Archive for April, 2008

Derailed=My Wednesday

It’s been one of those days where I just keep shaking my head and thanking God that I haven’t dissolved into a puddle of inconsolable tears. Every plan I make seems to be getting thwarted.

It began with thinking, “Oh I need to return a phone call to my sister-in-law.” I pick up the phone—no dial tone. We spend much of the morning chatting via computer with the phone company customer service people, who were no help whatsoever.

The weird thing was, our phone wasn’t working, but our DSL was. So we were thinking, “We’re gonna call the repairman; he’ll say the problem is something on our end; and we’re going to get charged $60 for him to tell us it’s not their fault.”

Now normally I would be okay with not having a phone for a day, but today of all mornings was when my boss was supposed to call. Of course, I had to email her about not having a phone, and confess that we (*gasp*) don’t have a cell phone.

Then I was attempting to straighten up the bathroom a bit before hopping in the shower. Doing so, I managed to drop a glass bottle against the claw-foot tub. If any of you have one of those old beasts (by the way, I love it) you know the glass bottle had no chance. It shattered into shards of glass that were so fine that I spent probably a half-hour just getting the pieces up.

And I haven’t even told you what was in the bottle. Bath oil, of course! So not only is my bathroom covered in microscopic glass fragments, but also a bonus layer of minty OIL! I degreased the bathroom floor and bathtub for another half hour.

Side note: I don’t know how I would have kept my sanity if my husband didn’t work from home. I sent the well-meaning, but way too curious three-year-old downstairs to keep daddy company for awhile.

Eventually I got the shower.

It’s a beautiful day here, so we decided to stop at the cemetery on the way home from our one errand. Felicity’s gravestone was dug up and off to the side.

Turns out it was sinking and they were resetting it. Not a bad thing, I’m happy they’re doing it, but it was a little jarring. I just hoped for a nice visit on a beautiful day.

Then we came home, and I put Orison down to nap. He’s still laying in bed, not sleeping. He’s just whispering, rolling around, occasionally squawking, etc. I don’t know about you, but that makes my blood boil. More so because I’m already a little on edge.

Is this kind of day included in what James meant when he wrote that we’d face “trials of various kinds?” Is this day a series of “trials” or am I elevating simple annoyances to a place they don’t belong? Don’t other people have real trials?

Regardless of how “real” my trials are, I’m waiting for today’s testing to produce the promised steadfastness, so I will lack nothing. But maybe the word “various” is in there so that people like you and me can fit there on our normal bad days.

April 30, 2008 at 3:47 pm 13 comments

What Is RSS? A Step-by-Step Guide to Google Reader

(Abraham here. Thanks to Molly for letting me invade her blog. I hope this article will be helpful enough to earn me my keep.)

If you read even one blog regularly, RSS is for you. It will save you time, I promise.

Some of you may be wondering, “Doesn’t everyone use RSS?” The answer is no; less than 6% of internet users take advantage of this extraordinarily helpful technology.

I’ve read lots of posts on what RSS is and how to use it, but they’re limited in their helpfulness. There are just too many options out there to fully explain any one of them in a post that tackles RSS as a whole. So I am going to use the majority of this article to help non-RSS-users get started on Google Reader.

If you follow these instructions, you will be subscribed to your favorite sites and already saving time by the end of this article.

What Is RSS and Why Is It Worthwhile?

The acronym RSS stands for a couple things. The most helpful as far as a clear explanation of what it’s for is “Real Simple Syndication.”

RSS is a technology that allows you to subscribe to any website that has one of these in the address bar. You can then track every site you’re subscribed to without having to go to each individual site.

If you’re like me there are a couple websites that you love to read. Without RSS, I would be looking at these sites regularly to see if there were new material. Depending on how often I checked, I wouldn’t see anything new most times I visited.

With RSS, I never again have to go to a site that has no new material. I subscribe to the sites I enjoy and am updated every time they post.

This is especially helpful for keeping track of those bloggers who we want to read but who only post every 3 months.

Why I’m Focusing on Google Reader

If you’re not a current RSS-user and would like to be, my hope is that by the end of this article you’d have everything you need to begin. In order to do that, I need to pick one feedreader to show you how to use. (“Feedreaders” are the programs that people use to collect and manage their RSS subscriptions.)

I’ve chosen to use Google Reader for 3 reasons:

  • It’s free and available to everyone no matter what computer or browser you use.
  • It is by far the most popular feedreader that’s out there right now. On both the blogs I write for, Google subscribers are between 35-40% of the readership. The next most popular feedreader only claims about 5% of readers.
  • It’s really easy to use, so let’s get started.

