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Soup, Snow, and Sentences

I have no trouble avoiding boredom on snow days, when 1st Grade classrooms are empty, preventing me from doing Winners Walk Tall lessons, or Bible study is cancelled, freeing up Tuesday mornings. Being stuck at home offers opportunities to try new recipes, crochet for Warm Up America and the American Heart Association, or  take in some lectures from college professors such as The University of Iowa’s Brooks Landon who is teaching me to Build Great Sentences.

A couple of years ago, I began receiving catalogs from The Great Courses offering audio and video discs loaded with lectures from The World’s Greatest Professors on an array of topics, topics ranging from math, science, and history, to drawing, cooking, and psychology. After a moment of wistful consideration, I always added the junk mail to our recycling bag, that is until the latest catalog’s cover touted an 80% OFF Special Sale for New Customers. Flipping through the booklet, I turned down corners of pages displaying courses of interest, realizing that the chances of an order being placed were slim, but tossing the catalog onto a table for later consideration.

When I next opened the cover, two red words caught my eye. A FREE TRIAL offered unlimited video streaming of all of the courses for thirty days, giving me a chance to test my level of interest before purchasing individual discs or a monthly subscription. Starting my trial was easy, and now I’m looking forward to watching the eighth of twenty-four lessons from Professor Landon, a lover of long sentences, who encourages writers to “change the period to a comma and keep on writing.”

SOUP

On one of these wintry afternoons in January, I was listening to a Building Great Sentences lecture while adding a bag of chicken bones, carrots, celery, onion, garlic, and parsley to a stockpot full of water. As I covered the pot and turned on the stove to induce a boil, Professor Landon likened a writer building a great sentence, rich with descriptions and details, to a chef boiling down a broth or sauce, resulting in a richer, fuller end result. I was experiencing the very illustration he presented! Wanting to document this moment of wonder, I took a picture of the simmering pot of water and then sat down to craft a sentence about making chicken stock.

Tiny droplets of water formed on her hands as she held the camera over the brimming pot to snap a picture, knowing that a picture is unable to convey the sound of a watched pot slowly coming to a boil, the smell of water turning to broth, or the sensation of being warmed by both the heat of the burner and the moist comfort of rising steam on a cold winter day.

SNOW

Yesterday afternoon,I considered writing a post similar to Summer in Ohio, but instead took the opportunity to craft some sentences about our winter weather, existing on the other side of the window through which bright sunshine was streaming into our comfortably heated home.

Winter’s cloudy skies, now raining, now snowing, deliver precipitation with a crucial measure of heat called “freezing” deciding which.

Driveways, streets, and parking lots disappear as fragile snowflakes in growing numbers work together, blanketing the landscape, enjoying a bit of time undisturbed before shovels, snowblowers, and plows intrude.

The sun, as bright as a summer sun, stays low in the sky, warming spirits, but not bodies, and disappearing by dinner time.

Weather has its way, dominating our conversations, dictating our clothing choices, deciding whether crops thrive or die.

Weather tricks and teases, ignoring averages and expectations, dropping a day of springtime into the middle of January, chilling a June bride, capriciously coating a palm tree with snow, quickly overwhelming streams with a deluge of rain, coaxing spring flowers to sprout and then plunging them into a deep freeze.

Were weather to attempt to behave, to harness its extremes, finding a perfect balance of wet and dry, warm and cold, windy and still, could it succeed in pleasing those it serves, making everyone happy, able to enjoy favorite activities or necessary duties?

SENTENCES

I can almost hear my sentences being read by Professor Landon. I’ll close with an inspired weather sentence recorded by the Bible’s prophet Isaiah.

As the rain and the snow
    come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
    without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
    so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
    It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
    and achieve the purpose for which I sent it. Isaiah 55:10,11

 

 

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5 Surprising Ways That I Have Grown in the Last Year

During the days between Christmas and January 2nd, I found myself wanting to hold onto the past year.  The holiday season had been full of music, gift giving, and time with family and friends.  The emotional and spiritual mountaintop of Christmas followed by my husband’s birthday and the opening of 2017 were followed by a bit of a letdown.  Life would get back to normal and I felt a little sad.

As the sun set on January 2nd, I hadn’t  made peace with the passage of time and had not made a single New Year’s Resolution.  That’s when the Lord began reminding me of some  things that happened in 2016.  I  jotted down a list of 5 personal accomplishments that were nowhere on the horizon as January began a year ago.

