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The Bible Tells Me

I’m not the Bible scholar I should be. I know some verses; not as many as I ought. Still, I find most of my experiences can be framed or underscored, explained or illuminated, by Scripture. Or maybe a hymn or a worship song, a devotional or a testimony. Frequently, I have those “Oh, yeah” moments when I see God clearly in an event. Or realized that I should have seen Him.

These are the moments of “The Bible tells me.”

These essays reflect that. Do know that I can proof-text as well as anyone. I have a concordance, and I know how to use it. Well, truthfully, I do all of that online now, where I can quickly find a passage, see it in many versions, and choose the one I like best. I try not to be narrow, but instead broad, as I apply Bible words to my experiences. I know that your interpretations and understanding may be different than mine. But I also know that our God is big enough for all of us.

I have a friend who, in her prayer time, likes to tell jokes to God. “I know He knows the punch line,” she says. “But I tell them anyway. He likes it when I laugh.”

He likes it when I laugh. I’m going to hang on to that. It’s Biblical. The Bible tells me.

Our mouths were filled with laughter then,
and our tongues with shouts of joy.
Then they said among the nations,
“The Lord has done great things for them.”
The Lord had done great things for us;
we were joyful.

Psalm 126: 2,3 (HCSB)


Tweaking Traditions

I’ve mentioned before how family traditions get started, continued, and sometimes, wrung dry and parched after a while. Our family pretty much embraces favorite traditions, as in the Fourth of July Flag Cake.

Another tradition that we continue is THE PHOTO. As in, “Wait, wait! Don’t cut the cake yet! We haven’t taken THE PHOTO!”

1980-Not everyone enjoys having their picture taken with the flag cake.

1980-Not everyone enjoys having their picture taken with the flag cake.

 

 

This was/is the original PHOTO. Jeremy, not even 3 years old, wasn’t a kid who enjoyed having his photo taken. He’s even decked out in the patriotic shirt, handed down from his older brother, that dated back to the bicentennial (1976). Kevin, age 7, was gamely trying to do his part. A few years later, as we were looking back at previous Independence Day photos, someone picked up the flag cake, before it got sliced and served, and suggested that it might be humorous to re-create the photo. And we did.

 

 

 

There was a photo every year and lots of interesting cakes. There was an ice cream roll cake, and cakes with fruit decorations, and many, many variations of red, white, and/or blue shirts. But this seemed like a representative selection. And I’m really happy with my leftover cake dilemma. And there was always leftover cake. So this year, I made some sugar cookie dough and cut long strips and a blue rectangle. I made strips with red glaze and sprinkles and white glaze and sprinkles and thirteen little white stars to go on the blue rectangle. (Not historically accurate, but I will be thrilled to hand over the job to anyone who asks for it!) Almost all of it got eaten up, right there at the lunchtime table.

And here are a couple of more photos that we’re happy about.

 

Six days before Passover Jesus went back to Bethany, where he had raised Lazarus from death.  A meal had been prepared for Jesus. Martha was doing the serving, and Lazarus himself was there.

John 12:1,2 (Contemporary English Version)

I used this a couple of years ago, for a July 4 blog. I like it. I like the idea of Jesus sharing meals with the people around him, with whom he had friendships. I like when we have meals together with friends and family, too.

 

 

 

 

Whistle While You Work! Tra-la-la-la-la-la-lah!

I can’t actually whistle. But sometimes I sing while I work. And, a lot of the time, I listen to an audio book while I work, which means I sometimes have to go back and relisten to whole chapters, because I’ve been thinking about what I’m working on, instead of listening, and I discover I have no idea what’s going on, in that audio book that’s been pouring into my ears.

Meanwhile, my sleep cycles have been rather awry lately. I think it was Bible School. We have Bible School (which we call Children’s Bible Club) in the evenings. I’m accustomed to being more busy and active in the daytime. I work in the yard. I work in the house. I walk on the treadmill. In the evenings, I’m more likely to be doing stuff on the computer or watching television or reading (and maybe I walk on the treadmill). Quieter stuff. And I stop drinking tea at 6:00 p.m.

Even when Peter’s here (which he happened to be, during Bible School), I’m not at all busy with him later in the day. The instant David walks in the door after work each evening, Peter becomes an appendage, and I might as well not be here at all. So when he’s here, my daytimes may be busy, but my evenings are restful. I’m thinking, then, that the evening-time hubbub of Bible School a couple of weeks ago sort of re-set my regular rhythms, and I’m having trouble sleeping. Or, staying asleep.

