Turkey Time

My dad entitled this one. As usual...food on the brain! This will be a family blog.
We've just stuffed ourselves a little silly with turkey, gravy, cornbread dressing, fried okra, rutabagas (?), green bean casserole, sweet potato souffle, mashed potatoes, and rolls. Goodness gracious...a plentiful table full of goodness.
Now that we're all sitting around (mostly...mom is still finding things to clean...), I will ask everyone what they're thankful for.
1. Dad-"Family and for health...and I could go on and on and on."
2. Jerod-"Cake." (the Fresh Orange Italian Creme Cake that sis-in-law Suzette made!)
3. Harry-"You guys."
Here, Jerod adds in "Being so sexy...my drop dead attractiveness..."
4. Shelley-Fried okra from Golden's...and truly the fact that I love both of my families so much. I really enjoy being around all of them. I was given an amazing family by God and by marriage.
Jerod adds "Lost. I'm thankful for LOST."
Mom asks from the kitchen, "You reckon we're gonna eat again?" I answer in my head, "Are you kidding? There's more dressing the fridge with my name on it!?!"
5. Mom-"You kids. And for family" (as she washes another dish...how many did we use??)
6. Suzette-"For getting over jet lag. And for you (to Harry)." awwww. She might have added the last bit because he was squeezing (hugging?) her. Suzi just got back from Japan. She's still falling asleep at random times of the day.
In other breaking thanksgiving news, for the record, today I tried a rutabaga for the first time. May I add, also for the last time. A little earthy and rooty for me. There is a magical chemical reaction that happens between the crunchy fried onions on the green beans and the soft cornbready dressing. Magical. If you ever visit Newnan, GA, please head directly to the Main Street "Court Square" downtown and visit Golden's on the Square restaurant. A good meat-and-three place...I've been eating at some incarnation of this restaurant since I can remember. And their fried okra is to die for. It is unlike any version of this dish you can imagine. Crunchy, tasty, and addiction-causing. That's why it makes the short list of things to be thankful for. It's like candy to me.
The dogs are now all resting about the house, tired from begging for savory scraps (there were none to be had). My brother and I are staring at glowing screens and planning our next venture to the cake plate. Jerod is resting his aching back by lying on the floor. (probably thinking about how good looking he is) I agree with him. We should all be thankful. For Jerod's good looks, for good food, family, and roofs.
And Suzi's father offered this prayer today, from the archives of "Dear Abby."
Oh, Heavenly Father,
We thank thee for food and remember the hungry.
We thank thee for health and remember the sick.
We thank thee for freedom and remember the enslaved.
May these remembrances stir us to service, That thy gifts to us be used for others. Amen.
Ahhhh. Thank you, Lord.


My Christmas Gift to You

I have a long love of the stage--any stage. Not because I am the greatest performer, but more because I love the excitement, the rush, the edge of it all. (Speaking of 'edge,' I do wish someone had video taped my fifth-grade baton routine to the song "Fame--I'm gonna live forever!" as my baton came down unfortunately on the edge of the stage and was only saved by teetering on a mic stand.) I am a pretty lame actress, and my baton career ended, ironically, after the "Fame" performance. But I like to sing, and that seems enough for stage opportunities from time to time.
For the second time, this year I am privileged to be part of an intimate little production entitled The Birth: A Reflective Celebration of the Coming of Christ. We're very official this time around, as the director/creator spent countless hours setting up a cool website. I also got to test my graphic design skills by creating the poster (pictured).
So, I'm not just here to toot my horn...but to marvel in the story that we are telling. We are crafting an experience for our audience to participate in the Birth of Christ...the most cosmic and earth-shattering event that has happened since He created the earth itself! We are telling His story...we are singing His songs...and moving to the rhythms of His grace. It's quiet and powerful. It's entrancing. And I am humbled to take the stage here...my feeble attempt to illuminate the most amazing gift ever given. It's my Christmas gift to you.
We will step inside this story as He stepped inside a suit of flesh, to let the cosmic mix with the common. I invite you to join in the story of the ages, see the creativity of my friends who wrote pieces and songs, and of my cast-mates who offer their talents (like this boy offering his little star to the great big sky >>).
Visit http://thebirth.net and join us as we tiptoe on this sacred stage together.


