Friday, August 29, 2008

Try, Try Again

Did I ever tell you about my first attempt at gardening? I actually decided to grow cherry tomatoes. From seeds. I bought some big clay pots, along with the expensive dirt. I carefully opened up my little seed packet and sprinkled the seeds around. Then I gently, carefully covered them with the soil, and trickled some water over them.

Day after day, I nurtured those little plants. Before long, I saw sprouts! There were far too many sprouts for one pot. So when they were big enough, I separated them. I had to buy more pots – 52 in all!

The plants grew and grew. Eventually, they got so tall they started leaning, so I bought the nifty little garden stakes. I carefully tied each tomato plant to its stake. My deck looked like a tomato jungle. But I was excited, because I love cherry tomatoes! I eat them like candy. I kept working and working, because I could envision the end results. I knew that eventually, I would have a glorious cherry tomato paradise, and could eat to my heart’s content.

But it didn’t exactly turn out that way. I’m embarrassed to tell you the results, but I will anyway. Out of all those 52 pots, all those 52 green bushy plants all neatly tied to 52 stakes, I got one little bitty cherry tomato! Only ONE! All that work, all those hours of loving labor, and I only got one teeny tomato.

Life just isn’t fair sometimes.

I was proud of my one tomato, though. Mark had helped some with the gardening project, so I offered to split it with him. But he laughed at me! So I popped the whole thing in my mouth and ate it, right in front of him. That’ll teach him to laugh at my misfortune!

That was ten years ago. I haven’t attempted to grow tomatoes, or any other vegetable, since then. Until this year, that is. This year, I decided to get back on the proverbial horse, and try again. I tried full-sized tomatoes this time.

No seeds. I bought established plants. Two of them.

No pots. I put them in the ground.

No stakes, either – I decided to let them roam.

Like before, I watered them and nurtured them, and before long, I saw tiny yellow flowers! A few weeks later, the little green balls appeared. Each day, they’ve grown bigger and bigger, until a few days ago – some of them started turning red!

I must have a dozen or more tomatoes out there on my two tomato bushes, with lots of yellow flowers still forming!

Boy, am I glad I tried again. And I’m so glad I have tomatoes! It took me ten long years to recover from the trauma of my first tomato failure. No telling how long it would have taken this time.

But just think, if I hadn’t worked up the courage to try again, I wouldn’t be experiencing the pride and sense of accomplishment I’m now feeling. The cherry tomatoes would have gotten the better of me. They would have won.

It makes me wonder what other things in my life I’ve let beat me. What kinds of things do I shy away from, because I’ve had one bad experience? Am I afraid of reaching out for new friendships because of one or two rejections? Do I hesitate to apply for that promotion because I’ve been turned down in the past?

Perhaps I should re-think things a little. Perhaps I should take more chances, and not wait a year or ten years or the rest of my life, for fear of failure. I wasted ten years without fresh tomatoes. I don’t want to waste another minute.

I plan to give the little guys a few more days to turn nice and red, and then, I’m going to pick them. I will enjoy a big, juicy tomato salad.

And I might even let Mark have a bite.

1 Timothy 4:15 “Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress.”

Friday, August 22, 2008

Taping the Edges

This week, I painted my bathroom. I have paint under my fingernails, which won’t come off. I fell off the ladder, spilled paint everywhere, and now I officially own “painters” clothing. And I even have some bruises to commemorate the experience. I finished the project at around 2:00 this morning, and now I’m exhausted. But at least it’s done.

I really don’t mind painting. The actual painting part, that is. What I hate is the stuff that comes before you can actually put the brush to the wall. You know what I’m talking about – all your flat surfaces have to be covered. All the edges have to be taped off. The walls have to be clean and ready.

The painting is actually fun – like a kindergarten art project. As long as the walls have been properly prepared, it’s really kind of hard to mess up. I like to take the roller and make zig-zag pictures before I cover them up. I even let my kids paint the corners and the low surfaces. After all, one swipe of the roller will cover up any mistakes.

But have you ever gotten in a hurry, been lazy, and tried to paint a room without doing all the work that comes beforehand? I have. And trust me, it turns into a big ol’ mess. And it is hard to fix that kind of mess.

It doesn’t really seem fair that ninety percent of the work goes into what you can’t see. No one will ever go into my bathroom and say, “Hmmmm . . . she did a nice job of taping off those edges.” But if I hadn’t taped the edges, my kindergarten art project would look like . . . a kindergarten art project.

