Jerod is really excited about a coffee-gift.
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The wrapping after-math. Mostly cleaned up...
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Close-up. Fun with the new camera.
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The Tannenbaum at Chez Jones. Avec Presents. I wrapped them all the Saturday before Christmas and put them under the tree just for photographic purposes. Then we packed them all in the car to travel.
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Post-Christmas Post

Ah. Family. Always good for laughs, easy silence, boisterous yelling over one another, stories, hugs, and a history of yourself that sometimes you'd sooner forget. I love when I can spend time with everyone at Christmas, both the "new" Joneses and the "old" Gileses, etc. My sister-in-law Jessica can shop like a fiend, for which I owe her a great deal of respect. I never thought I'd meet someone who could out-shop me, but I have. And add to that she is now a shopping fiend with a 3-year-old in tow, and you'll understand the immense awe I have of her. My mom-in-law seems ever-patient...managing the feeding of what seems like 25 of us at once...her home filled with extra dogs, extra toys, and extra voices from floor to rafter. But I don't think she'd have it any other way. She thrives on the hub-bub (I love the word "hub-bub"). My dear mom has decorated every space with ribbons and poinsettias and sparkly Christmas things...and seems intent on making each moment FUN. Dad is napping in the corner, waking occassionally to see if he's missed any of the fun. The cousins are vegetarian/organic/west-coasters who keep the mix very interesting, intellectually stimulating, and there simply isn't enough time to catch up with them between the baby-shower/Christmas game/Bingo (yes, Bingo!). We'll have to resort to emails again to keep the cousinly connection flowing through the year. What a blessing the email is! Then, there's that possibility of running into a dear friend in Target...that initial moment, of "hey, that looks like Tabitha's husband...wait, where am I again? Oh yes, Newnan! Hey! That IS Tabitha's husband..." And then you crowd the aisles of 50% off Christmas-land while you catch up with a friend you've known over half your life...who walked you through Calculus and Proms...and now lives all the way in Minnesota (I know. I'm shocked that anyone moves to Minnesota on purpose too).
Christmas. Lovely for so many other reasons than the obvious. I love the celebration of the birth of Christ. I love the music, the presents, the decorations, the lights in trees, the lights on houses and bushes and reindeer and Santas and nativities, and everything! (I do not, however, love the recent inflatable-decoration trend, but that's for another day) I love to see family and friends who have become family in their own way. I love to hang with the tall Joneses and the laughing Gileses, eating, drinking, and being merry...We are abundantly blessed. We are thankful for our friends, too, who have showered us this year with Christmas cards and letters from all corners of the U.S. I can't wait for 2008 to see what God does, mighty and great. Stay tuned.


Recovering from the Birth.

Now that's an odd title. Just a quick entry to give thanks for a unique opportunity I had to be part of "The Birth: A Reflective Celebration of the Birth of Jesus." A merry band of misfits and artsy-singer-musician-theatre types pulled off an intimate look at Christmas. Intimate...our crowds of 30 or so in a black-box theatre where you can really see the whites of their eyes and brush against people as you stand and sing. Exposed...how you feel sometimes when you're under the lights and there is not a big band with drums and bass to cover your vocal flaws and the decongestants you've been taking all week. Beautiful...in its simplicity. Marvelous...the acting! You are right there with the Inn Keeper, lost in the unenchanted forest of a million trees...the to do list that overtakes experiencing the presence of God (so often!)...in the palace with the Wise Man, who is surprised at his own response to the miracle of the Lord incarnate...laughing with the shepherd who experiences each moment fully IN the moment and fairly dances across the meadows to see what all the hub-bub is. Thankful...as I looked around the room...singing with folks I've known for years and years...and some I just met...and the audiences so engaged, some teary-eyed, some wondering if it would all be safe for them sitting so close. You could almost see thought bubbles above their heads at times...wondering if maybe it would get a little too artsy for their taste, and they would be stuck there just feet from the performers feeling awkward and looking for an interesting spot on the floor. Then the truly appreciative ones who got it and felt it and embraced it all. Performing is such an emotional ride. Thanks to all who bought tickets for the ride and committed. Thanks of course to Jesus, who became a miracle trapped inside such a dull, uninteresting body of flesh just to show us He wanted to be near, to touch us (thanks JM), to sing and cry with us...and to do theatre with us. He was there. Did you see Him?


