Invisible Hugs

In my last post I mentioned that at a very difficult time in my life I had prayed for God to let my life be useful to others. It’s still a prayer I say every night and it sustains me daily. Every time an opportunity appears for that to happen, it’s almost like I’m receiving a special invisible hug from God. It really can transform the way you experience your daily life.

It reminds me of an experiment I once tried that was so successful that I have just adopted it as my modus operandi. Pick a person in your life, or it can be a random colleague or co-worker. Preferably this would be someone who you find challenging to get along with. Now, the experiment is to find one thing a day to sincerely admire about that person and then find a way to mention it or compliment them about it. I know! It’s REALLY hard at first. Especially if you are angry and resentful at that person, or if they have hurt you.

You have to force yourself to drop that stuff for a bit, step back and look at them with open eyes. At first just find something easy. Maybe notice some task they are good at, or their vocabulary, or attention to detail! Maybe they notice what you do or don’t do all the time, darn them! Well, that can also be a strength. Think about that until you believe it’s one. Then let them know how you’ve been meaning to tell them that you really admire that attention to detail. It’ll be awkward as heck at first. They will be suspicious. They will think you are being insincere, flattering them, trying to get something from them. Just keep your cool, mean it and leave it at that. Then do it again the next day. Find something else, mention it and move on. It’s a discipline, like any exercise it requires effort and practice.

After a few weeks, don’t be surprised if they confront you and ask you why you are acting so nice to them. They might accuse you of secretly hating them and want to know what you are after. Just tell them the truth. Tell them you realized you hadn’t really taken a good look at who they were, and the more you got to know them, the more the “real them” began to shine through. Be sincere. What you will discover is that being honest, sincere, and vulnerable with people and just making yourself look into them and then talking about their positive traits will change everything in the way you see them, the world and the people around you. Try it. I dare you.

Switching gears a bit, I am going to talk about some kind of mundane stuff for a change now. At my consulting job a couple of the gentlemen I work with have started calling me by a nickname which I confess totally delights me. I just LOVE nicknames. My name is so unusual and I am fond of it and I guess it really suits me so people don’t generally give me nicknames. A couple of my best boyfriends figured this out about me and gave me sweet endearing ones and I was total goo. I especially liked the ones that liken me to cute animals. Who doesn’t right? I am fond of Otters for example. They live in the water half the time and so would I if I had the chance and who doesn’t want to be considered as adorable as one? Then there’s variations on the term Smidge because I’m kind of little. So nicknames are cool. They call me Cinnamon at the office here …which is great because it’s my favorite spice, I’m a total cinnamon junkie and because it sounds a bit like my name sounds:  Cinnamon= /SinJun/ So Yay Nicknames!

I got sent a few of those “greatest proposal ever” videos with these big elaborate dance numbers or intricately choreographed moments with family participation and it seems sweet and overwhelming and everything. Then I was nearby when my Mom was watching a show she follows called “The Glades.” In it, the main character is struggling with his feelings for his girlfriend in the season finale. She is in Atlanta studying while he is in Miami working. They are dealing with long distance relationship issues. Other women are hitting on him. She is guilty for taking this time to go to school for herself. But they love each other. She finally passes this big test and she is out celebrating with the women who have been training her. She decides not to call and tell him, but to drive home and tell him in person the next day as a surprise. She doesn’t have to though because he walks into the bar they are at, smiles, congratulates her and asks her to come outside. He tells her they need to talk and starts to explain that he can’t do this anymore. She objects and says she loves him, she knows they can figure out a way to work things out. She has this horrible he’s breaking up with me look on her face. He shakes his head and says he doesn’t know how they’ll work it out, but he does know he can’t do this anymore. He looks down, then he gets on one knee, pulls out a ring and proposes!

Jim Longworth Proposes to Callie Cargill on the TV show "The Glades" on A&E

Jim Longworth Proposes to Callie Cargill on the TV show “The Glades” on A&E

He says, I need to know that however we work it out, we know we are going to be working it out together. Will you marry me? She is stunned and that’s how they end the show/season.

