Monday, July 30, 2012

    Peaceful, Loving and Kind

     The 2012 London Olympics. So many amazing competitors with such strength and speed and grace and precision and determination. And commitment. You can't watch the Games and not help but think of all the years of training that these athletes have gone through preparing for such a time as this. All the sacrifices. The singleminded focus. The total dedication. The amazing stewardship of their God given abilities.

    We've already seen athletes who were expected to reign supreme falter. By agonizing hundredths of points or shockingly wider margins. With cameras zoomed in on their faces to catch every nuance of reaction to their less than stellar scores. And then the interviews begin. Can I just say that the last thing I would want immediately following an event that I'd just poured every ounce of my very being into but failed to achieve what I'd set out to do, is someone shoving a microphone in my face and asking, "SO, how ARE you feeling right now?"

    Really? Do you really want to know?

    I'm just as amazed at the athletes' ability to handle this pressure as I am at their physical performances. I know it's all part of the deal and they know it's all part of the deal, but really, how do you think they're feeling when they lose? "Yippee! Now I get to do this all again for four more years to see if I can come back and possibly be humiliated before the world once again?? Thank you so much for revealing just how very mortified I am right now and for multiplying the agony of my defeat before this audience of millions."

    And yet, while their eyes and faces betray the depth of the emotion they are dealing with, they find a way to use words that say the right thing, that they've been coached to say in the unfortunate event that they fall short of their goal. Not the completely naked truth of their full feelings but words that are appropriate for this time and place. That they were hoping for a quicker time but it didn't happen. That they are disappointed but happy for their teammate. That the other team simply did better. Red rimmed eyes, a quiver in the voice, tears that erupt despite their attempt to save them for the safety of backstage, the locker room, or their pillow. And our hearts break for them. We know there is so much more that there aren't saying. We can't even begin to imagine how this must feel yet we almost wouldn't blame them if they sat right down on the side of the pool or the side of the bench or the side of the mat and sobbed. Hope deferred makes the heart sick. Indeed.

    Grace under pressure. The words we use in the midst of emotionally charged situations continues to be one of our biggest challenges. I've spent the last week reading and watching and thinking about the "Chick - Fil - A Issue" and struggled with this idea of how to speak the truth in love about anything, not just a polarizing discussion like this.  And realizing that the concept of  agreeing to disagree is not even on so many people's radar, let alone in their rule book. Which makes it even more important that we continue to work hard at balancing our conversations, our comments, our Facebook posts and tweets and blogs and dinner table discussions with graciousness. For the code of conduct seems to be continually spiraling downward when it comes to what is appropriate for our behavior, our attitudes, our words. It's quite a demanding balancing act.

     While watching the women's gymnastics last night, I flashed back to Cathy Rigby - cute little blonde ponytails atop a powerhouse in a long sleeved red leo - on the balance beam at the '68 Olympics in Mexico. Remember? OK, some of you can't but that's OK. For the record I remember Olga Korbut standing on the top bar of the unevens and flipping back around to catch that same bar with her hands and continue her routine in '72! Who does things like that??? Obviously she did and probably thousands of other girls since when the judges or coaches weren't watching!! But I digress . . . .  That beam measures 4.10 feet high, 16 feet long and 4 inches wide. FOUR INCHES! It's called a Balance Beam for a reason. Most of us can't even imagine walking the length of the balance beam without falling off, let alone performing all the amazing feats these young women bring to the Games.

     And while most of us are not called to manage a double twist walk over hand spring kind of thing on a 4 inch wide beam, balancing walking the Walk and talking the Talk can certainly feel like it. Behind every issue we find people. People created and loved more than we can ever begin to imagine by our amazing God. People who feel as passionately about various issues as we do. A spectrum of people from complete strangers to the closest of friends, from the most distant of cousins on the other side of the world to those we share our hearth and heart with. People who we interact with daily whether in a single interchange at the toll booth, repeated visits to the grocery store check out line, or over the backyard fence for ten years. People we work closely with day in and day out or people we wait alongside of for our children to return from school or dance or karate or swimming or band or rehearsals or practice. People we serve on committees with, people we've reconnected with on Facebook, people we worship with, people we live with. People who all matter to God. People who we can alienate from Him in an instant by making our unfounded desire to prove that our side trumps theirs more important than the very people forming that differing opinion, belief, or lifestyle.

