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  • The Red Sofa

    November 16, 2009

    About 14 years ago, I bought a huge, down-filled, ridiculously expensive Henredon sofa. I had it made in this exquisite blood red damask fabric and it was a vision of beauty for all who laid eyes or butts upon it.

    Luckily, I bought the sofa before I met AD because he would never authorize that kind of spending.  Not so lucky is that it never occurred to me that once you spend that kind of money on a sofa, you are loath to ever get rid of it. And trust me on this:  There is not a sofa on the planet that you will want to keep your entire life.

    Well why not just get it recovered you might ask? And that is a reasonable question. The problem is that I could buy a brand new sofa and maybe even a few other things for what it will cost me to have it recovered.  It will require a substantial outlay of cash and outlaying of cash is just not in our immediate or foreseeable future.

    So then, right now I have a formerly glorious red sofa that has turned a sad shade of pink from the sun and suffers a terminal case of thread rot. And if I may be honest, the giant expensive, formerly glorious, now ugly sofa is really getting on my nerves.  Every time I walk through my living room, it pains me to look at it.  It is the Norma Desmond of the sofa world.

    Last week, as I was pulling into the neighborhood I saw a Thomasville truck in front of my neighbor’s house and two men were hauling in a houseful of brand new furniture. I slowed to gawk at the spectacle of it all.  And I may have pressed my nose against the car window and drooled just a little.  I coveted. Oh yes I did. I coveted with a vengeance.

    With a heart drenched in envy, I continued around the block towards home, driving past the house of a woman whom I only knew in passing. But she doesn’t live there anymore. She lost her battle to cancer about this time last year leaving behind a husband and a ten-year-old boy.

    Maybe she left behind a really nice sofa.  Or maybe hers had thread rot too. I don’t know.  But either way, it didn’t matter.  She left it all behind.

    * * *

    Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.   Matthew 6:19~21

    The Happy Face In The Sky

    November 4, 2009

    In his famous poem Ode to Immortality, Wordsworth wrote that our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting.

    I’ve always loved that imagery. I love the idea that at one time, in some unknown form, we dwelled with God, that we communed intimately with him, knew every line in his face, the softness of his hands, the sound of his voice, the warmth of his embrace.

    And then we were born.

    No wonder we come into this world wailing.

    As we are awakening to a new world, we are dying to another.  Every minute of life carries us further away from whence we came; the older we get, the less we remember of it.

    Last Sunday evening during Children’s Bible Hour, the children were asked to draw a picture of God.  Sean immediately got to work. There was no question in his mind what God looked like.

    The teacher called him to the front of the class and asked him to talk about his picture.  He held it up and told an audience of 30 or so children with confidence that he thinks God is a happy face in the sky with a beard and some swirly lines.

    The teacher nodded and said with a sigh that he was sure there was a message behind his picture. Sean shook his head. “There’s no message behind the picture,” he said and then he showed the teacher the back of his paper.  Blank.  No message.

    The next day, as we were eating breakfast, I saw the drawing at the end of the breakfast bar. I picked it up and looked at it again.  I asked Sean to tell me more about it.  “Well,” he said pointing his fork, “The smiley face with the beard represents God and the swirly lines are a gust of wind.”

    I was intrigued by the idea of God as a gust of wind.

    As I looked at the picture, I thought of how many times God has drawn near to his people in the form of wind – sometimes in a violent gust like in Acts 2:2 and other times as gentle as a whisper as in 1 Kings 19:12.

    I thought of how the Greek word pneuma is used to mean both wind and spirit and how the Hebrew word ruah is used to convey both wind and spirit but also breath – the very essence of life.

    And then I thought that maybe he has not yet travelled so very far from whence he came.

    And I wanted to stand just a little bit closer to him.

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    * * *

    More esoterical musings on the nature of God from my She Speaks peeps over here.

    Gratitude + Contentment = Joy

    October 8, 2009

    Busy today. Another excerpt from my speech.