Why do I bring this up? Well, I think this is one of the more romantic proposals I’ve seen. That may sound crazy, but here’s why. He is full of anxiety about this relationship but he finally has an epiphany that what is bothering him is that he doesn’t ever want to lose her. So what does he do? He doesn’t waste a minute, he drops everything, he goes right then to a store, buys a ring, flies to Atlanta, tracks her down and basically falls at her feet to beg her to marry him. I mean…that is ROMANTIC. That’s what I want. I don’t need or want elaborate, fancy or prepared. I want someone who is crazy in love and desperate for me to say yes and can’t wait to get to me and ask for me to be his for the rest of his life. No dance, lip sync, art gallery opening or trick will ever top that. Do you agree?

Moving on to my next mundane topic…the show Political Animals: If you missed it, get ye hence and go watch it. Especially if you are a lady. Sigourney Weaver is amazing as always.

Lastly I have noticed that since I have moved back down to Alabama my total crush on big trucks has come back. Plenty of them around here too. Sikorsky, the helicopter plant is here and there are lots of truck driving men around here. They take good care of them too. A very entertaining young lady who works at the plant where I am consulting drives her boyfriend’s massive Dodge truck to work every day with its Hemi and shiny rims. It’s very intimidating when I park next to it. I think I am just feeling bad because my beat up little Nissan is really starting to sputter a bit. I’m afraid it may not last much longer. I do coax it and talk to it daily. It does its best. I miss my Audi. I really shouldn’t though. I am afraid the car buff and technology junkie in me are the pieces that cling the hardest to the materialistic mindset. Of course the girly girl within whines about my formerly frequent mani-pedis, the fancy salon and my shoe budget but I am quite the frugal fashionista now and proud of it so I can shrug that stuff off. Easy to beat that back simply by thinking of other things that money could go to, charitable stuff!

But the part of me that lusts after a nicer car with a powerful engine and smooth suspension, along with a jack for my phone so I can play Spotify through the speakers? The eternal whisper of the need for a faster, stronger laptop, an upgraded phone soon…oh and how am I even living without an iPad? Those are the hardest to ignore.

I prefer to leave such acquisitions in the hands of God now, I would rather let him provide. Not at my pace, but his. It helps me practice another discipline I mentioned not long ago, that of patience. Practice as you know, is the only way to improve.

Speaking of improving, I had my tutoring orientation for church today and it was super exciting. I met new people, I got this book

Tutoring Your Elementary Child with TLC

Tutoring Your Elementary Child with TLC

I volunteered to maintain a Facebook group. I already got assigned a student! We get to have dinner with them and then spend about an hour helping them with homework. How awesome is that? See? Another invisible hug from God.  How can an iPad compete with that? 🙂

Let my life be useful to others…

I got excellent news today, the artist who is designing the cover art for my upcoming book sent me the comp today and it is GORGEOUS! I am so thrilled. I did a little happy dance and promptly began showing it off to everyone in my immediate vicinity. We all agreed that fans will be tattooing it on their bodies in no time. Well, we thought it would not be at all surprising if they did.

The big news where I am is Tropical Storm, sure to be upgraded at any moment to Hurricane Isaac. Accuweather.com which is my preferred weather source is much calmer than the others so I recommend their site in the event of Weather emergencies. I can hear the wind blustering outside even though he’s just brushing by us. My sister and aunt came to stay with us to get out of harm’s way in Mobile where there’s more likely to be unpleasant power outages and wind and water damage. We might get some power outages here in Troy but they will likely be brief and a few squally storms and blown down limbs isn’t out of the ordinary. It’s nice to have them visit. I’ve missed them.

Meanwhile in other projects: I’m doing a little something to make me happy called OperationPAL through MarineParents which aims to send support and encouragement to wounded Marines. Here are the first two cards I am sending. I plan on picking up a couple more tomorrow to mail.

