Sunday, April 29, 2007

A Few Observations

  • I had a number of readers request that I allow comments on my blog, so I made that change a few months ago. I’ve had fewer comments on my blog than when I allowed comments only from other registered bloggers.
  • Every year I forget just how wonderful the lilacs are. I keep thinking they just can’t be as fantastic as I remember them being. Every year I am really wrong about that.
  • Since I don’t have cable, I sometimes feel like I’m missing out because I can’t find anything good on TV. Then I go to my parents’ house, where there are dozens more channels and I realize there still isn’t really anything good on TV most of the time.
  • I can’t find anything to read. I’m just putzing around with some minor reads because I can’t find anything to read. This is unheard of for me. I was on a dark, deep, depressing reading kick for a long time. I got so stuck in that rut that now when I want to read something light & happy I find I have no idea where to even begin.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

What Does This Mean?

If you remember your Luther's Small Catechism at all, hopefully the title gave you a grin.
As a writer, I have a fondness for words and their meanings. I also love metaphors, double meanings, contradictions, analogies, and anything of that sort.
Think about the word "miss." In one sense, it relates to avoiding, failing, or escaping something that is present, an appointment, a pedestrian, a ball. But the dictionary provides a second meaning with a separate entry, indicating the distinction is more significant than a variant or a slight alteration. The second meaning of "miss" is "disadvantage or regret resulting from loss."
In this case we miss something precisely because it is not, cannot, and will not be present. Big feeling for such a small word, huh?
And what about "free?" I heard someone talking the other day about how we are free. But to be free is not a "please take one" coupon kind of experience. To be free is expensive. You were bought at a great price (1st Corinthians 6:20). Freedom is fought for every day in the physical world. The value of our freedom is even more powerfully reflected in the knowledge that God considers your soul priceless.

Sunday, April 22, 2007


I’m a systems person. I love discovering new plans and techniques for everything from organization to motivation to productivity. What I need is a system for sticking with my systems.
If you need a system for keeping the house clean and organized, Flylady works great. You just need to read the emails and actually keep up with doing what they say. Sometimes I’m better at that than other times. If you need a system for keeping accountable for your writing goals, I have plenty to choose from. The only problem is that I can’t seem to stick to any one system for very long.
I shop out new systems based on my mood and the general changes in my life circumstances. People tend to dump a system because something about it isn’t working. But I’m trying to learn what does work about each of the systems I try. Yes, I’m trying to systematize my systems. I bet there’s a pattern to what works and what doesn’t, based on the pattern of activity in my life and exactly what kinds of systems I need at a given point in time.
What kinds of systems do you like?

Friday, April 20, 2007


Not long ago, my blog reached the 1,000 visitors mark. Kinda cool, even if it did take me a little bit to realize it.
I finally started adding the links back into my blog. I still haven't figured out how to get my "100's" back up in my profile, but I'm working on it.
I also joined Christian Women Online. Check them out, there's a lot of interesting stuff out there to peruse.
On a more serious note, a lot of the blogs I read have commented on the recent tragedy at Virginia Tech. I've found their thoughts to be quite profound and helpful in getting some sort of meaning out of all this for myself and the people I interact with every day. However, I chose not to post anything on this or other similar subjects widely reported in the media. I suppose the lack of current events might have a correlation with my lack of readership based on my ratings with search engines & such.
But I continue to make this choice. I do so because while it's important that we be able to share our experience of these events and help each other heal, I also think it's important to have space and time for respite from the sometimes overwhelming challenges we face every day. So I trust my fellow bloggers to say what needs to be said about current events. Hopefully, I can continue to come up with other meaningful things to share.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007


The other day I was watching the special features on the Stranger Than Fiction DVD. When I really like a movie I really like to watch the special features. And I really like Stranger Than Fiction. One of the special features focused on the GUI, or graphic user interface in the movie. Harold Crick is a rather idiosyncratic person. He counts how many times he brushes each of his teeth, he knows how many steps it takes to get to the bus stop. He is very aware of his surroundings and this is represented with an animated GUI (pronounced gooey) in the movie. So we see Harold’s mental diagram of his teeth, we see him inventory the contents of drawers and cabinets. Harold’s GUI is centered on numbers, numbers in both time and space.
The creative team discussed how they came up with this particular GUI for the movie. Obviously they wanted it to be a significant point in the film, but not to the point of distraction. So they started batting around their own GUI’s. What visual images do we unconsciously (or maybe more consciously) use to relate with the world? Picture a sports fan who is perpetually late. His GUI might look like a playbook, laying out obstacles, openings in the path to the goal, offensive & defensive maneuvers. An architect might use a lot of geometry in relating spatially to the world.
I never thought about it before, but I have a GUI. (That was good to discover because I didn’t want to feel left out). And I was pleased to discover that my GUI is quite “writerly.” I free associate words and write them in my mind map. So if I ask how you are and you say “fine,” writing this word in my brain might remind me to return the library books before they are past due. My GUI looks a lot like an edited manuscript with circles, arrows, highlights, lists, and rewrites all over the place. If someone uses a word incorrectly, I rewrite the sentence in my head. (Yeah, I used to hate those people too, until I realized I was one of them).
What does your GUI look like?

