“When anybody asks, 'What are you writing about now?' if I try to reply, the book-in-the-works sounds so idiotic to me that I think, 'Why am I trying to write that puerile junk?' So now I give up; if I could talk about it, I wouldn't have to write it."
- Madeleine L'Engle, A Circle of Quiet


All Things Beautiful

Saturday, April 14, 2007

When Michelle at Scribbit announced that the subject of this month’s Write-Away contest is growth, I started to think about how I could tackle such a subject. It was the day after Easter when I sat down to start writing and after three incredibly lame paragraphs I gave up. That genuine Alaskan birch-handled ulu looks like a really great prize, but I was just going to have to give up my chance at it this month.

That was nearly a week ago. Today, my husband and I took our dog for a walk in the park. It is finally nice enough to spend some time outside after the fits and starts of spring that we have had so far this year. One minute it’s 60 degrees. The next it’s snowing. Then it’s 80 degrees. Then it’s raining. Or is that snow? Maybe it’s sleet? Oh wait, no, it’s a blizzard.

But at this very moment, as I sit at my kitchen table with my puppy snoozing at my feet (Walks are like puppy sleeping pills!), and the windows thrown wide open to welcome the fresh spring air, it is 54 degrees and sunny outside – a perfect spring day – and tells me that it’s going to stay right around 60 for the next ten days. It looks like spring has finally won the battle against winter.

Unfortunately, while the thermometer’s mercurial fluctuations have been, for the most part, just annoying, northern gardens have suffered a few casualties. I noticed the effects of this while returning to the house from our walk this afternoon. Some of the plants in our yard have started sending up strong, sturdy green shoots, but others’ leaves are now yellow and wilting.

About a month ago when spring first attempted to exert itself, the earth warmed, and the dormant things beneath began to awake. They shot out green sprouts, some of them cautiously peeping through the soil, others more vigorously reaching toward the warmth of the sun. Those that were more enthusiastic were beaten down when the cold and snow returned and are now lying wilted on the ground. It is yet to be seen whether sun and rain will be able to resurrect them.

On the other hand, those that were more cautious survived the snow and are now green and healthy, ready to grow and thrive. And then there are the tulips, which are able to survive just about anything. They brazenly thrust their pointy leaves through the nearly frozen ground, survived the ice and snow, and currently sport the greenest leaves in the garden.

As I was wondering whether or not the sun would be capable of revitalizing my prematurely emerging lilies, I realized that my garden is a lot like myself.

I would like everything to be green and growing in my garden; I would like all aspects of my life to be flourishing as well.

I do not have control over the weather that affects my garden; I do not have control over the circumstances that affect my life.
There are plants in my garden that are strong and growing more beautiful every day; there are aspects of my life that are very strong, in which I am growing stronger every day.

There are plants in my garden that are dying or even dead and there is little I can do but pamper them in the hope that there is some small bit of life left in them which will be coaxed out by the sun; there are areas in my life which have not turned out as I wish, but with God’s blessing on them, I can hope for them to become something beautiful in time.

There are plants that are beyond hope and I can do nothing but pull them out of the ground and replace them with something new; there are parts of my life which I have had to give up, replacing my worry and regret for what I’ve lost with hope and ambition for what is to come.

And through all this – the good and the bad – my garden grows. If I treat it right, it will flourish. Every plant that lives or dies serves a purpose, even if it’s just to sweeten the compost pile which will in turn nourish the rest of the garden. It may take some time, but in the long run, I can always look back and see how the disheartenments eventually led to beauty.

Beauty for ashes, the Bible says, and it is so true. The longer I live, the more I learn that He really does make all things beautiful in his time – even in my garden – even in me.

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Thursday Thirteen #22

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Thursday Thirteen
Thirteen Things About The Geek's New Truck

1. The Geek bought a new truck last week.

2. As you can see in the photo, it's school bus yellow.

3. It's that color because it was a fleet truck.

4. At first he wanted to have it re-painted in a more traditional color, but it's actually growing on him.

5. I'm not much of a truck person, but as trucks go, it's a pretty nice one.

6. The color has it's advantages.

7. When I'm following the Geek in my car, I can keep track of where he is even if a couple cars get between us.

8. It's really hard to lose the truck in a parking lot.

9. When in the truck, it's fun to sing "We all ride in a yellow Chevy truck, a yellow Chevy truck, a yellow Chevy truck..."

