Monday, June 30, 2008

how not to pick up chicks

Oh my gosh, this is hilarious. And creepy. Apparently, it's real, too. I saw this on another blog and I'll try to find the link to an article that she posted along with it.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

To laugh often and much

To laugh often and much:
To win the respect of intelligent people
and the affection of children,
to earn the appreciation of honest critics
and endure the betrayal of false friends,
to appreciate beauty,
to find the best in others,
to leave the world a bit better
whether by a healthy child,
a garden patch,
or a redeemed social condition,
to know even one life has breathed easier because you lived:
This is to have succeeded.

--Ralph Waldo Emerson



What is the chief end of man? Man's chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.

from the Westminster Shorter Catechism Project, Thomas Vincent

Friday, June 27, 2008

It happens that fast

The first thing I saw this morning was the smiling face of my husband. He was up early, dressed and packed for his day kayaking on the Yellow River with Joshua and Nolan. He kissed my forehead and woke me up, saying, "Thank you for my birthday present Samantha. I can't WAIT to get on the river!" He has been planning on today all week long.

About 10 minutes after he left the house, he called me. "Hey, I just had a wreck down the street. You think you could come down here?"

I hate those phone calls. But there is one thing about this one that I loved: it was Don calling me, not the Sherriff's dept. or an emergency room nurse. Not like last time. Not one bit like it.

And shockingly, I was completely cool about the whole thing. The wreck happened less than half a mile from our house-- he had gone to the gas station close by and then doubled back to go to old town. I saw him pass the house and waved right before the wreck happened. I prayed as I came over the hill that the Lord would just breathe peace on me when I saw the truck and saw him.

My sweet husband looked heartbroken. Standing there, blood running down his face, he was looking at the back end of the little truck he loves so much (crumpled a little but fixable-- he drove it from the scene) and at the kayak I gave him this weekend for his birthday. There's a hole in it now, along the bottom where it scraped, I guess. While he is my husband, a strong, completely capable and mature grown man, I saw a little boy for a moment, so disappointed. There were all of these police around, cars slowing down to look, an ambulance driving up, but all I saw was my boy and I knew what he was feeling. He really wanted to be on the river today, and he felt like a dork for getting into a wreck.

We never leave the house without telling each other we love each other and kissing. It's what we have always done, but especially after he broke his neck in '03 (I have a growing collection of Don-in-the-hospital pics!). You just can't ever tell what is going to happen. One minute, you're headed out for beans and a jar of pickles and the next...

But here's something I know, and it might sound trite or addle-brained, but I don't care: I know that God is in control of this whole thing. I feel...honestly...certain that the Lord was in that moment. He knew the what and how of what my husband was headed toward when he passed the house again. Don, of course, was sitting there pounding his fist into his knee when we were at the hospital getting his cut fixed, saying, "Dang. If I had just... or if I had only...." There are so many other possibilities-- if I had just kept my mouth shut, if I had only said no to this trip, if I had only waited for that HR person to get back with me before taking a different job, if I had turned left instead of right...

But I have to believe that, while we are housed in these earthen, breakable vessels, we have an unbreakable God who is actively in our every moment and He directs our paths.... Is it possible that this had to happen this morning?

I don't know. I don't know the other guy's circumstances. He wasn't hurt, but his car took a hit. And there are plenty of really bad things that happen in life, too, that God isn't exactly "behind." I don't know. It's all about His sovereignty isn't it? And that's at the top of my list of "Things To Ask Jesus When I Get To Heaven."

Either way, my man is alive and well right now and I am grateful beyond words. How I lived for so long without him is a mystery to me-- and I'm not finished living all of my days with him. He is the funniest, sweetest, kindest person I have ever known, packaged in a brusk, sharp-edged man-- and a perfect match for me. How grateful I am that I am writing this right now... not trying to figure out funeral arrangements.

Let's all be grateful today, right? Things can always be worse. No matter how bad you might think they are right now.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Put on love

So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful. Colossians 3: 12-15 (NAS)

Oh these words!!!! NIV says, "Be tolerant of one another and forgive each other if anyone has a complaint against another. Just as the Lord has forgiven you, you also should forgive."

I had lunch with a friend this afternoon and I was overcome with this intensity of love for the Lord, and I am just blown away with His goodness and how beautiful His words are. "Be tolerant of one another" and "put on love"...

