Monday, January 30, 2012

Top Five Lines from Downton Abbey, Episode 4


A few years back, B and I, along with my sister, Jenn, and her husband, Tom, took a little trip across the pond to celebrate our anniversaries. While there, we ventured (“venture” is a nice way of saying a nail-biting, seat-gripping, hellacious attempt at driving on the motorway) up north to the county of North Yorkshire where I fell in love with the beautiful countryside, the rolling hills, and the quaint villages of the area.


(Side note: this is really and truly where we stayed. It was amazing. I want to go back there.)

Imagine my delight when I learned that the fictional story of Downton Abbey takes place in this part of the country. The village that they often refer to on Downton Abbey, Ripon, was just down the road from the charming village of Masham (yes, the very one where the Black Sheep Brewery is located) where we stayed.

But in fictional Downton Abbey-land, things are never as they seem. The actual house that is used in the filming is not located in the north of England, but is rather set south of London. Most likely none of the show is filmed in the north; only the place names are borrowed.

And the characters we have come to love? They are not always what they seem either. Is Mr. Bates harboring a secret of some sort? How could Edith kiss that farmer? And is O’Brien actually growing . . . a heart?

Well, the people of North Yorkshire are up to their usual antics again this week, saying one thing but really meaning something else entirely, which brings me to my top five lines from last night’s episode.

We had some classics last night. Lines that will go down in history as some of the truly great moments (*sigh*) and some of the truly great put-downs in DA history.

Here are my favorites from Episode Four.

5. Anna to Bates: “I’d rather have the right man than the right wedding.”

Don’t they just make you want to swoon? If things don’t get put right for these lovebirds I honestly don’t know what I’ll do.

4. Violet, about their “new” telephone: “Is this an instrument of communication or torture?”

I know! I know! The answer is . . . torture! If you live in my house, anyway.

3. Violet again, as she tries to get Dr. Meaneypants to let William come stay in their own house: “I am no Jacobean revolutionary, nor do I seek to overthrow the civilized world. We just need one bed for one man.”

In other words, “I’m not trying to start trouble here, Dr. Meaneypants. Just let the kid have a bed to die in. Oh, and may I remind you this is my son’s house you’re occupying?”

2. Violet again (do you sense a pattern here?): “It always happens. When you give these little people power, it goes to their head like strong drink.”

As if she’d know what strong drink feels like. She sips on those teensy-weensy little cordial cups after dinner.

1. My absolute favorite line from last night, and possibly from the entire series. Violet (I know!) trying to explain to the Vicar why he should marry William and Daisy . . . and quickly!

She tries reason, but resorts to intimidation: “Finally, I would point out, your living is in Lord Grantham’s gift, your house is on Lord Grantham’s land, and the very flowers in your church are from Lord Grantham’s garden. I hope it is not vulgar in me to suggest that you find some way to overcome your scruples.”

Slight rising at the corner of her mouth as the scene fades away.

Oh, Violet, I want to be you when I grow up.

Q4U: What did you think of last night's episode? Are you watching Downton Abbey? (If the answer to that was no, you should be!)


Shelly

Friday, January 27, 2012

Hamstrung


Hamstrung.

I saw it on a blog this week and realized that’s exactly what I am.

Hamstrung.

Do you know it? Have you been there?

Crippled?

I’ve been hamstrung this semester, and I can’t seem to get out of it. I’ll peek just over the cliff, ready to jump, be free, and then I retreat back to the safety of what I know.

Last semester I felt like I was flying. I was exactly where God wanted me to be, and I knew it. I’m still where God wants me to be, but I’m not sure I’m holding on to it like I should.

Why this fear? Why this doubt?

Student evaluations.

I know. Stupid, right? How could I let a bunch of college freshmen diminish my confidence and my calling?

It wasn’t even a bunch. It was, like, two.

I got my evaluations from last semester via an Excel spreadsheet the week before classes were to begin this semester. Stupidly, I opened them. That was my first mistake. Then I read them. Might have been my second mistake. And then I took them to heart. My third and biggest mistake.

Most of my evaluations were great. I think my students see me as a kind person who really cares about their wellbeing and success. Most of my students gave me “average” to “above average” marks.

But the one or two that were “below average” are the ones that stick with me. And the comments. Whew! As a “words of affirmation” person, the positive comments mean the world, but the negative comments cut straight through.

