Monday, November 16, 2009

My friend Vicki sent me 45 life lessons written by Regina Brett, 90 years old, of The Plain Dealer, Cleveland, Ohio. Many of hers were similar to my measly 21 given in an earlier post. I'm going to pick up a few of hers that I've learned but obviously overlooked on my earlier list.

22. Life is too short to waste time hating anyone.
23. No matter how you feel, get up, dress up, and show up.
24. It's OK to get angry with God. He can take it.
25. Make peace with your past so it won't mess up the present. [As Nicole Johnson says...So you had a lousy childhood. Get over it.]
26. It's never too late to have a happy childhood. But the second one is up to you and no one else.
27. Don't compare your life to others. You have no idea what their journey is all about.
28. If a relationship has to be a secret, you shouldn't be in it.
29. It's OK to let your children see you cry.
30. Burn the candles, use the nice sheets, and wear the fancy lingerie. Don't save it for a special occasion. Today is special.
31. Over prepare, and then go with the flow.
32. Be eccentric now. Don't wait for old age to wear purple.
33. No one is in charge of your happiness but you.
34. When you are upset, ask yourself, "In five years [or five days], will this matter?"
35. Forgive everyone everything.
36. God loves you because of who God is, not because of anything you did or didn't do.
37. Your children get only one childhood.
38. The best is yet to come.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Doing One More Thing

When I went to a women's spiritual retreat, I forgot to take my Bible. Ironic, I know. I explained to my friend that I thought I had time to do "one more thing," and then I forgot an item central to my purpose.

The "one more thing" was typing a poem for my pen pal, Adrian, who is incarcerated in a Georgia prison. Last week was his 8th anniversary there, so at age 31 he has 22 more years to go. He is a writer, and I started writing him to encourage him in his Christian life and his writing life. It snowballed into requests to type his voluminous output--from 14-line poems to novels.

I can't keep up with his prolific writing. He cannot have access to a word processor, so those of us on the outside are his only way of getting his words in print on the road to publication. He has talent, but talent that needs to be honed and refined as only a good writing teacher or editor can do. Sometimes I give him suggestions, but for the most part I type it as he has written it. His grammar and spelling are excellent; there's no matter of corrections needed. But his metaphors are often mixed, his series not parallel, his description lacking in detail.

I see his struggles with the other inmates, with his family on the outside, with himself. What I do for him is miniscule in comparison to his needs. He has my prayers and encouragement, and occasionally I seize a few minutes to type some of his poems. It's the best I can do in response to Jesus' reply to the sheep on his right, "I was in prison and you visited me" (Matthew 25:36).

So here's Adrian's poem that was the "one more thing" I did on Friday.

The Death Not Seen

Fallen sighs in a darkened cube,
Hands groping for a doorknob, a windowsill, something or some way out.
Darkness is too much for the ones trapped.
Silence is compounded
Every sound is magnified.
Heartbeats become thunderclaps.
And all they can see are two orbs of jaundiced gold,
Staring at them out of the ebony veil.
No sound, just those two orbs
Piercing, probing, penetrating, petrifying.
Suddenly a scream shatters the darkness
And then another scream and another and another.
A new color pierces the black.
Splotches and splashes and spills of viscous crimson.
Shadows of limbs soaring.
The crashing of objects
The wails of the dead.
Then once again silence.
--Adrian English

Monday, November 09, 2009

Fighting the Daily Details

I just watched the garbage men fight with our large, broken plastic chairmat that Steve wore out wheeling his chair between his desk and computer table. My relief at seeing the old one disappear into the mouth of the garbage truck was based on the trials involved in getting the new one in and the old one out.

Wednesday night I told Steve that I'd picked up his new chairmat at the office furniture store from which I'd special-ordered it. I'd left it in my car because after seeing the hefty salesman fight to get it into my car, I knew I couldn't handle it alone.

Thursday morning at 7:15, I heard noises from the garage and then he came stumbling in with that enormous, heavy, studded plastic mat. It's only 5 x 6 feet, but the weight and awkwardness makes it a challenge to handle. We had to use towels to hold onto it because the studs are so sharp. We got it up the stairs and I couldn't help but wonder what prompted him to start this project 15 minutes before leaving for his 8 a.m. class. Fortunately for us both, I didn't verbalize those thoughts.

