Letting Go

Summer is here, at least in the South, where we’ve already topped 90 degrees. Summer should be a time of fun, a time of joy and ice cream, parks and vacations – the list is endless. But as you know, my friend Jane has to let go of her daughter, Abbey, for two months during the summer.

photo courtesy of blogs.babble.com.

Jane is having a really hard time. For someone like me, I can imagine how difficult that would be. But Jane explains it like it’s a death or something. A little mini-death every year. I suppose that’s true. When you have to let someone go whom you love more than your own life, how is that not a death?

I wrote before that Jane needs to reinvent herself during the summer – do something to take the focus off her daughter and being just a mom. Upon reflection I know that Jane needs to spend lots of time on her knees – prayer is a wonderful helpmeet in times of distress.

The sad thing about life is that that’s really all you can do; try to keep busy and trust the Lord. Rest in  Him. But when your most important thing in the world is gone, even if only for a little while (but to Jane it feels like an eternity), rest is hard to accomplish.

So, for all you divorced parents out there who have to do the “summer thing,” my thoughts and prayers are with you.  I hope yours are with Jane.

Expect the Unexpected!

My husband is many things. He is tall, he is kind, he is smart, he occasionally cooks. He is not that funny when he intends to be, despite what he says. He has his flaws, but he is a fantastic man, a great father and a wonderful husband. One thing everyone knows about him, however, is that he works hard.

He was making moo la as a kid cutting grass for the neighbors. He’s not materialistic but he just enjoys working at things he likes. And for the past nine years or so, he’s been working at the same company, slowly climbing the ladder. And every time the chance for something bigger has come up over the last few years, he’s been rejected. Not because he’s not qualified and not because he’d fail – he’s incredibly qualified and could do a good bit of it in his sleep! It’s because other things have gotten in the way. (Can ya’ll read ‘twixt the lines here?)

But recently we got some very good news. My dear, sweet, wonderful husband finally got a pretty stinkin big promotion!!! WHOO-HOO! ‘Bout darn time! Now, the raise isn’t so much what we wanted – it’s more in the general vicinity, but we’ll take it.

The point of this post is not to boast, however. The point is that while this decision – to give him the job or not – was being made, I said, “Honey, you need to pray a lot about this. You need to EXPECT that God is going to give you this.” And he did, and He did!

Photo courtesy of memecenter.com.

Not that all prayers are answered this way. This one wasn’t entirely answered the way we wanted it! But when you expect God to come through for you He does. For example, the Lord could have said, “You’re not going to get this promotion, son.” And there are two ways of looking at that.

One is taken directly for the 90’s version of The Little Rascals when Alfalfa is once again confronted with the bullies he thought he’d escaped from that day: “And the clouds opened up and God said, ‘I hate you Alfalfa!'”

The other is taken from divine providence! The fact that my husband was even considered for such a high position means that he could have taken that to another company and gotten a better job.

It’s a glass half-full kind of thing, I guess, but you gotta always keep in mind that God is there throughout everything. Sometimes you look back a few years from an event that was utterly tragic at the time – I mean, it could have torn your life apart – and yet you can see the good God was working through your life in the midst of that awful circumstance.

Expect the unexpected!

When Russia & China Partner Up, Who Wins?

If any of you out there read Tom Clancy books, you know that he wrote of an alliance between Russia and China and India, and I’m not sure if any other countries were included. That’s a work of fiction, people, but the potentialities are frightening.

And now we see that in reality, Russia and China have partnered up on something – they are intent on sticking to the side of Syria in that they don’t support the U.N.’s determination to conclude Syria’s attacks on its own people and declare a cease-fire.

The questions are why, and who wins?

As for why, you could state what many globally consider the obvious – that they want and intend to have world domination.

But maybe there’s another reason. After all, there are even many Americans who think the United States should stay out of Middle Eastern conflict altogether; to keep our resources at home where they are needed at the moment. Maybe Russia and China see what these people consider the obvious: that there is nothing the United States or the United Nations can do to stop civil war in these countries and it’s best just to stay out of it rather than add them to your list of enemies.

So, if you’re of the ilk that Russia and China are in it for power, the question of who wins is easily answered – Russia and China. But if you’re of the opinion that Russia and China just want to stay out of it (Russia has admitted it wants to see peace in the region) then the question of who wins is also easily answered, but so hard to swallow – no one. Most of those 100 people recently killed were children. Dare I say that Syria might be trying to wipe out its own people, and dare I add that Russia and China might want to see that happen?

