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Archive for May, 2008

I’d never done it before, and I think it surprised everyone in the house who heard me confess to it:  I’d never ridden a subway.  We don’t have one in my hometown of Litchfield, Michigan. (Actually, we don’t even have a traffic light in Litchfield.)  I never had the need to use public transportation in any place I’ve ever lived for any length of time (although, my summer in Dallas, TX, while attending Dallas Theological Seminary, would have been greatly enhanced by NOT having had to drive those BIG Texan distances in that place). Even when traveling overseas in Europe or South America as a student some thirty-odd years ago, bus or train or air got me where I needed to go without making use of a subway system.

So, taking the Metro into Washington DC from the Frederick, MD, home of my brother and sister-in-law last Wednesday morning was a new experience.  I aimed to make the most of it and used all my senses (and my trusty pen and green memo book) to that end.

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  • The man appeared to be of Middle Easter descent.  He carried an insulated lunch bag adorned with a bold design of red, white, and blue stars and stripes.  I wondered if that was his defense statement against any who might view him with suspicion because of his ethnicity.  On the other hand, it could be that his wife got a good deal on the lunch box at Big Lots.
  • I guess one of the unwritten rules on the DC morning commute is “Don’t talk to me.”  Consequently, each car on the line carries encapsulated bits of humanity with apparently little connection or overlap.
  • If I made that commute every morning, I’d get a lot of reading done.  I had this strong urge to go around the car and peek at the cover of everyone’s morning read, to get some good book recommendations.  I resisted.
  • A writer could get a great deal of mileage out of the morning commute.  Has anyone written Their Lives:  The Morning Commute in Seventeen Vignettes or My Life in the Metro ?
  •  The greatest incongruity I observed was the gal who sat across from me.  She was wearing a black racing jacket (embellished with various sponsors’ names)–and she was working on a piece of counted cross stitch, a black on light blue design.
  • A clean cut twenty-something young man (I’m guessing at his age), in black dress pants and a crisp white dress shirt, reviewed a stack of note cards.  A student about to give a class presentation?  An up-and-coming entrepreneur ready to make his first big pitch at work? (Not the latter…note cards are too low tech.  Of course, they’d be low tech in a number of college classes too.)  Maybe he was a newly minted Mormon missionary.  Or maybe he keeps track of his to-do list on 3×5 cards and was in for a REALLY busy day.
  • In the “How did she do that?” department:  A young Asian woman stood at the front of our car, when seats were at a premium by the end of the line.  She held on to nothing to keep her balance as the car swayed and lurched down the track.  Meanwhile, she drank a bottle of grape juice and, as far as I could tell, spilled not a drop.  Me?  I would have had it down the front of my shirt, like so much purple tie dye.

It might get old if I did it every day, but for that one day, riding the Metro was a people watcher’s paradise.
 

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“I’m going to be adopted!”

I heard those words from a complete, but obviously gleefully happy, stranger this morning. 

I stepped out my door to get the car out of the garage so I could take Michael to work.  As I did, a student passed by my house on foot.  I couldn’t tell if it was a boy or a girl–I think, though, it was the latter–since the burgundy hoodie hood was pulled tight around the bespectacled face.  I would judge by the somewhat lanky and gawky stature that this child was late elementary or early middle school age.

As we made eye contact, I said, “Good morning!” and she waved.  Immediately her newsy words about adoption tumbled out of her mouth, accompanied by a wide grin. 

“How exciting!” was my reply.

“I’m so-o-o excited!” was hers.

“Good for you!”  and that was the end of it.

I know nothing of what this child’s life has been heretofore.  But the joyful anticipation of what is going to change with her “Adopted” status clearly possesses her entire being.

My sidewalk encounter turned my mind to these words that, in my Bible, are followed by the penciled-in exclamation “Overwhelming!”:

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.  For He chose us in Him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in His sight.  In love He predestined us to be adopted as His sons through Christ Jesus, in accordance with His pleasure and will–to the praise of His glorious grace, which He has freely given us in the One He loves.  In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that He lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding.  And He made known to us the mystery of His will according to His good pleasure, which He purposed in Christ to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment–to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ.  (Ephesians 1:3-10) 

 

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Yesterday, Zach and I went to visit the principal of the public high school he will attend next year.  The main purpose of our visit, other than to meet this very nice gentleman, was to determine if Zach would be able to enter as a sophomore, based on the high school credits he has earned thus far in our home school. 

I had no doubts when I turned in the detailed course of study and transcripts required when Gabe and Ellen, my now 24- and almost-23-year-old offspring, were going through their college admissions process five years ago at this time.  I knew that their high school academics had been rigorous enough to stand scrutiny. 

It was a little different with Zach, in that, not having planned on this turn in the road, I had structured his high school course of study a little differently from that of the big kids, and he has only completed one year of that plan.  (Someone laughed at me the other day when I used that term “big kids”.  I grew up in a family where the space of a few years separated the older two of us who were only 15 months apart from the younger three, who were 18 months apart–a single followed by twins.  So, it has come naturally to me to call Gabe and Ellen the “big kids” since they are separated in age from Zach by 9 and 7 years, respectively.)  A couple of Zach’s courses from this year were intended to be part of course work that we would complete later on in his high school course work.  Nonetheless, I wrote the documentation of his credits up the best way I could and went off to our meeting with the principal.

