Archive for February 2016

Road Trip to Michigan Again   Leave a comment

I guess I’ve found a good way to get some R and R.  I went back to Michigan again this weekend and stayed with my mother in law and my brother and his family.  I did this last fall and found it to be very refreshing.   I had missed seeing my nephews at New Year’s because of illness and I really wanted to find another time to get back.  I’m glad I did.  I got home this evening feeling very happy.  I like happy.

I found a way to connect with my brother in the midst of his very busy life as a band director.  I found time to catch up with my sister-in-law.  I got to interact at length with my five-year-old nephew, and hold the baby over and over again.

I can’t get enough of the five-year-old’s conversation and the baby’s sweet heaviness.  There’s nothing quite like a huge, fuzzy, sweet-smelling, hard baby head right against your cheek.

I also had a great time thrifting with my mother in law, tooling around town running errands together, and eating in the lovely private dining room at her retirement community.  We looked through many wonderful family pictures and heard the stories that went with them, as we tried to sort them out.

But Sunday morning was the best.  Saturday night I arrived after dinner at my brother’s, and we took a nighttime stroll to the local ice cream place.  At the mention of their church’s name a hymn came to mind, and I started singing the chorus, “We’re marching to Zion, beautiful, beautiful Zion, we’re marching upward to Zion, the beautiful city of God.”

Sunday morning, after the sermon, we sang that hymn.

That’s a Lo! moment (Thank you Charles Fort for giving a name to those things).  So I sing “Then let your songs abound and every tear be dry; we’re marching through Emmanuel’s ground, to fairer worlds on high,” with my brother and sister.  I walk forward to take communion with a nice plump baby on my hip.  I travel through the worship and follow the Cross back out.

We are marching in the light of God, we are dancing in the light of God.

It doesn’t get any better than this.


Posted February 24, 2016 by swanatbagend in gratitude

Unfriending?   1 comment

I’ve been on Facebook for 8 years now and I’d like to know how to trim my friend list without hurting anyone’s feelings.

Does anyone have advice for me?

Honestly, many of the people I friended or approved when they friended me, my intention in cases where I did not know them very well already was that being on Facebook together with them would expand our relationship and allow me to get to know them more personally.

I guess that was naive.  There appears to be no substitute for face-to-face time for building a friendship.  Trying to chat it up with someone on Facebook, by liking the photos they post of their kids, and chiming in when they share a funny status, just doesn’t move the friendship into the new world of intimacy.

I also have figured out that Facebook is not the way extend an invitation.  If I want to actually get together with someone, a phone call would be more efficient.  Planning things on Facebook can stretch out into months.

So how do I get to what I want Facebook to be–that it can realistically be?  I want it to reconnect and keep up with the friends that I have blessedly accumulated over a lifetime (and yes, I have friends there I’ve known since second grade).  I want to stay connected with my current friends, and share photos and updates.  I like it as a forum to share ideas, questions and blog posts.  But that’s really it.

Is there any diplomatic way to unfriend all the random people I know are safe, but who never write me or comment on my statuses?  I want more than a tally of who clicked “approve” out of my time on Facebook.

What to do?


Posted February 17, 2016 by swanatbagend in friendship

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Gift Giving   Leave a comment

I just figured something out.

Gift giving is for the giver.

Not the recipient.

Gift giving is for the joy that it brings to the heart of the giver.

–and this is why the person receiving the gift needs to cultivate a heart that receives the gift gladly.  To maximize the joy in the interaction, the giftee can choose to receive gladly–even if the gift given is not something he likes or wants.

I know, I’m in my fifth decade and I’m just now figuring this out?  I did grow up hearing that it’s better to give than receive.  I would agree, and sometimes the hardest part is receiving.  If you really don’t like the item, it’s hard to be gracious.  It is.  Since there’s a context for the exchange of most gifts, it’s hard not to assume that people will give you something you like.

But the thing with a gift is–it’s a gift.  It’s free.  You didn’t ask for it.  You didn’t pay for it.  You didn’t look for it.  You didn’t deserve it.  Yes, sometimes you didn’t even want it.

It’s a gift.


Posted February 15, 2016 by swanatbagend in gratitude

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I Asked the Lord   Leave a comment

Seems like the answers to what you need come in a way you don’t expect.

The past 10 months have been a season of physical weakness, which for me invariably leads to emotional and mental challenges.  Honestly, I don’t know if I should call them challenges.  It hasn’t been horrible; it’s just been an ongoing small simmering fog of not feeling as up to my regular routine as usual.

Anyway, the text of one of the songs from a Christmas gift CD has addressed a question of the heart.  It’s by John Newton, the same who wrote Amazing Grace.

I asked the Lord that I might grow in faith and love and every grace

Might more of his salvation know And seek more earnestly his face

And you know, I have asked that.  Sometimes, when I’m really feeling great, I really mean it, I really do want it, and I have asked that.  I don’t want to be halfway; I want to be serious about my faith.  But here’s what happens.  I assume that the answer to this prayer and the others I’ve prayed for healing or freedom from sin will be immediate, instantaneous and complete.  It’s like when I’m at a good spot in life, I can’t imagine things being bad again.  My mind just doesn’t even go there.  My current emotional status is reality; nothing will change.

Of course, that’s not true.

