Saturday, February 20, 2021

How to Climb Out of the Doldrums


I sank into the doldrums. Winter weather, COVID isolation and health issues made me want to pull a blanket over my head. I sat at my computer but could think of nothing to write. I struggled through the morning.

            After lunch, I wanted to “do something” with my hands. My bathroom cabinet and drawers had bothered me for weeks. Today was the day. I’d feel better if I accomplished great things. So cleaning cloths in hand, I emptied shelves and drawers.

            I replaced soiled liners, moved products I never use and rearranged products I do use. In my makeup drawer I found 29 alcohol prep pads. They had migrated to all corners, over and under drawer dividers—and multiplied.

            Lower drawers? Total disarray—over a bed of hair. A full bag of cotton balls could just as easily live in the linen closet. I found products I forgot I had and an instruction manual I searched for just last week.

            But I also found a brand new Sugared Snickerdoodle Fragrance refill, badly needed since my old one with a dried-up wick was still plugged in.

            All it took to accomplish great things was simply to get started plus 45 minutes.

Isn’t that how it sometimes is in our relationship with God? We let it slip. And then it turns into a mess.

We go to church—well, we used to. Now it’s so much easier to put up our feet and watch online. And no one knows if we skip even that.

We used to read our Bibles. Well, maybe that’s a habit that never developed. There’s dust on the only book that can tell us how live on earth to prepare for heaven.

And praying? What good does it do anyway? Maybe we prayed for a friend’s recovery and that friend passed on. Maybe we prayed for a different job, and it never materialized. So we give up. God? He’s far away and out of touch.

When such thoughts intrude, we need a new approach. So I suggest:

            TALK to a Christian friend. We all know someone who loves to talk about God. In fact, some are just waiting for you to ask how they’ve grown in their Christian walk.

You might even look for a mentor, as Kim and Janine invited me to be theirs more than 20 years ago. They are now like daughters to me, and I learn as much from them as they do from me. We inspire each other. Your friend may suggest:

READ your Bible. For starters, set aside 10 minutes a day. Either get up earlier or turn off the TV before bedtime. (I just discovered with five-minute animated videos that clearly illustrate Bible concepts. Great for novice and seasoned Bible readers.)

            TALK to God. If you’re not sure how, just think how you’d chat over a cup of tea with anyone who loves you with all their heart. That’s God. And remember: Prayer is not about getting what you want. Prayer is about developing a relationship. I wouldn’t know my husband if I didn’t talk to him. Let’s talk to God.

            READ inspirational magazines and books. I read a page in Mornings with Jesus 2021 to preheat my mind for Bible reading. There’s Guideposts, Today’s Christian Living and a jillion online magazines (just Google) looking for subscribers.

            TALKING lets you ask questions and READING helps answer them. It’s a win-win.

            The best part of cleaning out my bathroom cabinet was that it gave me something to write about, and I’m back on a motivated track.

            So clean up your spiritual life and spruce up your relationship with God. You will surely feel invigorated. Give it a try. And let me know how it goes.

Thursday, February 18, 2021

Book Review: The Boys in the Boat


The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics by Daniel James Brown

This heartwarming story focuses on Joe Rantz, one of the boys who grew up, went to college and made the team—against all odds. He was deserted by his father and stepmother as a boy and bounced from household to household on his road to maturity. Yet he persevered, enrolled in college and became one of the young men in the boat who rowed their way to the 1936 Olympics.

Brown has done a masterful job of researching all aspects of this story down to the posturing of Hitler and his cohorts as they hosted the Olympics while keeping the world in the dark about their insidious plans. The book includes 15 pages of extensive notes plus a detailed index. Brown spent countless hours with Joe Rantz’s daughter Judy, who shared scrapbooks, photographs (many included in the book) and letters and retold the stories she heard from her father.

In the depth of the 1930’s depression, the boys in the boat defined what teamwork means and what it can accomplish. Their coach, Al Ulbrickson, and the builder of their boat, George Pocock, played instrumental roles in the team’s success. The book leaves you inspired and encouraged to persevere in the face of adversity. I thoroughly enjoyed reading the story of the boys in the boat.

Friday, January 29, 2021

Do Clothes Make the Woman? Or Does the Woman Make the Clothes?


