Saturday, June 28, 2008

Fredo

On Thursday early morning, when I got home from work I was surprised to see Fredo was still here. He was supposed to have been picked up by his new owners, a retired couple who seemed to really like him. The next morning, Dennis said that they didn't come by nor did he hear from them. I was surprised and wondered if they were okay. Dennis was hoping that they had changed their minds, Fredo was really growing on him and he realized he'd miss this little kitten more than all the rest. Right then we got a call from the prospective owners and it turned out there was a trip to the emergency room. They were sorry and hoped we still had the kitten. Dennis said that we did, but we are thinking about keeping him. And it appeared as though they had a lot on their hands right now. They sounded like they were relieved to hear that they weren't obligated. On Sunday we'll give our final answer.

Right now, I just got back from work. Carly is in her basket by my desk, and Fredo is on my desk. Now, I might have two computer companions. We'll see.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Thea's Ideas

It's 1:30 in the morning and I'm still up. I didn't work, so I don't have that as a reason. I think that I do have a lot on my mind. Not so much worrying, but wondering.

Because there are many things going on in my head, I could write all night. Thought provoking blogs for sure. But I won't. It's hard to restrain myself from launching into an idea or a truth or a question or a story or just simply a reflection. I'm like a bird that just wants to take flight, on the edge of a tree limb.

Nothing gets me into that kind of state like a good day, and an evening of remembering it. So much to tell you. But I won't. I blog often because I'm afraid that my unprocessed contemplations will evaporate in the middle of the night, and when morning comes, I will have forgotten everything that has held my attention the day before. But I've decided to trust instead of fear. I trust that yesterday's accumulated observations and ruminations will still be there tomorrow. That they will not diminish despite the lack of freshness but actually age like fine wine.

Good night. I'm off to ferment.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Adios, Vaya Con Dios

Today I said good-bye to a friend I don't think I'll see again in my lifetime. It was hard.

We didn't hang out a lot, or entertain each other in our homes, or were in a women's bible study during the week, but when we saw each other for the few moments that we had at church, we sought to encourage each other as much as we could with the time that we had. Sungeun has the ability to be in the moment with every person she is with--totally focusing on them and speaking from her heart. She has something uplifting and positive to say to everyone. She loves people, no question. But the fact that she loves God more than people is apparent to all. She lives for His glory.

She said during our farewell that I had encouraged her with my faith in God. I actually encouraged her? During those short little snippets of time when we stopped in the church hallways to breifly catch up, I said things that kept her going in her walk with God? Things that she remembered? This young woman whom I respect deeply and have always looked up to for her rich and vibrant faith? It had to be God, not me. I don't remember anything specific. But I did feel built up everytime I talked with her. Two seconds with Sungeun and I felt drawn closer to God every time. I wanted to know Him more, love and serve Him more, and praise Him more. It wasn't so much what she said that did that, but I believe it was the Holy Spirit emanating from her. She isn't perfect, she'd be the first to say it, and perfection isn't what I'm talking about. She really has the fragrance of God about her, which means she walks a sincere and humble walk with Christ.

So, it is a fine line between people pleasers and people lovers. People pleasers have an air of being unsure all the time and working double time to make certain that everyone they know likes them, or they worry why others don't seem to. People lovers don't worry about what others think of them at all, but they pour out their love from a reserve of love that they get from God. It's unconditional, so whether you like them or not doesn't matter. They aren't threatened by compliments (why did she say that, what is she trying to get from me?) or from criticisms. Because it isn't about themselves to begin with. People lovers have a certain freedom to say the loving thing without concern about their appearence as a "suck up". And if they need to address an issue, they know how to do it directly without fear (who is man that I should fear?) or without being mean. They simply put themselves in your shoes. They treat others as they wish to be treated.

And that is why I miss Sungeun. So, farewell my friend. Vaya con Dios, I love you.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Kitten Journey, Final Chapter

A week ago, we put up flyers to advertise our kittens around our community. As of today, all the kittens are gone except Fredo, but he will be picked up on Thursday.

Crema's new mom called us for her baby pictures, she's going to make a scrapbook. Crema obviously has them all wrapped around her little paw. Gina found a home yesterday, she has kids now. Sonny went home today with a lady with a chihuahua. Vito is with a young military couple, which really suits him great. If Vito was human, he'd be a marine.

And a retired couple fell in love with Fredo at first sight today. I met them in the driveway holding Fredo like a baby, which he loves by the way. He had his new blue collar on, looking really sharp. And when I handed him to them to cradle in him in their arms like I did, he let them. They told me he was it, no question. They had looked at dozens of cats and he was the one.