We had to move his massive desk off the old chairpad--not an easy task. I couldn't budge my end even an inch, but Steve's weight-lifting paid off as he was able to scoot it off. Then I lifted the leg of the computer table so he could pull the old pad the rest of the way out.

Somehow, in getting the old pad out, he managed for the studs to cut his knee without tearing his khakis. How? I have no idea. My own knees were only bruised from the battle. He shot from the room, shouting, "I can't do this! I've hurt my knee and I've got to take care of it before I get blood on my pants!"

He tore through various closets, drawers, and medicine cabinets looking for enough gauze to staunch the blood oozing down his leg. A mere Band-Aid would be like the legendary finger in the hole in the dyke. He finally got it wrapped to his satisfaction, apologetically leaving a trail of clutter behind.

When he returned to the office to get his school bag, I timidly asked if he would lift the computer table so I could slide the mat under it. "Not now!" he said, "Maybe not ever! I can't do ANYTHING like this! We have to remember to hire someone to do every single little thing around here. Hire someone to get the old one out. I'm not touching it again!" With a quick kiss, he was gone, barely in time to make it to class.

So I managed to get it under the computer table, but the desk stayed where it was. At least the mat was flat and in place. And, even more clumsily, I dragged the old one to the window by his computer. Grateful for the tall windows easily cranked open, I dragged it over the sill and let it fall to the ground. Later I dragged it to the side of the house until garbage pickup today.

And Steve repented enough to help me get it to the street last night, though we were laughing so much it was hard to grip it enough to get it propped between the garbage cans. So when I heard the garbage truck, it was with delight that I watched the two muscular men have similar challenges trying to get it in their truck.

Steve is right about our lack of ability on physical household tasks. A few years ago I complimented a workman at our house, grateful for his skills. "My husband can't do any of those things," I said.

I was taken aback by his vehement response. "Your husband can do lots of things I can't!" he answered. "Don't you ever forget that!"

And I haven't. I'm grateful daily for Steve, his many talents, and his loving ways. I'm grateful that his talents provide the means to hire done what we cannot do ourselves. I'm reminded of Romans 12:6: "We have different gifts, according to the grace given us." And one of the gifts Steve and I share is a sense of humor, especially about ourselves.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Fun and Feasting

The past weekend was a joyous time of fun and feasting--both physical and spiritual. A Halloween party that had outgrown the host's house was transferred to ours, accompanied by the usual food and frivolity. The theme was "A Family Affair" and everyone came as some family member. I was "Auntie Mame," which was great fun. I enjoyed swooping around in stilettos with my feather boa and cigarette holder.

Our houseguests for the weekend were Andy and Kathryn Miller and their children Sam and Reagan. They are the missionaries we worked with for six weeks in Bangkok over a year ago and it was great to see them again. They are on furlough in America to get more financial support and to recruit other Americans to commit to the Lord's work in Thailand. We relished catching up on the people we'd known in Bangkok and hearing how God is constantly blessing the work there. They immediately were family to Kelsey and Stephen, too, even though they'd just met. They all jumped in to help prepare for the party and were active participants in every bit of it. It was fun the next day to tell them more about the guests, for we could identify them by their costumes: "Family Tree," or "Uncle Fester," "Father Time," "Mother Teresa," "The Godfather," etc.

Best of all were the spiritual discussions. Being in the family of God connects us in ways far deeper than natural family ties. We ate together, played together, and prayed together, and were so sad for them to leave. At the same time, we are happy that we know such warriors for Jesus Christ. Being with them definitely made me want to go back to Bangkok with a Let's Start Talking,, team!

