31 January 2009

Bright and Dark.

When I think about the blessings in my life, the list grows quickly:

•My prince of a husband, who continues to lavish me with love even when I’m far from lovable
•My precious son – truly the apple of my eye, who causes my heart to leap every time I think of him
•My wonderful daughter-in-love – I always dreamed of having a daughter, and the Lord has answered my prayer in ways too powerful for words
•My “family” – a wonderful mixed bag of real relatives and adopted ones who sustain me, bless me, and remind me of the importance of community
•My Millie and the ever-enthusiastic Reese Rock

The list would be cluttered with amazing experiences that gently linger like the warm fragrance of my sweetheart’s cologne after he’s hugged me or the scent of rosemary on my hands when I clip sprigs for a recipe. There would be the vibrant hues of the turquoise and teal ocean lapping on the shore of the beach at Petit St Vincent, or the sound snow makes when the skis gently glide on it at the Nordic Center at Breckenridge. The list would certainly contain the kiss of the sun when the boat is anchored in a cove at Lake Travis, the joyous pile of messy dishes stacked every Sunday evening at the end of a great dinner with my adopted family, and the experience of watching a movie under a blanket of stars at night in the backyard, with the fire glowing nearby. Laughter would be on that list. Lots of laughter. Oh, how I love laughter.

There would be words on the list – beautiful words.

“I am smitten with you.”

“You have a healthy baby boy!”

“Ian and Gina Rock.”

“You are a rare bird.”

“Your son did an amazing job preaching last night.”

On the list, too, would be blessings of another kind. Blessings that, to the untrained eye, may look more like tragedy, more like curses. But with the passage of time and, through the tender lens of eternity, I find myself so thankful for each messy, dark, haunting moment.

I might find myself a bit reticent to continue the list – perhaps because I wonder what others might think of me should they stumble upon it. But I’m not one of great consequence beyond that which the Lord allows, so the list could very well end up being a personal “treasure” if He opts not to have anyone find it. And should it be discovered at all, perhaps it would inspire someone to embrace each moment, each experience, as a piece of a Divine gift of redemption, mercy, grace, forgiveness, sanctification, and joy.

The dark blessings, like the bright ones, are expressed in experiences. But unlike the bright ones, these blessings are shrouded in what best can be described as a dreamy haze. The color has been drained, a soundtrack of sorts added – a blend of music and scripture and healing words.

“You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done…” (Gen. 50:20)

“And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love.” (Romans 8:38)

On the list would be sexual abuse at the hands of a relative when I was a young girl and physical abuse at the hands of a spouse when I was a young adult. There would be the hunger for love from an alcoholic father, and the unseemly road of relationships that same hunger led me to as a teenager. There would be the goodness of a mom’s biscuits and gravy, in a desperate attempt for comfort after a most difficult and heart-wrenching choice was made in college. And reaching for that same goodness when a mom’s gentle touch would no longer be felt.

Yes, death would be on the list – the saying “goodbye” to dreams and hopes and family and friends. Unanswered questions would be on the list. Loneliness and struggle and doubt and fear would be there. Mistakes and blunders.

There would be more words on the list – small snippets of conversations, captured like a photograph.

“I’m only staying in this marriage because of you.”

“You’ll never amount to anything.”

“Unfortunately, the baby just couldn’t survive…”

“Sweetie, she’s gone.”

”They want to do a biopsy, but I know the cancer’s back.”

Laughter would once again make its way to list. Laughter and dancing in the midst of the pain. Because again, this list is about blessings. And again, the blessings are seen through the lens of eternity.

I pray to not neglect the blessings – both bright and dark – as they continue to mold and shape this life I’ve been given. I pray to savor the experiences. I pray to always hear the laughter.

“We are assured and know that [God being a partner in their labor] all things work together and are [fitting into a plan] for good to and for those who love God and are called according to [His] design and purpose.” (Romans 8:28)

16 January 2009

Friday and the Unfamiliar Road

It’s been 16 weeks, four days, and 1 hour (give or take a few minutes) since I became gainfully unemployed. I remember thinking as I was driving home after receiving the news, “How will I fill the days? What in the world will I do with the time? Will anyone find me valuable? What am I going to have for dinner?” OK, so it was a three hour drive to my real home in Austin – rather than my “home away from home” in Dallas – so eating a bite on the way seemed a natural thing to do.