He said that He is coming for a bride that is spotless-- a bride who has made herself spotless. Here is my challenge to us: go out and make things right with anyone you have anything against. We don't have to be best friends. We don't have to rush out and have a spend the night party or even feel incredibly tender toward the other person, but to establish that bond of unity that will actually draw the attention of the Lord toward our obedience... yeah. Don't you want to see Him? I do, too. The friend I was having lunch with is sort of on a different page than I am spiritually, and she is so much fun to talk about this stuff with, but I was just overwhelmed with the reality of Him and His words when we were talking today...

Put on love.

In faith...


You thought I was going to write something deep, didn't you? I know that you have come to expect only the most insightful, well-thought-out musings of a would-be theologian, but alas, even brainiacs like me have common thoughts... :) ha!

So, to the left you will find my new couch. Yes, I found my new couch after my brilliant friend and colleague, Rachel, pointed it out to me. She nailed it, in fact. She saw it and knew that I would love it. Friends, she was correct.

As you can see, it was only one of thousands of nameless, faceless cathedrae, but Rachel called it forth to its destiny: "Hey Sam, you have to see this couch. It's totally you." And behold, it was so.
Only it's going to go through a complete transformation. Kristin and I went to the place to get it (um, did I mention that I paid $15 for it? No joke) and drove it straight to the upholsterer's place. Upholsterer. Hm. Odd word. To be completely honest, I spent about 15 minutes of time on the drive back to Conyers thinking about the word "upholsterer" and wondering if it would be more accurate to call it the "miller." And then I began to think about the surname "Miller" and how cool it was that people drew their names from their professions sometimes-- unless your profession was something having to do with throwing out the garbage or burying people. I remember being in 4th grade, looking up name meanings with Mrs. Redding, whose maiden name was Hudgens, like mine. She had this fantastic way of making me feel smart and interesting-- she was one of the greatest teachers I ever had. She would lean down to me and ask me questions and look absolutely captivated with my answers, proudly reminding everyone that we were "most likely family" and saying things like, "from one Hudgens to another!" all the time. But then there came the day when she discovered that it was possible that our ancestors were likely in the business of feeding pigs. "Hog sloppers, Sammi. But probably the best the farmer could hire!"

Of course, she was just guessing. Later I found a book of surnames that suggeste that the name came from a combination of the names "Hugh", "Richard" and something else, and (it's been a while since I did that research) somehow had to do with spirit, mind and body. I like this better. Very spiritual.

Anyway, our couch is going to kick butt. The shape is GREAT!! Exactly what I've been looking for. But where you see the three sets of three buttons, there will only be three sets of one button, with no gathering. Also, I'm looking for a gorgeous red fabric-- if you're in the Atlanta area, feel free to make suggestions!! You can post it here or email me.

And why did I post this under the title "In Faith"? Because I am putting together the perfect living room in my head... but it's kind of in another house. In a house we would love to have. Maybe one day? Who knows what God has in store? Something good-- that's for certain.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Baby Ella

Oh my gosh, we are blessed. I have these two stunning nieces and a thousand pictures...

I spent the afternoon with my newest niece, Nathan's daughter, Ella. It's amazing how much she looks like our family. Just like my little brother, and apparently just like my baby pictures, too. It's completely incredible. God is so wise, the way He creates families. You know, I even have a friend who was adopted as a baby and she looks like her birth parents somehow.... I don't know. Anyway, Ella (and Chandler) belongs to us. And it's amazing.

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Hm. I think of how much my heart is FOR this little girl and it occurs to me that if I can love her this way, after one afternoon and because she's my blood, how much more does the Father adore us?

And can you imagine Simeon??? When Lucy handed Ella to me this afternoon, I couldn't help myself-- I began to cry. And my beautiful niece is looking up at me with my brother's eyes and just staring at me with the most precious little expression, and I was undone. Can you imagine how Simeon felt when he held Jesus as an infant, knowing that he was holding the redemption of mankind? I mean, I have dreams for Ella to go to Agnes Scott and major in some brilliant thing and live a long, happy, fruitful life, and I can imagine that anything is possible for her...but Simeon held the center of all of our hopes. In his arms. And he was undone.

I can't believe how secure God is, to make Himself that vulnerable. To cloak Himself in a skull that is not fully formed for the first few months, and to live in a body completely dependent upon mortals to feed it healthy, good food and keep it from infection. To be held and kissed and loved, too. I wonder how that felt to Him....

Anyway, off to bed. I'm missing my nieces something fierce. We should get some Swaney babies up in here.

Monday, June 16, 2008

So, um...

it's late again.

I'm up hoping.

Hope is such a funny thing...like singing into a cavern-- you can hear your voice echoing all pretty and graceful off the walls and you wonder if the loveliness is only being heard by you. If it's wasted on no audience at all. But then there's God.

But then there's God.

