Friday, July 30, 2010

Still on 94

As you’re nearing downtown Minneapolis from the northwest on I-94, there is a very tall pole with a car on top. Inside the car is a mannequin. I think it’s located at an auto junkyard perhaps? Or a mechanic shop? I’m not sure. But it’s been around for many years. I can recall seeing this strange icon even as a little girl.

To weirdify the car-on-pole-with-mannequin even more (oh yes, it can get weirder), there’s a Bible verse posted on the side of the car. As I sped past the icon last night, I silently repeated the Bible verse in my head—Psalm 46:10—wanting to look it up when I got home. And I contemplated what the verse would be about. Had it not been in Psalms, I would have guessed it’d be a disturbing verse on hell or something.

My car and my mind continued on last night. I rushed on to my destination, glancing at my watch. Would I make it on time? I had rushed out of work, there had been traffic, I needed gas but didn’t have time to get gas. Would I have time in the morning before work? Could I make it that far without running out of gas? What exit again was I supposed to take? Fender bender pulled off on the right shoulder. Ambulance going the opposite direction on 94. A semi passing me. A billboard for depression. Oh, I can’t forget to pay my Target bill…

And on and on and on…

This morning, I remembered to look up the verse. What I read caused me to smile.

"Be still,
and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth."

Of course that's what it would be. How brilliant. The millions of people going 70 mph past the car-on-pole-with-mannequin (who, by the way, wears a rain slicker?!) each day are the furthest thing from still! Me included. What a great reminder to slow down. To be still in God’s presence. To see and hear Him amidst the busy-ness of life.

So, happy Friday, friends. Take some time this weekend to be still. Or at least a little still-er to exalt Him!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Horse of a half wagon

I don’t know why, but two colloquial phrases just never cement in my brain. Other people can say them just fine. But when I want to say one of them, the other one comes to mind and messes me up, and I cannot find the right word combination.

"a horse a piece" and
"six of one, half dozen of the other"

Both phrases mean that it doesn’t really matter. Same difference, if you will.

So, a few months back, in conversation with BJ, one of these phrases would have been perfect. I stumbled..."it’s a...six" and then frustrated blurted out, "it’s a HORSE OF A HALF WAGON!" He looked at me incredulously, eyebrows raised, as if to say, Excuse me? YOU are the English major and the journalist?

"Yeah, Ok," I said, "I don’t know, but you know what I’m trying to say!"

In thinking about these two phrases, I realized that the "six of one" makes perfect sense. I get it. But the "horse" one? What the heck does that mean? A horse a piece? And then I wondered if I maybe knew the phrase's origin, if I'd be able to verbally execute it correctly in the future with confidence.

So, I did some research. Now, I realize the internet is not always the most trusted source, but I found in multiple places the same explanation for the origin of "a horse a piece." And interestingly one place said that "a horse a piece" is just the easier way to say "six of one half dozen of the other." (for some, maybe)

What I learned: the phrase "a horse a piece" originated in the Midwest where a common game played at the local bar was called "bar dice." If you were losing in this game, you were said to have "a horse on you." If everyone was a loser and had a horse on them, then it was "a horse a piece." Everyone sucked. Now, I couldn't find out why a horse. Why not another animal? Does it go all the way back to when people rode their horses to the bar and tied them up outside?

Well, whatever. I suppose it's a horse of a half wagon. Same difference. Ok?

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Old? New? Who's to say?

Our house is a strange mixture of old and new. In our kitchen are bags filled with boxes containing new dishes, kitchen appliances, and more—all wedding gifts—which I’m unclear about where they’ll go or how they’ll fit! In the garage are boxes of my husband’s old stuff. His track and field jacket from high school, for example. And in efforts of making room for him, I came across my old graphing calculator (Do you know how bulky those things are?!) and dusty cassette tapes that my aunt used to make and send to me when I was a little girl. Then in contrast is a bright, shiny new copper bowl sitting on our kitchen table—a wedding gift said to remind us in the future that if not taken care of, a marriage will tarnish.

This mixture of old and new has raised questions and instigated discussions about what’s worth keeping and what should be thrown away. What has worth and merit. What doesn’t.

This then got me thinking about when things become “old.” Where is the line that once crossed means something is no longer “new”? When does a new house become an old house?At what point did my cool, new graphing calculator become bulky and uncool? When will our new food processor become just our food processor? And then at what point do we start referring to it as a wedding gift that we’ve had for so many years (meaning it's old)?

I don’t know. But in church on Sunday pastor made the comment that we all remain saints and sinners. At the same time. A strange mix of old and new.

In 2 Corinthians 5: 17-21, Paul writes: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come...We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us...Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

We may be old and sinful, but God--thanks to Jesus--deems us new. Forever. Always. Consistently. At no point does he think we've become old and bulky or meritless. So, I think "old" and "new" is not so much about the object as it is about the owner. And when God owns you, you're always new (even though you're old).

For the record, I got rid of the graphing calculator and kept my aunt's cassette tapes. Pretty sure that track and field jacket is still laying around though.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Construction begins April 13.

Really? I thought as I drove home from work on Tuesday. Everyone knows here in the Twin Cities we spend the majority of our summer sitting in construction traffic; our roads, which suffered tremendously during the frigid months, are in desperate need of TLC. So each June, July, and August, men and women dressed in the brightest coloring I’ve ever seen work around the clock to repair them before they get ruined again this winter. The orange signs throughout the metro area notifying us of detours and closures are out of control.

But on Tuesday, a new sign had popped up along the freeway that I drive home, warning us of construction between two locations starting April 13.

April 13th? Was someone having a bad day and it should be August 13th? April 13th? I silently counted…that’s 9 months away! And then the thought crossed my mind...had it been up since before this past April 13th and I just missed it?

