Are you seeing double?

Are you looking at a set of twins? is me n' my sister, just a couple of months ago on Christmas day. We consist of one biiiiig personality, that just happens to inhabit two bodies. I'm on the left, she's the one on the right...the one with the better hair than me.

I heart her.

Me, Interviewing Myself (!!)

I just finished reading a great article in one of my favorite design blogs, and one of the best features this month was an interview with a top-tier architect and designer. His soulful answers made me wish someone would interview me...I have a few really uber-cool thoughts too, after all.

Then, I realized...though it is the epitome of chutzpah, cheekiness, and bad taste, I could interview myself.

Why not?

The only problem is I can't write about what I am wearing. Usually, when a woman is interviewed, the writer talks about how she was ushered by the maid into Famous Woman's livingroom, where momentarily Famous Woman appeared, tanned and relaxed, wearing faded jeans, a casual Liberty of London cotton shirt, and the perfect Bottega Veneta sandals. Her hair is usually down around her shoulders, and whoever she is, she's almost always wearing a simple gold chain, and gold hoop earrings.

Me? I'm sporting a "My Son is a Marine" sweatshirt, reading glasses on top of my head, no makeup, and some garishly colorful socks. (jeans too, of course, but who cares...) Not the stuff of delightful, detailed description. But I can dream.

Let's get started. I'm going to ask me all the same questions that Mr. Architect Extraordinaire was asked...I'm thinking that, though my answers won't be nearly as global-chic as his, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

"Sheila, what inspires you?"

Me: "Well, me, let me home awash in candlelight, antique shops, book stores, old grave yards, and beautiful homes, and interesting people, real or imaginary."

"What color palette are you continually drawn to?"

Me: "Orange, paired with the perfect shade of turquoise blue against a neutral backdrop - also, here lately, that very preppy shade of kelly-ish green. This is both a sign and a wonder to me, because I don't know where it, the new love of green, comes from. Where does one find one's "likes" in life?"

(my answer is way more interesting than Mr. Famous Architect.)

"Where is your favorite vacation spot on earth?"

Me: "Wherever my husband and I are alone. Or Perdido Key. We used to stay in a condo there every year, an end unit, that was directly adjacent to a nature preserve. I woke up every morning overlooking the sunrise, the Gulf waters, and two miles of beach with absolutely nothing on it."

"How do you relax at the end of the day?"

Me: "Well, Miss Me, I love old 30's and 40's music. Ideally, it is the "blue hour", right after sunset, and the cicadas are chirping rhythmically, and Tim and I are taking a ride in the Barbie Jeep, Pandora radio on tap, followed by a glass of wine on the back porch. This is the time of day to think about the color of your children's eyes, how cute your puppy is, your grandson's smile, and all the cool things you have planned tomorrow."

"What do you serve when friends come to dinner?"

Me: "Something simple. We've been known to serve a couple of whole roasted rosemary chickens, roasted potatoes, a big salad or broiled asparagus, bread, and wine. Just that."

"Is there a book that has changed your life?"

Me: "Sorry to be so predictable, but the Bible. I marvel at the plan of God, from Genesis to Revelation, laid out as epic story and true masterpiece. Grace is a person, Jesus Christ - and Grace is a plan, and Grace is a perfect wonder to me."

"What is your idea of perfect happiness?"

Me: "A houseful of people, my grandson asleep in my arms in spite of the din and uproar, followed by the delicious quiet when guests go home, as I pad around in my jammies gathering glasses to put in the dishwasher. I get to experience this all...the...time. So I stay pretty happy."

"Last question - what is an easy way to make life more glamorous?"

Me: "To slow down and be deliberate. Hurry and irritation are the surest marks of the amateur. To laugh a little too loud, and to very occasionally yell when you are justifiably angry - because people who don't are educated beyond their ability to be normal. And to embrace humility. Humility is the primary indication of true success. And not that fake modesty crap...I'm talking about the ability to acknowledge your strengths, yet prefer to totally forget about yourself and focus on others."

I love interviewing me. I think I might even do it again sometime. Which proves that, according to me, I am not yet entirely successful, as it is not humble at all to interview oneself. Oh well...I have to write, to know what it is I'm thinking.

In Which Sheila Declares, "Sow!"