“The best thing about this class?” “It’s DONE!”

Ouch.

“How would you describe this class?” “Boring.”

Excuse me while I go bleed.

And now I feel hamstrung because I really can’t get rid of the negativity. I walk into class every day and think, “Who’s the one who’s going to think I’m boring this semester?”

Seriously! I’m a head case!

When I read the evaluations over break, my sweet daughter was still home from college and she gave me this advice: “Mom, delete them from your computer and don’t read them again.”

Someone else observed that the male teachers probably don’t even read the evaluations at all, but the female teachers take them much too seriously. That may be true, I have no idea, but all I know is that my heart has been broken. 

Hamstrung.

I know I need to move on. I need to heal this wound. I know I need to focus on the students God has given me this semester because I know there are needs there, just waiting to be revealed, and students who need me to care about them. And I do. Very much.

I need to remember that I’m a good teacher. I know I am. Is every class a hit-it-out-of-the-ballpark class? Um, no. Some days I’m tired. Some days the material just IS boring, but we have to get through it. Some days I have no idea how to present, so I just do the best I can. But for the most part, I know my subject, and I think I do a pretty good job.

What I really need to remember most of all is that I am exactly where God has placed me for right now. And I need to move forward, jumping over that cliff, with confidence. Because without it, I’m going to be pretty ineffective this semester.

I’m guessing that hamstrung people are just that—ineffective.

So today I’m going to do something I haven’t done yet: I’m going to delete those evaluations from my computer. I’m going to pray over them and let them go. And I’m going to ask God to give me the confidence to go into the classroom doing my best work, loving my students, and fulfilling the call He has given to me.

Why is this so hard?

Q4U: What diminishes your confidence in the call God has given you? What stands in your way of doing your best work today?



Shelly

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Dealing With Doubt, Part 3: Know What You Know


Walking down the aisle that perfect June day, holding tightly to my dad’s arm, my insides churned and the tears started to fall. They would not stop (even after the pastor asked me if I wanted to continue—true story!) until I walked back down the aisle holding my new husband’s arm.



O.K., maybe not even then.

When we look back on our wedding day, we cannot reflect without talking about how much I cried that day. Our wedding album is filled with pictures of me, red-eyed, and him, wide-eyed.

The tears represented so much that day. My excitement for the future. My sadness about leaving my past. My fears.

And my doubts.

I was a baby, in a sense. A 22-year-old baby who knew nothing about marriage. Or life. Or the man she was about to marry.

I remember walking slowly with my dad, questions flooding my mind.

What am I doing? What if something goes wrong? I’ve only known this guy for three years, but do I really KNOW him? What if he’s not the person I think he is?

Yes, I was scared. Truly scared.

Until I looked ahead and saw the man standing at the end of the aisle, waiting for me. And that was when my tears of doubt turned to tears of joy.

Why? Because I knew him. Even though I wondered how much I knew, I knew what I knew.

I knew he was a man of God.

I knew he was a man of integrity.

I knew he was a man of commitment.

And I knew he loved me.

And so, during that long walk down the aisle, I remembered what I really knew about the man I loved. I walked. And I met him. And I married him. Forever.

Last week we talked about knowing what we’re dealing with when we doubt. How our doubts are natural. How they are normal. How our doubts are entirely O.K.—God doesn’t get mad at us for questioning.

Today, if you’re in the midst of doubting, I want you to remember one thing: 
know what you know.

You may have been raised without any church background at all. You may be just wondering if there is a God at all. You may have gone to church all your life, but you still wonder about some aspects about God. Wherever you are at this moment, you can find something true.

Getting at the truth

What do you know about God? Right now. Today. Is there one thing you can hold on to?

You might want to begin at the very beginning—God. Who He is. What He has done. What He has promised to those who love Him.

God’s word, the Bible, is His love letter to us, and in it is all the richest Truth the world could hold. The Bible tells us everything we need to know about God.

Here are just a few things that I hold on to when I’m in a place of doubt:

God is the Creator of the Universe. (Genesis 1)

Everything was made by Him and for Him. (Acts 17:23-25)

God is light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. (I John 1:5) (In other words, He’s not trying to hide from you.)

God loves you. So much. (John 3:16)

The Bible is FULL of truths about God. We doubters just need to hold on to them.

