I love Christmas! I love love love the glitter and sparkle and this time when I am reminded about the wonder of our savior.

I think about the luxury of living in a time and place where information is easy and the news about a baby who was sent to save the world didn’t get to me weeks later by people on camels who hadn’t bathed in days. I’m glad I don’t live in a time or place where my children’s lives would be threatened by a king who wanted to kill all the babies under the age of two so he could be certain the baby Jesus didn’t threaten his own position as king. I am humbled when I consider the perfection of the story, which helps me see my own imperfections, and for that I am glad. It feels like luck that I have the benefit of the bible, where I can see that Jesus’ birth fulfilled a prophecy. The people who lived in Jesus’ time had only the word of people who were just like them. They had reason to be suspect of this wild information they were given. That a savior had come in the form of a baby, and they asked, “A savior from what?”  I pray for those people who couldn’t wrap their heads around this miracle, and I believe God understands the disadvantages of not yet having the Gutenberg press (that transformed communication).

I love it that a star shone above Jesus and that sparkle and abundance is part of our holiday. I love it that the wise men brought gifts and that giving and generosity is encouraged by their example. And most of all, I love it that our king was not a king of Judea, Israel, or Palestine, but a king of our souls. A king who would save us from the tragedies of sin, regardless of the location that we live or the life we’ve lived, and that this king was born lowly and in a manger. That is worth overflowing expression.

I have to remind myself of these joys because I find myself becoming Grinch like as I juggle all the expectations by myself (Dear friends who help me, I trust you know what I mean!) Because I love the season and want to give and participate, I tackle projects and then grumble when my house (and office) is a mess. I am frustrated at the things I’m missing out on and am short tempered with peers and love them at the same time. I’m impatient with non givers, wondering how they missed the generosity gene, but then applaud the boundaries they set for themselves.

Side note: I discovered last night that Cracker Barrel doesn’t serve alcohol. I’d gotten a gift certificate from my bank perks so my friend and I decided to try it out. I’d hoped for a glass of red wine with my friend, rice with my trout, and peppermint tea at the end. The menu has probably 200 items on it, but doesn’t have three things for which I’d hoped. Grinchyness tempted me: an attitude check was in order!

This last few weeks has been extra difficult. A beloved coworker was diagnosed with terminal cancer, a precious friend was diagnosed with breast cancer, and we had an ongoing threat of violence in our school district that left us feeling vulnerable and took us off track of productivity – that was the straw that broke my camel’s back. While we’re hoping to enjoy Christmas, interruptions are spoiling our fun.

Yet Jesus’ birth gives me sure footing when the ground beneath me is giving way. 

While the circumstances are breaking our hearts, we can remind ourselves, “Oh, but there’s Christmas.” And by that I mean, “Oh, but there’s Jesus.” Jesus, your name brings us peace. Jesus, Jesus, your name is love.

I got to ride my bike to work the other morning. It’s been hard to do during this busy time when I’m carrying things to work or running errands after. These rides are precious talking to God time. It’s 6:15ish and dark (and with five layers of clothing, other than my hands, I was prepared for the cold).  I love sharing the road with the few others that are up and out with me. The car lights make me happy and my senses are warmed with the smells of bacon and pastries as I pedal past restaurants, donut shops and bakeries. It’s a sacred time that can’t be measured. Aware of my fragile state, I asked God for strength throughout the day. I wasn’t feeling servant like and I needed ability from him to remind me of who I am in him.

I asked for patience and tolerance, and somewhere between Fred Meyer and arriving to school he reminded me that he doesn’t tolerate people. He loves them.

And that is what Christmas is all about. A gift from God who loves us so very much.

While the world calls us to be tolerant of each other, Jesus calls us to be so much more than that. He asks us to love one another. For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16.

And then his baby grew up to be a man. He walked this earth as a human, lowly, tempted, rejected and betrayed. He came to serve and glorify his father, ultimately hanging on a cross for us. That is not tolerance, it is love.

When the things around you are spoiling your fun, when someone or some thing robs you of the joy of this season, may you step firmly on the ground that God created for you, and remember, “Oh, but there’s Jesus.”

