Storm Shelters

For Lent I am adding the discipline of gratitude. Daily gratitude. And today I am thankful for storm shelters.

A storm barreled through our area this morning and the warning signals blared over our cell phones at 6:50 a.m., scaring the snot out of Jeff and Jackie. I was putting on makeup at the time and had one side of my face done. We turned on the TV to make sure the warning was real and heard that it looked like a tornado was hitting the area where my office is located.

(Here is video taken from my office building this morning.)

So we grabbed our things and ran to our crawl space. Don’t imagine us crawling on all fours into a damp, dark, muddy space under the house. (Or do. Your thought life is yours to control.) Our crawl space has a full size door and we can walk right in. It is more like an unfinished basement with a very slanted floor. It is a nice place to sit out a storm even if we have to go out into the rain to get to it.

I noticed that Jackie had time to grab his computer and guitar. Great. If we were going to be stuck down there for a while we had entertainment. I sat in my lounger and couldn’t help but think that if our house blew away, I would be left with a half done face. I could be interviewed in the aftermath with a sort of Jekyll and Hyde thing going on. If I turned to one side I would look fabulous with great eye shadow and liner. If I turned the other way, disaster. Nobody wants to see that. So I had a choice. Go back up and finish makeup before the storm got too bad or plan to only allow news cameras to film from my right side. It was really raining so I decided keeping my right side to the cameras sounded doable.

Jeff and I have always had a place to ride out storms. Mostly basements. From Missouri to Minnesota to Tennessee, we have hunkered down and prayed and in many a shelter. It is as good a place as any to start Lent in a grateful state of mind. We were dry, together, and protected.

I did not grow up observing the tradition of Lent. We never discussed Ash Wednesday or Maundy Thursday or fasting or anything but Easter, eggs, candy, and baby chicks (I loved the ones that were tinted green or pink or purple—do they still do that?). I had heard of Mardi Gras but had not made the connection between that sparkly, inappropriate parade and Easter. I still have problems with that actually.new-orleans-086_pe

But as an adult, I have been officially introduced to Lent. I know people who “kind of” observe it and others who walk around with ash crosses on their heads. Some embrace it as a sacred duty to sacrifice for six weeks and others see it as a reason to party hard on Fat Tuesday.

I’ve come to think of it as a beautiful time of the year where I can reflect on how unfathomable it was for Jesus to march toward His death…for ME. Can you imagine that? Knowing that on a certain day you are going to die an agonizing death, knowing the time and the place, and knowing you have to go through with it? That you want to go through it? That the hope of the world is on your shoulders? That the people you are doing it for will stuff themselves full of food and sin on Fat Tuesday and show their boobs for beads? And still want to go through with it? I’m flabbergasted and thankful and humbled.

Last night I was meeting with a woman who volunteers a lot of her time at a food pantry handing out food to immigrants and underserved people in our area. She gives her life for these people. Her health has deteriorated, her family life suffers, her business has had to hire more help to make up for her absence. But she sparkled when she talked about loving on these people. She stressed how imperative it is for them to get these boxes of food once a month. It is vital to their existence. Most of them don’t know her name or speak her language. But she sacrifices for them anyway. She gives them pieces of her life. She shows love in ways that many of us will never have to experience. She is their storm shelter.

I am grateful for storm shelters. May I always have one and be one.

But you are a tower of refuge to the poor, O  Lord , a tower of refuge to the needy in distress. You are a refuge from the storm and a shelter from the heat. For the oppressive acts of ruthless people are like a storm beating against a wall, or like the relentless heat of the desert.

Isaiah 25:4‭-‬5 NLT

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Round and Round We Go

merrygoroundI have lately felt like I’m on a merry-go-round that is going faster and faster. Life, family, work, church—it is all spinning. It seems everything is a blur. Sometimes I hang on, throw back my head, and laugh with joyful abandon. Sometimes I scream. It’s exciting. It keeps me feeling alive, young…and exhausted.

When we were kids, we clamored to get on the merry-go-round. We would hang on for dear life and giggle and let ourselves go—hair flying, friends screeching, begging for the thing to go faster. But even back then we had to get off after a few go arounds or risk losing our lunch on our teachers’ shoes.

Sunday afternoon I got off the ride. I stopped, napped, relaxed, and had a moment to think about how busy life has been. It has been fantastic. I have partied, feasted, worked, gone to concerts, packed, road tripped, shopped, cooked, cleaned, played, and loved on family and friends in the last few weeks.

I am a big believer in living a full-out life. “Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in one pretty and well preserved piece, but to skid across the line broadside, thoroughly used up, worn out, leaking oil, shouting GERONIMO!” That is exactly how I want to live.

And that is what I’ve been doing.

But sometimes full-out is too much. Things start spinning out of control. It is easy to get caught up in the blur with its flashes of light and distorted images. It’s a fascinating escape from a humdrum life. Too much of it though will make you sick. Remember that feeling when you were a kid? When you were ready to hurl and you begged the kids pushing the merry-go-round or the carousel operator to just stop already? When that happens, I have started paying more attention to the things that aren’t rushing by—the people on the ride with me and the thing that I cling to for safety. Family, friends, God.

merrygoround.jpgAll we had to do when we were children was turn our eyes back to the things right in front of us: the bar, the wood, the carousel horse, the person by our side. No matter how fast we were spinning, if we concentrated on them, we wouldn’t fly off the ride or toss up our cookies.