I have no idea if either of those statements are true. What I do know is true is that when innocent children die, even the most desensitised heart hurts. But we can’t even let ourselves think of it too much because the idea of this being possible brings to mind that one day that might be our children, killed for no reason other than a power struggle.

Great Dinner & Fantastic Book


Photo courtesy of chow.com.

No single post I’ve written since starting this blog has gone over so well as Some of My Favorite Things so I’m attempting to let ya’ll in both a recipe I’ve tried and a great read I just started. You can get the original recipe from The Food Network (Rachel Ray) for Garlic Fish in Parchment by clicking on the link, but here’s how I make mine:

Serves 3

Pre-heat oven to 375.

Take out one sheet of parchment paper and put a light layer of squash or onions (or both), and cover with one filet of tilapia. Cover that with more onions and fresh garlic, chopped.Wrap it loosely and place on a baking sheet. Do this three times.

Bake for about half an hour and remove from oven; carefully open packet – if fish flakes easily with a fork, it’s done.

You can also add lemon, as you see in the photo above – a common ingredient when cooking fish – or whatever suits your fancy – experiment! Kids like more mild flavors but you can go crazy by adding some peppers!

Also, you don’t have to use tilapia; grouper has a mild flavor as well. I’m not a fan of fishy-fish but if you like a bolder pungency, give it a try!

Side note: one of my children ate this for the first time – his first time eating fish, by the way – and decided that I was going to cook it every night for dinner. LOL. Once a week is more like it. It is easy, though,and delicious. Experiment with the type of onion you use. I have found all sorts to be great!

Photo courtesy of life-love-laughter.tumblr.com.

Now, for a fantastic read…Ya’ll know, by my use of the word “Ya’ll,” that I’m a Southern gal. And PROUD of it! So, how apropos that I’m suggesting all you belles out there to read The GRITS Guide to Life if you haven’t already. This website is a great place to find the book, although I picked mine up at Sundog Books in Seaside, and I’m sure other retailers carry it or will order for you.


Saving & Spending: Households Have an Edge

When the economic crisis hit this country, many households nation-wide had to tighten their belts. For a consumerist society, this was difficult but it could be done and it was. But it wasn’t just about cutting out needless spending; it was sometimes about walking away from a home and taking a serious hit to a credit rating, for example.

Photo courtesy of mycreditcrisisblog.com.

Now Mitt Romney is trying to convince voters that he will be able to set this country’s twisted financial status aright. Maybe he will.

But it isn’t as easy for the United States government to reduce spending and tame the debt load it’s under. It’s infinitely harder. Because reducing spending means cuts, of course. Cuts to what? He’s unclear on that. Government programs would make the most sense, and if that happens, how will these programs survive?

Some of you say, to heck with ’em. Who cares about welfare and other programs for the poor? I’ve even heard some say that assistance should be a church matter, not a state or federal one. To those I’d like to say: how much do you tithe to these poor people? How much do you give? To you even tithe to your church? Most of them (that I’ve talked to) don’t even have a home church.

Sadly, government spending cuts are a necessary evil to reduce our debt and turn this country into a profitable nation so that we can help ourselves and others.  There will be those who need and would clearly benefit from government assistance who won’t get it, or won’t get enough. No one wants to bite the bullet on some of these programs because even the most capitalistic, hardest hearts know, deep down, that some innocent and challenged people will suffer. But they have to, in order for the greater good of the entire country.

Afghan Attacks on Women

CNN has reported that for the second time in a week, a girls’ school has been intentionally poisoned. The story in itself is terrible. But thankfully, most of the girls were released within a few hours of going to a hospital with minor symptoms. I don’t think any are in life-threatening danger.

For the purposes of this post, the reason the article gave as to why this attack happened isn’t important in the slightest. We are all human beings, are we not? Even terrorists were once babies, and I imagine that some of them even had a decent life – as far as a decent life can go over there, since it is completely foreign to us, the hardships many people in the Middle East suffer just to survive each day.

Photo courtesy of rawa.org. Actual photo of a brutalized Afghan woman.survive each day.

