Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Change Marks the Seasons of Our Lives

The leaves are beginning to change color here in southern Ohio. I read a post this morning from a woman who doesn’t like autumn because it means winter is close behind. Some people don’t like any sort of change. Others appreciate the changing of seasons.


As many of my readers know, I spent a great deal of my youth in Florida. I have family and friends there. I always find it humorous when people I know in Florida shudder at the thought of living in Ohio. “No way would I want to live up there with all that snow!” they tell me. 


I live in southwestern Ohio. In the Ohio Valley. Our snowfall is minimal and our below freezing temps are few. In fact, I’ve known Tom to play golf in his short-sleeved shirts in January. His last round of golf…the one he played with my son-in-law and grandson was, in his words, the most fun he’d ever had golfing. That was on October 25, 2014. Late into Fall. He mowed my mom’s grass that afternoon. Yeah, Ohio isn’t all cold weather and snow; At least not in our region.


Of course now that I write that, I fear we’ll have a terrible blizzard and I’ll have to eat my words. Still, Tom and I moved with our two little girls to the Cincinnati area in the summer of 1978 after one of those once-in-a-lifetime (I hope) blizzards and I’ve never had to experience anything like that personally since.


My Ohio friends shake their heads and wonder how they would handle living in Florida. “Florida has no seasons!” they cry. They claim to love the changing of seasons. Until they retire, that is. Then again, old bones chill faster. And FYI, Florida does have seasons. They are defined a bit differently, but they are evident. 


As I took my morning walk, I began to wonder if how we deal with the changing of seasons is reflective of how we deal with change in general. Or not. Some people seem to embrace change while others, as I mentioned earlier, don’t like any sort of change at all. Some even fear change. 


In the Bible, in the Old Testament, there is a book called Ecclesiastes. Most people think Solomon wrote it. Maybe. The first couple of chapters read like a sleepless night. Chapter three, however, speaks to this notion of the seasons and changes in our lives. It starts by stating, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven.”


[Honestly, I think I first heard that chapter as a song by the Byrds. Turn, turn, turn. If you’re younger than me you may need to look that one up.] 


The point is, I embrace the changing seasons of my life. I’ve learned that while I don’t always like change (especially with technology) I don’t fear it. 


There is a time for everything and God has made everything beautiful in its time


So how do you handle change? I love to hear from my readers.







Tuesday, September 22, 2020

I Have No Words


Last week I blogged about how our words outlive us. As I sat down to craft this week’s post, I had no words to share. This week, my sweet husband would have celebrated his 68th birthday. 


My family has indulged me these past few years in recognizing Tom’s birthday by getting together for one of his favorite activities, bicycling. This year may look a bit different. We are planning a socially distanced walk. I still intend to ride my bike. At least in my neighborhood. It feels right to me.


Back to the blog post. At first I considered posting a series of pictures. Pictures I have of Tom growing up and pictures of our life together. I simply have no words. Ultimately, I decided to share some of Tom’s words. I offer them in no particular order. Use them as you will:


On Fixing Things Around the House

“I just took it apart and put it back together.”

This approach was successful roughly 99% of the time.


On Treating an Injury or Wound:

“Breathe deep.”

“Put ice on it.”

“It’ll feel better when it quits hurting

99% return on the first two. 

100% right on the last one.


On Hospitality:

“I invited (someone from South Korea, Taiwan, Finland, India, Italy, Brazil, you name it) and his family over for dinner tonight. I hope that’s okay. I don’t know if they speak English or not.”

85% okay, but I did it anyway and 100% return on friendships around the world.


On Politics:

(No way am I going to write anything Tom said about politics on this post for the world to see.)

100% sure I left the room when the subject came up.


On Facing Challenges:

“You can do that.”

100% Encouragement with 100% positive results.

I feel compelled to offer examples here. 


From the kids:

“Dad, I’m thinking about trying out for….(swim team, band, symphony, cheerleading, you name it.)” 

