Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Sharing makes spectacular

Last night I got home and had a package greeting me at the foot of my front door. It was from Grif, my old-man neighbor in Cali, who you’ve heard about before. It was rather heavy, and I desperately wanted to open it immediately, but looking at the clock, I had a very limited amount of time to shower after having gone to the gym and then get back out the door to meet people for dinner. So, I threw it over by the tree until later.

When I got home, I plopped down and opened. First, a card. He had gone to the store and picked out a very sentimental card from Hallmark. The words “Remembering You at Christmastime...” decorated the front. The inside was more text about how special I am and how much he thinks of me during this season. My heart melted. He doesn’t get around very well. He has trouble going up and down the stairs to his apartment! So, all I could think about was the fact that he had made the effort to get to the store and sift through cards to pick out just the right one. All for me.

Second. A business-sized envelope labeled in his handwriting: “Heather Things.” Inside were pens...pens I knew he had gotten for free with his Reader’s Digest subscription. But that’s not the point. The point is, he knows I write. Pens are Heather Things. So thoughtful!

Third. Another business-sized envelope labeled in his handwriting: “Heather More Things.” Inside were 10 to 15 bookmarks of various shapes and sizes and colors. One had come from a used bookstore in Carlsbad, Cali, where I used to live. One was for the 1.800 medical hotline he can call if he has problems with his diabetes meds. One was black with an orange tassel and Garfield, saying “I’m cool. I’m cool. I’m a reading fool.” Again, not the most glamorous gift by any stretch of the imagination, but oh-so-thoughtful. Indeed, bookmarks are Heather More Things.

Fourth. Something square wrapped--a black box with my name engraved on it. In the box was uncirculated, limited edition state quarters. 10 of them. The last two have yet to be issued. I may or may not have had to blink back a tear. Grif doesn’t have much to expend in terms of money. The bookmarks and pens would have sufficed! But what he could give, he gave. He even engraved! I envisioned him having to direct someone on how to spell my name over the phone. All for me. It’s too much. Too much.

Anyways, the contents of that little box yesterday reminded me of the true reason for the season—to be cliché. Like my pens and bookmarks, Jesus’ birth in a manger of some sort was not exceptionally glitzy, sparkly or spectacular. What was spectacular though? the angels proclaiming the birth of Jesus to the shepherds:

At once the angel was joined by a huge angelic choir singing God's praises:
Glory to God in the heavenly heights,
Peace to all men and women on earth who please him.
…all who heard were amazed.
(Luke 2)

Jesus’ birth became pretty glitzy and sparkly when it was shared, when it was given away! When it was told!

In business-sized envelopes labeled “Heather Things,” Christmas became spectacular for me last night.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Wintery songs for wintery week

I'm totally stuck on winter songs this week. This is a good thing as here in the Twin Cities we are expected to get--potentially--two feet of snow on Christmas Eve into Christmas Day! Bring on winter! Let us sing winter songs together!

Like a little girl, I'm crazy excited for vacation, for presents, for singing Silent Night at church, and for fresh snowflakes! I'm scheming ways that I can coax my brother outside to make a snowman and woman (perhaps some snow angels?) Christmas Eve night with me. I'm also dreaming of waking up in my old bedroom at mom and dad's on Christmas Day and looking outside to snow, beautiful snow! One of the things I most appreciate about waking up at home-home is the sound of voices, the thuds of mom and dad moving around upstairs, and the smell of coffee and breakfast. Living alone, I wake up to silence. But at home-home, I wake up to my peeps.

I'd like to share with you some of these winter songs that I speak of. Some truly are "winter," thanks to their title and/or lyrics. Others are just made wintery by me. They feel, speak, or are winter to me.

First. Winter Song by Sara Bareilles and Ingrid Michealson, off a very wonderful and highly recommended Christmas album: "Hotel Cafe Presents...Winter Songs." This song and cartoon can make you cry and smile at the same time. It makes me miss my bestest friend in Cali like no other...and wish we could spend the holidays together.