Letters to OperationPAL

My first two letters to OperationPAL

I included my new Personal Cards from Moo.com so they would know who the card came from. I recently printed both business cards from VistaPrint and Personal Cards from Moo.com and they both arrived today. The difference in quality was really stunning. VistaPrint’s were on thin shoddy paper with weak inks. Moo.com’s were on thick over sized card stock with vibrant colors on both sides. No contest really.

So I’ve mentioned the other projects I am actively working on: The book, the consulting, the Veterans project. While researching the Veterans project I came across another thing I can do now so I will be rolling that out in a day or two. It will involve sending care packages to Marines in Afghanistan. My first contact represents a small group and my second represents a battalion, both from North Carolina that is hoping for some support. The small group is of 50 males and his description says:

Their electricity is provided 220 generators, they live in tents and have very few supplies to cook. They do not have electric stove tops.

The other contact represents a battalion also from North Carolina and they have over 500 males and 40 females and the contacts descriptions says:

75% live in cans (I investigated and this is some kind of hut or could be just cargo containers retrofitted to sleep in) / 25% live in tents and sleep on cots. They have 110 electricity in 90% of the areas their power source is generator. They have no cooking ability. 25% have refrigerators. They have no microwaves.

I will be creating a new page on my blog about this and providing a list of things I will be collecting as well as providing a link if you can pitch in a few bucks to help buy stuff to add to the boxes. You can help with money, or you can pick up or collect the stuff I am accumulating and send it to me… that would be awesome as well. I will make sure it gets packed correctly with the right customs forms and that nothing illegal gets sent. I will also be soliciting donations in my local community. One thing they hope to get are things like Magazines. I know I can collect those at my fitness center and it’s likely some of the other items they want might come in through there too.  So look for the new page with all the details on my blog to go live soon, I’ll be taking pictures of the packages and posting them as I send them! It should be fun.

While continuing to research the *big* Veterans project, I discovered that my regional VA office has an interesting training program and I have inquired into it. Hopefully I will be able to share more details soon but it’s one of those discoveries where you are like, YOU HAVE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME?! because it is so right up your alley and everything you want to do.

I also heard from the church I’ve been attending in Montgomery about transferring my membership there, so I went ahead and got the paperwork together today…I was hoping to go to a tutoring volunteer orientation there on Wednesday anyway so the call was serendipitous. It allowed me to sign up for that.

Lots of very meaningful stuff! Thank God for answering my deepest prayer, let my life be useful to others.

A Prayer for Thanksgiving

I asked God to take away my pain.
God said, No. It is not for me to take away,
but for you to give it up.
I asked God to make my handicapped child whole.
God said, No. Her spirit was whole, her body was only temporary.
I asked God to grant me patience.
God said No. Patience is a by-product of tribulations;
it isn’t granted, it is earned.
I asked God to give me happiness.
God said No. I give you blessings.
Happiness is up to you.
I asked God to spare me pain.
God said No. Suffering draws you apart from
worldly cares and brings you closer to me.
I asked God to make my spirit grow.
God said, No. You must grow on your own,
but I will prune you to make you more fruitful.
I asked for all things that I might enjoy life.
God said, No. I will give you life so that you
can enjoy all things.
I asked God to help me LOVE others, as much as
He loves me. God said…..Ahhhhh, finally you have the idea.

—Author Unknown

 

 

Smiling

I’m a grandma! My grandson was born on September 3, 2009 around 5 p.m. My daughter had to have a c-section because he was breech and the cord was wrapped around his neck. He only weighed 5 lbs and 10 oz  but he is Mega adorable. His name is Muhammad. I can see a lot of nickname potential in that name. (Ham, Hambone, Mad) I am so happy my daughter made it through OK and I plan on visiting them n October.

School is back in session and I love my classes. I am taking intro to Spanish. The Professor is great, she is married to my Philosophy professor from last semester. She is from Venezuela so her accent is just like mine from when I lived there as a child. I am realizing how much Spanish I actually know. Good class.