The world around us is also full of truths about God. The sun rising and setting each day—gifts from God. A baby’s eyelashes. The wag of a dog’s tail. Birthday cake. 

God reveals Himself to us in so many ways every day. We just need to open our eyes and look for them.

This week, be a God-seeker. Look for specific ways, every day, that God shows you that He’s real. Believe me, once you start looking, you’ll start finding. After all, God promises that “you will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13).

Keep walking

Walking down that aisle, that beautiful June day, I’ll admit, I was terrified. Half of me wanted to turn around and run, kind of like Julia Roberts in “Runaway Bride.”

But I kept walking.

I remembered what I knew about the man I was about to marry. I knew that he was completely committed to me, and I knew that I was completely committed to him. And I knew that we were both completely committed to God.

Here we are, almost 27 years later, and I know, without a doubt, that we are still completely committed to those things. 

Have we had struggles over the years? Sure. Have I doubted my husband’s love for me from time to time? Yes. But through it all, I could remind myself of what I knew about him on that very first day and know about him still.

Today if you’re doubting, fall back on what you know about God. Search His love letter to you and hold on to those words. Spend time this week finding one way every day that God shows you that He is real, and write those things down.

And keep walking, straight into the arms of the One who loves you.

Know what you know.

Q4U: What is one thing you know about God?
How has God shown Himself to be real to you?
If you’re doubting, what is one thing you wish you knew about God?


Linking this post to Amanda's Weekend Bloggy Reading Link-up at "Serenity Now."
Shelly

Monday, January 23, 2012

Top Five Lines from last night's episode of Downton Abbey


 Are you watching?



Downton Abbey, in all its aristocratic glory is just about the hippest, happinest thing going on T.V. these days.

Go figure.

Even several men I know *ahem* are keeping a close watch on the goings on at the big house.

I mean, who can resist? A family with so much money that they have nothing better to do than walk around on their massive estate and talk about what’s going on downstairs with the servants. And servants who are running around ragged, making sure that the people living upstairs have nothing better to do than walk around on their massive estate.

The servants have no idea that the family talks about them all the time.

Or vice versa.

And the talking they all do is some of the most dry, well-written, perfectly-delivered British television screenwriting that I’ve heard in a long time. Especially the zingers.

Can those women deliver the zingers!

The men remain clueless. And lovelorn.

And so, in honor of the great writing, and the equally great acting, taking place on PBS every Sunday night, I thought I’d share with you my top five favorite lines from last night’s episode of Downton Abbey.

5. “Cook him what he likes; not what’s good for him.” Matthew’s mother, Mrs. Crawley, to her cook. Her just-in-case-he-comes-home-from-war-while-I’m-sulking-in-France advice.

4. “I may not be a woman of the world, but I don’t live in a sack.” Mrs. Hughes to Ethel the maid when she finds her in a compromising position with one of the *ahem* convalescing soldiers. Convalescence takes on a whole new meaning in that house.

3. O’Brien: “Be careful Mr. Bates. Thomas is in charge now, and it won’t do to get on his wrong side.”

Mr. Bates: “Is there a right side?”

Oh that Thomas. He’s a stinker!

Source: pbs.org via Shelly on Pinterest


I think my favorite character is Violet, the Dowager Countess, played by Maggie Smith. Whenever she comes on screen, I can't help myself, I just start laughing. The woman can deliver a line like nobody’s business, so she gets my vote for the top two lines of the night.

2. “It’s like living in a second rate hotel where the guests keep arriving and no one seems to leave.”

And the best line of the evening, one which, I am sure, will become a part of our family vernacular for many years to come:

1. “I’m a woman, Mary. I can be as contrary as I choose.”

So there you have it. My top five favorite lines from last night’s episode of Downton Abbey.

How about you? Are you watching? Who’s your favorite character? 


Shelly

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Dealing With Doubt, Part 2: Know How to React


Both times it surprised me. Caught me off guard. It’s just not something I think about regularly.

Doubt.

When it comes, it hits you squarely between the eyes, and you have to sit up and take notice.

I’ve had periods of doubt in my life, I’ll admit, and to me, doubt feels very much like fear. It paralyzes. It freezes my limbs, grabs my heart, and makes me clench my teeth. It’s all-consuming.

Which is why I feel such compassion for those doubters among us. Because, who really wants to doubt? Who really wants to be frozen with fear? I don’t know anyone who would choose sleepless nights of wondering over peaceful nights of trusting. Do you?

