Friday, December 31, 2010

Being Spontaneous

And it's New Year's Eve again. This is the first time since . . . hmm . . . maybe since we've been married that we've been home on New Year's Eve (and that's over twenty years). Our holidays are usually a 10-14 day family extravaganza in Kansas. We came home earlier than usual this year because Eastin had rehearsals for the community theater play she's in.

I have to say, I'm enjoying the time at home with no real responsibilities, nothing that HAS to be done right now. I'm enjoying gradually putting the Christmas things away . . repairing, replacing and weeding out as I go. Feeling like I can stop and do the little jobs that I see around the house when I see them -- like washing out the refrigerator drawers, decluttering the bookshelf by my bed, sweeping under the entryway rug -- instead of putting them off because I have ten other jobs that have more immediate deadlines that I feel like I have to prioritize.

In fact, I considered making a list of things I wanted to get done this week at home, and I forced myself not to. I want a week free of schedule. I want a week to be led by my heart, or my gut, or the Spirit, or whatever ends up leading me other than the tyrannical to-do list. I seem to be craving some spontaneity, which is totally out of character for me.

There is a part of me that is afraid I'm going to wake up next Wednesday morning (the day we start back to school) with regrets. I'm going to wish I'd accomplished more during this time. I'm going to suddenly think of a handful of things that I needed to get done that this would have been the perfect time for. And then I'll be so stressed out by all that, that any benefit I will have gotten from my vacation from duty will be swept out the window. Such has happened before.

But I'm going to risk it. If I'd been in Kansas this whole time, like usual, I wouldn't have gotten that stuff done either. Everything will be fine, right? Surely I can take one week to live life at a different pace. I think that's a good way to start the year. Right?

Somebody say, "Right!"

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Concerning What the Kids Are Listening To These Days

On our drives to, from, and around Kansas this holiday season, we had occasion to listen to more of our daughters' radio preferences than we usually listen to. And I have some pertinent observations:

- Intricate melody lines are not integral to the genre any longer. Nor are simply interesting ones.

- Ke$ha apparently pronounces her name with a short "e" sound. And she's raunchy.

- If the singer's male, then I think it's Usher. They all sound like Usher to me. Except for Justin Bieber, who -- poor thing -- still sounds like an eleven-year-old girl.

- The Bieber boy does have a nice song in "Pray", however.

- Lots of repetition -- of notes, of phrases, of words, of syllables and consonant sounds. Remember when stuttering used to be a handicap? It's now a generational statement.

- I heard at least two songs that referenced Mick Jagger simply to make a rhyme with "swagger". You can't convince me any young lady these days wants a boy that looks like Mick Jagger.

- Selena Gomez apparently sings the theme song to the new Disney channel show "Shake It Up". I actually kind of like her stuff. And by all accounts, she seems to be a pretty together girl. Let's hope she doesn't go all Brittany/Miley on us.

- As often as they are told to put their hands in the air, I do hope today's teenagers have the deodorant situation all figured out.

- Katy Perry can give Ke$ha a run for her money in the raunchiness department. And Lady Gaga is just one bizarre chick (didn't need to listen to the radio to figure that out).

- All this durned new-fangled music sounds the same to me. Not bad necessarily . . . just all the same. I expect every generation of parents has thought the same thing. I'm officially old now. Dadnabbit.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Hark Yet Again!

Veiled in flesh the Godhead see. Hail, the incarnate Deity!

I love that phrase, "veiled in flesh". Think about what a veil does. It covers body parts you don't want the world to see outright. But those parts are still there, and what you see gives you hints of what's hidden. A Muslim woman may hide her body, but her eyes are still visible, giving evidence of the beautiful woman attached to them.

God "veiled himself in flesh" -- he put on a physical human covering to hide the deity inside. But his real nature still peeked out. In his words, in his miracles, in his loving glances . . . the idea of Jehovah God becoming a human being would have positively scandalous to first century Jews -- downright heresy. Yet, those who knew him best came to believe just that.

Pleased as man with man to dwell -- Jesus, our Emmanuel!

Every year at Christmas, I am struck again by the idea of Jesus choosing to become our Emmanuel -- God with us. Becoming one of us.

I remember hearing a story once of a boy watching ants scurrying around an anthill which was directly in the path of another boy's Big Wheel barreling down the sidewalk. "I wish I could become an ant," he thought, "so I could warn them of what's coming and tell them to get out of the way!" The gap between the nature of a human and that of an ant is simply dwarfed by the gap between the nature of God Almighty and that of his human creation. I think because we are made in God's image, we sometimes don't remember what a monstrous gulf lies between us and our Maker and what a monumental sacrifice it was for Christ to give up so much of his own nature to veil himself in flesh.

