Honoring Heroes for Lent

Last night Jeff and I watched Taking Chance on Amazon Prime. Excellent movie. Quiet. Full of dignity. It is the story of a military escort seeing the body of Lance Corporal Chance Phelps to his family in Wyoming. (Info at http://www.hbo.com/movies/taking-chance.)

On the fourth day of Lent, I am thankful for the warriors, military and civilian, who defend our freedoms, including the one to observe Lent. And I salute those who give their fallen comrades the dignity and respect they deserve.

This movie was an eye opener for me. I know we lose good men and women in the line of duty way too often but I had no idea what goes on when they make their final trip home. I am humbled and proud that we care for our fallen military with such dignity and caring. I pray to have half the courage of these heroes in the face of my personal adversities. And I pledge to double my support and respect for our military and first responders who face the evils of the world to protect our freedom. Thank you for your service. May God bless you and may America give you the respect you deserve!

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Cupcake Thank Yous

IMG_20190307_215909299When you meld together two companies, one that is very entrepreneurial and one that is globally bureaucratic, it takes a minute before everything works smoothly. Worthy and Ellie Claire have been part of Hachette Nashville for almost six months but only recently have we combined servers, printers, and offices. The result has been one big IT gallimaufry! You would think we were mixing Hatfield wires with McCoy servers.

Today all my systems signed me out and wouldn’t let me back in–smack dab in the middle of the day. I tried everything my puny brain knows to try in these situations to no avail.

Then Courtney, the visiting, overworked, “fixing IT problems is my super power” girl who is on loan to us from the Boulder office waved her magic wand (or logged into the administrative system, whatever) and fixed my problem. In five minutes.

I love her.

IMG_20190307_215858180Tonight I made her cupcakes to let her and the other IT people know how thankful I am that that they are defending us against the technology behemoth that is plaguing us.

She left her family in Colorado to step into our crazy world! If making cupcakes can make her half as happy as her help has made me, I will be doubly satisfied! Thank God for intelligent IT people. And for cupcakes. 

(I made keto muffins for the gluten free, sugar free, dairy free in the office. I am not a monster!)

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Cock-a-doodle-Lent

roosterWhen I was growing up, the only thing I knew about lint was that it got stuck between my toes. One side of my family was General Baptist and the other Pentecostal. Neither observed Lent.

Then I married Jeff. He had attended a bona fide, nuns with rulers, uniform-required Catholic school. Lent was a real thing to his family. Fish on Fridays and giving up things for forty days every Spring. I found the idea fascinating. I was raised with fasting and praying. The concept is similar. But this was a whole new level.

Practiced by Catholics, Methodist, Anglicans, Episcopalians, and others, Lent is observed in remembrance of the forty days Jesus was tempted in the desert. They go without things like a meal per day, coffee, social media, etc. in order to experience, to a very small degree, what Jesus went through while fasting and being tempted for forty days. Some people add a discipline like prayer, daily devotional reading, or almsgiving. Fasting and praying is doing both—taking away one thing to concentrate on another. That works for me. I usually spend the forty days taking time from other activities to give thanks for the large and small blessings in my life. It redefines my prayer time, putting more emphasis on thanking God than whining about the lint in my toes.

36259276_10214680546960461_5767838201729253376_oSo to begin my Gratitude for Lent season, I am thanking God for my little brother! His birthday is today. I talked to him this evening. He was making a deal to buy one hundred roosters. Yes. One hundred roosters. He recently sold one hundred forty roosters. So this is just another Thursday to him. He was born loving animals. There was always a pig, chick, or puppy in our house being nurtured by Virgil. People would bring the runts of litters from all kinds of critters to him when we were growing up. Maybe he did so well with the animals because he was a runt himself. He was amazing at caring for them and breathing life into their little bodies. I think they were too afraid of letting him down to die on his watch.

I was in awe of him. I still am. Who buys and sells roosters one hundred at a time? My awesome brother, that’s who! He may be my half brother, but he is twice the rooster deal-maker than the average Joe. Thank God for little brothers!

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Twice the Character

Sun in a glass shard

Examining my character.

Yesterday someone I have known basically my whole life passed away. Last week he went in for heart surgery, the kind that is performed all the time, and due to complications, today his family is making funeral arrangements. He was in his early sixties.

It is so human of us to wonder how we will face death. Am I ready? Am I square with God? Do I have emotional or spiritual debts to be paid before I go? Who would even show up to my funeral? If it was open mic what would people say? (That is a rhetorical question!) Will my character hold up? Or will my failures and faults prevail? And which friend will be singing “Ding Dong the Witch Is Dead” under her breath?

