Archive for December, 2007

Twenty-Nine Years

My Beloved Siestas,
Today is Keith’s and my twenty-ninth anniversary and my mind has been awhirl all day long. I wanted to share a few things that are on my heart because many of you are married and more than a handful of you could probably use some encouragement. I’ve had such a sweet day but, strangely, not with Keith. He’s out of town – yes, again – but don’t feel too sorry for me. I am a well-loved woman and he and I will celebrate plenty when he gets home. And, anyway, this is what I get for scheduling our wedding day during the best part of hunting season. I was with him out of town until last night and he’ll be home in a few days.

In many ways, it’s appropriate for me to occasionally spend my wedding anniversary alone with Jesus. After all, this day is as much about He and me as Keith and me. Two more messed up people have never converged into one household. Talk about the double portion of dysfunction. Neither one of us were strong people. Neither one of us had our head together. We absolutely did not have what it took. God alone did it. He required a whole lot out of us a whole lot of times but He alone could have empowered us to give it. The rest was just a stinkin’ miracle.

I think Jesus just wanted me to spend this day in deliberate grateful reflection about His part in my marriage. Conspicuously, none of the people I usually sit with were at church this morning. All my young girl friends were out of town and many of the families that I usually sit near were also in absentia today. I have many loved ones in that worship service so, certainly, I could have gotten up and taken a seat by any number of people but, by that time, I was onto what I believed God wanted from me. He wanted me all to Himself…and after I got it, I was tenderly flattered. I sat alone, worshipped alone, listened to the sermon alone, then had lunch alone. And, except for a few minutes when Melissa came by, have spent the day alone. But so very much un-alone. I had an invisible Date for my wedding anniversary. One who wanted to remind me that He’s the only reason why I’ll have a visible date in a few days (late). One gray at the temples and tan and weathered of skin, but just as handsome as the day I married him. And a whole lot sweeter. I like him better these days. He does me, too.

Some of the things God has taught Keith and me are not for public consumption. Others are meant to be shared. These are a handful of things God has helped us practice along the way that led up to this particular day:
*We try more often to live by the law of kindness. In the old days, we’d figure out one another’s weakness then aim that direction with arrows of harsh words on purpose. Most of the time these days, we avoid the targets that we know good and well are the other’s Achilles’ heel. We just don’t like to be mean much anymore.

*We snuggle a lot. We have a big, long couch in our den but a whole lot of times we sit in the leather chair that’s almost not big enough for one hind end. Let alone two. Or three when Beanie gets jealous.

*We still talk a lot – over coffee, walking dogs, or bubble baths – and try to be interested in the other one’s world even when we don’t get it one iota. When you have a mix like Beth the Librarian and Keith the Barbarian, you have to try extra hard.

*We’ve had to choose to put stuff behind us. We have had no few problems, no few differences, and no few conflicts and, if we wanted to keep a record of wrongs, we could have a list long enough to trip over for the rest of our lives. Neither one of us thinks highly of letting the other run all over us nor is either of us likely to keep an opinion to ourselves. We still fight. But then we get on with living and make a choice not keep punishing each other with yesterday’s stuff. Life’s too short and a house too small. You have to forgive – and be forgiven – a ton.

*We just keep going. This isn’t going to sound profound but it’s actually one of the biggest things God has used to turn a rocky start into twenty-nine years. We just kept getting through the night till the sun would come up and we’d made it another day. Before we knew it, the next anniversary rolled around. And we’d be so glad. And little by little, we just got happier and happier. Hard times have always come calling but so have good times. God just gave us the wherewithal not to quit before the next sweet season came. Oh, that He’d continue to.

I am so tender to those of you who have endured the pain of divorce and I plead with you not to let this entry invite you to destructive feelings of condemnation or failure. I know how hard marriage can be. I know what a miracle it takes at times and how willing both parties have to be to receive it. But, with your blessing and your security in Christ, I also need to be able to say to those who may be on the edge of giving up, please, I beg you, don’t. Just make it through the night and see the sun come up tomorrow morning from your knees. Fight your battles ferociously with your face to the floor. Give God time and room. Wives, quit being the husband. Fire yourself. Let God take it over. Get counseling if you need it – even if your man won’t – but don’t quit. Even if you don’t love him…or like him. Even if you hate him. God can soften a heart of granite if you’ll let Him. Wait it out a little longer. Laugh a little harder. Snuggle a little tighter. Love by faith. Not just by sight. As the Apostle Paul says, all that matters is faith expressing itself through love.

