Floating Chickens – Stolen Pie – and the Periodic Table

This past week – I heard and read story after story about the incredible stress of getting together with extended family for the Thanksgiving holiday.   Apparently the American people delight in serving up a side of messy dysfunction alongside their turkey and pumpkin pie!

This is such a pathetically sad commentary on our society and the health of our relationships.

But wow – do I remember those days! I come from a seriously dysfunctional family of origin. My family of origin put the dys- in dysfunctional!

I dreaded holiday gatherings with my family of origin for decades. Attending those gatherings was truly wretchedly awful.

I only attended those gatherings because I thought I had to go.   Guilt and obligation and more guilt made me go. There was no joy in it. I hated every minute of it. (I have had root canals I liked more than our family gatherings.)

Until I realized – I didn’t need to go. Seriously – I did NOT need to go. I was an adult and had been for decades. I could choose with whom I celebrated the holidays. I could and should be choosing the people I with whom wanted/needed to be spending time.

Seriously – if getting together with people makes you miserable and upset – why on earth are you still doing it? (Perhaps this is what the radio people should have been pondering . . . )

I stopped going to these festivals of dread several years ago. I reclaimed the joy in my holiday celebrations.

Now I look forward to days like Thanksgiving and Christmas because I am spending them with people with whom I have healthy – loving relationships.   Now I can be relaxed and myself – rather than on guard. Because I am accepted and loved for who I am. Things I didn’t always have.

But even now – the McFarland/Markward gatherings are less than picture perfect. Because – quite simply – we still bring our human humanness with us to our family gatherings . . .

And in spite of what others may be putting out there on social media – I firmly believe that absolutely – positively none of us are going to be able to achieve a Thanksgiving/Christmas/4th of July/Arbor Day gathering worthy of a Norman Rockwell painting. Norman Rockwell paintings are fun and sometimes funny.   Other times they are lovely – but they aren’t always terribly realistic.

Personally – I tend to think that my life looks more like a Pablo Picasso . . . Or perhaps even a Marc Chagall . . . (I love – love – love his work! And who doesn’t like a great floating chicken?!?)

Because the sassy – stubborn orange kitten is always going to jump up onto the kitchen counter and help himself to some yummy pecan pie.   (Why – yes our sweet Craig did eat some of Mimi’s pie this year. . . And boy did he think it was tasty!)

Jack and the Thief!

Or Crazy Aunt Kerri is going to be simply aghast to learn that the children these days don’t have to memorize the periodic table in chemistry.   She thinks this is why kids today are so dim-witted. (Yes – that was me!) She and Uncle Jason are going to assert memorization is good for the brain and the children are going to assert memorization is both stupid and pointless because they will ALWAYS have phones in their hands and “be able to look it up.”

Why yes – they do ALWAYS seem to have their phones with them don’t they?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?

Or your youngest child will take you seriously when you joke he can enroll at the elementary school where his Auntie is principal for the month of December! Will was truly crushed to learn he could NOT stay in Richmond for an entire month to attend 3rd grade at Auntie’s school . . .

Or in joking with my father-in-law who was complaining about being cold. And when we all looked at him – we noted he was wearing shorts . . . in late November . . . in central Indiana.   My sister-in-law declared – “Dad – PUT ON PANTS!” It was hilariously funny (if you were there. . . )

But that is what I have come to treasure about Thanksgiving and life with family. It is the messiness – the humanness of it all. I treasure the realness. That is where the joy is for me.

The joy is Will running triumphantly into our bedroom at 5:30 AM on Thanksgiving morning to share the joyous news that he had lost a tooth!   (We are all up and getting ready to drive to my in-laws in Richmond for the day.) The joy is in Uncle John taking a nap in his favorite chair. And Craig stealing pecan pie. And Mimi and Uncle Jason sparring over politics in the kitchen over the dishes.   And my father-in-law finally wearing pants! And knitting while watching the birds have their Thanksgiving dinner at the birdfeeders in my in-laws’ backyard.

