Friday, December 21, 2007

See You in 2008!

The Christmas craziness officially begins for me today. Thanks to help from Wendy (see above), all the wrapping is done. Now I start running around all over the place to see people and hand out gifts. Fun but very busy.

Tonight we head to Florida to spend the weekend with cousins and celebrate an early Christmas. Next week I have friends visiting from all over the place. All this to say, no blogging until things settle back down, which will probably be around January 3.

So in the meantime, I wish you all a merry and safe Christmas. And let's make a promise to take some time out to remember what this is actually all about. That the "Word became flesh and dwelt among us," first in the form of a tiny baby in Bethlehem.

I don't know a better way to end 2007 than with that thought!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Of Mice and Perseverance

Humorist Dave Barry once wrote that if we were ever serious about getting to Mars, we should just spread a rumor that there's food up there. The racoons would figure out a way to get to it. Animals are persistent like that when it's something they really want. Which leads us to today's guest blog by none other than my husband, Dave:

Well, "The Queen" has been persevering with me for almost 18 years now. She needs to just wait until I am old, then she will have something to write about on the subject of perseverance!

Anyway, she asked me to write this story on perseverance. Last week when the weather warmed up, I headed up to North Carolina to do some hiking. I started out at Natahalia National Forest and left my car at the trail head there. It is common for hikers to do leave their cars at the trail head for several days at a time. Sometimes vandals and thieves know this and take advantage of the situation. That is what happened to me last week.

I stopped off and picked up a box of graham crackers somewhere along the way. I ate one of the three packages, and left the other two sealed in plastic. They stayed in my car with the windows rolled up and the doors locked for almost 4 days. When I returned from my hike, I pulled one of the packets out of the box to eat it, and noticed the corner had been eaten off--obviously by mice.

So, this is how it goes: when a car pulls up to the parking area, the mice living there know that there is a good chance that it will be there for several days. They also know there is a good chance there is food inside somewhere. Since they have several days to find a way to get in, get at the food, and then get out, they begin looking. They may even look for days before they find a way in, but eventually they do (as my graham crackers can attest). The perseverance of searching every nook and cranny on the car finally pays off and the reward for the mice is a feast!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Does This Bother Anyone Else?

This is a little off-topic for me, but I just have to bring up a pet peeve of mine--something I've never heard anyone else mention.

It's on my mind right now because I've watched more TV than usual the past couple of weeks. I usually don't watch much television, partly because I don't have time and partly because I can't find shows I want to watch. But I've been wrapping presents and finishing up some homemade Christmas gifts, and I enjoy keeping one eye on Christmas movies while working. So I was reminded again of one of my complaints about TV today.

Apparently it isn't enough that we're subjected to about twenty minutes of commercials out of every hour. Now, the channels run commercials across the bottom of the screen, right during the show. I particularly love it when you're watching a dark, moody drama, and you get to some intense scene. Someone is about to confess to a secret love, or the killer raises the knife to strike. And there comes a dancing frog across the bottom of the screen advertising tomorrow night's episode of Idiot Pets and their People, or something like that. Frankly, the mood is broken for me.

Not only does this annoy me as a viewer, but if I were the writer or producer of the television show, I'd be livid. You pour your soul into creating a story, a vision that will totally captivate your viewer. And the folks who present it make every effort to interrupt, distract the viewer, and get them thinking about upcoming shows rather than whatever they're watching at the time. And really, what's the point? Whatever is coming on tomorrow night, they're no doubt going to ruin that, too.

As I said earlier, I've never heard anyone else complain about this. So let me hear from you. Does this bother any of you? Or have you just gotten wise and given up on television, anyway?

Friday, December 14, 2007

Friday Fun

We had a famous visitor at the Library yesterday!

Yoda was obviously in the Christmas spirit, judging by his hat and the book he checked out (A Christmas Carol).

I'll bet old Yoda would have set Scrooge straight even faster than the three spirits did.