10. It's kind of fun in a muahahahahaha powerful sort of way to sit so high and look down on all the other vehicles on the road.

11. The bed is big enough to hold a 4'x8' sheet of plywood lying flat between the wheel wells. We know this because it became huge deal on Saturday and the Geek and his stepdad had to go out and measure to be sure.

12. I'll be learning how to drive it whether I really want to or not. With building a house, I'll need to be able to do so.

13. I'm going to try not to do this. (see #4)***

***My apologies to HolyMama. I know there's a good explanation for that even though you're not ready to share it yet, but when I saw that picture the first thing my brain did was to see it in yellow with me as the one behind the wheel. I'm looking forward to your explanation if for no other reason than to know what not to do. :)

Links to other Thursday Thirteens!

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The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others comments. It’s easy, and fun! Be sure to update your Thirteen with links that are left for you, as well! I will link to everyone who participates and leaves a link to their 13 things. Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!

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The True Meaning Of Religion

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

I need your help. There is a wrong that needs to be righted and since no one (that I know of) is picking up the torch on this one, I'm going to start carrying it myself. I hope you'll join me. It's simple really. All you have to do is refuse to propagate the incorrect use of one very important word.

may be the most misused and misunderstood word in the church today; at least in churches of a Charismatic bent. (I can't speak for other churches, since my personal experience is in the Charismatic church.) I am speaking of the rampant and outright fallacious use of the word.

Repeatedly – one might even say continuously – this word is used in the pulpit with a negative connotation. Preachers (including many whom I highly respect) speak of a "religious spirit" that is pervading the church, and urge us to let go of religion and embrace God's freedom. But isn't religion the very reason the church exists?

Merriam-Webster defines religion as "the service and worship of God or the supernatural; commitment or devotion to religious faith or observance; a cause, principle, or system of beliefs held to with ardor and faith".

James 1:27 says, "Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world."

Is this an undesirable "spirit" that we must eradicate? In the above verse, the word religion refers to the working out of our faith – our commitment and devotion to God – in our actions by demonstrating his love to those in need. This is clearly not a bad thing.

Simply put, the word religion seems to have replaced what used to be called legalism, which is the word that should still be used in this context. Legalism, according to Merriam-Webster is defined as "strict, literal, or excessive conformity to the law or to a religious or moral code". It is used in the church to define those who are more concerned about the outward appearance than the inward state of the heart and one's relationship with God; those who are bound up by the law rather than allowing themselves to be set free by God's grace.

Perhaps this shouldn't bother me so much, after all, it's just a word. But the truth is that it does bother me. This is certainly not the first word to be misused, but it is a very important word, a precious word – one that I am not prepared to lose.

Religion should be a beautiful word, spoken in reverence, not contempt. This word, in its true meaning, embodies my faith, my devotion, my commitment, my love for my God. The beliefs I hold dear – in a Savior who created me, loves me, died for me, and saved me –
are summed up in this one word. The truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is my religion. Let's not forget that, and let's make sure we never lose it.

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Laundromats And Snow

I went to the laundromat last Tuesday, and it snowed.

I went to the laundromat today (Tuesday again), and it snowed.

I’m never going to the laundromat on a Tuesday again.



Thursday Thirteen #21

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Thirteen Things I've Learned From My Pets

1. Really good (aka people food) food tastes good, even off the floor.

2. But food off a plate tastes even better.

3. Sometimes the best toys are the free ones.

4. Loud noises are scary.

5. So are strangers.

6. But sometimes a stranger can become a best friend.

7. If you are persistent enough, the person you want to cuddle with will eventually let you.

8. If you are subtle enough they won't even know you're there until you've already curled up in their lap.

9. Rain is fun!

10. Mud puddles are funner!

11. You know you're really having fun when you're bleeding and don't even know it!

12. Find the best hiding spot in the house...and then share it with your favorite friends.

13. The best place for a nap is curled up with your favorite person in all the world.

Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!

The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others comments. It’s easy, and fun! Be sure to update your Thirteen with links that are left for you, as well! I will link to everyone who participates and leaves a link to their 13 things. Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!

