Monday, June 23, 2008

Manic Monday

Just two quick notes!

My cousin BJ is a genius behind the camera. He’s taken some beautiful summer photos of my sweet not-niece (but his real niece) Brielle at Rock Cut State Park. The photos are wonderful and totally worth checking out! His Brielle photo post is here.

Also, if you were a student at Berean or Rockford Baptist Schools or attended North Love or Windsor Baptist Church, you might have known Kathy (Burton) Lerch. She was a music teacher at both schools for a short time and an involved member of both churches.

She taught me as a student in sixth grade, and later on we became good friends while attending Windsor. After our families left Windsor, Kathy and I were both part of the Girls’ Night Out group that helped us many of us through the transition to new church families.

Kathy passed away unexpectedly this past Saturday, June 21. Please pray for her family, especially Missy, her 9 year old daughter. I’m sure they will covet your prayers as they go through this difficult time.

Thanks so much!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Photo Freak Out!

Mom decided to put a photo of her daughter on her blog. This is the one she chose.

Tell me I’m not fully within my bounds to say…”Yuck!” I look like I need to be in a special school.

And for those of you interested, here’s a photo of my wonderful father! Handsome devil, wasn’t he? (heart)

Monday, June 16, 2008

Still Singing

This past Sunday was the first Father’s Day in nine years I didn’t break down during the Sunday morning service.

I’ve heard time heals all wounds, and having experienced real grief, I know there is truth to the saying. Every Father’s Day since Dad died has hurt just the tiniest bit less.

This past Sunday morning I found myself waking up happy with memories of Dad dancing in my head. Not Dad actually dancing - although that WOULD have made me smile.

I thought it would just be another Father’s Day. I’d grit my teeth during the emotional parts of the service and NOT FALL APART. Then, after church, we’d go home, and that would be that.

However, something so amazing – so wonderful – so uniquely of God – happened. I found myself re-evaluating just exactly how fully God knows and loves me.

To understand what happened, you have to understand a little bit about my dad.

Dad loved to sing. He didn’t have a musical background or any training, but he loved to sing. And he had the voice for it.

Of course, I, as his daughter, didn’t think so. After all, Dad didn’t sing like a regular person. He’d open his mouth and this operatic tenor would just spring forth with the utmost authority.

He wasn’t Michael W. Smith singing Friends Are Friends Forever (enjoying its heyday during my teen years), but he could do a mean, Met-worthy beat down on The Old Rugged Cross.

Nothing is more embarrassing as a teen than to have your Dad blast hymns like Pavarotti in your small church.

Or so I thought. Until…

Pastor asked him to lead the congregational singing.

“Well, better up there than standing next to me,” I thought at the time.

Dad took his new responsibility to heart with the same dedication, prayer, and humor he brought to his whole life.

I remember him – who had never touched a piano before – pounding out hymns on an old, out-of-tune electronic keyboard and practicing the director motions. He’d wave his arms in the air, directing an imaginary choir, while Mom and I would exchange glances over his head.

“At least he’s getting exercise,” Mom would say.

He began researching hymns and would give a little “Hymn History Lesson,” before some of the old favorites. We’d all heard the story of It is Well, but learning about the humble beginning of Silent Night brought tears to my eyes.

Dad also brought excitement and childlike joy to his new post. Many times he’d remark from the pulpit, “If we weren’t Baptists, we’d be clapping and shouting Hallelujah right now!”

His genuine thrill for worship brought smiles to even the oldest dyed-in-the-old-wool conservative Baptist among us.

Of course, since Dad wasn’t a trained musician, he did make mistakes. Big ones.

My personal favorite was when he tried to lead the congregation in the second verse…of a chorus. I still recall that confident voice saying, “Now, on the second…” And the brief pause before we all re-sang the chorus, so Dad didn’t have to belt it out all by himself.

Because my father was humble, he admitted his mistake that evening, and proceeded to do it again, much to the congregation’s delight. From then on, we sang most choruses twice on Dad’s loud, “Now, on the second…”

Dad’s other big mistake was having a favorite song…and making us all sing it…often. In fact, Dad made his favorite song the ending song after almost every evening service.

After Dad died, our good friend Tim (who IS a trained and talented musician) came up to us and said, “Man, I loved Bob! His voice, his direction, his enthusiasm…but MAN did he sing that song ALL the time.”

We laughed because it was true. Everyone knows when a song leader has a favorite song, it becomes a repeat entrée.

So, imagine my surprise this past Sunday when God led our Pastor (who never met my father) to close the service with Be Strong in the LordDad’s oft-repeated favorite song!

I sang every verse as loud as I could. Lifting my voice as high as I could, in hopes Dad would enjoy his favorite song once more.

I found myself smiling, in shock and awe, that God would bless me this way – this so very-specific-to-me way. God, my heavenly Father, gave me a Father’s Day gift I will always remember.

