10 Things I Learned in April

1. I’m easily fooled. PB got me twice on April 1st.
PB: Sitting on Broadway with a flat. I’ll try to get back by 11:00.
Me: Oh no! Want me to come down? Hey, aren’t they new tires?
PB: No, I got it. They are!
PB: April Fools.
Me: Got me. (mad face emoji)
PB: 2nd one today, honey. Be more careful.
Me: I just trust you completely to never lead me astray.

2. Butter Pecan Creamer is pretty darn good. I know, I know, those creamers are full of chemicals and preservatives and calories and artificial flavoring. But I don’t drink Pepsi or Spotted Cow or 5 Hour Energy. This is my one indulgence. I refuse the guilt.

3. Eric Thames. Hottest hitter in baseball in April. For the Milwaukee Brewers. Nobody saw that coming, which makes it all the sweeter.

4. This is more in the category of something I’m going to learn. I ordered 20 pounds of Alaskan salmon. I’m going to learn to like salmon. My daughter and son-in-law have a side business selling premium quality Alaskan sockeye salmon, so, of course, we bought some. You should too. Check it out here. My grandchildren thank you.

5. Maundy Thursday was my favorite day this month. I thought about the evening service all that day, anticipating the quiet hour. It’s the best part of Holy Week for me because we simply spend sixty minutes sitting in a quiet sanctuary. Few words are spoken, soft music plays, people pray hushed prayers. We come to the table. God is present.

6. Sometimes I need to read a book three times. I read “Unoffendable” by Brant Hansen in February because lots of people seemed to be offended by lots of stuff. Then I read it out loud to PB in March and April because it was such a good message. Now I guess I need to read it for me.

7. Newborn baby boys smell just as sweet as newborn baby girls.

8. Jesus enjoyed a party. He was invited to lots of them because he was not a party dud. He turned water into wine at a wedding reception and kept the celebration going. Although 120-180 gallons of wine might have been overdoing it a bit. (Six stone jars, each holding 20-30 gallons.)

9. Spending part of a weekend with young women in their 20s and 30s made it pretty clear that I’ve bumped up a category or two. It was an honor to watch them take hold of faith and desire to live it out.

10. Quote of the month: “You go where you’re sent and you stay where you’re put and you give what you’ve got.” Jill Briscoe

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10 Things I Learned in March

1. Big birthdays can get overshadowed by little birth days. This year was PB’s big 6-0, but nobody paid much attention because little Emma Kate made her entrance into the world and stole the show. I wasn’t even home to give him a birthday kiss on the morning of the 9th, but he showed up with cupcakes and presents for everybody else that evening. Getting a new birthday buddy is pretty sweet gift.

2. I’m not a fan of springing forward. Falling back is fine in November, but losing an hour in March throws off my circadian rhythms. It takes me a good 2-3 weeks to stop feeling wonky.

3. There’s nothing like live musical theater. PB and I got to see two productions this month — one by our local high school (Little Shop of Horrors) and another by the Rochester Civic Theater (The Drowsy Chaperone). Both were thoroughly enjoyable. We are a bit biased, though, as the Rochester show featured our daughter as leading lady. Neither show had a “cringe “factor, meaning, everybody was on pitch. (Bravo, Janet Van de Graaff!)

4. Quote of the month: “Jesus ate a lot of good food with a lot of bad people.” Leonard Sweet

5. It’s a joy to learn something new from someone who’s passionate about the topic. A friend from our church taught two classes on canning and preserving food, demonstrating water-bath canning and pressure canning. Her enthusiasm and knowledge was so inspiring. Plus, she brought jars of delicious samples to try.

6. PB bought a pie for $150. The church youth group sponsored a pie auction with the proceeds going toward a mission trip to Guatemala this summer. It was for a good cause, so I didn’t give PB the raised eyebrow. Boy, that pie was good.

7. I’m a 1 with a 9 wing. Yes, it’s another personality profile. I just can’t resist them. The Enneagram goes deeper than Myers-Briggs (I’m an ISTJ), sometimes uncomfortably so. It points out strengths, but also nails the dark side of each type, which can feel like a slap in the face. In a good way.

8. I wrote 5% of a book. Well, actually .04931507’s of a book. But it’s a start. My name is printed among other “contributing authors”. I signed a contract and received 10 hardcover copies of the small devotional book. I think it’s legit, but the title is not out on Amazon yet, so I’m still holding my breath.

9. When a person forgets to exercise for a few years, that person’s muscles get mad when that person tries to use them. It’s time to get my 2 lb. weights out of the closet.