Sunday, April 15, 2007


There’s not a lot of stuff we really have to do. When you need to, you can put an amazing amount of stuff aside to get to later. And when later comes, you might find you just don’t need to do much of that stuff at all. When you are going through an intense time period, whether it’s intensely joyous or intensely traumatic, this is a good thing to know.
If you aren’t overwhelmed by the lack of hours in the day, or the lack of general resources you have available for coping, “life’s too short” sounds a bit cliché. If you are that overwhelmed, “life’s too short” becomes the touchstone by which you prioritize your time and energy.
Another good thing to know is that the overwhelmed sensation will eventually diminish. The crisis will resolve. When it does, the trick is knowing how to retain what you learned about what’s important to you. Know how to willfully leave things undone; choose not to put some things back in your life. Intentionally exercise the decision making process of the overwhelmed. If it’s important to you, you’ll find a way to fit it into your life. If it doesn’t belong to you, if it’s someone else’s worry, or it doesn’t support your goals or the goals of those you care about, leave it for later.

Current Read: Grace (Eventually), Anne Lamott
Current Music: Speedwood, Lost and Found

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Showing Vs. Telling

I know I said I’d stop with the grief talk, but there’s one more thing I wanted to mention. I’ve spent some time sharing things that are good to say when someone you know has experienced a loss. Even so, you might think it’s not the right time, or maybe you’re not sure if you are close enough to the person to be confident they’ll appreciate what you say. If that’s the case, you should know that when people are in the initial phases of grieving they often don’t remember what is said to them. They will simply remember that you were there.
Perhaps that’s why we often focus on doing things for someone who is bereaved. We can relate on some level to that helpless feeling the person is dealing with. We know they don’t have the energy to confront the day’s tasks alone. So we show up at the memorial service. We do their forgotten household repairs. We take them out for comfort food.
One of my favorite passages in literature is at the end of Tolkien’s Return of the King. Frodo has just sailed off into the West forever, leaving Sam behind. Watching the ship disappear, Sam stays on the shore with his 2 companions “far into the night, hearing only the sigh and murmur of the waves on the shores of Middle-earth, and the sound of them sank deep into his heart. Beside him stood Merry and Pippin, and they were silent.”
Even if it doesn’t seem like much, the gift of your presence may be the best thing you can provide.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Believe It or Not

A lot of people have a hard time believing in the resurrection of Jesus. It goes against what we understand about the natural world. It’s hard to explain.
Come to think of it, Good Friday is even harder to explain. Jesus willingly and knowingly suffered the ultimate penalty so we would not have to. When we read about his agony in the Garden of Gethsemane, we can see that no superhuman strength was granted to allow Him to bypass the agony of His choice. He endured all the fear, despair, and loneliness of separation from God so we would not have to.
I used to think of Good Friday as the time of somber reflection before the joyous relief of grace on Easter morning. Indeed, it is a somber time. But maybe grace didn’t wait until Easter to show up. Grace wouldn’t be real if it wasn’t hard, if it didn’t cost something. What could be harder than the work of grace accomplished on that Good Friday?
Maybe the resurrection was the easy part.

Friday, April 06, 2007

The Best Joke Ever

So this guy goes up to Joseph of Arimathea and says, “Joe, I don’t get it. You are a prominent and wealthy man. You can afford to have the best of everything. You went to such great trouble to pick out the perfect tomb for yourself, one where people would remember your honor forever. Hand hewn stone, spacious, excellent location. Why on earth would you go and give the tomb to this Jesus guy?”
Joseph replies, “Hey, it’s no big deal. He was just using it for the weekend.”

Wednesday, April 04, 2007


OK, one more thing and promise I’ll try to lay off the grief & loss stuff for a bit.
Dealing with loss is hard. It’s also hard to know how to help someone dealing with loss. Part of the problem is loss is universal. We are confronted with our own mortality when we choose to relate with the bereaved. And death sets up the most helpless of situations. It is irreversible. It’s not something most of us choose for ourselves, and certainly it is not something that those of us left behind wanted for our loved one. Tolerating that kind of sorrow in those we care about is tough. There is not a whole lot we can do to “make it better.”
Recently one of my friends went beyond expressing condolences or sympathy. She entered into the experience with me and allowed it to be what it was in all its helpless, hopeless awfulness. She said “I’m sad for you and I’m sad with you.”
That’s it. She didn’t try to fix it. She didn’t shy away from it. She didn’t just acknowledge it. She chose to be with me in it.
Because she was able to give me that gift, I had the strength to then share the same thing with another friend who also recently experienced a loss.
“I’m sad for you and I’m sad with you” should go on the list of good things to say when someone is coping with loss.

Sunday, April 01, 2007


Today we enter Holy Week, which culminates in the death and resurrection of Jesus. This is an emotional time of year for me, as I reflect on how Christ took on our humanity to the extent that he experienced death and the ultimate suffering of separation from God. Because I am mourning my own recent loss, this year it is especially helpful for me to know that Jesus knew something about the experience of death.
But recently a friend pointed out a different passage than the ones about the crucifixion. I’ve heard the story many times before. Yet I now have a deeper understanding of the meaning. It’s the story of Jesus at the tomb of Lazarus. My friend told me Jesus wept at Lazarus’ tomb because of his love for Lazarus, love that He did not withdraw even at the expense of his own sorrow. He didn’t pull away or try to sidestep the loss with an early intervention. Jesus not only understands death, He understands grief. The real miracle that day may have been His willingness to experience bereavement, even though He didn’t have to. In that, He gives us hope of eternal life, He gives us an example of comfort, and He gives us understanding in our sadness.
When someone has suffered a loss, the story of Jesus weeping at Lazarus’ tomb should also go on the list of good things to say.