Tuesday morning, verrrrrrry early … well, it was really more like Monday night still, I woke up and could not get back to sleep. And, I kept thinking about what all I needed to get done before holiday company arrives on Saturday, and what sort of food preparation and house cleaning and laundry and general readiness and, well, you understand. So, I gave up and got up.

I didn’t necessarily want to spend time on the computer, reading Facebook posts or doing crossword puzzles or jigsaw puzzles, because screen time is supposed to negatively effect sleep. I didn’t want to do anything noisy (like getting a jumpstart on the vacuuming), because David might find that annoying, in the middle of the night. But, there was some cleaning up that I should do in the guest/sewing/overflow stuff room. I went there and shut the door and turned on the light, and thought about what a disorganized space the armoire was.

I keep my sewing stuff in there. Years (and years and years) ago, I got a set of Tupperware containers that I use to keep all the sewing stuff organized. Sort of. I find myself searching among the containers for what I need, and the boxes get disorganized and I can’t always find what I want, and things get stuffed in anywhere, and, so on and so on. Also, there was stuff in a chair and on the sewing machine and on the bed, and I was feeling frazzled about it.

Stuff all over the bed and the ironing board.

Stuff all over the bed and the ironing board.

I found all sorts of stuff, like these tiny envelopes that have spare buttons from clothes I've bought. Very few of them are labeled, so I don't know what clothes they belong to, or even if they belong to clothes I still have.

I found all sorts of stuff, like these tiny envelopes that have spare buttons from clothes I’ve bought. Very few of them are labeled, so I don’t know what clothes they belong to, or even if they belong to clothes I still have.

So, at 1:15 a.m. on Tuesday, I took all those containers out of the armoire and got to work. I opened them all up and spread everything out on the bed. I re-arranged and made sure that the same things were together. (No zippers with the interfacing. No elastic with the ribbon.) I tried to be bold about getting rid of things I don’t use or want or like any more. I consolidated things. I threw away things. I made a Goodwill bag. And long before I finished, I became really sleepy and thought I should go on to bed while the urge compelled me to, and while I could get at least a little bit of sleep.

I had to put the project on hold for a little while, trying to get some other tasks done (like making homemade ice cream for July 4th!) and getting other spaces in the house also ready for company. But I got back to it Thursday afternoon. Everything got tucked away into a container. I stacked them all in the armoire, and remembered how frustrating it has been to find exactly what I was looking for. So, I did what I’ve planned to do for, oh, fifteen years? I labeled the containers. Yes, I know, it seems like a simple thing (and it was). I just never got around to it.

 

As I went through, somewhat, the drawers, I found this Hawaiian quilt square that I started (and I am not exaggerating) forty-four years ago. The figure is appliqued on and I had begun to quilt it, but the top got skewed from the lining, and I put it away and didn’t get back to it. A few years ago, I pulled the quilting out. Monday night, I separated the batting from the top and bottom. I threw out the old batting and ironed the front and backing. It’s ready for me to think about starting over.

The bird’s eye maple armoire is the only piece of furniture that I remember from my maternal grandparents’ home. I’m very glad to have it, for sentimental reasons, and because it does such a good job of keeping all my sewing stuff organized!

 

Everything on earth has it’s own time and its own season. There is a time . . .

for throwing stones
and gathering stones,
    embracing and parting.

Ecclesiastes 3:1, 2a, 5 (Contemporary English Version)

I’ve been doing some throwing and gathering. In just a couple of days, there’ll be embracing, and then, a while later, some parting. And, every now and then, I’ll go and look in the armoire, to see how nice it looks!

The Square of the Hypotenuse . . . or, A Useful Thing I Learned in Math Class

Here, it's the slanty side, labeled "c." In Right Triangle Land, the hypotenuse is always "c."

Here, it’s the slanty side, labeled “c.” In Right Triangle Land, the hypotenuse is always “c.”

I don’t know if it happened in some regular math class, or in Algebra or in Geometry, or in all of them, but at some point I learned the term “hypotenuse” and what it meant–which is: In a Right Triangle (which is any triangle that has a right angle [90°]), the side opposite that right angle is called the hypotenuse. And I find the idea useful when I’m walking in parking lots.