"Sow an act...reap a habit; Sow a habit...reap a character; Sow a character...reap a destiny."

This year, 2011, is my year to sow. My word for 2011 is "sow!". Every day this year so far, I've thought at least briefly, if not at length, on the above quote - how my every day actions point to my destiny. I am trying to do something each day that sows towards my intended purposes, both short and long term.

Just one of my intended purposes is simply a more organized home. Just like you, I have days when I look at my long "to do list" and do not feel like getting to work on every single item on it. I feel like cherry picking what I will and will not do.

Here is the thing that has motivated me on those days, whether I'm feeling a head cold coming on, or the weather has been so bleak and gray as to leave Zig Ziglar feeling flat and unmotivated:

I tell myself this: "A little bit of something is far better than a whole lot of nothing."

That's it. For some reason, that does it for me, 99% of the time. Nine and one-half times out of ten, I will find it in me to get busy doing what I should be doing when I think that one simple thought. I didn't read it anywhere, never heard it said that I can remember - it just dawned on me like a tiny epiphany.

I look at my list and see, for example, "clean the laundry room". Maybe I'm sick, or maybe unmotivated. After all, I am my own boss, and I won't get in trouble with me if I don't do it. But then I think, "A little bit of something is far better than a lot of nothing."

...and then I get out there, if nothing else, to vacuum the rugs and sweep the floor. Usually, before I know it, the washing machine is glistening inside and out (I found a new product, an inside-the-washing-machine-cleaner, made by Clorox. Great stuff.) my cleaners are organized, my laundry detergent got put in a cute clear container with a pretty scoop, and the trash cans emptied.

All I was going to do, was a "little bit of something"...anything, even if that little bit was just a swept floor...but beginning something has a certain power in it. You tend to become vested in what you've begun, and you want to see it through to some semblance of completion.

There are a hundred different examples of the importance of sowing daily actions towards a desired end. I wish I had chosen a better one than my "to do list". But this blog entry is what it is. Hey - I'm here, and I'm posting almost daily, which is better than what 99% of bloggers can do. Simply showing up here almost every day puts me in the top 1%. So I'll let this post say what it is going to say, and not try to seem more brilliant than I am. After all, a little bit of something is better than a lot of nothing.

What does a well stocked laundry shelf, and a sparkly-clean washing machine have to do with sowing? Well, you don't become what you dream of becoming - you become what you do on a daily basis. I highly value the ability to self-motivate. It is a necessary trait, this being able to do over and above even the tasks I assign to my own self, when no one is there to see or care what I do.

I don't want to get into a habit of disregarding my own inner drive to get things done. Am I "there" yet? No...there are still days when I don't do everything, when things are left undone for no truly good reason. But they are getting fewer and fewer. I am sowing small actions that are turning into habits that will be my character that will be my destiny.

My destiny, involving the personal goals that I have, makes it necessary for me to be independent and self motivated. Every little act I can sow in that direction is going to reap a harvest.

It isn't about performance. It isn't about earning God's blessing. It isn't even really about how hard I can work, for the sake of working. It is about wise sowing. Increase belongs to God, the harvest in my life will be all Him, nothing of me.

I just have to sow.

"...What a person plants, he will harvest. The person who plants selfishness, ignoring the needs of others—ignoring God!—harvests a crop of weeds. All he’ll have to show for his life is weeds! But the one who plants in response to God, letting God’s Spirit do the growth work in him, harvests a crop of real life, eternal life. Gal. 6:7 (MSG)

"Stuck in the Middle With You!"

"Clowns to the left,
Jokers to the right,
Here I am
Stuck in the middle with you!"

Interesting how the terms "Middle Ages" and "Dark Ages" are sometimes used interchangeably. It is also interesting how the most difficult years of childhood are called the "middle school years". Seems like all things associated with the middle can become fraught with disillusion.

You absolutely need friends to be stuck in the middle with.

Because in the middle, the very ones you thought would be there, won't be. The very ones you thought you could trust, will prove untrustworthy. Sometimes the ones you least expect become the clowns to the left, and the jokers to the right. It becomes important to be stuck in the middle with a few good friends.