10. I will never look at the crucifixion of Christ the same way again after sitting under the teaching of Ray Vander Laan during our Lent series. I will forevermore hear the cry, “It is finished” as a victory shout of a conquering King, not as a last dejected gasp. As the prophet Amos wrote, “The Lord roars from Zion.” The Lion of Judah roared, “Paid in full”. Praise be to God.

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10 Things I Learned in February

1. Paint the ceiling first. Then the walls. Unless you really like to do that little trim section where the ceiling and walls meet. In that case, go ahead and paint the walls first followed by the ceiling, because then you get to do that little trim section twice.

2. I choose paint color based on how good it sounds to eat. Warm Caramel won out over Hot Mustard Seed and Water Chestnut. Mmmmm. Warm Caramel.

3. My word for February was “yield”, as in: to surrender or submit. As in, I don’t always need to be right. As in, sometimes other people have better ideas. As in, it’s ok to not get my way. This screensaver on my iphone kept reminding me.

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4. Visitors in church one Sunday morning turned out to be the grown children of a pastor that served our church from 1977-1990. They were thrilled to be invited over to the parsonage and to walk through the home where they grew up. It was fun hearing all their stories and memories from their years here. They were particularly pleased to see the same drapes hanging in the living room. They sure don’t make curtains like they did 40 years ago.

5. When I saw Tom Brady hoist up the Lombardi Trophy after winning the Superbowl, I couldn’t help but think of something he said after he won his third championship. “Why do I have three Superbowl rings and still think there is something greater out there for me? A lot of people would say, ‘This is what it is. I reached my goal, my dream.’ Me? I think, ‘God, it’s got to be more than this. I mean, this isn’t what it’s all cracked up to be.'” I hope he’s still asking that question.

6. Quote of the month: “Christians should be the most refreshingly unoffendable people on a planet that seems to spin on an axis of offense.” Brant Hansen

7. A successful ministry doesn’t always look successful by this world’s standards. Our women’s Bible study finished eight weeks on J the B (John the Baptist). We learned that a call to ministry and complete faithfulness to that calling can still result with your head on a platter. This world doesn’t always reward greatness, by God’s standards.

8. People make mistakes. Even glitzy, glamorous movie stars screw up sometimes. It doesn’t seem to matter if you’re wearing a gold beaded dress from the Givenchy’s couture collection and Chopard 59.9 carat diamond drop earrings. Nobody’s perfect.

9. Babies come when they’re ready. We are waiting for a phone call announcing a new grandchild. It appears Little Miss wants to be in the March photo collage on next year’s family calendar.

10. PB is longsuffering. He has put up with two solid weeks of my hacking and coughing and sniffing and sneezing. Never once did he suggest I take my germs and ruckus out to the couch so he could get a good night’s sleep. We promised “for better or worse”. He held to his end of the bargain this month.

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10 Things I Learned in January

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1. Sitting in the back pew changes everything. On the first day of 2017, I didn’t have any responsibilities in the worship service, so I sat in the third row from the back instead of my usual third row from the front. I could barely see PB from back there. He couldn’t find me in the crowd. I think it knocked the whole congregation off-kilter.

2. I was the lucky recipient of a month’s worth of free bagels from Panera. One free bagel every day in January! Except Panera is 9.2 miles away and it costs $1.64 in gas to drive there and if I bring PB along, I end up spending another $5. I begged them to give me 31 bagels and be done with it, but that’s not what the marketers had in mind. Plus, 31 cinnamon crunch bagels with honey walnut cream cheese = 15,810 calories. I settled for five free bagels. (You do the math.)

3. Quote of the month: “A good journey begins with knowing where you are and being willing to go somewhere else.” (Richard Rohr) 

4. Going to the movies on a Tuesday is a cheap date in Madison. We went to see La La Land and happened upon “$5 Tuesdays” and free popcorn for signing up to be a member (at no cost). It made me want to tap dance down the theater aisle.

5. This year’s Bible Reading Plan is forcing me to slow way down and squeeze out every morsel. Two verses a day makes for a fun treasure hunt.

6. It’s not a good idea to watch two TV series at the same time. Especially when the same actor is in both shows. Rufus Sewell is messing with me. He’s a good guy in one show and a bad guy in the other. I keep getting his roles mixed up and I’m confused as to why a cruel Nazi commander is in 1830’s England and why a kind, Victorian gentleman shows up in 1962 post war America. Like I said, it’s confusing.