I even told him about biting--how he bit his mom, our dog and me from time to time. They knew that it was his alpha maleness kicking in, he was definately the biggest one of the litter. They loved animals, raised puppies and kittens, and knew all about alpha male behavior. It was fine. We showed his tail's bald spots. They thought it gave him character. They watched me kiss his face and told me they saw from his steady gaze that he was a stable, peaceful kitten. No flightiness or fear. They were amazed how he laid on his back and let them pet his stomach, which is unheard of in cats (I started to hold them on their backs on my lap when they were little and massage their necks--it put them into kitty trances). Since Fredo was the least friendly of the bunch and I spent extra time with him to help him out of his shyness, this was especially gratifying to hear. No one else appreciated his potential to be a fine cat.

I feel like...the "cat whisperer".

Dennis and I talked about keeping a kitten, but I can see that Carly needs to be in a one cat family. She constantly growls at Fredo, to remind him of his place. She is finally relaxing without having kittens around her. When I got her from Nikki, I was told she did like dogs but hated other cats. As great a mom she was, she hasn't changed in that regard.

After the damage that the cats have done--mostly Carly--to our old carpet, we need to replace it which will mean a lot of money. And declawing is in order. The carpet is old and stained anyway. I was hoping to wait a few more years until we saved enough to put wood floors in everywhere, but it's not to be. We can't afford two cats and a dog.

Anyway, here is a couple of pointers from Wikihow about petting shy cats. And I got a bit of information when I watched "Witness" where Harrison Ford learns from an Amish boy how to massage a kitten.


Find your cat. If they are not readily visible, they may be hiding. Remember, cats can fit into seemingly impossible spaces, so check everywhere, including small crevices.

Once you've located them, sit down on a nearby piece of furniture.

Call your cat's name. They will respond either by looking at you; turning an ear in your direction; pausing from current activity (such as cleaning themselves); or slowly getting up, stretching, and leaving the room.

If your cat leaves the room, pause, take a deep breath, and start over at step 1.

If they acknowledge you, begin to pat your knee and call them again in a pleasing, high-pitched voice.

The cat should now be looking at you. If it turns away, make strange noises, like bird chirps, to regain their attention.

Increase speed of knee patting and tension in voice. At this point, your cat will probably move a few feet farther away from you.

Stop patting your knee and stand up. Pretend that you are looking at the ceiling. Slowly make your way towards the cat. It will probably stand, stretch, and leave the room.

You have your cat right where you want it, believe it or not. Return to your piece of furniture. Sit down calmly. Open a book or magazine and begin reading silently. Dive into your reading material. Focus all your attention on it, ignoring the cat totally.

Out of nowhere, your cat will suddenly appear on top of said reading material.

Pet your new best friend.

If your cat leaves, act like you are glad to be doing something very important.

Your cat will be sure to get into the middle of whatever important activity you are doing, especially if you ignore it in the process.

Tips
Remember, no matter what it seems like, you're in control. You're the human. You're the one buying the food. The cat knows this, but also seems to know when you want to pet it. Cats are not like dogs; if you ignore your cat it will eventually come to you for attention to show its appreciation for you understanding its need for "space".

Wait until the cat is fully awake until you try this, If the cat is tired it may be inclined to happily ignore you and take a nap.

You can also try sitting on the floor, with your reading material spread on the floor before you.

Warnings
Cats have sharp claws. Sometimes they nibble or paw your hand and forearm playfully. Stay calm and firmly say "no." Your cat will probably stop and stare. Take this opportunity to remove your hand and pet her elsewhere so that you can continue the bonding process.

Like dogs, males may really enjoy belly massages, but females take it as uncomfortable tickling harassment.

Some cats can get over-stimulated and even bite without warning if you pet them too much. It is often safer to only pet the head, neck and under the chin if you are unsure.

Don't quickly move any of your body parts within the sense of your cat. He or she might think that whatever is moving is a toy and start attacking it.

Slow Dancing in a Burning Room

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Summer Reading Plans

I'm enjoying a book from the library that's all about summer. Recipes, activities, ideas all pertaining to get the most out of the season. But it isn't Martha Stewart complicated. It's really about simple old fashioned pleasures like camping, picnicing, swimming and kite flying. There are instructions on how to body surf or do a flip turn in the pool or go canoeing. Just the basics. The woman who wrote it doesn't have children, but she geared the book towards families with school aged children with ancedotes from her own childhood and time with her nephews and nieces. It makes me want to make plans to take older kids with me and Dennis someday and just do fun summertime things. Who knows? We may have our own families someday. These are things good to know.