Setting Up Google Reader

1. Create a Google account.
2. Go to Google Reader and make sure you’re signed in.

Adding a Subscription in Google Reader

1. Select “Add Subscription” from the left column.
2. Type in the address of a blog you want to subscribe to and click “Add.”

Adding a Subscription from Elsewhere Online

1. When you are visiting a site that you want to subscribe to, click on the orange icon in the address bar or on a link provide on the site.

You will either see a page like this:

Or like this:

2. On either page, select Google as the reader you want to subscribe with.
3. On the first page, you will need to click “Subscribe Now.”
4. On either page, choose “Add to Google Reader.”

Reading and Managing your Subscriptions

Reading Options

You now have a few of your favorite blogs listed in the left column of your Google reader page. The best way to go through your feeds is up to you. Here are some options.

  • Home, at the top of the left column, is where you can see new, unread posts listed with just a few lines of content.
  • All Items, just below “Home,” is where you can see new, unread posts listed with all their content.
  • Selecting an individual feed from the list in the left column allows you to see new posts as well as scroll down through older ones.

Scanning Options

In the upper right corner you will see tabs for “Expanded view” and “List view.” These allow you to decide whether you see all content as you scroll through your feeds or just titles and the first few words.

Marking as Read

You will mark a post as read when you click on it. Scrolling through posts will also mark them as read, although you can turn this feature off in settings if you want to. Finally, if you want to mark all your new posts as read at once, you can do so at the top of the “All Items” page.

Unsubscribing

When you change your mind about being subscribed to a blog, you can unsubscribe by going to the settings in the upper right corner.

You’re All Set!

As you poke around in Google Reader, I’m sure you’ll find more nifty ways to improve your RSSing. But for now, you should have what you need to go on a wild subscription binge.

You will, of course, want to subscribe to Molly’s blog and and to the blog of whoever referred you here. And then maybe even to mine. 🙂

If you have any questions, please feel free to leave them in the comments. Happy blog reading!

April 28, 2008 at 4:41 pm 72 comments

Avoid the Flippant Comfort of Hallmark Answers

How to Help Your Grieving Friend, Part 8

About a year ago, friends of my family lost their 27-year-old son in a motorcycle accident. He died instantly. Not living close to them, I wanted to send a card so they would know that I was thinking about them and praying for them.

Buying this card was a first for me. Not because I hadn’t ever bought a sympathy card, but because, now that I’m a parent, this was the first time I could imagine this kind of pain in some measure. I have a little boy.

Hallmark was just not cutting it. I looked and looked. Eventually I think I settled on one that was blank inside. I remember being frustrated that all the sympathy cards were just…so…pretty.

I’ve come to use a phrase since Felicity’s death: Hallmark answers.

Hallmark seems to offer comfort and explanation too quickly or lightly. Unfortunately, real people do this too sometimes. I think this tendency, even when offering “spiritual” comfort and explanation, comes from an inability to accept or understand grief.

I know that I was this kind of well-meaning comforter before we lost Felicity. People in too much pain made me nervous. I wondered if they might be losing their faith, so I felt the need to say something quick to patch up their brokenness. I was unable to easily reconcile my view of God with the pain I encountered.

The result of this kind of nervousness and discomfort is often Hallmark answers—flippant comfort. It’s as if when we say something like, “God is good. God is good,” we’ve fixed the problem for ourselves. But where does that leave the brokenhearted?

Hearing that God is good doesn’t always feel good. For people who are walking through deeply painful times, knowing that God is good can actually make things feel worse, because if this is goodness….

Hallmark is too pretty; Hallmark is too decisive; Hallmark is too composed.

None of the things your grieving friend is feeling can be described with these adjectives—pretty, decisive, composed.

The problem isn’t that Hallmark answers are false. They’re just inadequate because they don’t get deep enough to touch the pain. If you haven’t entered the person’s pain, even declarations of God’s goodness or sovereignty can feel like Hallmark answers.

Speaking into someone’s pain requires empathy. Choked words through tears are empathetic. Offering supplications and prayers with loud cries and tears, like Jesus, is empathetic. Speaking a verse with a posture of “I don’t understand how this all fits with your pain, but…” is empathetic.

A few months ago I attended my first baby dedication since we lost Felicity. I knew this would be hard, but our dear friends were having their beautiful little boy dedicated. I wouldn’t have missed it.