Second. Lump Sum by Bon Iver off his "For Emma, For Ever Ago." Please tell me you not only know who Bon Iver is, but LOVE him! He actually wrote "For Emma, For Ever Ago" while huddled up in a Wisconsin cabin in the deep of winter. And for the record, I've met him, and even have a photo of me and him. We're tight.

Third. December by Norah Jones off her new album "The Fall," which has been stuck in my CD player since I bought.

Fourth. For my dad's birthday last week, I bought him the new Sting album, which is 1. amazing and 2. technically Christmas, but can probably be played legally until March? At least. It's called "If On A Winter's Night." I'm sharing with you The Hounds of Winter.

Fifth. I've loved Sarah McLachlan's version of Song for a Winter's Night for years. I can remember studying for finals on the top floor of the St. Thomas library, as it snowed outside. (note: This particular youtube video is uber cheesy. Just enjoy the music, please.)

Happy Winter to you!

Monday, December 21, 2009

A good good week

“I’ve got a feeling…tonight’s gonna be a good good night…”

Heard the song? I’m sure you have. It’s the Black Eyed Peas.

But I bet you haven’t heard it in church! I have. As in played by the worship band during the service on Saturday night. As they started playing the instrumental intro, I thought to myself…oh, that’s funny, they’re kind of playing off of the Black Eyed Peas song. I wonder what hymn it’ll break into. They are very creative here at this church.

But then they started singing "I’ve got a feeling…" And I froze. Really? We’re singing Fergie in church? The song says jump off that sofa, not the pew, people! What are you doing?! And the line fill up my cup is not referring to communion! I looked around at others. Did they hear what was going on?

Thankfully, they didn’t go into the full song. Just the chorus. And then it quickly flowed into a "normal church song." But it totally made me uncomfortable. I didn’t like it one bit. I instantly started judging whoever it was that made the decision to sing that song. Who thought that was a good idea? How irreverent! Inappropriate!

I’ve been thinking about it more though…

First. It’s interesting as I’m generally on the other side of the fence. My worship preferences tend to be a bit edgier, more contemporary, more liberal (whatever term you prefer to use), than whoever I’m talking with. So, for me to suddenly think that something in the church service has been taken too far, is a switch. And it’s a little humbling. I don’t like when other people judge my worship preferences or deem them inappropriate. Who are they to say what is or isn’t worship for me? So, then, who am I to say the same of others?

Second. Ok. Fine. I can’t judge, but can I if what they’re playing is actually the music of hoochiemama nightclubs! If the video of the song is rather risqué? Let’s just say, Fergie doesn’t wear a turtleneck in it. It’s not like I’m judging their version of Amazing Grace! But, they didn’t play the video. Nor did they sing the whole song. They sang the chorus. So I should chill. And, I'm kind of a walking contradiction. If the song is good enough to chill on my radio for me to sing (dance) along to...I should probably be able to bring it into church?

Third. The song I’ve got a feeling makes you dance. I cannot hear this song without singing along, and I certainly cannot hear this song without at least boppin’ my head just a little bit (if not full-out dancing). And that is just the kind of joy I want to have because of Christ’s love for me. His goodness and grace is too good for us to remain seated in life! He is SO sacred that we should be moving! In fact, we may be disrespectful if we sit back quietly in life.

So, I don’t know. I just decided that it’s not my favorite thing to hear KDWB songs in church, but hey, if it works for others, fantastic. And if I had gotten over my shock of singing I've got feeling in church before they cut to the church song, I'm pretty sure I would have been dancing while worshipping!

It’s Jesus’ birthday this week. And I’ve got a feeling it’s going to be a good good week. One worth dancing to.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Seal training

Lest I become arrogant, I now have three seals dangling above my head at work.