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A Book Meme

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

I picked this up from Jeana.

It's about books.

Oh yeah.

1. Hardback or trade paperback or mass market paperback?
Really depends on the book. Classics should be hard cover if at all possible. Certain books just insist on being owned in hard cover. For the ones that don't, either type of paperback is fine.

2. Amazon or brick and mortar?
Brick and mortar.

3. Barnes & Noble or Borders?
Well, I used to be a Borders girl because I worked there for a while, but I've since converted to Barnes and Noble - mostly because they are closer. I still enjoy either one. I mean, they both have books, right?

4. Bookmark or dogear?
(cough, cough, ahem) Um, did you say dogear? On my blog? Please..I'm begging of you...don't make that mistake again.

5. Alphabetize by author or alphabetize by title or random?
I used to organize by subject, but most of my bookshelves were put in storage for the move we were supposed to make over a year ago. So the remaining books sit in piles. And no, I don't alphabetize the piles.

6. Keep, throw away, or sell?
Oh dear...O dear. Did you just say throw away? That's even worse than dogear. Please, I beg you. One more statement like that and I will cry. I mean it. (Ok, if you must know, I did throw away a few books once, but they were old computer books that were so outdated no one would even recognize them anymore. And even then I felt really bad about it.)

7. Keep dustjacket or toss it?
Keep it, but usually store it. There's something really pretty about cloth bookbindings on a shelf, but I can't justify throwing away the covers.

8. Read with dustjacket or remove it?
Remove it, unless I have no bookmark handy. Then the flaps become bookmarks.

9. Short story or novel?
Novel. I'm not averse to short stories, I just gravitate toward novels.

10. Collection (short stories by same author) or anthology (short stories by different authors)? See #9.

11. Harry Potter or Lemony Snicket?
Never read Lemony Snicket. Only read the first Harry Potter. It was okay, but not enough to entice me to read more.

12. Stop reading when tired or at chapter breaks?
Chapter breaks unless my eyes are so droopy that I can't finish the next...that I can't finish...that I can't...that...that...zzzzzzzz

13. “It was a dark and stormy night” or “Once upon a time”?
The attitude of "Once upon a time" but preferably without the actual words.

14. Buy or Borrow?
Borrow first (from a library usually). Then buy if I decide it's worth owning.

15. New or used?
Some of each. There's a thrift store nearby where I like to browse the used book section now and then. Otherwise it's generally Barnes and Noble (obviously new) for me.

16. Buying choice: book reviews, recommendation or browse?
Personal recommendation, then browse, then book reviews. And reviews by people I know are considered personal recommendations.

17. Tidy ending or cliffhanger?
I agree with Jeana on this one - cliffhanger for chapters, tidy endings for books. And please don't try to wrap up every bit of subplot in one paragraph. There is nothing worse than a book that keeps you waiting and waiting and then ends with "andtheneverythingturnedoutfineandeveryonelivedhappilyeveraftertheend".

18. Morning reading, afternoon reading or nighttime reading?
Ideally, all of the above. Realistically, on breaks at work and in the evening just before bed.

19. Stand-alone or series?
Mostly stand-alone, but there are a few series worth reading.

20. Favorite series?
If you're asking for just one, sorry can't do it. Anne of Green Gables, Lord of the Rings, Chronicles of Narnia - like I said, a few.

21. Favorite children’s book?
Well, not having kids, I'm not familiar with many children's books, but I do like the Anne of Green Gables Series, and A Wrinkle in Time and it's companion books

22. Favorite book of which nobody else has heard?
A Small Rain and A Severed Wasp by Madeleine L'Engle (SW is a sort of sequel to SR written 40 years later) I don't know how well known they are, but I haven't run into many people who have read them.

23. Favorite books read last year?
A Circle of Quiet, A Small Rain, Persuasion

24. Favorite books of all time?
Pride and Prejudice, Chronicles of Narnia (I can't pick just one of them)

25. Least favorite book you finished last year?
Wuthering Heights. I know I should appreciate fine literature when I read it and all, but it was just so awful! I just spent the entire book longing for one sane person out of the bunch. Please, please, just one sane person!

26. What are you reading right now?
The Irrational Season by Madeleine L'Engle

27. What are you reading next?
The Boleyn Inheritance

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