      The motto, the theme, the overriding atmosphere created by our wonderful headmaster, Richard Johnson, at the school where I began my teaching career way back when was three words - Peaceful, Loving and Kind. It was written on the walls of every classroom, used to not only mediate playground disputes but create the foundation and focus for everything we said and did. Easy to memorize? Of course. Easy to live out? Hardly . . . for community is living and breathing, full of every day learning and growing. People. And learning to live within the framework of God's call to be peaceful, loving and kind with someone we get along with is challenging enough, let alone with those we don't particularly like or with whom we have stark differences of opinion.

      Yes, there are absolutes. Yes, they are the very foundation of my faith. Yes, I am called to live a life that follows the Truth of God and His Word and to not be ashamed of it. And if I am honest I know I will also run into plenty of people that I will be tempted to brush aside or worse yet treat with disdain simply because their ideas or their opinions appear to be different, annoying or even ridiculous. But therein lies the challenge, for the very Word of God also asks those who have accepted His call to follow Him to do two things - love God and love your neighbor as yourself. And somehow in this my-way-or-the-highway charged, four inch wide culture we find ourselves in, we really need to ask God to give us the strength, the grace, the love to balance living and speaking His Truth and loving our neighbor. Harder than a high flying, 2 1/2 twist, inward, backward, hang on with your toes for dear life manuever? Sure feels that way - but I'm trusting my Coach will keep teaching me how to stay on the beam in such a way that an audience of one or many more will see Him and His love for them in all its greater than Olympic sized glory.





Thursday, July 26, 2012

On that Same Road . . . . Again . . .

    The nice thing about a road trip along 81 through Virginia is just how pretty it is. Now don't feel neglected, Tennessee, you were lovely too, but today is about the second leg of the trip home from Nashville, and I was thankful for all the mountains and trees and yes, thank you, blue skies and almost Toy Story clouds for much of the ride. If you've made the drive up or down the East Coast on I-95, you know what a welcome view that can be.

     Unless you enjoy counting all the signs until you reach South of the Border . . .                                  

 Of course the pictures don't do it justice and we were zipping along at . . . the speed limit, of course (!) . . .  but I think you still get that ahhhhhh factor of rural America hemming in the highway on a summer day. And we certainly won't take the time for an ethics discussion on speed limits but does anyone else get excited when you see a posted speed limit of 70? Reminds me of the time when we were heading out for a family get together and I was pulled over on the PA Turnpike when I made the unfortunate decision to pass an RV that was already rumbling along quite briskly. The little corner of the State Trooper's mouth turned up ever so slightly when my response to his "And where are we going in such a hurry today? was a chirpy, "To a birthday party!" Oh the extended grace of a warning!

  Thankfully we weren't stuck behind this guy for too long or I might have needed even more survival chocolate!

Our destination on this leg of the trip was Camp Sandy Cove, where our son is a counselor for the summer. Yes, the camp is in West Virginia now, but it's still the same camp organization where I spent 12 wonderful summers of my young life and where our daughter has loved      going the past four summers.
      The circus cabin for the younger campers was doing their end of the week performance (although it had to be moved indoors due to rain which meant no trapeze unfortunately) and we were happy to make it in time to see that show and catch up a bit with "Chief Logan".

   (There's a whole 'nother post about seeing my son carry on the legacy at camp . . .  I knew he would be a good Chief and would love spending his summer at CSC! How could he not??)

  And for all you CSC alums reading this, is it any surprise that the CITs had to come to the rescue and push the camp truck??

 Some things never change.  

We were staying overnight nearby after a long day on the road so went back the following day to visit in between camper pick up and camper drop off.
      After a brotherly sisterly jumping on one another/oh, I miss messing around with you session, the sibs consented to one nice picture. With their schedules this summer, they won't get to see each other much and we were all glad to have a little extra short but sweet time over lunch which included Sandy Cove Stew! Rain on Friday night had caused Cookin instead of Cookout so the meal was missing some of that campfire flavor but is always tasty nonetheless. If you've never had camp stew, especially Sandy Cove Stew, then you have truly missed a culinary delight! Combo with Dough boys and s'mores for dessert and you have cookout heaven!