For the purposes of this post, I want to remind you what one of my favorite evangelists, Joyce Meyer, says about female abuse. And that is, that is it an attack by Satan. If you’ve ever read The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis this won’t be such an impossible concept to understand. It’s not that man isn’t responsible for it – it’s that man (meaning mankind) is spurred by a wish for women and girls to be annihilated. Hey – it goes all the way back to Adam and Eve.

Since the first murder was created by Cain when he slew his brother Able, humans have been capable of violence. Being capable doesn’t mean we should use violence, however. Especially against women in countries where they are often considered worse than second-class citizens.

It isn’t just Afghanistan, though, and we all know it. And I’m sure there are millions upon millions of people, world-wide, who are sickened by the treatment of innocent women and girls. I can’t, for instance, pack up and head to Afghanistan and take on a terrorist organization (please Lord, don’t direct me to do that!)

But I can educate my children on the proper treatment of others, and so can you. And I can make sure that I be better self-controlled. So can you. And if I see a child or a woman being mistreated I can help. I can report it or step in, as I did once years ago. What we cannot do is imagine that these things happen to other people, in other neighborhoods, other schools, other cities, other towns, other countries. It happens next door.

I believe that when I know something bad is happening to someone else and I don’t step in and do my best to alleviate it, then I am guilty of ignoring a human being in need and that is a sin. It is a sin when you do it, too. You may be afraid, but you can never be as afraid as that woman or girl being tormented.

Secrets: To Keep or Not To Keep?

Across the pond, the U.K. is dealing with similar issues that the United States has dealt with as well. That is, whether or not to hold “secret” hearings about detainees from Gitmo (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-18240753).

The post-9/11 part of me says – bring on the secret court cases. Bring on whatever means necessary to get as much information on future and possible terrorist attacks, world-wide, that the U.S. can, or the U.K. for that matter. We live in a world that is now in almost constant fear. I’m not talking about people like me, whose thoughts too often stray into morbid territory – how to protect my children, family and friends from what we pretty much all assume is the inevitable. I’m talking about one nation fighting to protect millions of souls.

However, it’s the godly part of me that finds torture, torment and secretive sessions repulsive for that same reason. Last night I watched the season finale of Missing and in it, the mother was confronted with having to torture a woman for information on how to find her son. And I totally got that. But her dilemma was that in the past, she’d had an opportunity to turn over someone to a foreign country to be certainly tortured and killed and she could not go through with it. And yet, when it came to her child, she did it in tears. We will go to any length to protect those and that which we love.

Should we, though? I believe that God would say, “No! Let me fight for you. Trust and wait on Me.” In some respects it would be easier to do that. To lay down and let Him take it. But it’s mostly infinitely harder to sit back and wait for divine providence to bring into being that which we need.

In this case, that which we need is much more complicated than one woman fighting for her children; it’s a world fighting for peace. A world. And yet, we must let God fight for us. And we must follow His precepts. We must give even the worst human being the same right that we have – namely, a public court hearing about his or her guilt.

“Read My Lips” – Sort of…

Have you heard that the National Retail Federation wants to tax on-line stores that sell to folks out of state? Let’s consider this issue.

Do you want to pay an extra tax if you buy this on-line and live out-of-state from the retailer?Even if you haven’t, lets’ debate the issue.

The pros? Well, some sort of government will receive more tax revenue. Shoppers might be more likely to cancel an intended purchase once the sales tax is added, making them more likely to review all their purchases and tighten their belts a bit more, adding to their savings. On-line retailers might even lower their prices a bit, to make up for the addition of a sales tax. Wait…that’s not exactly a pro – it’s more of an even-Stephen.

The cons? Purchases from on-line stores will cost more. Less people might make on-line purchases.

Did you see a pro that local retailers will make more money because less people will buy on-line items? No, you’re not crazy. I don’t believe it’s actually going to happen if this law comes into effect.

But there is another side to this issue, and that is whether or not the federal government has the right to make a decision about this, like the U.S. Supreme Court already did (http://blogs.wsj.com/washwire/2012/05/25/retailers-push-gop-on-online-sales-tax/?mod=WSJBlog).

I’m not a hater of the federal government. I’m not sure where I stand on the so-called “flat tax” – mostly because I haven’t heard enough from supporters to make up my mind. But most people in favor of the flat, or fair, tax, believe in less federal government and more states’ rights, and I definitely agree on a case-by-case basis. This is one of those cases. Either each state should decide to add sales tax to on-line sites so that when retailers sell out of state, that buyer is additionally taxed, or the voters of each individual state get to decide. What do you think?