In the past three or four months, I’ve had people come to me on different occasions to tell me that, quite honestly, they were doubting their faith in God. These people didn’t WANT to doubt, but still found themselves wondering. What if?

Like I mentioned in my post last week, I am no theologian. I have no training in this. And as you can see, I’m a bit of a doubter myself. So why would God bring these people into my life to share their doubts with me? I’m a weak vessel if there ever was one.

I do know, however, that I’m a willing vessel, and I can listen, and most of all I want to understand how God is working in my life right now, so I figure that maybe God is bringing these people my way because He wants to teach ME something more than He wants to teach THEM something. I’m open to the possibility.

Hence, this blog series.

Like I said, doubt is surprising. If you’re in a period of doubting you might be surprised yourself; maybe you thought this could never happen to you. If someone you love is doubting, it’s especially surprising, if not disarming.

Here’s some good news. There are answers.

Thomas was a famous doubter, and yet, in the end, his story has a whole lot to teach us. You probably know it—Jesus had already shown his resurrected body to the disciples, but Thomas missed that viewing. He was probably out working or helping the women or grocery shopping. Whatever. He wasn’t there.

And you’ve probably heard his famous reaction when he heard from some of the others that Jesus was alive. “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” (John 20:24)

*insert childlike foot stomp here*

Who can fault him? This was big news. Potentially devastating news if the rest of the disciples were lying to him.

I’d probably react in much the same way Thomas did. Which brings me to point number 1: Dealing with doubt is normal.

Sure, nobody wants to be a “doubting Thomas,” but do you think the phrase would be so common if doubting itself weren’t a part of life? Doubt is normal.

But there’s more to the story, and it’s about what actually happens when Jesus shows up.

I just love this because here’s what Jesus didn’t do: He didn’t tell Thomas to just hang in there, he’d get over it. He didn’t tell Thomas that his doubts would go away eventually. And most importantly, Jesus didn’t shame Thomas into believing.

Instead, Jesus gently took Thomas’s hand and placed it in the gaping hole in His side. He showed him the nail holes in His hands. And he encouraged Thomas with these words, “Stop doubting and believe.”

Point number 2: Jesus is big enough to handle your doubts.

He handled the rising from the dead thing, He can surely handle your questions. And best of all, He’s not going to slap you on the back of the hand for asking them, either. He’s just going to love you through it.

That’s grace.

We’re the ones who put Him on the cross, and yet, when we wonder if it’s all real, He gently takes our hands and shows Himself to us. Scars and all.

The greatest thing about the Thomas story? As soon as the relationship between Jesus and him is restored, Thomas declares, boldly, “My Lord and my God!” He knows who Jesus is and he can finally declare it with confidence.

Maybe someone you know is struggling right now with some nagging doubts about their faith. Remember that these doubts are normal (in other words, don’t panic). Remember that Jesus can handle them. And keep praying that one day your friend can, with Thomas, declare Jesus as Lord and God.

Next week: Dealing With Doubt, Part 3: Know What You Know

Let’s talk. Do you think doubt is normal? Do you think God gets mad when we doubt?


Shelly

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Good Reads

A few of my favorites from this week.

I love Melanie, and I LOVE this post: On Love & Quitting. I'll have more to say on this topic next week.

Are you watching? 100 Important Things to Know About Season 1 of Downton Abbey. Disclaimer: May be a little off-color in a couple of places, but the hilarity of this post more than makes up for it.


Jo-Lynne is such a great teacher, and this post is a fantastic tutorial. Pinterest for Bloggers.

50 Things to Write About When You Have Writer's Block by Centsational Girl. I'm sure I'll be referring here often.

Finally, here's an article from Christianity Today, written by Dr. Duane Litfin, former president of Wheaton College. It's really thought-provoking, and I'd love to know what YOU think about this topic. Clothing Matters: What We Wear to Church.

Have a great weekend!

Shelly

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Dealing with Doubt


“I just don’t know what I believe.”

“I’m not sure about heaven.”

“I just don’t think a loving God would make me go through this hard stuff. I just don’t know . . .”

These past several months, something very strange has been happening. God has been placing people who doubt in my path.

It took a while for me to see it, but recently it hit me hard. People I care about are having serious doubts about God and faith.

