Sunday, December 23, 2012


I don't think I've ever felt the winding down of a year more keenly than I do with 2012. My 50th year was a year of prayers, tears, stress, and hard work and they have yielded blessings beyond what I could ask or think. I am ending the year pleased but exhausted, and hopeful that during the Christmas break I will find myself refreshed and rested for the start of 2013.

True to my reflective nature, I am mulling over the takeaways from this long, long year. Some of them are things I thought I already knew, but they have gone from theory to practice . . .

  • Make right decision after right decision and you will find yourself in the right place.
  • You can do a lot with very little, but nothing on your own.
  • It's not business, it's personal.
  • Decide ahead of time to never be defensive.
  • Be transparent - subterfuge is a waste of time.
  • Listen.
  • Love.
  • Tie your every plan to a vision - know where you are going.
  • Communicate. And then communicate some more.
  • Acknowledge and celebrate progress
  • Pray, and let people pray for you
  • Teamwork is a powerful thing.
This could easily have been a year of great regrets, or a year made memorable only the sting of loss and suffering. But instead, it will be a year remembered with gratitude. I was able to see a great work accomplished by our team, by our community, and most of all through answered prayer. How often do you get to witness a miracle? I'm grateful I was able to do just that this year, in Greenwood.

The work is not done . . . looking forward to 2013!

Friday, June 8, 2012

Along the way

When I was a teen, my brother gave me his Konica camera - a real 35mm camera. My dad grew roses in our backyard, and so I began with these wonderful photo subjects who never moved too quickly for my clumsy focusing, and always looked beautiful.

As I got older, I began to notice beautiful flowers everywhere I went. Once digital cameras came along and the cost of film development disappeared, I began to enjoy snapping flowers with abandon. Even better, I could use Photoshop to zoom in and view the details of the flowers as if I had a microscope! The structure of these tiny beauties amazed me. Some were so tiny - maybe 1/4 inch in diameter. And yet zooming in revealed as much detail as the large flowers boasted in their glory.

The tiny ones with their detail make me wonder - if I were even able to create such an infinitesimally small work of art, something many would never look closely at, would I take such care in the design? In the elements of the design too small to even see with the naked eye? I'm not sure, but think that my attention would be spent on the surface. Not so with this Artist. This perfect, intricate design, this carefully crafted elegance is not for us, it is merely (and profoundly) the natural fingerprint of the maker. He cannot help it, it is who He is.

 These are 1/4 inch blossoms
 half inch blossoms on a mountain top

These flowers were found everywhere from cracks in rocks to deserts to forest trails, in California, Florida, Montana, Utah, Colorado, Indiana, Maine, Michigan, and Wisconsin. 
Sunday, April 8, 2012

"We are quiet people."

You might have heard us say this. We are quiet people. I'm moderately quiet, Mark is very quiet, and Amy is the youngest quiet. Kind of like the three bears. Three quiet bears.

Mark and I have been reading the book "Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can't Stop Talking" and it is very compelling (so much so that I can't stop talking about it - HA!). The author makes the case that although one out of every two or three people you know are introverts, our society exalts the extrovert as the ideal personality and considers "introversion a second-class personality trait -somewhere between a disappointment and a pathology." That was just one of many quotes gave me a "Yes!" moment. Susan Cain also ties in the related pesonality traits of sensitivity, seriousness, and shyness quite well, distinguishing these from each other but seeing them as correllated traits.

I am an introvert, but Mark and Amy are even more so. Our home is filled with books and music, and the best seats are the ones with great reading light. Mark has chosen an introvert's career - he counsels people mostly one on one all day long. I am a librarian, which is also an introvert's career, although not as much as you might think. Our daughter is also planning on becoming a psychologist and prefers outings with a few friends to large groups. We ALL wish we were writers.

When I was growing up, I regularly heard "you are too sensitive!" or my favorite, "you are too sensitive for your own good." I always wondered what the right amount of sensitive would be, but found I could not willfully switch my sensitivity level. Amy inherited my sensitivity. If Mark or I dropped her off in a nursery of howling babies, or if the caretaker in charge seemed cranky we could be sure we'd be paged to come get her within 20 minutes. She seemed to absorb the mood of a place and pretty soon the other babies would be calm but Amy would be inconsolable.