How do we judge our art?

I have a few minutes before my friends come over and we set out to see 400,000 Christmas lights. I'm excited about that. AND, a dear lady at church today handed me a book of sELF-Help quotations by Buddy the Elf (from the esteemed holiday classic, ELF). That excites me as well.

Here's just a sample of the Buddy wisdom:
"If you see gum on the street, leave it there. It's not free candy." and "Singing is just like talking, only louder and longer and you move it up and down."

Good clean fun.

But that all doesn't fit with my title, so I will attempt to take a few moments to address the real issue.

The latest movie in the target sites of conservative Christians is "The Golden Compass." I was just invited to a Facebook group "Do not support The Golden Compass." There are almost 140,000 members. I have more questions than answers about this topic, but I will at least throw them out there.

How do we judge our art/media/music?

The issue at hand with this particular movie is the intent of the author of the books on which the movie is based. He is an avowed Atheist, who reportedly has blatantly stated that his books are about "killing God." As this little blog is a quick reaction, I haven't sufficiently researched that claim, but I have heard as much through various outlets, so let's say for the sake of argument that this is a true report of his intent. A friend of mine who has read the books and is a Christian says they are gloriously well-written, but do get progressively darker and more Anti-God/church as the story-line continues.

But do we judge all of our art on the artist's intent? Do I research the full beliefs and lives and fruit of every music producer, television writer (on the picket line these days), singer, and visual artist I support? I'd say many Christians would be shocked at the lives that "quote Christian artists/musicians" lead. We assume because they sing about God that they live in some sort of bubble with no temptation or sin. We take in and expose ourselves to art EVERY DAY that may or may not meet the impossible standards of matching up with our own moral/religious/Godly standards. So, you say that you will not support the movie because you would not like to support this artist. And yet you support artists whose lives are a wreck (by your standards) every time you watch television, stare at a piece of art at the doctor's office, purchase a picture at Target, buy a calendar full of cute doggie photographs, or many more high-brow forms of art. What does it mean to "support?" Is it with money...or is my time just as valuable in a spiritual sense? Do I support with my mind? What about lip service and anti-"insert item here" facebook groups? Don't those things draw attention?

Certainly, we should all be circumspect about what images and ideas we take in, but as discerning adults, I don't think we'll be easily swayed by ideas that run counter to what we hold dear. Certainly, too, we should monitor what children take in (duh!). But seriously, any fellow "conservative Christians" should use the same standards to judge everything, and not just jump on the "we don't like this..." wagon every time one comes along. The Holy Spirit can guide you to support, watch, purchase, and listen to quality works of art. And each person has something different s/he should avoid. I, for instance, can't watch violent movies...even movies like Braveheart and Gladiator, however redeeming the storylines...are bothersome for my mind. Someone else might have a different trigger. We need to learn our triggers, and protect our minds and souls.

I'm not telling anyone to see or not to see a movie. I'm just saying use your brain and listen to the still, small voice when you judge your art. Apply your standards across the board, and not just when "they" tell you to. Do your own research. Be a thinking Christian. And sometimes realize that you believe what you believe because it has been challenged and found true. Challenge is not evil. Challenge brings strength.


Things I've been saving up...

We drove down back roads to get to Tennessee last week for Thanksgiving. The thing I love about back roads is the sheer entertainment you get for your money. We were still in Kings Mountain, NC, not too far from home, when we crested the hill. I was delighted to see a really tacky church sign with a big tongue of fire...like clip art with red, orange, and yellow...and the name of the church was "Faith Ablaze" Foursquare Church. I was still reveling in the clip art and blazing name when I read the Pastor's name...it was William Maze.

Then, as I am wont to do on long car trips, I had some fun in my head...

"Good morning, welcome to Faith Ablaze.
I'm Pastor William Maze.
Trust in the Lord with all your ways
Because You know it pays
When you need a raise
Trust the Lord, for He stays
By your side always.
That doesn't mean you can laze
Or wander around in a haze
Work diligently all of your days
And the Lord will bring you through this phase.
Now, can someone give the Lord praise here at Faith Ablaze?"

