Saturday, January 10, 2015

Words: Read. Hear. Write.

     Last night when I shut down Liz's Trusty iPad, the strange assortment of my input / output habits glared at me. I watched as programs that make up my day faded to a close. My awkward life-schedule creates interesting patterns of ways and things to keep my mind and emotions occupied. All of those many and diverse items on the Pad gave me pause.
     I smiled. Almost cried. Cringed a little. Laughed out loud.

     Naturally, being the champion list-maker that I am, my curiosity at my own life of words—heard/read/written—spurred me on. When I finished the list, I wondered what to do with it. I will keep a hard copy, of course, just to enjoy, to add to, and to remind me whether or not to go forward, backward, or cancel. That’s what most of us happy list-makers do.
     OH!! I know !! I’ll share it with my few blog readers. Your comments will be interesting. And fun.
     My imagination began to run. Faster. More quickly! Then a gallop.
      What fun it will be if you send me your reading / hearing / writing lists. (Goes without saying but I will anyway: I never have and promise never to post anything without your express and absolutely permission.)
     Please and thank you most sincerely.

Sorry. I got kind of carried away there. Sometimes, lists do that to me.
Back to MY LIST of Words I read, watch (hear), write:

Books I am Reading via Liz’s Kindle iPad:  
          The Cloister Walk by Kathleen Norris
          How to Write Inspirational Memoir by Emily T. Wierenga (writer) and Mick Silva (editor)
          Unraveled by Sharon K. Souza
Books I keep handy to review, to refresh my soul as needed, and to encourage my spirit (besides my Bible, of course)
          The Praying Life by Deborah Smith Douglas
          One Simple Act by Debbie Macomber
          The Quotidian Mysteries by Kathleen Norris
          All Will Be Well – Julian of Norwich devotions
          Then Sings My Soul by Robert J. Morgan
          Behind the Stories by Diane Eble
          50 People Every Christian Should Know by Warren W. Wiersbe
          God’s Guest List by Debbie Macomber
 TV series I WATCHED via Netflix
          Royal Pains -  Watched all 75 episodes. Loved every one
          The West Wing: All 156 episodes. Probably my all-time most favorite TV series E.V.E.R. Some episodes I will re-watch from time to time just to enjoy excellence. Brilliant writing. Great acting.

TV series I currently watch via Netflix (my quiet time when chores done, family cared for & asleep, tomorrow is as ready as I can get it, and I c.h.i.l.l. without thinking about the new to-do lists I should make):
          Call the Midwife -  BBC period drama series; London 1950s; based on the memoirs of Jennifer Worth. (Already strongly suspect this will be addictive!!!)
          Parenthood - TV series follows the parents of four grown siblings & their families, all of whom still live in their hometown, as they tackle challenges of modern family life. (mostly, this seems sort of ho-hum; nice, sometimes really good; so far can't decide. But it is NOT awful.)

TV series I currently watch via DVD
          Downton Abby – I bought the complete first three seasons a year ago. In late December settled in to watch. Finished the first season. Trying to space it out until a couple more seasons are available in bulk J

TV series our family WATCHES now and then via Netflix
          Coach - An American sitcom for 9 years stars Hayden Fox as football head coach in fictional Minnesota college.  198 episodes will last us a while. This great show ran from February 28, 1989 to May 14, 1997. Probably the ONLY sitcom that my husband requests to see; he laughs out loud in every episode.

TV movies our family WATCHED via Netflix
          Christmas on Salvation Street - Based on true events produced by The Dove Foundation. A widowed pastor believes God calls him to move with his family to Salvation Street of a large city. They live, struggle, serve and find trouble in a desperate, low-income, hurting neighborhood. 
            The Fitzgerald Family Christmas – A close but splintered family of grown siblings struggle with emotions when their father who left his family twenty years before wants to spend Christmas with his ex-wife and his children. We were VERY disappointed that this otherwise excellent movie contains FOUL language and some ugly sex scenes, none of which was necessary to this otherwise great story of redemption, forgiveness, and dealing with life changes.
          Evergreen Christmas –   A young woman must leave a career she hopes to build when her father dies suddenly. She returns to her small hometown of Balsam Falls, Tennessee and her family's once-thriving Christmas tree farm where she finds problems. Torn between pursuing her music career and saving her family's legacy, she must decide what it really means to find her place in the world.  We thoroughly enjoyed this movie that could easily become an annual classic for us.
          One Magic Christmas -  A young mother can't muster Christmas spirit. Her husband is unemployed, there’s no money for gifts for their children, and her job as a grocery clerk is hard. Gideon, an angel, must show Ginny the true meaning of Christmas. It's not just presents and materialistic things, but the people she cares about. A sweet, heart-warming tale of a mother’s fears, Santa’s loving heart, and a sneaky old angel.
          Call Me Claus – When Lucy Cullins, a successful but cranky producer at a home shopping network, hires an actor named Nick to play Santa Claus on the network she gets more than she bargained for. Nick really is Santa Claus, and he faces mandatory retirement after 200 years on the job. He must find his replacement by Christmas Eve or the world will face dire consequences. He sets his sights on Lucy and things get out of control.  Just WOW. A classic Santa movie that made us three laugh and shed some tears and clap. Fun. A classic.
           Christmas With a Capital C -  Trapper Falls, Alaska, hometown of Mayor Dan Reed, is a traditional Christian community and goes a thousand percent for the whole Christmas spirit. Dan's high school rival, Mitch Bright, returns home after 20 years and takes offense in seeing the town's nativity scene in violation of separation of church and state. Trapper Falls, about to lose their spiritual Christmas, learns truths that free everyone. In a time when so many give up so much so easily, this movie encourages all of us to learn to live together.
          White Christmas – This Christmas classic, 1954 (!!!), starring Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney, and Vera-Ellen is a romantic musical that takes place in a Vermont lodge- where it is almost always, a “White Christmas.” Nothing more to say. *long, sweet smile *
Bells of St. Mary’s - Not a Christmas movie but December is a good time to re-watch this classic – Released December 6, 1945. Father O'Malley (Bing Crosby) is transferred to the Roman Catholic inner-city school St. Mary's, where he quickly falls into conflict with its headmistress, Sister Mary (Ingrid Bergman). Their primary disagreement has to do with the deteriorating school itself. Father O'Malley feels it should be abandoned and the children sent to other schools. Sister Mary and the other nuns, however, believe there is still hope, possibly in the form of charity from a wealthy business owner.  I see another take-away:When Father is told: “You don't know what it means to be up to your neck in nuns” [ we can also add….or Methodist parishioners..].”
Later, Sister Benedict says, “You don't become a nun[we can also add....a wife,  minister, preacher’s wife, husband, preacher's husband, caregiver….]  to run away from something but because you've found something.”