The other book from the library is about preserving and canning. I want to do this every year, put up veggies and fruits from summer to enjoy all year long, envisioning pickles and jams and salsas on my pantry shelves that I personally took charge of. My mom and grandma did this throughout my growing up years, pressing us kids into prep service in the kitchen as they canned and froze produce they either grew or got at the farmstands outside of town. But they never did anything fancy, just the plain simple stuff. Mom's kitchen was never bigger than most people's walk-in closets, barely big enough for the kitchen table and hardly any counter space, but she got the job done. Grandma was a one woman processing plant in her double wide mobile home kitchen, we ate her chutneys and relishes long after she passed away--and we are talking about all her daughters and her grandkids. The running joke was that Grandma was preparing to stock everyone's pantrys to get us all through the Tribulation. And beyond.

I've been growing strawberries in our front yard garden. Sean Koh got our strawberry patch started five years ago and now it is producing tons of fruit. We are eating the berries every day and they are delicious. But I'm starting to think a little ahead, about how to make them into a preserve or conserve so we would enjoy the bounty long after the harvest. My own kitchen has limited space, bigger than Mom's but smaller than Grandma's. But, if I'm organized, it shouldn't be a problem. And really, this is why I don't always want the biggest kitchen in the world. It's not neccessary. Mom and Grandma proved this year after year.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

I'm A Nancy Wilson Blog Groupie

Nancy Wilson is the wife of Doug Wilson who is the son of Jim Wilson, the pastor of the church I went to when I was a young believer in college. They all blog, even Jim is in his 80's these days. Doug is a pastor in Moscow Idaho and a writer and theologian/philosopher as well. I'm glad I found his wife's blog "Femina"--she tells the truth in her down-to-earth and witty way.

Here is a snippet from one of my favorite posts on parenting "Why Give Kids A Vacation Anyway?":

We want to be reformational in our thinking and living. We believe our theology should affect all of our living, so that means we ought to live like we believe it. Reformed types tend to over-emphasize stuffy theology and try to take shelter from living by hiding behind stacks of big fat books. Live a little. Maybe you need to take a break from your frenetic pace and take a pottery or painting class yourself. Or maybe ballroom dancing or fencing. Giving your children the opportunity to experience many things, from camping and fishing to astronomy and physics, is giving them a big view of God. Look at all the cool stuff God lets us do.

We want to become more human, which means bearing His image more faithfully and fully. He is not a fusser, watching the clock and checking things off His to-do list. We need to imitate Him, His extravagance and liberality toward His children. Did you catch that glorious sunset He set out in the sky tonight? Or were you too busy fussing over something “righteous” and forgot to look up? Come on! Don’t tell me He wasted all that color and light and you didn’t even notice? He seems to delight in distracting us away from our many mundane duties to look and wonder. So we ought to distract our own children away from their studies and chores.

Kids ought to play in the dirt and build forts and climb trees and throw snowballs and make you laugh. The great architects and musicians and artists of the next generation need to discover their gifts and develop their talents while playing dress-ups or messing around with clay. They won’t ever know what they can do unless you give them the opportunity to try.
That’s why I think kids need a summer break.

Most of the Time

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Cat Story

Two of the kittens are now in their new homes, two are pending (could go either way) and two have not even had even one inquiry about them. Basically, the four most affectionate kits have been the most popular, while the two ordinary orange shorthair males who have other things to do besides sitting on laps are the least. The way things are going, it looks like we will be left with Rebel Fredo. Vito, the other shorthair male, is very handsome and dignified in character and Fredo, well, his tail is ravaged by the ringworm still--he's got ugly hairless patches on it giving him a sort of pathetic look. And his biting...it has gotten better but he still has an aggressive temperament. We are hoping that the late bloomer will have other things going for him other than looks and dignity.

Carly has lost her sweet disposition and simply does not want to be bothered. She spent three months raising kittens and one month recuperating from being spayed while in heat and weaning so she is worn out. She has returned to her favorite basket by my desk again, where she goes to be near me as I surf the internet to be my companion and let my tap tap tapping of the computer keys lull her to sleep. However, the kittens hover around her, never giving her a moment's peace. It makes her grumpy because darn it, those babies do not listen. I miss the old Carmelita but it looks like I lost her when I didn't get her spayed in time. Fredo would not be the type of cat, even after neutering, that would be a computer buddy willing to put up with Bob Dylan on Youtube like his mom does.

I have been really attached to each of the kittens... today it was really sad to see Crema leave. The princess found herself a new domain to rule with dogs, other cats and kids as her loyal subjects. She will be the center of attention for a quite a long while. Carly doesn't seem to know that she's left yet. The pairing down of young felines in the household has been slow and subtle. They are actually leaving at older ages than most kittens, but I think that is why they are such great cats. Carly does not miss them. She has done her job.