Andy and Kathryn spoke to our combined adult and teen classes on Sunday. I loved it that within their report was also a lesson for us all: work for God wherever you are, whether it's Thailand or Cincinnati. I couldn't help but think that every culture has its idols, whether it's Buddha or football, spirit houses or the World Series. Being with this family that has given up house and jobs to follow God's call to the other side of the world was both humbling and inspiring.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Standing by the Cave

The weekend after the Smokies, Steve and I enjoyed a Fall Foliage weekend in northeast Ohio. We went to our closest national park, Cuyahoga Valley National Park near Akron. The color was fabulous--the perfect weekend to be there. We stayed in the park at the Inn at Brandwine Falls, which I highly recommend.

We had planned to go to New England and I thought I'd bought Delta tickets. But when I tried to get our boarding passes to Boston, behold! We didn't have any tickets listed except to Key West in February. So we went to Ohio instead. But here are some really good things about not having the tickets, showing that God was way ahead of us:

1) It snowed in Boston and around there and it would have been a winter trip rather than a fall one. Also, we might have had trouble getting out on Tuesday.
2) Steve had an all-day program in Indianapolis on Wednesday and this way he had time to prepare instead of burning the midnight oil after we returned Tuesday evening.
3) I realized that the Phoenix tickets I thought I had bought (for a program Steve always does there in January) did not exist either! So I could go online and get those tickets while the flights we needed (and at a good price) were still available. Delta has cut so many flights from Cincinnati that the ones that remain fill quickly.

Isn't God awesome! I felt pretty stupid at first, but it worked out for the best. We were having some computer issues at the time I thought I bought both sets of tickets, but that's straightened out now. And I've learned to be sure the itinerary I print out has a confirmation number on it!

When we were hiking the Ledges Trail in CVNP, we came to a cave-like opening in the wall of rock. Steve approached it and looked inside while I stood back on the trail. After taking a few steps away from the cave, he turned and looked at me, waiting. We each stood there. "Are you OK?" he asked. I assured him I was fine. I couldn't understand why he didn't return to me so we could continue.

Finally he said, "Are you sure you're OK? Are you ready to keep going?" And he gestured on past the cave.

Then I realized that there was also an alternate trail that he was on. The trail split for people to go see the cave and then rejoined after a few feet. I was waiting on him and he was waiting on me. Fortunately, we both thought it was pretty funny, once we figured it out.

As we hiked, I started thinking about how often we rush to judge where another is standing when that person's place is just as good as our own. We simply don't have that person's perspective. Paul's reminder, "So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don't fall," kept coming to mind as well as Jesus's many statements on not judging others. Any time I'm tempted to judge someone else's actions, I need to get more information about their situation. I need to improve communication--listen to them instead of telling them what I expect. Communicating was the key to our figuring out why we were each stuck on our section of the trail. Communicating is also the key to figuring out where other people are and how we can best help and encourage them.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Weekend in the Smokies

Our annual family weekend in the Smokies has ended, and new memories now blend with the old. We spent more time at the Ranger Stations this year because Kinley works on her Junior Ranger badges whenever they visit a national park.

Our usual hiking was shortened due to Knox's determination to walk it himself. So we dawdled at a three-year-old pace and enjoyed the woods and water of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Our new adventure was to drive to the Cataloochee section of the Park, which entailed driving across the mountains to the Oconoluftee Visitor Center in NC, and then through at least 12 miles of dirt roads to reach the isolated valley where a herd of elk roams through the Cataloochee.

It was misting rain, which made the lush valley and elk seem even more surreal. We picnicked on the porch of the Caldwell house, built in 1903 and eventually purchased as part of the park. We took pictures in the old barn and went into the Palmer Chapel Methodist Church where the church bell still tolled when pulled by eager youngsters and some oldsters as well. We could tell the accoustics were just right, so we had a Boyd family rendition of "Victory in Jesus." Some other people came in as we were singing and seemed to enjoy it almost as much as we did.

