Sunday, December 28, 2008

Same Kind of Different As Me

While I do read fairly quickly, I rarely read an entire book in an afternoon, but today was an exception. In the span of three hours, I laughed, cried, ached, and hoped along with two very real men, Ron Hall and Denver Moore, as they told the sovereign story of their intersecting lives through their New York Times bestseller, Same Kind of Different As Me. I'm a sucker for non-fiction, but would recommend this book to anyone--even if you tend to be a fiction snob.

To borrow the succinct tag-line, the book tells the story of "a modern-day slave, an international art dealer, and the unlikely woman who bound them together," causing me to reevaluate my perception and prejudices toward the homeless in my own city, to grieve the reality of modern-day slavery in America, to examine the limitations I have set on my obedience to Christ, and to remember that "earth ain't no final restin place." The book's 67 short chapters mostly flip flop from Ron's story to Denver's story, piecing together the puzzle of their lives into a beautiful landscape full of depth and wisdom. Their story is not only one of two unlikely fellows befriending each other, but also one of Christianity and Christ's transforming work on this planet. However, the book is never preachy, but instead reminds me of Donald Miller's writing, and speaks of suffering and hardship with the grace of Sheldon Vanauken's A Severe Mercy.

I'm ready to lend this book to the first person who asks; it's worth your time...and just might change you in the process.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Texting, but not proud of it.

After months of discussion and reluctance, I finally stooped and gave Phil (and consequently me) texting for part of his Christmas present. It's actually more of a gift to our friends, since they text more than we do, so for those of you reading this, you're welcome.

I know that adding texting to our phone plan in December 2008 causes us to look frugal and/or old fashioned, but I do, in fact, have some very legitimate and logical beef with the whole text messaging craze, and it goes like this:

First, I completely understand that there is a time and place for texting. It's convenient, especially when you're in the middle of a meeting or something and literally cannot talk to someone but need to get them a message. It's also helpful when confirming plans with someone, which really doesn't require an entire conversation.

However, for the most part, I see people using texting as a substitute for actual conversation (see cartoon above). Conversations on the phone (and, heaven forbid, in person) just seem to require too much of a time and energy commitment these days--a detriment to communication and relationships everywhere. In my speech class, my students learn early in the semester that 93% of all communication is non-verbal, which means that when we text or email, we are really only receiving 7% of the message being sent; we miss the tone of voice, facial expressions, pauses, etc. that would be present in a face-to-face or at least phone conversation. This swings wide the door for potentially disastrous miscommunications and, in the long run, cheats people out of learning to communicate well. When people text instead of talk, they communicate incompletely, half-heartedly, and often distractedly. In my humble opinion, it is the lowest form of communication.

That being said, please understand that I am not a text-hater. Too many people, though, overuse texting, leaving actual phone or face-to-face conversations in the shadows when it should really be the other way around. So, for now, I have texting on my phone, and, while I'm glad that I'll be paying less per month (since I won't be paying for all the texts people send) and will occasionally enjoy the convenience of using it, I really do feel like I am stooping, like I have compromised my morals in some way. So, I still might call you back when you text me because I'd rather hear your voice that look at your words on a phone, but I'm going to give it a chance and at least give you all the gift of knowing you can text us for free.

Friday, December 26, 2008

My Christmas traditions

Phil and I just returned from spending a week with my family in Chattanooga, and it was delightful in every way! As I reflect, it seems like I am on the brink of some major life transitions, so I'm (a bit nostalgically) remembering and enjoying the Christmas traditions that I grew up with. Here are a few of them:

1. Every Christmas Eve, my mom sings a solo of "O Holy Night" (consequently my favorite Christmas carol), and, as everyone at church says, "It's not Christmas until Stephanie sings O Holy Night!" With her vocal performance background and soprano voice, she literally sounds like an angel. In fact, I love her singing so much that I have my brothers pocket call me from church on the years when we can't be there so that I can still hear her sing.