The ones who send you flowers. Who slip cards in the mail. Who make sure you get a massage to ease the stress. Who lay hands on you and pray. Who write their prayers down, along with an encouraging word from the Lord. Who email you, to check up on how you are doing. Who are there if you need them, but understand if you aren't feeling very social. Who take you to funny movies. Who secretly imagine using Shakespearean insults on those who have mistreated you. And they tell you so, with a few dramatic monologues for your entertainment.

And you laugh until you can't breathe.

Those sorts of friends. You need them in the middle. You need the body of Christ.

Beef and Barley Soup in Twenty Minutes - a Pressure Cooker Recipe

Couldn't be any easier. Or yummier. First, gather your ingredients...

OOPS. My bad. I oh-so-innocently and accidentally posted a valentine from my friend Judah, declaring that I rule.

Well, in my own defense, I kinda do. Anyhow, gather your ingredients, for real this time...

You'll need: beef stock, between 1 and 2 pounds of beef (I use chuck eye, and cut it myself, because it is way cheaper that way) a half cup of barley, some mushrooms, carrots, celery, onion, garlic, a few bay leaves, some coarse salt, and some olive oil - the olive oil is more important than you know. I'll tell you why in a minute.

Rough cut and chop the obvious things.

Set your handy-dandy electric pressure cooker to "brown" mode. Drizzle some olive oil in the pot, and toss in the beef. Brown it. Then toss in absolutely everything else. (Oh, and as for the garlic - just mince as many cloves as you like. I think I did about four...)

Like I said, after browning your beef, just toss in everything else. Including your barley. Or, if you are gluten intolerant, this is where you want to substitute a half cup of short grain brown rice for the half cup of barley.

Here is where the olive oil is so important. Over and above the drizzle you used to brown your beef, add a tablespoon or so to the pressure cooker whenever you are pressure cooking grains or beans. It'll keep the grains or beans from foaming up quite so much, thereby causing your pressure cooker to clog and explode. 'Nuff said.

Next, set your pressure cooker to "high pressure", and program it for twenty minutes ~

Lock n' load. Push "start". Walk away. I'm not kidding. You can walk away from a pressure cooker, if you have an electric one! Not all technology is of the devil, people!

Let the pressure release naturally. If you are in a hurry, you can release it manually, but I like the little bit of extra time it takes to let the pressure go down on its own. I spend it doing this:

OOPS. My bad again. Another shameless grandbaby plug. ain't braggin' when you're sporting a bed head.

Lastly, ladle some of this awesomeness into a pretty bowl and enjoy!

Jeremiah Was A Bailey...

Come with me, on a beautiful Saturday afternoon, to the baby shower of Kelly Bailey and her soon-t0-be-born Jeremiah...

Best buddies, Kelly, and Wendy from over at Hope Springs, who gave birth to her baby boy Ethan on the same day our grandson was born! Don't they both look fantastic?

The Reese Clan...from left to right, front, you see Meredith, Kelly, and Laura, in back, left to right, you see mamma Reese, Megan, Amy, Jamie, Angel, and Lisa. I think you can tell that they are all Saints fans. Ahem.

Jeremiah's baby blanket...

One of his gifts from me...Saints baby booties. I made 'em. I have mad skillz.

Good grief. That is all I can say. It was an act of love for a Colts fan such as myself to watch...


Mmmmm-hmmmmmm. We'll see. Pastor Tim might attempt to zealously affect baby Jeremiah into the Colts Camp.

At least I was generously given a corner piece.

These people are out of control.

Please. If you are a Colts fan, come join us at Harvest. The Saints are repopulating like crazy, and we Colts need to outnumber them.


How To Be a Blessing To Your Pastor

Obey those who are in authority over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you. (Hebrews 13:17)

When our elders at Harvest Church were set in, two dear friends of ours, Neil Silverberg and Pete Beck were there to set them in with us. They both had weighty and wonderful things to say. One thing Neil said has lingered with me. He said, "You cannot disregard these leaders without doing damage to your own soul."

Obviously, that does not mean that Pastor Tim and our elders have a right to be authoritarian, and if you don't do exactly as they say, they will kick you to the curb. Men like that, insecure and law-oriented, are a dime a dozen, and shouldn't be made watchers-over-souls in the first place.