I have this thing that I've wanted for exactly one week. One week is not a long time to want something badly, but there it is and I want it. I've been wrestling with superstition, doubt, fear, anxiety and hope, joy, euphoria, and anticipation for seven days and I feel exhausted.

I wonder-- how much does our wanting something matter? If it's not something bad, and it seems to be something good, how much does our desire for it play into God's plans? My friend Amy and I were praying about it and she had this image of God leaning down over her little boy Joshua, putting his hands on his little shoulders and saying, Hold on. Not now-- just wait a minute.

I can see that. I can see that I need the Father heart of God to hush my anxiety sometimes.

Don says that I did this with him, too. He's right-- what is it about me that has such a struggle with waiting? I wonder if sometimes I think, "Oh no! This is such a fantastic [deal, man, trip, job]-- how can God ever top this??? If I don't get THIS one RIGHT NOW I'll never have another chance."

Again, God made trees. Loads of them. Each one is perfect in its way and God was able to recreate the miracle again and again....

Still, I'm hoping for this one thing this time, and call me anything in the book that you want to call me, but one thing I am for SURE is loyal. I know this about myself. When I see something or someone I love, I'm loyal to a painful fault.

So, if you're a pray-er and you want to pray with me, just pray that God's will would be done. Of course, it will be-- so I don't understand why Jesus wanted us to pray that, really, but He did, so I will. Let His will be done.

I'll let you in one what I'm talking about later. Until then...

Saturday, June 14, 2008

How Do You Know?

So, I'm thinking about what it means to wait on the Lord and I found this fantastic article.

I'm still waiting, but I have to be DOING something with my brain while I'm waiting, so I start wondering. Wondering if it's cool to ask for prayer for something like a house or a car from a friend who is in full-time missions and up to her ears in NEED. Is what I want/hope for/desire even remotely triggering a bump on the scale of things God cares about?

Of course the answer is yes. But it's also no. Because it's not about what we want, is it? It's about the heart that wants it and the One who has plans that we have no idea about.

So...how do we pray? Jesus already told us. Our Father, who is in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. Lead us not into temptation, and deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever.

That's a good solid prayer.

Do you have to stop yourself from saying, "But..." when you get a good hard look at it? I do sometimes. Because I spent years in YWAM in the schools of intercession talking about prayer, praying, researching prayer, studying prayer, etc., and it got complicated. Don't get me wrong-- I don't think that stuff was wrong. I think it was RIGHT. But I also think that there is something so simple that we are missing sometimes.

Because I get it into my head that I have to pray just this way or cock my head to the right and say just this combination of words or ... and it doesn't stay there long, but it's superstition that we are sort of wired to lean toward. I can make it happen or not happen because everything that happens can be controlled by me in some way.

Nuh-uh.

I had some friends who meant well but whose theology was a little wack-o and I didn't realize it until I was able to stand back and look at some advise/opinions/actions with distance of time and space. They wouldn't walk into certain stores or talk to certain people because of spiritual residue or something (for the sake of full disclosure, I am now one of those people in their book), and it occurred to me that this didn't fit well with that whole conversation in Colossians:

If you have died with Christ to the elementary principles of the world, why, as if you were living in the world, do you submit yourself to decrees, such as, "Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch!" (which all refer to things destined to perish with use)-- in accordance with the commandments and teachings of men? These are matters which have, to be sure, the appearance of wisdom in self-made religion and self-abasement and severe treatment of the body, but are of no value against fleshly indulgence...Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth (Colossians 2)

That's a loose correlation, but my point is that He hasn't called us to be superstitious people. Not to pollute ourselves either, but not to fear walking across the threshold of a book shop in England because they have New Age paraphernalia-- hello. My Father made all of this. I don't have to be afraid of the trinkets of the enemy. I'm not cavalier either, but anyway...what was my point?

Praying for things could be simple, right? Jesus, please do your will. I trust you. Thank you.

OH, for that simplicity. In my head, I'm fighting a war, but who fights it really? Is it really us?

Yes and no-- Daniel fasted and prayed for all of those days-- when the angel of the Lord FINALLY made it to him with the answer to the prayer, he told Daniel that he had been fighting the Prince of Persia that whole time. Our understanding is, then, that Daniel's praying and fasting helped that situation. I need to read that passage again.

I know we're called to come alongside the Lord in prayer and ask ("You do not receive because you do not ask"). Just ask. And to bring pure hearts before Him. Pure motives. That we would check our hearts and motives as we pray and that He would direct our prayer the way He directs our paths.

Until then, there are the things we want. And He is our Father and He loves us.