Yes, this is what the inside of my head looks like. These are things I think of. I really could probably go on, but I'm the only one who would really enjoy it.

Another thing that happened earlier this week was my intense reaction to our new Super Bi-Lo grocery store. It's really close to our house, and since the loss of my dear Harris Teeter (grocery store) right next to campus, I was excited to have another store on my way home from work. But as big and shiny and new and nice as it is, I am crestfallen (yes, crestfallen) at the invasiveness of it. (what?)
The produce section was ginormous and beautifully arranged...every apple in place...but as I continued to wander through the wide aisles and eerily well-placed food items, I was overcome with advertising. In the milk section there's a TV telling me which yogurt to buy, then the CEO of Bi-Lo comes on to tell me how great his store is...rounding the corner to the frozen foods there is a TV with a 24-hour news channel on. Passing that I hear Christmas music over the loudspeaker simultaneously with the 12 TV's at the end of every third checkout lane with a Bi-Lo lady explaining something else. Facing the checkout lane I could see and hear yet another news outlet against the front wall of the store.
I really like the relative quiet of a grocery store on a Sunday morning before the Baptists and Methodists let out. What happened? I had at least 4 noise sources competing for attention that I wasn't willing to relinquish!!!!! It's inevitable, I guess...even while you're in the store, they're advertising for the store. I wanted to scream, "I'm already here, buying your stuff! Don't be a Bi-Lo bully!!!" But that would have just added to the noise.

Please turn off the TV's in the grocery store.

That's all I have to say today.


my to do list is longer than my body

It's just one of those weeks. You know those weeks, when you're not sure how you got from point A to point B because you're thinking, "Get someone to take care of the dogs for Thanksgiving...Thanksgiving...that's NEXT WEEK! Crap! I'm supposed to bring desserts...I could run by Harris Teeter as I noticed there's a sale on pies...but then, there's no space in the fridge until we make the chicken for small group tomorrow...CRAP! small group tomorrow, I need to make that chicken tonight because I have to work late tomorrow...where was I? Dogs...oh, I really need to make an annual appointment for Tink. DIAL PHONE. MAKE APPOINTMENT. 8 a.m. next Monday? Shoot! I'm off on Monday, and won't get to sleep in. But then there's so much to do before Thanksgiving it will be good to get up and get going..."

Take a deep breath. And believe me, that's just a sliver of what's going on. Not that you care...you have free time to read pointless blogs, don't you?

And then as I was sitting watching my other dog nap in the yard while I was listening to the radio, reading a photography magazine, and looking at bills during lunch...I had a random thought, "I wonder if our squirrels realize that Barley is blind?" They act like it. And so I think they know...because they are pretty brazenly walking around collecting acorns as if a 60 pound Shar Pei with giant teeth is not sitting there at all. When he catches their scents, it's very fun to see them go running...and then maybe they second-guess that whole blind dog thing.

There's something very satisfying about taking ten minutes to write about such nonsense when there is so much real "stuff" to be done...like refilling my prescription, setting up tomorrow's dinner, reading chapter 4 and doing the assignment, designing a poster, working on my portfolio, and hello....READING THE BIBLE or PRAYING!

Reflecting on the Lord...singing a worship song for just the Lord to hear...making some space to dream...to envision what the Lord's TO DO list would look like for me. I'm certain He's not satisfied with my car-prayers alone...you know, the ones peppered with frantic thoughts of things to do. So I'm taking some space here...a few moments to gather myself on "paper." Some space to allow dreams and words to flow through my fingertips. I'm putting down all the instruments and gadgets I've rigged up for my one-woman band...losing the harmonica, the kick drum, and the accordian for a moment...I'm breathing deeply and allowing myself to just sit and soak.

So, I'll see you later, I'm sitting and soaking.


The Tall One and I brave the water-arch.

Botanical Garden pics

My best version of the Cowardly Lion by the lion-bush.

Heart Surgery is Painful...

I left church yesterday feeling a bit sore in the heart. I think my pastor performed some tricky heart surgery on me from the stage. No lasers or scalpels, but just as real I think. We have a little tagline at our church, "Liars, Dreamers, Misfits welcome."