    * * *

    I think most of us recognize the material blessings in our life, that we live in a wealthy country, that all of our needs are met with abundance.  Some of us have a little more, some of us have a little less, but all of us are well off by the standards of the world,  so it’s not too hard to be grateful for our stuff.

    I do think however that we forget to be grateful for something far more valuable than our stuff, and that is our time. We all assume that we will grow old.  We’re all going to live to be a 100, aren’t we?  But you know what? None of us are guaranteed another day.  There’s no guarantee that we’ll even make it to the end of THIS day.  We all know that.  But few of us really live as though we know it.

    I recently read the story of a man who knew his days were numbered.  He knew he probably wouldn’t  live to see the next season. And what struck me in his story was the gratitude he had for each new day, even though he suffered tremendously and was dealing with a lot of anxiety.

    When gratitude becomes the frame through which you view the days of your life, when you can wake up every morning, thrilled to greet another day in whatever condition you find it, then you open yourself up to experiencing joy in it’s purest form. Your sense of well-being is no longer dependent upon external things which are little more than vapor.

    What I hope and pray for anyone who has read thus far is that you can learn to do this without a prodding circumstance.

    Gratitude’s partner is contentment, and together they combine to give you this sense of fullness and completeness that we call joy.

    There are two nasty habits that kill contentment.  One is not living in the present and the other is comparing yourself to others.

    Contentment is found only in the present, in this very moment on this very day. If you are spending time regretting that you didn’t have the perfect childhood or thinking about how good life will be when your kids can finally walk/talk/get out of diapers, you are robbing yourself of contentment.

    The other contentment killer is comparison. You can always look out your window and see someone who has it better.  Comparing yourself to others encourages you to focus less on what you have and more on what you have not.  Comparison allows discontent to take root, choking out gratitude and joy.  Nothing good comes of comparison.

    And here’s the thing about gratitude and contentment – the only person who can rob you of these things is you.  No one but you.

    So then, gratitude leads to contentment, contentment leads to joy and joy leads back to gratitude. And at the center of this cycle is peace.

    The wise King Solomon wrote, “He seldom reflects on the days of his life, because God keeps him occupied with gladness of heart.”

    Joy is being occupied with gladness of heart.  Joy is living in the moment with gratitude and contentment.

    Joy In Hard Places

    October 2, 2009

    I’m off to do car stuff and school stuff and other stuff today.  This is an excerpt from a speech I gave a while back.

    * * *

    There is a verse in the book of James that says, “Consider it pure joy my brothers whenever you face trials of many kinds.”

    Are you kidding me James? Pure joy? In trials? Seriously?

    I have always struggled with this verse because I can’t imagine that I’m supposed to feel joyful when the world is trying to whack me upside the head, as it seems to like to do.

    If I were to pick nits,  it says “consider” it pure joy. It does not say “feel” pure joy.  So if you are not feeling pure joy in the midst of your struggle, you are off the hook. Not required.

    The joy is not in the trial itself, but rather it is the bi-product of the struggle, of working through the difficulty.

    There is joy in the opportunity to grow spiritually in the midst of turmoil, joy in the eventual victory over the difficulty, and I think most especially, joy in the deepening of support relationships as you make your way through the hardship.  The people who come to your aid and stand beside you and gather you up are comfort and joy embodied.

    And I submit to you, from my own experience, that the joy that comes from difficulty, when it comes, is life altering.  It is terribly sweet and lasting and becomes a part of who you are and how you view the experience of life here, and hereafter.

    Is there joy in losing a spouse or a child or a loved one, the worst kind of trial?  No. Absolutely not.  But there is joy in the memory of the beloved that remains. The person may die, but the joy remains. Having said that, I know first hand that grief can numb you to that joy for a long time.

    Joy in difficult places is like childbirth — after tremendous pain comes a tremendous and life changing joy.

    So Small

    August 29, 2009

    Antique Daddy and I have been saying bedtime prayers with Sean since the day we brought him home from the hospital.  It’s our routine. It’s what we do.

    Those early prayers were often desperate pleas for help and grace and mercy.  We had no idea what to do with a four-pound baby.  We were terrified.  We felt so very small in the bigness of the task we had been given.  We felt as though we had been sent out to fish the Bering Sea in a row boat.