Yep. Some anniversaries are more about God and you than your spouse and you. Like this one. Gotta go. My cell phone’s ringing and it better be Keith.

Or he’s had it.

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The Sound of His Voice

Merry, merry Christmas, my beloved Siestas. It’s about 1:00 PM on Christmas Eve afternoon and I’ve got a little down time for a few precious minutes. I’m out on my back porch watching the birds at the feeders and Beanie in my flowerbeds and having another cup of coffee. I finished the last of the wrapping late this morning then started the preliminary cooking for Christmas dinner tonight. We relish the leftovers on Christmas Day after opening presents and eating a big, lazy breakfast but there’s much to do before then. The cornbread (baked in bacon grease, of course) and biscuits are cooling on the kitchen counter in high hopes of transforming into my mom’s unsurpassable cornbread dressing. Sometimes I hit the mark. Sometimes I don’t. Dressing is fickle that way. But even if it’s not as good as Aletha’s, it’s plenty good enough for the Moore’s who are used to my cooking. Rachel Ray I’m not but Happy I am.

I made iced sugar cookies last night. A little while ago I finished the homemade bread and it will rise and be ready for baking by late afternoon. I’ll make brown sugar and cinnamon sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, roasted Turkey, and the best danged gravy in the South if I do say so myself. It’s my specialty. I’m not getting too fancy because it’s just six of us this year: Keith’s parents, Melissa, Colin, Keith and me. Every other year is huge because the entire extended family plans their “Moore” Christmas on the same year. That’s the way we like it so all the aunts and uncles and cousins can be together for Christmas at least once every two years. We celebrated with Amanda, Curtis and Jackson over the weekend and they headed up to Missouri to be with the Joneses. Amanda has terrific in-laws. They built a home themselves on ten gorgeous acres outside Springfield and just moved into it. Jackson will have such a blast running his legs to near nubs on that oversized yard with his best friend, Beckham. They were expecting a light snow and I so hope they get it. As I recall, Amanda and Curt first kissed in a Springfield snow about seven Christmases ago.

This morning in my quiet time I read the profound, almost inconceivable words of John 1:1-16. They were especially on my mind because of something Melissa mouthed to me yesterday during the sermon. Pastor Gregg was preaching on Anna, Simeon and the Christ Child in the temple courts and made brief mention of the infant cries of the baby Jesus. Melissa looked past Colin and one of my darling young girl friends who was sitting beside me, fixed eyes on her mother and whispered, “The Word made flesh.” Ah, yes. The Word made flesh. Who can fathom it? I’d memorized the segment of Scripture many years ago (in fact, on the airplane trip where I brushed the old man’s hair) but I wanted to read it this morning as if I’d never seen it. I picked up a different version so I wouldn’t anticipate the words and slowly read John 1:1-16, trying to ponder it. Breathe it.

The tears stung in my eyes as the thought hit me afresh: Four hundred years of silence had followed the last of Malachi’s words. According to the Prophet Amos, generation after generation of God’s covenant people had “staggered from sea to sea” and wandered “from north to east, searching for the word of the Lord” but did not find it. There was a famine in the land. “Not a famine of food or a thirst for water, but a famine of hearing the words of the Lord.” Many leaders rose and fell in Israel. Some served the people well. Yet I am amazed – so intrigued – that the masses never mistook a single one of their great leaders for an authentic prophet speaking the inspired words of God. They knew the difference. It seems that in their desperation they would have done everything they could to conjure up some kind of word yet they didn’t. Couldn’t. What a testimony to the canon of Scripture! And to God’s determination that His words be utterly distinct yet humanly recognizable.

When any of us wants someone to hear something special, we ask everybody to be quiet so the drama of the sound will increase in its contrast to the silence. That’s what God did. He ordained 400 solid years of silence so that every willing ear would be alert and in-tune when He once again opened His mouth. The drama in the heavenlies would be at fever pitch and the robes of angels would be bursting at the seams.

And there it came. Reverberating from a crude stable and the arms of poor, inexperienced parents. The silence of God was shattered in the form of a wailing infant fresh from his mother’s womb. Absorb it again. God broke the sound barrier with a squalling baby boy. Hope was born amid the soiled sod of earth. The Logos was engraved from the inside out on a precious parchment of human skin. “The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us.” Oh, that this Christmas we would behold His glory! The glory of the One and Only who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

“From the fullness of His grace we have all received one blessing after another.” John 1:16

I love you.