Mom and dad were visiting me in California once. I lived near the large Marine base, Camp Pendleton. We were driving through the camp, along the ocean. Often as you go through, you’ll see Marines doing various training exercises. On this particular day, there was a very large chopper just off the coast. Dad said something about dropping seals. My little wheels spun for a few seconds, and I asked why the heck they’d be dropping seals?! I mean, I’m not a huge animal lover, but wouldn’t that hurt them?! And golly, think of the splash?!

Ah yes. Definitely one of my finer moments!
One of the reasons I love my coworkers is that we do not take ourselves too seriously. We laugh at and with each other, and we all know the silly and/or dumb things we’ve done. And then we don’t let each other live them down. This helps keep us humble. When one of my coworkers was being “picked on” a few weeks ago, I thought I’d distract the crowd. I shared my seal story; it of course elicited excessive laughter.

A few days later, I walked into my office. There, hanging down from ribbons above my desk were three cute, acrylic seals. They are dropping--training, I’m sure.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

In like WHAT?

I just used the phrase "in like flint" and shortly after, was told that it holds sexual innuendos. And the context in which I used it should not have carried any sexual innuendos. Furthermore, I was told it's actually "flynn," not "flint."

I immediately started wondering if I’ve ever unknowingly used this phrase in a work conversation? What did people think?! Or at cocktail parties and people later, behind my backs, were like "Eegads, that girl is a little inappropriate! Even if she is wearing a turtleneck, I smell promiscuous!"

So, I researched.

The original saying is "in like Flynn." As in Errol Flynn. He was an Australian movie star in the 1940s. At that time, it’s believed that the saying merely implied speed and/or success within a particular situation because Flynn’s character in many of his movies was often quick and successful.

Then in 1967, the movie--a spy spook--In Like Flint came out. Its lead character was Derek Flint. The title was a pun on the saying “in like Flynn.” People got confused. Obviously. And Flynn and flint started to be used interchangeably.

To further complicate matters, Errol Flynn was a playa’, known for his promiscuity, alcohol consumption, and brawling. In fact, he was charged and acquitted of statutory rape of two teenage girls in 1943. So…"in like Flynn" started meaning something less than wholesome. And now people like me go around saying it!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Mixes senses

To one of my best friends, I am a pretty mix of purple and orange. For her, the letter H is purple; the letter J orange. Always.

I have another friend who sees each number as a distinct color. When I was looking for homes to buy, I’d tell her the address and depending on the color scheme of the numbers (pretty or clashing?) she’d say “good” or “bad.”

They both have synesthesia, a condition where senses that should separate don’t. Sound and smell may cross wires. Or taste and touch. Taste and sight. Imagine seeing pointy objects or shapes when you tasted chicken, and circles when you tasted chocolate!

The word "synesthesia" is a mix of Latin and Greek: "syn" latin for "together" and "esthesia" Greek for "sensation or perception."

Ironically, my letter/color friend was unaware that her “condition” was a “condition” until she found out about my number/color friend. They've now formed a support group... nah, just kidding. But seriously weird, given that it’s estimated that only 1 in every 250,000 (to maybe 1 in 20,000) people have this. Women are six times more likely to have—suffer from?—synesthesia. And, fyi, John Mayer is a synesthete. In his brain, he sees each music note as a color.

Thursday, December 10, 2009


Five inches of snow and below-zero temps can be rather revealing. These conditions will render you motionless on the freeway. You. Will. Not. Move. So, this morning—as I was far from free on the freeway—I found myself looking out my side windows taking in scenery I normally don’t take in on my way to work. Things were revealed! I saw signs I’ve never seen before. How the heck could I have missed that sign for the past 700 days that I’ve made this drive to work? And that backyard? Really? They have a basketball court on the side? And that pole on the bridge, why haven’t I noticed that before? What is that for anyways? All these things.

