up on this. Order a colonoscopy, some stool samples and some bloodwork.” Alas, no one was there to tell them, so they didn’t do it.

Maybe that’s why I’m where I’m at now, to make sure it doesn’t happen to anyone else. There are many out there like me, misdiagnosed or undiagnosed for years, struggling against something they couldn’t name and didn’t know how to fight, just trying to figure it out on their own. So as this disease sucks my energy, I live life only one step at a time. I choose the most important things to do each day and save my energy for those.

I’ve made a lot of new friends and connections since my diagnosis. I now keep up with “Girls with Guts” and a Crohn’s Disease Online facebook page. It helps to see what others are struggling with and know that I’m not alone. It also helps keep us from reinventing the wheel. Hey, if something works – share it!

So since I’m taking just one step at a time, I’m going to make them count. This October, I’ll make them count at the Take Steps for Crohn’s being held in Tyler, Texas. I’m looking for a sponsor for a team, or else I’ll just sign up as an individual walker. Either way, I’m going to help raise awareness about this lifelong disease and how many times we look “normal” on the outside, but we are suffering greatly. Maybe I can help just one more 15-year-old girl avoid 25 years of not knowing the enemy. Everyone deserves to know what they are fighting against!

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Hill Country

My husband and I had the privilege of doing a Laugh Your Way to a Better Marriage seminar in the Hill Country of Texas this past weekend. The nice 8 hour drive there and back gave us plenty of time to talk, laugh and process everything that happened that weekend. One amazing thing – connectedness.

I at one point in my life had been told that I couldn’t do a certain thing because I hadn’t had enough “life experiences” yet. Translation, they were discriminating against my age. While there are many wonderful gems of wisdom, lessons learned and the list goes on of positive things that come with more “life experiences,” or age, that doesn’t mean it is the only way it happens.

This past weekend I discovered a new connectedness. Three things all came together to make a much more meaningful impact on my life. None of them had anything to do with the fact that I am now in my 40’s instead of late 20’s. The connectedness was all from things very recent. A sermon series by my husband for the past few weeks on the passage on the Armor of God from the book of Ephesians chapter six (think helmet of Salvation), a book I’ve been challenged to write by a beloved college professor on the hope found in the book of Ruth and a time of daily devotion that led to the reading of the 5th chapter of First Thessalonians (see 5:8).

For weeks, there has been a build up as my husband completed his series on the Armor of God. I remember the time and energy he spent on preparing the sermon on the Helmet of Salvation. The whole passage is very ingrained on my mind right now. Taking the time to write the beauty of God’s message of hope in the least likely of all stories, a foreign widow named Ruth, has opened my eyes to looking for hope in places where it usually isn’t expected to be. Then finally came 1 Thessalonians 5:8. Once again Paul is urging the believers he cares some deeply for to put on the armor of God. This time, he doesn’t just say the helmet of salvation, but he says the helmet of the hope of Salvation. That’s when all three swirled around together in my mind like a team of synchronized fire flies.

For the believer, there is hope! Knowing that God has provided Salvation, we can be armed with this hope, this promise when we get stuck in the morass of today’s bad news headlines, one after the other. We know this isn’t all there is. That gives us hope. That hope gives us the strength to keep going day by day, when others give up. To see the connectedness of how God made these three things so impactful in my life this past weekend told me this: life experiences and connectedness can happen in a short time. The three things tied together that gave me that aha moment were all things that had happened within the past two months or less.

Connectedness can happen no matter your age.

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It’s All in the Name

I once had a coworker who admitted she named both of her children after characters from television shows. I can only imagine the conversations she must have had with them. Mom, what was your inspiration for choosing my name? Oh I loved spending time watching this one tv show and I wanted it to live forever in my mind, so I gave you the name of one of its characters. Um, thanks mom.

I would meet other people in my life’s journeys that would recall similar stories. Famous people, fact or fiction, served as the inspiration for naming their children. I suppose I have a different view on this subject, because of the connection. The truth is that if you tell a child something long enough, eventually they will meet your expectations. Perhaps I’m being a bit crass here, but if you tell your child (by the mere calling him by his name and he knows the origin of it) that he is nothing more than an inspiration from a short lived TV show, he doesn’t have very high expectations to shoot for.

I didn’t get to pick my oldest son’s name. Karl had planned out what his first son would be named before he even met me. I tried to get him to at least switch the order of the first and middle names, but he would not relent. I went into the marriage knowing beyond the shadow of a doubt that if we ever had a boy, his name would be Michael Shawn. End of discussion. Karl chose this name because he liked it and because it had meaning to it, something he wanted for his son. Michael “Who is like God?” Shawn “God is gracious.” What a way to raise a child.