The idea being that we are all in need of and under RENOVATION...of our desires, our hearts, and minds. Just about anyone could agree that most people in the world could use some renovation of the soul. Just look around at the atrocities, genocides, fighting, and obsessions with things such as Britney's panty-status. But all along, I've had trouble with the "Liar" status. I don't like to count myself among the liars of the world. A tribe of people like politicians (all of them...I'm not pointing at any parties here), used-car salesmen, and crooked CEO's. People who lie and don't think twice about it. "That's not me!" I think. "I will happily join the dreamers and misfits, but I don't like to be called a 'liar'." But, I saw the value of being honest as a church...that maybe SOME PEOPLE in our group would be in that designation, and that was fine. ("Hello, Pride. Meet Shelley. Oh, you already know one another? You hang out a lot? How nice.")

But, as was revealed during my surgery, we all live in a stew of lies. We all listen to lies and adjust our lives around them...lies that purport the meaning of greater success...financially, physically, emotionally...if you buy this lipstick, you will look sexier...if you drive this car, folks will envy you...if you hide this part of your personality, you will be more successful at your job...the list could well be a long page on my blog. But think of your own lies. Really, when all is quiet and still. What are you "listening" to that shapes your actions, purchases, and words?

I spent a lot of years trying to show the world a perfected version of myself (or should I say mymess?). Perfect clothes, grades, hair, lipstick, jokes, CHRISTIANITY, etc. I thought I was a poster-girl in a lot of ways. I measured myself by the bad things I didn't do, instead of really investing in good things I could do for others. My world was so much about me, I wasn't even a REAL person. I was a plastic version of a Shelley. In rare moments when I allowed Him, God would attempt to break through, to show me my heart in all its ugliness...to show me Himself and what He could do with it.

My heart has been breaking now continually for about 12 years. A painful process when you look at the mess you are. The lack of love and compassion you really have for others...how little time you've made for things besides getting/gaining/entertaining. Hopefully, each time He breaks my heart, some of the ugly leaks out...some of the selfishness and pride that have shaped who I like to think I am. I have lied to myself over the years about who I am. I have made myself look better than I am. Certainly, this process is life-long, as God squeezes out the sin and glues our hearts back together with His gifts of patience, mercy, compassion, joy, long-suffering, gentleness, and the like.

I am a liar. A liar who is under renovation. I lie to myself and others every time I don't allow God to shape my thoughts and my self-worth. I lie to myself when I wear busyness like a merit badge. I lie to you whenever I appear to have anything to offer beyond what God has given me to share, whenever I embellish stories so that you'll think more of me.

I long to be honest and transparent. Erasing all the lies in our lives is darn near impossible when you really think of the layers of lies we are told and that we buy into. But we can live under renovation, and not in denial.

Maybe I'll buy the LIARS t-shirt now. But then, I might get prideful about how honest I'm being. Surely God laughs at us in the midst of our mess. Then He patiently goes about fashioning the pieces of our hearts with His fancy glue. Thanks, Lord!!


Living grammatically in a grammatically incorrect world

Oh Fergie.
You really are dancing on my last nerve.
"I'm not gonna miss you like a child misses THEIR blanket..."
I won't break the song down and beat up on it. Pop music is purely for entertainment, and I don't have stellar expectations of insightful lyrics. I unashamedly enjoy pop music for its pure fun and sing-along stylings.
But come on!!

a child = ONE child
how can one child miss THEIR blanket? children can miss their blankets...or a child can miss his or her blanket.

I have lots of grammar pet peeves, and I will not claim to be 100% correct every time I set pen to paper or fingers to keys. But there are some mistakes that become pervasive in society, and the perpetrators will ultimately bring a society to ruin.

I hear, "My friend is amazing. They really know how to cook pancakes."
one friend = THEY?? Does this person have multiple personalities?
Person, introduce yourself to the words he and she as well as his/hers.
" My friend is amazing. He really knows how to cook pancakes."