     Staff meeting and soon-to-be arriving campers were calling the Chiefs so we were off on the final stretch of our journey. So many miles in oh such a short string of days definitely called for ice cream at Rakestraw's in Mechanicsburg (one of our favorite spots from college days) and supper at that staple of interstate travelers everywhere, Cracker Barrel! You've got to love a place that has mastered the art of breakfast all day long and their sourdough toast just makes me happy every time. : )

     We feared shunning from our trio of felines . . . if you have cats you know they tend to punish you when you've left them alone for any length of time . . . but surprisingly two of the three were quite happy to see we'd returned and especially that we'd brought our daughter home. Number three didn't show up until the next day - was she punishing us or simply off on an indoor/outdoor cat adventure? Probably her own version of Interstate 81 and just like us, always happy to be home once again. 

Monday, July 23, 2012

On the Road Again . . .

      So happy to have our daughter back home! She had a wonderful 3 week experience taking a summer dance intensive with the Nashville Ballet and we've only just started to get caught up, hear the stories, fill her on all the excitement around here (guess who has the better stories?) : ) Watching her say tear stained goodbyes to all the new friends returning to Louisiana and Texas and South Carolina and the one other "Yankee" in the group felt very much like goodbyes at the end of summer camp, especially when they all actually agreed to write real, live, longhand letters to each other!! I'll believe it when the US Postal Service is benefiting from all those stamped envelopes arriving in our mail box!

     Speaking of Yankee, ordering food in a different part of the country is always an adventure, isn't it? We had a long drive on Saturday so planned to just make 2 quick stops for meals along the way and settled for McDonalds, although my dear husband was negotiationg for places with names like Aunt Gertie's Good Ole Country Cooking or Muddy Creek BBQ or other such local delights that his traveling companions just weren't in the mood to take a risk with this trip. I'll have to explain why at some point . . . and it's too early in the post to digress!! I'd returned to the counter in McDonalds when I realized I was missing that little plastic sleeve of knife and fork for my salad but when I asked the girl "Could I please get some utensils?" my Philly-tinged accent must have sounded to her south of the Mason Dixon line ears like "Yew - teeeeehhhhh - suhls" for as she scrambled in her head to translate what I needed, her reply was simply, "Ummm, what?" After asking again, I remembered where I was and made it so much easier by slowing down and requesting a fork. That brought a smile to her face and as she went to retrieve the now recognizable item, the manger apologized. I grinned and said, "Oh, no, it's me, I'm a Northerner and I just don't talk (pronounced tawk) right (not pronounced with a trademark overly long "i"). Every head behind the counter, frying fries, packing white bags to go popped up and looked at me - c'mon, really? You guys haven't had any Yankees come through lately? But they also all smiled and I guess they liked that I was apologizing for my lack of culture instead of expecting them to adjust to mine. The manager even went so far as to comment again that he was sorry and that they all liked me despite my being a Northerner.  : )  I should probably just pull out a Southern character and accent when in this kind of situation and see if that helps. Next time.

     But we do like a good road trip and this one included lots of miles and some wonderful stops along the way. My cousin lives in Tennessee so after surviving the long stretch of 81 through Virginia that always feels like it will go on forever, we enjoyed an overnight at her house. And yes, after my hubbie turned in for the night, we stayed up late talking and I remembered once again why she is one of my favorite people. We also were so focused on what we were talking about that while we gave a few giggled comments to the lightning and thunder that was rolling through strongly enough to rattle the house down to the carafe lid on the corner of the kitchen counter, it wasn't until the next morning that we discovered there was 'tornadic' activity in the area and we really should have been hunkered down in the basement, clutching our pocketbooks, best chocolate and other valuables! I mean, there were things to catch up on, you know?

      Friday took us to the performance that gave all the visiting parents, family and friends the chance to see some of what the dancers had been studying and creating. Can I just say I love to watch my daughter dance? She just loves it so and lights up with such joy while she's performing. I"m smiling now just thinking of it. We got to see both performances which were really quite wonderful with so many talented dancers and then afterward met the teachers who had wonderfully poured their time and talent into all the students. It's called a summer intensive for a reason and I hope the students and teachers alike all get a chance to catch their breath and get some well deserved R & R.   The girls had discovered a nice little place to eat near their dorm so  they chattered and giggled and enjoyed one last piece of butter cake together, avoiding thinking about the goodbyes that were approaching . . .  We enjoyed sharing our meal with some of the other parents and inevitably exploring the regional characteristics of our various homes from Gumbo and Cajun to the superiority of Georgia peaches and of course, suggesting that they might want to come visit us for an authentic Philly cheesesteak instead of the one on the menu - the fact that it was being served on a . . . . baquette (!) instead of an Amoroso's roll was the final detail that had us questioning its authenticity! Everything else was quite delicious, true to the girls' recommendations and we thoroughly enjoyed chattering away with their parents.

