Archives for November 2011

Sad Songs this Season

On Thanksgiving night, the boys were in the living room, watching football. The girls were in the playroom, belting out Adele on karaoke. Specifically, my nieces. You haven’t heard “Someone Like You” until you’ve heard a 4-year-old sing it from the bottom of her heart while also dancing a sad, slow mournful dance.

What is it about sad songs, especially hit ones by Adele?

Just in case you don’t know the power of this song, “Saturday Night Live” did a sketch in which no one can listen to the song without crying–women, men, executives, janitors. We’re all united as we mourn in unison, “Never mind. I’ll find someone like you.

It’s the “never mind” that makes it art.

“It’s really good to go sing, like, if you have trouble with a guy,” said my daughter. My 12-year-old daughter. Not exactly the kind of advice I want to hear from my offspring. “Maybe if you and Dad have a fight, you can sing it and you’ll feel better.”

So I bought it. And it is completely addictive. I especially like the bridge, which includes the line, “Regrets and mistakes, they’re memories made.

The older I get, the more I treasure my regrets. For example, a couple of years ago, I had an epic meltdown over Thanksgiving weekend. I yelled at my grandmother in an elevator. I yelled at my husband and children while putting up the tree. That night the boys already had plans to go to a basketball game, but believe me, they couldn’t get out of the house fast enough. My daughter, bless her heart, stayed. We decorated the tree together while watching “The Polar Express.”

I don’t like the movie nearly as much as the book, but now, when its sad song, “When Christmas Comes to Town,” comes up on Pandora, I sing it proudly. Yeah, I screwed up big that year. Sorry, everyone.

I hope this will be a good season, full of nothing but tidings of comfort and joy. And if not, I have Adele.



Tell Me On a Sunday, Please

When I first started writing about my efforts to keep a Sabbath, I was afraid it would turn people off. I was afraid I’d come off as holier-than-thou and that maybe I should tone it down. Then one of my friends said, “Don’t be afraid to talk about the benefits.”

So here goes. One benefit to keeping the Sabbath is that, more than likely, your bad news will come on that day. And that is a blessing.

Is anyone familiar with the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical and title song “Tell Me On A Sunday”? (I just know the song, not the actual musical.) Anyway, I’ve often had bad news come on a Sabbath. And believe me, I couldn’t have borne it on any other day.

Case in point: the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, I was listening to a podcast which interviewed a veterinarian who specialized in older dogs. No, it wasn’t spiritual; it was animal.

It soon became clear that this vet was talking about dogs much younger than mine–dogs who were 7 or 8, not pushing 15. Then the vet began describing something called canine dementia, when a dog gets lost in its own house, wandering in circles. He said sometimes they get trapped in a corner and just howl because they can’t remember how to turn around.

That described our Darlin’ to a tee. And I started to cry. It was time. It was past time.

So I told the kids. And I told my husband, who had been waiting for me to come around). And we loved the heck out of Darlin’ through Thanksgiving, and the following Monday, my husband took her to the vet and stayed with her until it was over.

Not all Sabbaths are rest and worship and communion and fellowship. Some are awful. But observing them regularly makes space for that awfulness. Now, when I feel bad news looming, I find myself praying, “Tell me on a Sunday, please.”

Poetry November, part 3

Hey, everyone. This is a busy month, so I won’t be writing any blog posts. Instead I’m going to put up a poem each week. I’m also going to be moving my blog soon–hopefully, right after Thanksgiving. Take care!



the road to Blue Hole, 6 a.m., 30 September 2011


It is dark.

You knew it would be, but for God’s sake,

you thought there would be a sliver of light.


But you do know this road.

You’ve done it a million times, just not recently.

You have forgotten things.

You thought the Garden of Eden was to your left

and now you find it’s on your right.

Maybe you’ve never gone right before.


You run confidently down this dark road.

You fall, but get right back up.

Run on.


The water is right where it was supposed to be.

You cup it and splash it on your hot neck,

then turn around and run


farther than ever before.

Soon the road itself is new. They’re building


You step in sand. The trail disintegrates.

There is a light in a house at the end of the road.

Poetry November, part 2

Hey, everyone. This is a busy month, so I won’t be writing any blog posts. Instead I’m going to put up a poem each week. I’m also going to be moving my blog soon–hopefully, right after Thanksgiving. Take care!



How long can this coffee cup last?

The one with the long crack, from lip to toe?

The one I rely on every single morning

for just the right proportion of coffee to milk?

I bought it, cheap, at a truck stop, in southern Colorado

years ago. It has everything I love on its painted face:

stars, pine trees, a bear roasting marshmallows.

I stick it in the dishwasher every day, but it never

gets clean. It has never failed me, ‘til now.

Now I’m trying to make it last, against all odds.

Sip quick before the drips flood the countertop,

before it can no longer hold what I hold dear.


Both of you. Stop fighting. Get in the car.

Just past Oklahoma, there’s a truck stop

with a long row of uncracked cups.

How Do You Spell Christian? N-I-C-E

There aren’t many accurate portrayals of Christians on TV, but I think that Shirley on “Community” is one of them. How do you describe Shirley in one word? She’s nice.


Shirley is a single mom who is going to community college to jumpstart her brownie business. The other characters like her. They occasionally find her niceness annoying, but Shirley is their friend. She has no evil secrets, other than a tendency to express love through baking. She is often heard saying, “Oh, that’s nice!”


