Friday, July 29, 2011

I'm Losin' It . . .

At the risk of convincing you I'm nuts (which, arguably, I may very well be), I gotta tell you about my recent library adventures.

I was headed to the library Monday to pick up some books to prepare homeschool plans for the fall (our first unit -- matter and chemistry) when I suddenly had the thought: Wait! I can't check anything out of the library -- they revoked my library privileges! And I remembered standing at the desk and the lady handing me my library card, telling me my checking-out privileges were revoked. I asked, "You mean, like, forever?", and she nodded solemnly. I exited the facility rather stunned and much ashamed.

Well, darn it, I thought, now half-way to the library and really needing those books. What do I do now? Then I remembered that my daughter's library card was in my bag; I'll check out the books on her card. And perhaps I should try talking to the lady at the desk again about this situation with my own card. Forever can't really mean forever. Surely just a year probation or something, right?

So, while I'm pulling the books I need off the shelves, I'm plotting my strategy for getting my library privileges back. And I'm realizing that I don't remember much of this conversation with the Library Lady. Why exactly did she say my privileges were revoked? Why did I not doing something about it right away? And when was that conversation anyway? Then I catch a glimpse of the clock and realize I'm going to be late getting the girls from their golf lesson. So, I hurriedly check out my books on the daughter's card and scoot.

All the while driving to the golf course, I'm wondering at myself and how I could have just forgotten about this library situation until this morning. I mean, I homeschool -- I use the library all the time. Not being able to check out library books is a huge problem. How could I . . .

Suddenly, the thought crossed my mind: Did that conversation really happen?

And in a split second, I'm doubting all of reality. Ever had that feeling? When suddenly, you feel like you're walking in a dream and nothing around you feels quite real? It's freaky. An hour earlier, on the way to the library, that memory of a shameful confrontation with the Library Lady was so vivid in my mind, I was thoroughly convinced it happened. Now, I'm not only doubting I had that conversation, I'm doubting that my car is really speeding down I-29 with me at the wheel.

My family thinks I'm nuts. They say it must have been a dream; if I'd had a nasty altercation with the Library Lady, I would surely have mentioned it to them. And that makes sense. I'm done with those library books, and I'm taking them back today while my daughters are at golf again. And this time, I'll check out the next set on my OWN library card, if they let me. I'll let you know how that goes.

I'm not really sure which would be worse: finding out I'm wacko, or finding out my library privileges were revoked.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

A Waste of Time?

Time with us is handled much like a material; we earn it, spend it, save it, waste it. -- Edward T. Hall

I have no idea where I picked up this book or when, but I just started reading an 1959 book by Hall titled The Silent Language. "An anthropologist reveals how we communicate by our manners and behavior," it says on the cover. I've only read the first introductory chapter, and I'm fascinated.

I gather the book is about cultural differences in general, and how "body language" figures into that in specific. But to kick things off, he spent several pages talking about how different cultures perceive time and the difficulty that causes in communication. Like . . . in Latin America, waiting 45 minutes for someone you've scheduled an appointment with is not the least bit unexpected. And . . . in some Native American tribes, "the future has no reality to it", so convincing them that building this dam now will give them more grazing land for their sheep next year is almost useless. Granted, his examples are 70 years old and possibly outdated, but the point remains.

And he discusses how we Americans are obsessed with time, and the whole world sees it. We are fanatical about using our time efficiently, about promptness, about not "wasting" time, about the future and change and progress (although the future, for us, is perhaps a generation ahead -- the South Asian, he says, will think in terms of thousands and thousands of years). Witness our culture of hypertension and ulcers and insomnia.

Many thoughts running through my head while reading this chapter. I wonder how much of the world is still this different in their thinking? I mean, has our more modern, flatter earth meant that we've spread our perception of time to the rest of the planet, and those cultures have succumbed to it? How many places are there left in the world that don't accommodate our slavery to the clock?

Also, what made us this way? And isn't it fascinating that we have a hard time not only comprehending another's way of perceiving time, but giving it any credibility as a legitimate way to operate in life? So what if things don't "progress" in their culture as quickly as it does in ours -- who determined that "progress", as we define it, is what makes life of value? I've heard more than one story recently about people doing short-term mission trips to Africa and finding the natives there to be ten times happier in their "sufferings" than we are in our luxuries. I think we're missing the boat somewhere.

And on a personal level, I'm applying the concepts to my summer. I told my daughter the other day how disappointed I am with myself at how little I'm getting done this summer that I wanted to get done. She said, "Why did you want to get stuff done? It's summer break -- you're supposed to take a break." So, now I'm vacillating between worrying about the lack of ambition this comment shows in my daughter and pride in the perspective on life this shows in my daughter. I don't know what's "right" anymore!