Merry Christmas! There is Jesus!

PS: My Secret Santa at school brought a lift to my spirits, too.

An almost normal moment.

When it was announced that John McCain died last week, I was sad. I wondered if others would feel the same way, thinking about those coming from a liberal stance. I quickly understood that I was joined by thousands who were sad, both conservative and liberal minded people. I learned that one’s political position wasn’t a point of contention when it came to memorializing John McCain. I like to think that the common characteristic of those who were attracted to John McCain was that they were fair minded people who recognized a decent man. Even those who disagreed with his politics appreciated him. His life was an example of a better way. A better way than we are behaving today.

I know there are more than just “a few good men”, yet when we see a good man, he stands out. I think that in itself is why Senator McCain was considered a maverick. He stood by his convictions, and then implemented them in his politics with boldness and decency. He stood apart simply for that reason. A lot of people impose their convictions on us, but the piece that is missing is respect for those who disagree with them. He was an example of 1 Peter that says, “Always be ready to give a defense to anyone who asks you to account for the hope and confident assurance that is within you, yet do it with gentleness and respect.”

John McCain’s death and the sentiments and eulogies illustrated a life that exemplified decency. And for me, I was comforted in my singleness, in that what I hope to have in my life if God allows, is a good man. I don’t think about men much these days. I know that’s about as normal as my dog Winky not wanting to walk or catch a ball. We’re both anomalies. But if I were to get married again (I can’t tell you the caution with which I even write these words) I want a man who stands for something, not for anything. A man who speaks his mind boldly, but with consideration of others. A man who respects his fellow man. A man who knows there is someone greater than he that is in the world. A man who is tender and courageous, and has a passion greater than himself. Maybe I want a maverick! As I look at this list it begins to look like another one of my matchmaker ads, (see the beginning of my Russian Roulette post) almost. I wonder if this wouldn’t scare a lot of men away. Are men (and women, to be fair) afraid of these expectations? Would they think they’re too lofty and unreasonable? I’m not going to submit an ad for a matchmaking sight any time soon. And I would definitely include other important things like, must be willing to do yard work, install a porch fountain, like handy work, and right now I’d be impressed if they could stain a fence. 

I wonder how many might think that the “John McCain” traits are for old people. Or would they think, “Of course, I’m that person!” We all like to believe we’re this person. But it takes effort to be this person in today’s world. We’re bombarded with campaign ads that attack people’s motives and character. People shoot off the first thing in their mind without stepping back to consider how it’s perceived, especially by our kids. It’s easy to slip into behaviors that don’t demonstrate decency where it’s common on social media to rant at people of opposing views, inhaling the toxic fumes that seep into our psyche without realizing what we’ve just digested. And what goes in, must go out, so it starts all over. And then we wonder why kids exhibit a lack of respect. Or we discover what an amazing example John McCain was, because he demonstrated such unusual manners of civility.

These traits aren’t just for old people, and they’re attainable by all of us, at any age. OK, that could be a stretch. You might have someone in mind that you are certain will never be a decent person, and you could be right. But lets stick to you and me.

Like Winky and I are anomalies, so is the behavior of a man like John McCain. There were many things in Joe Biden’s eulogy that spoke to me. In particular he pointed out that people would be intrigued by Senator McCain, thinking he was almost from another time. But Joe Biden pointed out that he wasn’t at all from another time. John McCain’s character was ageless. There is not a place in history, in the past or in the future, when we shouldn’t behave decently toward each other. Like we sleep and rise every day, so too should we treat each other with decency and so too should we live our lives in boldness and with courage. Jesus was our greatest example of a good man.

There are so many examples in scripture that direct us toward decency that I can’t list them all. But this passage says it succinctly:

You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.” Galatians 5:13-15

I hope as you read the verse above you didn’t stop before you finished it. It’s the last portion that warns us about the consequences of our lack of decency to each other. God’s word is amazing and prophetic. If ever there was a time to meditate on scripture, to put forth effort to be a good person, this is the time. I didn’t know specifically why I felt the way I did about John McCain. In reflection however I’ve realized that it wasn’t what he said as much as how he said it, regardless of the issue. It was the way he treated others in his impassioned expression of the things for which he stood. He treated others the way he hoped to be treated. He spoke boldly, and he did not bite and devour others. What an amazing example of a good man.

