Thursday, December 30, 2010

Expecting the Unexpected

As 2010 draws to a rather mellow close, I'm enjoying the soothing peace. For a change.

But I know that expecting the unexpected is a way of life in this busy world we attempt to function in, so I can't help but wonder a bit about what surprises 2011 has in store.

I'm reminded of the night a few weeks ago when I agreed to play the piano at a wedding. Now I don't really play much any more ... actually NONE ... since I stopped teaching private piano students three years ago, so I was a smidge nervous about this prospect. It was a small wedding and the bride wasn't at all picky about her music, so I suggested four classical pieces, which she readily agreed to.

So I diligently brushed up on those specific pieces - Pachelbel's Canon in D, Beethoven's Ode to Joy, Bach's Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring and Beethoven's Fur Elise - for several weeks. Altogether, they were designed to last about 15 minutes before the bride was to appear at the door, cuing me to launch into "Here Comes the Bride."

Cool beans. No worries, mon.

Then came the big night. The bride's sister (the only family member able to attend from Haiti) was delayed at the airport at the last minute so the 7:00 wedding was switched to 7:30. Finally, at 8:00 when she still hadn't arrived, and the guests and I had become thoroughly bored staring down one another, I was told to "just begin playing - she should be here any minute and we'll start the bride down the aisle at approximately 8:15." 

So I played. And I played. And I played. All my prepared music. Then I went through them again. And again. I had no other pieces with me and heaven knows whatever I'd memtorized during my early years had long since evacuated to higher ground.

I finally had to stop due to hand cramps after completing Canon in D for the FOURTEENTH time. Honestly. I ain't funnin' ya. I considered Chopsticks and Heart and Soul as time-fillers, but decided against it. I think if I ever see Canon in D again I'll rip out my very last three hairs.

I felt like cheering when the bride finally appeared at the back door, giving me the thumb's up. I attacked "Here Comes the Bride" with the zeal of a freshly pardoned convict.

So unforseen things happen from time to time, and we are called upon to dig deep to deal with them. Gracefully. It's easy to deal with them like spoiled little brats - my personal forte, but much harder to act like a grown-up. I've been told that once you're in your 50's you're expected to be that level.


So here's hoping your New Year will be peaceful and calm and uncluttered with Canons that never stop.

Friday, December 24, 2010

A Place for Jesus

So this is what it's supposed to look like, right? The nativity set in your front yard, I mean.

Well, mine didn't. For the entire month of December, something - or should I say someone - crucial was missing.

It all started last year when I took my yard nativity set in to Children's Church as my visual aid in telling the Christmas story on a stage before 200 kids. My coffee table model was just too small, so it seemed like a good idea to heist the larger hollow plastic model from the yard.

Everything was great until the chubby 8-year-old playing Mary was so startled by the heavenly host appearing that she stepped backward on the manger and sent Baby Jesus log-rolling across the stage. You could hear the c-r-a-c-k of the cheap plastic manger legs in the back row.


Because the set is 20-years-old, there are no replacements available, and I haven't been able to find any wooden boxes or feed troughs that would do. So we've had no manger to house the wee Savior all season. It just didn't seem right to lay the Prince of Peace on the bare ground, so we decided to leave him boxed up in the garage until an idea hit us.

But none did. Until today, Christmas Eve.

I was in the backyard, sprawled on the hammock under the big oak tree, and happened to remember our manger-less manger scene. "Lord, can you please help us with this one? We want to honor Your son, but we've exhausted all our ideas. Got any You can share?"

About a minute later, a shaft of sunlight peeking through the leaves hit something metalic in our yard debris pile at the back of our lot and shone like a lantern. It was an old rusty fireplace grate we'd discarded years ago, the PERFECT size for a manger.

It had been there all along but we never saw it until we asked for heavenly help.

Isn't it heart-warming how God will provde a place for the Savior in our lives if we only ask Him?

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Coty Near-Facts of Science

Okay, girlfriends - I'm caving in to requests for a synopsis of a few of my Coty Near-Facts of Science. Sorry, my publisher won't let me share ALL the new ones coming out in my fall 2011 and spring 2012 releases, Too Blessed to Stay Stressed and More Beauty, Less Beast, but I can spill those from Mom NEEDS Chocolate and a preview of a few new ones.

Can you come up with some of your own? I'd love to hear them!  Enjoy!

TCC: Time Contortion Continuum: An angel with a warped sense of humor mans the time joystick in heaven and loves to make us squirm. Need proof? You know how time drags on sleepless nights as you thrash about in the covers, but zips by in hyperdrive when company's coming and the gravy boat hits the linoleum?