Which is kind of the point of the book . . . who says one way or the other is "right"? Well, as a Christian, I would say the Bible's take on the issue is right, but I can't come up with any scriptural principles at the moment that apply. But I'm sure there are some. I'll have to think about that some more . . .

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Inspiration Lost

An FB friend took me to task yesterday for my last blog post. He wasn't nasty about it, because he's a kind and gentle man, but he was clearly saying he thought my anger was misplaced. And rightfully so. I was already angry about something else before I read the remark that prompted the post . . . one of these days I have to learn not to blog under the influence. So, sorry about the spouting, folks.

The experience caused me to reflect on how little I've been blogging, because lately I don't feel motivated to blog unless I'm aggravated about something. Which caused me to reflect on how little I've been motivated to write in general. And this distresses me.

Writing is a relatively new venture for me. I started this blog with my move to Iowa about two and a half years ago, and I only started writing dramas for church about a year before that. Now I'm writing about one sketch a month, plus two plays a year for the homeschool drama group. And continuing to blog.

I've said before, I almost hate to take credit for the dramas I write. They feel very Spirit-led. Sometimes I feel like I'm just taking dictation. And I can tell when it's me doing the writing instead of the Spirit. It's very forced -- it just doesn't flow. I'm never happy with the result. And that's how most of my writing efforts have felt lately. Only one script has come easily, and it had to be scrapped (hopefully I can use it later). I'm particularly concerned about the play for the homeschoolers this fall. I have the idea . . . I have a general plan . . . it's just not happening.

All of a sudden, I have people depending on my writing, and that makes me nervous. Writing is new to me, so writer's block is new to me. I don't know what to do about it. I've heard people talk about needing to schedule time every day to force themselves to write, so I'm going to try that this week. We'll see.

I'm also going to try to blog more often again. I always said the blogging was a discipline for me. Time to get disciplined again. Can't be a lazy bum the entire summer.

Saturday, July 23, 2011


Sometimes I think I want to crawl under a rock and never come out and face the world again, because human beings just hack me off.

There's a conservative Christian group in Iowa that has set up a "Marriage Vow" that they're asking all the Republican presidential candidates to sign before they're willing to endorse them. Apparently, only Santorum and Bachmann have signed so far, so it's not having tremendous impact even though it's getting people riled.

For the sake of full disclosure, I'll let you know that much of what is stated in the pledge, I agree with personally (although I don't think I would have signed it as a candidate either--still unsure of my political stance on many of these issues). But some of the comments I'm seeing in opposition to this organization (and particularly one of the leaders of the organization) because of this pledge are simply irresponsible.

What finally got me to search the web to find this pledge and read it for myself was this FB comment I saw concerning it: "Remember the FAMILY LEADER Pledge in Iowa . . . one that said black kids were better off under slavery than under Obama . . . "

What?!?? Now, that is hard to believe. And I'm sadly aware of how badly idiots on both sides of the political spectrum distort their opponents' words, so I was quite skeptical. Here's the actual quote, folks.

It says, "We acknowledge and regret the widespread hypocrisy of many who defend marriage yet turn a blind eye toward the epidemic of infidelity and the anemic condition of marriages in their own communities." Amen to that. "Unmistakably, the Institution of Marriage in America is in great crisis." And then it offers this as its first point supporting that statement:

"Slavery had a disastrous impact on African-American families, yet sadly a child born into slavery in 1860 was more likely to be raised by his father and mother in a two-parent household than was an African-American baby born after the election of the USA's first African-American President."

Only someone just looking to discredit the writer would read that statement and assume they mean black kids were better off under slavery. The entire document is about marriage. And this statement is pointing out a statistical reality -- it simply reflects on how bad we Americans (white Americans, too, it points out later in the document) have gotten in keeping our marriages together if more children are being raised in divided homes today than were in the homes of 19th century slaves whose families were frequently torn apart mercilessly against their will. It's comparing the tremendous progress in race relations (blacks were non-citizens; now a black man is President) to the sad deterioration of marriage relations.

Does anyone else find that first quote, that mis-characterization of the document, just infuriating?? Disagree with what you disagree with, and by all means, give the case for the other side. But don't assume and trumpet racism where there clearly is none. And what makes me even more infuriated is how many people will read a comment like that first quote and assume it's correct without ever checking it out.

And what makes me even MORE infuriated is how many people who do check it out will STILL think that first quote is correct -- just because they want to believe the worst about their opponents. Makes them feel better about themselves. Allows them to ignore anything their opponents have to say because the opponents are evil or stupid. Keeps them from having to examine their own views very closely to see if their opponents may have a point and they need to adjust their thinking. Infuriating.