And I understand he had a good sense of humor, which if he were alive he would need since I compared him to Winky. Of course, I am assuming he would have read my blog.

I read a wonderful book a while back called The Kindness Challenge. It’s a great book that provides insight on how to cultivate kindness. The author offers examples that we can relate to and equips us for those over the top difficult justified situations that we can’t get past. If you’re like me, you want to be kind in every situation, but can’t always find it within yourself. This book really helped me with those situations.

I’d like to be a maverick too, and live by Senator McCain’s example. I’m equipped with a super power like kindness, and God’s words of wisdom, so at least I am on the right track. Go Mavericks!

Happy 4th, everyone! I haven’t posted since Father’s Day. So much for writing every day as instructed by every author who teaches writing. These last few weeks haven’t afforded me much time for hobbies, and thus far, that’s where I have to place my writing effort. Bridgette graduated from college, which is a huge reason to celebrate. But if that weren’t enough, her boyfriend also proposed to her! A wedding is now in the works and I have a new son-in-law to be. He is a wonderful young man with an engineering degree, which I’m hoping comes in handy once in awhile around my house. Plus, he loves the Lord, so if he can’t find time to put that degree to use for me, I’m still his fan.

I’m on a little vacation in Bend, Oregon as I write this, which includes a favorite spot for us Oregonians called Sunriver. I know it’s different to visit a city than to live in it, but it is as close to perfect as it gets. When my kids were young I remember Bridgette begging to move to whatever city we’d be visiting for vacation. She’d plead with me, “Mom, can we PLEEEZE move here?” My constant mantra was reminding her that if she lived here, she wouldn’t be on vacation, and everything would be different. I’m sure that’s true for Bend to some degree, but my friends who live here sure love it.

A large part of me was sad to not be with my kids for the holiday, but I knew the chances of us not being together was big, so I accepted my friend’s offer to join them on Lake Billy Chinook, a place that I absolutely love and miss. Another friend lives in Sunriver currently, so I tacked on another day or two so I could visit her.

This is not reflective of my housekeeping

Getting out of the house for me is comical. Preparing for a vacation, whether it’s over night or a week, has always been an event for me, even when I was married and had help to manage the household needs. I don’t know what one would call the process now, except possibly pitiful? If I left more often, I might have a routine that could look a little better. But I resist leaving because of this unfortunate personality trait.

But once I’m outta there, it’s so worth it. My dream husband would indulge the multiple stops to take pictures and analyze wild flowers, would stop at a roadside cafe for a latte, and listen to a book on tape, while pausing to discuss. Maybe I’ll copy and paste this on Match.com one day and see who pops up.

A perfect latte!


Central Oregon drive

On my way down I listened to a book called The Reason for God by Timothy Keller, which I got through the free Overdrive site I’ve referred to. Timothy Keller is incredibly intelligent, so I have to listen carefully and rewind often, but I’m riveted by his assessments of God’s word. He is a former pastor of a church in New York called Redeemer Presbyterian Church which he began and grew to thousands of parishioners, and not by today’s modern strategies focused on entertaining the audience. Timothy Keller is passionate about finding the truth, which he addresses in his book, asking us how we know what “the truth” is. If someone claims to know the truth, doesn’t that mean that the person who claims that he knows, arrogant? How does that person have an advantage of knowing “the truth” over another person? He also addresses the fear many people have that living for God will eliminate their personal freedom to be themselves. Tim beautifully explains why living for God creates more freedom to find our identity as God designed us to be, not defined by a secular world. This piece in his narrative is what brought me to tears.

About 3/4 of the way through this book I was thanking God through tears as what I believe more of his truths to me were revealed.

Well, this post is done. My friend is up and it’s time to move on with this day.