To be honest, I don’t really know how to deal with it. I wonder, why me? I am not equipped to handle their questions. I’m no theologian, that’s for sure. Doubt is real and scary and too big for me to handle. It makes me feel all squirmy and uncomfortable.

But here’s the thing. I think we all have to deal with doubt every now and then in order to really make our faith our own. And every now and then people we love will struggle. I wonder, will we pat them on the back and tell them that everything will be O.K. or will we really be there to help them through their crisis of faith?

I want to be a helper, I really do, but until recently I wasn’t sure how to do that.

I’m still learning, but I’ve come up with a few ideas that I think might be helpful, so I’ll be sharing them over the next few weeks in a series titled, “Dealing with Doubt.” If you’re a doubter or you know someone who doubts, please hang with me for the next few weeks as we explore this topic together.

Tell me your thoughts about doubt. Your questions. Let’s do this together.

Next week: Dealing with Doubt: Know what you’re dealing with.


Shelly

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Help Wanted: Decorating Assistance

Yesterday I mentioned, for the hundredth time, my windowless office. I love having my own office, even if it is in the LOUDEST DEPARTMENT ON CAMPUS. And, no, that would not be the English Department.

The English Department is quiet and serene, a peaceful oasis in the jungle of academia. English people stay behind their office doors reading. And writing. Quietly.

But the English Department is also crowded, and being the lowest person on the totem pole I get to have an office in a different department on campus (which shall remain nameless). A department that is filled with extroverts. Who leave their office doors open. And who shout to one another across the department.

"HEY, BERT, WANT SOME COFFEE?"

"SURE, SALLY. THAT WOULD BE GREAT! AND DID I TELL YOU ABOUT THE STUDENT I WAS HAVING TROUBLE WITH LAST WEEK?"

No, Bert, you didn't, but I'm sure we'd all love to hear about her. Not.

Truly, I'm not complaining . . . even though I am. I appreciate having a place to meet with students and sometimes to just close the door and think.

This semester, one of my goals is to use my office to write more. I'm only teaching one class, so I'd love to take some extra time to use that space as long as I have it.

Of course I might have to buy shares of Pandora for all the free music I'll be playing to DROWN OUT ALL THE NOISE.

*ahem*

But the thing is . . . and here's where I have to lay myself open and be very vulnerable with you . . . my office is kinda, dare I say, ugly. If I'm going to be inspired to write, I think I should have a space that's, well, inspiring. All this space does is inspire me to grade papers--harshly--and to make comments like, "Expand this idea" or "Is this sentence necessary?"

Oy.

And have I mentioned that it doesn't have a window?

Brace yourself, I'm going to show you a picture.

This is the view from the doorway; it's what I see every morning when I arrive.


Note the stone wall--the only semi-interesting aspect of this room. Note, also, the lack of books (that comes with the lack of Ph.D).

Here's the same little room from a slightly different angle.


Several things to point out here. First, the only "decoration" is the teeny-tiny post-it note on the wall--my reminder of the computing services department phone number. I've called them a few times this year.

Second, notice the desktop computer tucked away behind the filing cabinet. My calls to computing services are usually to say, "Hey, any chance you could get this big, huge, hulk-of-a-computer out of here? I use my own laptop and have no need of your hideous desktop."

And then there's the filing cabinet. Enormous, to say the least; ugly, to say some more. The only splash of color in this entire photo is the teal-colored box sitting on top of the filing cabinet that has been there since I took possession of this office last summer. I have no idea what it's for. But have I taken the initiative to get rid of it? No, I have not.

And finally, just when you thought it couldn't get any worse, here's the view from my desk to the door.


One little table that I use when I have conferences with students. One chair that looks like it's from the 1970's. And one old telephone sitting way back on that shelf. I would bet you a million bucks that no matter who I called to come take that phone away, it will still be sitting there at the end of the semester.

So now, here's the challenge: tell me what to do to spruce up this office. It really is time to do something with it.

Obviously I need pictures on the wall. I'm thinking something like this:


Or this:



Cool, huh? Those might be a little pricey, though, for an office that is probably temporary.

I'm really not much of a decorator, so I need your input, dear readers. What do I need?

Photos of the fam? A colorful throw for the chair? Flowers for the table?

So tell me, what would you do to spruce up this windowless office?

Shelly

Monday, January 9, 2012

Random List on a Monday


School starts for me today and that means lots of things. I thought I’d just jot them down and see what you think.