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Clash of the Choirs

Siestas, did you watch “Clash of the Choirs” this week??? It was one of the best things I’ve watched on television in ages! I laughed and cried and clapped my hands and stood to my feet and cheered all by my sick little self in my den. I could have watched it every night for a month. Now, THAT’S GOOD PROGRAMMING. Way to go for a change, NBC!!!

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There Comes A Time

There just flat comes a time when you have to go to the danged doctor. And be glad you have him. I wouldn’t have to bother if my mama were still alive. She didn’t much know what to do with a stronghold but she knew what to do with the croup. I’d have to sit on a stool by the stove with a towel over my head and breathe in some wild vaporous concoction that made me heave until I came to my senses and decided I’d better get well or else. My family was too big for you to get a whole heapin’ helping of attention. You got your moment then you got on with it. A week later you’d be snorting your head off and coughing your back out and someone would say, “Child, what on earth is wrong with you? What are you doing still sick? I thought I told you to get well!” I had a really quirky family and sometimes if you’d been sick a long time they’d say, “I’d a thought you’d a died by now!”

Sometimes my sister and I got to stay home when we were sick and watch soap operas with Mom and Nanny (my granny who lived with us). If we’d act nearly dead, even three in a row. We were so far in the birth order that we got away with more than the older kids. Especially when it came to playing hooky. If we’d lay really quiet on the couch, Mom and Nanny would act like they didn’t know we were there. It never occurred to them that soap operas might not be the best steady diet for adolescents. How we didn’t grow up to be like Erica Cane on “All My Children” who’s never met a man she didn’t marry is beyond me. Goodness knows we did our part.

I was supposed to get to take the day off to finish my Christmas shopping but no!!! I have to go to the danged doctor. I’ve had something for three or four days but I tried to treat it with internet advice. I bet you know what I’m talking about. I thought it was working till I could hardly get out of the bed this morning. I had to drop my legs over the side of the bed, slide down, and hope the rest of me followed. When I finally got to my feet, I coughed really loud so Keith would wake up and feel sorry for me. Then I was sorry he’d seen me because I got a glance of myself in the bathroom mirror and nearly went into cardiac arrest. The only words that would come to me were “Woman, thou art loathed!” I didn’t have to take my take my temperature. My hair clearly had a fever. And it looked especially dark. I’m one of those weird people who enjoys making fun of herself so I had half a mind to have Keith take a picture of me to post for you…but then I was afraid I’d give you a spirit of fear. I kind of looked like Norman Bates’ mom in Psycho.

Keith’s car was packed for the deer lease but then he felt bad (I love that when you blog you don’t have to use good English like “badly.” It would be so lame here.) about leaving me this morning. I made him go though. I didn’t feel good enough for him to stay home. I think you understand. Well, you helped me pass the time to my appointment. Gotta get in there. I’m sorry this is so random. I’m sorry for everything. Even things I don’t know I did. I’m so sorry.

I’ll let you know in the next day or two how my appointment went. I hate that they’re going to ask me if I’ve had my dad-blasted mammogram this year. And how my delicate digestive system is doing. Good grief. How personal can you get? Did I tell you about having that colonoscopy last year and, as it turned out, several of the nurses in the wing had done the Bible studies and we got to visit through it? No, I didn’t tell you because I didn’t want to talk about it. Still don’t.

If my croup kicks pretty fast, I’m gonna wish I could retape my rousing chorus of Happy Blog-aversary To You. I know it’s not the flu because I had my flu shot. And it’s against the law to get the flu after you get your flu shot.

I love you. So sorry I put you through this post.

PS. Back from the doctor. Bronchitis. May need iron lung. Not really. Just a mammogram and colonoscopy.

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Christmas Party 2007

As I’ve said before, LPM always throws a great celebration. Jackson and I drove down to Houston last week to be at our annual Christmas party. The morning began in the office with a little send-off for our sweet Sherry, who will be on maternity leave for the next few months. LPM Baby Boy #4 will be making his debut very soon! Sherry and Jen are both expecting their second boys and I have no doubt that I will one day (not yet) follow in their footsteps. They are a wealth of knowledge and encouragement to me in motherhood. Every time Jackson comes to an LPM lunch or party, they reach into their purses and pull out all kinds of toys and fun things for him to play with. They even consider in advance what they could bring from their homes that would help entertain my toddler. What amazing friends and Titus women!