The Fort Rock Stars

I often brag about how awesome my small group is--i.e. church small group. We call ourselves the Fort Rock Stars as we hail from Fort Mill and Rock Hill, SC. There is always great hilarity mixed with great spirituality. We have loads of seemingly dominant personalities, but somehow we have formed a community, seeking to be disciples of Christ, family, and fun.
A recent example: in the middle of prayer time (after 10 straight minutes of laughing time), John Zimmer prayed, "And Lord please help Paul...who has it all." (say it out loud if you need to and realize how awesome it is to rhyme while trying to be serious)
As with any pack of friends, we have our own quotes and jokes...and Michelle is the keeper of those. She will draw pictures if necessary to convey the moment. Elisabeth is loud and proud and is quick to let us know what is crazy with this world. Julia will cut to the heart of the matter and ask you the question(s)--40 usually--that will move you closer to God or will move her closer to understanding the matter. Paul sits in the corner with his own personal fan and drops on us alternate funnies and nuggets of wisdom. Jerod provides our insane animal trivia and the questions about faith that I can't begin to dream up. Richard was frightfully quiet at first, but has since become the master of the one-liner at the appropriate time. Iris lives out loud with an amazing mix of insight, acumen, and a lovely dose of humility. Dear Emily has been through more in the past two years than almost anyone I know, and the Lord has truly blessed her with a meek spirit and inner strength. She's our caring Mommy and our brilliant Harvard lawyer. John keeps us focused on the real meaning of Scripture, making sure that we are reading it well...then he shows off his white boy dance moves and makes me cry because I'm laughing so hard. And back to Michelle...her enthusiasm about everything is infectious...like you want to run and join whatever it is she has going on. And it's my job to corral all of this...(it's like herding cats). We nudge our hearts closer to the Cross, we learn patience and practice, and we laugh...the deep belly laughs of acceptance and love.
And just so you know the depth of our oddness, read this invitation sent via email to our group regarding this Thursday night's activity:
Kind people,
So as it is the Thursday before Thanksgiving Day,
So as we all may partake in gastronomical investigation,
In spirit of fellowship and healthful consumption of elements shared by our forefathers,
I, IRIS EMILLE ROWE HARTNESS, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim Thursday, November 20, 2008, as Small Group Thanksgiving.
It would behoove you all to prepare or purchase a side item or dessert of your liking and bring herewith to said joyous occasion at the good hour of seven o' clock in the evening. Please respond to this communication piece with affirmative reaction and declare your intention to attend and what accoutrement will accompany.
Please take heed, the following has been fortuitously determined:
Main course: Hartnesses (Rotisserie Chicken...Since Emily did such a nice job carving the first one...)
Side: Jones (Stuffing ala Shelbur)

Good day and God speed.

And so, I give thanks right here on my bloggy for this awesome assortment of souls with whom I share my Thursdays.


Doppleganger Effect

Doppelganger: A double, an identical replica of a person. The idea behind this is that everyone has a Doppelganger, an identical copy of themselves somewhere in the world. If the person is good, then the Doppelganger will be evil and vice versa. It is even said that if the two should meet, then they will both perish. Although there is no evidence that Doppelgangers exist, some people have actually reported claims of witnessing what they believe to be their Doppelganger. In all likelihood however, Doppelgangers are an aspect of myth only.

I can't believe I've never written about my doppelgangers in the world. On average of once a week, someone tells me I look "just like...(fill in the blank)." It's uncanny. Jerod just laughs now because it really happens so much. Apparently, I have "that face."

There have been some strange occurrences of this. On a high school trip, some of my guys friends came rushing up to me, excitedly relaying their sighting of my evil twin. I did catch a glimpse of her before we left town, and yes, she did look remarkably like me in the short moment I saw her. (Score one for Georgia)

Another time, I was standing in line at Blockbuster Video with my mom. I was visiting my hometown for a holiday. After several minutes, the lady behind me touched my arm to get my attention.