My hardest class is Theories and Methods in the study of Religion. There are only 5 of us in the class and we will be learning about ways of researching and writing about religion. This will help me with my thesis. With Professor Schumm’s help I have narrowed it down to having to do with the evolution of the Episcopal church. I’ll look at the newer trend of reading the bible metaphorically and the emerging church movement’s influence upon clergy.

I am also taking intro to computer science which is a fun light class. The teacher is nice. She passes out candy and is very friendly. We are learning about how to use PowerPoint at the moment and I expect us to progress right into coding a site in HTML this semester. All of which I already know how to do, but the class will document that knowledge on my transcript and fulfill my last remaining required class.

I decided not to be a student chaplain this semester. Working and attending school at the same time, with the thesis in progress will use up too much of my time.

I also hope to get a newer used car soon. Mine is a clunker but gets good gas mileage. I’d feel better about trips to DC and Richmond with a newer model.

 

Things are pretty great right now. I am happy. I feel good about everything and have so much to look forward to in the next few months. Not only the visit to see my daughter and grandbaby but the Holidays, moving to a new place when my lease is up, taking trips to check out seminaries this fall and of course, Fall Formal.

I worked out today at the gym at school. I have a nice break between two of my classes on Tuesday and Thursday and I plan on going to the gym then. I think I will also start staying after my class on Mondays and Wednesdays for a quick workout. Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights I usually work at Metro expediting food and making desserts.

So I am just going to bask in this moment. Smiling.

The Entertainment Report

The problem with delayed updates is that there is way too much to say!

There have been movies! There have been books! There has been music!

Not to mention the Inauguration, two trips, one to Roanoke and one to Richmond and the anticipation of starting Spring term on the 4th!

Let’s start with the movies. I saw Slumdog Millionaire right before it won a bunch of Golden Globes so I was right there with them when they celebrated their unexpected win. It’s a gorgeous film, full of the tragic bittersweet comedy of life, set in India and somehow illuminates the paradox of savage beauty that exists there… the poverty and caste systems that grind people up and spit them out and the joyful triumph of overcoming it.

I also checked out StepBrothers on DVD and thought it was quirky and sweet if forgettable. I felt like the director watched the movie several times and purposefully added gross out humor in to the slow spots to juice it up for the primo demographic for that film…young adult males. While visiting my mom in Richmond during the Inauguration we also watched Appaloosa, a western featuring Scott Glen, Viggo Mortensen and Renee Zelwegger. It was entertaining and had flashes of humor. Zelwegger irritates the spit out of me a good half of the times I see her in films. Don’t know what it is. However, she looks really cute in an upcoming film called New in Town.

Now on to Books: Peace Like a River by Leif Enger is a fantastic read. It is so well written and engrossing that everything I’ve read since suffers in comparison. Better reviewers than I have described this novel which wrapped around my heart the way Huckleberry Finn did when I was a child, still my all time favorite.

Dead for 10 minutes before his father orders him to breathe in the name of the living God, Reuben Land is living proof that the world is full of miracles. But it’s the impassioned honesty of his quiet, measured narrative voice that gives weight and truth to the fantastic elements of this engrossing tale. From the vantage point of adulthood, Reuben tells how his father rescued his brother Davy’s girlfriend from two attackers, how that led to Davy being jailed for murder and how, once Davy escapes and heads south for the Badlands of North Dakota, 12-year-old Reuben, his younger sister Swede and their janitor father light out after him. But the FBI is following Davy as well, and Reuben has a part to play in the finale of that chase, just as he had a part to play in his brother’s trial. It’s the kind of story that used to be material for ballads, and Enger twines in numerous references to the Old West, chiefly through the rhymed poetry Swede writes about a hero called Sunny Sundown. That the story is set in the early ’60s in Minnesota gives it an archetypal feel, evoking a time when the possibility of getting lost in the country still existed. Enger has created a world of signs, where dead crows fall in a snowstorm and vagrants lie curled up in fields, in which everything is significant, everything has weight and comprehension is always fleeting. This is a stunning debut novel, one that sneaks up on you like a whisper and warms you like a quilt in a NorthDakota winter, a novel about faith, miracles and family that is, ultimately, miraculous.Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

I’ve also been meandering through The New Kings of Nonfiction edited by Ira Glass
It’s a collection of the best new non fiction writers stories. Magazine and newspaper articles written with emotional engagement and cleverness, wit and more than a touch of humor. It’s great on the metro on my way to church.