The upshot made my day: Zachs’s credits will transfer, which means he can enter public high school as a sophomore.  (This was a significant thing; he had said that if he had to enroll as a freshman, he might not want to go away to school after all.)  And, though it was an unexpected turn of events, his grades will not transfer.  In the big picture, this seems like a good thing:  he will establish his grade point starting with the classes he takes there.  This makes sense to me; even though I have always tried to be objective when giving grades to my homeschool students, accepting my grades would create something of an apples and oranges situation for Zach’s new school.  This way, his grades earned and his high school diploma awarded will reflect totally the school’s academic program.
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I was driving Zach to work at midday today.  As we passed a downtown hotel and were about to round the corner, a pedestrian caught our attention.  He was dressed in a very fine manner, was pulling a piece of wheeled luggage, and was practically dancing as he moved down the sidewalk with a big grin on his face.  As we passed him, we could see he was talking on a cell phone.  I wondered what he was hearing that was putting such a spring in his step.  Zach’s comment was:  “That guy just made my day.  Don’t say anything about him, Mom.”  I think Zach’s message to me was:  Just let me appreciate that little bit of seredipity, that unexpected joy spot in this day.  Point well-taken, Son.
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My friend’s daughter is getting married on Saturday.  Said friend came over this afternoon to firm up my responsibilities at the reception (another mutual friend and I are in charge of beverages.) and, maybe, for a little moral support from a former mom-of-the-bride.  She had told me earlier in the week that a dear friend of hers, who was going to sing at the wedding and was also in charge of setting up the table decorations for the reception, had just been diagnosed with what is believed to be lung cancer and is not up to either of those tasks for Saturday.  That has been an added stressor and low point emotionally in my friend’s week, as you can imagine.  Today, the mother-of-the-bride told me a very cool “God thing” that happened:  She went to a musical activity at her church last night and one of the leaders said to her, “God pretty much told me I needed to ask you if there was any way I could help you out with the wedding.”  When taking on the task of the reception decorating was mentioned, the leader was more than happy to help and that is one more thing that the mother-of-the-bride can roll off her own shoulders.  Not only did the lady who was listening to God’s voice bless my friend, but she served to encourage the friend with lung cancer as well, reminding her that God has a way of taking care of things and,  more importantly, of us.  

Doesn’t that just make your day?        

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For once, I did it.  I managed to get some lilies of the valley cut and to carry them, with their indescribable fragance, into my house before the rain and warm May days turned the short-lived bell blossoms brown.  Ah, I think heaven should smell like this!

Speaking of heavenly smells–I had an experience a week ago Friday that I don’t believe I’ve ever had before.  I was mowing the grass in our backyard and, honestly, the scent of lilacs wafting from the neighbor’s bush across the alley was nearly intoxicating.  I don’t think I’ve even enjoyed a lawn-mowing session so much!

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I walked home from Yeoman’s Service Center this morning after taking the car for an oil change and look-over before our little road trip next week to Gettysburg and D.C.  (My brother and sister-in-law live in Frederick, MD, so staying with them instead of a motel is the only way we could even begin to think about this sojourn given the current price of gas.  Thanks, David and Karen!)  I walked down the opposite side of the street from the one I usually do on this particular walk.  I noticed houses I haven’t noticed before.  And I was thinking.

I don’t live in the richest neighborhood in Fort Wayne.  People driving around town who live in more affluent parts of the city might even call this a poor neighborhood.  But, over the years, I have seen there are riches here that can’t be measured in dollars and cents.  I see them when extended families are laughing and sharing a summer evening together on their front porches.  Flowers blooming in unexpected places–around the foundation of a house in dire disrepair–show that someone, sometime had an eye for beauty here. 

My eyes have learned how to focus differently in the 18 years this neighborhood has been home.  Today, I passed by a house–with a little clump of red tulips cheerfully heralding glorious spring at the corner of the front porch–that was in a state of great neglect.  A broken down car sat in front of a droopy garage.  The front porch was filled, not with a porch swing and potted plants, but with black garbage bags of who-knows-what, assorted and abandoned children’s toys, and other stuff I didn’t take time to analyze.  A big ladder was on its side, leaning up against the house’s north foundation.  My first thought was “This is a dump.”  But my second thought, which came quickly, was that things have not gone as hoped here.  Perhaps this is the home of a single mom who is scratching out a living for little ones and hasn’t an ounce of energy left to do anything when she gets home at night.  Maybe someone lives here who moved in with great hopes for making this a lovely home–thus the tulips?–but has fallen on hard times and laughs scornfully at the idea of providing for more than food on the table and the ability to keep the utilities from being turned off due to delinquent payments.  Maybe the inside of the house is filled with shadows as an occupant dies of some wasting or debilitating illness–who cares, then, about the mess on the front porch or in the driveway? 