Answer: “You can do that.” Not permission to do it, mind you. He expressed a genuine assertion that he believed our kids could do about anything they set their minds to do.


From me:

“I’m thinking about going for (my masters, doctorate).”

Answer: “You can do that.” Again, an assertion that I could do what I set out to accomplish.


“I’m going to be a teacher.”

“You can do that.”


“I think I’m going to be a professor.”

“You can do that.”


“I’m going to be an author.”

“You can do that.”


Almost three years after Tom died, I was asked to travel to Kosovo to teach. As I prayed about it, I could almost hear him say, “You can do this. I know you can.”


Tom was a problem solver. He was an encourager. He was fun and loving. He cared about people and never considered himself above others. Tom was a good man.


But my favorite words I heard from him?


I love you.

100% received. 100% returned.


Happy Birthday in Heaven, Tom Waters. I love you.
















Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Our Words Outlive Us

 Words Have a Lifespan Longer Than Our Own



My great grandmother’s final words to her six young children were, “God bless mother’s children.” From her deathbed, she told them to always trust Jesus; to do what he would have them do. She assured them God would take care of them. My own grandmother was a mere seven-years-old when she was orphaned that day, yet her mother’s words guided her life.


 And my mother’s. 


And mine.


As I talked with my daughter about fragments of this post, she said, “Our words outlive us.” 


It’s true.


I once heard Neil Armstrong say he knew the world would be watching when he landed on the moon. He knew it was his opportunity to inspire. He thought long and hard about what he would say. 


“One small step for man. One giant step for mankind.” 


My generation remembers those words. We huddled around our black and white televisions, watching and listening intently to the transmission. We put a man on the moon. Surely there was nothing to keep us from realizing our dreams. Anything was possible. Or so it seemed.



The words of George Floyd, “I can’t breathe,” capture for us the weight of systemic racism under which our lives and dreams are crushed. His words, uttered as a plea for help have become a battle cry for social justice. Words paint pictures of not only the way our world is, but also how it can be transformed.


The morning after a tragic accident many years ago, I was asked to offer a public prayer for the faculty, staff, and students at the school where I taught. When I am asked to pray or speak I always ask God to let the listeners hear what he wants them to hear. Even as I prayed aloud to the people gathered that day, I was also praying a silent prayer for God’s words to bring comfort to us all. 


This past week I received a message from a friend. He was remembering the words I shared that morning in chapel. We’re talking many years ago. Many. He wanted me to know he shared those words with someone else recently. Someone hurting. 


Words of comfort are like that. God gives them to us and they resurface when the hour is darkest. 


Quite simply, our words outlive us.  


But I would be remiss to leave it there. You see the ultimate source for words of wisdom, inspiration, transformation, and comfort are found in the Bible. 


God’s words outlive us all.


In the Gospel of Luke, (chapter 19, verses 47 & 48) Luke writes of Jesus, “Every day he was teaching at the temple. But the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the leaders among the people were trying to kill him. Yet they could not find any way to do it, because all the people hung on his words.”


And they still do.


Note: Some of my readers may look at the Bible and feel a bit overwhelmed by the mere size of it. From beginning to end it is the story of God’s love for us, his creation. If you are not at all familiar with the story, you may want to start small. For example, you can read something like The Jesus Storybook Bible: Every Story Whispers His Name by Sally Lloyd-Jones. Don’t worry because it was written for children. We are, after all, children of God. Get some friends or kids together and get a picture of the “big story.”


Another option is to start with the New Testament. The first four books of the New Testament are called the gospels. It means “good news.” All four recount the story of Jesus as he lived among us on earth. These books were written by different authors for different audiences. Choose the one best suited to you. And then read the Book of Acts, also in the New Testament, to see how the world was transformed. Social justice? Words of inclusion? You’ll find them in the New Testament. Words of love and care and comfort are embedded throughout the text. Words of inspiration? From the beginning to the end.





Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Weed the Manuscript, Edit the Garden: Musings From a Tired Writer

Did I say "weed the manuscript?" Yeah, well it's been a long week.