Next, we headed to The Galleria for shopping and eating. We decided to change up the gift exchange this year. As soon as we arrived, we each drew a name and had 45 minutes to go find that person a Christmas present. At LPM we have several sisters who are known for the high quality of the presentation of their gifts. I had a feeling that it would be hard for them to present their gifts in store bags. Sure enough, Jennifer (whose mom is a retired art teacher) told us it took superhuman self-control not to stuff her purse with some special ribbon that morning. We scattered throughout the mall in groups of three and four for some intense shopping. In that time, Beth – surely one of our most gifted shoppers – bought a different gift for all twelve of her co-workers. That is some talent.

When the 45 minutes were up, we enjoyed a wonderful lunch at the Cheesecake Factory (which is inside the Galleria). Jackson quickly decided he hates the Cheesecake Factory and he and I ended up leaving by the time our meals came. It was a good thing we had appetizers or I would have been so bitter! He fell asleep in his stroller a few minutes after that and I enjoyed getting to shop in peace. I bought my dad a shirt that says, “Texas – It’s bigger than France.” But don’t tell him.

Susan, Beth, and Sabrina at Cheesecake Factory.

I should have known it would be one of those lunches.

My sisters got dessert to-go and met me at Starbucks. It was the perfect place to have our gift exchange and enjoy coffee and wonderful desserts. Once Jackson woke up I was able to appease him with some strawberry shortcake.

Linda, Nancy, Sabrina, and Jennifer. This jacket, which was on sale at Gap, was very popular with our group. It was given as a gift to one person and three others bought it for themselves!

Kimberly, Susan, Evangeline, and Kimberly Mac

Jennifer and Kimberly

Diane and Kimberly

Evangeline and me. That cute, faux fur purse held all kinds of goodies from Bath and Body Works.

Sabrina and Diane

Sabrina and me. You can find really fun umbrellas at J Crew.

Bethie and her new jewelry.

My beautiful sister.

Our lovely Nancy is sporting a lighted brim baseball hat from Eddie Bauer. What in the world? Nancy is an early morning jogger and this will help light her way.

Shhhhh! Santa is taking a nap!

By the way, the glasses Beth wore in the blogaversary video were purchased during our Christmas Party Extravaganza in 2001. We all had a pair. Nancy was in an extremely short “hair season” and she looked exactly like Harry Potter in hers. We love you, Nancy!

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It’s Our Blog-a-versary!

One year ago today the LPM Blog was born! On that first day I posted a welcome message and some pictures from our staff Christmas party. It was fascinating material. Were any of you reading during those early days? It has been a blast getting to fellowship with you in blogworld since then.

I mistakenly told my mom and sister that it is a tradition to post 100 things about yourself on your blog’s birthday. I think it’s actually something you do on your 100th post. Oops! I’m blaming it on my cold medicine. We had already made the list when I realized my mistake (and thank goodness we couldn’t come up with more than 30 things), so here it is!

30 Things About LPM and the Moore Family

LPM

*It was founded in 1994 with a one thousand dollar donation that Beth didn’t know what to do with.

*One donation check several years ago was made out to “Living Fruits Ministry.” We never cashed it because we loved it so much.

*A core group of the staff has been together since the days of monthly prayer breakfasts at Beth’s house twenty years ago. They have been through untold hair seasons with one another and are likely still married today because of one another’s encouragement to press on.

*Beth had to give up teaching a Christian aerobics class in order to write Bible studies, a sacrifice she often recounts and sometimes while doing a grapevine left then right, step forward, leap back. She says she’s never kicked the habit of writing aerobic routines in her head when she hears a cool Christian contemporary song.

*Beth’s personal assistant and our senior statesman, Susan Kirby, used to be a caterer, a gift she now utilizes to pick up good to-go food. Sadly, we only have about five restaurants near the ministry but, thankfully, four of them are Mexican food.

*The entire staff also considers Susan Kirby to be our resident authority on everything from recipes to home repairs to Christmas decorations to marriage restorations. Hers is the most sought-after advice in the ministry.

*Everyone on the staff is kind and sweet to each other until we play Bunko (no, we don’t bet) then everyone’s sin nature surfaces alarmingly. We had to give up playing “Spoons” because a utensil shortage once caused us to have to also use knives, to which many nearly lost appendages.

*One of us who will remain unnamed has the strangest sneezes in the free world and they always come in rapid succession of a minimum of eight. Every staff member within ear-shot observes a moment of smiling silence until they pass.

*Diane, our resource department manager, cut off all her eye lashes with an eyelash curler several years ago. As she helplessly watched them fall in the sink, she reports to having said aloud only one word: “Y’all.” Diane says that she does not know whether she was talking to all her eyelashes or to all of her good friends at Living Proof that would care that she lost them.