When I’m shopping, let’s say at Target, and I leave the store with my bag(s) and maybe a cart, I’ve got to walk across two lanes of parking lot traffic to get to the parked cars. The drivers in those lanes are, of course, or at least we hope of course, driving pretty slowly. One: they’re trying to be careful of pedestrians entering and leaving the store. Two: they’re trying to find good parking spots. Hmm. I think finding the parking spots might be their first priority, and the shopping public a little further down their list of concerns. But, ordinarily, no one is speeding in that space in front of the store’s entrances. (And, there are a couple of stop signs, too.)

When shoppers leave the store, they usually head precisely toward the spaces where their cars are parked, because the shortest distance between two points is a straight line (also a Geometry fact).

 

IMG_4212Let’s say that some guy parked his white car in the spot that’s way over on the left side of the photo. He may have parked there because he’s got to return something, and the Customer Service counter is by that closest door, the one at the front of the right-hand side on the photo. He returns his merchandise and then thinks that he might like to have a latte from the Target Starbuck’s, so he walks on down there. Then, he thinks he’s hungry, too, and a pretzel would be tasty. The snack bar is right beside the farther door, so he gets his pretzel and walks out that door. Then, he realizes that he’s gone out the wrong door, but it’s early in the morning and not blazing hot, yet. So he starts walking toward his car. He walks in a straight line (that being the shortest distance), from the door to his car, i.e. diagonally across the whole length of those lanes. And, if I and someone else are driving up towards him, and a couple of other cars are approaching from behind him, we’ve all got to stop and wait for him to make that long walk. We might be able to inch up some, but basically, at some point, his walking is slowing down both lanes of car traffic. Instead, the more helpful route would have been to leave the building and walk straight across that lane where cars drive (see Side a, above). Then, he could walk down Side b, towards his parked car, still having to cross the distance between the lines of parked cars where vehicles might be driving, but there wouldn’t be quite as much traffic slow-down. Or, he could have walked all the way down the sidewalk in front of the building (side b) and then across the busier lanes (side a). And, obviously, at 8:30 in the morning (photo time), it’s not much of an issue. But, on a Saturday afternoon. Ollie, Mollie, Gollie. It really would help a lot!

IMG_4215

Same thing at the HEB grocery store. There is a much wider space for cars driving back and forth, coming and going, searching for the best place to park. But the grocery store shoppers often have filled-to-the-brim carts and sometimes lots of family members, some of them rather short. Walking straight across instead of opting for the lengthier, diagonal route, would be safer.

 

In Math Classdom, the hypotenuse is famous for its place in the Pythagorean theorem, which Wikipedia defines as:

In mathematics, the Pythagorean theorem, also known as Pythagoras’s theorem, is a fundamental relation in Euclidean geometry among the three sides of a right triangle. It states that the square of the hypotenuse (the side opposite the right angle) is equal to the sum of the squares of the other two sides. The theorem can be written as an equation relating the lengths of the sides a, b and c, often called the “Pythagorean equation”:[1]

 a^{2}+b^{2}=c^{2},

where c represents the length of the hypotenuse and a and b the lengths of the triangle’s other two sides.

The example we got in Math class was a triangle where side “a” was 3 inches and side “b” was 4 inches and the hypotenuse was 5 inches. So: 3 squared (9) + 4 squared (16) = 5 squared (25).

(If you’re at all interested in reading more, and who wouldn’t be, here’s the Wikipedia link.)

 

The inside of the Lord’s temple was ninety feet long, thirty feet wide, and forty-five feet high.

1 Kings 6:2 (Contemporary English Version)

The hypotenuse of that space would have been about  94.87, as per the Calculate the Hypotenuse of a Right Triangle website.

IMG_4208And, something that is not at all germane to this conversation, but look what I found on the front sidewalk this morning. It’s a cicada. It didn’t seem very healthy, but it was early in the morning, and he might have just been fresh out of his little pupating shell. I’ve seen several round holes in the side yard, by the ferns. Maybe it’s cicada coming-out-party time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Time for Everything, A Season for Every Activity

Here it is … Thursday night again. Well, I don’t know, of course, when you’re reading this, but for me, at the computer, it’s Thursday night. Peter’s been here since Monday, and we’ve had Children’s Bible Club each evening at church. I taught in the Pre-K room, along with two other teachers. We had five or six kids each evening, and we all had a very good time.

It’s Vacation Bible School (or VBS), but we call it Children’s Bible Club (or CBC), and it’s a long story why, but it’s the same thing.