I often say to my husband, “Picture this!” Then I describe a gold sheath dress I wore when we dated accessorized with a gold-studded belt and a multi-strand gold-balled necklace (still have the necklace). In my “picture this” frame of mind, we’re standing on a braided rug, inside the door of my farmhouse, saying goodnight after a Saturday night at the movies.

Why do I talk like this? Because it takes me back to a happy time, a happy place. Little did we know about the cares of child-rearing, the stress of relationships, the pain of sickness, the challenges of aging. How naïve we were. And how happy.

“Take me back,” I say. “Take me back to those carefree days.”

It’s funny how what we wore at benchmark moments serve as markers. Markers of happy times. Sad times. Run-of-the-mill times. Strung together, they tell the story of our lives, a multi-faceted, layered concoction. And we learn so much living through them. We learn to embrace the good and survive the bad. We grow in character and strength:

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience” (Colossians 3:12 NIV).

My mother sewed many of my childhood clothes from feedbags. That’s right. I went with my father to the local mill where feed for our cattle came in patterned bags, perfect for housewives of the day to sew into dresses. I learned humility wearing “homemade” clothes because I sometimes wished for more “store-bought dresses.”                                          

Once a year, however, we shopped for new Easter dresses. I remember a pink organza embroidered with white daisies when I was maybe 7. Worn with hat and little white gloves and Mary Jane shoes. Oh, how special I felt. In childhood, I learned to appreciate what I had instead of grieving for what I didn’t have.

I remember the yellow dress I wore for a son’s baptism. A happy time, for sure. But raising children teaches you gentleness and patience as you navigate the crying and the trying that goes with family life.

I picture the royal blue velvet dress with red lacing up the front that I wore to my grandmother’s funeral at age 7. My first brush with death. Then there’s the black dress I wore to my father’s funeral and the pink vest and skirt that I wore to the funeral of our infant daughter. Oh such sad times. They taught me compassion for others who suffer loss.

In my early 30s, I wore a royal blue wool sheath to walk to the front of a church to dedicate my life to serve God, however He might call me. A monumental moment. And then I patiently waited for God’s direction.

The years flew by. I gained weight. I lost weight. I taught school and acquired what I considered a “dressy” wardrobe. In those days there were no dress-down days. I loved shirtwaists. Two-piece dresses that worked for my lanky body. Dressy, but not too. I hope my students remember me as a kind teacher who treated them fairly.

For our first big out-of-state event, Kim, Janine and I shopped, coordinating colors and textures. Public speaking taught me perseverance as we traveled, slept in strange beds and worked on effective presentations.

These days my style consists of turtleneck sweaters and slacks. Dressy clothes droop in the closet. No dress-up days in sight. But I’m learning patience as I wait for times I took for granted—going to church, having dinners with my family, celebrating birthdays together.

Clicking from image to image in the photo album of my life, I see a mosaic of color, texture and meaning that God melded into a unique individual. I am a product of my generation, a product of the culture of my day, a product of my faith. The outfits I wore at pivotal moments tell the story of a girl who aspired to be a wife, a mother, a teacher, and was blessed to achieve all three.

Take a moment and think back to pivotal moments in your life and what you learned from them. Then thank God that just as we put on a fresh outfit every morning, God teaches us fresh lessons each day. Let’s learn and grow together. This is one journey that never ends.

Saturday, January 16, 2021

CORRECTION to Book Review

 In yesterday's book review I wrote that Lynn Austin is the author of Hidden Figures. That is an error. She is the author of Hidden Places. So sorry about that.

Friday, January 15, 2021

Book Review: A Woman's Place


Maybe it’s because I’m old enough to remember the era, but this was one of the most compelling novels I’ve ever read. Written by the Lynn Austin, author of Hidden Figures, the story revolves around four women from disparate backgrounds who end up working as an electronics team at a shipyard during World War II.

 Rosa is a fiery Italian newlywed whose husband has gone to war. Ginny, a housewife turned factory worker to escape a non-communicative husband. Helen is a rich girl with a past she keeps to herself, and Jean, the team leader, came from a family of 18 children with several brothers fighting in the war.

 The story clearly shows how society viewed women. You may be surprised to learn that once a woman began to “show” in pregnancy, it was pretty much assumed she would quit working. It was also a segregated society, and the author notes that aspect.

 A Woman’s Place is an enjoyable, true-to-the-era story that you can’t put down. You keep wanting to know more about how things turned out for these four women with indomitable spirits.