Gina, black shorthair female, will meet a potential owner on Tuesday morning who liked everything I told her over the phone when she answered a flyer we posted at the grocery store a few days ago. She is looking for a friend for her older and lonely cat and Gina seems to fit the requirement of a playful but submissive personality. She is very well adjusted and balanced. Sonny, the longhair orange male, has already met the young couple who want him and they will call us back tomorrow as soon as they hear from the vet about the ramifications of ringworm on the other pets they have. They offered to put a down payment on him so we would keep him for them, but we said it wasn't neccessary. His cuddly and clownish ways won them over in a hurry.

Our vet gave us good advice on what to put on the flyers and where to put them. We were up front about the kittens having special needs and we priced them at least twenty bucks, but took whatever someone could afford. Gina, Sonny and Crema together may offset a bit of the costs of their care. Batman was a gift. His new family are appreciative of the costs we have paid making sure he was healthy and happy.

Over and over, we have been told that our kittens are amazing and that it is obvious that they are well cared for. It is rare these days to see kittens in such good condition, a lot of animal lovers have told us. Most of them are taken to shelters and have suffered a lot by the time they get there. Honestly, Dennis and I talked about this option a lot. And honestly, we were frustrated by the constant damage and disorder the kits inflicted often on our home. I joked that it felt like we were invaded by the creatures from the Gremlins movie--you look up and see six of them going in six different ways to get into trouble. I have been a cat wrangler, and I have the scratches on my arms to prove it. And for the record, the most heated argument Dennis and I ever have had in our lives has been over the cats. I'm not afraid to say it. And I confess also a bitter attitude towards Carmelita about her permissiveness in parenting, but what did I expect from an underage mother with piracy in her blood? But still, Carly, couldn't you at least take up some of the slack in kitten patrol?

Has it been worth it? I ask myself. I would never allow this to happen again, that's for sure. It hasn't been fair to Carly who depended on me to keep her out of messes like this. She certainly can't march herself down to the animal hospital and demand to be fixed. So, in the scope of it all, I am now a zealous bonafide member of the promotion for surgical birth control of pets club. Sometimes repentence from sin means paying some consequences for the sin of inaction. And that is why I stuck to my guns on this journey, which for the most part seems insane to a lot of people. And I appreciate my husband who ended up in this venture without wanting to, helping with litter box patrol several times a day, feeding, vet clinic runs and generally making the kittens feel at home even when they were nuisances. Which is something all of you contemplating marriage should consider-- that when one of you gets into trouble, all of you are in trouble. He did it for me because he knows I'll be there for him.

The people taking in our cats understand our predicament, I think, deeply. Taking the little critters to the shelter means certain death. Turning them into permanent outdoor cats means proliferation of diseases like rabies and being ravaged by tougher and wilder feline cousins, if not becoming fodder for bigger and hungrier animals. Giving them away for free would mean uncertain future care by those who do not spend the money on "dime a dozen" worthless cats. And drowning them in a bucket of water, like the old days, would mean instant depression for me. I could never live with myself in allowing such a thing to happen, as well as abandoning them out in fields, as I've seen some people rationalize as a more humane way to get rid of them.

On the other hand, people all over the world are suffering terrible sufferings. In that big picture of wars, starvation, disease, neglect and abuse, would the death of six unwanted kittens be all that bad if we took them to the shelter? They are kittens after all. When they got ringworm, it ravaged their faces, making them look like zombie kittens. Who would want those? We despaired for awhile, the shelter seemed like the only way. Our vets sensed this, I think, when we brought them in for treatment. They kept encouraging us that these were worth it, we were doing a good job and that they were wonderful little beings despite looking like they were born in a crypt.

In the big picture scenario, of course, human life is precious and definately more valuable than kittens. And animals are just animals. Of all domesticated animals in this country, cats are so dispensible. So it is hard to explain why we've done what we've done, other than my culpability for Carly's pregnancy. It cost more than we thought, but after plunking the money down for the first round of shots, it was hard to stop even when it was for when they had a literal case of the uglies.

The closest explanation I can say is that when we are faithful with little, we would be entrusted with much (if it sounds familiar, Jesus said it). Because I blew it with one little thing, it turned into six little things. So, yes, guilt. But also, I know in my heart, how people treat an animal often indicates how they treat human beings. So ultimately, my commitment to the kittens' welfare was also a way of practicing to be more committed to people. Dennis and I were going to allow these hard choices help us become better human beings willing to pay the costs of relationships with other humans. We will not take an easier route.

And so for that reason, Ugly Freddy will always have a home with me.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

The Reason To Have Kids--They Turn Out Better Than You: Bob and Jakob Dylan

I got Jakob Dylan's CD "Seeing Things" last night and listened to a few songs. Already I like it--the music is thoughtful and provokes thoughtfulness. Jakob Dylan is Bob Dylan's youngest son, and the front man for The Wallflowers, a band I've liked for seven years.