He also brought to mind my earthly father now standing in the great heavenly choir and still singing.

Still singing joyfully, “Now, on the second!”

Saturday, June 14, 2008

The List

Welcome to the first installment of Your Husband Might Be Unemployed If…

For a while, I was at the perfect age.

Old enough to stay home by myself in the summer while my parents worked, but not old enough to get a summer job.

The freedom was awesome. I was home alone from 8:30 – 4:30 all summer long. I still remember rolling out of bed mid-morning, wandering around in my pajamas, eating cupcakes for breakfast, and watching In the Heat of the Night on cable TV.

For some reason, I had an obsession with In the Heat of the Night. It didn’t help that USA ran continuous episodes all summer long. I started calling people by their last names and became a crime-watcher in my own neighborhood. I am still a little bummed I never got to make a citizen’s arrest.

The only thing I didn’t look forward to was The List.

Each morning, before Mom left for work, she’d leave me a list of a few chores I could accomplish in her absence.

Looking back, I realize how lucky I was. Some parents could have exploited child labor laws, and I could have spent my summer resurfacing the driveway or sanding down the deck.

Instead, she’d ask me to empty the dishwasher and fold the laundry. Sometimes, she’d ask me to dust the living room.

Mom would always write the The List in her cheerful cursive scrawl, put numbers by the chores (there were never more than 3), and end the note with, “I love you! Have a great day! Call me if you need anything! Love, Mom.

I hated The List.

The List just RUINED my day. I usually let myself eat my cupcake breakfast, and then I would grumble about slave labor as I finished the chore list as fast as I could.

I’d slam the dishes into the cupboard (Sorry, Mom, if you’re reading this, that’s how all the glasses got chipped. I know I blamed the dishwasher, but I was lying. When you’re an only child, you have no one to blame but the dishwasher.).

I’d stomp up and down the stairs with the laundry and fold it in front of the TV. And, when In the Heat of the Night took a commercial break, I’d dust the living room like Speed Racer on speed.

When my parents got home from their jobs, I’d sigh and complain about exactly HOW BUSY I’d been that day doing ALL the housework.

Because I made sure of it, Mom knew I hated The List.

Eventually, she started making her own little jokes. The List would have #4’s asking me to make a million dollars, watch TV until my eyes fell out, or slide down the wooden banister.

My mom, the jokester.

Eventually, I grew up and was old enough to get summer jobs. On my rare day off, Mom would still leave me The List. In fact, I believe I had The List all the way up until I got married.

Then, of course, I got to make The List. For myself. And, it has a lot more than 3 chores on it.

Lately, since Brett’s been unemployed, I’ve started making The List for him. Since I felt WAY too much like Mom leaving a written list, I just politely ask him to do a few things during the day.

I have little negotiations with myself before I even ask.

“Okay, so I’ll ask him to do one hard thing – clean behind the fridge. And two really easy things – put the dishes away, and bring hay in for the rabbits. Yeah, yeah. That’s not too bad. I’ll ask him like he has a choice, and he won’t even notice.”

Before I leave for work, I gently rub his shoulder.

“Sweetie, I’m leaving for work. No, no just keep resting. Hey, if you don’t mind, can you please clean behind the fridge today? Oh, and bring in some hay for the bunnies. Oh, and if you could empty the dishwasher? Thanks, honey! I love you! Have a great day! Call me if you need anything!”

I rush down the stairs and out the front door, satisfied I didn’t sound like a nag, and that I asked in the sweetest way possible.

Upon my return home, of course, is the inevitable letdown, and another sign Your Husband Might Be Unemployed If…

…he finishes a completely different list of chores than the ones you left for him.

Brett will meet me at the door with a big hug and a smile.

“Hi, babe! How was your day? Mine was really busy. I mean, I fell asleep on the couch for four hours, but otherwise I was SO busy. I’m completely wiped out. It was CRAZY around here.”

I start smiling. Until I see gunk still clinging to the back of the fridge.

“Didn’t you clean behind the fridge?”

“No, I actually didn’t have time to get to that. I polished the doohickey, though, and sanded the backhoe. Oh, and if you ever want to use that fondue set we got for our wedding eight years ago, it’s ready. And the garage floor is bug free!”

He stands there beaming at me, and I’m actually speechless.

For a second.

“Did you at least bring in hay for the rabbits and empty the dishwasher?” I ask, testing my English skills to be sure I wasn’t speaking a different language in the morning.

“Oh, right. No, I didn’t have time for that. I mean, polishing the doohickey took most of the day, you know. And those bugs didn’t leave under their own free will.”

He’s obviously so proud of the absolutely useless chores he’s accomplished, I can barely work myself up enough to burst his bubble.

But I am a trooper.