For the most part, the days have filled themselves. I’ve been blessed to do some marketing for a company or two, help develop a nonprofit organization, do publicity for a band, write for a new business, and help others with their career paths. There is more work on the horizon – for that I’m thankful. I’ve recaptured the joy of putting pen to paper to see what emerges, have rediscovered the healing power in serving others, and for the first time in years, I’m able to sleep soundly on Sunday nights. There are dreams and goals and lists, all waiting to be realized and checked.

And then, there are Fridays. The day that brings joy to so many of my friends, who raise a glass to it in their Facebook messages and plan for it at the beginning of each week, triggers something in me. Something sad, perhaps. Something a little lonely. TGIF has become a symbol of restlessness, because it reminds me of the community that doesn’t exist anymore. It reminds me of the unfamiliar road I’m now walking – a road with sights and sounds unlike those I’ve experienced before. There are no fluorescent lights, no cubicles, no staff meetings or break rooms or internal politics. My office is anywhere I choose it to be. The computer used to write marketing plans and mission statements is the same computer used to check on friends and watch YouTube videos (though I would rather catch the latest on funnyordie.co.uk). The commute is under a minute now, and the dress code is nonexistent. It’s quiet – so very quiet.

I want to be content in this new world, but the journey is not easy. The same battles of confidence and competence are there, seasoned by the solitude. I hunger for the dream, the “something more,” and for the first time in my life believe that the “more” is just around the bend. But the ebb and flow of “more” and “now” pulls at my heart, and once again the sights and quiet sounds of the unfamiliar road crash in.

I long for the day when, on Fridays, I’ll celebrate my own TGIF in this new world. On this Friday, though, “The Goal Is Faithfulness.” Faithfulness in the small things, faithfulness in the blessings I’ve received, faithfulness to walk the unfamiliar road.

09 January 2009

My "50 Before 50" List.

(she squirms a little as she clicks "paste" to place the list in this note).

This year, if all works out, I will have the privilege of turning 50. I'm not sure why, but I've been excited about the number for years now. Perhaps it's because each decade of my life thus far has been better, richer, and more fulfilling than the last. Perhaps it's because, according to fashion and beauty magazines, "50 is the new 30." Or perhaps it's simply because it's an easy number to remember.

I've got about 9 months (give or take a few weeks) of 49 left. So I thought it would be fun, rather than do resolutions and such this year, to craft a list of the 50 things I want to do before I turn 50. This is NOT a bucket list - in fact, penning that gem is on this list. So don't expect to read things like "time-travel" or "climb Mount Everest" here. Rather, this is a compilation of random things that will make me smile, well up with tears, laugh a little, or just simply be struck speechless. There is a bonus list that remains unpublished - just a few things between my Lord and me - but by request, here is my "50 Before 50" list.

(one last squirm)