We’d discussed earlier in the week how the play dough (green) seemed to be getting smaller and smaller, and how, possibly, we should make some more. So this evening, when the kids had all arrived, and before dinner came (yes, all the kids get dinner each evening), I pulled out the play dough ingredients and the skillet, so we could cook up a fresh batch. We had already decided on the color choice. Pink. When I had asked about color, two girls voted for pink, two boys voted for two different colors. The third boy abstained. So, the pink won.

We put all the ingredients into the skillet, and each kid who wanted to stir, got a turn to stir the play dough batter. (Anecdotal evidence seems to suggest that that seems to make a nicer batch of homemade play dough.) When dinner came, I moved the skillet to a counter. I plugged it in, but it seemed to be wobbling. I looked, and one of the skillet’s feet was sitting on, oh, yes, my phone.

As an aside here, earlier, at the zoo, I sharply said to a mom whom we were walking with (and playing with her kids) that I was amazed by and disappointed in the women’s fashion industry. “Why, in this day and age, do clothing designers continue to put inadequate pockets in women’s clothes!?!” She agreed. My phone had fallen out of my pocket … not while I was sitting down (which does sometimes happen, when there’s an inadequate pocket), but while I was walking! That’s how shallow the pocket was. That is a BAD pocket. I have had that dress for a while, and I’m trying to be more careful and conscious when I buy clothes. But it’s REALLY frustrating. Anyway …

The reason my phone was on the counter was because it wouldn’t stay in my pocket. I had taken it out of my purse to have nearby, instead of being in my purse, hanging on a hook on the back of the door. So, I had put it on the counter. The skillet’s not that heavy and the phone certainly wasn’t damaged by having one of it’s feet on it for a few seconds. I lifted the skillet’s edge, by holding the handle, of course, because it was plugged in and beginning to heat up. I quickly picked up my phone.

And dropped it into the uncooked play dough batter.

And yelped.

Another teacher came to my rescue, and began to stir the play dough, so it would cook nice and evenly. I snatched up some paper towels, and began to frantically wipe off my phone. There are all those openings in the case, for me to be able to turn the phone on and off and the volume up and down and take photos. It took many seconds for me to pull the case off, but finally I could begin wiping the thing down. Both things down. I guess it only took a few seconds, because I was done and the case back on by time the play dough batter had become play dough.

 

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:

a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance,

Ecclesiastes 3:1, 4 (New International Version)

It’s been a week of extended laughing and dancing.

And, in an interesting postscript, this evening as I was carefully inspecting the phone to be sure I’d removed all the pink, I discovered a little tiny switch on the side of my phone. “What’s that?” I wondered. It looked like it had some pink play dough batter in it, so I looked really carefully and moved it, and discovered that the pink was a reddish line when the switch was pushed down. When I did push the switch up and down, little pictures appeared on the phone’s screen, saying “Ringer” and “Silent.” Which explains why for ages I have not been able to hear the phone ring. I’ve complained to family members that I miss calls because the phone’s ringer isn’t working right! Sooooo, give me a call. I might be able to hear the ringer now.

The Writing Career, Part 2

I went back and looked at my manuscript database. “The Rain and the Rainbows” (the manuscript in question) had been sent out twenty-seven times. Nine periodicals had accepted and printed the piece. Eighteen periodicals had either returned it or did respond at all. I don’t know if that’s par for the course, or a birdie or a bogey (go here for golfing term definitions), but it doesn’t seem too bad to me. But my favorite entries are the “Requested” ones.

Apparently, editors of take-home church papers or leisure reading church publications actually read similar publications from other denominations. I mentioned last week that readers from one denomination aren’t likely to read the material from another denomination. On three occasions, I had requests from editors saying that they had read the piece in another church publication and would like to use it in their own. Could they purchase reprint rights, please? “Of course you can!” And, when one particular editor requested use of the piece, I said yes and didn’t even remind him that I had actually sent it to him, a year or so earlier, and he had sent it back with a “no thanks” note. No reason to be antagonistic.

And, editors being who they are, and with their own word and space limits, and their own denominational Bible version preferences, the piece is sometimes, or, always, a little bit different at each printing. But, here it is, in case you’d like to know what I got paid a whole dollar for, a few weeks ago.