Hanging out in my favorite spot at my in-laws’ with one of my favorite people!

The joy is in our human humanness and in the way we can just laugh and talk and hang out and relax be ourselves with one another. The joy is in the realness of it all.

And in accepting one another for who we are. And in being thankful for these people we get to share the journey with . . . . And celebrating this. I prefer the messes and the goofiness and the realness.

I give thanks my Pablo Picasso life . . .

What about you?

Worship for Sunday, November 21, 2021

First Reading   Deuteronomy 8:7-18                                        

For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land, a land with flowing streams, with springs and underground waters welling up in valleys and hills, a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive trees and honey, a land where you may eat bread without scarcity, where you will lack nothing, a land whose stones are iron and from whose hills you may mine copper. You shall eat your fill and praise the Lord your God for the good land that he has given you.

Take care that you do not forget the Lord your God, by failing to keep his commandments, his ordinances, and his statutes, which I am commanding you today. When you have eaten your fill and have built fine houses and live in them, and when your herds and flocks have multiplied, and your silver and gold is   multiplied, and all that you have is multiplied, then do not exalt yourself, forgetting the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, who led you through the great and terrible wilderness, an arid waste-land with poisonous snakes and scorpions. He made water flow for you from flint rock, and fed you in the wilderness with manna, to humble you and to test you, and in the end to do you good. Do not say to yourself, ‘My power and the might of my own hand have gained me this wealth.’   But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, so that he may confirm his covenant.

The Word of our Lord.

Psalm 100

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth.
Worship the Lord with gladness;
come into his presence with singing.

Know that the Lord is God.
It is he that made us, and we are his;
we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
and his courts with praise.
Give thanks to him, bless his name.

For the Lord is good;
his steadfast love endures for ever,
and his faithfulness to all generations. Amen.

Second Reading Philippians 4:4-9

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.

The Word of our Lord.

The Holy Gospel according to Saint Luke 17:11-19            

On the way to Jerusalem Jesus was going through the region between Samaria and Galilee.  As he entered a village, ten lepers approached him. Keeping their distance, they called out, saying, ‘Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!’ When he saw them, he said to them, ‘Go and show yourselves to the priests.’ And as they went, they were made clean. Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice. He prostrated himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him. And he was a Samaritan. Then Jesus asked, ‘Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they? Was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?’ Then he said to him, ‘Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well.’

The Gospel of our Lord.

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

This very Thursday is Thanksgiving. And so the all too brief season of Thanksgiving and giving God thanks is upon us.

Have you ever noticed how hard it is for us to stay grateful for anything for very long?

Scientists have studied this tendency pretty extensively. They call it the hedonic treadmill or hedonic adaptation. Simply put – we humans adapt to the good stuff in our lives. We get used to the things we already have really quickly and then start to take them for granted. We excel at being completely and utterly blind to our blessings.

We ALL do it with the blessings in our lives.   Think about that spouse you were so taken with when you were dating. You were dazzled and enchanted. Everything she said made you smile. You couldn’t wait to spend the rest of your life together. You wore a fancy suit and pledged eternal vows before God and your family and friends to love and support and maybe even obey her forever and ever and ever. And now you just wish she would stop talking long enough to let you watch the football game in peace and quiet . . . And maybe the same goes for your adorable kids and grandkids too!

Or the house that was so perfectly – gloriously lovely on the day you found it. You were thrilled and delighted by it. But now that you have been living there a while. Well honestly – it feels a bit small and the kitchen needs some updating and you wish it had another bathroom and there just aren’t enough closets.   Actually every single room in the entire house is just too small!

And your cell phone – think about how pathetically lame that is.   You cell phone became a hunk of outdated junk about 2 seconds after it came out of the box!

Our very human brains are always seeking what we perceive to be the brighter and the better and the shinier. And it certainly isn’t what we already have. Nope – it ALWAYS needs to be new and fresh for us to like and appreciate it.

BUT as soon as we have something in our lives – we start to get used to it. And once we get used to it – we value it less. We – human beings – just can’t stay grateful for anything for very long.