Right before the service began, I was really struggling. I’m sure it was obvious to anyone who saw me in the commons. At that moment, a woman passed by with her family. I knew her story a bit, but I’d never had a conversation with her in my life. What I knew is that they have a twelve-year-old, blind son with severe autism and stunted growth. And I knew that this woman nearly died of breast cancer a few years ago. She hugged me tight and spoke through teary eyes, “God is faithful.”

That was all. And it was incredibly powerful for me.

The point is not that you have to have suffered more than someone to comfort them; you just need to empathize. There was no question in my mind that she knew my pain. I discovered that once you have entered someone’s pain, then you are in the place to offer comfort, and it won’t be from Hallmark.

All things work together for good. He gives and takes away. God is faithful and good.

(Read other posts in this series.)

April 27, 2008 at 6:23 am 31 comments

What’s the phobia when you’re afraid of balloons and biscuits?

Does anyone else ever feel that totally irrational nervousness when you have to open a can of those refrigerated cinnamon rolls or biscuits? As I’m peeling off the paper, I feel like my heart rate goes up about 100 beats/minute, even though I know that they never actually make a huge sound or explode violently. Why do I still feel so afraid?

Another example is when someone is going to pop a balloon. I know it’s not going to be that loud, but I still get nervous.

April 25, 2008 at 1:59 pm 63 comments

I haven’t finished the book yet, but….

To give a little context for the quote I posted last night:

Elizabeth Prentiss was the wife of a pastor in the mid-1800s. They lived primarily in New England and New York City during their ministry years. Anyway, the most interesting part of the story for me has been the loss of her two children. She had two children, Annie & Eddy. When Eddy was 3 years old, his health took a downward turn and he died. This was when Elizabeth was already 6 months pregnant with the next child. So in the midst of her grieving Eddy, Bessie was born. Bessie lived for one month and died. And for most of that month, Elizabeth was struggling with an infection and wasn’t allowed to hold her baby. So within months they went from thinking they were going to have a family of five to having a family of three again.

The accounts of the pain she lived through are incredible. I felt like I was barely breathing, and there was this all-too-familiar tightness in my chest as I sped through the pages.

Eventually she had three more children. I really admire her for that. I’ve been so torn since losing Felicity between having as many children as God will give us, realizing their preciousness, but also thinking “I can’t do this” because it hurts too much.

One thing the author continues to point out, is that she always struggled with the loss of Eddy & Bessie. They were never forgotten or replaced.

Felicity, my seven-month-old girl—I will never forget or replace you.

April 22, 2008 at 8:37 am 19 comments

Just one green grave is mine.

I was moved to tears in the airport the other day when I read this:

One child and two green graves are mine
This is God’s gift to me;
A bleeding, fainting, broken heart —
This is my gift to Thee.

(Elizabeth Prentiss: More Love to Thee, 76)

Thank you, Shawnda, for this amazing book!

April 21, 2008 at 10:07 pm 3 comments

We’re HOME!

After experiencing two earthquakes in Louisville yesterday (one at 5:30am and one at 11:15am), I was more than ready to get on the plane and come home.

I don’t have a lot of information to report from our time there. The men who attended the sessions at Together for the Gospel got tons of free books, which they were very happy about. My time was spent mostly hanging out with Abraham and other friends. We slept a lot less than I would have hoped, and now we’re wiped out. Isn’t that the way of conferences?

Here are some funny interactions that occurred between Orison and his Grandmama while we were away:

O: Sometimes I cry when I go to bed because I don’t like the dark.
me: why don’t you like the dark.
O: I’m scared of the dark.
Me: What makes you afraid of the dark.
O: I’m scared there might be animals there.
Me: But if you turn on the light, are there animals there?
O: no
Me: Then if you turn off the lights they’re not there either.
O: Frances opened her eyes in bed and she saw a dragon. Then she closed her eyes. Then she opened her eyes again and she saw a crack in the ceiling. She thought an animal would come out. I’m talking about Frances the badger.

(Talking to Aunt Talitha) O: You can’t see me, Talfla, because I have my eyes closed.

Me: I’m holding your surprise in my fist. What do you think it is?
O: Something I can eat?
Me: No. Something you can put in your pocket.
O: A penny?
Me: No, but really close.
O, faintly, thinking: a kenny?

Complaining about having to walk home from library. Then silence for a while.
O: I don’t like the way Jesus made this sidewalk.
Me: What’s wrong with it?
O: Because I don’t want to walk on it.

April 19, 2008 at 12:35 pm 13 comments

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