There’s also been some interesting music. I watched Oprah quite by accident on the 19th and saw the premier of America’s song. It was incredibly inspiring. Sung by will.i.am, Faith Hill, Seal, Mary J. Blige and Bono it somehow reminded me that America isn’t hampered because of it’s differences and divisions but strengthened by them. Check it out!

Then there was a trip to Roanoke the weekend before the Inauguration. Had dinner at Grace’s Place pizza which turned out to be very tasty and inexpensive and then went and had hot beverages to keep warm at Mill Mountain coffee downtown. I love their English Breakfast tea which they serve in a little pot. Tastes so much better than bags or even sachets. I went home and had a glass of wine and caught up on some TV before snuggling up and sleeping all tangled up, safe and secure and utterly at peace for the first time in weeks.

The next morning I had warm bagels and watched the news and vegged out until 3 in the afternoon when I went out to meet my friends Christina and Jennifer and her adorable girls.  Afterwards we went to the good ol’ Fork in the Alley for an early dinner/late lunch before I had to head home. They have killer hot dawgs. Almost as good as the Dew Drop…almost. I can’t wait to eat there next month! That’s the first place I am eating when I go home for Mardi Gras. I am gonna’ have a chili cheese burger, fries and fried okra! Mmmm. Too bad my daughter won’t be with me, she always got the onion rings and I usually swiped one. I could never eat more than that, but I liked having one. We went home where we lingered for a while before loading up both cars and then saying our goodbyes. It was a wonderful tonic though to see me through until the 30th.

After I came back and worked most of the day Sunday at the 9:00 a.m. and 11:00 a.m. services Sunday, I was so overwhelmed by the crowds on the metro on my way back home that I decided to go to Richmond for the rest of the Inaugural. There must have been several thousand people crammed into the train I squeezed on to. It was only 2 stops before they exited at the stop closest to the Lincoln Memorial where they were going to attend the free concert there, but the station was crammed with people too, and the people who exited had very little room on the platform to get off the train onto. Phew. Once they were off though it was OK until I got off at the last station. When I parked there in the morning it was practically empty. Now they had barricades up and lines had formed. They were checking every person before they went through the turnstiles. It was scary. All the more reason to hit the road.

I went home, did some laundry, packed my car and bailed. I couldn’t reach my mom on the phone so she was a little surprised when I woke her up banging on the door, but happy to see me none the less. She was off for a bit so we got to spend some quality time together. We went to dinner at Carrabas, got a couple of videos and then ran some errands together the next day. I played with my puppy dog the whole time and he slept with me too. I miss him a bunch and get to pick him up to take home on the 29th.

In the meantime, there is Ice Skating at the sculpture garden at the National Gallery of Art on Friday, I give my 3rd sermon in the big church at the 12:10 on Monday (!) and it’s on Paul’s conversion no less. I have Saturday off to do something fun and I am giving a presentation on using technology to grow your church on Tuesday to the Church Growth committee. So lots of stuff to look forward to.

I have one solitary ache in my heart but I am counting on God to assuage it. I trust that he will. He is all that I ever need.

The color of grouch

Blue is the color of sadness and also of cold, so I think it’s accurate to say that I’m a little blue. I am not sure why I am feeling so gloomy, but I am. It might have something to do with me missing my friends, church, mom and Tucker. I am not getting any exercise here either so that can’t help.