1. It means that I actually have to find something other than jeans to wear every day. This is a problem for me since I really only have about three pairs of “dress” pants and one winter-appropriate skirt that I wear with tights. What can I say? I’m a minimalist. (B, don’t answer that.)

2. And, come to think of it, I only have three pairs of jeans I can wear in the winter (that aren’t cropped in some way).

Does this mean I need to go shopping? I think so. What do you think?

3. Winter is a relative term around here these days. We have had no measurable snow to speak of (and by that I mean any snow that would warrant a shovel), and it has been pretty much in the 40’s and 50’s these past couple of weeks. I’m thinking winter may pass us by altogether, and that would be just fine with me.

Maybe I won’t need to go shopping after all.

4. School starting again means that I should probably give some thought to meals.

But why start now?

5. I’ll tell you why. Because I’m sick and tired of scrambing to figure things out around 3:00 every afternoon, that’s why. Part of me longs for the old days when I sat with a notepad on Sunday afternoons, figuring out meals for the week. What happened to that organized mother o' three?

School happened, that’s what.

Here are a few more things I know about the start of school:

6. It won’t be long until I have to start grading papers again. Family beware!

7. I have two of Kate’s very good friends in my class this semester. That should put an interesting spin on things. 

8. I don’t get a Spring Break. Well, I DO get a Spring Break . . . when my other girls are still in school. And when they have Spring Break, I don’t. This could quite possibly become the biggest obstacle to my going back to work.

9. My class is at a different time this semester—it’s in the afternoon rather than the morning. I really loved having an early morning class last semester; I will mourn its passing.

But I hope to use my mornings (and my windowless office!) wisely this semester. My plan is to still go in early and write for a couple of hours before I work on class stuff. Think that will work? Me neither, but it's a worthy goal.

10. Speaking of the windowless office. I should really write a blog post about that space because it needs some serious sprucing up. I’m not much for decorating, especially since I don’t know if I’ll be back next year, but it needs a little something. Color, perhaps?

So there. A few quick thoughts about school starting up again.

What are your thoughts this morning?


Shelly

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Good Reads

I've been saving up so much bloggy goodness over the past few weeks that these might be a little stale. But not quite as stale as the old Christmas cookies that are still sitting out on my back porch--it's really time to get rid of those things!

Anyway, I loved these posts and think you'll get something out of them too.

Let's Go CRAZY in 2012!!! -- Missy at It's Almost Naptime is hilarious, and she also has a huge heart for orphans.

Have you heard about The Girl with the Whiteboard? I saw her on the news a week or so ago and found her "thing" kind of interesting.

What I Learned About Blogging in 2011 -- Melissa at The Inspired Room puts it all into perspective. It's not too late to find perspective for yourself, by the way.

How to be a better parent in 4 seconds -- It just wouldn't be a Good Reads post without a link to Jon Acuff, now, would it? This one is great.

Living Intentionally . . . an Invitation -- And if you really need a kick-in-the-pants this year, this is a great idea.

Enjoy your Sunday of reading bliss!

Shelly

Friday, January 6, 2012

Five Minute Friday: Roar

It's Friday already? And Monday, the first day of a new semester *gulp!*, is coming.

So soon?


Anyway, it IS Friday, and I've been working a little this week, and my hubby and I are going out with friends tonight, and my time is short. Which is why I love Lisa-Jo's "Five Minute Friday" posts. 

Today her word was "Roar," and at first I didn't know what to do with that. We don't exactly have lions around here. But as I thought about it for a little while, I realized that we roar quite a bit around here.

See what I mean? Here's my attempt at 5-minute writing about "Roar."


START

“Remember the time when? . . .”

“Yeah, and remember when you did that? . . .”

“Oh boy, you really got in trouble the time you . . .”

We sat around the dinner table last night telling stories on one another. Reminiscing.

College girl was home, along with a friend of hers. A friend who was in need of some healing.

And so we sat, an hour and a half, laughing and telling stories and laughing some more.

Roaring, in fact, with the laughter that comes from shared experiences, stupid stories, children growing up. 

A joyful time.

We told a new story from just this Christmas that will surely go down in family lore. (Grandpa, we didn’t know you had it in you!) But still, we laughed and remembered and loved.

Roaring laughter is the best kind of laughter. It brings us together. It helps us remember. And it heals.