We are often square pegs in the round holes of our culture. The popular trend of noisy restaurants is one mismatch - and a difficult one since we eat out frequently. Noisy seems to be associated with 'having a good time' but for us it just doesn't work. If we are out with a group, I can deal with the noise but will be exhausted at the end of the night. Mark and Amy, on the other hand, cannot deal with it at all. Mark becomes very quiet and wants to leave - Amy is the same way. They describe the experience as assaultive and even painful. I have tended to believe that we are all three introverts and that they should try harder in those situations to deal with it just for the short term, just to enjoy the time with friends. But they can't. Susan Cain's book has really helped me understand the difference between myself and Mark and Amy.

On the Meyer's Briggs Personality Inventory, Mark and Amy consistently score as strong introverts, with Mark's score being in the "oh my goodness, what an introvert" range and Amy's not far behind. By contrast, I am just barely an introvert - a few points to the introvert side of the middle.

While all of us are very aware of the ways in which our introversion sets us apart from our talkative culture, we are fortunate. Mark grew up with two introverted parents who valued who he was and never pressured him to be more like anyone else. He is a confident introvert who has always resisted outside pressures to change him. Amy has also benefitted from parents who value her uniqueness. But as I've been reading this book, I've been more aware of the many, many ways in which our culture ignores and devalues the sensitive, the thinker, and the introvert. So many forces and situations we get used to getting along with, overcoming, or just muddling through. I am not yet finished with the book - but I'm wondering if the author has any answers for us. Where you draw the line between adaptation and selling out to the pressure of the extrovert false self that so many introverts create and lug around? What would western civilization be like if we again valued the authenticity, honesty, and leadership whether packaged as an extrovert or an introvert? Where sensitivity was a gift?
Saturday, February 18, 2012

Stolen Word

Another package arrived today - small and less mysterious than the last one. This time Debbie warned me it was coming, since I just about fell of my chair last time. This small treasure is a framed picture of my mother, I'm guessing at about age 12. It's in a cool old frame, and my mom is looking over her shoulder with ringlets and a bow in her hair. I love the spunky expression on her face. Her eyes have a spark - that same spark that carried her through her young life to a nursing degree, to a new family, a career, through five years of cancer, to a faithful life - that spark is there.

Snap by Snap has always been about photos and the stories they tell. I love the story this photo tells. Even though my mother has been gone 41 years, her daughters are still talking about her, piecing together bits of information about her life. Photos, a ring, a locket, a doll, a sewing machine, a diploma: The photos always tell the best stories. It makes me wonder what small parts of my life will remain 40 years after I'm gone and what they will say about me.

I found one small part of my early life in my wanderings today, and it made me smile. It's a Bible - and I have a few of those. Some belonged to my mother, my father, or were favorites of mine at various points in my life. But this particular Bible is the one I stole.

I was probably 10 or 11 - not much younger than my mom in the picture above - and like a lot of kids whose parents are leaders in the church, I spent a lot of time wandering the building, waiting for meetings to get over with. Our church building at that time was a cool old building with three stories, long halls of polished wood floors, creaky theater seats, and a basement whose columns had been marked near the ceiling to show how high the water reached in the flood of '38. There was a lot to explore there.  I found the lost and found that day, and it was full (of course) of lost Bibles. Bored, I began looking through them and stopped in my tracks as I found a familiar name in one of them.

This was during the period where I was afraid of forgetting my mother, and I was desperate for things that would help me remember her. And there on the page was her name. I closed the Bible, and took it home. When I got home, I scribbled out the name of the person to whom it had been presented. My internal Jiminy Cricket was practically shouting in my ear how wrong I was, but I could not tear myself away from that Bible. In my childish mind it represented a part of her. A moment in her life that was somehow now mine. It was the beginning of my small and unimpressive life of crime.