I just turned in my final paper for the trimester. (Cheers erupt!) One of the things I had to write about was revelation, as in how God reveals Himself to us. First, I guess it should be noted that He does, in fact, need to do some serious revealing. This insinuates that not everything is clear, and for me, that’s true. I’m often wondering what the heck is going on.

In Ephesians, Paul says, “I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better,” (1:17) Yes, please. I’ll take some of that wisdom. And I appreciate that later on he calls God and God’s grace a mystery. (Eph 3.3) That it is! Jesus says that the mystery is probably not going to be solved by those around us though. He states: “This was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in Heaven,” (Matthew 16:17). (That’s a good thing because as I Was. Not. Moving on the freeway, the guy next to me had a t-shirt on, his window rolled down and was smoking a cigarette. Did I mention it’s negative zero? I'd prefer he not reveal anything to me!)

Rather God’s words do the revealing: “They are as true among today as when you first heard it. It doesn't diminish or weaken over time,” (Mark 13:31). And I have to say that one of the many many things I appreciate about my faith is that God’s words are always there…just like those signs I saw this morning that have been there all along. Admittedly, often, I'm going too fast to see them, but they're there. And through them, at different points in my life and in different situations, He reveals himself differently, guiding me. “By your words I can see where I’m going; they throw a beam of light on my dark path,” (Psalm 119:105).

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Many moments to you

I visited some friends last week. Pulling up to their house, I saw their Christmas tree through the window. As I knocked and walked in, I could hear their little two year old, giggling in the bathtub. I kicked off my shoes and headed to the bathroom to plop down on the toilet and participate in bath time. The little boy Peter is an absolute doll, and in the presence of company, he also became a show off. So excited to have a visitor, he splashed around like a fish.

After bathtime, it was on to story time. Also humorous. While his mom and I read the book and enjoyed the pictures, Peter had his face smooshed into the pillow and his little bottom wiggling high in the air. I asked if this was how story time always was? "Um, no," his mom told me. "He’s trying to impress you with his suave moves." And it was working. I couldn’t stop laughing. He also kept unzipping his pajamas to show me his very manly chest.

Before bed Peter’s mom asked him who he should go say good night to. He said Jesus. Looking back at me to make sure I was following him, he padded into the living room and dropped down at the Christmas tree. He picked up the little baby Jesus that was part of the nativity scene. Rather than saying good night to Jesus, he turned and handed Jesus to his mom and said “poopy.” Jesus has a poopy diaper. He should be changed.

Alas, with a kiss good night, Peter went to bed. His mom (and the little baby inside her!), dad, and me cuddled up on the couch in front of the tree with hot tea to get caught up…and…

I had a moment. One of those fleeting moments where life’s goodness is almost too much to take in. I was momentarily overcome with how lucky I am to have such dear friends. To be warm inside their cozy home, doing life with them. Talking, listening, caring. The Christmas tree lights twinkling. Peter sleeping in the other room. A baby on the way for my friends. God is so good, I thought. So good. And as quickly as that moment comes, it passes, but it’s not forgotten!

In my head, I was just processing the pros and cons of doing Christmas cards. Should I do cards? And when would I do these cards? Each one uniquely handwritten? Should I do one mass letter? Should I try to do a photo of some sort? Perhaps involving snow for my Cali friends? Are we going to have snow? Or, what about just NO card? And as I was thinking through these things, I pondered what I’d write to people besides the standard recap of the year. I realized that for my friends and family, I wish them "moments." Lots of "moments" like the one I had at my friends’ house last week. Moments where God’s goodness is too much, too obvious, too clear. You almost can’t breathe.

Anyways, I’m not sure if you’ll get a card from me or not. But if you don’t, know that I wish you many "moments."

Monday, December 07, 2009

11 in 11

11 steps to making a friend more than a friend in just 11 short years

1. Meet him in high school, but don’t date him. Date someone else. But regularly cut out of track practice to go to KFC and have mashed-potato eating contests with your friend. For good measure, you may decorate his locker with photos of Sarah Michelle Gellar—who he thinks is hot.

