Five Minute Friday: Vacation

Vacation

Gentle Reader,

My mom is gone this week, visiting family. I’ve been tasked with checking in on her dog, who hates everyone. No, he really does. He’s a Pomeranian, a breed known for fiercely bonding to one human and one human only. That’s exactly what this pipsqueak has done. He’s practically beside himself with grief but he won’t let anyone comfort him. Instead, he tries to bite all of us.

Kate says: vacation.

Go.

We didn’t go on vacation often when I was a child. The money just wasn’t available for stuff like that. So, when my mom sensed that we were all getting tired and stress out, she would declare a “vacation day.” The phone would be unplugged, chores would be ignored, naps were encouraged. We would watch old movies (if my dad got to choose, usually a John Wayne flick) and have picnics on the living room floor. If the “vacation day” occurred during winter, sometimes she would crank up the thermostat so we could all walk around in shorts and pretend that spring, rather than another blizzard, was just around the corner.

I didn’t know it then, but my mom was making the most out of what we had. She found ways to turn cabin fever or the inability to play due to sunburns into something fun. Laying on the floor eating a fudgesicle. Playing checkers with my brother, classical music playing (which prompted us to dramatically narrate our games). On warm, clear nights, sitting on a blanket in the front yard, watching the stars while the crickets chirped and the frogs croaked.

Simple. Unrushed.

What I also didn’t know is that she was actively modeling Sabbath rest. Now, as an adult, it’s extremely important to me to get away from the usual from time to time, even if it’s just by closing off the laptop and refusing to do more than read a book for a few hours. Doing so allows my brain to ooze out my ear, the grotesque phrase that I like to use when I’m feeling overwhelmed and need to disengage. Strangely, and probably by design, some of my best thinking and processing occurs when I’m not focused on anything in particular.

Get away this weekend. You don’t have to go far. You don’t even have to leave your house. Just do something fun and restorative. The options are only as limited as your imagination.

Stop.

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Five Minute Friday: Ocean

Ocean

Gentle Reader.

Lightning flashed, thunder rolled, the rain poured down. Electricity flickered on and off. The dogs barked, then snuggled close. Not a big fan of storms, I was in no mood to open my computer and try to string words together, like popcorn on a Christmas garland. I listened to all the sounds and ran my hands through soft fur, assuring the animals that they would be all right. Assuring myself.

Kate says: ocean.

Go.

The husband and I spent four days on the Oregon coast last week, celebrating twelve years of marriage. I’m not sure where the time went. Hours that drag when you’re a child suddenly speed up and the calendar turns with unstoppable ferocity. Then, we were babies, both just 21. Now, we ease into our mid-thirties, buffeted and scarred by the tempests of life but still together. Still holding on. Still choosing love, even in the middle of fights.

Because we do fight. Oh, not shouting matches. No name-calling. No throwing things. We both have strong personalities, expressed in different ways, and the sense of absolute rightness that tends to arise among firstborn children. More often than not, we’re good at the give and take. Some things I just don’t care about. Other things he has no opinion on. But when we clash, we clash. It’s on like Donkey Kong. (Man, did I just date myself there).

We sat and watched the waves together, breathing in the salty air. Beneath the surface the currents roiled, revealing themselves in white caps and sea spray. The scent of burning, wet wood stung my nostrils as Chris built a bonfire on the beach. My soul seemed to spread out, enjoying a space and relaxation that everyday life doesn’t afford. It was the peace of the coast, but it was not silent. Never that. Water, wind, wordless.

I have not been married long enough to give anyone advice. I think you have to hit the 20-year mark for that. One thing I do know, though, is that marriage is like the ocean: Rarely calm, always surprising. Two people bounce off of each other like sand dollars washed to shore. Sometimes it hurts. Sometimes it seems as if the storm will never end. Then, like a blazing sunset on the watery horizon, something reminds you why you chose this person – a hand squeeze, an old joke, communication with a glance.

And you know.

Stop.

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Sketches: Star Wars

Chewie & Han

Gentle Reader,

My mom has chronic intractable migraines. Fancy doctor-speak for severe headaches that last for days and don’t respond to treatment. She once had one that lasted nearly a month. I’m amazed that she continues to be able to handle life.

Every so often, I get a little taste of her experience. Yes, I get headaches on the regular, and have had more in the last couple of years than I ever did before, but for 8 days now I’ve been sliding along a pain spectrum from “wow, this really hurts” to “please, just let me die.” Yesterday, it settled behind my right eye. Hasn’t left yet. I don’t really want to do anything, and stayed in bed as long as I could today, but there comes a point when the misery makes me restless.

So I pruned my roses, pulled some weeds, dusted the house and painted my toenails.

Now, let’s talk: Star Wars. (Prompt submitted by my husband, Chris, via our many and varied conversations about these movies).

Aged Roughly 10

It was a muggy, overcast summer evening. We’d gone to the library as a family that day. Either it was a weekend or my dad took some vacation time, because he was with us. He’d spotted a VHS copy of a movie that he’d loved as a young adult and brought it home. He was still sporting the fantastic mustache that he brutally shaved off a decade ago, the mustache that my brother, my husband, various friends of mine and I have been trying to convince him to grow back ever since. (He has resisted our pleadings. I believe this is out of a desire to simply be contrary).

That movie? The Empire Strikes Back.