Hark -- Yo! Listen up, folks! -- the herald angels sing, "Glory to the newborn King!"

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Hark Again!

Peace on earth and mercy mild . .

"Peace on earth" is one of the Biblical mantras taken up by the secular world. Who can argue with that aim, right? But in all honesty, it's a phrase that annoys me. (Or maybe it's just spillover annoyance from my currently stuffed-up head. Christmas spirit . . Christmas spirit . . ) It annoys me because people toss around the phrase so casually with no real consideration for what it would honestly take to have peace on earth. Let's be frank -- we don't even have peace in the church, and we're supposed to be the unified Body of Christ. Maybe I'm a pessimist, but I don't have a whole lot of hope for anything resembling what most people would define as peace on earth.

Yet, I still find the declaration of the herald angels to be comforting, because while I don't hold out much hope for the nations and peoples of the world to stop fighting, share a Coke, and live "in per-fect har-mo-nyyyyyy", I do have hope for Jesus to create peace in my own little tormented heart . . . and in my home . . . and in my family . . . and isn't it true, really, that that's where peace on earth would have to start? With individual men and women coming to peace with themselves and their God? May his mild, gentle mercy shower on us and give us peace!

God and sinners reconciled!

Hallelujah! I find this line to be a bit premature in a Christmas song, because the reconciliation really didn't happen until the cross, thirty-three years later. Nevertheless, all time is Present in God's economy, and at the moment of Jesus' birth, his resurrection was as good as accomplished. Sinners reconciled to their God! ME reconciled to my God! Once the decision to come to earth as a man was made, and the material body was inhabited, the commitment to the death on the cross was a done deal.

Joyful, all ye nations rise! Join the triumph of the skies!

Rise up JOYFUL! Every nation! The rich nations . . the poor nations . . the spiritually cold and the spiritually hot . . the stiff and formal . . the loud and enthusiastic . . the hungry and desperate . . the fattened and over-satisfied . . . ALL ye nations! Rise up joyful! Join the song of triumph -- TRIUMPH! Triumph is VICTORY, people! God and sinners reconciled is a grand and glorious victory!!

With the angelic hosts proclaim, "Christ is born in Bethlehem!"
Hark! the herald angels sing,
"Glory to the newborn King!"


I'm in Kansas now, fighting off a terrible cold and fighting to hold on to some Christmas spirit. I'm not sure I have the energy to be spirited on the outside, but I'm going to try to keep some spirit on the inside with the help of my favorite Christmas carol.

Hark, the herald angels sing . .

Herald: n. a person who carries or proclaims important news; a messenger. (I'm sure there's somebody out there who wasn't sure what a herald was!)

Proclaim: tr. v. to declare publically -- typically insistently, proudly, or defiantly and in either speech or writing; announce.

So, the angels were specifically sent as messengers to give important news, news they delivered not only publically -- "this is for everyone to hear!" -- but insistently -- "you must listen to this! It's important!" -- proudly -- "What a privilege to be the ones to tell you this!" -- and defiantly -- "Take that, you sorry loser, Lucifer!"

And what do they sing? "Glory to the newborn King!"

Glory: n. praise, honor, distinction, renown, worship, thanksgiving, beauty and splendor, MAGNIFICENCE! All of this was due (owed) to God Almighty because of the arrival of his Son on earth . . . Jesus . . . the newborn King.

King! King not because of what he accomplishes later in life, but by right of his birth. BORN a King -- the only Son of the great King. A King with a Kingdom -- a Kingdom he inherits from his Father, yet he also has to conquer it, to win a great battle against the usurper of his Father's people.

No one would have guessed if they walked in and looked at this poor, tired, probably dirty young couple spending the night in a barn that the baby the girl had just birthed, who was now sleeping in the cow's feeding box, was a King . . the greatest of all Kings. One would never come to this conclusion using human perception or reason. The only people who knew who Jesus was at this point were those to whom his identify had been revealed -- Mary and Joseph, some Eastern astronomers just now examining scriptures and the skies, and a handful of shepherds privileged to receive the heralds' message. God has crowned humanity with reason, but not with the intention that we cease to rely on him and his expressed revelation. Some truths we will never come to on our own. We have to be told.

Hark -- Listen! Pay Attention! -- the herald angels sing, "Glory to the newborn King!"