My Rose With Her Rose Many Years Ago
My youngest granddaughter carries the name Rose. She was named after her paternal great grandmother. When our little flower came along, I decided to gift her with a rose bush in honor of her birth and her name. Her father planted it in their front yard. It continues to grow. I have pictures of our little Rose watering her plant when she was two. 

Recently I made the comment that the now seven-year-old plant needs a good pruning. My granddaughter sees the few blooms on it and doesn’t want to cut it at all. It is big now. Too big. 

But for a seven-year-old, bigger is better.

For a 7-year-old, Bigger is Better
This week, as I was weeding my garden, I thought about that rose bush. Weeding out the unwanted weeds helps my tomatoes grow. Now they don’t compete for needed water. The sun can reach the plump skin of the growing fruit, allowing each tomato to turn a beautiful red and sweeten the juicy flesh. Getting rid of the weeds, offering support to my trailing vines, pruning a rose bush? 

If I may, I’ll put it in writer’s terms: It’s all about editing. 

Writers love words. Especially those we put on paper. Sometimes we become so excited to watch our word count in a manuscript grow we hesitate to hit the delete button for any of them. 

For many writers, like many seven-year-olds, bigger is better. 

But is it? Even if we edit the unnecessary words in our story, a tale too long is like an overgrown squash: pithy and undesirable.

“But what about the classics?” you ask. 

Epic novels such as War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy or Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables, were well over the 500,000 word count. An “epic” novel by definition is a work of fiction over 110,000 words. 

Do I think Herman Melville could have tightened his rendering of Moby Dick? Absolutely. Did I really need to read the over 200,000 word tome in high school? Obviously not. I’m sure I skipped some of the long narratives in both Moby Dick and Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment (also more than 200,000 words) and still passed the class with flying colors. I haven’t read either of those books since.

 Margaret Mitchell penned over 400,000 words for Gone With The Wind. I watched the movie.

I meet writers all the time who want to craft an epic novel. They want to be the next Tolkien or Rowling. Tolkien’s largest offering in the Lord of the Rings series was under 200,000 words and Rowling’s only one in the Harry Potter series to exceed 200,000 words was Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.

Quite simply, it isn’t about the word count. It’s the story. Write the story you need to tell. Edit it to until you can do no more then wait a while and edit it some more. 

Pull the weeds out of your manuscript. Pluck off the “deadheads” doing no good to the overall look of it. Pluck, prune, weed, and pick. And when you think your crop is ready, take it to the county fair…or in this case to an editor to judge and give you advice on your next step. Try again or publish. 

I want the fruit of my effort to be delicious. I want to offer my readers my best efforts. 

Of course I can take this editing reference to other areas of our lives. Ridding our homes of clutter, dumping twenty-year-old tax files, and donating those clothes we will never fit into again to charity. We can “weed” our medicine chests, pantries, and storage sheds, trashing out-of-date or dangerous unused items. We can reevaluate our “need” for collectibles.

I can apply editing to many areas, but I won’t. I’ll leave that to Joshua Becker. You can check out his website at becomingminimalist.com. 

Please share your thoughts. I love to hear from my readers.

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Surviving the Political Pandemic

I'm Feeling a Bit Un-Conventional in this Day and Time

When I announced on Twitter I decided to watch both political conventions, I received a few “unconventional” comments. Some friends asked why in the world I would ever want to do that.

“I want to hear everything for myself,” I messaged back.

Much can be lost when one person reports what they saw and heard. Remember the party game “telephone?”  One person whispers something in another person’s ear. It travels around the group, each participant repeating what they heard. By the time it makes full circle, it is nonsense.

That’s why I like to listen to the actual speeches and not merely the reporters, pundits, or Facebook wizards telling me what was said. 

And what it means. 

And how I should feel about it. 

I prefer to think for myself. Make my own decisions. How do I do that?

Look at the Source and Get the Whole Picture 
Facebook, Twitter, and other social media platforms offer everyone and his brother the opportunity to chime in on everything… whether they know anything about it or not. 

