When our friends come into view…

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We have a calico group of friends and neighbors in this season. This week, those who have gathered around our “table” have included:

  • a retired school teacher who will spend a month overseas in a cabin, fishing the days away in the river out back
  • a group of high school boys set to graduate who have learned the benefits of hard work and helping a neighbor
  • a former resident of the federal pen whom we are honored to consider our adopted son
  • a waitress with an eyebrow piercing who loves every customer and treats us all as though we are her only table
  • a mushroom hunter who likes to smoke and have a beer or three every day, and can fix or build just about anything and everything
  • a young man from Mexico who sends part of his paycheck every month to his family back home
  • a “retired” grandpa who has traveled the world, builds houses, and is very comfortable on a tractor
  • a brilliant and stunning kitchen designer from Viet Nam who knows her stuff and doesn’t back down when her clients throw ridiculous ideas at her
  • a beautiful young mom who struggled with addiction and loves to cook and is married to our “adopted” son

When I think about the colors of our world, in relationships, in personalities, in family members, in cultures and lifestyles, what a beautiful world it is. Everyone around our “table” brings life experience that we could only dream, and ours seems to pale in comparison to their adventures.

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But we are not here to compare whose stories are better or more exciting. We have gathered this week to share, to serve, to bond just a little more, to learn from one another.

There is a new picture on our wall, kind of our motto in this season:

Image result for love god, love people the endLove as a verb.

This is what our “table” of friends and neighbors has done for us. They are loving us, filling our lives full, showing us what servant friendship looks like. We are grateful and very, very blessed.

The most beautiful scenery in the world is when our friends come into view. – Bob Goff

Sam and I were talking this morning about neighbors and what that word should mean.

  • A neighbor is someone who takes homemade cookies across the street to the new family who just moved in, and a neighbor is someone who returns the container with two pieces of fresh-baked pie and a thank you.
  • A neighbor is someone who offers a helping hand when they see the man next door working hard, all by himself. And a neighbor is that man who invites the helping hand over to play cards the next evening.
  • A neighbor is a family who offers rides to another family without transportation, and a neighbor is that family without wheels, sending a handwritten thank you with free babysitting for a night out for mom and dad.
  • A neighbor is someone who drives five hours to help someone landscape their yard or finish their home addition or take a look at their design plans or unload landscaping blocks from the back of a trailer or fix lunch for them while they work or paint a laundry room or introduce the new people to everyone in the cafe or sit down in between waiting tables and share a story from where they grew up.

People loving other people by being kind and compassionate. People being neighborly. People using the word LOVE as a verb. People DOING love. People who refuse to live alone but choose to engage because that is what makes a calico colorful life.

I love this video that is full of a calico world. People are beautiful, even in the midst of turmoil and tension that surrounds us.

God has made such a colorful pattern in our friendships and our families, and because of Him and because of them, it is good to be alive today.

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I am not a fan, but I AM grateful.

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My brain is on hiatus. I know, at 52, my brain could be on permanent hiatus, but I certainly hope not. However, I sometimes think I am losing my mind. In my daily work, I type information that I have discovered in research on the internet. Sometimes, it is a phone number or an email address. Sometimes, it is compensation or education data or a physical address. More often than not, I have to look back at the 10-digit phone number at least 2-3 times, sometimes more, because I cannot store 10 numbers for more than 5 seconds.

What in the world.

I’m the one who worked at Ken’s Pizza and never wrote down orders because I could remember multiple pizza orders from three different tables in one trip around the restaurant before heading to the kitchen to write up a ticket for the doughboys at the ovens.

I’m the daughter who could remember a customer wanted $15 of premium in the tank, tire pressure at 32 all the way around including the spare in the trunk, the oil and transmission fluid checked and added if necessary, and “just the floor in the backseat vacuumed, please”, washed all the windows to boot, and then when the total was $17.32 and they handed me a $20, I made correct change WITHOUT the help of one of those fancy cash registers that does it all for you.

I am the teacher who taught K-12 music and played almost every piece by MEMORY at every program.

What has happened to my brain.

It has been two short years since I spent time with all of the kids in the youth choir at church, and this past Sunday, I couldn’t name half of them, even though I KNOW them.

This morning, Sam and I were walking down Main Street USA when a resident of this fine town stopped to talk to Sam about underground sprinkling. Casually, he mentioned Joe who lives on B Street in that house that has the big outbuilding and the roof that is slate and he’s the brother to Larry and they married sisters and his phone number is 555-1234 and if you have any questions you can call me at 555-4321 and I am the croquet coach over in Kville and the croquet buddy of Don over there in Kville…and I walked away with my brain in a tailspin. It’s the details, man, the details.

Yesterday, ‘Manda reminded me of a beta fish named Mr. Boss from high school choir days, and I have absolutely no clue what she is talking about.

