Saturday, October 17, 2015

U is for the Uther Woman

     Yes, I know “uther” should be spelled “other.” Sometimes I choose to spell things incorrectly like the rest of my fellow Americans.

This is not my telephone.
     Rachel* started calling my home over a month ago. “Is Gene there?” She sounded young.

     “No. Can I take a message?”

     “Tell him I need to see him.” She gave me a number. I didn’t write it down. 

     After that, she called frequently. My sons talked to her. I don’t think they wrote down her number, either. I know they never gave it to their dad.

     Rachel left numerous messages on our answering machine. She left her number. No problem there. My husband rarely listens to the machine. 

This is not Rachel's letter.
     She sent my husband a letter. He muttered about it and mentioned he needed to meet with her so she’d leave him alone.

     I slept in this morning and finally wandered downstairs around 8:30, wrapped in my fuzzy fuchsia bathrobe, to find a strange woman standing alone at the kitchen island. 


     Her long, silky dark hair cascaded over the back of her white lab coat, and a stethoscope graced her slender neck. Startled, I stared speechlessly at her for several seconds.
This is not Rachel. This is a model pretending to be a nurse. Rachel is a real nurse.

     She answered my unasked question, “He’s in the bathroom getting me a urine specimen. I’m Rachel from the insurance company. I’ve already taken his blood.” She held up a test tube.

     My husband entered the room carrying a little cup. He handed it to Rachel and she placed it on my kitchen island. Eww. She carefully poured the contents into a test tube which she held over my kitchen island. Eww.

     “Do you want me to take your blood pressure while I’m here?” 

I certainly hope so.
     While Rachel positioned the cuff around Gene's arm, I remembered why I’d come downstairs and turned on the Keurig. Then I handed my husband a container of disinfectant wipes, thinking of the Clorox commercial, “Of all the things that happen on your kitchen counters…”

     I took my coffee upstairs, fairly certain I’d seen the last of Rachel.

     *Rachel is her real name. She has nothing to hide.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

T is for Too Much Stuff

My young friend Tori commented on two scripture verses about stuff. As soon as I saw her Facebook post, I knew T would stand for Too Much Stuff. Because I have Too Much Stuff. She has given permission to use her words.

Tori wrote:

This verse reminds me of a friend of mine doing an estate sale of her parents’ property. The family was completely crushed under the weight, not only of the grief, but of needing to rid themselves of so many material things. Selling them for almost nothing just to get rid of all of the things her mom had accumulated during a lifetime. 

These are the kinds of things that we labor for, we press forward in working and earning money for items that will be thrown out or sold for pennies when we die. Put your energy into things that have eternal value. Put your energy into loving people, in changing lives. It's the only thing that will still be valued when we come to the end of our time in this life. The way we spent our time, the way we spent our love, and the times we spent our money on others in an act of love.

     Here are the verses that prompted Tori’s insights. I’ve chosen to use the New Living Translation.

We are merely moving shadows, and all our busy rushing ends in nothing. We heap up wealth, not knowing who will spend it. And so, Lord, where do I put my hope? My only hope is in you. Psalm 39:6 – 7, NLT

Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be. Matthew 6:19 – 21, NLT

I made this meme a few months ago with PicMonkey.
Then last week, a friend spoke of the challenge of moving from a big farmhouse into her compact new home. She said she had to face her own materialism. It was a reminder to me that I intended to write about Too Much Stuff.

I’m not a hoarder. (I think.) But I do have a hard time parting with items that have emotional significance for me. Even if I’m never going to use them again. Or have never used them at all. 

I have some useless wedding gifts that I have never used in forty years and will probably not use in the next forty. (Hence the logical designation “useless.”) I don’t even know who gave them to me. Like this set of four glass plates with four glass cups that sit in indentations on the plates. They’re textured, shiny, and iridescent. (Wow, I spelled that right on the first try!) They’re very pretty. But they’re too dainty and the cups don’t hold enough liquid to even start a caffeine buzz. Do you want them? If you’re willing to pay for shipping, I’ll send them to you. If you’re the person who gave them to me, I apologize for never using them. I’m a terrible human being. You don’t have to pay shipping.
I did not take this picture, but these are the exact same plates!

Part of my problem is that when I have gotten rid of things, I’ve regretted it. I had boxes of all the letters and cards my mother ever sent me while I was away at college, then later while I was far away in a foreign nation called Texas, and later still while I was  away in a closer foreign nation called Pennsylvania. I decided to pare down the collection and I probably threw out more letters and cards than I saved. Then my mom up and died of ovarian cancer and I really wish I still had those letters. 