 

 

The Rain and the Rainbows

For the second time in twelve hours, I carried my bags to the airline check-in desk. An unexpected closing of Dallas/Fort Worth airport the previous evening had meant an extra night in Nashville and re-booking on the far-too-early first morning flight. Rain was still falling in Texas, but the airport had re-opened, and we took off.
The sun was rising in a clear Tennessee sky, but soon, I barely could see the ground through the clouds, which became thicker and thicker as we approached DFW. We descended through the gray fog, and rain pelted the windows as we landed. I dreaded the rest of my flight home. A little 15-passenger commuter plane carried travelers from DFW to the small airport in my central Texas town. Sometimes bouncy on nice days, in rainy, windy weather, it was more like a bad amusement park ride. The vibrations and noise of the propellers prevented even a short nap on the 45-minute flight.
The storm clouds were unusually low, heavy with rain. So, instead of flying below the cloud cover, as usual, we rose up into the blue sky above.
I leaned back against the seat, too tired even to try reading.
Then, briefly, out of the corner of my eye, I thought I saw a little rainbow. I looked more intently. Nothing there. I imagined it. But, there it was again. Then gone again. Now there were three. Then only one.
I watched the most amazing little sky show. There were scores of tiny arcs of rainbows, appearing, disappearing, re-appearing. Did the angle of the morning sun cause this? Or was it our closeness to the tops of the waterlogged storm clouds? Does this always happen when it rains?
How did I never know this? When it rains underneath the dark clouds, up above, the sky is full of rainbows.
I watched until the plane headed down through the misty clouds. We left the sunny sky, and raindrops again covered the small windows. At the terminal, we passengers jogged through puddles from the plane to the building. Damp from the rain, we waited for our luggage. The baggage handlers, the airline personnel, and the car rental agents were as gloomy as the weather outside.
They just don’t realize, I thought. It may be dismal here, and all we can see is the dreary weather. But up above the clouds, the sun is shining, and the sky is full of rainbows.
In Matthew, Jesus says “the kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field.” For me, it’s more like a rainstorm. I may be drenched and feeling weary and waterlogged, but the rainbows are up there shining. I know, because I’ve seen them.

 

God cares for you, so turn all your worries over to him.

1 Peter 5:7 (Contemporary English Version)

 

Things are different now, in most areas of publishing. So many print periodicals have folded and those that are still publishing are more selective. And, in the religious market, most have theme lists, which they gladly share with any writer who is interested. But there are hardly any who will just willy-nilly purchase something they might like, thinking that there will eventually be a place they can use it. So now, I think I’ll go see what the Mennonites are wanting in the next few months. They usually purchase what I send them.

My Illustrious Writing Career

There are systems in place for hopeful freelance writers who want to submit their writing to editors.

Publications like Writer's Market and Christian Writer's Market and Writer's Digest magazine have information

Publications like Writer’s Market and Christian Writer’s Market and Writer’s Digest magazine have information

Writers can look for submission guidelines with word counts, editors’ names, and web sites to discover theme lists for various periodicals and book publishers. Back in the olden days, pre-Internet, submissions had to go by snail mail, and there was a system for getting manuscripts to the proper places. First, count the number of pages in a manuscript (and also an author’s cover letter). Then check the user-friendly chart in Writer’s Market to see how much postage you needed. If a writer wanted the manuscript returned, just in case it was rejected (not a positive thought, but if a writer wanted to submit it to a different periodical or book publisher, then they’d have to re-type it), then the writer needed to include a return envelope with their own name and address and the proper postage for the return trip. And be sure the out-going envelope included enough postage to cover the weight of the manuscript and the return envelope. The Writer’s Market chart included both those postage needs. Sometimes I got manuscripts back; sometimes they seemed to come back faster than I thought possible, if someone actually opened the envelope and spent more than thirty seconds actually reading what I had so carefully written. Sometimes, I got the return envelope back, but it had an acceptance letter and a check!

For many years, however, most magazine editors want things e-mailed, and most book publishers want the synopsis and sample chapter(s) that way, too. Maybe they even want entire books e-mailed, which would take lots of time, I suppose, but it’s a good thing to save on paper and printer ink.

IMG_4023I wouldn’t have been able to say when the last manuscript I sent off the snail-mail way got stamped and mailed away. But, I was a little startled a couple of months ago when a manila envelope showed up in my mail box. I recognized it right away by the string of stamps running across the top. The mailing label, addressed to this house and with the same return address, was a sign of a submission’s included return envelope. I was mystified. I did not remember, at all, sending out a submission that way.

IMG_4025I opened the envelope and was startled, and pleased, to see writer’s copies. Apparently they liked what I had sent, and had printed it in the May 21, 2017 issue of an adult take-home paper. There was an acceptance letter and two copies of the paper. The letter said “Thank you” for the article and “enclosed” were my complimentary copies. And, yay, my payment was also enclosed. Hmm. Where was my payment? I picked up everything and shook the papers. And, yes, indeedy, my payment dropped out.

