Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Christmas Letter




December 2014, Christmas Greetings!

If you are reading this, we are in some way connected.  Thank you for the part you have played in blessing our lives!  Thinking about the season of Advent and the symbols of the candles, these ideas & events sum up our year.

Hope – Terrible and silly stories fill up our TV news, computer home pages and hometown chatter yet in the midst of all the noise, there are pockets of hope.  That’s the fun in our enjoyed past times of fishing, hunting and golf, gardening and games (still love poker, learning Mah Jong), cooking and crafts. Hope in the anticipation of something good!

Peace – Where is your “happy place”?  Walking the gullies and animal trails of the old family home place surrounded by rough landscapes of mesquite trees, prickly pear, rocky sandstone and wide open sky 180 degrees; Wind, sun and water welcoming visitors on the lake; Cozied up in a lazy boy recliner, good book in the lap, comforting view out the back door of the changing seasons; Stirring up the embers of a campfire; Awareness of smallness surrounded by Rocky Mountains.  Peace is all around us, all the time.  We just need to notice.

Joy - The greatest joy we found in family, friends (people and pets) and acts of service. The grandchildren share lots of smiles, hugs and fun.  Keller is 2.5+, lives in Austin TX with his parents Jonathan and Erica; he loves cars, trucks, trains and outside! Sadie is the little mountain girl, 15 months, living in Redstone CO with her parents Travis and Chelsea.  She likes to dance and ski!  Another granddaughter will join the family in March (Keller becomes a big brother), more joy!

Love – So much to love about life!  We had a great celebration of Papaw’s (Benny Kohn, Susan’s father) 80th birthday.  All the family met in Buena Vista CO for a long weekend in July where we shared a rented home for some good times together - Enjoyed golf, hikes, hot springs and soothing scenery of the creeks, rivers and mountains. Another milestone of love, we celebrated our 40th Anniversary of marriage – a little party with friends, including some members of the original wedding party.

Christ – The foundation of life; the source of our blessings; the reason for celebrating.
Romans 15:13

May all the symbols of Advent put light in your life and peace in your heart,

Darrell and Susan Green

Friday, November 7, 2014

Vintage Vow


Private Commitment, Guess it's not private now!

Matthew 6:25-33 New International Version (NIV)
25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life[a]?

28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

Looking for confirmation for my inspiration, these are books, interviews, movies, blogs that captured my inquiring attention.

Oprah Winfrey's recent book, What I Know for Sure

Video: Sarah Lazarovic joins TODAY to talk about why she swore off clothes and shoes for 365 days, and the lessons she learned, which she details in her new book, “A Bunch of Pretty Things I Did Not Buy.” Today show, Oct. 29, 2014

Jen Hatmaker books, 7 and Interrupted

Linda Sue Parks book, A Long Walk to Water

Ron Howard produced movie, The Good Lie

Ashley Randall, ashleyrandallphotography.com, blog and photos

Have you made vows in your life? Did you keep them? To me, a vow is more sacred, more binding than a passing promise. 40 years ago vows were spoken at our wedding ceremony. Mine were taken from the Bible verses where Ruth commits to her mother-in-law, Naomi, to go with her wherever, adopting her people and her God to be her own. These words have proven to be personally important in resolving conflicts in my marriage relationship brought on by moves and associations. Confession to thoughts of "why the heck am I here?"

December 13, 1985 a second personal vow was made as I laid in the snow begging God to let my lost child to be found. I promised God to do anything he asked of me. The volunteer firefighters found my child emerging from frozen woods a few miles down the road and returned him to the safety of home. Do I keep to this? Sometimes yes and sometimes no, with the excuse of "not knowing for sure" what choice to make, what path to take. My excuse is pretty much BS because God gets his work done regardless of whether I choose to jump in and participate. Father, I crave your blessing!