If you see something posted on social media, check out the source as well as the original words or actions taken. Research the whole issue instead of one piece of it. 

Interestingly, as I was writing this, a sweet man I love and respect called to check in on me. He asked what I was doing. When I told him I watched both conventions, he asked if I saw where one party voted on “XYZ.” He was appalled. 

“I didn’t see that at all,” I told him. (I would have been appalled by it, too.)

“It was on Facebook,” he said. As he’s talking, I’m searching the internet to check it out. He’s opening up his own computer to find it again on Facebook.

“The only thing I can find about that issue was a proposal by a delegate in 2012 and it was vetoed. Big time. It received no support,” I told him.

“I have it right here,” he said. He read the headline for me. “XXX Party Votes to xyz. I’ll play it for you.” He clicks the button and plays the video at full volume. “I guess you’re right. They voted it down,” he says. “This time.”

“But wait a minute, did I hear all of people together in one room giving a verbal vote?” I ask.

“Yeah, it’s a big convention room full of people.”

“But each party's committee meetings this year were all held remotely or with only a few people in the same room.”

The other end of the line is silent for a few minutes. I hear him clicking on the computer. Listening again.

“I think you’re right,” he said. “This was in 2012.” 

If we don’t get the full picture and check the facts, it’s like the story of the blind men and the elephant. 

As the story goes, five blind men encounter an elephant. Each one explores the animal using their hands to guide them. One grasps the tail and claims the elephant is like a rope. One touches the animal’s side and says, “No, the elephant is like a wall.” The one touching the leg likens the animal to a tree, the ear is like a leaf and the trunk is compared to a large snake.

Each source is partially right. Partially. I can’t listen to bits and pieces from multiple sources and be assured I fully understand the big picture. These men are blind.

Consider the Context
Indeed. Let me offer an example here. 

Suppose I were to tell you the Bible says, “There is no God.” You would probably be shocked. Even appalled. You may become angry with me or worse than that you may go about repeating it, claiming me to be some kind of authority. Especially if I assured you it is in the Bible and I offered you the very book and chapter and verse where it’s written. 

If I put that on Facebook, I would probably be “unfriended” by a number of people I know. 

But it’s true. Check it out, which is what you should always do. But read the whole verse. Read it in the context of the entire chapter. It’s in Psalm 53:1.  Here’s the whole sentence: The fool says there is no God.”

If I didn’t watch each convention, I would only hear the excerpts others want me to hear. To make an informed decision, I needed the context. The story… the whole sentence….the big picture. And I need to see how it was used and how it applies to the good of all. Or not.

Ask Questions
Remember the “who, what, when, where, why, and how” questions you learned in school? That’s a start. 

But dig deeper. Make sure you understand the issues. What will a particular policy mean for you…or more importantly, for your children and your children’s children. What does it mean for America overall? What might be fallout or other ramifications from the proposed policy? Put it in context of the framework our founding fathers crafted. Not that everything fits, but evaluate how it works for us or against us in terms of justice, freedom, and the pursuit of happiness for all Americans.

Simply put, don’t take everything at face value. Ask questions. Seek clarity. Make sure you understand what is being advocated.

Finally, Pray
You are not likely to agree with every single item on either agenda. You may find yourself at odds on certain issues with each and every candidate. No one is perfect. There are good, well-intentioned people within both parties. Look at the whole picture. 

I study the Bible daily. 
I trust God in all I do. 
And yes, I pray for guidance before I vote.

God is actually the only one who can see our future in its entirety. And I’ve read the end of the Book. I know we take many paths as we do our best to live this life, but in the end, God has the last word.

The conventions are over now. The ballots are filled. Before you head to the polls or mail in your vote, even if you didn’t watch both conventions as I did, you can still listen to the actual complete speeches made then and now on the internet. 

And remember, your vote is your own. You make your own…informed…decision. Privately. It is not subject to outside pressure or influence.

I love to hear from my readers but be aware, I will remove any negative or one-sided remarks posted in the comment section for this post.