    The other night as I settled Sean for bed, I pressed shut the book I had been reading to him and set it aside. I knelt beside his bed and asked him if he would like to lead the bedtime prayer.  Sometimes he does and sometimes he doesn’t.

    This time he turned his head to the wall and didn’t respond.

    “Sean?” I asked again,  “Will you say the prayer tonight?”

    After a long pause, he turned towards me.  His eyes were shiny with tears.

    “I don’t want to,” he said, his voice quivering.

    That was unusual.

    “Why not?” I asked, concerned. “Is something wrong?”

    “I’m scared,” he said quietly.

    “Scared?”

    “Yes,” he whispered. “I just feel so… small.”

    A big tear rolled down his cheek onto the pillow.

    I sighed.  He gets its.  In the shadow of our mighty God, we are indeed so small.

    I leaned over him in his tiny bed and blanketed him in a hug.  I prayed over him and thanked God for my wise little boy.

    I prayed that he might always view his God through the lens of humility and awe; I prayed that he might always feel so small.

    A Special Kind Of Believing

    August 9, 2009

    Saturday morning, Sean and Antique Daddy sat at the breakfast bar eating breakfast while I played the role of the short order cook.

    On the bar was a slip of paper with Sean’s Bible memory for the month of August.  It was James 2:17. With just a little prompting, he was able to recite the verse:  “As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead.”

    The slap of high fives and cheers echoed throughout the House of Antique.

    AD asked Sean if he understood what the verse meant.

    “Sorta,” he said with some uncertainty, then “No. Not really.”

    After a long pause he guessed, “If the body doesn’t have a spirit, then it’s dead,” he said with hunched shoulders and palms up.   “And it can’t work? Right?”

    “That part is right,” I confirmed.

    “Do you know what faith is?” AD asked.

    There was a long silence as he considered the question.

    “Well faith is what you believe in,” he said slowly.

    “That’s true,” I said. “Faith is a sort of believing, but faith is a special kind of believing.”

    I picked up the salt shaker off the counter and showed it to him.

    “You believe that this is salt, don’t you?” I asked.

    “Yes.”

    “Well how do you know?”

    “Well, I can see it,” he said.

    “Well, maybe it’s not salt. Maybe it’s something else. How could you find out for sure that it’s salt?”

    “I would shake some out and taste it.”

    “Very good.  And then you wouldn’t have to have faith. You’d would know for sure, wouldn’t you?”

    “So then what is faith?” AD asked again.

    Sean looked at AD. AD looked at me. I looked back at Sean.

    After a long pause, he shook his head and said, “I’m stumped.”

    We all three sighed.

    More than one man has been stumped, and stumbled, trying to understand and define the essence of faith.

    Faith is a mystery.

    He who calls us into a relationship of faith is the very same who set time and eternity into the hearts of men in such a way that we cannot comprehend it. (Ecclesiastes 3:11)

    My prayer for Sean this Sunday morning is that the events of his life, both good and bad, will call him to enter into the mystery of faith, to take a running leap across the wide and deep chasm of human understanding towards eternity.

    * * * * *

    “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” Hebrews 11:1

    Up The Ante

    August 4, 2009

    The thing about giving a speech, for beginners or remedials like me, is that there is a wide canyon between what actually comes out of your mouth and how it is playing out in your head.  And it is frustrating to me, this disconnect; that I can’t make myself do outside my head what I can so easily do inside my head.

    In my head, my voice is as warm and golden as melted butterscotch.  Outside my head, my voice is more akin to the sound of an angry wet cat wearing nose plugs.  Inside my head, my pacing is mellow, pauses are dramatic and gestures punctuate meaning.  Outside my head, my pacing is that of a spooked race horse and my gestures are more akin to muscle spasms.  Inside my head, my audience is nodding and dabbing tears and chuckling at my subtle humor.  Outside my head, 15 people are staring back at me like my hair just caught fire.