1.Make a Torta Chelena from scratch.
2.Sing karaoke at a dive bar.
3.Take a road trip with friends. At least three days. I know, three days and we could still be in Texas.
4.Travel at least 500 miles just to have a great dinner.
5.Be published. And not just in a trade publication (I’ve done that before).
6.Travel internationally for ministry.
7.Travel internationally for pleasure.
8.Learn to wakeboard.
9.Complete Rosetta Stone Spanish.
10.Learn sign language.
11.Clean every junk drawer in the house.
12.Get the bike off the garage wall and ride it regularly (mileage goal to be determined). Even think about doing a bike ride for charity.
13.Attend another Becoming an Outdoorswoman weekend.
14.Tandem sky dive (I have a friend who said he would join me on this one).
15.Get my rear in gear and lose that last pesky 10(ish) pounds.
16.Visit 20 small towns in Texas, and actually learn something about each of them. (Participating in a cattle drive on a dude ranch would be a wonderful way to visit one of those towns).
17.Read a minimum of 20 books.
18.Crash a large, prestigious event.
19.Hand-write letters to 25 friends, just to let them know how I feel about them.
20.Learn the basics about football – plays, penalties and such – so I won’t feel like a complete moron when I watch the game.
21.Help start something that’s big enough to garner media attention.
22.Learn to dance with my husband. Yes, I’m cashing in that coupon.
23.Build something with my own hands.
24.Redecorate the master bedroom.
25.See my sister Deb again.
26.Attend the OU/A&M game completely decked out in fan attire. Face makeup and all. (Yes, this will take place a few weeks after my official birthday, but still makes the list).
27.Visit my mother-in-law. By myself.
28.Effectively launch a business. Either mine or someone else’s.
29.Act again. On stage.
30.Read the Bible. (I know – that one’s a little bit cheating).
31.Get accepted into Grad School.
32.Learn to Sabbath.
33.Rediscover the beauty of personal time – a long, soaking bath, a facial, soft music and relaxation.
34.Attend a silent retreat.
35.Get a tattoo.
36.Write my bucket list.
37.Go to a berry farm and pick berries in the sunshine. Then eat them all.
38.Give all the cash in my purse to a homeless person. Maybe twice.
39.Write poetry again, like I used to.
40.Walk in the pouring rain, for fun.
41.Have a picnic. An honest-to-goodness fried chicken picnic, with lawn darts and Frisbee and naps on quilts. With at least 10 friends.
42.Attend at least 5 networking events.
43.Host a radio or television show. Even if it’s only one time.
44.Watch the sunrise with my husband on Lake Travis. That’s right – sunRISE.
45.Go ice fishing.
46.Visit at least two new states (Oregon, the Dakotas, Wyoming, Idaho, the Carolinas, Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Iowa, Nebraska, and West Virginia are options – oh yeah, and Alaska and Hawaii)
47.Visit at least one new country (an abundance to choose from).
48.Host an “adopted sons” reunion at CasaRock. We have many.
49.Direct a music video. And a live stage production to go with it.
50.Sail the ocean blue. OK, just go sailing – anywhere.

03 January 2009

16 or 25 things.

There's a Facebook version of the infamous "copy and paste these questions, complete them, and forward them to at least __ friends" email. In the past few weeks, I have received three "tags" - two on "25 Things about Me" notes and one on "16 Things." I completed my list and published it. I thought I would post the list here, just for fun. My next list will be the "50 things I want to do before I turn 50" list. That one is certainly taking more time and prayer.

1.I don’t think there are 16, let alone 25, things worth sharing. But I’m giving it a good faith effort because I’m an insomniac achiever who can’t let go of a challenge.

2.I have to sleep with white noise. A fan is preferable, and if there’s a compressor involved it’s even better. When I was a little girl, I used to sneak and either turn the air conditioner down low or the heater up high just to keep the “noise” on. Needless to say, it didn’t impress my parents too much.

3.Social situations in which I’m not in some type of “control” make me feel extremely awkward and shy. I’ll tuck myself away somewhere or find one person to chat with – and I’ve been known to simply avoid attending gatherings entirely. But give me a purpose, and I become a social butterfly – eloquent and charming and completely comfortable.

4.I love to entertain in my home. Cooking is therapy to me. And watching others enjoy themselves with good food, drink and conversation is a gift beyond measure.

5.I am not greatly impressed by celebrity (in fact, I’ve found many “famous” people to be shallow and off-putting). I am greatly impressed by character and wisdom.

6.As a child, I had a very active imagination and loved to create things. I once made a water slide out of our entry hallway, baby-powdered my entire bedroom as part of a Halloween project, tried to bake a cake using vodka and Tabasco sauce as liquid (it exploded), and split my chin open attempting to float on a pillow pushed halfway off a bed (“I Dream of Jeannie” style).

7.Not a surprise to anyone – I love to write. But I don’t like writing on command and really dislike the fundamentals of the 5 Ws and the H (who, what, when, where, why and how, for the non-journalists). It’s not that I can’t write traditional stuff – I’ve certainly penned my share of press releases and new stories over time. But to be perfectly honest, I need to be inspired in some way. And when I am inspired, it’s difficult for the words NOT to come.