*Kimberly Meyer, one of our most beloved staff members, did not fully grasp the concept of preferring others when she served at Beth’s product table for the first time at Women of Faith several years ago. The irony of her shameful bias toward Beth was that it was untested. She’d not yet heard a single other speaker on the program. The first woman who walked up to the product table got the full brunt of it. With the enthusiasm of an entire cheerleading squad, Kimberly pointed both fingers at her and blurted out, “Who’s your favorite?” The unsuspecting woman, wide-eyed with surprise, blurted out with equal exuberance, “Patsy Clairmont!” A fact we still celebrate to this day.

*Every single one of the staff members who has gotten pregnant after coming to work here has had a boy. We now have five of them. Not a pink ruffle in the mix. Something suspicious is lurking in the office drinking water.

*Beth and ministry director, Sabrina, ride to Bible study together every Tuesday and worship so loud to Kirk Franklin songs that the whole car shakes.

*The whole ministry staff loves nothing better than a big, corporate praise dance. Uh, come to think of it, we haven’t let loose like that since Melissa came on board. She needs time to grow into it. A lot of time.

The Moore Family

*Most nights that we are all together, we sit on the edge of the bath-tub, fully clothed, and soak our feet in hot bath water.

*On special occasions, we put bath confetti in the water. And afterwards if there was good conversation, we talk about what a great “soaking” it was.

*While we soak our feet in the hot bath water, we drink our “comforts,” which is short for “comfort drink,” which is short for homemade hot cocoa (with real whipped cream).

*Mom and Dad have authored about fifty “sweet-Beanie” songs and can manipulate any song ever written into a “sweet-Beanie” song.

*We eat Jimmy Dean sausage almost every morning for breakfast. It is a small, dainty meal.

*Jackson’s feet often smell just like the feet of a grown man, and he thinks it is downright hilarious for anyone to smell them and gag.

*Beanie (the dog) is fed her medication in a mound of Easy Cheese (which Mom and Dad inexplicably call “cheese-meats”).

*Beth has a phobia of non-fried foods. The revelation recently came to full disclosure last week when she was shocked and awed that the fish in her fish tacos was grilled rather than fried. She even eats fried pickles. Disgusting.

*We love petit fours more than almost any other dessert creation. Wedding cake is a very close second.

*Amanda was the resident evangelist to the pets in our family, leading them to the Lord by holding their paws together in prayer.

*Melissa has the uncanny ability to order the worst and most random thing on any menu. If there is one bad entrée on an otherwise wonderful menu, she will pick it out.

*When Mom goes to work out, she says that she is going to “pump some iron” in order to “meet her fitness goals.”

*Keith has been known to entertain Beth, Amanda, and Melissa on a bad day by doing ballet across the hard-wood floor in his cowboy boots. His pirouette is fascinating.

*Melissa’s first car was a much-desired 1969 Z28 Camaro in midnight blue with white racing stripes. She got it for her 16th birthday from her daddy. He took her out on the road to teach her how to drive it, gave her a little while to practice the four-speed, then said, “Now, try again and quit driving like a girl.” They still share a great love for muscle cars.

*Melissa’s proudest moment for Amanda was the day she got a report card with a “needs improvement” in conduct.

*All Moore’s look to Melissa for fashion advice. There is still distant hope that her advice for Keith will one day be taken. She likes to remind her mother that if her father were indeed both handsome and cool, he’d be dangerous. Better for him to just be handsome.

*Dad brought a live armadillo to mom’s window the night before he proposed. We’re not sure why. Perhaps to test her commitment.

Happy blog-a-versary, Siestas!

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Prince of Peace

Two years ago at Christmas, Curt and I were furiously trying to finish remodeling our home so that we could move in before the return of our Lord. It was absolutely the most stressful time of our marriage to date. There was not much holiday cheer in the little townhouse that we were so eager to vacate. We chose not to bother with decorating since we had enough to deal with between the house and a baby on the way.

Last year was going to be the most wonderful Christmas of all time. It was going to be one that we talked about for years to come. We had an adorable ten-month-old to add to all the joy of the season. It was his first Christmas, so we would need to document every little thing that happened and make everything as special as possible. We had a very cute house to decorate to our hearts’ content. And boy, did we. Looking back, I can see that I was putting, hmmmm, just a leetle bit of pressure on, well, everyone and everything for it to be nothing less than magical. It makes me tired just thinking about it. And, honestly, I made no room in my heart for the baby Jesus. No room at all. In fact, on Christmas Day I started a huge argument with my sister. Yep, it was me. I picked it. And it was a big one.