So I have something I want desperately. Here I am, asking. Jesus, I'm asking. I'm asking you to see it, hear it, and to do Your perfect will-- not mine. I trust you.

That's a good prayer.

Monday, June 9, 2008

There is no way...

...but what if there was?

Have you ever seen a real live miracle? Have you ever witnessed an honest-to-God impossibility happen? I think that we have long ceased being amazed with child birth-- I mean come on. It happens all the stinking time--but it remains an amazing thing that science has yet to perfectly imitate. It remains a mystery and a miracle. Where does all the stuff come from to MAKE the baby? And the baby that hatched it? And the baby that hatched it, and so on... Who pushed the universe into starting in the first place (Descarte's theory of perpetual motion, anyone?)? We all know that it was God. How He did it? Well, that's between Him, Him and Himself. We'll know eventually.

But today, I'm wondering about miracles and wondering if we don't see them often because we aren't looking or we simply don't believe or we are just so stinking jaded.... You and I are walking miracles in every way, but it sounds too trite, really, to push that. We say it all the time. But here's what I always think when looking at the impossible: God made trees. Grass. He engineered the whole thing. So...why can't He perform other miracles? All the time?

He can.

Hm. And He probably is. Are we sitting on the edge of our seats in "hopeful expectation"? Galatians 5:5 says, "For we, [not relying on the Law but] through the [Holy] Spirit's [help], by faith anticipate and wait for the blessing and good for which our righteousness and right standing with God [our [a]conformity to His will in purpose, thought, and action, causes us] to hope."

So what we're waiting for there is Him Himself-- the prize of gazing with wonder upon His glorious face, walking in His grace-- but that word "wait" shows up with "hopeful expectation" a LOT in the Bible. And that word wait doesn't really mean sitting with your hands in your lap-- the implication of the word is one of sitting forward, on the edge of your seat. Anticipating. Hm. Hopeful expectation.

What do we expect of the Lord? What are we really looking forward to on a daily basis? Are we looking for the same old, same old, or are we expecting Him to be the amazing Person He can't help but be?I want Him to change my mind... to expect miracles that will bring Him glory.

Following Him is full of such amazing opportunities.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Just kidding

Not about the quiet time part-- that's for real. But about the burn-out part-- I think I was just tired (and hormonal). Anyway, I've been reading a gorgeous book-- Anne Lamott's Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith. Lamott is anything but traditional, slightly scandalous, seriously funny and really seems to have a handle on the love of the Lord. Which messes with me big time because she refers to God as "She or He," which is something that always sticks in my craw.

Still, it seems like I'm missing the point when I get caught up in that, and I feel happy when I feel like the Lord is taking my fingers-- fingers which get good and cramped while wrapped around an issue I think is critical-- and peeling them back. I don't want to miss the point that she's absolutely correct when she talks about the sweetness and goodness of the Lord. When she talks about forgiveness and grace-- because she's walked in it. Sure, we disagree politically, but I am certain that this woman and I will stand together before the Lord one day, worshipping Him forever.

So I asked the Lord, "Are you a man or a woman?" And I felt His response sort of like this: You can't define me in human terms. You are sprung from me, not the other way around. Male and female, I created them-- it's all found in Me. You are a reflection-- imperfect, marred, but a reflection-- of Me. Your parts are miniature reflections of Me. I am so much bigger than your small definitions and labels.

(it seems like it's kind of like saying to a mom or dad, "You look just like your son." Their response seems to always be the same: "No, he looks just like ME.")

And in that, He chose to reveal Himself to us as a Father. He describes Himself as a mother and identifies with motherly things, too, in the Old Testament, but primarily He is described as and referred to as a male entity and I have no problem with that. In fact, I honestly do prefer it-- I know that we all have our ideas, preferences, etc., but I do believe that the Word is completely Holy Spirit inspired and that He chose to identify Himself in a certain way-- that's good enough for me. It isn't a slight to women. It's simply our Maker knowing the best way to reveal Himself to us, to communicate with us and provide some framework for us to understand and refer to Him.

Sigh. I just can't wait to see Him one day. Not before my time, but at the perfect time. To stand in His presence and KNOW. Meanwhile, I'm determined to seek Him and see Him where He will be found. And tonight, He's showing me lovely things through that crazy Anne Lamott.

So anyway, I'm not burnt out. I was just tired.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

so, uh...

...does "burn-out" feel like intense boredom and a general lack of vision?

I think I need to do a Bible study ASAP. I actually got mad at my husband today when he suggested that the reason I didn't have a lot of vision for something I've always had vision, passion and excitement for might be the fact that I haven't had a quiet time in...well... shut up-- how's YOUR quiet time?[I asked].