"You don't know me, do you?" She asked.

I racked my brain...had we gone to elementary school together? Her face rang no bells for me. I said, "I don't think so..." trying to leave the door open for 3rd grade homeroom possibilities.

"You look JUST LIKE my best friend from Alabama. I just moved here. I thought it was her, because you look exactly like her. But I knew you would have recognized me. You even sound like her...(me thinking..."Really? From Alabama? Really?"). She continued to talk to me, telling me how much I looked like her friend. (Score one for Alabama)

This lady was unsure if I was her best friend standing two feet away from me. Creepy?!

And Saturday, I was uptown with some friends when a man asked me: "Hey, I know you." (Hmmm...I don't think I know you. But I did work at a mega-church in this city, so there's a slim chance...) "You work at Urban Ministries." He looked at me expectantly, as though were I this person, I would give him a great big hug or at the least recognize him.

I had to respond that I did not work uptown at Urban Ministries, maybe he had me confused...at which point he told me "It must be your twin or something, because you look JUST LIKE HER." He proceeded to ask me if I was sure it wasn't "me." (Score one for North Carolina)

I do get told I remind them of so and so or look a lot like so and so...but I have been MISTAKEN for other people on more than one occasion. Like to the point I wonder if my mom had quadruplets and gave the other three up for adoption or something. (thinking she could only handle my brother and me--he WAS a handful!)

I would like to meet up with my twins sometime, though I hope the doppelganger effect doesn't hold. It would stink to perish just after having confirmed my multiple existences in the world.


Optimism and Things that pile up.

When it gets quiet on the bloggy front, I am usually knee-deep in real life. Who am I kidding...let's go with waist-deep!
I am a natural optimist. It's sad, really. Because it causes me to think grandly about what I might do or will do "someday." So today I am thinking of things that pile up. And why. Here's MY short list:

1. Mail at the kitchen table. Because I think that there are things in the pile that I will need shortly, like coupons and catalogs, and bills.

2. Shoes in the den. Because I toss them off at my earliest convenience upon entering the house (oy, my aching feet!), and don't see them for the better part of a week.

3. Emails in my inbox. Because I have a terrible case of "out of sight, out of mind..." and they're either waiting to be answered, or I still need to do something to tend to them...or in the case of my hotmail...it's easier to let 1500+ emails pile up than to deal with them.

4. Magazines. I will read them someday. And someday never comes.

5. Coupons. I can't ever seem to get myself and coupons in the store at the same time.

6. Things to file. I can get the items TO FILE in one PILE, but have more trouble getting the file pile filed.

7. Leftovers. Good intentions end up growing mold...then it's really fun to deal with them...

8. Clean laundry. I have no idea why I really like to fold, but not to put away.
9. Photos. Because I know that free time is right around the corner, and I will scrapbook like a maniac with it.

Things that are GOOD to PILE:

1. Money. Let me know if you find a money pile. I'm coming over. I'm bringing cookies to bribe you. (Or put you to sleep.)
2. Poker chips. Means you're winning. Winning is awesome. Can lead to above.
3. Clean laundry. Clean piles are better than dirty ones.
4. Books. Nothing says lovin' like a good pile of books. Memories and potential in one stack. Delightful.
Wall-E is the best piler ever. He knew what to keep and what to discard. He was efficient. He compacted and stacked the trash, and sorted the keepers.
Can I become more like him? I'm putting that idea in a stack of ideas to think about later.


Questions that keep me up at night

Along with a fun bout of sinus drainage (hmmm...that's what you came here to read about!)....there were questions that popped into my brain every time I awoke last night...which was often. For all the reasons people are citing about the greatness of Barack Obama, and the historical implications of it all (**cue dramatic music swell, as they did on my morning show**), I still have my doubts. These questions don't even get into the policy proposals or promises. These are just essential questions. I am interested to see how they are answered in the next few years.
  • Does the ability to INSPIRE equal the ability to LEAD?
  • How is a junior senator in any way qualified for the highest job in the land? No matter what his/her beliefs?
  • Is change for the sake of change always a good thing?
  • What, exactly, are his qualifications for righting the wayward economic ship? Americans overwhelmingly cited that as their number one criteria for their vote. When did he ever balance a budget or study economics? I hear him saying "Spend, spend, spend."
  • Has our nation jumped on the bandwagon of youth and charisma without regard for discipline, diligence, and experience?