Yep. Looking for a nice, cozy rock.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Good Move

We just returned last night from a few days in New Jersey in our old stomping grounds (although my daughter insists she never stomped there. I beg to differ. I remember the toddler years.).

I had forgotten how many trees there were in Jersey. Kind of miss those. I had NOT forgotten how terrible the fraffic is. I do NOT miss that.

We spent an afternoon at Clementon Park and Splash World. Got a little bit of sun. Spent a few hours at Franklin Institute, one of the best museums in the country. Went to church Sunday morning (although we missed our old pastor who was on vacation). Spent an afternoon at the pool with some friends. Got a little too much sun. Spent an afternoon at the shore at Ocean City. Got significantly too much sun. :)

But the bulk of our time was spent just sitting around, talking to friends. How wonderful it was! Wish we could pack up some of those friends and ship them to Sioux City. Because as nice as it was to visit, the trip really confirmed to me what a good move this was for our family. The girls have grown so much here . . . Keith is so much more relaxed . . . I've found the writing/directing niche where I feel God has called me, at least for now. It was almost unbearably painful to leave three years ago, but the whole thing has served to remind me that God is in control and we can trust how he directs our lives.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Calming the Child in the Storm

I'm kinda having a sucky week. I already wrote about the drama service Sunday that's weighing on me -- and those rehearsals have not gone as smoothly as I would have liked. But even beyond that, it's just been several days of little annoyances.

Like, the dog pooped in his bed yesterday morning. And while I was cleaning that up, he was peeing on the carpet. The recently cleaned carpet.

And as soon as we got home from rehearsal Wed night, my daughter realized she'd left her Bible and her ring at the church. So, we turned around and drove back again, exhausted and frustrated as I was.

And last night after rehearsal, I didn't realize my daughter and her friend were still in the church when I locked the doors and set the alarm. So, they ended up setting off the alarm -- which I couldn't get shut completely off -- and I had the wrong number to call the church administrator -- and in the end I apparently left the front door unlocked when I left . . . argh!!! That's the kind of week I'm having.

But here's the thing: after the call last night asking me about the alarm and letting me know I'd left the front door unlocked, I almost had to laugh. And I almost did. But even if I didn't actually LOL, I was pleasant about it. Tired, frustrated, but I smiled at my husband and kids.

You see, a few years ago, if I'd had a week like this, I would have been a wreck. Snapping at my kids, biting my husband's head off, crying in the bedroom, lying awake fretting in bed all night, wanting to crawl under the covers and never face the world again. I simply would have fallen apart.

But I'm sitting on the front steps this morning, watching the dog do his business (outside of the house -- yay for him) -- and I'm not only quite together, but I'm gratefully enjoying the beautiful sunshine and cool breeze. I'm amazed at myself. God has certainly done a good work in me over the last several years. If nothing else, maybe this sucky week served to show me once again what a good and faithful God I have.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Despite Me

Our drama team is giving the "sermon" this Sunday. Pastor Jeff is out of town, so I wrote a drama that addresses the topic he was going to speak on: "Why are we here?" I have eight actors. We're rehearsing tonight and tomorrow night and then performing twice Sunday morning.

I'm nervous. I keep telling myself not to be, but I am.

I realized long ago, at a church far far away, that God put me in the position of running a drama ministry not because I'm particularly great at it but because it would force me to see how little I have control of anything in the world and how much I need to rely on him. Same reason my sleep problems persist . . . to keep me dependent.

I'm really not any great actress or writer, and certainly not a great director. I feel particularly inept as a director these days. But he has yet to let me crash and burn at any of the churches I've served in this capacity, so you'd think I would be able to relax and let go of the reins by now. Not so. God apparently believes I require further sanctification in this area, and I'm ashamed to admit he's right.

I once did a drama piece that involved a large mission team from the church. They were people in heaven, and they were all going to wear white robes . . . until my source for the white robes fell through. I pulled my hair out looking for 40 more white robes I could borrow, finally giving up and snapping at God that fine, just fine, if he wasn't going to get us those robes then he was just going to have to make this drama work without them.

Which of course he did. Without the robes, the people didn't need to go "backstage" to change. So they just came up to the stage from their seats in the audience at the right moment during the drama. Long story short, it was one of the most powerful pieces I've ever done. And all because we gave up on the white robes.

I almost heard God's voice tangibly that day: "See? My ideas are always better than yours."

This Sunday's drama sure felt from the beginning like His idea, not mine. So fine, God. Just fine. You're just going to have to make this drama work despite me. Like you always do.