And whilst (!) I'm ranting, may I please suggest that we avoid shunning the word me.
Me is a valid word when used in the objective case. "The what, Shelley? I don't remember no grammar stuff." Don't make it the subject of your sentence, and you'll usually be just fine. But DON'T exchange me or I with myself.
"That class is going to be stimulating for myself." FOR ME!
"Myself and Judy are going downtown tonight." JUDY AND I!
"I never thought using bad grammar would reflect so badly on myself or my friends." ON ME OR MY FRIENDS! OR MY FRIENDS AND ME!
"I thought I'd buy a brand new boat for my wife and myself." MY WIFE AND ME! or ME AND MY WIFE!

Perhaps the rules have changed, or I am living in a grammar-cave...but people are using MYSELF in odd ways lately.

I feel much better now. I'm serious about the societal erosion through poor grammar examples. Children of tomorrow are far more likely to speak Fergie's words than they are to speak properly. There may come a time when we truly don't understand one another because slang and structure have been flung out the proverbial window.

My final rant...since now my juices are flowing...when comparing something to another something...use the subjective case. "Huh?"

"Those kids are all taller than me." incorrect.
"Those kids are all than I." (add the verb silently..."than I am.")
"She is louder than him." incorrect
"She is louder than he." (add the verb again..."than he is." ...and it makes perfect sense)

Yes, I know there are more terrible things than bad grammar going on with society. I realize I'm a nerd. Just indulge the nerdiness, and listen for these three things. Your eardrums will fairly deafen with the sound of ignorance.

Graceless in Grammar-land...and ready for sweet dreams...


Running, running, and running, running

I'm wearing my imaginary tennis shoes this week. Just running from place to place, meeting to class to home to eat to sleep. Even my dreams have been like work. Just this week, I dreamed that Jerod and I decided to organize and put on a Renaissance Festival (!). Jerod suggested that the thing that would really make it fantastic was a pewtersmith. So, in my dream, I was on the phone with the pewtersmith people talking about their craft and wares. I probably would have had the whole thing put together had Jerod not woken me up to tell me that Barley had tinkled on the rug in the night. Did you get all that? That was a long, convoluted sentence and thought. So, even in my sleepy-time, I'm coordinating something. I'm not sure how to stop the coordinating. I am constantly thinking of time, dividing my time, devoting my time, and how much more time I wish I had to accomplish this or that.

I enjoy being active, and I tend to book myself to the edges. It's a life pattern. I have figured out since I've been married that I can't fit quite as much into a day and still be a nice person or an effective wife. So, when I got married, I discovered real margins in my life. Actual undedicated time to do whatever needed doing or doing nothing at all.

I guess it's in my DNA to juggle forty-two things at a time. But I still need to make sure that sometimes there is just no juggling at all. Sometimes I just need to be. Think. Write. Create. Connect. Taking control of the margins and just resting in them...but that will need to wait 'til the weekend.

On other matters...let's PRAY FOR RAIN! Seriously, Jesus needs to squeeze some juice from the clouds, and soon!! We keep losing plant life, and I'm getting really sad about it. Every time I turn on the faucet and shower head, I'm thinking about how much water is flowing through it, and how fast I can turn it off or down. Not a bad thing at all to be more mindful of our resources...

Jerod and I are diving head-first into cyber classes. He began an online class about BLOGGING (!) and I start an online class on creating websites in two weeks. He is setting up a blog for his science classes as an interactive tool for research, instruction, etc. How cool that we can relate to folks, converse, and learn online! I'm excited about the new endeavor. In other class news, I'm enjoying my graphic design classes...feeling like I'll never learn everything that needs to be learned, but it's fun to have a creative outlet. I cannot drink in the information fast enough! Hmmm...enough of the multi-tasking...I think it's time to go to sleep. I wonder what I'll coordinate in my dreams tonight?


Afraid of The Amazing Grace

As I sat through service Sunday, I was moved by the tender spirit I felt. The song “Hosanna, Hosanna…to the Lamb that was slain…” just put me right over the edge. I won’t deny it, I am an “easy cry,” but there was something almost palpable behind my tears last week. I felt my salvation in a way that I haven’t really before. I thought about how I could say I was strong, and rich, and able to see because of what Jesus has done and continues to do for me. I’ve never had a problem with the faith side of things…I believe God is who he says he is, and does what he says he’ll do. It’s the grace that freaks me right out. "What do you mean I can do nothing to deserve it?" I really like the notion of working for what I get.