    In my head, I’m also four inches taller and 10 pounds lighter and I am not wearing discount store pants hemmed up with blue painters tape.  And I look a little more like Charlize Theron.

    The afternoon of The Big 5, I was sitting in a session listening to a speaker give practical and expert advice and encouragement in the fine art of oratory.  In one ear, I was feeling her encouragement and I was envisioning myself living out her expertise. I was thinking, oh yes siree, I can do it!  But in the other ear, I was hearing, “Who do you think you are? You?  Sharing the gospel? Seriously? Have you heard your voice?”

    And I would say, yes, as a matter of fact I have heard my voice, I have a voice recorder! And then I would cringe and shudder and wince. Who do I think I am, indeed.

    The longer I sat there, the tighter I wound myself into a big sticky ball of anxiety and doubt.

    So I quietly slipped out of the session to take in a long deep breath, walk off my anxiety and to try to shake the great discourager off my shoulder.  I was in a bit of a throw down with the evil one.  And so if you saw a crazy lady coming out of the restrooms  shaking her fist at the air and hissing, “Do NOT mess with ME!” — that was me.

    As I walked towards the restrooms, I saw Lysa Terkeurst and her assistant Holly pow-wowing at a little table in the lobby.  They waved me over, so I stopped and said hello.  I can’t even remember what was said, but when Lysa talks to you, she always looks fully into your eyes and beyond into your being, no matter she is just saying hello or delivering the gospel. And Holly is perhaps the wisest, sanest most unflappable woman on the planet.

    As I looked into Lysa’s unblinking gray green eyes, I wanted to close mine tight. I did not want to look at her because something was already tapping on the door of my heart, asking me to up the ante on the anxiety, to raise the bar, to scrape off another layer of skin, to give more than I had.  And I did not want to answer that call.

    A few minutes later, on my way back to my session, I passed Lysa and Holly again. They were still sitting at the little table, engaged deeply in conversation.  I was relieved that I could slip past them and go merrily on my anxious way back to the session, unnoticed.  I walked past them just a few steps and then something stopped me dead in my tracks and turned me around.

    I walked back to the table they were huddled over.  They both looked up and smiled at me politely, even though, clearly, I was interrupting.  I hate to interrupt. I spend most of my waking hours trying to avoid interrupting or being a bother to others, hence my fear of making phone calls.  And here I was interrupting the busiest woman at the conference.

    I didn’t know exactly why I was standing there interrupting, so I just blurted out, “Lysa, do you ever go to the speaker evaluation groups? You know, to hear the speakers?”

    She said that she used to do that but it just made the speakers even more nervous.

    Exactly. Up the anxiety ante. That was what I was supposed to do. That’s why I was standing there.

    I heard myself ask her if she would be willing to come hear me give my speech.  After about two seconds of schedule checking and wrangling, she said yes.  And really, that says way more about her than me.

    Just so you are clear on what transpired here, I asked the leader of a large conference, a nationally known speaker and author, who was scheduled to lead a session at the very same time I was speaking, to come listen to my piddly little five-minute speech.  And she said yes.  It would be like getting off the tourist’s bus at Buckingham palace, spotting the queen and running up to her and asking her to stop by your room for a spot of tea. And she says yes.

    Up the ante, He said.  Then depend on me.

    I don’t really think it was just a coincidence that Lysa and Holly were sitting just outside the session I was in. I don’t think that Lysa and Holly woke up that morning thinking they should follow me around and sit outside the sessions I was attending just in case I might need to ask them to do some crazy, unscheduled thing. I’m pretty sure not.  Not planned. Not coincidence.

    After the session, I went back to my room to practice and to pray and then practice and pray a little more.  What I had to give to God was not great, I know that, He knows that, but I was going to give all I had and more. I was going to up the ante not because I wanted to, but because He asked me.

    So Lysa and Holly came and listened to my speech. And I did okay.

    I recorded my speech with a little pocket recorder I carry around with me and when I listened to it later, it bridged the mighty canyon between what I heard in my head and what actually transpired.  It was the most honest of all evaluations.