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Under-Nourished, In Every Way

Dr. Luse recommended I watch an interview on with a sleep specialist. Very informative. I downloaded the transcript so I could digest it more. It has a lot of food for thought beyond my sleep problems.

The guy talks about how sleep medications -- particularly over-the-counter ones, but even prescriptions to some degree -- give you kind of a junk food equivalent of sleep. You're not awake, but you're not getting the physiological benefit of genuine, natural sleep.

He also talked about light and our physiological need for it. That natural sunlight, which is "full-spectrum" light, provides things our bodies need, plus it regulates our bodies' cyclical systems (including the sleep/wake cycle). With the advent of electricity, we have changed our cycles; our bodies are getting more light than we're supposed to, and it messes us all up.

Not only that, but the light we get is artificial light, not the full-spectrum light that the sun provides. It's the junk food equivalent of light. We're over-lit, but under-nourished by the light we get.

Just like the food we eat. Americans are eating more and more all the time -- the obesity rate is skyrocketing. But the food we eat has less and less of the nutrients we need. Over-fed, under-nourished.

This was all meshing with thoughts I've had lately about other areas of my life. Like, all the information we are bombarded with everyday. Emails, blogs, Facebook statuses and links, talk shows, talk radio, 24-hour news channels . . . we are absolutely saturated with knowledge all the time, but most of it just fills us rather than feeds us. Over-informed, under-nourished.

Consider our relationships. I know people who have literally hundreds -- maybe thousands -- of "friends" on Facebook. But the extent of that friendship is reading a witty (or not-so-witty) status update and the occasional click of the "like" button. There is food for the soul in a real face-to-face relationship with another person -- looking in the eye, touching the shoulder, feeling the warmth of their physical presence, seeing the depth of their feeling in their expression. We're over-connected, under-nourished.

Our technologically progressing society has given us fake light, processed food, empty knowledge, and superficial relationships. My, how we mega-evolved, arrogant human beings mess up life! Seems like God had the better way to do things all along.

Friday, December 10, 2010

And The Sleep Saga Continues

I know many of you are friends who wonder what's going on with my sleep problems. So, I apologize to those of you who don't care to read about this. But this is a good way to update folks.

So, a couple months or so ago, my newest doctor recommended we test my neurotransmitters -- those are the chemicals in your brain. I find it fascinating that none of the other doctors in the last two years suggested this. The last sleep specialist left me with the recommendation that I find a psychiatrist who would prescribe me an anti-depressant to see if messing with the neurotransmitters would help, but why he didn't suggest testing the levels of the neurotransmitters first, I can't imagine.

Anyway, the test was revealing. My excitatory neurotransmitters (the ones that rev you up, keep you alert) are at elevated levels, and my inhibitory neurotransmitters (the ones that calm you, put you to sleep) are, in his words, "almost nonexistent". Well, that's useful information.

This doc leans toward the natural remedy, which I appreciate, so he recommended I take 5-HTP and Taurine. 5-HTP is an essential amino acid that has to be there for serotonin production, and Taurine apparently does something similar for GABA (GABA and serotonin were two of the inhibitory neurotransmitters I was lowest in).

It's been about a month and a half. I don't think I'm sleeping any better. I still yawn all day -- I even have HAD to lay down for a nap once in a while, which I've usually been able to avoid (naps often mess even more with my night sleep). However . . I'm often more alert and positive during the day -- I'm guessing that's just a result of the extra serotonin. Anyway, the doctor said the next step would be to test my adrenal glands, so I did that test and sent it in earlier this week. The results probably won't get in until I'm already out of town for Christmas.

So, the saga continues. I know a couple other people who are also dealing with health issues that just seem to have no answer. Very frustrating. I know many of you are praying for me, and I really appreciate that. Please pray that, whatever it is that I'm supposed to be learning from this experience -- dependence on God, contentment with all circumstances, perseverance when my well seems completely dry, whatever -- I will learn my lessons well. It would really suck to go through all this and have nothing to show for it in the end.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

When Holding Your Tongue Won't Cut It

You know, I seem to be getting older. And interestingly, the people in my life who are older than me are getting even older than I am. This is perhaps a beneficial coincidence as I am able to learn some lessons about aging through observation.

Here's one I've noticed over the years. Old people seem to lose their tact. They wear their feelings on their sleeves. In their younger years, they might have thought that new dress of yours was gaudy and too short, but they smiled, complimented you on your figure, and kept their true feelings well hidden. But as they age, they seem to lose some of this ability to hide the opinions that they know may not be well-received . . . either that or they just stop giving a hoot.