I carried in my heart the stories from service the week before…Pedro, Laura, and Jason…all unlikely choices for the kingdom of God...a radical communist, a Wiccan priestess, and a teenage drug dealer. How wide is God’s grace! And I thought of myself, probably a very likely candidate for the kingdom by all accounts. Then I realized with my heart that I am just as unworthy and as needy as any of the lost out there. I know that answer as the “Sunday School answer,” but I had not experienced the pure grace of God in such a way in a long, long time. It was spilling down my cheeks with abandon!

We were looking at the story of the Prodigal Son, who insults and disgraces his father, leaves home, falls flat on his face...then comes sheepishly back, hoping for a servant's job in his father's estate. The Father welcomes the son home with open arms, offering him a fine coat and a big party.

As the service progressed, I was swimming in the goodness of the Lord, who leaps off the porch to welcome home sons and daughters who have no right to approach Him. And I thought of myself, someone who has never wandered off His land, but still greets Him many times with a limp, uninterested hug in response to His vigorous, loving one.

I have lived my life against the sharp edges of rules, measuring myself and sometimes cutting myself on them and then being pleased when I could follow them. Pleased with my own ability to “follow the Lord” outwardly. But I have always hesitated to take the free fall into the cloudy cushion of grace…because there is so much less definition there. How does one live out each day in light of grace? I am slowly realizing and trying to fight off the truth that following the Lord has nearly nothing to do with rules and appearances and checklists.

I am so black-and-white that grace scares me. It is unnavigable without God…and yet I can see clearly that it is the only way to live a life free from constant judgment and full of compassion and love for others. But I have to take that free fall, knowing that God will catch me and teach me. He will give me a moment-by-moment map that will rarely give sure answers, but more often give better questions and the knowing that comes from faith. So, while some are able to wallow in grace, I am a little afraid of where grace will lead. And feeling like I’m driving something other than a car or walking with something other than my own legs. And God just nods, “Yes, Shelley, that’s exactly what it’s supposed to feel like.”

Philip Yancey writes: “Aware of our inbuilt resistance to grace, Jesus talked about it often. He described a world suffused with God's grace: where the sun shines and rain falls on people good and bad; where birds gather seeds gratis, neither plowing nor harvesting to earn them; where untended wildflowers burst into life on the hillsides. Like a visitor from a foreign country who notices what the natives overlook, Jesus saw grace everywhere. Yet he never analyzed or defined grace, and he almost never used the word. Instead, he communicated grace through stories we know as parables—which I will take the liberty of transposing into a modern setting.” (he goes on with a series of modern-day stories about grace…)

‘…The gospel is not at all what we would come up with on our own. I, for one, would expect to honor the virtuous over the profligate. I would expect to have to clean up my act before even applying for an audience with a Holy God. But Jesus told of God ignoring a fancy religious teacher and turning instead to an ordinary sinner who pleads, "God, have mercy." Throughout the Bible, in fact, God shows a marked preference for "real" people over "good" people. In Jesus' own words, "there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent."
From “What’s So Amazing About Grace?” 1997

What is so amazing about grace? It's free. It's available...and it can be a way of life. Now if I could just make a list of how to do go about all this...


Before watering restrictions, there were lovely blooming things at my house...
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Grandpa's Wheelbarrow...now a flower garden
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Before the Drought Hit...our yard

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Jerod taking care of everything pond

Getting it all set up early Summer...
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Our bathtub "pond"
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R.I.P. Fishys

This is Davey Jones and Haley the Comet.
We'll miss you.
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Fish we Miss and Writing Too

Where have I been? As though Easter came and went without the merest whisper from my keyboard about our life and times...we race through each day, checking items off a never-ending list of "to do" without making enough time for "to be." There are still closets to be cleaned, address books to be filled, and honeymoon pictures to be scrapbooked...but I need some time to be, and for me that involves a bit of spilling my thoughts onto this virtual paper.
Sorry for the voiceless absence. I can barely seem to find time to make phone calls between workdinnerclasseschurchhubbydogsandstuff. But...there must be time to reflect and recharge. I'm back.