I lie in bed at night and think of all the things, I mean ALL THE THINGS, and then want to slam my head into a wall in the morning trying to remember all the things that I should have written down or picked up my phone and recorded my list in the dark of night except that I don’t know how to do that and wouldn’t remember how if you told me.

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Don’t even get me started on the fact that six of our grandchildren are siblings and have names that begin with A… And many times when I think of one, I subconsciously go through the list until I hit the target name.

Image may contain: 6 people, people smiling, people sitting, baby and childAynjel, Andersyn, Anjalie, Annistan, Andrae, Anissa…exactly.

I am not a fan of my memory fade.

However, I AM a fan of grandchildren who pack themselves in a box and want to be shipped to Ama’s house.

I am not a fan of the USPS who won’t comply with their wishes.

However, I AM a fan of our friends who have come to small town USA to help us landscape and side a house and design a kitchen in hopes that someday our grandchildren will come and visit.

I am not a fan of a really nice air mattress that apparently has a leak now. It was an uncomfortable night.

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However, I AM a fan of friends who come to visit and crack jokes about being invited to drive five hours to visit us and then are expected to work and then also make wisecracks about coming to a home with no place to sit.

I am not a fan of my once quiet home that was superficially dust-free now turned into a zoo of noise and activity and coated in a fresh coat of earth particles.

However, I AM a fan of corn chips. Especially at lunch time, while sitting around a dining table on the only chairs in this house, with friends who have driven five hours just to help us make our new home a little more inviting so that the other friends don’t have to work when THEY come visit.

Like I mentioned before, I am not a fan of recollection deficiency.

However, I am a fan of dressing and feeding myself. Those could be the next skills to go. I HAVE been known recently to wear my clothes backwards.

Bring on the kale and blueberries and snap shirts. I have arrived.

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I like pleasant surprises.

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I was surprised this morning.  Sam pointed out a lone poppy growing in our front yard. It is beautiful standing there all alone, sharing its brilliance with a large yard, the first of many flowers to come.

I was surprised this morning. Two mourning doves decided to perch on the roof that juts out just below my second story office window here at the house.

I was surprised this morning. Last night, we moved the lone tv from our makeshift bedroom to the living room below so that our guests this week could relax after long days of work, albeit without any “real” furniture to sit upon, but still. And I found that I didn’t miss the morning noise as much as I thought I might.

I was surprised this morning. I had forgotten how good a bowl of Cheerios could taste.

I was surprised this morning. I found that I was grateful all over again for some of the same things that I have counted in the past, and I had taken them for granted in this state of pause I find myself in.

For a chilly day in late April.
For a warm house on this chilly day.
For soap.
For the overwhelming reassurance that I am loved.
For the quiet reminder that even though things will never be as they were, life goes on and we find ways to discover new joys and make new relationships.
For Psalm 121.
For dry hands that appreciate lotion.
For my hearing, even though it has diminished, so that I may hear the birds singing.

I am grateful today for His blessings re-counted and given over and over and over again.

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This is your birrrrthday song, it isn’t very long. The end.

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I call her ‘Manda.

I have a few students from the past who have remained in my life. Even though life has gone on and their lives are busy with careers and marriages and raising children, they still find a little bit of time for their old music teacher. Sometimes it’s a text message or an email – or it used to be a Facebook post. And on occasion, it is a phone call or an actual visit.

There was a small group of girls in my past teaching life who got to know me quite well, and ‘Manda was one of them.

Our worlds collided in a small town in Oklahoma inside a choir room, and over the years, we spent many, many hours laughing and solving all of the problems in my office or in the library, mixing issues with a box of Cheezits and an ice cold Dr. Pepper. Whether it was the topic of mean girls or cute boys, we could pass the hours and make them seem like minutes.

Shaniqua, ‘Nette, Sky, Karis, Mel Hoo Hoo, and ‘Manda Skye – they’ve all stayed in touch, and so many years later, I feel like these students who were like daughters to me, have become my friends. That doesn’t always happen. I could name MANY students who were very close and are very special to me, but there are a handful who have chosen to reach out, and that does an older, soft heart pretty good.

We laughed so hard we cried. We cried so hard we laughed. We prayed together, we sang together, we took road trips together, we watched seasons of Big Brother and The Bachelor and Survivor while eating tons of popcorn on my bed. I heard ENDLESS tales of boy woes and classroom drama…

I can still hear her giggle.

‘Manda Skye, if I were the dorm supper cook again, I’d bake you a cake. And I’d give you as much ranch dressing as you want. And if I were the choir teacher again, I would make you sing a solo. And if I were the librarian again, I’d let you skip class all the day long and eat Cheezits and M&Ms in the library. And if I were your piano teacher again, I’d give you stickers and candy even if you didn’t practice. I know. I did that already.

Happy birthday. I love you and I am so grateful that you chose to be my friend all these years later.