Thanks to my colleague Felicia (THE Felicia of Fluffy Flowers, no less) for taking these great photos.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

On a More Personal Note

When my now-husband-Dave and I got engaged, we had a long-distance relationship. Boy, was it long distance! He lived in Baton Route, LA, and I lived in Atlanta. And yet, here we are together, happily married and living in my hometown, a smallish place a couple of hours from Atlanta. Here's the amazing part. Although having both Dave and my family all in one place was one of the desires of my heart, I did absolutely nothing to arrange it.

When we got engaged, we didn't know for sure where we would be living, but Dave was able to get a transfer to Atlanta and we lived there for about 10 years. That was fabulous, but it gets better. He became interested in another job in his organization--sort of a one-man office that served a large part of the state. The job would require a move to a small town in the northern part of Georgia. I said that if he managed to get the job, I would move there, but I wasn't particularly excited about it. I would be a little further away from my family, away from my Atlanta friends, and would miss out on a lot of the fun things Atlanta has to offer.

Still, I was ready for a change. I had recently made a career move that wasn't making me particularly happy. In fact, I had gone from a small mom-and-pop firm that was like family to a huge, stressful, tense corporate environment. At the end of a day at that place, I would often be at the point of tears. That year, God kept bringing me over and over to Psalm 126, and these verses would jump out at me as though God were speaking them right into my ear:

"Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy. He who goes out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with him." (v. 5-6, NIV)

Psalm 126 is about people in bondage being set free, and returning to their homeland. Every time I read it, I felt God was assuring me he was going to release me from that job and bring me to something better. But I had no idea just how literal his promise to me was. Dave put his application in for the new job--and we discovered that the one-man office was being moved from the small town in north my home town! When I found that out, I could feel God smiling down on me, as though saying, "See, I told you!"

Of course, like David in yesterday's post, even while God was behind the scenes working all this out, I had occasion to wonder if anything was ever going to happen. Particularly when, after it seemed that Dave had the job, we were notified that the position was being abolished and it seemed that everything had fallen through. But then, a few weeks later, everything fell back into place. They managed to keep the position, and Dave got the job.

So here we are, seven years later. And these have been seven of the best years of my life, with Dave and my parents and sister and my nice little town all here together. Some days, when things aren't so wonderful, I try to remind myself of what God has done. Because if I had TRIED with all my heart and energy to arrange all this, I would have gotten nowhere. But God had no problem with it at all.

Monday, December 10, 2007

The Point of Doing What You Love

Yesterday our pastor (Chip Miller) talked about receiving a call from God to do something--or having a vision to achieve something for the Lord, something you're sure he wants you to do. He then went on to say that we often get the "what" of a calling before we get the "how." In other words, God may let us know what he wants us to do long before he shows us how that's going to happen.

Chip mentioned several illustrations, but one in particular made me sit up and take notice. He talked about David--how he was called as a youth and annointed to be king of Israel and then...nothing. Not for quite awhile, anyway. One reason this illustration struck me was that I was already planning to do a blog post about David, and along those same lines.

A few years ago, another speaker was talking about David, and how his call to be king wasn't fulfilled for a long time. So what did David do during that time? Did he fret over how to make it happen? Did he plot a political uprising, or try to rally people to support his cause? No, he went about his usual business. He tended sheep. He played the harp and enjoyed his music. And ultimately, God used that talent, that interest, to help move David into the kingship. When the current king, Saul, needed soothing music to steady his nerves, his servants had heard of David and his skill on the harp. They brought him to Saul. And the rest, as they say, is history.

Sometimes it's easy to berate ourselves for "wasting" time. For writing stories, for taking joy in music or sewing or whatever creative drive God has given us. But let's never forget that God may use those very interests and talents to accomplish great things--in our lives, and in his plan.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Books and Future Shock

In reading my library journals yesterday, I came across a couple of interesting things. First, there's a group called The Institute for the Future of the Book. They introduce themselves this way in their mission statement: "The printed page is giving way to the networked screen. The Institute for the Future of the Book seeks to chronicle this shift, and impact its development in a positive direction." I laughed at their description of themselves as a "think-and-do tank" as opposed to a plain old think tank, meaning they're not only looking at talking about the future of the book, but they're actively involved in the changes.