Theory of Negative Relative-osity: As soon as you utter the prophetic words, "My child will never ..." cosmic forces kick in to ensure that your little darlin' will perform that precise behavior for the rest of his life. Or until you end his life.

Earring Paradox: When shopping for a specific style or color, inevitably the only cute earrings you can find are clip-ons.

VR Theory: Volume Relativity: The phenomenon that occurs over the summer when your jeans inexplicably shrink two sizes in your dresser drawer. We HATE this one!

Spontaneous Degeneration: When left in an unnaturally clean state, matter will spontaneously atrophy into indiscriminant disarray. An hour after you triumphantly finish slaving over a clean house, mold begins to sprout on shiny faucets, green slime oozes from the vegetable crisper, and dust bunnies proliferate for a closet reunion. Black dirt erupts like lava from the carpet nap, clothing magically appears on every piece of sit-able furniture, and dirty panties peek from behind hampers just in time for the dog to proudly present them to dinner guests.

BBP: Bursting Bladder Phenomenon: That inexplicable law of nature that expands one 6-oz cup of hot tea comsumed before bedtime into two quarts an hour after you hit the sack. And then mysteriously dredges up another quart every half hour therafter. It's the gift that keeps on giving ... all night long!

D.A.M.: That dreaded teenage malady, Disorder of Adolescent Memory. Amazing how stacks of dirty dishes and chores they've done every single day of their lives are so easy to forget! There are times you just want to hook a voltmeter up to their little punkin brains to see if anything is getting through.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Christmas Glitter

Don't you just love the special treats Papa God sends our way to remind us that He's intimately involved in every detail of our lives? I call them grace notes. My friend Esther recently told me of one of God's amazing grace notes in her life.
Esther had been dismayed that during her only son's wedding three years ago, somehow a photo of Esther and her husband with the newlyweds had fallen between the cracks. The photographer had snapped pics of family groups and friends and seemingly everyone there except the four of them together.

Esther was deeply disappointed. She knew that was a special moment she could never get back.

Fast forward three years. Esther turned a flash drive from their camera into Walgreens to retrieve some recent pictures she needed of the children's Bible Club she leads. Because there were 200 pictures on the flash drive, the clerk told Esther she'd receive a free 8x10 with her purchase, and asked her to choose one. Esther didn't really have time to look through all 200 photos, but she felt an inner nudge to do just that. Lo and behold, buried deeply in the bunch, somehow - no one knows who snapped it or when - there was a head-on, looking-right-at-the-camera wedding shot of Esther, her husband, her son and his brand new wife.

It was exactly what she had wanted!

In Esther's words, "God's grace sprinkled over me like Christmas glitter, saying, 'Thank you, Esther, for being still to listen; I heard the desire of your heart.'" 

What grace note glitter will God sprinkle into your life this Christmas season?

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Not Just a Pretty Face

I was floored last week to barely recognize a well known actress from a 70s sitcom as she loomed large on my TV screen. I rarely watch TV, but being it's the Christmas season, my daughter insisted that we catch a few of the Hallmark Hall of Fame cheesy holiday movies.

I had to double check the credits as this particular actress caught my eye. She slightly resembled her younger famous self, but she hadn't aged well at all. It sure got my attention. And made me sad in a way. I guess partly because I've been thinking a lot about appearance lately as I've been working on a chapter about outer beauty for my new book, More Beauty, Less Beast.

I have to admit the damage done by the ravages of time made me pity her.

And then today as I was filling my gas tank, I studied my reflection in my car's side window and suddenly identified with that poor actress. How often do we really look at ourselves? For me, it's just a casual glance in a mirror a few times a day to make sure I don't have spinach between my teeth or my hair isn't sticking out like a scarecrow. But there in the glaring light of day reflected in my window, every single wrinkle, ugly pore, blemish, and saggy jowel showed up loud and clear.

Was that really ME? It didn't look like the me in my head - the self-image I've had of me for the past decade.

It was eye-opening to say the least.

I was immensely thankful that I don't have to make my living by my appearance. How draining it must be to have to be beautiful all the time. Certainly there are those who do it and have done it well for decade after decade; Christy Brinkley, Rachel Welch, and Sophia Loren come to mind. Timeless beauties, by anyone's standards.

But what is beauty by God's standards?

That's precisely what I intend to find out. That intangible, indescribable, radiant beauty that shines from within - we've all known people who had it. People who don't necessarily posess society's standards of physical beauty, but leave us basking in their beauty nonetheless.

As I journey through life, never knowing what surprises (or wrinkles or bags) the next bend in the road will bring, I want to know that I will always be beautiful to my Father. The only one who counts.