I don't listen to Jakob thinking about his dad or his family history. My general impression of him has always been that he's an intelligent person who puts together songs that are memorable and meaningful. And his voice is a heck a lot easier on the ears.





Friday, June 13, 2008

No Time Left

I used up all my internet time budget on interacting on Facebook for the first time. Sorry, no time for deep insightful posts today about cats, Bob Dylan and my hair color. Maybe next week.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Killer Tomatoes, Part Two


I found an alternative gazpacho. I think I will try this instead.

Killer Tomatoes

The thing about most fresh produce is that it travels long distances and goes through a lot of handling. When we buy it at the store, we don't know where it's been or who it has been with. And then we rinse it with cold water and eat it raw.

Some of my friends from other countries think we Americans are crazy for eating vegetables without cooking them first. One friend from China once invited me over for lunch. She had steamed iceberg lettuce and put some black vinegar on it, it was delicious. I asked her if she had this lettuce at home. She said that she never tasted it before, but she figured out a way to eat it. I tried explain salad to her. It was disgusting to her.

I thought about that for a long time. Because my reaction to her reaction to salad was defensive. I trusted American agricultural procedures. I was raised in farming communities, my parents grew up on farms and I studied agriculture as a food science major. I knew about testing that was involved. I used to handle fresh produce and process it in my first job in the industry after graduating from college. I designed the sanitation procedures for the company. So, it was kind of personal, but not really. Not all produce comes from the U.S. these days. And not all companies, American or not, follow the rules. Corners get cut.

Right now, the big news is involving the larger varieties of fresh tomatoes. The grape and cherry tomatoes as well as vine ripened tomatoes (the kind I buy) are safe, but tons of the roma and big round tomatoes are making people sick. Just when tomato season started. I was planning to make gazpacho.

The germ involved is Salmonella. Salmonella is everywhere, but it is most highly concentrated in poultry. And Salmonella is mostly a danger to the elderly, the sick and the very young. A high concentration of Salmonella is inexecusable. It indicates a serious lack of attention to sanitation.

When consumers lose trust in growers and distributors, it would mean a departure from a common American way of life. I wonder how long before the days of eating salad as a normal and healthy practice will be over.

On the other hand, I am growing my own tomatoes this year. We are having a bumper crop of strawberries from our garden already.

Monday, June 09, 2008

About Happiness in Marriage

Rosa was an older woman I met in California at my church who was also involved with a Christian women's group on the army base we lived on. She was a doctor in Argentina before she married the son of a American missionaries, who was more Argentinian than American. She gave up her practice to raise her three daughters, and support her husband who became a psychologist and then an officer working in Army military hospitals. When I met her, her daughters were my age and married with families, and all were pursuing advanced degrees in universities all over the world. I met a few of them when they visited, accomplished and bright were they. I liked them immediately, because not only were they smart, they were godly women and warm in personality as well.

The intelligence came from both their parents, but their warmth was definately a trait they got from their mother. Rosa's husband was a difficult man to know. He was an elder in our church and led several adult classes on Sundays. As correct as the theology was taught, as precise and accurate as it was taught, I found the man himself to be cold and exacting. He worked long hours at the hospital, riding a bike several miles from his home to work every day. His route went by the housing area I lived in.

I was a frequent visitor of their home during the day as I spent time with Rosa, even though I never had a single conversation with her husband. Rosa shared many things about love and marriage that I found to be crucial. First was that she sought God out every day and her prayer life was a deeply emotional and intimate one. Second was that she was aware of how different she and her husband were but she accepted him without condition. She prayed for him and brought her concerns about him to the Lord. If she needed to speak to him, she set up a time for them to do so and she would lay out her heart in a way that wasn't arguementative but boldly honest. She told me that it wasn't good to keep things all bottled up inside, especially with her expressive personality. So, she had to learn over the years how not burst out but deal with a problem in a way her husband could listen.

She went into few details about how she and her husband were opposites, for example when he came home from work, they had dinner and then he would retreat to read and study for hours. Rosa learned that they benefited from a routine where certain days were planned fun and family days every week. If she left her husband to himself, he would read himself into oblivion for sure. This is what I learned about Rosa--she found a way to influence her husband to balance him out and extend him a bit beyond his comfort zones. A wise, wise wife who took responsibility in her marriage and knew that her role in it was not being a helpmeet by keeping an orderly house (which she did excellently) but by being a sensitive and loving woman who did not drive her man away but kept drawing him closer to herself and to his daughters. Rosa's ministry was her husband--she would not let him get away with living entirely within his head.