“Sweetie, that doohickey hasn’t seen the light of day since I bought it five years ago. It didn’t NEED to be polished. The rabbits NEED their hay. There is a REASON the fondue set was still in a box in the garage. Because we don’t fondue. You KNOW that. We’ve been together twelve years. Have we EVER had fondue? The dishwasher NEEDED to be emptied.”

The man I love is starting to get a little offended. “Hey, maybe I WANTED fondue, huh?”

“Yeah, well I WANTED a clean fridge. And why on God’s green earth did you kill all the bugs in GARAGE? It’s okay for bugs to be outside. That’s where they belong. You should have been killing this fungus that’s growing behind the fridge!”

“Fine! Fine!” Brett huffs into the other room and crashes onto our broken sofa with a martyr’s sigh. “I work my fingers to the bone for you, and you don’t even appreciate it!”

The unemployed husband I now fully support leans back on the sofa, flips on the World News, and gives another Oscar-worthy sigh.

I head back out to the garage, which is – admittedly – spotless. I say a little prayer for the bugs and heft hay into a bucket for the rabbits. Back inside, I snap on the gloves and give the fridge a resentful once-over.

Craning my neck, I see Brett is still pointedly ignoring me, and my sympathy for his ego and hard (still useless!) work kick-in. Before I know it, I’m offering to make fondue for dinner.

“No, thanks,” my husband says. “That’s too much work. How about pizza?”

Exasperated, I throw a pizza in the oven. Then, I sit down to make out The List of what needs to be done tomorrow. I try to decide which three things I should ask of my husband, knowing full well there is a possibility I’ll come home to more polished doohickeys and shiny wedding presents.

And somewhere, somehow, Mom laughs and knows The List lives on.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Still Waiting in Wonder

When I was a little girl, I heard an old adage that said, “When we pray, God doesn’t just say ‘yes’ or ‘no.’ Sometimes, He says, ‘wait.’”

For a long time, I thought “wait” meant waiting for a week, maybe a month.

I remember “wait” took on special meaning when our 45 year old pastor was diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer. We prayed and waited. We hoped “wait” meant he would be miraculously healed within the six months of life the doctors predicted.

Pastor endured a total of twelve months before he died on September 10, 2001. A mere day before tragedy struck the United States in the form of the 9/11 terror attacks.

That event redefined “wait” for me. And it drove home the point that sometimes God says “no.”

In the past, when I prayed, I laid my requests before God hoping for “yes,” and knowing “no” was a possibility. I took “wait” out of the equation.

After I graduated from college, I went through a very bleak time. After all, I had just left the comfort of some of the world’s most amazing women.

For four years, I’d lived shoulder to shoulder with wonderful women who’d become more than my friends. They’d grown into my family.

My roommates were more than people I shared a room with – they made me laugh, cried with me, and put up heroically with my sarcastic personality.

Without my friends, I felt like a tiny life raft separated from the Carnival cruise ship where I’d previously been docked.

Back home, I watched as the church I loved, the church I considered a second home, was slowly torn apart after the death of our beloved, spiritually-balanced pastor.

As my church friends seemed to evaporate, and my college friends moved on with their lives, I found myself completely isolated. After four years spent in warm friendship and happy acceptance, I was left out in the cold.

And I prayed.

I prayed fervently that God would please, please, please (I always use three “pleases” when I really want something from the Lord) grant me friends again.

And I prayed again. And again. And again.

I felt so absolutely, utterly alone. Even when we visited a church where we were sure God wanted us to be, I felt like a thorn among roses.

I desperately missed my friends. People who knew me, loved me, understood my twisted sense of humor, my secret fear of being left out, my anger that sprung at rejection, and loved, loved, loved me anyway.

Somehow, it didn’t occur to me that perhaps it would take time. That this request might actually force me to consider “wait.”

I continued to pray. And thanked God for my mom and my family who kept me afloat during those depressed years.

It started slowly. An acquaintance from my old church, someone I barely knew, heard that I liked to go to movies.

“Call me next time. I love movies!”

Hesitantly, I called her the next time I saw a movie preview.

Angie and I have been movie buddies for over five years now. We’ve spent countless hours in our cars - long after the movies are over - talking about our spiritual life, our husbands, our families, and our trials.

Without Angie’s stalwart spiritual support, and God’s unending grace, I would have left Brett in December of 2006. Looking back, it is crystal clear God brought Angie into my life to prevent personal tragedy and give me yet another chance to return to Him.

Slowly, sometimes painfully slowly, I’ve watched as God has answered my prayer for friends. The “wait” continues to be filled as God blesses again and again.

This is a lot of preface (you mean you’re just getting started?!) to say what I really wanted to say.

Which is…

The last couple of weeks sucked. (I apologize, but they did.)

I was overworked, stressed out, tired, and exhausted. With Brett still out of work, huge events looming at work, migraines, and no time to do anything – I felt completely swamped and overwhelmed.