In a short recap...we were both exceedingly thankful to greet June, as Jerod finished the school year and I did too. I thought we'd have mad loads of time to do all manner of interesting and fun things...but the summer seemed to slip right out of our fingers...too fast to catch. We attended six weddings between the end of May and the first of September...and one of those I was in. So, that was many of our Saturdays...great times of catching up with old friends and even making some new ones and exploring new places. Congratulations Theresa/Jason, Eddie/Tonya, Grant/Tiffany, Phyllis/Mike, and Annie/Johnny. Did I leave someone out? We were invited to a few more, but couldn't make them all. It must have been a summer of love!

Vacation was a great (hot!!!) get-away with my family near Beaufort, SC. I think it was 900 degrees with 1000000 percent humidity each day, but we still managed a plantation tour, a jaunt to Savannah, and a kayak at Hunting Island. I became one with my sweat...perhaps I was cleared of all body toxins! Really, I haven't experienced heat like that in many years. Perhaps next year's vacation will include a snowy mountaintop.

Speaking of heat...it has been hot and dry here in SC like nothing I've ever seen. It has rained one day since July...and even that was spotty and sprinkly. We are struggling to keep our proudly planted green things alive. The entire month of August was over 90 degrees, and most of that over 95 degrees. And even September has brought us 15 days over 90 degrees. Needless to say, I am tired of the heat, the summer clothes are fading, and I am craving the cool breezes of Fall. Come on, Fall!!!!! And rain. Lord, we need rain!!!

In a strange twist, I opted to opt OUT of free Winthrop U. classes and PAY for classes at York Technical College down the street. Bizarre. I know. To make a long notsointeresting story short, York Tech had the classes I needed when I had time to take them, and I'm starting on a certificate in graphic design. I've long wanted to know how to create art and fantastic graphic communications, and am loving these classes. It has me in class every night, Mon- Thurs, but it's been a workable schedule thus far. I'm even taking a whole class in Typography--letterforms, fonts, use of words in design--it's been AWESOME since I'm a self-professed font-nerd.

Jerod is working away at Woodlawn with fourth and fifth graders this year...math, science, and art. It's too much, he'll tell you quickly, to plan six classes each week...so I hope and pray he continues to have the strength and wisdom to drive each day, teach, and keep himself up. I don't know how he keeps patience with all those kids! He makes me smile daily. :)

And...we had to say our goodbyes to our fishes this week. We set up a clawfoot bathtub pond over the Summer in the backyard, and Jerod has been busy keeping the water levels right, the plants healthy, and the fishes fed. It's his hobby. We had five fish that have been our swimmy companions since May. But this week, two of them went belly-up...Haley and Barry Fanilow (he was a fantail) both passed away. Jerod feverishly checked the water levels...perfect. What could it be? We scanned the Petsmart aisle for anti-parasite food. But we still weren't sure what might cause our previously apparently happy fishys to pass away. Today, when we got home, Jerod went out to feed the fishys...and two of them were GONE. GONE!!!!! Now, just so you know, fish don't usually run away. They were absolutely no where. We lost Davey Jones and Lucy (my favorite). I am very sad about our fish loss. We were attached to them. And it's just awful not knowing what happened to them. The only thing we can figure is that a bird or raccoon got them...???? So, we have one left...Skeeter...and I hope that he's not too freaked out about losing his pond-mates. At this point in the season, it's best for us wait until next Spring to get some new fishes with the coming cooler weather. So, a moment of silence for the fishes...
Thank you for joining me for that. And in related news, a personal hero, Marcel Marceau the famed French Mime passed away last week. It's not been a good week for me and loss.

But I'm back, and glad to be typing and healthy and blessed. I will be back. There is more to say. More to think. And more being to do.



Birthdays, Yard Ghosts, and "Freeze-ster"

Nothing like a few days "off" to give you a clearer head and the desire to type. I turned 32 this week. I'm not sure about this 30's thing. I'm starting to understand the "real age" versus "felt age" idea. I feel about 25. Whatever. I guess age is just a number. Now if only I could quit sprouting gray hairs!!! Thank you, Loreal number 45 "French Roast."