I said that I was dispassionate about this race. Now that it is over, I am passionately watching outcomes. Not surprisingly, I see that this contest was more about smoke and mirrors, marketing, money, and the machine than about comparing apples to apples. We'll get what we voted for. Untested inexperience and wildly left ideals. I pray that he walks alongside advisors and recognizes his own weaknesses, as I would hope for any President. Most of all, I look forward to a fervency about my prayers for our Leader. We have no idea what we're really in for.


Oh delighful silence!

I will awaken in the morning to the delightful sound of silence. No more political ads peppering my favorite shows, interrupting my morning time...pundits will abound, but I can mute them too. I could sing a song right about now!! But that would even disturb my delightful silence.


King of the World

When I watch the news, especially in the last six months, I get the feeling all the journalists are Chicken Little, screaming, "The sky is falling! The sky is falling!"
My patience wears thin at the name-calling, back-biting, mud-slinging garbage...those who do not live in NC or the Charlotte-metro area might not be privy to the Kay Hagin/Elizabeth Dole ads. It's gettin' hot in herrrrre. I think there's an actual lawsuit involved. It's that bad.
I have been relatively dispassionate about this political season. Mostly because I do not believe that politicians hold the answers to my life or to the life of our country. I am not apathetic about the direction of our country...I will vote...I have beliefs about government's role in our lives, etc. However, I do not put my hope and trust in America, in its people, in its elected leaders.

Our sermon at church got fiery this morning. But not like you might think. Most people hear that and think that the preacher preached against sinners and talked about how they are all going to rot in the pit of hot, hot Hell. It's tragic that that's how we're perceived...we Christians. Jonathan got lathered up about what we can and should DO versus what we're not supposed to be doing. He ignited a passion in us to LOVE our enemies, rather than curse them ('cause that IS in the Bible, y'all.). He told us that SHOWING unbelievers a true love and compassion would lead them to the cross. And the cross leads to peace. We get sentimental about how "Jesus died on the cross for me." But we don't complete the sentence... "Jesus died on the cross for me...to love people, make disciples, go into the world and share the Good News, feed the poor, and be his vessel for peace and reconciliation."

Colossians 1:15-20 speaks of Jesus as our hope, our peace, our salvation...and the One who cares about the earth and its inhabitants:
15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. 19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

Jesus' job, and thus OUR job as his disciples is to work for reconciliation, for peace. It's not to keep a set of rules...a list of things we DON'T do that somehow make us better than those who DO. It is to replicate the life of Jesus in our everyday lives...to look for opportunities to mend, and not to divide...to make disciples who's chief agenda is not to argue why they are right, but to extend the hand of mercy to the wrong and the wronged.

I shouldn't attempt a re-preach, as Jonathan delivered this message with a holy authority that I may never attain...(LISTEN once it is posted--it's long but worth it), but I feel so relieved that I can get passionate about what TO DO. It's the Kingdom of God here, living through us, that will bring hope and salvation. In this world of war and turmoil, I was reminded of one of my favorite hymns today:

My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.
I dare not trust the sweetest frame, But wholly trust in Jesus’ Name.
When darkness hides His lovely face, I rest on His unchanging grace.
In every high and stormy gale, my anchor holds within the veil.
On Christ the solid Rock I stand, All other ground is sinking sand;
All other ground is sinking sand.
His oath, His covenant, His blood, support me in the whelming flood.
When all around my soul gives way, He then is all my Hope and Stay.
On Christ the solid Rock I stand, All other ground is sinking sand;
All other ground is sinking sand.
When He shall come with trumpet sound, Oh may I then in Him be found.
Dressed in His righteousness alone, Faultless to stand before the throne.
On Christ the solid Rock I stand, All other ground is sinking sand;
All other ground is sinking sand.

Obama and McCain did not come to save me or America. They are subject to the only King. In Him I trust.