Not all of the Too Much Stuff is mine. Much of the Too Much Stuff belongs to my husband. Too many theology books and Bible commentaries. Too many horns. Too many neckties. Too many belts. Too many shirts. Too many pairs of shoes, but Gubin’s in Northumberland was going out of business, and what dapper man is going to resist buying leather dress shoes for $5 a pair? I have to share a closet with this man.

Most of our Too Much Stuff has very little financial value. I buy my clothes on sale or at thrift stores. I’m sure my wardrobe will be donated back to the thrift stores when my time ends.

I can never have too many Christmas bears.
I realize I have written Too Many Words about Too Much Stuff, and I haven’t solved my problem. In fact, I’ve made things worse. Since I started writing this post—a week ago—I have acquired more stuff. Friday night I bought a print book, something I usually don't do since I have my Kindle. And just a few minutes ago, I returned from a peaceful walk in the October sunshine, but since I resist walking without a destination, I ended up at the Salvation Army. And there I found two bears who wanted to come home and celebrate Christmas at my house with all of the other bears who hibernate in plastic tubs all year.

Tell you what:  When I die—not to be morbid, but death is in my future—put my favorite bear in my coffin. (You know which one I mean, the one I call Lucky because he stays in bed all day.) Bring all the other bears to the church, and after the memorial service, everyone adopt a bear. 

Give it away. Or keep it if you’re a hoarder. Which I’m not. (I think.)

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

“S” is for Song

Yesterday was rough, even for a Monday. Rotten days result from problems, people, or my perception of problems and people. 

I realize what I consider a bad day would be a dream-come-true for someone else. I experienced my bad day as an employed person in a climate controlled workplace with free coffee. A purple PT Cruiser that I don’t have to share with anyone else transported me to different locations on my bad day. My closet is overstuffed with stylish clothing I can wear while I’m in turmoil. (Yes, you’re supposed to laugh if you’ve seen my wardrobe.)

Legal, non-prescription drugs
Having said all that, yesterday was rough, even for a Monday. I would have cried, had I had the energy to do so. When I got home, I prayed and read my Bible and the study book I’m using. I asked my praying friends to pray for me. Later on, I texted a request for chocolate to my son who was shopping at the Lycoming Mall. He brought three bars of Gertrude Hawk home, and I self-medicated with the peanut butter filled dark chocolate before falling asleep watching Castle.

As I left for work this morning, I wondered if a miserable Monday would birth a terrible Tuesday. I often listen to Fox & Friends on Sirius XM as I drive to school; it makes up for having to turn off my TV and get dressed in the morning. But today I figured I probably needed some encouragement from Christian radio, hoping they wouldn’t discuss the Appalachian Trail for ten minutes. 

Thanks, guys!
And that is why “S” is for song, though it took a long time for me to get here. I heard two songs during my commute which were exactly what I needed to hear. Being of declining memory, I can only write about one of them. I believe it was performed by Finding Favour (who must be British since they don’t know how to spell favor). The other one had a lot of “w” words in it; sorry, that’s all I got.

A few weeks ago, a college and FB friend shared an article by a worship leader explaining why he no longer cares for contemporary Christian music. One of his criticisms was the endless repetition of lyrics in the songs. I immediately thought of Psalm 136, where the phrase “his love endures forever” appears sixteen times. Written about 3000 years ago, it's not exactly contemporary…

“Cast My Cares” almost reaches biblical proportions by repeating “I will cast my cares on you” fifteen times. I needed to hear every one of them. I needed to sing along to affirm my faith and respond to the apostle’s words, “Cast all your care upon Him, because He cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:7 

The feared terrible Tuesday never materialized. I thank God, his Word, my praying friends, my son, Gertrude Hawk, WGRC, Finding Favour, and St. Peter. I suspect I’ll have other bad days, and when I do, I hope to remember God cares for me in the midst of the muddle.
A tasty alternative to CVS

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Ten Things I Don’t Know About Laney

My small-but-mighty creative writing class at Sunbury Christian Academy is using Nanowrimo’s Young Writers Program, and today we attempted to fill out questionnaires about our protagonists. 