Our yard is full of "ghosts" as the temperature has plunged to record lows for the area, and we've had to cover all of our leafing spring plants with various sheets. Over the butterfly bush is a lamentable purchase made by my brother in college. For some reason, he was pressured into buying the same sheet/comforter set as his roommate (I really thought only girls tried to match their room stuff--perhaps the mother was driving that train)...so he purchased a fairly hideous black and white spotted affair. Somehow, in the grand scheme of life, I ended up with the twin top sheet, so my butterfly bush is currently sporting a black-and-white spotted sheet with a teal stripe at the top. The hydrangea is draped in pink...And it all gives the appearance of short trick-or-treaters with their ghost costumes on! :)

Bring back SPRING!!! We had our Easter service this morning, which I have renamed just for today, "FREEZE-STER." It was pretty cold in service, and Jerod began to turn purple...like Grimace (McD's). We spent about 10 minutes in the warm car after service before we braved the Freeze-ster picnic in the park after church. It's weird to picnic with your coat on. Just in case you ever think to try it. Unless you're on vacation. Then you can picnic with abandon. I think there's some rule about most picnic foods containing mayonnaise as well. That's a rule that was meant to be broken. Not as much a factor today, considering the refrigerator-like temperatures, but in general...mayonnaise is a bad idea. Service was amazing, as usual. I am so blessed to be a part of a congregation that is such a lovely representation of Jesus--flawed misfits and beneficiaries of Grace--all trying to love and represent. It's a thing of beauty.

And with that, I wish you a happy Freeze-ster. May the beauty of the Risen Lord make you breathless and hopeful. May the future break into your present, and may the kingdom of Christ reign in your heart today.


Giant Red Wagon!

It's a giant red wagon in Centennial Park in Spokane, Washington! This is me sliding down the "handle." Wooooooooo!
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My toes came out to play...

The toenails are bright red and excited about emerging from the lint-laden socks that have held them in sweaty captivity since the leaves began to turn. Now if only someone could figure out how to get my toenails to GROW OUT in color! Yes, I know this is not that interesting a revelation, but I do love when the bartlett pear trees bloom, the breeze is still cool, and the birds begin to belt out their spring songs. Yeah!! Spring!!!

Oops. More pictures...

Oops! I realized that my pictures from before did not post properly. Here are a few from the game we won against Notre Dame. We played again on Sunday against the Oregon Ducks...and did not fare so well. I have a few pictures that I'll put up this week of some other nice spots in and around Spokane. (or Spokandyland as I took to calling it after finding a shirt with the word on it!)
So....What a cool experience and blessing to get to go all the way to Washington state and hang with some amazing people...and see Winthrop go further than it ever had.

Go Eagles!

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We just won!!

Woo hoo!!! We just won!!!
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Shane, a Winthrop student, came all the way to Spokane by himself to see the game. He pretty much rocked. :)
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Spirit Fingers for Winthrop!

This was just before the Notre Dame game. I had on red pants and red shoes even. It was a blast to see the game live...
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A Gator, a Hydrant, and an Old Navy Truck

Near Post Falls, Idaho...the same yard full of stuff...there was so much stuff to see!
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More Lake Coeur d'Alene

The sign on the lifeguard stand told us to swim at our own risk...no lifeguard on duty.
Good thing I was dissuaded by the 30-degree temperatures. I can imagine this place is LOVELY in the summer!
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Idaho rocks.

At Lake Coeur d'Alene in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho. I'm very happy about being in Idaho, apparently.
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Idaho Wildlife

The Wildlife in Idaho was breath-taking. I mean, look how close I got to this buffalo!
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A Close-up of the Sign....fancy!

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Idaho Industrial Park

The Spirit Lake, Idaho Industrial Park. I really think this pared down idea of the industrial park is going to take off...
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More Mount Spokane

More Mount Spokane
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Well, this was a great view...little point-n-clicks never do views justice, do they? Especially lovely are the power lines running through the top of the shot...Oh well. There's a little lake tucked into the middle of the pic if you can see it! From Mount Spokane...
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Mount Spokane

Top of Mount Spokane...about 5800 feet...lots of snow around!
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