2. Continue the friendship through college by visiting each other, talking on the phone, emailing, drinking too much together, smoking cigars together. Still have your high school boyfriend though. In fact, the three of you should hang out often.

3. When things do finally go south with high school boyfriend and you call it off, call your friend. Obviously! He’ll come over and make you laugh and do your dishes for you.

4. Graduate from college and move to Cali. When your friend comes out to visit you and suggests being more than friends, firmly tell him no, absolutely not. Won’t work. But then continue to be great, if not better, friends.

5. Move back to Minnesota. Strengthen the friendship by dating many others. Then meet up with your friend often and laugh about these “others” that you date. He’ll do likewise.

6. Even if you’re seeing someone else (and he happens to be out of town for the weekend), invite your friend over to dinner at your parents’ house. Your parents already love your friend and you’ll have a fabulous time.

7. You may wonder at times if you could perhaps be more than friends with your friend, but just sit on it for a bit. Do some praying and then decide no. Don’t do anything. Just keep dating others, even if the people closest to you ask if you're really sure about your friend not being more than a friend.

8. You and your friend should take your siblings camping for a weekend, even if you’re dating others. Now you’ve been such great friends for so long that nobody really even questions the weirdness (save those you may be dating). Try it.

9. Then, when your friend has been in a relationship for at least six months, and when’s he’s about to move far away, when the timing couldn’t be worse…then you should start seriously thinking about saying something to him about maybe being more than friends.

10. Write him a letter that states your fears and all the things you wonder about. Then tell him you have something to give him and you need to meet him. He will meet you at a park but inform you beforehand that he needs to be done by a certain time because he has dinner plans with his girlfriend. Feel free to freak out a wee bit (or a little more) at this point. But don’t cave.

11. Meet at the park. Sit down on a step. Face your friend. Remove letter from envelope. Read letter. Cry as you read letter. Put letter back in envelope. Hand him the envelope and tell your friend that you will be on your way now, because this is most assuredly a movie, and no one scratched the DVD to save you from making an idiot of yourself! But don’t get up too quickly because your friend will lean in, kiss you, and tell you that it is most certainly not too late. Steps 1 through 11 work—they can make a friend more than a friend.

Friday, December 04, 2009


I’ve spent a lot of time with dead people recently. Or at least reading about them.

Over Thanksgiving, my grandpa handed off to me 20 years worth of work. He’s slowly but surely pulled together a 250 to 300-page, 1st-person account (genealogy) of our family, dating back to the early 1800s. I’m honored that he would like me to edit the piece, and already I have had a blast reading stories about my great-great grandparents!

Today, I find myself digging through a book called A Centenary History searching for stories and dates for a piece I’m writing at work about the university’s archives. The book chronicles the “Baptist pioneers who made history by serving humbly and without thought of recognition” between the years 1852 and 1952. It's so old that its dusty pages are making me sneeze!

But I have to tell you, reading the stories of so many people from so many generations ago can make one feel small. I am just one little-biddy person who happens to be alive in the year 2009. Will I be just a name in a book someday? One of many?

Over snickerdoodles and coffee a couple weeks ago, I had the privilege of interviewing a 90-year-old woman—a spitfire—named Nancy. In her home, we chatted and she shared what it was like to be the wife of a university president for some 20 years. Towards the end of our conversation, she assured me that she doesn’t intend to die anytime soon, yet she knows she’s near death, considering her life in its entirety. And now near death, she can see so much more clearly that every decision we make has a ripple effect. We are all ripplemakers, she said. She reminded me that I’m—you’re—much more than a name in a book on a dusty shelf.

Her words: “God has put you on this earth for a very brief, but specific period of life. It’s just a little space in eternity. But it’s during this time that you make big decisions and they affect those around you...and they affect your eternity…”