Since I only occasionally watch “Community,” I looked her up on—what else—Wikipedia. It included this tidbit: “is very sweet but also has thinly veiled rage issues and gossips compulsively.”


Shirley is also a bit smug, as the only Christian in the study group. And, like a lot of Christian women I know, Shirley can be judgmental of the other members of the study group who are still growing up.


Most Christian women I know (especially down here in Texas) are nice. They believe in Jesus. They go to church. Many of them are sweet, with repressed rage. Most of them love to gossip. Quite a few are smug and judgmental.


I have been all of those things myself.


In one of my favorite “Community” episodes, called “Remedial Chaos Theory,” six different timelines are created during a game of Yahtzee. We see what happens when each character is removed from the group. When Shirley is removed (to let in the pizza guy), the result is a “nervous bake-down” when her pies burn, but other than that, um, nothing happens. If she’s gone, everything else remains the same.


I don’t want my absence to mean that nothing in anyone’s life changes. There needs to be a … a something. As a Christian, I want to leave more than a legacy of nice.

Poetry November, part 1

Hey, everyone. This is a busy month, so I won’t be writing any blog posts. Instead I’m going to put up a poem each week. I’m also going to be moving my blog soon–hopefully, right after Thanksgiving. Take care!


This one was started at Laity Lodge, in Julia Kasdorf’s poetry workshop.




I’m not the mom for this,

For a 10-year-old boy with a congenital defect.

Too many hospitals in my past —


The antiseptic smell shuts me down as soon as we check in.

The overwhelming flowers in the room, with big bows and bright foil.

The constant beeps and whistles.


“Can I watch TV?” my son says, free from pain

for the first time in his life.

“Sure.” I lost control of the TV that day.


I sleep in the chair, dream of my first hospital trip,

much younger than my son.

“So many tubes,” my dad said.


My son wakes to find a three-point scar

and a lifelong talent

for forecasting the weather by knee.


The nurse comes in with a plastic 1-liter bottle.

“Hey, there, big guy. Think you can pee in this?

Just point and shoot.”


He tries to do it, but he can’t.

Somehow I help.

I’m the mom.


“Nurses rule” I say.

And he smiles for the first time that day

and adds, “Doctors drool.”

Prayer for Daily Work

How often do you find a prayer for work? I stumbled across this one on October 24, listening to mid-morning prayer on, a free podcast.


Work is Your gift to us–a call to reach new heights by using our talents for the good of all. Guide us as we work and teach us to live in the Spirit that has made us your sons and daughters and in the love that has made us brothers and sisters. Grant this through Christ, our Lord. Amen.


I’ve got a busy November. How about you?

‘Tis the Season

On the first day of October, I was sure to wear my Snoopy shirt with all the pumpkins to remind everyone that it is the season of Halloween. It’s a great month. It begins to be fall, and it’s the only socially acceptable time for Christians to talk about death.


Admit it–it’s a taboo subject. We’re all supposed to be full of faith, hope and love right to the very end. We’re supposed to act like it will never happen. And then it does.


When my kids were young and would still do family devotions, I had a whole month’s worth of material for October. We talked about death and heaven. We talked about spirit and the Holy Spirit. We made ghosts for people who had died during the previous year. We had a special pumpkin named Fred, and every year Fred met Jesus.


The reason Fred was named Fred was because one time I brought him to a Sunday school class, and the teachers freaked out. I had a carved pumpkin <em>in church</em>!


So when I asked the kids what the pumpkin’s name was, they naturally said, “Jack!”


The teacher glared at me with horrified eyes.


I recovered quickly and said, “No, this pumpkin’s name is Fred.”


And the kids thought that was hilarious. Fred the Pumpkin.


My son has completely outgrown Halloween, but my daughter loves it. She’s in charge of decorating now. This year we have spiders and crows on our front porch, plus three pumpkins. One of them will become Fred.


We worked on our pumpkins on Saturday. Tonight, a lot of kids will come to our door because we live in the kind of old-fashioned neighborhood that invites trick-or-treaters. As my friend, Angela, used to say, “It’s the only time of the year that the lost come to your door.”


Happy Halloween, everyone!

Nobody Knows Who You Are

I’ve always been a bit confused about spiritual gifts. At one church I attended, an older guy I just adored once said, “I think my spiritual gift is waiting–maybe?”


Don’t you think waiting should be a spiritual gift?


I don’t know what my spiritual gift is, but I have discovered a secret talent that comes in handy when I volunteer at Young Lives, a ministry to teen moms sponsored by Young Life.


Crying doesn’t bother me.


I don’t know why not. Maybe it was the summer when I was 15 and worked on a hospital floor and rocked crying babies with all kinds of tubes while their parents escaped to the cafeteria for a quick bite to eat. Maybe it was the long months with my own children, who cried a lot longer than the doctors said they were supposed to.


For whatever reason, I can handle it. I can’t necessarily get babies to stop crying, but I enjoy holding them and singing to them.


The other night I had 18-month-old Maricela (not her real name). She was determined to cry through the entire Bible study. I found a Spiderman toy on the floor and handed it to her. She kept crying. So I started singing the theme song to the old Spiderman TV show:  “Spiderman! Nobody knows who you are!”


That was the only part of the song that I could remember, so I sang it over and over. Maricela kept crying–but only when I stopped singing. I must have sung that darn line for half an hour.


Nobody knows who Maricela will turn out to be. Maybe she’ll have superpowers or super spiritual gifts. I met her mom, who is even shorter than I am. She still has braces. Nobody knows who she’ll be either.