And here I am, so many years later, mostly reformed from my wild child ways, but I still have that contraband Bible. Why did I keep it? So many other old Bibles have been donated or given away, but this one remains on my bookshelf. I guess it still reminds me of that moment when I felt I'd gotten part of her back in some small way. Stolen and forbidden as it was, it was mine. Losing a person leaves such a gaping wound in our lives, and it takes time for grief to weave scar tissue over the gash and for our breathing to slowly regain its rhythm. Memories and momentos make it easier.

I've said it before in this blog - We are made for connection. In its absence we seek substitutes. I think that's why I love photos. I love seeing faces long remembered - eyes sparkling off the paper, proof to hearts that we remember. Having the photos preserves moments in our lives and theirs, and moves us past the pain of the separation to the memory of the life.
Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Past on My Doorstep

I arrived home last week to find a mystery box with my name on it. It was from my sister Debbie, but she hadn't said a word about sending anything. I opened the box and found myself looking into a distantly familiar face.

As soon as her green eyes opened, I was 11 years old again, standing in my parent's garage on a dusty summer afternoon. A box was opened, and a baby doll I had never seen before was lifted out. I can't remember who it was in the garage with me that day, but remember being told that it was my mom's doll from her childhood. My mom had been gone for a few years, but like any child I was momentarily surprised at the thought that my mom had a childhood.
Somehow this doll, with her handmade dress and well loved features made me wonder about the person my mother might have been growing up. The three year old suffering from rickets, given to another family (not adopted) to raise. The young girl leaving friends in Redfield, Iowa and moving to a new life in Long Beach, CA. The young teen struggling to care for younger siblings, and the high school senior who must have been shaken to discover that she did not really belong to the family she grew up with. 
My mother's doll has lain in storage, her eyes closed, for decades. But when those green eyes fly open, it is hard to imagine that they don't have a story to tell. Did she once comfort a small girl in a new home? Did small arms carry and comfort her? Did my mother's green eyes look seriously into her doll's green eyes and tell her secrets? Did my mother's rough stitches make her simple yellow dress? At the very least, she was a close enough friend to be saved as a memento of a childhood that did not boast many other treasures.

I have previously written about my mom's story when I started this blog in 2009, but visiting her life again through the contents of this box I am especially struck by her resiliency. She was determined to go to school, graduating from Long Beach Junior College at 21, and later finishing her four year degree at the University of Southern California at 24. When my father met her several years later, he found her still living at home, trapped in a family that depended on her for cooking, cleaning, and general maid service. He told me once that she seemed to live the life of a Cinderella, and he desperately wanted to rescue her. They married, and her new life as wife, mother, and registered nurse began. Finally, she had a family of her own.

The box held so many clues to my mom's personality - playful, goofy pictures of her with nursing school friends, inside jokes between classmates, letters. She was known for being good at math, but deferred when people mentioned to it. People remembered her smile, and commented on it when they wrote to her. The clues point to a determined, intelligent, kind, and playful young woman. 

At the bottom of the box were the funeral announcements, and the guestbook from her funeral. She was 48 years and 10 months old when she died. I was nine. Knowing that my mom suffered a difficult childhood, and witnessing her prolonged battle with cancer and early death - I have often thought of her as a somewhat tragic figure. And yet when I see her determined face and direct eyes in the picture below, I wonder. 

At 50, I am now older than my mom was at her death. We four "kids" now range in age from 50 to 63. I see her legacy in us - resilient, intelligent, determined, and playful. Maybe that's why, when I picked the doll up out of the box and her eyes opened, I almost thought I saw a flicker of recognition in those green eyes . . .

Left to right: Debbie, Cheryl, Ed (Gary's partner), Gary, and Cindy

My Blog List

  • What a day! Our new and improved PLAN for attacking New York began at a bus stop right in front of our hotel. For under $4 per person, we were delivered wi...
  • Each year I encourage the C3 class to commit to reading the Bible through in a calendar year. Committing to daily reading of God's word greatly enriches yo...
  • We are home again. After sleeping 10 hours, I woke to find Mark in the living room watching Geronimo starring Matt Damon, filmed in Monument Valley, of...
  • 3752 miles later, we're home. The last two days of driving were a little long, but worth it. We listened to Harry Potter 4 on the way there, and Harry Pott...
Powered by Blogger.