And do you know what happened?

My friend Carleen just showed up one crazy day at work to deliver lunch to me. “I just thought you might need it today,” she said. She handed me a take-out salad, a HUGE diet soda, and left…knowing I didn’t have time to talk.

My friend Heidi called and arranged a quick date to pick out beads for an upcoming girl’s night. “I just wanted to help you pick out the basics so you don’t have to spend a fortune. You can use as much of my stuff as you want.”

My friend Cheryl stopped by my desk with a Reese’s McFlurry from McDonald’s. “It’s hot outside. I know how you hate the heat. I thought this might cool you down.”

My friend Alice commiserated with me on work issues. She offered her virtual shoulder for me to lean on and managed to make me laugh when all I wanted to do was curl up in a ball and cry.

My friend Angie called and reminded me that a “husband out of work” becomes “your personal errand boy.” And teased that now “he’ll have more energy to make that baby.”

And, recently, when I ran out crying in the middle of a church service, three women followed me into the bathroom, offering comfort, kind prayer, and tissues with lotion.

I could go on. And that sentence amazes me.

When I think of all the people who called, commented, and encouraged me after Brett lost his job…or the many women who came forward during my rough time in December of 2006 to say I wasn’t alone…I stand in wonder.

It’s obvious God did say “wait” to my prayers all those years ago. And this week, He made it clearly evident He’s still delivering on that prayer. He’s been saying, “yes, yes, yes” this whole time.

And I am befuddled with gratefulness.

Grateful for God’s grace. So grateful for the new friends He has provided and the old friendships He has sustained.

So, I raise my Diet Coke and toast –

To friends by birth
To friends by choice
To friends short and friends tall
If it wasn’t for God’s grace,
I’d have no friends at all!

(Because, seriously, you guys know I’m a handful!)

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Migraine Town

I write to you today from a not-so-lovely city named Migraine Town. Migraine Town is very dark and gray with occasional soundbursts of thunder and blinding flashes of lightning.

Not unlike the weather in Northern Illinois these past few days.

It is unpleasant experiences like this that convince me I am my father’s daughter. As a child, I watched my dad suffer from migraines. During the week, he was fine as he dealt with stresses at work and home. Then, the weekend would hit, and he’d be flat on his back in a dark room hiding from light and sound.

He explained it to me once. He said his brain knew its job was to work all week, so it put aside the extra pressure and strain. It wasn’t until the weekend, when it wasn’t required to work at the same speed; it would decide to revisit all the stress of the week on Dad’s beleaguered head.

Dad spent a LOT of Saturdays in bed with a migraine. My childhood didn’t suffer from it, but I grew up with a healthy respect for what headaches could do. If it could reduce my active, caring father into a half-vegetable for two days, I knew it was formidable.

I didn’t have to deal with migraines myself until well into my twenties. I count myself among the fortunate to only have to deal with them sporadically.

But I have noticed a similar pattern.

This week was crazy for me. I worked long hours, evening hours, and even into the beginning of the weekend. Then last night, as I contemplated a relaxing Sunday and the blessed relief of being given Monday off…BAM! Migraine City.

So far, I have been blessed to struggle with my migraines in relative peace. There are no children who need my attention, and Brett is great about being quiet when I am suffering.

The bunnies are silent by nature, of course, and let me cuddle with them on the floor and stroke their soft fur. Which helps dull the pain.

And, somehow, writing it all down helps me. Being able to put words to the pain seems to rob it of its power.

So now that I’ve weakened the dastardly villain on the drum set in my head. I’m going to pop some more Excedrin Migraine and see if that helps even more than the healing power of words!

Pardon my tendency to wax morosely dramatic during a migraine – it’s a proven tendency on my part.

Oh, and if anyone has heard of migraine cures/prevention, I would LOVE to hear about it.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Back & Brief

It is I, the absent blogger.

My life has been busy lately, but that’s no reason not to blog. I feel especially bad you have all had to read my thinly veiled reference to sex the past couple times you’ve visited my blog. Sorry.

I am exhausted. This week was SO full with work-related things. My department has been planning a big event for nine months, and the actual event was this week. I was preoccupied with rehearsals, photography, media, advertising…you name it.

Things show no sign of slowing down, either.

I’m working all day this Saturday, and I have late evening hours already scheduled for Tuesday. It’s a never-ending parade around here lately, so it’s a good thing I like my job.

To test if I have ANY readers left after my absence, I’d like to offer up a couple of possible blog post topics:

You Know Your Husband’s Unemployed When…

I’d Like to Pull Their Ears and See If They Like It (or) Why Some Kids Shouldn’t Ever Be Allowed Near Animals.

I’ll look forward to hearing your preference.

In the meantime, I found particular joy in these two posts (Playing Red Rover at VBS and PowerPointing for the Lord) over at Stuff Christians Like.