IMG_4026Yep. That dollar bill. That’s my payment. The postage I had put on this envelope was  $1.05. (And they’d had to add 14 cents to it, postage having gone up since I’d mailed it in the first place.) So, there must have been at least $1.05 on the original envelope, maybe a little more, since the return envelope was in there, too. So, I lost money on the deal. I looked back at the database I keep of manuscripts I submit, and I couldn’t find the information. I searched some more, and found a copy of the cover letter I’d sent with the original submission. February 10, 2010. The postmark on the envelope I got was March 3, 2017. So, seven years they kept the piece. Well, a little less. I don’t know how long the choosing, editing, printing process is. But, I can pretty much guarantee that it’s less than seven years.

 

Whatever your task, work heartily, as serving the Lord and not men,

Colossians 3:23 (Revised Standard Version)

This particular piece has a long history. I sent it to the first magazine in February 1994. I got an acceptance letter in Feburary 1995. Once I’d sold it for “first rights,” and it was published, I could send it other places (in non-competing markets) with the information that it had first appeared in Catholic Digest in March 1995. Parents’ Magazine and Parenting are examples of competing magazines. The same people are apt to read them. But, in the religious market, the Baptists are unlikely to read things published by the Catholics and the Methodists are not apt to read things by the Jewish press. They certainly might, but they’re not as likely to read them consistently. Over the past many years, I’ve earned over $300.00 from that one piece. Most of the periodicals pay a bit more than a dollar.

 

 

Oh, My Aching Back!!

I thought I had sciatica. A sharp pain ran across my left hip, down the back of my thigh, and on through my calf. I tried thinking that it would disappear on it’s own. It didn’t. Walking didn’t help. My regular routine at Curves didn’t do anything to alleviate the irritation. It wouldn’t go away.

The pain wasn’t severe. At night, in bed, I could always arrange my leg so that the discomfort diminished; I could sleep. I could do what I needed to do. I just was uncomfortable all the time.

The physical therapy place is right by Providence Hospital. Apparently, there is no nice photo anywhere online.

The physical therapy place is right by Providence Hospital. Apparently, there is no nice photo anywhere online.

At my regular checkup, my doctor showed me an exercise that might help and, more importantly, she said she would send me to physical therapy a couple of times. A few days later, therapy phoned and set up an appointment. Therapist Richard did a thorough exam, identified the problem (probably a bulging disc), and explained everything. He gave me a brochure with guidelines for a healthy back, and sent me to the secretary who set up eighteen appointments–three a week for the next six weeks.

The next visit, Richard led me through a few exercises and reviewed the changes I was making at home: how I got in and out of the car, how to lift things properly, and how I should squat instead of bending over to retrieve things I dropped on the floor. I never realized how often I do drop stuff on the floor until I had to squat to pick them up.

A spine with it's hip bones attached

A spine with it’s hip bones attached

In the therapy suite, there are numerous models of various bones and sets of bones. Richard brought over a spine for me to examine.

“If we can stretch out the vertebrae,” he explained, tugging on the lower part of the spine.

“It will give that bulging disc an opportunity to slip back into its place. That will relieve the pressure on it, and make the pain go away.”

He furrowed his brows a little and, with a bit of a question in his voice, suggested we try “mechanical lumbar traction.”

“Fine,” I said. “I want to get better.” He led me to a small room off the physical therapy gym, and we stood together in front of a exam table.

“This belt,” he said, pointing to a wide vinyl strap, “will go around your abdomen. It attaches to the top of the table. This one,” he said, showing me another strap, “will go around your hips. It attaches to this machine.” He pointed to a blinking box at the other end of the table. I looked at him soberly.

“Richard,” I said, solemnly. “This is a rack.”

“Well,” he admitted, “sort of.” And he strapped me in.


Richard explained that the machine would tug for 40 seconds, then relax for 40 seconds. It would repeat that cycle for 20 minutes. He handed me a call button. “You can press this at any time, and it will stop the machine,” he said. “In case it gets unbearable.”

“Is it going to be unbearable?!?” I asked, a little alarmed.

“Well,” he said, “some people feel a little claustrophobic. Sometimes.”

“Ah.”

With that, he walked to the door, switched off the light, and pulled the door closed.