 What I am writing
          An occasional blog post.
          Still writing and shredding the opening chapter for my book of historic family stories.
          Christmas Thank You notes.

I hope your New Year is full of good words to watch, worthwhile words to hear, and satisfying words to write.


Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Twin Babies in Red Dresses

          I’m not ready for Christmas to be finished. I especially love this in-between time. The hustle and bustle is done and it’s not quite time to start the taxes. Each evening, we build a fire and turn on all the Christmas lights—inside and out. My Nativity in the front yard glows and the multi-colored lights twinkle in the cold night air. Peaceful. Comfortable. Soothing.

          Yes, I know it must come to an end and I’ll begin packing up. Soon. Any day now. Promise.
          But I have one more Liz Christmas story. If you’ve read it before, hang around. It might be different.
          We don’t get to public worship much these days what with all our health challenges. We miss it dreadfully, but sometimes things just have to be as they are. We did get to go to Christmas Eve traditional service this year. We sat on the back row because a bunch of family joined us, we were almost late, and it was easier with husband’s walker. Somehow, an unusual sense of gratitude, quiet, and worship slipped over me there on the back row, and before long I was lost in the miracle of the night.
          My daughter-in-law leaned over and, with a big grin, motioned me to look behind us. Ahhhhh, sweet memories bounced off the pipe organ. A family sat on straight chairs behind our back row of regular pews. A mom, a dad, and a couple of grandparents. The mom and dad each bounced a baby on a knee. Little girls, not quite crawling stage, adorned in red velvet twin dresses, with red bows perched on their nearly bald heads.
          The babies' squirming, mild fussing, and innocent giggles had been lost on me. While I smiled at the precious scene, my heart looked back.

          It was some forty years ago when my daughter was twelve and my son was four. For three years, six kids sat in our family pew at church. We were a foster family, so four of the kids changed often, but our two birth children hung in there and remained for the long haul! Hey, I was young, eager to nurture, and thought I could handle anything. I found that becoming a foster parent was much like the first-time pregnancy: you are blissfully unaware of the pain, horror, and screams that follow. Then, like a mother eagerly getting pregnant over and over again, every time the caseworker calls with another abused child in need of love and safety, without even a groan, a seasoned foster mom just finds an empty bed, and sets another plate at the table.
          It was the 1970’s and foster parents could not adopt the kids they protected and loved. But, a foster parent could raise kids in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. We took every opportunity to show Jesus to “our kids.”
          Every week, all of us went to church together. Back then, only the “Crib Set” was entitled to church nursery luxuries so kids--toddler age on up and parents sat—or wiggled—in worship services together.  When the Sunday school put on a Christmas Pageant, our new Patricia came home from her first practice in tears, incensed that the innkeeper would not let Jesus’ mother come in from the cold. Long talks ensued until she made her own peace with the innkeeper. One night she said, “I’m glad you made room for me, Mama.”
          While our lives were hectic and chaotic, we strictly enforced bedtime rituals. We prayed together as a family, then each child was tucked in with special parent time and additional prayer when needed, which was often. During Advent, our evenings included time for devotion around the wreath with candles and scripture readings. The year Charlie came, we celebrated his second birthday in November so when Advent arrived, the candles never remained burning. As soon as one child lit the Advent candles, Charlie took that as his cue to blow them out.
          Over the three years, Barbara stopped hoarding food, Bethany started talking, Leonard didn’t lie as much, and Patricia tried not to cuss like a sailor. We helped eleven children hope for a safe tomorrow and to trust adults—a little. We fed their souls, their minds, and their bodies. Gradually, the screams in the night subsided and daytime laughter erupted more often. They bonded with our children, other fosters, and with their schoolmates, and then we helped them leave us, for better places… we hoped.    
          No, I don’t know what happened to most of them and yes, I wished laws had been different. It took many years for me to accept that God gave me a job to do and that I did it the best I could.
         So, this Christmas Eve, the “joyful noise” of fretful toddler twins in worship service was music to my ears. That is where children belong. Even Jesus said so.

Tonight, as the glow of Christmas tree lights flicker in this in-between time, I left yesterday behind with its bittersweet memories and unanswered questions. I deliberately turn my white hair and old heart to the present, and pray that in my assignment as caregiver I will serve up love, protection, and safety to my two care receivers, and that I will do it with joy and grace.
After all, old foster moms believe they always entertain angels.

Stay on good terms with each other,held together by love.
 Be ready with a mealor a bed when it’s needed.
Why, some have extendedhospitality to angels
without ever knowing it! Look on victims of abuse
as if what happened to themhad happened to you.
From Hebrews 13:2-3

May angels swam you and your memories be happy in this bright New Year.