My mood always changes; the only thing that’s constant there is change itself.  So as when I’m in a solid spot and think that this is what life really is, and how it is going to stay, I assume my straightforward prayer for deliverance will be answered straightforwardly, and in the way I think it should be.

I hoped that in some favored hour At once He’d answer my request

And by His love’s constraining power Subdue my sins and give me rest

I don’t know about you but I definitely have felt at times that the more I try to get myself and my life in order, the harder it is to do.  It seems that he “crosses the fair designs we scheme.”

These inward trials I employ From self and pride to set thee free

And break thy schemes of earthly joy That thou mayest seek thy all in me.

It’s not that we aren’t given gifts of earthly joy; it’s not that they are all removed.  Nope, there are many.  But when I hit the chronic struggles, I see that it is in this way the prayer gets answered.  This way, I’m always seeking him.

And that is the goal.

Is it cruel for him to foil our plans, and to not just fix our problems outright?

No.  It isn’t.

Life is full of challenges and suffering for every person.  In this world it cannot be avoided.  How much better to know that it orchestrates and guides our path closer to the one who knows us and loves us in a way which can never change.

And how alone I’d be, ultimately, if I didn’t ever struggle.  I’d think I could handle life by myself.  Wouldn’t you?


Posted February 15, 2016 by swanatbagend in prayer

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A Tale of Dried Cranberries   Leave a comment

Last summer, our family had the opportunity to go camping in Colorado in conjunction with a celebration near Breckenridge in honor of my parents’ fiftieth wedding anniversary.  That was a great celebration and both fun and amusing having fourteen very different people sharing one house and one (albeit large) kitchen.
So after several days of festivities with extended family, we set out again, for another week of sightseeing and camping.  Among our destinations was Rocky Mountain National Park.  The kids had never been there, and I would guess it had been almost twenty years since my husband and I had visited.  We had fond memories so were glad to go back.
On my birthday, we picked a hike in the Moraine Park Basin that looked do-able and would be enjoyable for all four of us.  It led along a creek, through woods and an amazing boulder field.  All went well, and when we reached our destination, The Pool, we all felt like that hadn’t taken long at all.  We ate lunch while listening to the roar of the circling waters of the Pool under the bridge we had just crossed.
Afterwards, I suggested that we go on and try to make it to the waterfall further up.  So far the trail had been basically level.  I felt great, despite not being in the best of health in general, but no altitude sickness or anything.  Everyone agreed and we started up the trail.
It was a lovely hike, through a burnt area with shocking pink fireweed, overlooking a rapidly tumbling creek below.  But, of course, after a while, it certainly seemed that we ought to have reached the falls by now.
My husband and son finally decided they definitely wanted to turn around, but I was determined to make the falls, which some hikers we asked said were really not that much farther.  I was just hot, tired and sweaty, so what of that?
Unfortunately, something about that last tenth of a mile did not agree with my entire body, and while we were sitting admiring the wonderful view of the waterfall, I started feeling light-headed and spacey.
I rested and drank water.  My daughter and I started back down.  Some nice gentleman offered me some of his water.  Now that I think of it, I must have looked like I needed a drink, but I didn’t want to take water from someone who was still going uphill, so I didn’t accept any.
My intention was to return to where the guys were sitting and get something to eat from the pack.  However, when the girl and I got back to that rock — they weren’t there.  Apparently they had done what we had agreed they might do and started back down; we’d catch up.
So now I had to manage without what was in the pack until I caught up.
We rested, I breathed deep.  I wasn’t really dizzy.  I just felt really weird.
If I could just have taken my next dose of medication, which was of course in the back-pack, I knew that would help.  Or a potato chip might help.
Honestly, though, chocolate was what I really wanted!  But I hadn’t brought any.
We continued down the trail.  As I kept feeling waves of weird, I put one foot in front of the next, was thankful my daughter was with me, and glad it was downhill at this point.
I prayed, “Lord, please get me off this mountain.”  This prayer was completely sincere.  I was concerned that if I fainted we’d be looking at ranger evacuation by helicopter or something crazy — and I really did not want to put my family through that, nor spend my birthday that way.
We finally caught up with the backpack and the medication.  I had my next dose, and had some potato chips thinking that carbs would help.  But I still really wished I had candy, chocolate, something with sugar in it (note to self: always take candy on hikes).
We took a rest back at the Pool, where we had lunch, and I ate a few more bites, and told my husband I needed to sit for a few minutes.  I didn’t tell him how badly I actually felt.  After a bit I felt I could go on, still wishing I had chocolate.
Imagine my amazement when I saw something I had never seen before on a trail: a spot of bright, cheerful, cranberry red.
It was a dried cranberry on the path.  I stopped and picked it up.  If it had been chocolate, or if there was any chocolate on the trail, I wouldn’t have been able to spot it in the dirt.  I brushed it off, and put it in my mouth.  My daughter chimed in, “Mom, don’t you know you shouldn’t eat things you find on the ground?”
I laughed and said, “Ah but this is an emergency.”
That cranberry tasted awfully good.  I thought to myself, what are the odds that there are any more?  Not too good I thought, but I kept looking as we hiked back toward the van.
There were two more.
By the time I swallowed the third one, I kid you not, I was feeling better.
You know how much sugar there is in those dried cranberries? Like 24 grams per 4 tablespoons. It was just what I needed, and there it was, waiting for me.

Posted February 6, 2016 by swanatbagend in prayer

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