Returning home from from Africa in the summer of 2013, my heart was heavy with awareness and conviction, my body was exhausted from dust, stale air and confinement of travel. I made a vow to stop shopping for myself. Not to stop food or toiletries or regular necessities. But no more slave to fashion, no more stuff! What American woman does not enjoy shopping, designing herself, designing her home? In my head was dread and anticipation of unhappiness. Knowing I had a closet bulging with enough clothing to last me the rest of my life did not comfort the looming loss of "newness". Over a year has passed and I have not found this new mindset to be difficult, really. Slowly purging the hangars and drawers, throwing away, giving away, making new dust rags has been an act of freedom - ongoing, still not finished. Here's the list of clothing bought for my self in this time: Walmart package of socks - ran out while traveling before access to laundry (I guess I could have hand washed?), 2 t shirts that were purchased to support charities - high school PALS for Water is Basic, Pink for Kris for a friend fighting breast cancer, bathing suit bottom - because mine from last year was lost? Found it at the end of summer boat season when I pulled out a suitcase and unzipped a pocket that had not seen the world in a year. That's it! Now using a Dillard's gift card doesn't count, right? Maybe that sounds like a confession to cheating but to me, improvement!

Hosting two African guests at our church in the Spring, I was blessed to serve them several meals, guide them on school/community visits, provide social time at my house for a tea. Their words soaked into my soul as they spoke at our women's Thursday Bible study, prayed a blessing on our home and gave sermons in the Sunday worship services. Observations on the excesses of American culture that they passed on: 1. We have too much stuff! Our homes, garages, storage sheds and attics are overflowing and some of us even rent extra storage space at places away from our houses. Our refrigerators and pantries are super stocked so that we need to throw away what went unused. 2. We spend a lot of money on our dogs. Paying top dollar for their grooming and health care was shocking to a culture that considers household dogs only in the role of protection. We carelessly waste. I have become aware. I am trying to change. Something happens almost everyday to return my thoughts to Kenya. A seed of change was planted there. That seed is growing.

Checking out Oprah's book, I was hoping to find something concrete to support my vision of a simplified life. She had some sweet ideas about taking care of your self and keeping lofty perspectives but what I know for sure from reading her essays is this: Oprah is ri-i-i-ich! (Said in the disrespectful voice of the comedian Ron White.) Personal hardships brought her to the wisdom she shares today, but it all filters through the lifestyle of the rich and famous, not too much universal truth for all to ponder. Thanks Oprah but it seems I was looking in the wrong book for deep messages.

The Today show trailer kept me tuned in for an extra five minutes yesterday touting a woman who gave up shopping for a year. I thought, oh yeah, we will have something in common. Lol, so wrong! To curb her weakness for internet shopping, she started painting things she coveted instead of buying them. Not me.

The Jen Hatmaker books have connected me to a somewhat kindred spirit. We both attended Oklahoma Baptist University - her being maybe twenty years after me. She is pursuing change through spiritual terms, a shared philosophy. I have been rereading, note taking and using her work in quotes. One concept is that work done in service should be "relationally focused". That is where I feel at home. In peace. Content. Well with my soul.

The plight of problems facing children in Sudan is the focus of Linda Sue Parks' book and Ron Howard's film. Both inspire faith in God and humanity. Both challenge to awareness and service. Please read, please watch!

Ashley Randall is a darlin' Texas girl transplanted to California with her husband, both seeking to fulfill their creative dreams. She is a former student, now all grown up! She used to write a fashion blog with a focus on vintage clothing. That has run it's course and she now is blogging about photography, children and dogs. Memories of her creative clothing concoctions remind that I still don't need new clothes. My old stuff (some vintage) can be arranged in varying combinations and still look cool. Well, cool enough to satisfy me.

So I DO still enjoy shopping - for gifts! And it's becoming that season of year.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Christmas Any Time of Year

Magnet Quotes

"i am still learning." - Michelangelo
"It's not the years in your life that count, it's the life in your years." - Abraham Lincoln

Trying to simplify surroundings and live uncluttered with less stuff, we have slowly been cleaning out, throwing away, donating, discovering forgotten items and reorganizing the remains. The refrigerator still displays mementos from trips and sporting events, grandchildren pictures that bring a smile every day, held in places by many mismatched magnets. Two magnet quotes listed above came home with me from the classroom and still serve to remind me of important quests. What am I learning, still? What kind of life is filling my years?