  1. Last January I decided to play the piano that sits silently in our living room.  Using my bit of training and a book of “Kids Songs” left behind by our kids, I played for a few minutes each day.  In February, I plunked out an imperfect performance of Happy Birthday to Eric.  By spring, I could play songs from The Wizard of Oz. The daily practice dwindled through the year, but on December 31, I successfully played Happy Birthday to Dave.
  2. In March, while God was leading me to offer a women’s Bible study on the book of James, I was surprised by the desire and ability to memorize the entire 5 chapters of James!  I could name a poor memory as one of my weaknesses, so I was thrilled to gradually learn the verses and be able to recite the entire book by summer.
  3. In June, my future daughter-in-law invited me to join her mother and sister as they picked out her wedding gown.  I was so touched by the fact that they included me.  It was a joy to watch her model gowns until one of them brought tears to her eyes and I cried along with the three of them.
  4. During August, I was enjoying summer while anticipating  ministry and volunteer activities resuming in the Fall. I asked God if there was anything new that he wanted me to do, and thoughts of beginning a blog began to stir in my heart.  I listed a dozen possible topics and found on-line instructions on how to set up a blog.  I wondered whether it would be difficult to find time to write each week and whether I would enjoy the process of preparing each post.  So far, it has been a joy to seek guidance from the Lord, to think about the best ways to express my thoughts, and to hear that folks appreciate  Thoughts Collected by Lisa.
  5. On December 11, the idea came to me to invite the neighbors who surround me over for a Christmas lunch. I usually talk myself out of such ideas, but this time I immediately contacted the three ladies and found that we could meet that Friday.  It was the first time the four of us were together to enjoy conversation and a meal.  As they were leaving, someone said, “We should make this a tradition.”

In thinking about these 5 Surprising Ways That I Have Grown in the Last Year and wanting to continue to grow this  year, I realize that it is not about me resolving to do more or do better.  It is about continuing to play the piano, to write, and to grow relationships, while being attentive to new opportunities.

I want to look back on 2017 and see that I’m living an abundant life, using the gifts God has given me and blessing people.  Not knowing exactly what that will look like, I resolve to keep my eyes and ears open to how the Lord wants me to live each day.  After all, 365 days lived well will add up to a Happy New Year.

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Who am I? And why am I starting this blog?

In the winter of 1990, a man who I was paying to help me through some depression challenged me to tell him who I am without telling him what I do.  I use the word “challenged” instead of “asked” because I found it to be a very difficult thing to do.   Apparently, I had never really considered who I was.   We worked through a few things; he identified me as a perfectionist with a little postpartum depression; and he sent me on my way with a little encouragement and a pretty serious warning.  Perhaps I’ll tell you about the warning at another time.

As a new blogger, I recognize that you might also want to know who I am and why I’m putting my thoughts out here for you to consider.  So here goes.  Without using any descriptive words, I can say that I am a woman, a daughter, a sister, an aunt, a niece, a cousin, a wife, a mother, a homemaker, a neighbor, an American, a friend, a Christian, a volunteer, a crocheter (spell check doesn’t like this one, but I stand by it), a flutist, a creative (it’s not just an adjective anymore), an introvert, a student, a leader, and a follower.

I resisted the adjectives because they would more than likely take me into the “what I do” realm.    I do recognize that nouns that end in “er” possibly fall into that realm as well, but I include some because they feel like a legitimate part of my identity.  At least 8 of these define who I was at birth.  The rest I have become.

Now that wasn’t so hard.  Moving on to “Why am I starting this blog?”  Like everything else that I do, I suppose I am responding to who I am.  As a 21st Century woman who is a relative, a friend, a mentor, and an introverted creative, I am interested in sharing my “collected thoughts” through on-line written word.

A few years ago, as a student in a wise teacher’s class, I was challenged to “know what you believe”.  Well, that can be even more difficult that stating who I am!  This blog is, first of all, a tool for me to collect my thoughts, determine where they’ve come from, decide whether they’re based in truth, and give them a place to live.  My hope is that the discipline that is required to do this will produce something useful to me and possibly to you.

I will likely permit myself to venture into the realm of what I do and why I do it in the weeks and months ahead.  Possibly years.   I also look forward to sharing with you, and preserving for myself, some writings from others that I find valuable.  At this early stage as a blogger (a new part of my identity?), I am excited about actually writing things down instead of wanting to, but not taking the time to do it.

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