Isn’t that just how life is? Ninety percent of our effort goes into the prep work. Most of our time is spent on the menial, difficult labor that no one ever sees. What we present to the world is just the finished product. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could be polished, wise, educated, interesting people without all the boring, back-breaking work it takes to be polished and wise?

But if we try to skip the behind-the-scenes work, our lives will most likely turn into a big ol’ mess. And those kinds of messes are usually hard to clean up.

The prep work of our lives is important work. This is the time we study for the big tests, gather food for the long drought ahead, make little mistakes so we won’t make the bigger ones. This is the learning time, the growing time, the praying time. And much of this work takes place in our minds and hearts – where no one can see.

But when we take the time to properly prepare ourselves, we will end up with a finished product we can be proud of. And whether we’re showing off a pretty bathroom or a loving and wise heart, we’ll be glad we spent the time, did the work, and taped the edges.

Proverbs 6:6 – 8 “Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise! It has no commander, no overseer or ruler, yet it stores its provisions in summer and gathers its food at harvest.”

Friday, August 15, 2008


If anyone out there wants one of the sweetest, purdiest, kid-friendliest hound dogs that ever walked the face of the earth, she is available to you over at the Lampasas County Impound. She showed up last weekend out at my parents’ place in Kempner. One look at those gentle brown eyes, and I was in love. And I’m not even a dog person.

My kids spent endless hours romping around with this sweetheart of a beast, whom they named Sarah. She clearly loved the attention, and so did they. She followed them everywhere as they went on Robinhood-style adventures in the deep woods of Mimi and Poppy’s land.

You may be scratching your head and wondering why we didn’t adopt her. Well, it’s like this. We have two dogs already. As I said before, I’m not a dog person. Two dogs is already one over my limit.

And my parents would have kept her. Really, they would have. There was just one problem. Tinker, the cat, didn’t like Sarah. And while Sarah is gentle and sweet-natured, Tinker is a big ol’ mean tomcat bully. Clearly, the relationship was dysfunctional at best and downright violent at worst.

So, in an implementation of the last-hired-first-fired rule, Sarah was let go as a family pet. She is now unemployed, and in need of a position with some wonderful family who will adopt her and bask in all the love she has to offer.

Adoption is a wonderful thing, isn’t it? It evens the playing field. It allows those who could never hope to be a part of a family to become a full-fledged member of that family.

Babe Ruth was adopted. Imagine how proud his parents must have been! And Olympic Gold medallist Scott Hamilton was adopted. Melissa Gilbert, Faith Hill, Marilyn Monroe – all adopted.

Famous blues musician Bo Diddley was adopted, and so was poet Edgar Allen Poe. And one of the people in my own family was adopted as well, though you’d never be able to pick that person out by looking at us.

One of my favorite adoption stories is that of Moses, in the Bible. As an infant, he was plucked out of the river by the daughter of the man who wanted to kill him. She took Moses home to her father, and with a flutter of her eyelashes, she said, “Daddy, I found this little Hebrew baby. Can I keep him? Pretty please, Daddy?”

And of course, what father can say no to his little girl? “Okay. But you have to take care of him,” the Pharaoh told her.

So Moses, who would have been either killed or brought up as a slave, was instead given the finest education and treated like royalty. His circumstances prepared him to be the leader who would help set the Hebrew people free, and to eventually author what we now know as the Ten Commandments.

But the greatest adoption story of all time is my own. I was a nobody, with little hope or prospects for the future. But the King of Kings saw me, and invited me to become His daughter. And He wants to adopt you, as well. All you have to do is accept the invitation.

Ephesians 1:5 “In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will.”

Friday, August 8, 2008

Walking with Dinosaurs

Did you hear about the recent discovery of a rock, near Glen Rose, Texas which showed a dinosaur footprint? There have been many authentic dinosaur footprints found in that area. However, this rock is unusual. If proven authentic, this rock will provide the first proof that humans and dinosaurs walked the earth at the same time.

You see, the toes of this particular dinosaur footprint lie smack-dab on top of a human footprint, and they appear to have been made within minutes of one another!

Now, I’m not going to speculate on whether or not this is an authentic discovery. I’m no paleontologist. I don’t even know the proper names for even the most common dinosaurs. I still refer to them as “the one with the long neck” or “the short, fat, scaly one.” And regardless of the outcome of this investigation, my views won’t change about creationism vs. evolution.

But as I looked at the picture of the stone, found online here, I couldn’t help but wonder about the story behind the footprints. I mean, was the dinosaur chasing the person? Did the person know he was being pursued? Maybe he was just walking along, gathering berries and whistling Dixie (did they whistle Dixie back then?) when all of a sudden, WHOMP! He was cordon-bleu.