I cannot say enough good things about where we always stay--Zoder's Inn on the Parkway in Gatlinburg. We get a Tower Suite with a balcony overlooking the creek, which includes a kitchen, dining room, living room,fireplace, a bedroom with a king bed, bath, and crib, a bedroom with two beds and bath, and a Murphy bed that folds down from the wall into the space between the living room and dining room. This is plenty of room for the 8 of us, especially with Knox in the crib. We get breakfast with many choices of cereal, pastries, juice, and fruit, "wine and cheese" in the late afternoon, and cookies and milk at bedtime. This is the deal of the city because we can get out to the park a couple of back ways and avoid much of the city traffic. The place is clean and neat and the kitchen has microwave, ice maker, dishwasher, as well as stove, coffee pot, etc. And all this in season for $239/night! If you're thinking of visiting the Smokies, I can give you more information. We go back year after year and do not regret it.

We spent quality time in quantity with those we love most in God's magnificent handiwork. What could be better than that?

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Heading South

When most people say, "And that's when it headed south," they mean things went terribly wrong. But for me, heading south is heading home. It can be the home in middle Tennessee where my mother lived for 36 years, but it can be other places as well. In this case, it's home to the mountains of Tennessee.

This particular day we are heading south for our annual family visit to the Great Smoky Mountain National Park for hiking, picnicking, and general family togetherness. As well as we can reconstruct, this.. is our 25th year for this trek. We didn't start out to create a family tradition--we just wanted to take advantage of the long fall weekend off from school to head to the peace and color of the Smokies.

At first, Dad Boyd would drive over from his Indiana home to ride down and back with us. We loved having him with us and he seemed to relish it, too. When he could no longer drive over, often Steve's sister Nancy and her husband Flay would meet us there and bring him along. Nancy would make Kelsey a special birthday cake and we'd celebrate two weeks early. We'd go our own ways during the day, but we'd enjoy eating, shopping, and hanging out together in the evenings.

When Josh went away to college in 1990, we wondered if that would be our first Smokies weekend without all of us there, but he didn't want to miss out. Nancy and Flay drove via Nashville to pick him up at his college campus, and we went home that way to drop him off. So coming from college became the routine which Kelsey picked up on all four years.

When Josh and Gina married in 1995 and were living in Bloomington, Indiana, we figured all the heroic measures for getting Josh there from Yankeeland were in the past. But we were soon informed that not only Josh, but Gina didn't want to miss out on this annual event that she'd heard about for years. When they moved two hours further away to Lafayette, we thought that was too far. We were wrong. When Kinley was born in 2001, we thought they surely wouldn't drive so far with a baby. Wrong again. Now at age three, Knox is heading south to the Smokies for the fourth time.

Kelsey and Stephen came first from Nashville and now from Bellevue, Kentucky. Excited about this year, we're all already thinking about next year when they'll bring their baby to the Smokies.

The route is so familiar. As we drive south on I-75, we feel our muscles relaxing and our spirits lifting. We marvel at the neon-colored trees, pointing out one after another. We stop for supper and grin at each other when we feel a nip in the air. Twilight falls as we near the Tennessee state line. We are certainly heading south to a slower pace, softer voices, and silent grandeur.

I had no intention of chronicling so specifically the evolving of this family tradition. I simply wanted to pay tribute to family traditions. It doesn't have to be a six-hour trip; it can be to a nearby park. I analyze what makes a family tradition, and part of it is repeating something the family enjoyed the first time. As years passed, I became hesitant to do any activity for a third time; I'd noticed that the third time pretty much locked it in as a family tradition.

I can't resist mentioning that the same thing is true of things we neglect. As parents, if we skip bedtime prayers, or Sunday class, or visiting a shut-in, it gets easier. I want to encourage young parents to pay attention to their traditions. Be sure that your family traditions are positive ones that will help you to grow closer as a family and closer to God--and not in the opposite direction. Keep pursuing those special family traditions that you and your children will treasure for years to come.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

100 Things--or maybe 21

I just found a notebook from twelve or fifteen years ago with the impressive title, "Lanita's Lists." The first entry says "100 Things I've Learned in My Life." Wow! I thought when I found it--my life wisdom from years ago.

So it turns out that the list I started so optimistically has only 21 items on it. But they are still lessons I've found to be true, so I'll share them here. (I really want to comment on some of them, but I'll let them stand for now.)