The machine gently tugged for 40 seconds, then rested for 40 seconds. Tugged for 40; rested for 40. I snoozed.

Twenty minutes pass pretty quickly when you’re napping.

Next session, I was ready. I had ear buds and an audio book to listen to while I was mechanically lumbar-tractioned. I loved it. How many times does someone say, “Lie down. Relax. Stay right here for twenty minutes.”

It was certainly my most favorite part of therapy. Besides the rack, I spent time on the squat machine, strengthening my thigh muscles. Numerous exercises, machines, and routines were designed to strengthen my “core,” so my abs would hold me up straight and keep my back strong.

Sometimes, Richard would have me lie down on a large platform, on a pad, and say, “Just for fun . . . .” and then explain some wildly difficult and goofy exercise.

“Richard,” I would reply, “your ideas of fun and my ideas of fun are are as far apart as the East is from the West.”

One such exercise involved my lying, face up, on a long dense foam cylinder, about 6 inches in diameter, that ran from my neck to my hips. With my arms above my head and my feet on the mat, knees up, just balancing on the thing required all my concentration. Then he said, “Just for fun,” (not from where I’m lying, Richard!) “raise your right knee and bring you left hand down to touch it. Then, do that with your left knee and right arm.” As I worked with intense diligence to perform this maneuver, my arms and legs flailed about, and I often rolled right off that thing. I’ve looked online, through several sites that show how to use a foam roller for strengthening and for physical therapy. Out of all of them, only one suggested lying on the thing with it along one’s spine. And they were NOT lifting their legs from the mat.

“Do you ever film patients in therapy,” I asked.

“Sometimes,” Richard said.

“And then do you guys get together at parties and show them to each other and laugh at us.”

“Of course not,” he said, bristling. Hmmm. Maybe I believe him.

Anyway, I needed ten weeks of therapy in all. But I got stronger and the pain disappeared. I do my exercises regularly, and I try to remember to put bags and boxes and my purse on a chair or a counter or a shelf. Then I don’t have to squat down to pick them up again. I’m working on not dropping so much stuff on the floor. And I got a treadmill for walking, which is the best thing for spine health.

For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.

Psalm 139:13-14 (New International Version )

growing

 

Sometimes, I sort of miss the baby. I miss being able to pick him up and nuzzle his cheeks and carry him around. I miss holding him while he slept. I miss being able to catch up to him, when he was toddling away and all I had to do was walk fast. Those days are long gone.

Instead, I get to listen to him read books. He can walk on the treadmill. I insist that I stand behind him, with my feet on the edges, while he walks, but he can hold on by himself. I get to paint with him, because he still would rather paint with company, instead of painting alone.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Train children in the right way,
    and when old, they will not stray.

Proverbs 22:6 (New Revised Standard Version)

I once heard Charles Swindoll talk about this verse. He said that adults often approach these words as meaning that they are the ones who decide a child’s “way.” Instead, he said, our job is to be with our children, study our children, appreciate our children’s abilities, and help them become the people that God means them to be. If a parent has always dreamed of having physician in the family, then it might be hard to accept a teacher or writer or businessperson. Between home and school and church, children need to have all sorts of experiences to help them discover what interests them, what challenges them, what intrigues them. It’s a joint effort.

IMG_3864Meanwhile, if the thunderstorms forecast for Friday morning don’t materialize, Peter and I are going to put on our overalls and do a little yard work (in case Peter decides on horticulture).

 

Ladybug! Ladybug!

Three years ago, I discovered that you can purchase ladybugs to strew about your yard, to eat up all your aphids. I bought a package of them, let the little bitty Peter play with some (they do fly away pretty quickly), and took most of them to church for the Sunday School preschoolers to take and release into our church’s neighborhood garden. It has become a yearly tradition.

I bought the most recent ladybug collection weeks ago, and rainy weather and chilly weather kept us indoors for several Sundays. And kept the ladybugs in my fridge. Finally, last Sunday was nice and sunny, so out we went.

After a couple of hours outside the refrigerator, the bugs were all awake and active. As soon as I opened up the container, they were ready to get to work. Or at least get out.

The first time I bought ladybugs, I asked the clerk at the nursery how many bugs were in the container (which was different than this one). She said, “About fifteen hundred.” This container says, “About 500.”  Still, it seemed like enough. And, the carton says, “New Look! Same great bugs!”

