Won't You be my Neighbor?

I've been wrestling with something since December. The fact is, I have very, very few friends around. I'm not sure how it happened, and I'm not here to whine, but it's just true. Jerod brought some "regulars" to the marriage table, and we had weekly hang-out time with them...but now they have all moved to other cities, too far for weekly gatherings. I had built-in friends at my old job, where grabbing lunch and going to a youth worker meeting also constituted my social life in an otherwise really busy life. I have also been blessed in the past with lots of great roommates who were sort of a built-in social life...there was typically someone at hand to eat with, see a movie with, go shopping with, etc.

I can't blame this phenomenon on marriage...not my own. I recently lost a good friend to marriage in the sense that she moved to Texas! I did probably retreat a bit when I got married and moved to the "Hill," as I think sometimes I'm a hermit at heart. I won't blame the problem specifically on living farther from Charlotte, though that can be a contributing factor and an excuse when it comes to hanging out with people we know in the far reaches of Charlotte, like University area, Matthews, Indian Trail, etc. I simply removed myself from some natural places of socialization, which I had come to depend on like a crutch.

I accept full culpability in the matter. I have been a poor friend. I don't reach out as much as a good friend should. I have always had the luxury of being a lazy friend, who could just as easily run into people and consider it friendly interaction. I make excuses as to why I shouldn't call someone, "They're probably eating dinner...I'm sure they're hanging out with their real friends this weekend...they're too busy to fit us in...it might be awkward since we haven't hung out in a long time..." and the list goes on and on until I completely talk myself out of contact. Then weeks turn into months, and I'm embarrassed to call because it's been so long.

As Jerod and I continually find ourselves staring at only each other on Friday and Saturday nights, it's not that we don't enjoy one another's company--we do! But sometimes there's a different joy that comes from interaction and exchange with other people...rolling the dice, making jokes, hearing about each other's lives...just good ol' community. I have spiritual community, but I'm somehow losing my connection to social community. The few folks that we've reached out to seem not to be able to do something (granted, sometimes on short notice) time and time again. Leaving me to wonder if there's just something wrong with me--those feelings of inadequacy that hearken back to middle school and high school--when everybody gets invited to the party but you...But that smacks of pity party, and I won't do it.

So, as fumbling humans are wont to do...when all else fails...pray. So sad that it's been bothering me for a month, and I'm just now coming to that. First, I should pray that God would show me how to be a more invested friend, how to listen and follow-up better--with my heart and not just my mind and mouth. Second, I will pray that God bring some folks into our lives that can be "regulars." It seems everyone I know is too busy. We are working, going to school, checking lots of things off our lists... It's hard to think ahead and find time for others until it comes right to the moment of free time. But it must be done. I must pray, listen, plan ahead, invest, and love. And call someone to go to the movies with me!



What an interesting morning it was. After scurrying about getting ready for some Trustees who were visiting, I scurried to campus...only to find the secret service had blocked my only route to my office/parking spot. Now, I was forewarned that this might be a possibility, but I think the email used vague terminology like "possibly" etc. So, I ended up driving in a different entrance and going the wrong way for a few hundred yards (rebel!).
Anywho...all the hub-bub was for Barack Obama, who visited campus today for a 10 am campaign stop. Several of us had procured tickets just to see the excitement and witness an historical event. I have great respect for Senator Obama, who seems to be the first viable black man to run for President (I don't count anyone who has preceded him as viable--my opinion, I guess). Rock Hill is known for the "Friendship Nine" a group of young men who staged one of the earliest lunch-counter sit-ins in the Civil Rights movement (you can still eat lunch there...now it's called the Old Town Bistro). We're a town who just this week had their mayor apologize to Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga) for his getting beaten up at a bus station here years and years ago on a Freedom Riders stop-over. And today, I saw all colors, shapes, and sizes gathered to hear the words of Barack Obama, whose star is obviously rising. So I had to be proud of our gathering...several hundred strong to at least LISTEN to a man who would never have had this opportunity just 20 or 30 years ago.

My co-worker pulled rank in grand style to help a group of us skip the hundreds-long security line and get bumped to the VIP entrance (ha! Go Betty!). We walked through airport-style security with the step-through, wands, hand searching of bags, etc. It all felt very important.