Oooh, testy. Gotta take care of that. When there's very little honey or sweetness in our responses, it could be a key indicator that we've spent too much time away from the source of all sweetness-- Jesus. We can be saved and loving God all day long, but it's so easy to let intimacy sort of, well, fall to the wayside. Like forgetting dates with your spouse. You have to be intentional. It's worth it.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Yay! Summertime!

So, I am staring down the barrel of the first summer of freedom in many, many years-- and it's freaking me out a little bit! I mean, I'm not doing nothing, but it's not at all like summers before I was in school, or the summers during school. This kind of feels...well...settled. I guess I haven't felt settled in a while. Well, I feel settled while all around me, everything seems to be rushing--

And that brings to mind the word transition again. So many of the people in my life, both personally and professionally, are in serious transition. My college kids are in serious transition in multiple, mind-numbing ways-- it sometimes occurs to me that they are pretty much champions and they have no idea, just traversing the waters of your late teens/early 20's: they are working their way from high school to college (or full time job) mentality; living at home and relying fully upon parents to getting out on their own (or beginning to feel the responsibility to get out on their own) and figuring out how to survive as an adult; dating with no real possibility or expectation of "permanence" to dating that could possibly lead to marriage (and all of the other complications that come with dating when you aren't 100% accountable to your parents any more); going to church every week because your parents will cut your butt off without a dime if you aren't completely active in youth group to going to church because there is something inside you gnawing away at your peace and you need God and relationships and all that being in church can bring. The faith of your parents is now not good enough. They have to make it their own. And while those things are huge, there's so much more. Figuring out your post-high school identity, rethinking friendships, stocking your own refrigerator....

My students are in serious transition, too, and I am thinking of trying to tackle that theme in a few units this year-- I don't know that the 9th graders will get it as quickly as the 10th graders will-- sometimes it's harder to see things when you are swimming in the middle of it all.We'll see. But they are transitioning from middle school to high school, they are transitioning (if in church) to older youth groups and friends who can drive. I watch them transition from short little squirts with bad hair at the beginning of the year to slightly taller squirts with marginally better hair-- some change significantly. Their hormones are changing, intensifying-- kids who never noticed the opposite sex are suddenly completely useless because of it. The course work in high school is different-- the expectations from adults in every arena change. What was good enough just a few months ago (even weeks ago) isn't good enough now. I imagine that their heads are spinning. It's so sudden. Can be so incredibly stressful.

I have colleagues in transition-- retirement, promotions, moves across the country, horizontal transitions. Packing up offices and loading up cars, subtle changes in paradigm (what is intensely important to one person in the final staff meeting of the year is of little or no consequence to the person on their right or left).

And for those of us in the world of education, we get these pauses between paragraphs-- summertime. Time to clean out Joshua's room. Time to invest in a better blender and visit my sister-in-love and my gorgeous baby Chandler. Time to make dates with Don and see them through (how do we forget to do dates after only 6 1/2 years? Everyone knows you're supposed to do dates...). Time to get the car fixed, mow the lawn, spend time with our parents, find time to visit my brother and other baby niece, write in my journal again (me only, no adoring public), do an intense bible study...and be prepared to go through the multi-level, never-ending mind bender that is the school year in just a few weeks.

But Jesus? He never, ever changes. He doesn't change. He walks with us through the transitions, guiding us and talking us through it. He, who has lived through every change that has ever occurred in the history of mankind, does not change offices. His personality and sense of humor do not change slightly as He begins spending time with new people. He does not become unreasonably indifferent to the things that you used to be able to talk with Him about. He does not transfer and lose touch or interest in your life. He does not develop new and better friends. He does not change. He does not change. He is just as gorgeously kind and beautiful, gentle and wise and strong, as He was the first time you met Him...

What an incredible comfort. He isn't static-- it's not like He is some stone Buddha, forever changeless in a marble room draped in incense. No, it's simply this: He is so dynamic, so enormous, so infinite in person, that we will spend eternity learning who He is...we will grow in our understanding of Him, perhaps transitioning into new seasons of relationship with Him, but we will only ever see Him increase while we decrease into His perfection...but He never changes. Never. So lovely.

Thank you, Lord, for being so full of integrity and perfection. Thank you for holding my hand through these transitions-- surrounded by those transitioning, you take away that feeling of being a way-station, turning and turning like a carousel. You are solid but not silent. You are ever moving, but never changing. I need you and I love you.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

MUTO a wall-painted animation by BLU

Check THIS out. Amazing. HARD WORK.