This year is going to be different. The name of the game is peace. Financial peace. Sisterly peace. Peace in our schedule. Peace inside my house. (With about half the decorations we have instead of it looking like I robbed Hobby Lobby.) Peace outside my house. (With about half the Christmas lights we had last year, when Curt channeled Clark Griswold). Peace in my expectations. Peace in my heart with God.

Peace is something I will fight for this year. I want to enjoy this Christmas without all the self-inflicted pressure, unreasonable expectations, and needless distractions. I need there to be room for the baby Jesus, who, incidentally, is our peace.

I think if Mary had given birth to Jesus in 2007, she might have gone on eBay and ordered some custom-painted letters that spelled out his name on the wall. She might have emailed a picture of his crib bedding to the artist so that she could make it all match. To spell P-R-I-N-C-E O-F P-E-A-C-E would have cost Mary an arm and a leg. She might have even hoped Joseph wouldn’t notice the $150 to PayPal on their bank statement. But those 13 letters are worth all the money in the world. They’re the most lavish, expensive, mind-blowing, life-changing present we could ever give or get.

Colossians 3:12-17
Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

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Unlikely Loves

No, I don’t have good news on the Christmas picture I was trying to take for the blog. The camera and I have spent the weekend in two different rooms so that our relationship could have a little time to heal. Hopefully there will be a reconciliation and a victory soon. You’ll know it when you see it. And, boy, will it be a let down.

There’s something else I wanted to share with you. I’ve got to keep it short because I don’t want to take much time away from my man. He just got home last night from the deer lease. I want to write on it while it’s on my mind though. I just have to marvel from time to time over the unlikely loves God brings together in His family here on earth. The way people in Christ can become dear friends and traveling companions with individuals they’d never have thought to get to know. I love how, because the Spirit of Christ lives in us and He originated the differences, we can come to love people we might not have thought we’d like. It’s a thought I have often but I have some fresh imprints on my heart and mind today that compel me to write.

Travis Cottrell, my praise team leader on the road for ten years, has been in town this week at Champion Forest Baptist Church as the guest artist in their magnificent Christmas pageant. Our families are really great friends and Melissa and I had already gotten to see him between practices. Angela, Travis’s wife (and stunning proof of how much God loves him), and their three terrific kids, Jack, Lily Kate, and Levi, flew in yesterday afternoon to join Travis and Keith got home last night. My man was anxious to see them so we headed to Champion Forest Baptist for church this morning to worship with them and have some lunch. I watched those two men hug. So happy to see each other. Crazy about each other. Watched them sit at the end of our row together. And as different as night and day and one almost old enough to be the other’s father. Keith the consummate outdoorsman who shoots clay pigeons for fun and Travis the gifted artist who can write a musical on paper without even sitting at a keyboard. The chords are all in his head.

Both mighty men but so incredibly different. I couldn’t help but take it in again at lunch. While Ang and I were in the throes of kid-ville, Travis and Keith sat at the end of the table and gabbed like they’d hung out all their lives. Travis lets Keith talk to him about deer and Keith lets Travis talk to him about music projects. Travis could easily talk pro football because, interestingly, he’s a huge addict, but Keith, just as oddly, is not a fan. Both, however, love Jesus, love their wives, and cry over something tender faster than their wives. I don’t suppose conversation comes naturally to either one of them but they make it happen. Because they’re family. The Moores and the Cottrells have been halfway around the world together and have shared more life – joys and crises – in the last ten years than you can imagine.

Two months ago Keith sent Travis a pair of Lucchese cowboy boots with a handwritten letter about how the Tennessee Volunteers had come to the aid of the Texans at the Alamo (yes, we remember). It was priceless. Vintage Keith. And Travis loved them. They are an odd pair, Keith Moore and Travis Cottrell. One of how many odd pairs, I wonder, in the Body of Christ? This entry is a tribute to the unlikely loves Christ Jesus brings together. I’m inviting you to share yours. (Short enough for us to read them all!) One of the most marvelous things about loving Jesus is all the folks we end up unexpectedly loving, too.

I love you. I really do. And if a blog community of women who have never laid eyes on one another isn’t an unlikely love, I don’t know one.