Mostly I sat and absorbed the secret service men and women in their efficient black suits, green lapel pins, walkietalkie watches, and alert eyes. One of them was nearly 7' tall and BIG. I would not like to tangle with him. The room was abuzz with excitement each time someone stepped up to the podium. Some of the "in the know" volunteers began chanting "FIRED UP!" to which folks responded "READY TO GO!" and back and forth for several minutes they went as more and more voices joined them like a high school pep rally.

We were impatient--waiting through sound checks, local organizers, and some lady who was supposed to warm up the crowd and had the personality of day-old bread (sorry, she was really not a warmer-upper...I'm sure she's lovely over lunch).

I cannot pretend to agree with all of his stances. I'm a conservative at heart without a party to call my own. But I realize that just because we have come to expect everything in our lives to be customized exactly to our liking, that I will not find a candidate who is just as passionate about relieving tax pressures and he (or she) is about reforming the education system and making large strides toward environmental wellness. So, I pick my battles with my vote. Ultimately, I can't ask much more of the government than I'm willing to do with my own time and resources. But I digress...

For a Pentecostal girl, the speech and reaction felt very natural. There was the familiar call and response of his saying something that folks agreed with and the applause that erupted. There were those familiar with that process who would verbally "Ummm Hmmmm" in agreement, and then those (mostly white folk) who wanted to respond in some way and without the benefit of such church-training would belt out a "Whoooo!" I don't judge. However you want to affirm, go for it. It was just enjoyable to watch everyone sort that out. He said a few things that made me clap...talking about equity in education, paying teachers what they deserve, NAFTA-bashing, and bringing jobs/labor back to American soil. He said a few things I decidedly did NOT clap for, as I won't disrespect a sitting President/VP for whom I seem to have a great deal more tolerance than most of those present. But again, he's just doing his "job." I was waiting for the Hammond B3 organ to kick in and start the double time special, boom-chick style and for the robed gospel choir to come rolling out of the crowd. (that sentence was primarily for my Pentecostal/black church friends) Not to be stereotypical, but there was that feeling...that feeling of hope and excitement and unity...and imminent singing.

I don't have to agree with him, but I applaud him and his staff members for pulling off something I wasn't sure I'd ever see in my lifetime. Maybe it's especially poignant in this week of Martin Luther King, Jr. day celebrations, having recently seen the "I Have a Dream" footage, and having revisited images of "colored" bathrooms and water fountains...

I have been blessed to have grown up in a world where we have been taught not to judge a man by the color of his skin, but by the content of his character. Sadly, we have many more generations to go before that might be the norm. The sins of our forefathers are still catching up to us in that regard. Hatreds run deep, and forgiveness is slow-growing in pockets of our country. Tensions are still high in 2008, but we're getting there. I enjoyed my moments with the Barack-star today.


Believing and Doing...

This post is an initial reaction to the last few days...no terribly deep thoughts, just thinkin' aloud. Something that has become more real to us since last week--If you believe it and don't do what "it" requires, do you believe it?
If you worry and fret over everything and believe in an omnipotent God, is there really room for worry? He's either who He says he is, or He's not. If He's not, then we don't believe Him and we are left to our own devices, our own solutions, our own variables. That's a scary place.
I haven't wrestled with this question so much, as I am not one to worry. There's a deep nugget of faith in my soul (not to say I don't have other issues to wrestle with!), so I tend to take God at the face value of who He says He is and what I've seen Him do for me.
But it's so interesting to watch others who are BOUND by worry and fear grasp this simple truth. It is so freeing!! He is God. He made all. He is over all. He is working everything out for our ultimate good, whether it "feels" good during the process or not. He has a plan for me, a plan to prosper and not to harm me, a plan to redeem my soul, a plan to make me more in the likeness of Jesus as I submit to the plan. He loves me. He does everything in my life to propel His plan for the world, and not just for my little life.
When you're IN Him, none of this seems scary. The unknown is just a chance for God to show off. There is nothing to fear, for He is WITH me. And if I believe THAT, I cannot practice worry or verbalize all my little fears. I must remind myself of these truths that I claim to believe. And in the acknowledgement of these truths, worry becomes a mere whisper...fear is sent running. When I practice what I believe, it becomes more real...something tangible to point to further down the road. "Remember when God handled ...?" Yes!!! Because that's what my Father does. How can I have any other response?