Or was the dinosaur perhaps a pet of sorts? Anybody who has ever watched The Flintstones knows they had pets back then. Maybe the footprints belonged to Fred and Dino, out for their morning walk.

All kidding aside, I would hate to have been that guy, wouldn’t you? He must have been terrified! I mean, even if the dinosaur was a vegetarian, he was huge! And I don’t know about you, but I have never seen a friendly-looking dinosaur.

The fact that I have never seen any kind of dinosaur is totally beside the point.

There are times in our lives when we feel like we are being chased, and even stepped on, by dinosaurs. Sometimes, we worry about the bills, and they feel like dinosaurs looming over us. At times, people are cruel and unkind, and they seem more like man-eating dinosaurs than fellow humans.

When my husband Mark was told he had leukemia?

Big ol’ stompin’ dinosaur.

But there is good news, my friends! The God who created dinosaurs is bigger than the dinosaurs! And though He loves each of His creations, He loves us the most. We were made in His image, after all. No matter what is looming over us, or chasing us, no matter what threatens to eat us for lunch – God is bigger. He will help us.

He delivered Jonah from the belly of a whale. He delivered Daniel from the lion’s den. And surely, He will deliver you and me from our own beasts.

After all, you haven’t seen any dinosaurs around lately, have you?

Daniel 6:23 “And when Daniel was lifted from the den, no wound was found on him, because he had trusted in his God.”

Friday, August 1, 2008

What Not to Wear

I am a big fan of education. I love learning, in every shape, form, and fashion. And as a proponent of education, I have become addicted to The Learning Channel.

Well, actually, to one particular show on The Learning Channel. I just can’t get enough of the show, “What Not to Wear.” Now don’t laugh. The show is educational. If it weren’t, it wouldn’t be on The Learning Channel. And I have actually learned a lot from watching that show.

In case you’re not familiar with “What Not to Wear,” I’ll tell you about it. Stacy and Clinton are the all-knowing professors of fashion. Viewers nominate unsuspecting fashion derelicts, and secret cameras hide and film these poor victims for several days. Then, when the person least expects it, Stacy and Clinton show up and publicly tell the person that they are a fashion train wreck.

I know, it sounds harsh. But next comes the great part. Stacy and Clinton then hand the person a credit card with $5,000 on it. The person is then whisked away to New York City for a week of intense fashion instruction and shopping. Oh, yeah, and they have to agree to be publicly ridiculed for their former fashion choices. And they have to let Stacy and Clinton throw all of their current clothing in a large metal trash can, while the entire free world watches.

This show has been life-changing for me. For example, I now understand that faded overalls paired with an equally faded t-shirt are never the best fashion choice. Even for the grocery store. Even if they are accompanied by a cute pink ball cap.

I have also learned, for the first time in my life, how to use eye-shadow to create a “smoky eye”. But apparently, the smoky eye look doesn’t match well with the faded overall look. But hey, I’m the student here, not the teacher. I’m still learning. You’ve gotta give me credit for that.

In spite of the fact that I faithfully watch this show, I still look more like the “before” people than the “after” people. I think I need some extra tutoring. So, if anybody out there would like to nominate me for this show, I’d be eternally grateful. I will not be offended. I will even bring you back a nice Stacy and Clinton mug from New York, as a thank you gift.

Honestly, I don’t know how I ended up being so fashion-challenged. My dear mother always looks like a million bucks, every time she steps out of the house. Her clothes always match, and her lipstick is always in place. She is one classy lady.

But though she may have failed miserably in passing on her fashion sense to me, she did pass on a few very important rules about what and what not to wear. And lucky for you, I’m about to share them.

1. Don’t wear a frown. It makes you ugly. No matter what you look like, a smile will make you more attractive.

2. Don’t wear a haughty attitude. No one likes to be looked down upon.

3. Don’t wear sarcasm. It is a sorry excuse for real humor.

4. Don’t wear gossip and slander. Classy people talk about things, not people.

5. Do wear love. Always make the people around you feel accepted and important.

I’m so glad I have these rules imbedded in my heart. I don’t always follow them
like I should, but they’re there, in the deepest part of my brain. And I know that no matter what I look like on the outside, following these rules will make me attractive to other people.

Now, if I could just get my hands on that $5,000 shopping spree, I’d be all set.

Colossians 3:12, 14 “Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience . . . And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.”