Forty-six questions! I realized I couldn’t respond to all of them even after writing and publishing two books about Laney Odell. So here are the top ten things I’m wondering about my favorite Arkansian refugee:

10. What color are her eyes?  I looked at Laney on the Surviving Meemaw cover, but she’s looking down at her cell phone, so I can’t tell.
Laney, look up
so I can see your eyes.

9. What is her fondest memory? We all know her worst memory, but what’s her best?

8. Who is her favorite band? I decided she likes country music, because she’s from Arkansas, so she almost has to. But band? I have no idea.

7. What are her superstitions?

6. What three words would describe Laney? Only three?

5. What is the best thing that ever happened to her? We all know the worst thing that happened to her. I think she’s still waiting for the best. 

Laney, would you like to go skiing?
Or cuddle with Calvin in front of the fire?
Or cuddle with Josh? Or someone else?
4. Where is her dream vacation? She went to Jamaica, and we all know how that turned out. But where does she want to go?

3. What is her favorite television show? Not the ones she tolerates because Meemaw is watching them on the Fox News Channel, but what would Laney watch if she could wrest the control from Meem?

2. What are her political views? Do high school seniors have political views? I know I did back in 1971, but I’m not sure about Laney.

And the #1 question I can’t answer about Laney is…

1. If a song played every time Laney walked into the room, what would it be? Now I’m considering what song should play when I walk into the room.

If you’ve read Surviving Meemaw and Surviving Jamaica and you know the answers, tell me! If you haven’t read them, you owe it to yourself!! (Did I go too far?)

Many thanks to and the free curriculum at I encourage other teachers to check out these resources. There are free curricula for all ages of young writers, from kindergarten on. It’s not too late to get started.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

R is for Ready Feet

What are ready feet? I’m so glad you asked.

In Ephesians 6, Paul uses an extended metaphor—or is it an analogy?—of a Roman soldier’s uniform to tell his readers to put on the armor of God. Most of the items are pretty straightforward, especially if you watch movies of ancient soldiers fighting:  helmet, breastplate, shield, sword. It’s verse 15 that I always trip over.

I find the wording awkward in most translations. It may really flow in Greek, since Paul was an educated and excellent writer, but I can’t remember enough Greek to be sure.

Here are a few translations of Ephesians 6:15 from
and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. (NIV)
and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. (ESV)
and as your shoes the readiness to announce the Good News of peace. (GNT)
For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared. (NLT)

Then the NLT has a footnote, “Or For shoes, put on the readiness to preach the Good News of peace with God.”

I want to call that item of the soldier’s equipment “ready feet.”

In Jamaica, the children weren’t allowed in school (and were too respectful to come into church) without some kind of footwear, any kind of footwear. We brought lots of flip flops to the island and gave them away. Most schools in the U.S.A. won’t allow students to wear flip flops; they are not considered proper, or safe, or covered by insurance.
You can't go wrong with classic Florsheim.

Depending on the activity, you buy the appropriate footwear. You might need cleats (baseball or soccer or football) or hiking boots or riding boots or firefighter boots. You might need ice skates or skis or snowshoes. You might need steel-toed boots. You might need tap shoes. You might need shiny, expensive Florsheims to go with your Men’s Wearhouse suits. (I put that in for my husband, even though he doesn't read my blogs.)

I’ve never been an athlete, but I’m guessing if you show up for the soccer game without your cleats, you’re going to sit on the bench. Your feet aren’t ready.

I think Paul might be telling us believers to be ready to tell not-yet-believers the good news about Jesus. The Gospel makes us ready to share the Gospel. 

However, the context is all about battle: “For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places. (Ephesians 6:12, NLT) So the Gospel also makes us ready to fight, not people, but those ominous sounding enemies in verse 12. 

Ready isn’t when you search frantically for your shoes for ten minutes because you’re going to be late for school or work or whatever. As the mom of four sons, I have participated in the desperate shoe search on more than one occasion. I even wrote about it and titled my work “The Journey of a Thousand Miles Begins with a Lost Shoe.”

A vintage Reddi-wip ad, 1951
Maybe I should change the spelling to “reddi feet,” like Reddi Wip.” When you want whipped cream for your pumpkin pie, the topping is already in the can, pressurized and ready to jump out. You don’t have to get out the mixer and chill the stainless steel bowl and beaters and mix in the sugar and whip the cream. 

British clergyman Charles Spurgeon said, “A lie can travel half way around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.”

As followers and soldiers of Christ, let’s have Reddi Feet, and get ahead of the lie.