 

IMG_3792Later, I was in worship service, enjoying the choir-led, lots-of-music, service, and sitting in my favorite spot, up in the balcony. I felt a sort of tickling, down the back of my thigh. I was startled for a moment, and then thought, “Oh, of course.” And I reached back and carefully gathered up the ladybug, who had not flown away when she should have. I tried to wriggle my phone from my pocket, to photograph her, as I figured no one would believe that a ladybug had hung on for 45 minutes or so. But, before I could get the phone on and focused, she took flight.

If you look closely, you can see lots of little lady bug-sized spots on the carpet. They are the drips left behind from the Lord’s Supper grape juice. I searched each one I could see, to be sure it wasn’t moving around. Nothing was. I’m hoping she got a ride out of there on someone else’s back, and made it to freedom.

Winter is past, the rain has stopped; flowers cover the earth; it’s time to sing.

The cooing of doves is heard in our land.

Song of Solomon 2:11-12 (Contemporary English Version)

Springtime. I wish it lasted a little longer.

When I’m driving Peter back and forth, to and from Waco, he sometimes likes to listen to Peter, Paul, and Mary recordings. One of the songs is “Rain, Rain, Go Away.” There are several verses, in between the “rain, rain, go away, come again some other day,” chorus. One of those verses says, “Ladybug, Ladybug! Fly away home! Your house is on fire, and your children-they will burn.” When that verse comes on, I sing, pretty loudly, “Your house is on fire! And the firemen-they will come!”

My favorite ladybug song is one I learned when the boys were little and watching Sesame Street. There were songs for every number up to twelve. The “twelve” song was  “The Ladybugs’ Picnic.” I still know all the words.

Geology Rocks

This is the view down my street, looking from south to north. Front yards all flat.

This is the view down my street, looking from south to north. Front yards all flat.

This is the backyard, looking towards the north.

This is my backyard, looking towards the north.

At our house (which is my childhood home), the front yard is flat. But the back yard has a slope. It always has. We used to roll down the hill. (We were much smaller then, and it seemed like a hill. It’s more of a slope.) The first summer my family was in the house, we, with our neighbors, played kickball in the backyard, from our yard and into the neighbors’. (Erase the hedges and fence and trees and grass.) Home base was about where I stood to take this photo. First and third bases were about at the lot line, and I cannot even remember where second base was. Far into the neighbor’s yard, I guess.

We didn’t really think about the hills in the yards. All the lots that backed up to ours were flat. Almost all the nearby streets were flat. Just a few blocks away, there were hills. When I went to ride down Wooded Acres, there was an amazing, glorious, steep hill; a wonderful speedy ride down. But, then, a tedious, strenuous ride back up, which usually ended in a walk back up. If I went the other direction from my house, from my flatish neighborhood, there were hills, too, but not as steep. And if I got a good fast ride down, I might be able to get enough speed to propel me back up, with just a little bit of pumping to get me to the top.

And we never really thought about the sloping backyards and flat backyards. That’s just the way the yards were.

 

 

JoAnne was a geology major at Baylor. For one semester. Doing some research for a class, she came across some interesting data. It seems there’s a fault running through our backyards. It shows up in some geological maps she was pouring over. Not a giant fault. Just a small, gently sloping, hill-rolling fault. The kind that most neighborhoods should have.

For more than a month, I’ve been working in the yard, almost every weekday. Trimming things, and pulling weeds, and planting things, and spreading mulch, and just sort of cleaning up. At my age, I need lots of time to do even the simplest kinds of yard work. But, as I walk up and down and up and down and up and down my sloping back yard, I’m beginning to feel the difference in my leg muscles. And as I clip and dig and haul, I think my arms are growing stronger.

Every valley shall be exalted
And every mountain and hill brought low;
The crooked places shall be made straight
And the rough places smooth;

Isaiah 40:4 (New King James Version)

Fill in the valleys,
    level off the hills,
Smooth out the ruts,
    clear out the rocks.

Isaiah 40:4 (The Message)

I love the King James Version of this verse because it’s part of Handel’s Messiah and I cannot just read it. I sing it in my head when I see or hear these words.

I love the Message version, because it communicates to me that I am the one who should be doing the work. So as I work physically, smoothing out the flower beds, clearing the rocks out of the garden, I can think also of the work I could and should be doing metaphorically, smoothing out rough places in people’s lives, making difficult situations easier, removing obstacles. Maybe it should be a change in attitude. I know the slope in the yard makes it more difficult to mow, but, it’s a great way to strengthen thigh muscles, and a perfect place for little kids to practice their rolling skills.