The Bible is full of stories of hedonic adaptation.

Think of Exodus and the way the Chosen People acted. Sometimes their behavior actually shocks us. They seem so blind to God’s generous gifts to them.   They complain about everything from the food they are given to eat to the amount of water they are given to drink in the desert. They also complain about how God makes his very presence known to them. Even Moses’ glowing face upsets them. These people find something to complain about in everything. They are shockingly ungrateful. They even consider returning to lives of slavery and oppression because they liked the food better! Seriously!?!?!?!

But upon some deeper reflection – we know we are just like the Chosen People – aren’t we? We too struggle with gratitude. We too struggle to remember in the hustle and bustle of our daily lives to pause to count our blessings and to give God thanks.

Human beings tend to be a selfish – self-centered lot.

Gratitude doesn’t always flow from us. We have to work at gratitude.

Remembering to say thank you is hard for us even under the best circumstances.

And the times we are living through really aren’t the best of circumstances.

Because – this wretched pandemic has lingered and loitered and hung on and just plain worn out its welcome. We are fed up. It feels like our world has been turned upside down and inside out – over and over and over again.

And yet – we are blessed. Our God has continued to bless each and every one of us. We might have to dig a bit deeper these days to see it – but for most of us – we don’t have to look too far to be tripping over blessings.   We are all deeply and abundantly blessed. Wildly and wonderfully blessed.

And so – I ask you – even now – even in the midst of this wretchedly stressful time in most of our lives – to think deeply about the many ways our Lord blesses you each and every day of your life.

Who are the blessings in your life? Who makes your life sweeter – better – more fun? Who helps you get through those tough days? Who listens? Who is there for you to lean on and rely on? Who laughs with you? Who shares this journey with you? For whom are you grateful? For whom do you give God thanks?

What are the blessings in your lives? (Don’t think about what needs to be fixed or what could be better or what you don’t like. Don’t make a list of complaints. Most folks do way – way too much of that!) Instead – think of the blessings in your lives. Think grateful thoughts. Think about what is good – maybe even delightful in your life.

Now write it down. Seriously – write it down. (You all have the supplies for writing down blessings this morning. And after you have written them down – if you leave them on your chair – I will hang them up as a reminder to all of us in the weeks to come of God’s abundant blessings to us.)

Let’s share our blessings with one another. Let’s remind ourselves that we are blessed and let’s give God thanks for some of those incredible blessings he showers on us each and every single moment of our lives.

It is incredibly easy to forget to say thank you to God for all of the ways he has blessed us.

It is easy to take God’s blessing to us for granted.

So today – let’s remember to thank God for the many ways he has blessed us.   Thank God for the big blessings in your life – but also for the small blessings. Because God has blessed all of us abundantly.

We are blessed. Truly this is Good News. AMEN.

 

 

 

 

 

Someone Else is Thinking Big Thinks (or a Message from our Bishop)

911 E. 86th Street, Suite 200, Indianapolis, IN 46240

+ 317-253-3522 + www.iksynod.org

Pastoral Message to the People and Communities of the Indiana-Kentucky Synod, ELCA Bishop Bill Gafkjen + November 2021

Dear People of God,

The public libraries in the community where Janet and I live have declared the months of November and December to be a “Season of Gratitude.” Throughout the two months the libraries are offering programs to assist folks in exploring gratitude: making personalized thankful trees, creating gratitude grams, meditating on gratitude, and more.

Noting that the libraries call this a season of gratitude and not a season of Thanksgiving got me wondering about the difference between thankfulness and gratitude. An article published online by Psychiatric Medical Care in Brentwood Tennessee points out that:

The Oxford Dictionary defines the word thankful as “pleased and relieved.” Both of those are great feelings. Everyone wants to be pleased and relieved. But that’s just it; they’re just feelings, and feelings fade. The Oxford Dictionary defines the word grateful as “showing an appreciation of kindness.” This is where the difference lies; being thankful is a feeling, and being grateful is an action.