8.I really wish I could sing well. In fact, the dream job for me would be to be a “triple threat” star on Broadway. To act, sing, and dance – it makes me smile just to think about it. I’ve been told I’m a decent actor, and I’ve been in dance troupes in the past, but no one has ever asked me to sing a solo. So I’ll be content with “making a joyful noise.”

9.I thoroughly enjoy learning about other people – their history, their philosophies, their hopes and dreams and fears. And I derive a great sense of joy from helping people understand their unique worth and purpose.

10.When I say, “Nothing shocks me,” I mean it. My childhood and family life trained me well through what I saw and experienced – alcoholism and drugs, abuse, infidelity, corruption, illness, untimely deaths...

11.I was a radio star at the young age of 4. Unfortunately, it was a “one shot” deal. I was with my dad on KLPR, a country station in Oklahoma City. My parents were good friends with the owner, Jack Beasley, and he thought it would fun to have me visit. He asked me what radio station was my favorite. Another station in town had a commercial that featured a little girl saying “My mommy listens to WKY.” So, I smiled and said, “My daddy listens to WKY.” End of visit.

12.There are few things I hate. In fact, there are only two things that come to mind right now: abuse and cancer. I even have a soft spot for really horrible people, because my natural inclination is to want to understand why (see #7).

13.I miss my mom. So much.

14.I have an unnatural fear of strapping two sticks on my feet and flying at a rapid rate down a snow-covered hill. I even took lessons, did well, but hyperventilated as my instructor guided me down the mountain at the end of the day. Give me a snowmobile, however, and I’m a madwoman.

15.I ascribe human emotions to most everything. And because of that, I am a sucker for leftover holiday stuff at a store, stuffed animals that don’t look quite right, or broken things. There’s a pig in my kitchen that happily lives there now after suffering a broken leg at Z Gallerie (the salesperson said, “You do understand you can’t bring this back.” Are you kidding me? I was adopting him!). I own a stuffed animal named Fu Man Rabbit, named that because his little whiskers hang down. And this week, I almost cried at Walgreens when I saw the Christmas aisle – just thinking about all the toys and candy and wrapping paper that wanted to brighten someone’s life but didn’t get the chance.

16.I have little respect for leaders who don’t have a true servant’s heart, for “yellow-dog” anything, and for people who love to argue for argument’s sake.

17.As a little girl, I had a crush on two blondes: Johnny Quest and Cowboy Andy. One was a cartoon character and one was a character in a Dr Seuss book. I thought both boys were far better than any real boys I knew.

18.In a perfect world, I would own four houses. One for each season, so I could decorate each perfectly with just the right furniture and accoutrement. And each would be in a different part of the world, so it would receive the greatest benefits of that season.

19.I have a very strong sense of smell. And I “see” smells in imagery and colors. For example, a daycare smells like strawberry kiddy sweat to me. And our cabin in East Texas smells like barn locker. A candle I just received smells extremely blue. And my dog’s feet smell like popcorn grass.

20.I sucked my finger until I was 9. Right index finger, accompanied by a blanket with a silk edge that I rubbed with my thumb and middle finger (also right hand). I learned the startling truth that no other kids sucked their fingers while at my first slumber party. I kicked the habit cold turkey that night.

21. I attempted suicide when I was 20. I had everything a gal could want – great job, money, fun friends who loved to party – but.. So I took an overdose of nerve pills. It’s not that I wanted to die. I just wanted to see if anyone would actually notice – or care. Absolutely nothing happened. Seriously – an entire bottle of nerve pills, and nothing happened. Talk about divine intervention. I became a Christ-follower a month later.

22.I call puppies “babies” and babies “punkins.”

23.I really thought I would be living in a foreign land by now. I’m not sure where exactly, but in my mind’s eye, I see myself working with the poor and displaced in another country.

24.I apologize in advance for those I will tag in this note – and do not expect any of you to follow through with your own list (though I will most certainly read any that are published).

25.I honestly do think life should be a musical. But then again, I believe it quite possibly is after all.