Just how, exactly, is this sign helpful? How would I, could I, prepare? What exactly does it do for the general public? It gives me no information. Are we talking detours? 1 of three lanes closed? 2 of three lanes closed? Nothing.

Really this sign is just causing additional stress and irritation. Oh great, more long commutes ahead! Thanks for notifying me of this nine months in advance.

And now we’re going to have a huge ugly fluorescent sign up for the next nine months.

Well, that same day I had a conversation with my momma. Per usual, I was thinking too far ahead.

“Heather, don’t even go there,” she said. “You don’t know what it’s going to look like.”

She’s right, of course. I mean I have an orange sign telling me a few things. Which I kindly pointed out to her. I know some basics about the future. But I don’t know details. I don't know lane closures. And yet, I’m worried about them!

To this day, before I fall asleep, the words of the prayers that I was taught as a little girl go through my head. I don’t officially pray them on a regular basis anymore. But their simple words still provide a sense of comfort and closure to my day.

Now I lay me down to sleep.
I pray thee Lord my soul to keep.
If I should die before I wake, I pray thee Lord my soul to take.

Jesus, Savior, wash away all that has been wrong today.
Help me every day to be good and gentle more like thee.

Last night, I was struck by the daily-ness of them. They’re not about tomorrow.
Forgive me for TODAY. Protect me through TONIGHT. They focus on one day. The immediate.

There’s enough life construction today that needs my, our, attention. I don’t need to put up unhelpful signs about the construction that’s ahead.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Post-trip volume

Whether it’d be a camping weekend with friends, a 10-day trip to Israel for work, a weekend getaway with the girls, or a short trip back to Minnesota to see fam...I’d always return to a quiet, person-less apartment or home. Don’t get me wrong—I loved living alone, but I always had to take a deep breath and a big swallow, sometimes even fighting back the tears as I checked my mail and plopped my bags down.

For a brief time, I had gotten used to eating breakfast with others, sleeping next to others or at least sleeping in a room next to others, talking more than usual, laughing more than usual. More people had been around me while I was away. And suddenly I was, indeed, alone again. The sounds of myself brushing my teeth, doing laundry, emptying the dishwasher, zipping up the suitcase or duffel to put back into the closet...these things would all suddenly be very loud without anyone else around. With time, the quiet which had become so loud would fade, and my solo volume became just fine again. But I always dreaded that short transitional time after a trip.

Yesterday, I—we—returned from our honeymoon. As we walked into my—our—quiet house I had a momentary pang of dread... until I realized my best friend was right behind me, carrying his bags and mine. He went back outside to do manly stuff, I suppose. I started our laundry, but this time I didn’t hear myself starting the washer. Instead I heard BJ starting my car in the driveway to make sure I could get to work today. And later, I didn’t hear myself brushing my teeth. Instead, I heard BJ coming up the stairs.

Friday, July 02, 2010

My kangaroo paw

Last Saturday, a friend and I walked through a refrigerator of flowers searching for just the right combo of colors and shapes and sizes for my wedding bouquet. It was a daunting task filled with too many options, so I was happy to have my friend, who has done this before, along.

The process: You pick out the flowers. Flower woman orders them wholesale. You pick up the flowers, and then lucky friends and family help you make your own bouquets, corsages, and boutonnieres. (Because who really wants the easy route where a florist does all the work for you?!)

After an hour or so of talking with the flower woman and mixing and matching various flowers and plants, we found a combination that we thought was really good. The flower lady held up the bunch, and we liked. But these funky, fuzzy yellow things had caught my eye in the fridge earlier, so I asked about ‘em.

"Oh, the kangaroo paws?" flower woman asked.

"Uh, yes. Those paws," I said.

She went and grabbed a stalk of the paws from the fridge and put it into our bunch and and bright shining light...the ensemble was complete. The paws finished our floral masterpiece.

Kangaroo paws are bright (sometimes red, sometimes yellow) and velvety and sturdy, which apparently makes them great natural perches for birds. And, as you may have guessed, they’re native to Australia, but are now commercially grown in Israel and Cali too.

The stalks of the paws were pretty expensive compared to everything else, but I decided the bouquets needed them. Much like I need BJ. He's my kangaroo paw in life's bouquet.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Best Woman

Not too much time, but thought I’d hop on a little bride soapbox for a second. I realized two nights ago that I have very strong feelings about the titles "maids" and "matrons" of honor.

My dear friend is standing next to me at my wedding because she knows me inside and out, because I think we were separated at birth, because she prays for me faithfully, because my life is better and more fun with her in it.

This friend happens to be married. So, tradition calls her a matron of honor. Now, when I asked said friend to be in my wedding, she said of course, on the condition that I do NOT refer to her as my matron of honor. I laughed and thought this was funny at the time, but as BJ and I finalized our program, I realized this isn’t just funny!

Why does the girl have to be identified as married (matron) or not married (maid) when the guy can be BEST MAN forever...both before and after he’s married? That means we should get to be BEST WOMEN!

And at first I thought the word “matron” was bad. But actually what’s worse is the term “maid,” which means “virgin” or “female servant” or “biddy” (which means “hag” or “chick”). Now, for the record, I am honored to have stood next to friends in their weddings as a bridesmaid. And I realize these meanings never came close to entering the minds of those involved in the wedding. But you know I'm a word freak, and the more I think about it, the traditional titles just don’t seem all that cool. You’re the bride’s biddy? No! You’re the bride’s confidante and friend and companion!

So, anyways, the woman who will stand beside me will be there NOT because she’s my matron of honor, but because she is my dear friend. She is the BEST WOMAN!