Lately I have been taking a closer look my character. Piece by piece I have been holding it up to God’s light, turning it over, examining it from every angle, hoping to understand why it is as it is. I honestly don’t know why God’s truth shines through parts of my character to illuminate the world around me while other shards are cloudy and block God’s light. The dark parts have come from the life I’ve lived and the choices I’ve made. I am pretty sure not even Norwex could shine that stuff up. But I am trying and am trusting God to help me.

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I started reading the book, Didn’t See It Coming by Carey Nieuwhof. (Thank you, Stephen!) Talk about examining your character. Nieuwhof understands how easily character can be eroded and the importance of safeguarding it. He outlines seven challenges we all face and offers effective ways to rise above each challenge. I am highlighting passages left and right in this sucker. That character flaw right there? Yeah, I have that. And that one. And, embarrassingly enough, that one too.

Why is it so hard to fix my character? I truly, genuinely, certifiably want to…

But it is so easy to compromise just a little. And then little more. And then more.

I feel like Paul, “I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it” (Romans 7:15). This could be my life verse!

Nieuwhof writes, “The antidote to compromise is simply this: work twice as hard on your character as you do on your competency.” I was in school, college, and grad school working on my competency for more years than I’m willing to admit. (I think it was my way of making up for being a high school dropout.) If you count retreats, seminars, conferences, and professional development, we are talking well over twenty years of education. How many years have I worked on my character? Do fractions count? The good news is that if I live long enough to work that hard on character, I might actually be alive for the maiden voyage of the Enterprise!

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This brings me to the half and double connection. If I work twice as hard on my character and compromise half as much each day for the rest of my life, maybe mic night at my wake will be filled with hallelujahs! Or maybe a Bee Gees song. Or someone quoting the opening credits to Star Trek! Or someone dressed in a Starfleet uniform singing a Bee Gees song. Or maybe, just maybe, one or two people who will say, “I saw God’s light through her.” That is boldly going to the final frontier.

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Welcome to Half & Double

0905161335One weekend my husband and I went on a road trip to a couple state parks. Lots of food and snacks and hiking. Well, some hiking. When we returned I made the huge mistake of stepping on the scale. The number that blinked up at me was not a welcome sight. Not. At. All. How can it be that I was eight pounds heavier than when I was at full term with my first child? That can’t be. I gained forty pounds during that pregnancy. The number glaring at me was absurd. I got off the scale, gave it a good shake, and got back on. Got back off, changed the battery. Got back on.

Same blasted number. Honestly, I was tempted to throw the crazy thing out the bathroom window. I just stared at it. If looks could melt metal, plastic, and glass, that thing would have burst into flames and burned through the floor all the way down to the crawl space. I took a moment to visualize that. It would make a lovely fire. Toasty. Perfect for marshmallow roasting. Marshmallows! That vision made me smile and hungry.roasting-marshmallows

Then I had to turn to the mirror and confront the reality that was an ever-expanding me. I could live with it or do something about it. Two simple choices. I decided to do something.  I’ve done enough diet and exercise plans in my life to know that I’ve lost the sort of discipline where I can drink vinegar, honey, and peppercorn shakes three times a day and act like it’s tolerable. Bleh. That’s so 2010. But I had heard of people who divide all their meals into two equal parts and save half for another meal or share it with a friend. I can cut a hamburger in half. Surely. Or eat half a piece of pie. Or drink my tea half sweet/half unsweet. I can do that.

And to take it one step further, what if I also doubled the healthy eats or the exercise or the water drinking? Or all of that? Whoa! That seems like a Jedi mind trick to keep myself from feeling like I am completely giving up my favorite stuff. Half the chips; double the carrots. Half the donuts; double the oatmeal. Half the social media surfing; double the walking. Half the things that are taking me to the dark side; double the things can propel me toward liking the scale again.

Do this, I can. (Yes, I hear the Yoda voice in my head.) yoda-star-wars

How hard can it be? Simply eat half of my normal intake and double my exercise?  The food part could be tough—I like the food. A lot. Better than I like most people. But I probably eat twice as much as I need. Definitely. And the exercise part should be a piece of cake (oh, I wish—cake!). I don’t exercise now, so doubling it shouldn’t be too hard, right? Just double any activity I am doing. So when I walk to the bathroom, I will make the trip twice. When I go up the stairs at work, I will go up, down, then up again. When I forget my phone in the car in the parking garage, I will go to the garage and back, and to the garage and back again. (It would be too embarrassing to say how often this happens. But on the bright side, it may be enough to be considered a workout strategy.)