Maybe that is the answer for my adult life. I can enjoy the ride more if I don’t spend so much of the time caught up in what is going on around me. If I halve the time I spend concentrating on the flashes of light and blurry images and double the attention I give to those right beside me, maybe I will have a more fulfilling life without going faster and faster. All I have to do is pay attention to the right things. I can do that.

Geronimo. Let’s go!

I want you to be smart in the same way—but for what is right—using every adversity to stimulate you to creative survival, to concentrate your attention on the bare essentials, so you’ll live, really live.
Luke 16:9

 

 

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Tibetans Get the Idea

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A Happy Heart

My niece’s husband had a heart attack this week. He is 42 years old. Doctors implanted two stents in his arteries, patched him up, and sent him home the next day. Amazing. We are so thankful for the EMTs and doctors who saved him.

happyheartThis incident happened to coincide with my yearly health check up. I am a bit older than 42. And I’m not exactly committed to exercising. So, of course, I started wondering how my own ticker was doing. My dad has had serious issues with high cholesterol for years. My mom has had almost every artery in her body pulled out and scraped. Honestly, the way she smokes and eats fried food, we have been surprised by her longevity. With that kind of healthy heredity, who knows what can happen?

That is why I thought maybe I should start cutting my contributing factors in half and doubling my chances of a long, healthy life. Someone needs to be around to show awkward photos of my kids to their eventual spouses and children. Since I already had a doctor’s appointment scheduled for this week, it was the perfect time to ask some questions. Happy serendipity.

I asked my doctor what I needed to do to get started with better heart health. He suggested a simple, non-evasive test called Cardiac Calcium Scoring. It is inexpensive, quick, and a good indicator of heart health for someone my age with low to moderate risks.  (And, I’m not going to lie, it looks a lot like a pod racer.) Dr. Johnson says knowing my score is the first step. It isn’t covered by insurance, but it only costs $49. I’m waiting for the results….

CT Technician Theresa Caton, R.T. helps Patient Ernext Bensley who is about to receive an advanced CTA scan of his heart at The Johns Hopkins Hospital

The scanner used for my calcium scoring was similar to this. It took about ten minutes to get hooked up and scanned. They only scan your chest area. Unless your heart has dropped to your feet like this poor sap.

In the meantime, I am actually contemplating regular exercise. I am lowering stress by halving my worry and doubling my prayer time. I am attempting to get sucked into TV less so I can sleep more. And I am giving up smoking. Just kidding. I only smoke meat and that is not going to stop any time soon.

But most of all, I am taking for granted half of what I used to (like ambulances, diagnostic tests, and yearly physicals) and doubling my gratitude for second chances. I am very, very thankful.

 

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Cinnamon Rolls and Missing Sandwiches

So my first week of trying to half and double was about half successful. I did take more steps, but probably not double. I did halve some of my food, but there was a LOT of food. So it wasn’t too much of a reduction for the week. In my defense, it was a big week of eating out for work (and for lack of grocery shopping). And then my coworker, Mr. Kyle, brought these babies to work.

0914160804.jpgLord have mercy.

I swear I only ate one fourth of one. Of course that was probably four hundred calories. I get bonus points, however, for walking by them fourteen times and not taking more. Those pastries were calling to me like the Sirens calling to Odysseus. I maxed out my self control for the day.

The hardest part for me is not halving and doubling. It is remembering to do it. I am not accustomed to halving my food, or walking up and down the corridors at work every time I leave my desk. I need STOP printed on the inside of my glasses or tattooed on my wrists so I can be reminded all the time.

I did remember when we went to 3rd and Lindsley for a fantastic night of music. These amazing musicians were raising money for their friend who is struggling with his second round of cancer. The headliner was Vince Gill and he was, shall we say, larger than life. (Someone suggested that he may want to think about this half and double thing.) There were performers from Lyle Lovett’s band, from the Doobie Brothers, from…a variety of groups and musical backgrounds. Bela Fleck and Abigail Washburn. Victor Wooten. My ears were happy.

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We had dinner at the show. I had a lovely prime rib sandwich and promptly put half of it off to the side to take home and eat for lunch the next day. Later, I realized the sandwich was gone. Poof. Usually my son is the culprit. This time, however, he had filled up on an enormous Rueben. All signs pointed to the waitress as the villain. Behind her sweet little smile was an evil mind waiting to destroy my dreams. Or not.

I’m all for halving, but I felt cheated. I paid for a whole sandwich, wanted a whole sandwich, lusted for it. With great restraint I put it aside. Then it was gone. Does that sound like the lyrics to a country song? Luckily for me, the banjo and bass guitar duet began about that time and I forgot about the missing sandwich.

So the moral of the story today? Hang on to your halves. Or at least put them in a to-go box right off the bat. Or eat while listening to fantastic music so you don’t care so much that you only have half. And stay away from Kyle.

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How it works

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