She also told me the importance of holding your family in an open hand towards God. It is his will be done, not your own. Painful things can happen to the ones you love that you can do nothing about but God is good and has good things planned for them even though it doesn't seem like it. She was not a controlling or grasping person.

At the end of the day, she felt satisfaction in her work. Her investments paid off. Between God and her, Rosa's clan was thriving. She fought hard for it. She is the most vibrant woman I ever met.

Which brings me to the book reviews I read about A.W. Tozer's biography and the surprise that he wasn't a great husband and father. That his wife wasn't happy. As my mother told me, when it comes to unhappiness in a relationship, it goes both ways. In other words, if I thought that my husband was hard to live with, then I have to consider his point of view as well. To be fair, I haven't read the book. Or totally get what the situation was all about. It makes sense that Tozer was a complicated man. It also makes sense that he had a hard time with relationships. We all do in one degree or another. It may be a hard judgement, but when his wife was withdrawing and giving up on him, it didn't sound to me like a good example to follow.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Fast and...

We were out to lunch with old friends. The weather was bright and clear, not too much heat and a little mugginess. The guys left, leaving Donna and me chatting a few hours more. The clouds came in by the time we walked out to my car. I wanted to spend a few minutes at Donna's house, visiting with Donna's kids and husband. But the star of the show was the new puppy, Lucy, that Donna's college age daughter got.

I was holding Lucy in my lap on the couch facing the sliding glass door to the backyard. The youngest son, recently graduated from firefighter's academy, yelled that a tornado was in our community, time to go into the basement. And right then the winds blew fast and hard. And I sat and watched with a sleepy puppy in my arms, guessing that I might have to wait a little before driving home at best or ducking for cover at worst. By the time the tornado siren went off and the tv was turned on, the storm had passed over us. If there was a tornado, it was already too late.

That fast.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Friday

I just got home from work. It's a little after midnight. Saturday is here.

I'll be up for a while longer--a friend is driving in for the weekend and will arrive early this morning. Since Dennis needs to get up a 4am to go to work, I'm up to greet our guest.

Friday was a good day.

I went to Margie's for a women's bible study with internationals. We are studying the parables of Jesus together. It was fun and encouraging. A few of our group haven't become believers yet. But it was sweet to see them come closer to the faith, to develop a deeper picture of the life we have in Jesus and be exposed to the truth in God's word.

Then, I brought Batman the kitten to his new home, to meet his new family. My co-worker Aimee took him in. As I watched him interact with his new dog friend and his new kids, I knew he was going to fit right in. Aimee and I worked together last night. She got a phone call from her husband who told her that Batman had pizza for dinner with the kids--he actually stole a slice from her 2 year old girl and took off to a hiding place under a desk to chow down on it. They all thought it was hilarious. I was mortified, he had never had such bad manners in our house to help himself to "people food" right off of their plates. But his new family liked his spunkiness, that he had a personality and wasn't afraid of them. Yep, I guess he really did fit right in.

After that, I swam a mile at the "Y". For the last two months, I've been sporadic in my lap swimming, averaging about once a week, and not for long work outs. I tapered out to not even a quarter mile. It's not enough. So a few days ago, I decided to get serious. I swam 10 laps one day, 16 laps the next and yesterday went to 26, which in our pool is a mile. The session of 10 laps, I really felt out of shape and did only the breaststroke. The next set of 16 laps, I felt as though I was really pushing it and I could do no more. Yesterday's workout, I felt I was only getting started when I finished the first half mile. It surprised me that I had a little more in me than I thought. And out of the 26 laps, I did eight with breaststroke and 17 freestyle with my last lap a backstroke. A lazy backstroke--my reward for finishing the mile under an hour.

With swimming laps, sometimes there is a law of diminishing returns. The more you do, the less you get out of it because of tiredness and boredom. Unless I have goals, I am not very motivated. For several months, I worked towards a goal and I met it. It was hard to figure out where to go next. Or how to get there once I figured it out. I don't know if I want to keep on tacking more miles. I probably have it in me to swim at least two miles. But it won't be under 2 hours. The more laps, the slower I'll probably get and where is the cardio workout in that? Yesterday, I figured out how to go a bit faster and smoother, just by adjusting the position of my head. I would like to learn how to do flip turns. It's basically turning oneself into a pretzel under water, I have a hard time just visualizing the move. And getting over the fear of crashing into the wall.

And sometimes, I forget to have fun in the process. The lazy finish with the slow backstroke reminded me how much I like to just be in the water. I swim for a lot of benefits regarding my health. But I also swim for the pleasure of it. It is relaxing to forget everything else and to just concentrate on breathing and my swim. Furthermore, when I am in good form, it is a great sensation as I feel the power of each stroke sculling me through the water. I feel like I'm flying for a few moments. For years, I've enjoyed watching experienced swimmers with their grace and ease. It is a thrill to think that I could become one of them.