1. Life is not fair.
2. An activity fills the time allotted to it.
3. Other people make the same dumb mistakes I do.
4. My own children are delightful.
5. Childhood passes quickly.
6. Handling people fairly does not mean identically.
7. The more competence you exhibit, the more competence people expect.
8. Don't say anything important to Steve during a basketball game.
9. It pays to keep quiet.
10. It pays to speak up.
11. Personal characteristics become more so with age.
12. Simple pleasures are more enjoyable than extravagant ones.
13. Girls are more challenging to raise than boys.
14. Men and boys are easier to manipulate than females.
15. Children remember best what they've done individually.
16. "Have a good one" is a fake-y thing to say.
17. People are more important than things.
18. Sincere apologies are always appropriate.
19. Teachers make a poor audience.
20. Computers are both wonderful and horrendous.
21. I must give what I want to get.

Who knows? Someday I may actually figure out the other 79 things I've learned. Meanwhile, I may take one item from this list occasionally and comment on it. I'd love to hear from readers on any of these points. Do you agree or disagree? What would you add to the list from your own experiences?

Monday, October 05, 2009

Spiritual Peaks

As Christians, we all have spiritual peaks and valleys, and this week so far included two spiritual peaks for me--in addition to the usual joy of worshiping with my Christian family at Central.

The first was last night when over 300 of us gathered at Cincinnati Christian University with members of the Christian Church, Disciples of Christ, and Church of Christ to celebrate the 200th anniversary of Thomas Campbell's Declaration and Address. In this document he called people to go back to the Bible and use the Bible as the sole source of our name and the sole direction for our lives. These three faith traditions all came from the break of the Presbyterian Church with Campbell. See to learn more about it. The Elmwood Church of Christ where son Josh's family worships was also involved in a similar gathering of 700 people at 11 Sunday morning. They began with a powerful video that you can view at .

In Cincinnati, we had three speakers, one from each strand. One of the university professors dressed as Thomas Campbell read some of his propositions from the document. The congregational singing was marvelous. The person who spoke before we shared communion commented on the great harmonies.

There were over 40 people there from our congregation and probably 70+ from Churches of Christ in the Cincinnati area. I met Everly Rose, wife of another minister, and we hit it off right away. When she said she didn't know if she could remember my name, I said, "It's Anita with an L. That sometimes helps." She laughed and answered, "Mine is Beverly without the B." So we bonded through our unusual names!

The second spiritual highlight of my week was our mothers of preschoolers' Bible study this morning. I adore these young women who come together to share their lives and their love for the Lord. Most Mondays, it's half prayer group, half Bible study. Today it was all prayer group. Sharing praises and problems and praying about them bonds in a way that nothing else does. We are blessed to have our dear Fay, wife of one of our elders, who keeps the children (3-6 children, ages 3 weeks to 4 years) occupied in the basement playroom while we meet around the kitchen table. And we prayed for daughter Kelsey, who doesn't yet qualify as a mother but will in April. We're excited that we can finally tell this good news for our family. Blessings overflow!

Thursday, October 01, 2009

An outstanding author that I admire greatly is Mary DeMuth. She spoke at Write to Publish in June and I was touched by her devotion to God, her family, and the craft of writing. You can follow her blog at What she writes is always honest and thought-provoking, whether it's parenting articles, devotional thoughts, or fiction. Here are my thoughts on her most recent book, A Slow Burn.
How does a mother survive the death of a child? Especially when that mother, in this case Emory Chance, did not have good survival skills even when her daughter Daisy was alive. Mary DeMuth, in her stunning sequel to Daisy Chain, creates characters so memorable that as readers we feel the tug to pray for them, take them food, reach out to comfort them. Then we realize that they are fictional characters, their lives predetermined by a skillful author and see-er of souls.
Even as we become involved in the lives of these fictional characters are we brought to understand more clearly the lives of real people we know. This story of loss, sacrifice, love, and redemption will stay ith me for a very long time. This is not light reading, but the insights it provides are worth the effort. I can't wait for the final book of the Defiance, Texas, trilogy. You can enjoy this book without having read Daisy Chain, but if possible, read Daisy Chain and then A Slow Burn.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Let's Start Talking

On Friday and Saturday, I attended Harvest Call in Ft. Worth, Texas, a gathering of people who want to teach God's Word through free English lessons around the world. Let's Start Talking,, is led by Mark and Sherrylee Woodward, who have been sending missionaries "into all the world" for over 30 years.