As part of this, they've had several "networked books" authored through their site. This is a pretty new concept to me. These authors seek public response and input BEFORE they publish their book in its final form, so they can react to suggestions, include input, and change errors as part of the process.

One of the current projects is a book called The Googlization of Everything: How One Company is Disrupting Culture, Commerce, and Community...And Why We Should Worry. The author, Siva Vaidhyanathan, will literally be putting the book together online. He will share related articles and ideas, chapter headings, etc., and asked for public input--which will affect the final form of the book.

In an interview, Vaidhyanathan explained, "What I am after here is instant peer review. I want the readers of the blog to give me instant feedback and corrections on the claims I am making as I propose them. When I am all done with the manuscript, I want to have confidence that most of my claims and assessments have been tested among a very informed public. I am not allowing readers to alter my text. I am allowing them to comment on my text and argue with each other about the direction I am going in." (interviewed by Wendy Melillo, Adweek, October 15, 2007)

I think this is an excellent approach to writing nonfiction books. It makes sense to get as much input as possible during the writing process, before everything is more or less set in stone. But what about fiction, I wondered? I have vaguely heard of some fiction writers putting their novel online in the form of a blog or wiki as they write. It might not be bad to have reader input during the process--but would publishers then say the book has already been published and not be willing to accept it? The difference between a novel and the project that Vaidhyanathan is doing is that he isn't posting the actual book--just ideas, chapter headings, small excerpts, etc.

I'm interested to hear what you all think, especially as this might apply to fiction writing.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Waiting for Christmas

Do you ever feel that Christmas comes rushing at you like a locomotive--even worse, a locomotive you didn't expect? How does that happen? One minute, it's October and I'm snickering at the Christmas stuff in stores, because it's still AGES away. And it seems like a few days later, I'm rushing around in a panic because I can't possibly get everything done before the big day.

It wasn't always that way, though. I remember when I was a child, Christmas seemed to take forever to arrive. Even in December, even as we sat at school making construction paper ornaments, the days seemed endless. Three more weeks? That was practically a lifetime, especially when I was waiting for a new Barbie doll and a stack of Nancy Drew books.

Twice in the past week, my church has equated the Advent season with waiting. Tom Anderson, one of our pastors, wrote a beautiful article in our church newsletter, the Pipeline. He said,
"Advent is a time of waiting in a culture that has grown impatient, it is a time of hoping in
a dark, dangerous place where despair seems too often just around the corner, a time of preparation in a 'fast food, microwave' driven world. It is a time to stop, to watch, to wonder, but most of all, a time to wait.

"We wait for the birth of God into the world, for what the prophet Isaiah longed for, when from
exile he cried, 'O that you would tear open the heavens and come down, so that the mountains
would quake at your presence.' We wait for nothing more and nothing less than God in the
season of Advent, knowing that above and beyond all of our needs, none is more radical, more
profound, and more essential than this One..."

Our bulletin/worship program last Sunday featured an excerpt from The Worship Sourcebook, (Calvin Institute for Worship): "The season of Advent, a season of waiting, is designed to cultivate our awareness of God's actions--past, present, and future. In Advent we hear the prophecies of the Messiah's coming as addressed to us--people who wait for the second coming. In Advent we heighten our anticipation for the ultimate fulfillment of all Old Testmanent promises, when the wolf will lie down with the lamb, death will be swallowed up, and every tear will be wiped away."

This reminds me I need to slow down, to enjoy that sweet season of anticipation. To remember the "reason for the Season." To acknowledge the beauty of waiting on God.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Winner of the Treasure Box

Congratulations to Brandy, who won the box of handmade treasures for Christmas! Brandy found this blog through Fluffy Flowers, which contributed some of the goodies. So Brandy, email me at robing8300 at with your snail mail address and I'll get the treasures on their way to you.

I want to thank everyone who entered--all the faithful who have been reading all along, and the visitors who came over because of the contest. I hope all of you will stick around. I try to offer lots of encouraging thoughts, some fun stories and pictures, and great contests. We'll probably start up another big contest in January. Maybe there will be another gift certificate up for grabs soon.

So thanks again!