A cousin's daughter entertains and encourages with her Facebook posts. One of her encouragements was to commit random acts of kindness at Christmastime and send her stories to go in Madison's memory stocking to be read and shared. Some years ago she gave birth to a baby girl named Madison, a baby who did not survive. Out of this sad event, she has been motivated to follow a life of service in a career as a social worker. She recently graduated from college and was accepted to graduate school to keep moving toward this professional path. Romans 8:28 And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. That verse does not diminish the pain of tragic events. We can all acknowledge that bad stuff happens in this world. But, in time, we can see how God works in connected events to bring us out of problems to a place of goodness.

Christmas deadline was not met, but here is my story for Madison's stocking.

There is an older lady I met at church. One of my first duties as a Stephens Minister was to wait up front at the altar at the end of a Sunday service for those coming forward with questions and prayer requests. This lady came to me one Sunday and we prayed for her friend's son who was being deployed to Afghanistan. Her look was a little disheveled and unkempt but she seemed to have a kind heart. At many events that required volunteers, I saw her there: packing lunches to feed kids during the summer, packing boxes of treats for soldiers and college kids, teaching crafts in Vacation Bible School, prayer services, Bible Studies. During these encounters I found out that she was a former teacher of Carrollton-Farmers Branch ISD where I grew up going to school. I learned that she lives alone in a small apartment near the church and walks everywhere instead of driving. I learned that she works the night shift stocking shelves at Walmart. I wondered what happened in her life to bring her to her current state of looking like a homeless person? How were our lives so different?

Vision of her as a changed person kept creeping into my mind. For Madison's memory stocking, I wanted to take her to a beauty shop and get her hair styled. On the other hand, I didn't want to offend her by suggesting that she might need to improve her appearance. Nearing Christmas I had prayed that if God really wanted me to do the make over offer that I would cross paths with her at church that day. Not seeing her before, during or after the main service where she usually attends, I thought, "OK, God, cross that off the list." Just as I was about to walk out the door to the parking lot a door to a storage room opened and there she was standing right in front of me. "OK, God, we're back on this!" I stammered my offer and her eyes were shining as she grasped my hands and said yes, she would love to go get a new hairdo. She doesn't have a phone but she gave me her address and we agreed to meet the next Tuesday for an outing to a nearby salon.

No answer to my many knocks on her door at our planned time. As I was writing a note to leave on her door, a neighbor came out to tell me he had not seen her in a few days and he seemed to know her regular schedule. This news worried me but the neighbor turned out to be the father of a good friend so I asked him to call his son and let him know if she showed up safely. We got a call that night to tell that her daughter who lives in a different town had come unexpectedly to take her for a visit. The hair stylist who had given me the appointment is also a friend. She understood the situation and agreed to be on call the same time for the next few weeks whenever I could meet her and bring her in to the shop. It takes a village!

It was January before we made our Christmas outing to the beauty salon. My friend, the stylist, took such tender care in shampooing and talking to her about her preferred style. She made her thin silvery strands look soft and pretty; she dipped the weathered hands in the paraffin bath and gently folded them in the plastic cover, pealing them back to reveal skin that was thin and soft. We learned that it had been necessary for her to leave the teaching profession earlier than anticipated as she had suffered a brain aneurysm in her early 40's. We learned she had grown up in the Valley and had moved to Fort Worth after high school to attend Texas Wesleyan College. We learned her husband lives in a care facility in a different town. We learned that her daughter also had a rare brain trauma as a girl and participated in studies by top doctors in Houston. We listened to many stories while the scissors and blow dryers provided background noise. The soundtrack to a life.

I still see this lady at various church gatherings. I have stopped by her apartment to visit and driven her home in bad weather. I have taken her food in covered containers, extras from our home plenty and leftovers from church event meals. Her hair has gone back to its previous limp style. She must share my same challenge of being unable to recreate the salon look with my own brush at home. When she opens the door of her apartment, used plastic bottles and shreds of old newspapers drift out the door, but a smile that reveals a sweet spirit spreads across an aging face and there is light.

God sent me to get a woman a haircut. He intended for me to be her friend.

Lesson learned. Life in the years.

Psalm 117:2 For his lovingkindness is great toward us, And the truth of The Lord is everlasting. Praise be to God.