Matthew was a surprise. Due to the incompetence of my first OB doctor with this pregnancy, our only ultrasound was done too early to detect the baby’s gender. So we prepared a girl’s name and a boy’s name. Since we thought I wouldn’t have any more children, we considered him a gift. Matthew “Gift of God” Wesley “from the West” as we lived in the grand state of Arizona at the time.

Our daughter was a completely different matter. The boys would always carry their German heritage name with them, but we realized that should Greta marry and take her husband’s last name, she would have no reminder of her grandfather’s immigration as a young lad near the end of World War II and the trials he went through as a young German boy that couldn’t speak a word of English in a country that had no sympathy for any Germans. Her name was chosen to remind her of that part of her heritage. It took us a long time to look through German names for girls that weren’t about war or battle prowess. We finally settled on Greta (pearl) and Jolene “God will increase” in memory of her maternal grandpa that was dying of cancer as she was born. Her name meant something.

Many cultures name their children after the attributes they want them to have, Serenity, Faith or Grace. Some name their children before they are born and others wait until the child begins to show some personality before selecting a permanent name. Still others have had their name changed, to reveal a change in their status or character. Jacob “Deceiver” become Israel “God strives” to commemorate his night of wrestling with God.

What have you called yourself lately? Idiot, Stupid perhaps? Why not try some of the names God has for us, such as greatly beloved, chosen, dear friends, disciples, overcomers or forgiven. My husband changed the way I looked at myself, by starting to call me Gorgeous. He still calls me by my given name, but he also calls me Gorgeous, to remind me that even if I don’t like my 40 something old body that has taken a few beatings from Crohn’s Disease, that I am still special to him. That name says it all and it has encouraged me many times.

Like it or not, we have a connection to the names we are given, the names we give and the names we answer to. It’s all in the name.

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Timing

Hello, my name is Sharon and I am an old fashioned mother.

By this declaration, I admit that I make a hearty breakfast for my children before sending them off to school. I believe that breakfast is the most important meal of the day and that by seeing my kids get an adequate one, I’m helping them to be positioned for success in their school day. Since the oldest has to be at school at 7:30AM, Breakfast is at 6:30, allowing them plenty of time to eat healthfully and have a few minutes left to do the last minute brushing of teeth and combing of the hair. Trust me, we only have one bathroom so they need all the time they can get!

This morning, I had managed to get a healthy breakfast going in the oven, timer set, and proceeded to enjoy one of my favorite parts of the day: devouring God’s Word. Our house is small and my husband was gifted with a voice that carries well. So it is no surprise that I can sometimes overhear discussions coming from the kitchen. Michael was expressing his wonder and awe at the way things were going that morning. He noticed the timer was at 20 minutes and he also noticed that it was exactly ten minutes after 6:00. “This will be done at exactly 6:30.” Karl chuckled to himself and replied. “Hmmm, you would think it was planned that way.”

Karl and I have both worked in the world of broadcasting, both television and radio. Timing is everything. If a show comes to you that didn’t fit the proscribed length to allow for commercial breaks, we had to make it work. If it was too short, we added fillers. If it was too long, we had to save it for those rare occasions when we needed something of that length. Timing is everything. Michael has yet to learn this concept. We have gotten his attention at times and reminded him of what he was supposed to be doing and he would be absolutely stunned by how much time had passed while he was floating around in his “Nothing Box.”

Karl hit on the solution today. There are children in the world that need to spend some time working in radio or television, simply to learn timing!

The food in the oven being ready to eat at exactly 6:30 didn’t happen by accident. Timing had been involved. The alarm clocks going off at the appointed time to give the kids a chance to make their lunches and get dressed are there for a purpose. Timing is everything!

We even experience timing in relationships. Your niece and her boyfriend (marriage had been on the discussion board at times) break up. That’s not the right time to mention there are other fish in the sea. Wait a few days or even weeks for her to begin going through the stages of grief over losing this relationship. Your neighbor shares the news that he has two months to live because of a vicious cancer. That’s not the time to tell him about the latest study on healthy eating over a lifetime to prevent cancer. Right now it is time to offer comfort and support. Timing is everything.

As the Beatles sang what the wise man wrote in the book of Proverbs, there is a time for everything. How is your timing today? Go throughout this day with this thought in mind: Timing is everything!

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Make a Crochet Thing

My daughter asked me to make her a crochet thing then proceeded to hand me a piece of paper. Obviously, there was a disconnect. By asking a few questions, I found out she was wanting what they call a Cootie Catcher or an Origami Fortune Teller. I couldn’t help her with the project at the time, so she buzzed off to another fun adventure, making mud pies.