But before I go, let me leave you with a before and after picture. I will blame this on the Central Oregon climate. It must have an affect on my appetite. Or I was honoring Tim Keller’s Redeemer church in NY City.

New York Strip Steak

Happy Fourth, everyone. I am fortunate to live in this country. Thank you to everyone who has ever served and for those of you who vote.

I sometimes wonder how I could ever go on a dating site. I wouldn’t know where to begin with my profile. I don’t know how other profiles read, but I feel like mine might be a tad off putting, or at least confusing:

Mother of two, loves yard work, walking, mostly in love with my long haired miniature dachshund, very in love with Jesus, cooking, eating, movies, reading, writing, ministry, sunbathing, and the Russian invasion or any invasion, of our cyber intelligence.

As I write this, I cannot ignore the irony of it. My ex-husband’s job had largely been in the Internet security business. When we were married, I understood absolute nothing of his work. But my curiosity was peaked when Hillary Clinton’s emails were attacked and we would hear occasional accusations of the Russians interfering with our databases, yet there was really no maddening alarm. Up until then I think I felt relatively safe providing my information on line. But when an entity like the Democratic National Committee or Hillary Clinton’s emails are compromised, who is safe?

I remember thinking, why is this not a really big deal? Why isn’t there an alert to all of us: “Americans, we are at war!” It was about that time that whenever I was prompted to save my password on a site, the voice inside my head answered, NO! I no longer believed any of our information is safe, with anyone, not even Facebook.

During the election and then when Trump was elected, I became more intrigued. We’d hear teasers in the media or on Twitter about Trump’s association with Russia, the DNC emails being hacked and then WikiLeaks. My ears perked up when he praised Putin and it caused me to pay better attention. Even though it was so very vague to me, I felt a simmering anger and vast confusion that we weren’t all taking this more seriously. I wondered what I was missing. What was WikiLeaks and what on earth is an oligarch?

So, I’ve become a little obsessed with the topics of Donald Trump and Russia which has totally fulfilled my newish hobby of listening to podcasts and digital books, all while feeding my other hobbies of yard work and cooking, and the have tos in life like laundry and cleaning. I’ve listened to “The Making of Donald Trump,” podcast: Slow Burn (about Watergate), the new book, “Russian Roulette: The Inside Story of Putin’s War on America and the Election of Donald Trump,” and I listened to the New Yorker’s story, “Christopher Steele, The Man Behind the Trump Dossier.” Tonight I watched the 60 Minutes piece on the cyber invasion of the election headquarters in Illinois. That piece barely touched on the extent of the subject. If you can imagine, the Russian Roulette book is about 300 pages long; there’s much more to the story. I also got some of Face the Nation this morning (I really like Margaret Brennan). A guy named Thompson feels that the Cambridge Analytica piece of the Facebook data breaches is overblown. How can stealing anything from anyone be overblown??? And by the way, I did make it to church and to Thrive this morning, but Sunday morning shows do slow me down.

This week Mark Zuckerberg will testify on Capitol Hill (I’m not going to pretend I know everything; I know he’s testifying to someone in DC!) about Facebook and how its users’ data was and is compromised. Facebook annoys me. I tried to cancel my account but it was too difficult. How is that possible that we have to practically perform surgery to delete our own information? That seems so wrong. As annoying as that is, I have some sympathy for Mark Zuckerberg.

While Russia was hacking multiple states’ emails, including that of Hilary Clinton’s presidential campaign manager, John Podesta, our government hemmed and hawed for months on the action it should take. There were differences of opinion from both republicans and democrats as well as within their own party. Many politicians, even at the highest level, didn’t believe the security breaches were as extensive as they were, in spite of being advised and warned of the grave concerns. It’s no wonder someone like Mark Zuckerberg didn’t take cyber security more seriously. Not to excuse him, but even those in our government looked the other way, missing opportunities to advise, warn, and ultimately avoid catastrophic consequences.

It seems like the media might beginning to catch up with the significance of Russia’s role in our election and the threat of security within our cyber intelligence (thank you, authors David Isikoff and David Corn). Our politicians might be picking up speed, too. I hope they catch up though, because if they don’t take it seriously, no one else is going to.