Your committed Siesta. (P.S. I just had to hop back on and say that I LOVE YOUR TESTIMONIES OF UNLIKELY LOVES!! Siestas, be sure to read these comments! The stories of unlikely lives God brought together will bring such joy to your heart and praise to your lips. You will marvel over the one written by the young widow and laugh over the one written by the woman who has a fear of flying then married the pilot. You’ll love all of them! Also be sure to add yours. This is one of my favorite comment sections yet. Way to bring God some fun glory! And you’re right, Siesta. He and we are the most unlikely loves of all.)

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Incompetent In Houston

I’m so bitter. I’ve been planning a blog entry for four days over something Christmasy but I wanted it to have a certain picture with it. I just think it’s so cool how AJ can download (upload? freeload? buckload? what-the-heck-ever load, I-don’t-even-care-load) a picture with an article. I’m constantly wishing I could do the same thing and, had I been able to before now, you would have had all manner of thrilling snapshot at my birdfeeders. Maybe even some frame-ables. I know you hate that you’ve missed that. And, indeed it may be God sparing you that I can’t seem to have a photography breakthrough.

I had a sudden rush of confidence this week and decided I was going to buy myself a camera with thingies I could plug into my computer and do whatever it is you do to get a picture on a blog. I didn’t want just any kind of camera. I was ready for a fine one. One you don’t even throw away. I marched myself to the One-Hour Photo department at my neighborhood Walgreens and gazed with discerning eyes at the cameras hanging on the rack behind the counter. I couldn’t test any of them because they were the kinds with the grossly annoying heavy see-through plastic packaging on them that portable CD players come in. There was one camera for $69 (after rebate, she explained. Like I’m going to follow-through with a rebate. At our house rebate is something you do when the worm fell off your fish-hook) but, remember, I wasn’t there for a cheap one. Nope. My Siestas are worth more than that. I asked, “How much is that one right there?” She sighed like it bothered her to have to work for a living and said, “$129.” I responded smugly, “I’ll take it!” One hundred and twenty-nine dollars I spent on y’all at the Walgreens! When’s the last time you spent that at the drug store if you weren’t getting drugs? Yep, I dropped it like it was hot for my beloved Siestas.

I was so happy driving home. So full of hope. Peace on Earth. Good will to men. I only quenched about 20% of the Spirit trying to open it. I practically had to get a buzz-saw from the garage to get into the dad-blasted thing. My arms are sore today. The instruction manual was three-fourths of an inch thick which I found disconcerting. I have commentaries shorter than that. I finally pulled the gadget out and pushed different stuff until it made a noise and the front popped out. (The light, lens, or whatever it is.) I had somehow turned it on and was thrilled by the victory. God who’d begun a good work was going to be faithful to complete it! The screen asked me what kind of picture I wanted to take. I said out loud, “Christmas.” That must not have been what it meant because it soon lost interest and turned itself off. I pushed different stuff until it came on again. I could tell already that it didn’t like me and I just don’t get why. I liked it. Why didn’t it like me? I mean, give me a chance, will ya? A girl’s gotta learn, doesn’t she?

Camera on and ready, I, then, went to my library (that used to be a dining room until Keith gave up and put bookshelves in there in an attempt to move all the resources off the table) and took a picture of what I wanted to take a picture of. (I’m not telling because I’m still going to do it. The thing of it is, it’s not even that good. It will be a titanic let down by the time I even do it! Now it’s just the stinkin’ point. I’m in such a foul mood.) I took the picture and felt a fun feeling in my stomach. Then, I’ll swear to goodness if the screen didn’t come up with the words “Memory Full.” What the heck fire do you mean “Memory Full”????? What the heck-shooting-dern-dang-every-slang-word-that’s-not-quite-a-cuss-word do you mean “Memory Full”? I just took ONE PICTURE!!!! And don’t even start talking to me about memory cards. Amanda’s already tried that. The stupid thing ought to have some memory without a card. And, anyway, if it needed one, why didn’t it come with it? I tried to get Melissa to help me but all she could say was, “Bless your heart, Mom. I love you so much.” I didn’t even say it back.

I packed up the whole thing in a bag and brought it to work today to see which one of my staff members loves me most. So far I don’t think anyone loves me at all. And you know what galls me most? I couldn’t even figure out how to get the wrist strap on it. (I had to flip through the camera commentary to even see what you called the stupid thing.) OK. There you have it. Or, to be more accurate, there you don’t.