    I was nervous.  I spoke too fast.  I dropped a few key lines. The faces that stared back at me were mostly wide-eyed and puzzled. The written feed back was mixed — some got what I was saying, some didn’t.  But none of that really matters.

    It wasn’t about my performance, it was about my obedience.

    I was called to up the ante that day, to lean a little harder on my Jehovah-Rapha.  And I was obedient.

    And that is all that matters.

    Fear Of Public Speaking – #1 For A Good Reason

    August 3, 2009

    Back in the early 80s, when I was about 23, I landed this great job where I traveled around the country about 80% of the time teaching people how to use their new phones.

    It was a great job for a young single gal.  I traveled to many of the major companies in most of the major cities, and four times a day, twice in the morning and twice in the afternoon, I gave 30-40 minute presentations on how to use the new phone system.  Basically I worked four hours a day and was done by 3:30. Suh-weeet!

    The first time I went on a training trip, I went with this older lady named Connie to a large aerospace concern out on Long Island.  And by older lady, I mean that she was the same age I am now.  That hurt just a little to write that last sentence.

    She gave the first two morning presentations while I observed and then I was to give the afternoon presentations.

    That afternoon, in my first group were about twelve not easily amused, scowling executives extremely serious about the millions of dollars they had just invested in their new phone system.  And little old blond, wet behind the ears, uneducated me was there to teach them how to use it. I’m sure the sight of me in my $20 polyester business suit inspired all due confidence.

    I knew my material. I had it memorized. I knew the phones and I knew the system and how they worked inside and out. Yet I was nervous. Connie told me to relax and take a few deep breaths and that I would do great.

    I stood up to make my way to the front of the room.  I turned and looked down at her hoping for something, but I didn’t know what, maybe her calm and poise, maybe that she could somehow gift that to me.  I also hoped that a meteorite might hit the building in the next 5 seconds.  But it didn’t, so I just stood there looking at her.  She looked back at me. And blinked a few times.  Finally she made a sweeping motion with both of her hands. “Go,” she said.

    So I turned and I went.

    I went to the front of the room.  I stood in front of a dozen scowling Ernest Borgnines, all with their arms crossed across their fat executive bellies, some clenching unlit cigars between their teeth, all waiting for me to confirm for them that they had not wasted their company’s money on my phone system.

    I swallowed hard with great difficulty.  I seemed to have no saliva.  I opened my mouth to speak and no words issued forth. Not one.

    I opened my mouth again, hoping to hear the sound of my voice, hoping to hear “Hi. My name is…” But all that came out was a sad, pathetically tiny squeak.

    I remembered that Connie had told me to take a few deep breaths before I started, so I did. And then I took another.

    And then another.

    And then I couldn’t stop myself and I began to hyperventilate.  And now instead of making a tiny squeaky kitten sound, I was making an unpleasant sound that I liken to the sound that the last of the water makes as it is being sucked down the bathtub drain.  Not the sound you want to hear in a conference room.

    As I’m making the bathtub sucking sound, unhappy, scowling, and now, slightly alarmed executive faces stare back at me.

    My heart was beating so hard, I could feel it in my throat.   I looked down and saw my right foot thumping like a rabbit.  My mind sent my foot a message to cut it out, but my heart was in my throat and so the message did not get past my neck.  And the fact that my heart was in my throat was probably all that stood in the way of me throwing up. So I count that as a blessing.

    Somehow, I do not know how, I managed to pull it together.  I got through my 30 minute presentation. It was not great, but I got through it without throwing up or fainting and at that point, that was all that mattered.

    I’ve always suspected that the executives went home to their wives that night and told them about how in the conference room at work that day was the most ridiculous specimen of a human they ever saw.

    After my presentation, I sat down and the first thought I had was, “I can’t WAIT to do that again!”

    It was terrifying, but it was also exhilarating to go into that dark tunnel and come out the other side. And I wanted to do it again.

    The next time was a little better, I didn’t hyperventilate, as much, and the time after that it was a little better. By the second week, I could give those presentations in my sleep. Over the next several years I went all over the country giving the good news.  You’ve got new phones!  And I’m here to teach you how to use them!