Neil meant that in the spirit, a pastor or elder has special authority.

There. I said it.

I know that is politically incorrect, but that is what the Bible says. I'll let you argue it out with God. You cannot act in a way that disregards authority, nor can you act in ways that bring grief or pain to the heart of those in authority, without sinning. And when you sin against a leader in these ways, you do damage to your soul.

You aren't punished for your sin...the punishment for sin was laid on Jesus Christ. You are, however, punished by your sin. Your sin will harden you, sear what soft places there may be left, and sit there accumulating and sowing to itself until it is dealt with. Gah. If that does not scare you, sin has already been hardening your heart. Your sinning against a leader does not affect your eternal destiny, but it sure will affect your days. And friend....days have a way of becoming years.

How do you bless a leader?

By not being a burden.

You thought I was going to say, "Make sure he is well taken care of." Yeah, the Bible does say that, especially those who labor in the Word, but that is a firm grasp of the obvious. You thought I might say, "Send him on a particularly wonderful vacation, all expenses paid." You thought I might say, "Take him out to dinner."

Nah. All you do to bless your pastor (or elders) is to not be a burden. Don't sin against your own soul by making his job more difficult. Rather, do everything in your power to make his job a joy. How can you do this?

Do your job. Do not do his job. Do not do the accountant's job. Do not do the elder's job. Do your job with excellence.

Stop whining. Stop questioning your pastor, coming and going. It does not validate your existence to do that. It will not create accountability between you and your pastor; rather it makes your pastor expect you to be the one to find fault. He'll overlook you for it, but is that really what you want?

Stop trying to make your hot button his hot button. His hot button has to be the gospel. Nothing but the gospel. Have I been clear enough? If your hot button is children's ministry, then get involved. If your hot button is prayer, then pray. If your hot button is missions, then give like crazy to your church's missionaries, and take a few trips yourself. If your hot button is the homeless, then go minister to them, and take a few church members with you.

Stop expecting a plug from the pulpit for your particular passion. If a pastor did that for every good thing, for every hot button, all he'd be doing is pushing buttons, regularly and randomly. That makes him the Great and Powerful Oz...but it will not make him an effective pastor. Let the man preach the gospel. Let him lead. You do whatever gift and passion and calling that blows your skirt up, without expecting the pastor to hold your hand.

I'll promise you, your pastor has a hot button. But if he is wise, he keeps it to himself, and refuses to create a "niche church" around his hot button. I know my Tim has several hot buttons, one of which is healthy marriages, home education, and yet more are hospitality and evangelism. He is strong in all those areas, and he has great passion for them, but he keeps himself to the gospel as it concerns leading Harvest Church. He sees his job as putting a foundation of grace under people, thus equipping the saints to pursue their hot buttons under the safety of oversight.

If your hot button is nursing home ministry, and you pursue that ministry with passion and purpose, then your church is a "nursing home ministry" church. If your hot button is missions, and you go on mission trips, and you support your church's missionaries, then your church is a "missions church". If your passion is worship, you can have a worship-oriented church even if you can't sing a lick. Make sure your worship leader has the best instrument he or she could use. Worship your butt off. Encourage the worship leader, and make your enjoyment of worship obvious. You'll have a "worshipping church" before you know it!

No one church can place an emphasis on everything. But you can emphasize what you are passionate about, with your life. I can't think of a more wonderful way to live.

One more thing...

Help take care of the building. Outdated fixtures and furnishings, overgrown grass, and general untidiness is one of the most off-putting things a visitor can encounter. They matter, more than most are willing to admit.

We don't think twice about making our own homes more welcoming. When our grass needs mowing, we either mow it ourselves or pay someone to do it. We don't think twice about tapping our home's equity to make improvements. We consider that a wise investment...yet we get queasy if the church sanctuary gets redecorated for the first time in ten years. We wonder where the money's coming from. Well, without good facilities, there soon won't be much money to worry about, frankly. That is just the reality of church in the 21st century. Get over it, and work with it.

Get on board with making your church building, its grounds, and its parking area to be the best, most useful it can be. Help with the grounds keeping, the care, the maintenance. Take as much pride in your church surroundings as you do your own home. It will be such a blessing to your pastor.

How to be a blessing? Just don't be a burden.