2. Every Christmas Eve, after reading the Christmas story from the Bible, my dad reads "Twas the Night Before Christmas" and all the younger kids in the family act it out as it is read. Always a humorous rendition!

3. We have breakfast casserole once a year--on Christmas morning. Often, things are more precious because they are rare. Christmas casserole is one of those things. Also a rarity, but oh-so-good: my mom's homemade wassail.

4. We take turns opening presents instead of opening them all at once. In fact, this year my youngest brother started a new tradition that I hope we keep: from youngest to oldest, we all take turns being "Santa" and choosing a gift for someone else under the tree. It may have taken us over two hours to open gifts, but we were able to see everyone's reactions and gifts, and what else were we going to do?

5. We have a feast on Christmas night--complete with sparkling grape juice and a birthday cake for Jesus.

6. We light the advent candles on the advent wreath throughout the month of December, concluding on Christmas day. It's always a wonderful devotional time as a family and a tangible reminder of the birth, death, resurrection, and coming again of our sweet Savior, Jesus.

These are traditions that I treasure each year and look forward to, no matter my age. And isn't that an intrinsic gift that tradition offers, that by definition tradition rarely changes? In a world that's full of change, it's nice to have a few constants. It's funny how a song, a meal, a wreath of candles, or the way we open presents (such seemingly small and inconsequential things) actually create depth and anticipation in us that is more significant than we realize.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Does anyone know a good "arian" doctor?

Today we taught 3-year-old Sunday school. Here's the conversation I had with Kaylee:

Kaylee: My Mimi told me I need to be an arian doctor.

Me: An arian doctor? Okay.

5 minutes later...

Kaylee (with plastic cow in hand): Hurry! Let's get the stethoscope. This cow is very sick. He needs an arian doctor!

Me (understanding dawning): A veterinarian?

Kaylee: Yeah, an arian doctor! Hurry!

Me: Okay! Let's hurry! What is this sick cow's name?

Kaylee (without missing a beat): Mongo.

Me (addressing the cow): Well, Mongo, let's see what's wrong with you. (to Kaylee) Hmmm...what should the arian doctor do first to help him feel better?

Kaylee: Listen to his teeth!

Me: Of course! Let's listen to his teeth so we can find out why he doesn't feel very good.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008


Missing: one white knee-length robe. about three years old. missing since yesterday.

I often wonder if I don't have the mind of a senior citizen. I love play scrabble, work crossword puzzles, drink hot tea, and...lose my mind once in a while. Well, I don't actually love losing my mind; it just happens. For the last 24 hours, the object in question is my knee-length white robe that I wear on a regular basis. It has gone missing from the hook on the back of my bathroom door, and it's not in it's alternate location, on my bed. Immediately, I begin to suspect theft. Who would want my bathrobe? Phil? No, he's been out of town. Has someone been in our house and moved it just to mess with me? Nah. Did I wash it? No again.

And then, just when I had given up hope, I went to reach for my jacket this morning and found, there among the coats on the coat rack, my bathrobe, trying to fit in with the cool kids, but failing terribly. There you are! I thought. That's odd. I wonder who put you there. And then I realized that I was the only one in the house for the last 24 hours; I am the bathrobe thief!

And, of course, my senior citizen self has no recollection of when or why I would have placed my bathrobe in such an usual location. Even Phil likes to mock me about it. Still, you have to admit that 24 hour turn around isn't bad.

Monday, December 8, 2008


On our way home from church, Phil and I saw a license plate with the mysterious letters: LGNABCH. I didn't even notice that they stood for anything at first, but Phil was verbalizing all of the possibilities he saw: "Large Nab Church"? "Large Non-Applicable Baptist Church"? Something in German? Then my wheels started turning: "Lasagna Bitch"? Knowing how territorial I can be about certain foods, it seemed like a fairly plausible explanation. However, as we slowed to a stop light, we saw a small window decal that proved us both wrong. It said "Laguna Beach." Of course. And now I can't see the letters as anything but Laguna Beach...even if Lasagna Bitch is better.