I noticed this some even in my mom as she aged. And those of you who knew my mom know she was about as sweet as sweet could ever come. Always kind, always accommodating , the queen of if-you-can't-say-something-nice-don't-say-anything-at-all. Yet, even my ultra-agreeable mother, in her later years, seemed to have trouble keeping her real feelings under wraps at times.

"Oh, you wanted to eat out tonight? Well, I suppose that's fine. I had thought I might make that chicken casserole I was telling you about -- I got the ingredients for it when I was out the other day -- but we don't need to have that, I suppose. Eating out is just fine if that's what you want." If you didn't know my mom, you'd think she was being manipulative, passive aggressive. And in someone less well-trained in sweetness than my mom, it may have come out active aggressive. "Eat out? What the h-- for?? I got food right here!!"

It's very striking to me to see people who I know have spent all their lives trying to be kind to others suddenly become downright cantankerous. You would never have dreamed it of them. THEY would never have dreamed it of them. Like I said, some of them probably have just stopped caring what anyone thinks, but many of them I'm afraid would be mortified if they realized how they come across.

I see this as a warning: if I don't want to slip someday and, say, tell a friend that they married a loser, I'd better learn to see that spouse as not such a loser -- for real. It's not enough to learn to control my tongue. My tongue will eventually betray my heart . . . probably long before I'm an old woman. Better to focus on changing my heart. That's where I'm supposed to be focused anyway.

Monday, December 6, 2010

The Strength of the Soul

"All the leaves are off the trees," my husband noted as we were driving home from KC at Thanksgiving. And he was right. That's sad, I thought, until I started examining the bare trees more closely.

A leaf-less tree is beautiful and fascinating. You see the bare structure lying underneath that supports everything. Some have thick, solid trunks and branches . . . some have branches that grow upward, some downward, some in a complicated maze of tangles . . . some have empty cavities where a significant appendage has been torn from the base . . . some end in feathery wisps of twigs haloing around the edges of the plant. It's like seeing into the soul of the tree.

Some were dark brown . . light brown . . gray . . and a few here and there were stark white. They stood out against the others dramatically, every crook of every twig clearly apparent against the backdrop of its darker grove-mates. I've known people who, I would guess if we saw their souls, would have stood out against the crowd like those white-barked trees. And wouldn't I love to be one of those people! Praying every day for God to wash the grime from my soul so I shine white like those trees.

I thought for a minute that I would like to be one of the large trees with the thick trunk and branches. With a solid, heavy structure that would stand up to the wicked Great Plains winds -- no blowing me down! Then I remembered our big elm and the damage it got in last June's storm. Maybe it would be better to have a thin, flexible trunk -- one that bends to let the mean winds pass by and then rights itself again.

Tough to choose, really. Because some storms in our life need to be allowed to pass harmlessly by while we wisely step out of the way, and others need to faced with upright defiance. And still other storms will do their damage no matter how we choose to approach them. Far better, I suppose, to have deep, widespread roots that keep you anchored through it all and give you the means to survive and thrive after the winds have taken their toll.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010


Unless you've spent time with a therapist or read a lot of self-help books (or watch a lot of Dr. Phil/Oprah type TV), you may never have been challenged to examine the automatic thoughts that play in your mind. Let me issue that challenge to you.

I set out to walk the dog this afternoon in the snow out front and as I tried to avoid a small drift on the sidewalk, I heard my inner brain voice say, "Snow -- I'm SO annoyed." And it occurred to me that my inner brain voice seems to sometimes have that remark on an endless loop. "My sock has a hole -- I'm SO annoyed. The kid has my laptop -- I'm SO annoyed. There's dog hair on the sofa -- I'm SO annoyed." For Pete's sake, I'm a regular curmudgeon.

I had no cause to be so annoyed at this walk with the dog. It wasn't that terribly cold out anymore. The sun was shining. The snow wasn't deep and the walk wasn't slick. The dog didn't get any business done, but he had never indicated to me that he had business to do -- I just figured I'd walk him while I put stuff in the mailbox to be picked up.

I have no idea where this tendency to feel annoyance at every minor disruption in my life began. I know it is worse when I'm not sleeping well -- even to the point of being completely uncontrollable. Maybe I've not slept well for so long that it's simply become a habit of thinking. Well, no maybes about that, I guess. It is definitely a habit of thinking.

And one I need to change. I mean, that's a Biblical command. "Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable -- if anything is excellent or praiseworthy -- think about such things." Even secular psychologists will affirm the power of "positive thinking". I've got to made a point of looking for the true, noble, praiseworthy stuff around me.

Cuz my negative attitude is just annoying.