Monday, October 28, 2013

Dad & the Belted Galloway

Every time I drive into Lexington, I pass a field of cows and they always make me smile.  Well actually,  not all of them make me smile, just one of them.  This one:

This is a Belted Galloway.  How I know this is a Belted Galloway is why it makes me smile.  And now...the rest of the story.

My Dad was determined that while his daughters may have grown up in a more urban location than he did, they would have a knowledge of and appreciation for farm life.  Growing up, we had over an acre of a garden every summer and my parents did their best to teach my sister and me about planting, fertilizing, and caring for crops.  Some of my favorite memories from the month of August is going to the State Fair and walking through the animal barns with Dad while he explained the differences of each breed of cow, pig, etc.

After Bobby and I were married, we rented a cabin with both sets of our parents on the outskirts of Gatlinburg.  On the way home from this trip, I was in the car with my folks.  After we passed a field of cows (that were now out of sight), I said, "Dad, what kind of cow has a white stripe around its belly like one of those pigs?"  Dad replied he had never heard of a cow like that followed by, "I never thought one of my daughters wouldn't be able to tell the difference between a cow and a pig!"  He continued to tease me about this all the way home.  Everyone was convinced I was mistaken about my white-striped cow.

Several weeks later, Dad and his best friend were driving in a more rural part of Jefferson County.  As they approached an exit on the Gene Snyder Freeway, off to his right Dad saw a whole field of cattle with a white-stripe around their bellies!  He and his friend found the farm and asked what breed this was.  When he arrived home, Dad prepared himself a plate of crow and called his eldest.  That mea culpa phone call was worth all the teasing I had endured!

That's how I know what a Belted Galloway cow looks like. . . and why they always make me smile.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Death By Living: A Review

Although I'd be hard pressed to prove it based on my recent Goodreads entries, my reading list does actually include intellectually satisfying and edifying books as well as the fluff I've devoured of late.  I'm beyond happy that counted among the more serious entries is Death By Living: Life is Meant to be Spent by N. D. Wilson.

If it is possible to have a love affair with a book, I had one with Wilson's previous offering, Notes From the Tilt-A-Whirl: Wide-Eyed Wonder in God's Spoken World. I recounted some of the reasons I loved it here.  My friend Amanda did a much better job than I and you can read her review here. After finishing Wilson's latest effort to bring us to a more full-orbed appreciation for the One in Whom we live and move and have our being, I've realized, comparatively, my affection for the previous book was puppy love when considered in light of the profound attachment I have for Death by Living.

The book is not without flaws.  On several occasions, Wilson stretches his writing to include just-one-more clever turn of phrase when perhaps restraint would have been better.  His writing style is that of his generation and younger and, I'm betting, is grating for some.  I'm sure there are other critiques that can be made, but the bottom line is - I don't care!  Looking at stylistic concerns in this book is missing the glorious canopy of an inviting forest because of those pesky trees.

"Story, story, my life is a story," says the hipster to his Twitter feed.

Right.  Narrative.  Story.  Boy, it sounds nice and groovy, but it's coming from someone who barely has enough of an attention span to get through a Web clip over four minutes. . .

No matter how trendy it might be when some people say it, life is a story.  All of history is a story.  Every particle has its own story trailing backward until it reaches the first Word of the One and Three, and all of those trailing threads - those many - are woven into the one great ever-growing divinely spoken narrative.
As I read Death by Living, I kept remembering a previous book I treasure, A House For My Name by Peter Leithart.  Leithart's book follows themes and symbolism seen in the lives of people throughout the Old Testament to help his readers better understand the New Testament.  I remember thinking while reading that book that I am just an extra in this Divine Play, but I add color and background to the story, so I need to play my small part well.  This thought ran through my mind again as I read Wilson's words:

Understand this: we are both tiny and massive.  We are nothing more than molded clay given breath, but we are nothing less than divine self-portraits, huffing and puffing along mountain ranges of epic narrative arcs prepared for us by the Infinite Word Himself.  Swell with pride and gratitude, for you are tiny and given much.  You are as spoken by God as the stars.  You stand in history with stories stretching out both behind and before.  We should want to live our chapters well, but doing so requires that we know the chapters that led up to us in our time and our moment; it requires that we open our eyes and consciously begin to shape those chapters that are coming after.
And for parents, Wilson reminds you that you are shaping the chapters that are coming after for your children as well:

. . .Other real live souls are now depending on you.  You are the creator of their childhoods. You are the influencer of their dreams and tastes and fears.  You are the emcee of all reality, the one to introduce those small people to the true personality of their Maker (as imaged by your life more than your words).  The choices you now make have lives riding on them.  Always.  Their problems and struggles are yours to help them resolve.  Their weaknesses yours to strengthen.  Or not. . . 

I imagine that realization has caused more than a few moms and dads to have sleepless, but prayerful, nights.

Now that I'm in the 50 and above demographic category, I can look back over my life and say a hearty amen to this:  "As a rule of thumb, when older people tell you something, believe them.  It will save you the shock of discovering later on that they were right (and also helps you dodge their smug gloating)."

Part of the blessing of getting older is the wealth of experience you have with God's providence, both the good and the hard.  You are farther down the road to a wholehearted trusting than you were in your youth.  For me, who has been known to cry over McDonald's commercials, tears seem to be always there when considering His great kindness to me.  Wilson paints this picture well:

My wife and I tend to overgift to our kids at Christmas.  We laugh and feel foolish when a kid is so distracted with one toy that we must force them into opening the next, or when something grand goes completely unnoticed in a corner.  How consumerist, right?  How crassly American.

How like God.
Wilson recounts his grandfather giving, instead of getting, gifts on his birthday:

He chose a passage of Scripture for each of his children and their spouses, for each of their children and their spouses, and for each of their children . . . he wrote a note of marginalia to each of us in the sharp, perfect handwriting of another time.

To the youngest of all, my sister's two-month-old son, he handwrote a simple message next to Colossians 1:9-12: You may not remember me.  I remember you and prayed for you when you were one day old.  Great Grandpa
What a gift!  What a wonderful foundation for that boy's life story.  How many of our ancestors have prayed for us, years before we were, and have had their prayers answered in the unfolding of our stories?

In the ending chapters of the book, Wilson writes of the people who shaped, saved, and steered his grandparents. This section resonated with me.  My dad once saved the life of a coworker.  The man had become tangled up in a machine and Dad, quite literally, held his body together and stopped the bleeding until the EMTs arrived.  Flash forward years later and I'm sitting in a high school classroom meeting a friend's beau.  When I tell him my name, he asks if I'm "Bobby Dean's daughter?"  When I nod, he says, "Your dad saved my dad's life" and recounts the story for me (one I had never heard from dad).  My girlfriend's future husband was here because my dad was there.  What we do echoes in eternity.  God's good providence for us extends to us before we are even born.

But what they did, they did unto the King (because they did it unto his brethren).  And they tipped tremendous scales as they did it, shaping lives and generations in ways that can never be undone. . .A ten-year-old boy.  An insecure girl.  A lonely neighbor.  Anyone thirsty.  Anyone hungry or sick.  Lives and generations and history are there for the tipping.  You have hands.  You have words.  You have something.  Touch the scales.  Touch the least of these.

I've shared four passages from this book; I wanted to share forty!  I'll share one more while begging you to get his book and devour it:

Ride the roaring wave of providence with eager expectation.  To search for the stories all around me.  To see Christ in every pair of eyes.  To write a past I won't regret.  To reach the dregs of the life I've been given and then to lick the bottom of my mug.  To live hard and die grateful.

And to enjoy it.
[You can watch a video promo for the book here.]

Sunday, October 13, 2013

What I've Learned From Craft Fairs

1 - People do make things on Pinterest.
2 - Slap a monogram on something - it will sell!
3 - Chevrons are all the rage (so expect lots of out-of-style chevron items at yard sales in the spring).
4 - Craft fairs aren't just for buying handcrafted items - they're also for showing off your dogs.
5 - Paint it Wildcat blue, put a "UK" on it and an empty soup can will fetch $5.