The friend should be here soon. Time to go.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Love Minus Zero

Bob wrote this song in the video about Suze Rotolo, his girlfriend in New York when he was starting out. When his career took off, she decided that she didn't want to be an invisible woman in his entourage. They broke off for good by the time he "went electric" at the Newport Folk Festival. I've only heard about this in snippets of her latest book "A Freewheelin' Time" when I read the book reviews. I haven't read, but I looked through it at Schuler's a few days ago. Bob included lines in the lyrics that were his special code to Suze, about memories and moments they shared.

Suze was concerned about being an equal in a relationship. She loved Dylan, but decided that she had to leave for Italy and pursue her passion for art and politics. She was only a teenager when they started their relationship. I think they just grew apart instead of together during this time, they were no longer sharing the same vision. An example that love is not enough to sustain a relationship. Suze was wise enough to know this at such a young age. You can love someone but not marry. You can love each other enough to leave. Hence, the meaning of "Love Minus Zero".

Marriage, on the other hand, takes a lot more than love. Love alone is not a good reason for two people to get hitched. Americans marry for love all the time. Americans get divorced a lot. So, what does that tell us? That this culture, on the whole, is on some other planet when it comes down to the reality of marriage. Love needs more. More respect, more kindness, more unselfishness, more consideration, more time, more laughter, more forgiveness, more humility, more commitment, more godliness and more sacrifice. From these things, real appreciation and intimacy grows. It doesn't happen overnight. And as I keep telling you all before, it can't happen apart from the Gospel--apart from the presence of God in your life.

It's a crazy, fallen world. And if we follow the world's wisdom, we will have no chance at experiencing something that actually transcends the craziness and falleness; of seeing God's glory through ordinary lives.

Love Minus Zero/No Limit

My love she speaks like silence,

Without ideals or violence,

She doesn't have to say she's faithful,

Yet she's true, like ice, like fire.

People carry roses,

Make promises by the hours,

My love she laughs like the flowers,

Valentines can't buy her.

In the dime stores and bus stations,

People talk of situations,

Read books, repeat quotations,

Draw conclusions on the wall.

Some speak of the future,

My love she speaks softly,

She knows there's no success like failure

And that failure's no success at all.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Buried Treasure

Today, I'm cleaning and organizing the dining room area. I do that occasionally. Yesterday, I cleaned bathrooms from top to bottom. Tomorrow, before work, I am rearranging the living room. So, I am busy.

I have large wicker storage trunks in the dining room. Over the last few years, I inherited a lot of dishes from my mom, so it displaces other things I've always had. The trunks were handy to a point--one holds Christmas dishes Mom gave me long ago and other stuff for hospitality. The other one held a lot of junk that I had to go through. I found that it contained magazines and items I haven't looked at since 2004. There were also puzzles and games, that I could relocate somewhere else. And a binder filled with information about our home and appliances that we needed some time ago but didn't know where it went.

Half the magazines I threw away. The other half were actually great, including one that featured food from Provence, France. I found an old email letter that I copied and folded into it, a letter from an older far away friend who was exhorting me to change my attitude in an email I sent her before. She was pleading with me not to fall into Satan's scheme by believing lies and accusations, and be involved with people instead of holding back. Wow, I really miss her. But, I have the letter to remind me that God had brought a real friend into my life who knows me and is honest with me.

A treasure in the midst of the clutter.

I've changed in the last five years. I spoke with another old faraway friend on the phone months ago, and she was being vulnerable and transparent. I found it hard to reciprocate, to communicate on the same level. Maybe because I hadn't talked with her for so long. Maybe because I became unused to talking that deeply with anyone outside of my marriage. Maybe because in Michigan Christians aren't as open. Maybe I'm not as trusting as I once was.

The letter reminds me that I haven't always been this way, that I once was more willing to seek counsel and help. And that God provided it. As He will continue to provide always for me.

A lot of people call me "deep". But to me, what I'm saying isn't all that deep. What vulnerability is to one person isn't so much to another. A lot of people think I'm extroverted. While I do care for people, I usually call on God to help me extend myself to others. Like last night at ESL, I really had to pray that God would unleash His love through me. Although I have always considered myself an introvert with social skills, I'm finding that nothing is possible relationally without God whether one is extroverted or not.