“A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away….” flashed across the screen. The first chord of John William’s epic theme played. I sat there on the green-and-white checked couch, wearing a big t-shirt that served as a nightgown, the humidity causing little hairs to curl across my forehead and the back of my neck. Pretty sure the big, orange Tupperware bowl was full of hot, buttered popcorn, because Dad always made popcorn when we watched movies. (I have that bowl today). Always in an air-popper, never on the stove (as it should be).

I was immediately hooked. It didn’t matter that I hadn’t seen A New Hope. I got it: Darth Vader was bad, Luke Skywalker was good, Princess Leia and Han Solo were meant to be together, Chewbacca and Yoda were cool. Lando Calrissian, how could he betray the good guys? He’d better get it in the end! How could they put Han in carbonite? He’s going to die! Would Luke really become a Jedi?

Still my favorite movie in the entire franchise.

Aged 17

A bunch of my friends made a Star Wars fan movie for a drama class project. They spent hours on that thing, crafting a story, figuring out how to do make-up so that a few could be aliens, rotoscoping all of the lightsaber scenes. A real labor of love. I wasn’t in the movie (I don’t remember why), though I heard about every detail, every bickering match, every moment of fun and wonder.

Candidly, I got annoyed with the whole thing. The boy I was dating at the time was involved and every spare moment was given to finishing the project. I don’t consider myself clingy, now or then, but what teenage girl is going to be happy when her boyfriend spends no time with her, particularly at the end of Senior year? Of course, now I know that those boys did a great job (and that the one boy was nowhere near worth the stress and pain).

I wonder who has a copy of that movie now? It’s been years since I’ve seen it.

Aged 21

Chris and I, dating for six months at this point, stood out in the rain, in line for the midnight premiere showing of Revenge of the Sith. I have never gone to another midnight showing and I probably never will, not only because I turn into a pumpkin after 8:00 p.m. but really because that night was special. It can never be duplicated or equaled. Everyone was happy and excited. Complete strangers were delighted to share their theories about the movie with each other. There were a few super-fans dressed in costume. It was all very fun.

At last we settled into our seats in the theater, eager for the show to begin. The “please, silence your cell phones” screen stretched out before us for what seemed like hours. Finally, nothing but blackness before our eyes. Yes! We were ready! Then…nothing. For a long time.

A guy in the back of the theater shouted, “Bring back the cell phone screen!” To this day, Chris and I quote that to each other when we go to the movies.

The movie did eventually play – technical difficulties and all that – and we loved it. By far the best of the prequel movies.

Aged Almost 34

I don’t know why anyone is complaining about the Solo movie. We saw it a week ago and have no complaints. It was a light, entertaining few hours. I felt the same way about The Last Jedi, a hugely divisive movie within the fandom. But here’s the thing: Any time I watch a Star Wars film, I am, for a moment, transported back to that summer night, eating popcorn, my dog Petey stretched out on his side, panting in the heat. It’s good guys and bad guys and feeling tense but knowing that the good guys will surely win in the end. It’s fun. That’s all it has to be.

I mean, really: Star Wars is a space opera. Nobody needs to be looking for deep messages. Just enjoy.

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For all posts in the Sketches series, go here.

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Review: Unwrapping the Names of Jesus

unwrappingJesus7

Gentle Reader,

Sunday marks the beginning of Advent, the four weeks leading up to the Christmas celebration. This is my favorite time of year. I love pausing to dwell again on the miracle of the Incarnation. I love the music, the lights, the cold weather, the ugly sweaters. I love shopping for gifts. I love filling my husband’s stocking. I love watching the kid’s program at church. The pint-sized actors are always distracted by itchy dresses and tight bowties.

It’s the best.

Last year I spent the month of December in the hospital and then confined to a chair as I recovered from surgery. Depressing. This year I’m determined to wring every ounce of joy out of every day. A new Advent devotional, Unwrapping the Names of Jesus by Ashteriah Ciuciu, will play a large role in that pursuit.

Ashertiah and I connected through Five Minute Friday. Her words have always blessed and encouraged me, so when she invited me to read and review her new book, I was only too happy to do so.

From my Amazon review:

Far more than an Advent devotional, the reflections on the names and titles of God are useful in worship year-round. I appreciate how Asheritah connects the Christmas story with the rest of the salvation narrative; Jesus began His Incarnation as a baby, but He did not remain one. A special favorite of mine is the section dwelling on Jesus as our Great High Priest. How blessed we are that He chose to come here and offer Himself as the once-and-for-all sacrifice on our behalf!

The book is set up in an easy-to-follow fashion. Asheritah provides a “how to” introduction for using the four main chapters (plus a bonus fifth). Designed to follow the weeks of Advent, the chapters open with a family participation guide, filled with Scripture passages to read as that week’s candle is lit, questions to discuss and Christmas songs to sing. (Parents can tailor the observance to the age and maturity of their little ones). The individual reflections within the chapters end with a challenge, a prayer and notes for further study. Each week is concluded with suggestions for activities to put the lessons into practice; again, these can be tailored to the abilities of children in the family.

Having not grown up celebrating Advent, I have been at a loss as an adult as to how to observe the days leading up to Christmas. As such, I thoroughly enjoyed both the worshipful and practical aspects of this book. Asheritah encourages us to pause and reflect on the meaning of the season while gently reminding us that our reflections should lead to action. A truly wonderful resource!

Unwrapping the Names of Jesus is available in electronic and paperback formats here. You won’t regret the purchase!

My journey to faith. (15)