That was the extreme view on my morning walk.  But it pushed me to prayer and to more widely-open eyes for my remaining steps.  Show me why I’m in residence here on East Rudisill Boulevard and, God who loves every person who lives in every house I passed this morning, don’t let me miss the opportunities you put in front of me every day. 

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If you want to read words that will tingle your spine and lift your spirits all at the same time–but do this only if you are willing to pray for a sister and brother in need, for the urge and desire will be irresistible–go to http://cramerworld.wordpress.com/  This is where friends (a former pastor and his wife) are updating their friends and family about their journey in the face of cancer.  I am humbled and inspired every time I visit this blog. 

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A blessing:
As you go on your way, may Christ go with you:
May He go before you to show you the way.
May He go behind you to encourage you,
Beside you to befriend you,
Above you to watch over,
Within you to give you peace.
Amen.

 

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Don’t laugh when you try to picture this:  Beginning last Sunday and going through the middle of June, I’m teaching a class of 70-somethings (or so; some may be a little younger–I don’t ask and they don’t tell) each week at our church.  I’m a substitute teacher. 

I’ve subbed in that class before this little stint.  One time, I shared about personally meaningful hymns and their roots in various Bible passages.  A few weeks ago, we had a lesson on the topic of “hope”.  Last week and this, we’re thinking about “spiritual influence” and looking at Paul’s letters to a young pastor he looked upon as “my dear son”, Timothy. 

Last week, we focused on the book of I Timothy; this week, we will look at II Timothy, written as the Apostle was approaching the end of his life.  In fact, my understanding is that this is the last letter (recorded in the Bible) written before Paul’s death.

They always say you can tell a lot about a person’s life by how he or she goes about dying.  I think in the same way, the words a person shares at the end of life say a great deal about what matters most, about what is weighty and significant in his life.  I’m seeking that out as I study Paul’s words to Timothy and ponder the class time coming up on Sunday.

I’m curious:  If you knew you were dying, what would you be saying to the individual(s) you most desire to influence?  In what one or two or three directions would you endeavor to aim their hearts and minds as they face the life (and ministry) that lies ahead?   

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BTW

(My sister asked me just the other day what I meant by “BTW”–it becomes a convenient shorthand to use for “by the way” and one can be inconsiderate with such usage.)

But, by the way, I just wanted to say that, even though I made a big announcement a couple of months ago that I was going to abandon xanga and move my blogging to WordPress, I am still over at xanga–for some things. 

I do my more reflective, “serious” blogging here.  Xanga posts tend to be reserved for more diary-type entries–pictures of the granddaughter’s first trip to the zoo are the current post as I write this– and things like my efforts at the Poetry 2008 Challenge I picked up through another xangabuddy.  But, then again, sometimes the content between blogs is rather fluid.  I don’t mind it–it’s all me.  I hope you don’t mind it, either.

(Click on this site’s blogroll link “Ma’s Musings” to get to my xanga site.)

Does anybody else who reads here have multiple blogs going?  How do you manage them?

(My husband told me the other day that there was a large segment of content at a lecture he attended recently that focused on the truly “split personality” that some people are developing in the context of social networking.  There are people who live entirely fictional “virtual lives” through their blogs, not with harmful intent, but simply because they can.  I certify to you that both of my blogs are really me–I’ll label fiction as such anytime I write it.)  

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Melanie\'s First Zoo TripYesterday was my granddaughter Melanie’s first visit to the zoo.  Thanks to our handy-dandy zoo pass (one of the best bargains in Fort Wayne if you visit the zoo more than a couple of times per summer), daughter Ellen, Melanie, and I could all get in without paying additional entrance fees.

It is good to see a familiar sight through someone else’s eyes periodically.  Ellen and I got just as tickled by Melanie’s responses as she did by the things that she was seeing for the first time.  Her first delight inside the zoo entrance was watching the spraying water in the frog fountain area and seeing the other children at play there.  (That’s when I snapped this pic.)

This may be an analogy carried a little too far, but I made another interesting observation about Melanie’s enjoyment of the zoo:  We visited after lunch, so the longer we were there, the closer Melanie was to nap time.  Yet, as sleepy and out of it as she was becoming, she seemed to perk up and truly enjoy the animals each time Ellen or I picked her up out of her stroller and held her so she could see what was around her.  Aren’t we like that?  We get a much better perspective on life from the secure, re-energizing place of the Father’s arms of love wrapped around us. 

Ellen and I talked about how much fun it will be to see Melanie’s different responses every time we go to the zoo, as she becomes more aware of her surroundings, as she begins to be more verbal, as she (just think–next year at this time!) is able to walk about on her own.  (That part of the discussion led to the anticipation of needing a “leash”, Ellen called it; as a  young mom, the device we used with toddlers at the zoo was called a “hand holder”–much more humane sounding…and looking).  Just as we anticipate those responses that will change with growth, so I’m guessing our Heavenly Father awaits our changing, maturing responses to His wonders in our lives too.

 

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