7. Once upon a time, my son was the lead screamer in a screaming rock band. Today, he can sing every song from every Disney princess movie, acting out scenes with his very own 3 year old princess. Flynn Rider has nothin’ on a real live Prince Daddy.

8. Sometimes The Message version nails it. John the Baptist’s statement, “He must become greater, I must become less” is powerful. But Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase paints a picture: “This is the assigned moment for Him to move into the center, while I slip off to the sidelines.” I’ve noticed lately that there’s lots of room on the sidelines.

9. Wintry weather has wreaked havoc on Wednesday nights. We’ve had to cancel church events twice this month. However, PB had a funeral on the day of a snowstorm. And babies were born regardless of the weather. So I guess it’s safe to say that birth and death aren’t called off for inclement weather.

10. Way back when we had four little faces sitting around our homeschooling table, we started the day off with prayer. We prayed for our family, friends, and leaders. We prayed for our state and federal representatives, our governor and our president. We prayed for Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, and Bill Clinton. Then there were no more little faces around the table. But I continued to pray for George W. Bush and Barack Obama. I didn’t vote for all of these presidents, but I prayed for each one. I’m not gonna stop now. In fact, I may even pick it up a bit. May God shed His grace on us.

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10 Things I Read Last Year

In December, I learned to be quiet. That’s all.

So instead of 10 things I learned in December, here is a list of 10 things I read in 2016. I collect quotes like some people collect antique dishes or shoes or shot glasses. Here’s a peek at some good quotes from my reading year.

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1. “Some days I am not sure if my faith is riddled with doubt or whether, graciously, my doubt is riddled with faith…I doubt; I am uncertain; I am restless; prone to wander. And yet glimmers of holy keep interrupting my gaze.” Lauren Winner, Still: Notes On a Mid-Faith Crisis

2. “The library was a little old shabby place. Francie thought it was beautiful. The feeling she had about it was as good as the feeling she had about church. She liked the combined smell of worn leather bindings, library paste and freshly inked stamping pads better than she liked the smell of burning incense at high mass.” Betty Smith, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

3. “Right theology is ultimately hospitality that lives broken right open — with your time and your space and your heart. Every day you can do one thing that you wish you could do for everyone.” Ann Voskamp, The Broken Way

4. “If you want to really tick people off, just bring up the word Jesus… Say Jesus and people either get happy, or they get mad. They either smile, or a cloud comes over their faces…No other name has such potency. Not Clinton, not Gandhi, not Thatcher, not Lennon.” Carolyn Weber, Surprised by Oxford: A Memoir

5. “I have spent so much of my believing life trying to chain myself to a rock in order to prove my love to Jesus that I may have missed the chance to be chained to Jesus instead… Maybe I’ve missed the point all along. Maybe being chained to Jesus doesn’t involve a chain at all.” Micha Boyett, Found: A Story of Questions, Grace and Everyday Prayer

6. “Time doesn’t stop. Your life doesn’t stop and wait until you get ready to start living it.” Wendell Berry, Hannah Coulter

7. “The ordinary activities I find most compatible with contemplation are walking, baking bread, and doing laundry.” Kathleen Norris, The Quotidian Mysteries

8. “Courage is not something that you already have that makes you brave when the tough times start. Courage is what you earn when you’ve been through the tough times and you discover they aren’t so tough after all.” Malcolm Gladwell, David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits and the Art of Battling Giants

9. “Had God pulled me from Adam’s rib and placed me naked in the garden, the story would be no different. Let’s not blame Eve anymore. If she hadn’t eaten the fruit it most certainly would have been me. I would have eaten it again and again, and then I would have given you a bite.” Amber C. Hains, Wild in the Hollow: On Chasing Desire and Finding the Broken Way Home

10. “It seems that God arranged the most humiliating circumstances possible for his entrance, as if to avoid any charge of favoritism.” Philip Yancey, as quoted in Watch For the Light: Readings for Advent and Christmas

What’s in store for 2017? How about a little more Wendell Berry? I must have been a very good girl this year. Tell me, what book are you reading to start 2017?

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10 Things I Learned in November

1. If I live to be 81 years old, I will see six more presidential elections. Lord, have mercy.

2. Inspiration comes from unexpected places. I received a word of encouragement from my daughter’s husband’s mother’s sister’s husband and it was enough to keep me going.

3. Evie is getting a brother in April! It took me a while, but eventually I caught on when I realized everyone was wearing blue one Friday night. The grand score is back to even: boys – 4, girls – 4.