Well, I got that off my chest. I knew there was a reason I included a Current Affairs tab on my blog site!

Next up? How to make the perfect Russian tea cake.

I went to a conference with my boss. The conference is called The Breakthrough Coach. Their byline is: Two days. One life-changing program. A conference entitled “Breakthrough” with a byline like this was something to which I could look forward. I also think I secretly challenged them to their claim.

Within the first five minutes I was engaged. I listened intently to the presenter. In part because he has some type of stutter condition which requires intent listening. I nodded with glee as he engaged us with content that filled my soul. He addressed the most fundamental characteristics and behaviors we expect from each other. Yet as a general rule, our society has a difficult time executing. He brought us back to humanism that slips away as we throw emails, texts, and Post It notes in every direction in every hour without consideration for the recipient of our requests.

For example, communication begins with a request that is clear and includes specifics. The request receives a response, and ends in an agreement between two parties. This will result in completed tasks.

Lemons winked at me when I walked by.

Home is for comfort; work is for productivity. Therefore, the workplace isn’t a place we should design like our home. Our home should be comfortable; our workplace should be sterile, where we can focus with few distractions. This will result in productivity as well as peace.

In my role as a secretary, I am in a position to manage my boss’s time as well as her tasks. The title of secretary has been diluted and dismissed over the years, being replaced with the terms, Administrative Assistant or Executive Assistant. Our Breakthrough coach reminded us that the word secretary comes from the Latin word, secretum, meaning “secret.” The role was to be “set apart” to handle specific tasks that were secret in nature. In our US government, the Secretary of State, Secretary of Labor, etc are aptly named. Therefore, trust between the manager (my boss) and the secretary is essential and pivotal in making breakthroughs that will produce change and in reaching goals.

I work at a school. We want our students to be life long learners. My principal’s objective from a district standpoint is to improve student achievement. I walk in step with that goal. The paperwork and requirements can get in the way of our objectives. It’s my job to relieve her of those obstacles, and the skills we learned will help us do just that. We ate dinner at an airport restaurant on our way home and recapped our experience. We cheered each other, filled with anticipation as we execute our breakthrough plan.

So much of the Breakthrough model can be applied to our personal lives. In particular, freeing oneself from our attachments to the past. This one thing keeps us chained to the past instead of moving into the future. “Attachments to the past…” Not just holding on to the past, but the attachments to it. My garage is filled with them. I have discarded an incredible amount of things since we had to move from our home 9 years ago. The Goodwill staff wasn’t prepared for the amount of things we brought them, over and over and over for days in a row.

Yet still, with a two-car garage I park my car outside. Insurance questionnaires ask where ones car is parked. They remind me that I’m a hoarder, slothful, fearful, or holding on to the past. Any one of those isn’t what I want for myself and every time I park, a nagging silent voice reminds me that I’m not being my best self. Serving trays, entertainment equipment, decorating décor I once used regularly are stacked on top of each other. One issue is that I need better infrastructure in the garage. One issue is that I’m fearful of discarding something I may need or want in the future. One issue is that I’m holding on to things “in case” I can use it, like I once did. All of these are legitimate, but does this allow me to move into my future?

There’s a favorite verse that I rehearse frequently for inspiration (Isaiah 43:18, 19):

Forget the former things;
    do not dwell on the past.
See, I am doing a new thing!
    Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
    and streams in the wasteland.

I participate in a group called THRIVE at my church.  THRIVE is for, as they put it, “moms flying solo.” I love the richness of the group. There are single moms at all different stages in their single journey. This year the leaders proclaimed it would be a year for breakthroughs. Like the conference I attended and in our THRIVE ministry, a breakthrough is taking action. A breakthrough or change doesn’t happen without a choice upon which one acts.

I experience life changing experiences all the time. I’m always changing and always starting again. I continually fall and continually get back up. The Breakthrough Coach program reminded me that this is okay and they lived up to their claim: Two days. One life-changing program.

The lemon trees, pretty, bright, and complex winked at me in Phoenix.