A Day at the Beach Part III – The Conclusion:

We’re heading home today and I’m ready to get there – to sleep in my own bed and get my house in order in preparation of a short (after all, this is the Memorial Day weekend) week. Hanging with the fam has been fabulous, noisy and even a bit argumentative at times, but what family doesn’t argue when you’re stuck together and can’t get away from each other??

There are two things that we always do when we’re here. One is shopping. Silver Sands and Seaside are our favorite haunts but I noticed that some new venues have popped up that we haven’t even tried yet. I’m looking forward to that next year. There used to be a terrific glass shop near Sundog Books in Seaside but a lot of the stores on the front of the shopping area have closed and turned into empty space or a restaurant like Crush. However, the Ruskin Street shops have blossomed and there are some amazing art galleries there.

The second tradition is the family dinner. Usually we wait in line at the Red Bar for overpriced food, noise and the ambiance of a crush of people trying to get back and forth to the bar. When I was younger I was hip to that. This time we went to what I assumed was going to be a local retreat; good thing we got there early because on our way out the line was already snaking down around the alligator habitat.

After dinner, the husband and I went to Bud & Alley’s for a drink. I vote that as our family dinner destination next year. We people-watched and chatted. It was nice to have some time to ourselves to be out and about.

Speaking of the husband, he’s out snorkeling at the moment but he brought me back some great shells yesterday, three of which I will keep and the rest the kids can fight over. I told ya’ll I was re-reading Gift from the Sea and now I’m going to channel Anne Morrow Lindbergh and tell you my thoughts on these three shells.

This shell looks ugly at first sight. It’s not that pretty pink color that so many Gulf shells have, nor is it translucent and pearly. It’s a dirty gray, twisted and gnarled. But it’s interesting to me. I wonder what kind of shell it is and what kind of animal, if any, inhabited it before my husband brought it back to the beach house. It reminded me that being unique and interesting is important. Find the things you love and do them with total abandon and passion.

This shell – again, not sure what kind – is so beautiful to me. It is unique and imperfect in its own way too, but it’s continuous and gorgeously pink-brown on the inside. This shell will sit on my night table at home to remind me that classically beautiful isn’t even something we should aspire to. Classical beauty is bestowed by God; it cannot be created or even maintained, really, by man. It just is. But beauty is available in so many forms that we often discount the more enchanting and unexpected kinds. Don’t!

How can something buffeted about by the sea turn out so perfectly? This third, last shell is small, and yet every bit of it is complete, flawless, impeccable – like a beautiful string of pearls. Amazing. Inspiring, that, isn’t it? That we can go through life battered, bumped, pounded and pummeled by circumstances and still come out polished to perfection on the flip side. Isn’t that, really, what sanctification is all about? I think so.

Two contemplations:

1. Once you get your 30A sticker, you start to notice how many other people have them.  I saw a magazine article in Southern Living from April, with pics of people, world-wide, who have the sticker. One was of a man in the Middle East somewhere; it was stuck to his backpack.

2. A 45-minute workout here feels like two hours at home. Between the heat and the lack of shade, my suggestion is that you bring a water bottle. Also, it’s a lot more gratifying here because I sweat through my clothes. That never happens at home.

I hope you’ve enjoyed these moments from the gorgeous Gulf Coast!

A Day at the Beach Part II

Greetings from sunny Florida! The weather is gorgeous and perfect for those who love intense, almost tropical heat. Unlike last year, there has been no rain. We were so lucky the last time we were here that God sent us a tropical storm to show His appreciation.

Here are some musings on our time spent here so far – which is about a day, since we got here late last night:

  1. I had forgotten how my freckles come out when I’m out in the sun; if you were really bored they’d make for a great game of Connect the Dots.
  2. While here I am reading (again) Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh. Yep, her first-born was the Lindbergh baby. The book is a true gem. I bought it last year at Sundog Books in Seaside. Great bookstore.
  3. PCB (that’s Panama City Beach, ya’lll) may be flashy, but I prefer the more peaceful Seaside area myself.
  4. If  you’re going to pay upwards of $75 for a Sea-World type adventure, it better be Sea World. Otherwise it’s a waste of money and you should just go shopping instead.

Anyway, that’s all I’ve got so far. There’s not much going on here; everybody is just moseying along, taking their time. Beach life, huh? Mrs. Lindbergh would be proud.