    Most of the time, the response was, “I like the old phones. What was wrong with the old phones? I know how to use the old phones. I don’t like the new phones.”

    I gave presentations to groups of 3 and groups of 20 and groups of 100 or more.  And I became very comfortable with public speaking.

    But that was 20 years ago, and now I’m back to square one again.

    This past weekend, I was in North Carolina at the She Speaks conference to relearn how to move through that dark tunnel to square two.

    This time around, I’ve got a different kind of good news.

    Short One Pair Of Socks

    August 2, 2009

    Why, you might wonder, is Antique Mommy missing a pair of socks? Well I’ll tell you. They were knocked off this weekend in North Carolina at the Proverbs 31 She Speaks conference.

    I don’t even know where to start in describing the awesomeness that was this weekend, so I’m going to mention just a few highlights and then I’m going to go lay down for a few days.

    In absolutely no particular order:

    ~ Keynote speaker Jennifer Rothchild. Amazing doesn’t even begin to describe this woman. She had 600 women and a number of men spellbound for more than an hour as she told her story. I can’t quit thinking about her and her powerful story and the way she tells it. I may have trampled a few sisters trying to be first at her book table.   If you ever hear her speak, you will not be the same.  I will not do injustice to her big story by trying to tell you about it in this small space.  Go to her site and find out about her.

    ~ An amazing demonstration of the unity of the body of Christ seldom seen,  anywhere really.  This is the thing that stands out for me about this organization and this conference and I think why I love it so much.  There is no A List or B List.  There is no preferential treatments or anything that separates anyone from anyone else, no favoritism shown that James talks against in Chapter 2.  There is no division among them, just everyone working together to encourage and build each other up.  600 women encouraging and cheering each other on, all on the same team.  That makes my heart burst.

    ~ Cheri Keaggy – I have loved her since I first heard her music when I returned to my faith back in the 90s.  Her music was a big part of that season of my life.  She is an amazing singer, musician and woman of faith. And tall. I had no idea.  I assumed she was short like me.  I stopped her in the hall and told her I would die if she didn’t sing “Make My Life An Altar.”  She looked full into my face giving no indication she thought I was nuts.  She didn’t sing it and I didn’t die. But I still love her.  Not in a stalker-y sort of way. Well not overtly stalkerly.

    ~ The Proverbs 31 team – How this small band of sisters put on such a well run, thoughtful, meaty, organized conference for 600 women is beyond me. All are approachable, available and know everyone’s name.  And that amazes me because many days I don’t even know my own name.

    ~ A lovely lady with great big aqua green eyes rimmed in gray who made it possible for me to attend this year.

    ~ That the busiest woman in the whole place would leave a session she was leading to come hear me give my little speech just because I asked her to.  It’s slightly more involved than that, but too involved to lay out here at this moment. Soon.

    ~ Seeing my sweet bloggy friends, some of whom I had met before and others not, but in all, a list which is too long for the mental bandwidth I have available at the moment.

    ~ My 570  new friends.

    I’ve got more stories to share, but just now I am so tired I want to cry.  I’m going to go wrap myself up in my little boyfriend and then my big one.  It’s good to be home.

    Drop By Drop

    June 23, 2009

    Day by day, drop by drop, the world seeps in and crowds us out.

    His daddy and I are in a race against the clock to lay a firm and level foundation that will last him a lifetime and withstand any storm.

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    Because already, there is a storm gathering in the distance.

    We see it. We hear it. We know it is coming.

    He’s interacting with the world more and more these days, independent of us.

    He’s already heard the most corrupting lie ever told:  Everybody does it.

    We try to teach him to stand apart with confidence, to not be Everybody.

    We try to teach him that it’s better to be wise than smart.

    We try to teach him that it’s better to be kind than accepted.

    We try to teach him that good choices lead to goodness.

    And every day that passes is one less day we have to  shore up the foundation of his life.

    Our prayer for him is not wealth, health and happiness.

    Our prayer for him is that goodness and mercy follow him all the days of his life.