Happy New Year from our dog

Tink really wanted to be festive, but the late night new year's fun was just too much...and she conked out on the blanket.
Happy New zzzzzzz!

Happy New Year from our dog.

Barley is a very tolerant dog. And darn cute in his fine feathered and festive hat. This photo was snapped on New Year's Eve. Who knew that Barley was into holidays so much?


Um. Yeah. I'm uh, gonna need to reschedule that.

I know that we can't rewind time. Because how many of us would just abuse the HECK out of that? That time when we asked the lady when she was due and she replied that she wasn't pregnant...remember when you tripped and fell on your face in front of a whole class of people...or how about when you cussed in front of your parents in sixth grade and only avoided a mouth pop because of your fine ducking skills? But rewinding time would give people seemingly perfect lives...these kinds of experiences teach us and make us stronger...or better duckers.

But I have a genuine New Year's problem. Here we are on January 10, and I the only resolution I've remotely committed to is my husband's...not to have or live up to any resolutions! So, I'm going to reschedule my New Year's day if it's all the same to everyone. In the hub-bub of unpacking the Christmas suitcases, taking down the tree (and everything else I put out), finding the stuff that I put away to make room for Christmas decor, and celebrating an anniversary, I lost myself.

I am a dyed-in-the-wool resolution-maker. I love it. The clean slate. The free pass to be completely optimistic, to re-think my patterns, to erase my mistakes. Even better than my time-rewind. It's a knowledgeable looking back and gazing forward. It says, "I didn't do it all just right, but here's another opportunity..." To refresh friendships, to send birthday cards out on time, to eat healthfully, to carve out time to exercise, to quit drinking hot chocolate in my coffee (well, let's not go too overboard!)...to pray without ceasing, to soak in God's word (and not just apply it as a bandaid when something is hurt), to be diligent at whatever I am doing.

New Year's Day is my favorite day of the year. I just didn't take the time to do my New Year's rituals this year. My journal sat in a pile of stuff on my desk that I've been meaning to clean off for months. I must have muffled its cry for a resolution list by piling gardening books and sketchbooks on top of it.

I think that tomorrow, January 11, will be my new years's day. It just has an extra "1." I need these. I realize not everyone does, but I do. I take so little time to reflect during a given day...I simply drive and move and shower and clean and cook and eat and breathe and read and pray and brush teeth and sleep and roll over and do it all again.

So, I am going to write my list today, in preparation for tomorrow. I certainly don't have to WAIT for New Year's to do anything. But I like it as a marker in my life, to look back and see the changes I felt I needed to make, to see where my diligence has lapsed, or how I've succeeded. Sadly, I will likely not convince my job that I need a second run at the day with a free day off...
But, list in hand, I will tackle 2008 with a set of objectives and some God-sized help.

Happy New Year!!!!!!!!!!



I just needed to share with the wide world my true inner geek. Not that it's much of a secret from those of you who know me...
But Jerod and I have entered a new level of geek. We are so excited about the return of LOST in a few weeks, that we ran out and rented the last three episodes of last season and the bonus DVD. Mind you, we've seen those episodes, but it had been so long that we felt the need to re-watch. If you're a "Lostie," you'll understand how easy it is to forget all the clues and connections.
And so, on our last full day of Christmas break yesterday, we spent about 5-6 hours watching the episodes, rewinding to see tiny clues, watching ALL of the bonus footage, including the hidden stuff...and threw the bonus DVD back in at lunch today to make sure we didn't miss anything.
LOST is the masterpiece of our time, I tell you.
In defense of our illustrious and collosal waste of precious free time, Jerod was under the weather, and I couldn't bear organizing anything else. It was fantastic. In another defense of our geekdom...LOST is really more like a mini-series/novel in its unfolding, so you really do need to "re-read" to enjoy it thoroughly.
Ahhh. Lost.
May the writer's strike end before too long!!!!!!!!!!!! I will certainly be a crying mess if those darned writers interfere with my sweet show.