I lurk on other church's websites. Occasionally, I listen to podcasts or messages by their pastors. Someday I will share the links. But one in particular about community I heard this morning for the first time while I discovered my old letter in the wicker trunk, it was kind of bizarre. The speaker was saying things I've always known and shared, but not too deeply. The same with the message about the Church and homosexuality I heard from the same website. I remember having a disagreement with other believers because I felt that we are moving too far from love and sharing the Gospel from authenticity, while they felt strongly about the political agenda was the best way to stand up for the truth.

So, even though I've intuitively known things that aren't mainstream in the church (being abused as a kid will sometimes teach you things that others don't know), I've never felt like an outsider. Until lately. Perhaps Satan is pushing my buttons. So, it's time to make some changes.

We are going to a small group, and we will try to be in community and have nothing to do with doing so much as being there. As my friend wrote to me, "Thea's ministry to a life, heart to heart, is what's most important-not your stove to mouth ministry...you could cook the best meal and miss the life!!!" She affirmed to me that my meals were great, but they were a means to an end, not the end itself. Although I've always known this myself, it was nice to hear someone else say it.

What more, I was also trying wriggle my way out of ministering to men alongside my husband. I was through with that, having been burnt more than once over it and finally doubting that I had any place in ministry to single men at all. In the letter, my friend once again asserted that Dennis and I were a team, that God put us "together as a husband and wife to make up for the other, to be complete as a team to minister to Him... You who I envy because of your ability to reason with folks so skillfully--I think that Dennis is just using your strengths in your team ministry." To that I realized that I was being selfish in protecting myself. That if God calls me to do anything, I should do it no matter how it is misinterpreted by others. I'm available to Him and to Him only do I do what I do. His opinion of me is much more important than anyone else's.

So, a six year old letter still reaches out and encourages me today.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Life Indeed, Part 2

More thoughts about Tabitha. I've been mentally "chewing" on the Bible passage in Acts that I told you about in my previous post.

I was thinking why God sent Tabitha back to live a longer life. I really don't know for sure but I have a few speculations.

The Bible tells us that when the news went out about Tabitha being resurrected, more people became believers in the Gospel. Tabitha's reputation probably was widespread, and perhaps many in the community at large respected her and were saddened to hear she was gone. And perhaps they were exceedingly glad to hear that she was back, and God caused them to believe.

But the widows were the ones most distraught at losing their friend, perhaps they all learned about Jesus through Tabitha. As she was a mature believer, they probably looked to her for guidence, instruction, and support. She might have been an effective mentor. And of course, she loved them with a love that came from God loving her. I am guessing that God chose to be merciful to the widows in bringing Tabitha back to them, as a gift.

But all around, even up to now, God chose to bring Tabitha back for a few more years ultimately for His glory. And so, I had to share what I've been meditating on further about the story.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Life Indeed

I read an article in today's business section of the newspaper that Americans aren't saving money, and that the average household possesses flat screen tv's, satellite radios, and other expensive gadgets that were once considered "extras" and now are "necessities".

It prompted me to think of Tabitha of Joppa in the Book of Acts who was describes as "always doing good and helping the poor" (9:36). She had died. When the apostle Peter arrived in response to their urgent message, widows greeted him in tears and showed him the garments that Tabitha had made for them (9:39). Peter prayed after sending everyone out of the room and then commanded her to get up. And she did. It's a really short story, but I've been thinking about it a lot. Especially in light in the culture that I live in, and the materialism that prevades it.

The community of Christians in Joppa were not ready to give Tabitha up. They mourned her, they missed her terribly and weren't afraid to show it. I suppose believers died in Joppa all the time, and everyone buried them and said their good-byes. After all, being a disciple of Christ means that "to live is Christ and to die is gain". But Tabitha was different, they needed her. It wasn't what she did for people that made a difference, but I think the vitality of love that she manifested as she did it. She was possibly a woman who served God for the right reasons, and for her, a joy and pleasure.

When the widows showed Peter the hand made garments Tabitha created for them, I don't think they were average garments. There was something about them that was special enough to show Peter, and I'm guessing that the items of clothing were crafted with care and with skill. They were most likely top of the line. Tabitha probably dressed the widows well--maybe the best clothes they ever owned in their lives. Not flashy or overly embellished, but made of the best cloth available and custom made for each wearer. Probably a pleasure to put on and helped the widows know how much God loved them when they walked through the street. Yes, the way to a woman's heart is through her wardrobe. All this was from Tabitha's own hand and out of her own pocket. Tabitha exemplified the admonition from 1 Timothy 6:17-19 for the wealthy to be "rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is life indeed."

I love stories in the Bible, they help me internalize the truth in my heart. And I know that the Holy Spirit speaks to me through them. Lately, God has been telling me about love in action, faith shown through works, and to be "...steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord." 1Cor 15:58 I've needed these messages, as I feel sucked in by the world constantly.