Having been to Brazil, Thailand twice, and Fiji on LST trips, I was definitely one of the "old-timers" there. But the excitement and enthusiasm of all, from newbies to oldsters, was contagious. I also learned more about FriendSpeak, which offers free English lessons through the local congregation. We have a FriendSpeak program at our church, the Central Church in Cheviot, a suburb of Cincinnati (, but we would like to reach a wider audience. We are wondering if any students at the University of Cincinnati or Cincinnati State University would be interested in free English lessons. We have at least ten qualified teachers who can help with reading and especially conversing in English. Thus the name of the organization: Let's Start Talking. It's a way to help our international friends improve their conversational English skills in a free, nonthreatening environment.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

More Life and Death

Another death, another friend. This one older, but her death unexpected. Her family is in shock. The doctor told them she had only two to four months to live, and they could see her struggle to breathe, even with oxygen. The next day, as they were processing "two to four months to live," she died.

Her husband of 60 years has come undone. Within two days, he gave away his queen-size bed and bought a single. When I heard this, I recalled his wife's story to a small group at a women's retreat for our church. She said that a few weeks before that, she and her husband had lain in bed together and read "Song of Solomon" to each other, bit by bit, night after night. There was a hint of a giggle as she admitted it. As young women, we received an entirely new concept of mature love--the example of these grandparents who loved deeply and were still deeply in love, who included God's word in showing love to each other. What a blessed memory for me!

But of course he can't stand that bed now. Too many beautiful memories turned painful.

He wants no funeral, no flowers, no food. He wants no celebration. He cannot face celebrating a life well-lived in the reality of his loss. He has grudgingly agreed to a brief service at the cemetery chapel, his son speaking. There is no obituary in the newspaper. I think he really doesn't want anyone but family there.

We have been with their extended family through baptisms, weddings, births, unwed pregnancies, divorce, and now death. We have seen their children grow in faith and love, their children and grandchildren become missionaries. We consider ourselves family. We will be there to grieve with them, while privately we will rejoice that our friend is now breathing freely in God's own air.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Back to the Blog

Some days just don't turn out as we expect, do they? This one didn't. I had my day mapped out to write, write, write. I wanted to reestablish this blog that I started in 2005 and have neglected ever since. I have a new *2010 Writers' Market* to peruse; I had a devotional thought during my Bible study time that I wanted to get on paper.

Then the painter called to come give an estimate. Of course I went to my Pilates class. I remembered an errand for a friend that I'd forgotten to do yesterday, and that took some time.

Back at home, I started getting calls about a friend who just died. Her death was not unexpedcted, but still sad for her family and wonderful for her. The last time I sat with her, I said, "Merry, I know you want to go be with Jesus. I hope you can go soon." So now she is there.

But the detritus of her life must be managed by her devastated family. "I always thought I was the strong one," her husband of 40 years admitted. "Now I know she was."

So we started planning the memorial service at the church building for Saturday afternoon, which seemed too easy. It was. There is a wedding scheduled there at 4:30 on Saturday. I called more people, more people called me. We changed to morning, and then I received two calls about the bride having an arch there, decorated well ahead of time. What to do about the arch?

I said, "It has to be moved in. Surely it could be moved aside for the funeral and then moved back." Neither of the bride's champions agreed with that option. I said, "Whatever you think," and hung up.

It is a situation of low-budget wedding meets low-budget funeral. Neither of these parties has even the usual resources for such events. I pray for them both and leave it up to God. He's so much better than I about handling such things. Look at all the experience Jesus had with weddings and funerals.

At least, I thought, I have dinner in the crock pot. But then my sweet husband comes home and wants to take me in his convertible down to the beautiful Ohio River for dinner, since pleasant warm nights are becoming rare and we should take advantage. He's right. I'd rather enjoy my life than just write about it. So I'm out of here.