4. If you would have told me five years ago that I would be staying up until midnight cheering on the Chicago Cubs in the seventh game of the World Series, I wouldn’t have believed it. Never say never.

5. On October 4, 1991, I was issued a passport. It expired on October 3, 2001 with no stamps decorating its pages. I am reapplying for a new passport even though I have no plans to go anywhere. My hair looks ridiculous in that ’91 photo.

6. Good gravy is the cornerstone of a successful Thanksgiving dinner. PB grew up with a dad who was a gravy connoisseur, a gravy grandmaster, a gravy guru. So I rolled up my sleeves and roasted, simmered, and whisked. Five hours later, I had a gravy that PB declared “the best I’ve ever tasted”. Grandpa O would have been proud.

7. Hebrews had a word for me this month. “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.” (Hebrews 12:2) I can’t begin to count how many times I whispered to myself this month, “eyes on Jesus, eyes on Jesus”.

8. There’s nothing cuter than watching a four year old muster up his courage to play the “Pie in the Face” game. Unless it’s watching him get a handful of whipped cream in the nose. I hope the four year old reminded his parents that they both offered him a dollar to stick his adorable face in the line of fire.

9. Convincing middle school boys to dress up like angels for the Christmas program is challenging, even if they are the archangels Michael and Gabriel. I’m scouring Pinterest for manly angel costume ideas. Flaming swords might win them over.

10. Advent is a respite this year. I’m eager to enter into a quieter season. More praying and singing, less talking and wrangling. More candles and music, less TV and Facebook. More glory to God in the highest, more peace on earth, more goodwill. It’s time to treasure up some things and ponder them in our hearts.

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10 Things I Learned in October

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1. I think March should be shorter and October should be longer. How about we transfer a few soggy, slushy spring days to golden, gorgeous fall?

2. Old shoe friends are dear. We had a visit this month from a friend who was in college with PB and stood up in our wedding. We haven’t seen him in ten years, but our friendship is comfortable and easy, like an old shoe. There was lots of reminiscing mixed in with sharing current struggles and hopes. These two college boys have stayed the course and served the Lord well. And they’re not done.

3. The Church is not dead. PB and I spent a day in Chicago with 1700 people who gathered to worship and pray for the future of our denomination. As we were cruising down the interstate that morning, I watched the sun rise and I was filled with hope. As we declared our “amen” with one voice, I was filled with grateful optimism. As we drove back home that night, I was filled with awe at how much Christ loves His Bride, the Church.

4. I always cry at weddings. While most guests watch the bride as she comes down the aisle, I prefer to keep my eye on the groom. If he is at all emotional, I’m a goner. If the father of the bride says, “Her mother and I” with a crack in his voice, I’m digging for a tissue. And if my son is a groomsman standing up with his buddies, I’m a puddle.

5. Ruby is getting a sister! Our daughter found out that her March baby will be a girl, balancing the scale in their family (2 boys, 2 girls), but upsetting the equilibrium in our grand total (3 boys, 4 girls).

6. Planting bulbs in October is an act of faith. For the first time in my life, I stuck some bulbs in the cold autumn ground, thanks to a friend who offered to help. I don’t understand how those hard knobs can survive winter under a layer of dirt and leaves. And snow and ice. And subzero temperatures. It’s hard to believe there’s a flower in there, willing to wait in the dark for months — something God alone can see.

7. Adult children are good teachers. I used to write down cute things my kids said. Now I write down their wise words. This month a blog post by my daughter taught me a much needed lesson. Sometimes when it feels like the world is falling to pieces, I need to remember, “It’s not falling apart, it’s falling into place.”

8. Wendell Berry is my new favorite author. I read “Hannah Coulter” this summer and just finished “That Distant Land”. I borrowed one title from the library and the other from a friend. The characters in his books have become such good friends of mine that I need them in my house. I rarely purchase a book AFTER reading it, but Nathan and Burlie and Wheeler and Lyda simply must live on my shelf, near enough to visit every so often.

9. Sometimes a person needs an apple cider donut, especially in October. Last week, I was that person. I went to all three grocery stores nearby, the bakery downtown and the apple orchard down the road, but there was not one apple cider donut within a ten mile radius. Obviously, the craving hasn’t let up. Please, someone find me an apple cider donut.

10. Quote of the month, from “That Distant Land”: “Boys,” he said, “all I want is a good day and a long row.” May we recognize the days we are given as good and the long rows a blessing.

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Bonus! Cute kids in Halloween costumes! Couldn’t resist.

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