Oh boy, does it heal.

STOP

I'm linking up with Lisa-Jo's Five Minute Friday post. Head over there to read more!



Shelly

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Giving Thanks for Evolution


Tonight I gave thanks for evolution.



Does that sound strange to you? Heretical? Anti-Christian?

I’ll admit, it sounds a little strange to me, but not anti-Christian. Not by a long shot. Because today God used the theory of evolution to speak to my daughter.

See, my kids are in public school. They hear this stuff. I don’t worry about it because I know that God is bigger than the theory of evolution.

He’s also bigger than the war in the Middle East and the caucuses in Iowa, just in case you tend to get scared about that kind of thing.

But I digress. . . .

Tonight, God proved that He can tackle evolution no problem. Like flicking a gnat off of His shoulder, that’s the whole evolution thing to Him. NBD.

My eighth grader told us at dinner tonight that her science teacher showed a movie in class about the Big Bang theory. I got all up in my righteous indignation and said, “Oh, and did they give equal time to the Creation account?” knowing full well that the answer would be a shrug of the shoulders and a “No.”

Which she did, both.

But to her credit, she also kind of rolled her eyes when she described her teacher introducing the movie: “This is my FAVORITE movie of the whole year! And it’s narrated by MORGAN FREEMAN!”

Whatever.

Like I said, I don’t worry about that stuff—we have the Truth (but I will admit that it makes me cringe that her school does not give equal time to the Creation account).

Again, whatever. They never claimed to be a Christian public school.

Anyway, back to why I gave thanks for evolution tonight. As I was praying with Julia before bed I asked her how God had shown Himself to her today. (We’re kind of on the lookout these days.) She immediately went back to her science lesson and the movie they saw in class. She said that at first the movie kind of made sense to her—she was willing to concede a couple of points because she’s a good thinker, that one, and able to look at all sides of an issue.

But as the movie went on, it mentioned something about all living creatures being made from a mutation of one cell, and Julia said, “It was like God showed me that there was no way that could have happened. I mean, how could one cell make both tadpoles and tigers? It just didn’t make sense to me.”

We talked about God as the Creator, how it just makes so much more sense to us that, as a creative and loving God, He would create tadpoles and tigers out of different cells, not one.

And then it hit me—the theory of evolution, as it was presented in her class today, only served to draw Julia closer to her Creator-God, not farther away.

Amazing, isn’t it, that God can take something that most of us see as evil and use it for good? He does that sometimes.

And for that, I gave thanks for evolution.

Your thoughts? Am I off my rocker with this one? Or have you seen God use the unexpected to draw your kids closer to Him?


Shelly

Sunday, January 1, 2012

You Just Never Know


When 2011 started, pretty much the only thing I knew was that we would be taking a sabbatical month in July. As I look back over the year, I realize that pretty much everything else that happened has been a surprise.

You just never know what a year will bring.

In January I would have had no idea that my grandmother would die just a month later--only three months before her 100th birthday.


I had no plans to take Kate, Mary, and Lauren to New York City for spring break. But what great memories I have of that trip and what a special blessing to get to know Kate’s friends a little better.


On January 1, 2011 I never, ever, in a million years (hyperbole, much?) would have expected to meet up with my former department chair, and I certainly did not think that she would ask me (for a second time) to come back to work, and I absolutely positively DID NOT expect the answer to come flying out of my mouth to be “Yes.” What a reversal of so many things.

An inconvenience? Maybe. A surprise? To be sure. A complete turn around of my life? You bet.

The best thing for me and my family right now? Absolutely.

Over the past couple of years I have tried to be more intentional about following God. I have tried to say yes to His call. And, oh how He has surprised me.

Good surprises.

Scary surprises.

Some sad surprises.

But the most-fulfilling-of-all surprises.

And so, on this first day of January 2012, I can honestly say that I have no idea what this year will bring.

And that’s entirely O.K. with me.

Because here’s what I’ve learned in my nearly half-century of living: when I make the plans things never quite go as well as I had hoped. But when I open myself to what God has in store for me, whatever that entails, I have learned that His plans are always so much better, so much more interesting, so much more fulfilling than anything I could ever dream up.

So on this day I look ahead, not with fear, nor with dread. I look ahead with bright anticipation, looking forward to what our good and loving God has in store for me.


. . . and all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.
 Julian of Norwich



Shelly