I tackled my to do list and had a moment, which I took to make a Cootie Catcher, with the help of an online video with a grade school girl demonstrating the fine art. I had made them myself years ago, but I wanted to see if it was different somehow. Nope, same thing. It’s amazing to think that something I played with as a child, a homemade paper fortune teller that made my friends squeal when they didn’t get the answer they wanted, is something my daughter plays with as well. I even put the colors, numbers and “fortunes” in the Cootie Catcher before taking it outside to Greta.

Greta had since forgotten her mud pies and the kitchen bowl she had borrowed, because the neighbor’s granddaughter was outside playing and that was more important. “Greta!” I called to her and face and tone when she answered indicated she wasn’t happy that I was interrupting her playtime with her friend. “Come get this!” She strained to see the small object in my hands. “What is it?” I had it on my fingers and demonstrated a few of the flips back and forth of the paper triangles. She squealed with delight. “I thought you weren’t going to make one for me.” I reminder her that I couldn’t right then.

Greta has shared the Cootie Catcher with the neighbor girl and now they have come to play mud pies together. I can see why Greta didn’t know the exact name of the toy she had wanted, because she zips from one thing to another. That’s not what is important to her. What matters is having fun – in the moment. It wasn’t a big deal to Greta that she said Crochet thing for something made out of paper. It was the anticipation of the fun and excitement she would have with the toy.

My sons, however, do not share Greta’s philosophy. Every T must be crossed and every i must be dotted. Period. If you don’t know what to ask for, you shouldn’t be asking for it. They will spend more time correcting their little sister than they will playing with her. This is where my wonderful referee skills come in. I have to convince the free spirit and the two perfectionists that they could all learn to appreciate each other.

I don’t mind making a “crochet” thing for Greta, even if she doesn’t use the right name. For a moment I was her hero, because I put a smile on her face and a squeal in her voice and a much desired toy in her hands. If only it could always be this simple to be her hero.

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Meter

Meters and measuring are fascinating. There is the parking meter, the thermometer, Iambic pentameter that we learned about in literature class and the odometer. With our fast paced everything is already done for us society, can you really imagine the average person sitting down and saying, you know, I think mercury suspended in a glass tube could be a good indicator of the rise and fall of temperature. Seriously? I’m glad someone with a lot more patience, persistence and curiosity than me was willing to figure it out.

The meter that fascinates me most of all is music. I once took an aerobics class at a health club. The leader drove me nuts. You had no sense of rhythm and music was just in the background for her. I couldn’t take her class anymore. I mentioned it to a coworker at the time who did some moonlighting teaching aerobics. She shook her head and declared she always used the eight count beat and utilized the 32 count phrase. I should have taken an aerobics class from her!

Have you taken a look lately at the beauty, symmetry and overall wonder of music lately? Just pick up a book on learning to play guitar or piano and you’ll learn fascinating patterns about chords, measures and so much more. My favorite way to explore music is with my hymnal. Come again? Yes, exploring the meters of music with my hymnal. Isn’t that boring? Absolutely not! Pick up a hymnal sometime and look at the back of the book, where all of those weird indexes are. They’re not so weird after all. You’ll see each hymn categorized by its meter and you’ll learn, hey there are patterns out there.

There is the Short Meter (6.6.8.6.), the Common Meter (8.6.8.6.) and the Long Meter (8.8.8.8.) just to name a few. Then there are others such as Short Meter with refrain, Common Meter Double, Long Meter with Alleluias and the list goes on and on. Want to have some fun and really freak somebody out (and you thought this would be boring)? Find a couple of songs you know that have the same meter and switch them around. For instance, both “Joy to the World” and “Amazing Grace” share Common Meter. Get the tune to Joy to the World in your mind, but sing the words to Amazing Grace. You will definitely get people doing a double take.

You may also find that meter begins to matter – that the God who declared that all things should be done decently and in order (see 1 Corinthians 14:40) has a plan even for music. I recently ran across an old hymn that drives me nuts. The meter is 8.7.8.7.7.7. While there are other hymns that share this meter, the one I ran across left me leaning to one side and tilting my head in agony, waiting for the final beat that never comes. I’ve decided this particular hymn would have been better written (for me) as 8.7.8.7.7.9.

Take a moment and be connected to the beautiful gift of music that God has given us. Appreciate all over again the simplicity of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. Find it fascinating that many people found similar meters and patterns in the beginning of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Phantom of the Opera – Overture,” and the popular Christian praise chorus, “You Are My Hiding Place.” Be awed by the fact that a brilliant tympanist is deaf, but Evelyn Glennie feels the music and keeps in time and plays beautiful solos. Pause and reflect on this for a moment – there is no scientific reason for music. There is simply beauty to enjoy.

 

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