Betsy goes to the hospital.

I am grateful that DC4 – commonly known as Betsy in my world since I named her just that when she was born because no one needs to be known as DC4, who, you need to know, has a little brother, DC5, commonly known as Ben in my world since I named him too in order to rescue him from DC5-ness, who, you need to know, has parents named Mr. President and The First Lady and they all live free in the National Arboretum in Washington DC – ANYWAY, I am grateful that Betsy is back home in the nest after getting stuck – dangerously stuck – in her nest and had to be rescued by a very nice man who climbed the tree with all the harnesses and ropes and unstuck her from the branches and took her down the tree all the way to the veterinarian hospital to be checked out and was then delivered back safely to the nest to be reunited with her baby brother and her VIPs (very important parents) and she is doing so well now.

THAT was a run-on sentence to compete with some essays I used to have to read when I was a teacher. You’re welcome.

I am grateful that next week, Betsy and Ben will receive official names that will be pretty cool names, living up to their VIP’s names. We live in a very delightful world in which I can watch this family in real time and everyone in the world can vote to name DC4 and DC5, aka Betsy and Ben.

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Watch them live! And vote for their names:

http://www.dceaglecam.org/

 

 

I am grateful for Sunday breakfast lunch on the patio with blue sky, birds singing, and a little time with Dad before we left for the white house.

I am grateful for soft carpet after a plank to 100 and 100 crunches.

I am grateful for the tart of an apple slice.

I am grateful for lots of dust all over every last thing – that way, it is easy to tell what I’ve missed and makes cleaning more efficient.

I am grateful for laughter with good friends whom we haven’t seen for so long.

I am grateful for streets that know how to go north/south or east/west and don’t mess up my sense of direction.

I am grateful for news anchors and reporters who know how to pronounce important words like Iran and nuclear and who know how to avoid saying the non-words “whole nother.” Can’t we all just agree on this one thing? Iran = Eye-ran, or Ee-ron? Eye-rainian, or Ee-ronnian? Pick one and stick with it.

I am grateful, all these years later, for a new notebook with all clean pages. You don’t have to be in school to love this simple pleasure.

I am grateful for free popcorn from the plant nursery – what is better than buying plants on a sunny, cool, spring day while eating a bag of fresh, salty, buttery popcorn? That’s smart marketing. Just ask our bank account.

I am grateful for cats and kittens who are so happy they like to rub up against a leg while purring.

I am grateful that my Dad thinks that “it is just a game,” because otherwise, I would be worried right now about our Royals and the impact they are having on him.

I am grateful for the end of the day and a can of Pledge with my name on it.

And I am grateful for the reminder to appreciate the beauty all around us, beauty that sings His praise, if we will only stop to listen and look.

 

Beware the barrenness of a busy life. ~Socrates

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I am grateful for the whipped cream froth blanket on a hot chocolate.

I am grateful for blooming dogwoods.

I am grateful for presents wrapped with care.

I am grateful for shade on a hot day and sunshine on a brisk day.

I am grateful for a song that describes just how I feel, like I wrote the lyrics myself.

I am grateful for the pleasure of sneaking a piece of ham off the platter before dinner.

Simplicity is making the journey of this life with just baggage enough. ~ Charles Warner

I am grateful for cool tile under hot feet just removed from tennis shoes.

I am grateful for card-senders.

I am grateful for smiling dogs as the ears are rubbed.

I am grateful for canaries.

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I am grateful for the fun of singing the Brady Bunch song word-for-word, with my sister, annoying my oldest brother.

I am grateful for Sonic ice.

I am grateful for random text messages from former students who turn out to be close friends.

I am grateful for a good walking dog.

I am grateful for faint memories of my little girls singing together.

And I am grateful that sometimes when I pray, I don’t have to have words. I can just be still, and He knows.

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To laugh at yourself is to love yourself. – Mickey Mouse

 

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I put my t-shirt on backwards this morning.

Sad thing is, I didn’t discover that I had done so until I was walking down the street and couldn’t figure out why I felt so constricted around my neck. When I felt the neck line, I also felt a tag.

You gotta be kidding me.

Another one of those times when you hope no one is looking.

At least it was only 6:15 am and still not quite the middle of day. I sure thought about removing my arms from the armholes and switching back around before I got to the busy streets, but, I thought better of it and pretended I was right.

I went through a whole scenario should someone ask me during my walk why I was wearing my shirt backwards.

“I felt bad for my husband because he did it too, and I didn’t want him to feel out of place.”

“Oh, haven’t you heard? It’s the latest thing.”

“Perdon, no hablo bien ingles. Lo siento…”

*****

I am grateful to walk at pre-dawn.

I am grateful no one else walks at pre-dawn.

And I am grateful that at least I didn’t forget to put a shirt on.

Busted Can of Biscuits