     Back at the dorm we loaded up all our daughter's many things we'd just dragged down a few shorts weeks ago (ok, she learned how not to pack lightly from me!) and headed for our hotel. And of course, it started to rain. I don't mean a nice little summer shower, I mean it was POURING!!!!  And while we had some directions from mapquest, it seemed prudent to add in the skills of Lola (we call our GPS "Lola" which will make sense if you saw the movie, "RV" with Robin Williams).   Unfortunately Lola kept trying to get us to return to the street that was blocked with tall, wooden blockades for a detour that seemed to have quite a few harried drivers confused and had us crisscrossing the city in great frustration and much "re-cal-cu-la-ting". Ugh! At one point, we thought we remembered her mentioning Gay Street, so when we drove by Gay Street for at least the third time,  we turned, hoping this would do the trick. Did I mention it was pouring?? After turning one more corner blindly, we saw a City Works truck lights blinking in the darkness, and hunkered down under some kind of roof were 2 workers waiting out the rain. Surely they would know where our road was, right? I put the window down and with my best smile told them we were dreadfully lost and could they possibly point us in the right direction. With hands worn from years of honest labor gesturing and a long, slow drawl that was music to our ears, "Joe" directed us with 3 simple turns to the highway. "Larry" graciously ran back out into the rain to direct us with a huge smile as we backed around to return the way we'd come originally. Oh the kindness of strangers on a dark and rainy night!! After heartfelt cried "thank you's!!!" we discovered their directions were perfect and before long we were dry and safe in our room for the night. Thank you Lord!!

     How wonderful of God to pepper our travel with interesting people who were gracious and kind. (I think my Southern friends are leaning forward, hoping I'll make the connection between the region and the MO.) And since several days on the road has the laundry piled up, I'll have to finish the story of this trip another day. Too bad there's not any butter cake around to sweeten the task!



Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Spider veins, sports bras and service

     I have friends who are old. I mean, they're starting to talk about what they might want to do to celebrate their 60th birthday or they're getting knee surgery or they're considering demoting their summer legs to capris only because the spider veins are just getting out of control. I'm not sure what I'm doing hanging with these old gals because I'm still 19 . . . . in my head at least! And surely it's not my legs that need demoting, is it?

     Today I saw 3 posts on FB that had me thinking about women and how we live and how we think about ourselves. I've been catching up with friends over the summer that I don't get to see or talk with much during the busy school year and I'm always amazed at the wonderful variety of gifts and talents and abilities they've been given and how they use them. I could write an entire post (and I will another time) about the women I spent a weekend with back in June at our now, 2nd annual camp reunion for staff from the 70's (yes, go ahead and do the math . . . ) or the women who volunteered yet another summer for Kid Fest at our church last week. These vibrant, energetic women inspire and encourage me as I consider how faithfully they've been looking for ways God can use them to make a difference in their worlds. I hope I can be like them when I grow up! : )

     But this morning I saw 2 posts that were from young women. Not I'm still 19 in my head and my ponytail helps me look younger, right? women but actual, unchronologically-challenged women who get it. One I'm blessed to know personally and one I wish I did. They have committed themselves to not just making a difference right where they are but also speaking out as authors, speakers, and social media voices, encouraging the young women today to get it too.                                            

They aren't dealing with spider veins yet - but somehow I can see that when that day comes, it won't be a deal, because it's what's going on inside that counts for them. This sports bra generation (did we even have sports bras when we were unchronologically-challenged?) is bombarded 1000 times more than we were from the ever increasing media creations and we all know it doesn't take much to make a woman of any age feel she doesn't measure up to the perfection image . . . unless we are grounded in His love and making time to remind ourselves and each other that we are daughters of the King and are precious in His eyes. All.the.time. And there's some amazing young women stepping up to serve and remind this generation what really matters. I want to be like them when I grow up too!

       My daughter says when she's a grandmother she plans to wear sparkles and happy colors and be a 'cool granny' who isn't surrendering to dumpy or frumpy or whatever she thinks uncool grannys might wear. I know that comes from her heart's desire to let what's shining on the inside shine even brighter on the outside. That makes me happy to know she and the young women I saw on FB are getting it.  And it makes me so happy that I might just break out the shorts today . . . . but I'll leave the sports bras to the true 19 year olds!