So that is how Half & Double began. Just a way to trick myself into taking better care of my health and making sure that I don’t end up having only one pair of yoga pants and an oversized shirt that fit. Because, unfortunately, that would not pass for dress code at the office.

And then I started thinking, why stop there? I can take this half and double idea to all areas of my life. Half the worry; double the prayer. Half the criticism; double the praise. Half the frustration; double the patience. Half the waiting for things to happen; double the making things happen. Half anything that is bad for or hurting me; double anything that is good for or helping me. Pardon me, but this is brilliant! Half and double. An incredible simply concept. Even I understand fractions and multiplication enough for this.

What would you like to half and double? What is stopping you? Join Yoda and me. Start a revolution, we can. Are you ready?

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The Small Joys of Spring

On day five of Lent, I am thankful for the little signs of joy that are sprouting up around our area. The incessant rains have kept most of the tulips at bay. But there were still lots of little spots of joy when Jeff and I walked through Cheekwood Sunday afternoon.

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Sunny daffodils.

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These gorgeous pink flowers (whatever they are called).

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Two or three struggling tulips.

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Bright orange pansies.

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And rows of beautiful hyacinths.

Wherever you live, whatever weather you are experiencing, find the joy of the moment. If you look beyond the gloom, cut the negative thoughts in half, and double the thank you prayers, everything will be coming up roses or daffodils or purple hyacinths before you know it! I am praying that you are able to find the little dots of joy in the brown landscape of your day! #gratitudeforLent

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Through Car Windows

IMG_20190308_171415790.jpgOn the third day of Lent, I am grateful for car windows. I have seen many beautiful, scary, crazy, and awe-inspiring things through the windows of my car. Today from my windshield I saw a dark road made shiny by rain, hugging a tree-lined river that led me home. I am so thankful that this is part of my everyday commute.

Whether I am driving to work or to Wisconsin, I love watching the world outside my windows.

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I have seen sunrises on lakes.

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And sunsets in neighborhoods.

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Snow capped churches.

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Curious dogs.

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Shimmering arches.

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Foggy flags.

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And Jesus.

Looking forward when we drive is necessary. But seeing what is right in front of us takes a different kind of focus.

I am thankful for all the car windows that have provided a constantly changing panorama of awesome in my life. May this Lenten season bring you half the scary drives and double the views of Jesus.

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(A backward glance through a rearview mirror is not a bad idea once in a while.)

 

 

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Double the Museums

We used to live in Springfield, Mo., once upon a time when we could carry our kids on our backs or hips. One of their favorite places to visit was Bass Pro. There were huge fish swimming in extraordinary aquariums, taxidermed animals everywhere, candy, waterfalls, and during the holidays, the best Santa and reindeer in town.

On this visit to Springfield we visited the massive World of Wildlife Museum and Aquarium that are now part of Bass Pro. And, y’all, these museums are worldclass. The Aquarium was voted the best aquarium in the country for 2017 and rightly so.

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The Museum entrance.

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There is a full size cabin inside. The place is humongous.

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This area is about the hunters and record holders.

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Piebald Whitetail Deer are rare but beautiful.

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The wildlife scenes were amazing. This one really made you feel like you were under the northern lights. We’ve seen them in real life and this display nailed it.

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The polar bears were so animated.

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African deer with pointy horns. 

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The blue light special is an aquarium.

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The entry into the aquarium was grand in size and design.

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Jasmine was captivated by this very large fish.

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This is a full size, real boat. The people onboard are life size. The water and fish looked like they were frozen in time, with flashes of light reflected off both and giving the illusion of a real sea.

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Sherri, Larry, and the foot-eating shark.

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Spiny fish are supposedly not good to eat. But he was handsome.

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One wall was dedicated to photos to presidents on fishing trips. 

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This is part of the lake exhibit. But there were fish from rivers, seas, oceans, and goldfish bowls.

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Piranha are gorgeous. They look like someone rubbed gold nuggets on their sides. They lure you in with the shiny stuff and then eat you.

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Clown fish.

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Some of the best fish in the sea.

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This little guy was checking us out. I think he smelled something fishy.

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Jellyfish! Several species were represented. 

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Had to include Hemingway’s boat, Pilar.

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