Monday, November 29, 2010

Scent of the Missing

by Susannah Charleson

This is the enthralling story of a woman who brings a bright and rambunctious puppy into her life to become a search and rescue dog.

Sunday, November 28, 2010


When I caught up on my blog reading yesterday it was good to see how many of my fellow bloggers had posted on Thanksgiving and what they were thankful for. So, although late, here are my Thanksgiving thoughts.

Ok, so I've been staring at the screen not knowing what to write. My first impulses were to list my son and his successes, my husband and our relationship, my siblings and our families, our grandchildren, my job, my church, the cats, our health....our many material things, our ability to travel...the beauty of nature around us, this country.....but then came the doubts. I am deeply thankful for all of these things, definitely, but...

I'm not sure I "believe in" Thanksgiving so much...that's the problem. Of course I believe in thanking God for our very lives and all of the blessings he gives us, it's not that. But one day per year? And all of the trouble and strife we go through to prepare and/or attend a huge feast? And the thanking comes when, at the prayer before we dive into the food? To be sure, I absolutely love getting together with family members and visiting and catching up and renewing our relationships...which seems to happen only over the holidays anymore. (I think I'm seeing a problem here.)

Typically we would travel to visit relatives on my side or host a feast here, for hubby's side of the family, but this year was different. Our Dear Aunt has passed (and those relatives went to visit their other family members), it was my son's year with his father, and we wanted to put our thankfulness into action by helping others.

This year we volunteered for Meals on Wheels and delivered Thanksgiving meals to homebound seniors. Thanks to the exceptionally well-run program, it was so easy to join in and help. The program worked like a well-oiled machine: we were signed in, given information, picked up the hot Thanksgiving meal with accompaniments, received the cleverly packaged meal for Friday (to go in the 'fridge) and were out on the road in no time. The people who run the program were cheerful, helpful--just all-around great.

I didn't know what to expect, either from the people or myself. I've been reading about motivation for serving in various ministries, and of course the GHMP I attended addressed such issues as well. One thing I knew was that feeling self-satisfied or being self-congratulatory ("aren't we great for volunteering on the holiday") was wrong. I was sure such motives were not my reason for being there. As always, God was there with a lesson.

The first two deliveries were to people who lived in trailers from the 1970's, people who were hit hard by life, from what I could observe. They accepted their meals with no ceremony and barely a word. Our hearty "Happy Thanksgiving!" had been met with little response.

It was then, after these two deliveries, that it struck me that I must have been hoping to get some worldly thanks. My motives were not so pure as I had hoped. The lesson hit hard. Despite my desire to serve unselfishly and my awareness of worldly motives, they were still there. Our remaining deliveries were quite different, and we met some dear folks who were warm and talkative, but the lesson remains. I'm sure certain other facets of that lesson will be revealed over time as well.

We finished our deliveries in the cold rain, came home and put a beautiful turkey breast in the oven. Together, we made cranberries, apple and pumpkin pies, stuffing, sweet potatoes, cole slaw and corn. It was a time of togetherness and a time to reflect. I called my son and had a nice talk with him; for that I was also thankful.

So, I guess I've gone a bit far afield of where I began this post. I am thankful for what God has given me, but should that thankfulness perhaps translate into more action? Are we truly grateful or do we maybe feel, just a little bit, as though we've "earned" it? How do we express our thankfulness, and how often? Is once a year enough?
Have a comment? Advice? Random observation? I'd love to hear it. Click "COMMENTS" just below.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Another Big Milestone

This morning marked another big milepost in the life of a person.  My son, 16 and a half years old, left the house on the first morning of his first "real" job.  I don't know if I mentioned that this past summer he tried to get a job in the nearby beach resort community, but the economy was so bad that adults and college students had already flooded the market.  (The newspaper reported that most of the summer positions for teens had been taken by adults who would normally have been working full time elsewhere, and college students who previously would have "moved on" had returned to their beach jobs due to lack of work elsewhere.  Like the rest of the economy, this was the worst summer employment market in many years.)

Anyway, this morning was a big morning.  He's working "in retail" at a major brand name footwear/sports clothing outlet.  He was SO excited when he got the job!  He texted me as soon as he left the interview and I called him right back; I heard triumph in his voice as he told me about the interview, and he answered "Great!" when I asked him how it felt to be a working man.
This morning he was up bright and early, ready to go.  I got up to see him off, and he was enthusiastic about starting.  I felt like I should have been taking his picture, like that morning not so long ago when he got on the bus for his first day of kindergarten.  He laughed when I mentioned it.

Now, as I finish this post, he has returned from his first day, still happy.  He did well and I'm quite proud.  He has an easy way with people and described to me how he approached customers and talked and joked with them, helped them out and suggested socks and hats.  I think he has a knack for sales!

The boss is apparently quite happy with him and his "sales percentage" was surprisingly good, particularly for his first day. Since I've never worked in retail, I didn't know quite what that meant but after he explained it to me I was impressed! (It has to do with the number of items each customer buys.) He's also already "advanced" from being temporary Black Friday help to being "seasonal" which means he will continue to work through Christmas or New Years' I think. (He's not sure what it means exactly.) However, this son of mine has already set his sights on becoming permanent; he intends to do such a good job that they'll never lay him off.  Go him!