With love and good intentions,
Incompetent in Houston

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Thinking Again This Morning About That Faith Thing

I’m sitting out on my back porch this morning watching two squirrels fight over one of my birdfeeders. When Sunny’s had enough, she’ll charge through the middle of them and they’ll learn their lesson for a pair of minutes. Beanie’s out of town with Keith. They have serious stuff to do this time of year. A birddog can’t be bothered with snuggling during hunting season. She’s Keith’s dog for about five months a year, watching every move he makes until he says her favorite words, “Load up!” And to the (front seat of) the truck she flies. The rest of the year, however, I am a big contender for her favor and all fifty-six pounds of her transforms into a lap puppy. That’s when Keith refers to me as “Absalom” for trying to steal the heart of his dog.

Women who aren’t hunting widows (no, I’m not a hunter. Hate it. But love him.) ask me from time to time how I put up with Keith being gone as much as he is this time of year. Three ways: 1) This is the way it’s been since we dated. He came straight from the deer lease to our wedding. I had the gall to schedule it during the coldest part of the year. 2) He is a mighty big handful and he’d probably tell you the same about me. We have a very “on” relationship and require no little attention from each other. These times apart give us just a tad of a break and make us so glad to see each other when that couple of days is over. 3) After he’s been with what he calls “nothing but a bunch of *hairy, *stinkin’ men” he comes home thinking I am darling and I get lots of attention. Sometimes *presents. After twenty-nine years of marriage, that’s pretty fun. (*I shave my legs. *I wear deodorant. *I can be bought.)

But that’s not why I’m writing you today.

I’m writing you today because I was thinking again this morning how brilliant God is. How perfectly, in His unfathomable wisdom, He set up the system. My devotional this morning was on faith and, as I stared into the distance and meditated on it, I thought once again what a bright idea God had when He called us to it. What if we could figure it out? Him out? What if what we saw was all there was and that was that? We’d have long since gotten bored and moved on. Instead, God called us through Christ to an adventure that never ends. To seeks answers that are never fully satisfied. Not here on earth anyway. You and I were given restless hearts so that we’d only be satisfied with a wild ride. Some of us try to find it elsewhere because we’ve reduced our relationship with God to a neatly compartmentalized religion we pay regular homage to. We keep our faith to ourselves because we haven’t got that much to spare. We expect little and get little. This way, we don’t have to let it get to us much. But if you engage in the real, live walk of faith with the real, live Jesus Christ, it’s GOING to get to you because HE’S going to get to you. You will get your feelings hurt at times because you’re close enough to be vulnerable. Faithful enough to put yourself out there. Because sometimes walking by faith and not by sight creates as many questions as answers.

But isn’t He brilliant? Would we really have wanted a God we could figure out? Or wouldn’t that have made us His God instead? Isn’t the unknown the very thing that keeps this life an adventure? Some of our destructive lusts for the strange and new in human relationships (inability to commit; addiction to romance novels or steamy TV series; continual fantasies about someone different; or maybe more than fantasies) erupt from unknowingly trading in a holy adventure with God for a feel-better-few-minutes with man (real or imagined) that only ends up feeding our dissatisfaction. The result is even deeper despair that pounds with every beat of our injured heart, “Is this all there is?” The answer is a resounding, “NO!” The innate human desire for something new isn’t what’s unhealthy. The need for adventure was sewn within our souls by divine hands so that deep would call out to deep and we’d drive our insatiable selves straight to the One and Only God who can sustain it. His mercies are new every morning and treasures are inexhaustible every day.

Christ: the perfect blend of security and mystery. He’s security because of all we really can know about Him. Count on about Him. Believe unwaveringly about Him. But He’s also mystery. Someone we can’t conquer. Can’t explain. We know He’ll show up (security!) but never know how (mystery!). I love that about Him.

He was right to set up this system called faith. It’s what makes the whole thing a wild ride. The very thing that drives us the craziest now will be what we loved most about earthly life when we look back on it in His Presence. The drama is the exact thing that will make our stories, told from Heaven’s perspective, so thrilling. And every single one of them will come complete with musical scores. The songs of deliverance that surrounded us at our most faith-defying times. (Ps. 32:7)

Without faith it really is impossible to please Him. That’s why I’m a broken record about it. Our greatest call to encouragement is to exhort one another to the pure practice of faith. To flat believe God. He didn’t set up the system out of egocentric tyranny. As surely as He cannot be pleased with faithlessness, neither can we. Without faith it is also impossible to please our restless souls. God knew what He was doing. The system is no accident. He knew that life in the lowlands would strain its neck for something high. And – don’t make me have to say it again – there ain’t no high like the Most High.

“Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and how fathomless His ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been His counselor? Or who has first given to God, that God needs to repay him? For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be glory forever! Amen.” Romans 11:33-36 NET

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