Last Sunday I worked at two services at the altar. At the 7:45 a.m. service I was a chalicist, and at the 9:00 a.m. I was a chalicist and reader. While serving at the altar I ended up being on the side where President and Laura Bush were receiving the Eucharist so I actually made eye contact with both of them. They intinct, or dip the wafer in the wine.
Whatever my own political beliefs, in church we are all the same before God. We are there because it is so easy to sin or drift away from God, and we all seek a closer relationship with him. So for that moment they aren’t the President and First Lady, but two parishioners seeking what we all do in communion, union with the holy.

At the 9:00 a.m. service I read the Epistle and chaliced as well as giving the dismissal. Pretty cool. That was something I’d never done and it was a tingly experience. Sunday I also burned my fingers on a kettle on the stove at my hostess’s house. This would be the same kettle she cautioned me to check to make sure it had water before turning on the heat since another houseguest burned up the last one. Before I left in the morning for church I put water in it and not really thinking I just turned the kettle on when I came in since I was freezing. In the interim, Ellen had used all the water in the pot I’d left. So her very nice, very expensive enamel kettle burnt up and damaged not only the kettle but the burner on which it rested. In my haste to remove it from the stove I ended up getting a couple of surface burns that blistered up on top of two of the fingers of my left hand. Ouch. It hurt so bad and for so long I went up and got some Neosporin pain relief and “aqua pad” burn dressing to cover them. I also had to report to Ellen what I’d done, since she was visiting her mother in D.C. when it happened. It was hard to make that call, but she has been so understanding about it. I felt like such an idiot and was all jangled up for hours.

I’d also heard that my 16 year old nephew was car jacked in Mobile and had a couple of men put guns to his head before he was able to flee on foot. He got glass in his feet because he’d just been wearing flip flops and he lost them in his haste to get away. The only car he and my sister had was taken and the Police said they expect it to be ditched and set on fire. He also lost all his money and his cell phone. They used his VISA debit card to buy gas at 5 different places in a nearby town called Pritchard. Hopefully he will get that back since they were fraudulent charges.

I’ve decided to take a quick trip back to Roanoke this weekend to get some things I left behind. I think it will be restorative. I’ll leave Thursday night and come back Saturday night. I am at the altar this Sunday at the 9:00, the 11:00 and am supposed to shadow a Lay Eucharistic Minister here. The woman I will be going with is really cool though. I met her last night at a training session for community organizers that I attended with the Reverend Saunders. She and I talked for most of the dinner portion about how weird it is to us that everyone intincts in the state of Virginia and even here in the DC area. We both spent most of our lives in churches where most people shared the common cup and to do otherwise was perceived as Eucharistically incorrect. We had a good old Episcopalian gabfest. It was awesome.

I also had a nice noontime Eucharist today with a visiting minister who I talked about my “call” with. She said she also got a very strong call and that she used to feel weird about it in seminary where people were saying things like , it just seems like a good career. In the long run though she said it’s been a tremendous blessing because she has never felt lost in her sense of mission. I can identify with that. I also identified with being surrounded by a group of people who were more focused on the the material, social and external world reasons for church work than any sense of the holy and awesome presence of God. This never happened at St.John’s in Roanoke, but I am guessing it is a common thing in the church.

This goes back to my philosophy of church being a place to worship God, not to make ourselves feel better. What I experienced during my near death experience was enough to inspire lifelong awe, amazement and a sense of how we can be both so incredibly small before the greatness that is God, and so dearly loved at the same time. My worship comes from that place and when I work in a service it is to that moment that I turn to meditate before it begins.

Thursday I will also work with the Hispanic Youth Group and I really look forward to it. I had a great time with them last Thursday when we went bowling. They are full of energy and life. I’ll try and get some pics I took there printed to take to them.

I will write a Lent meditation for the churches in-house Lenten publication by Friday and am ruminating on a Homily I am to give at the weekday service on Monday the 26th.

Tonight I am on my own for dinner etc. so I am thinking of driving out to the Leesburg Outlet Mall, I think I might find a good deal on a kettle there to replace the one I burned up and with tomorrow’s temps and all my warmest stuff at the cleaners I am thinking a quick dash through the bargains might be in order.

Perhaps that will de-grouchify me.