It's hard to say precisely what about this makes me so happy...his enthusiasm, his change from teen-lie-on-the-couch to good worker, his determination to do not just "ok" but excellently well, his new independence, his maturity, his obvious "people" skills, or all of the above, but I am just thrilled with him. Hope you can forgive me for bragging so much!! 

Have a comment? Advice? Random observation? I'd love to hear it. Click "COMMENTS" just below.

Friday, November 19, 2010

The Robber Bride

by Margaret Atwood 

A novel that explores how darkness can slip in unnoticed, disguised as something completely different and then grow slowly in place, fully entwining itself, until it's too late.

Monday, November 15, 2010

First Report

I'm back from my conference, the Global Health Missions Conference (GHMC). If asked to sum it up in a word, I think I'd have to use "overwhelming."  I've never seen such a church, such a great group of people, or met so many people serving in health missions.  I have a lot of "digesting" of information to do, as well as thinking and preparing.  I fully expect to write more on that later.

For now, here are some photos I took of the event.  One reason I was overwhelmed was the sheer hugeness of the church that held the conference.  These first two pictures are of the Atrium in the church; the first is from the third floor balcony overlooking the gathering space.
This next picture is a view of the opposite end of the atrium; the elevators are in the vertical spans, to each side of the banner, with the escalators next to the stairs and between the pillars.  The photo above was taken from the upper left, where the brightest light is.   
Below is the worship center.  Yes, that is a "jumbotron" with screens all around.  The ground level held many more than the reported 2500 participants at this conference....and then there were two balcony levels above that, which were reached by the elevators or escalators to the second and third floors.  (In this shot, a wonderful African woman who is a surgical resident with the final plenary speaker's program in Kenya tells her story.)
Below is the Worship Center end of the Southeast Christian Church (the hosts of the conference.)  The massive space with the jumbotron is at the center of this building, with halls and classrooms around the perimeter.

And next is the fellowship hall end of the here, there were two whole floors full of exhibitors...about 70 per floor.  The center section (by the pillars, if you can see them) is the three story Atrium (indoor views above.)

Finally,  below is a big cork board map of the world.  Throughout the conference, there were push pins right next to it, with an invitation to add your color coded pin to the places you were going to learn about, pray for, support, and go to.  It was really wonderful to see all of the push pins all over the world by the end of the conference. This photo was taken following the final session, and I think the young people in the picture were headed out to the field in the near future. I put my pins in on Guatemala.

So that's the initial report.  I have a lot to read, a lot to learn, and some choices to make, but I am very glad to have gone to such an intense and educational conference!

Have a comment? Advice? Random observation? I'd love to hear it. Click "COMMENTS" just below.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

A Step Toward a Goal

I'm really getting excited now...later this week I'm flying down to Kentucky to go to the Global Missions Health Conference

Early this year I identified a new goal in my book "Direction toward the goal of a better life" (this is a 3-ring binder in which I have a set of heavy plastic tabbed dividers on which I put post-it notes.  On the star-shaped notes, I have written my carefully considered "I Want" statements; on some colored squares surrounding the stars, I have written actions I need to do to help fulfill that goal. The book exists to try to help me focus on what I believe will make my life more meaningful and fulfilling and help to keep me swimming forward instead of treading water.)  The goal I added reads "I want to make a real difference in service to others." and, on the same star, "I want to step out in faith."

One of the nearby blue squares states "Monitor and look for opportunities to do medical missions abroad." So, I had done a number of searches on the internet for information on Medical Missions, read a number of groups' websites, and even found a clearinghouse where various groups sought medical people to go on mission trips.  I spoke with my own ministers and Sunday School teacher and read information about their suggested leads.  Then, several months ago I learned about the GMHC, which seems like a really good step in the right direction.

The GMHC (an annual event since 1996) looks to be huge, educational, inspirational, and well organized.  They have brought in over 160 exhibitors and several dozen speakers for this year, and in recent years there have been more than two thousand attendees.  The breakout sessions cover all sorts of health issues, practical concerns, cultural and ethical aspects of medical missions at home and overseas.  The sessions look so great I've only been able to narrow them down to about 2-3 choices per session...and I can only be in one place at a time!  What's more, most of the sessions I'm interested in offer continuing education credits for nurses, too...I take that as a sign of the quality and usefulness of the material, since I know what is required by nursing boards to be able to offer those credits. 

Even though I'll be traveling down and back in 3 days, I also see it as a break; I'm going by myself, so I will have time alone to think, breathe, and relax some.  It seems like a good time to re-think priorities, find inspiration and step out in faith.

I am looking forward to learning a lot, meeting some people with the same interests, learning about groups that need help, and maybe making plans to travel on a mission relatively soon.  I expect that it will be an inspiring trip!  

Have a comment? Advice? Random observation? I'd love to hear it. Click "COMMENTS" just below.