       "Never doubt that a community of thoughtful, committed women, filled with the power and love of God, using gifts they have identified and developed, and pursuing passions planted in them by God-never doubt that these women can change the world" quote from "Nice girls don't change the world" by Lynne Hybels

Thursday, July 12, 2012

How Many Summers?
     Over 1000 kids gathered under one roof and throughout the grounds for Kid Fest, our church's twist on Vacation Bible School . . . and it's not your mother's VBS for sure! Adults in neon green shirts with Event Staff on the back, many who have taken vacation time to spend these Bible-School -on-steriods days with their 'campers'. Kids in every color under the sun who sing and clap and dance and shriek with joy over the slime machine's next victim and play with total abandon in the inflatables and water slides and who can't help but be pulled into full focus on the story of the prodigal son. Everyone finding out in the high octane large group sessions or the unexpected quiet one on one moments that grace is all about us getting something wonderful that none of us deserve. It's a great way to spend some significant summer days.

     But today was different. Today after another exciting high energy morning, I walked out into the sunshine . . . and missed my kids. I drove away without the conversations over a crispy chicken sandwich from Wendy's about what adventures and conversations the morning had brought. For the first time in 19 years it was just me at "VBC". And because that summer tradition was one we'd loved from the days I dragged my son along in a Pack'n'Play while I taped camels and market awnings to our classroom walls, shared smiles of joy with my daughter finally wearing a red shirt as a real camper and not in childcare for volunteers (albeit still not too happy to see me in character for the daily drama sketches), to the last few summers when we'd all served together and knew we all loved it, their absence hit noticeably.  All those memories washed over me of their camper days at VBC and then what a privilege it had been in the midst of my own responsibilities to also catch glimpses of ten campers all negotiating for a piggy back ride or the coveted spot sitting alongside their counselors - my kids who'd caught the ministry bug and were doing such a great job of spilling Jesus' love all over their campers, dancing with such joy on her face it was contagious or taking his turn in the slime machine being coated unmercifully with pickles one day and pancake batter the next!

      In the downtime today between sessions backstage we found ourselves talking about our kids and bracing for the teen years. Someone said to me, "Wait, you have good teenagers, that gives me hope!" And it gives me hope too, for that's why I miss my son and daughter - they're good kids! God's grown hearts in them that love Him and the kids and peers and people around them. But He's also given them opportunities this summer to live and learn and love those around them a little further away than our hometown Kid Fest. I guess that's the bittersweet part of life for any parent as the transition from roots to wings continues. Tomorrow I'll go back for another day of Kid Fest and I'm sure once again, I'll be rather acutely aware that there's two beloved good teenagers who aren't in service alongside me this year. But intertwined with that little hole in my heart is knowing that they are making a difference in some other corners of the world this summer and carrying on the legacy that was fed in part by all those summers at Vacation Bible Camp. So tomorrow when I leave, I think I'll enjoy a crispy chicken sandwich and raise a Frosty toast to my two good kids.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

     Summer is always the perfect time to tackle a new project, hobby or activity, don't you think? And since I've been considering starting a blog for a while now, this summer seems to be the perfect time to launch it.

     It feels a bit weird . . . while I love how small technology makes our world, as you can tell from the title, I'm more the 'jottings' kind of person who still prefers reading a real book with actual pages you can turn and scribbling my plans for the plays and musicals I direct on a yellow legal pad. And call me crazy, but there's something satisfying about flipping the page over the top of the spiral binding of the steno notebooks/journals that have held handwritten records of my joys and sorrows and travels and events, big and small, for, well, enough years to make me think perhaps I've been blessed to learn a few things along the way that might be good to share, especially if typing them on a keyboard can somehow count as 'jottings'.

    So this summer, as life delightfully slows while my rising junior children (one high school, one college) are away for a bit having wonderful adventures and the demands of my husband's job call for a little more time on the road, I'll become a blogger.

     I think it will sometimes feel like telling stories - something I've enjoyed in circles of family and friends for years - whether it's that story that gets pulled out every time life long friends get back together again yet somehow still makes us laugh or the newest saga, travelogue, or simply catching up lunch date chit chat. And in the midst of these stories of life, it seems it could also be good to share, as one friend suggested, "what's on your heart". For woven through all the bits and pieces and stories of each day are the amazing ways God is loving us and teaching us and showing us both Who he is and Who He is calling us to be. And that's always worth jotting about!