As we move into and through another Thanksgiving and toward Christmas in the coronavirus wilderness, most of our holiday observances will be different from last year’s but in many cases still not what we would like them to be. We are still uncertain about how long this virus will continue to shape our lives. We are still arguing over vaccinations and limits on our personal freedoms. Few of us have a clear vision of what church, family life, and work will look like in the future.

As important as thankfulness is this season, I wonder: might gratitude be an important and sustaining spiritual discipline to guide us into the future? Melody Beattie, a helpful author on the topics of addiction and codependency, suggests that might be the case.

Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and  more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.

Gratitude can help us make sense of our past – including the last couple of years, bring some peace into troubled days, and help us to see God’s promised future that is emerging from our tragic trek through the wilderness.

This Thanksgiving-tide could be a good time to move from thankfulness to gratitude in a disciplined daily way, as individuals, as families, and as communities of faith. Perhaps it’s a good time to establish practices like beginning or ending meetings, gatherings, and worship with expressions and actions of gratitude. How about starting a daily gratitude journal or engaging in gratitude sharing conversations with family or friends at the end of each day, or pausing for brief prayers of gratitude throughout each day?

In the power of the Holy Spirit, the daily discipline of gratitude – rather than greed, or griping or grabbing – can help us to see and trust in the provision and promise of the God who carries us from the cross to the empty tomb with Jesus.

And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God. (Colossians 3:15-16)

Peace be with you,

I’ve Been Reading – AGAIN . . .

The season of Thanksgiving is kinda – sorta upon us. Thanksgiving doesn’t get much attention in our increasingly secular society. You need to look really – really closely or you might just miss it. Get distracted by a good book (novella/short story) and Thanksgiving will have passed you by. Even blink or sneeze and you will have missed the entire season of Thanksgiving for another year!

And this is truly a huge shame – because Thanksgiving is amazing!   Thanksgiving is awesome.   Thanksgiving is a delight and a joy!

And I am not just talking about the food and family parts of Thanksgiving. (But yum to pumpkin flavored anything! And yippee to the fun of getting together with people you love and enjoy.)

It is truly a shame we don’t spend more time celebrating Thanksgiving because gratitude is good for our souls. Actually gratitude is shockingly good for our hearts – minds – and souls. If we were all more focused on gratitude – our world would be a nicer – kinder – more gracious – loving place.   Seriously!

I am not making this stuff up.

I find gratitude and grateful people and thanksgiving intriguing.   Apparently so do plenty of other folks too. I have read entire books on the subject of gratitude. And these books make for some truly inspiring reading. Reading that will make you want to change the way you live your life (at least they did me).

Scientists and super-duper smart people with much fancier degrees than mine have studied gratitude and our brains on gratitude. The results are intriguing! Gratitude changes us for the better. Really – honestly – it does!

Gratitude makes us happier and who doesn’t want to be happier?   Gratitude also makes us healthier!   And nicer!

Scientists have found if you take just 5 minutes a day and write down the things and people you are grateful for your happiness will be significantly improved. No kidding – you will be happier if you simply take the time to consider thoughtfully and to write down some of your blessings each day.

This makes a lot of sense actually – because most of us spend way – way – way more time complaining and moaning and groaning about what is wrong in our lives and with the world and the OTHER people in it. We talk and focus far more on what we don’t like.   You can eat at a restaurant 2,500 times and have a great experiences – but it will be that 1 bad experience you talk about over and over and over again. We all have laser focus on the stuff we don’t like. We obsess about what makes us unhappy. Most of us live out the fairytale of “The Princess and the Pea” in our lives each and every day!

It is downright depressing to go to most meetings because all folks do is talk about what they don’t like or what is wrong or what is NOT going smoothly. When was the last time you went to a meeting and you left feeling positive or uplifted or encouraged or hopeful?   Nope – we complain and point out what we don’t like and what is wrong. But we don’t talk about what is going well or smoothly or is good. We don’t focus on our blessings. Actually – we don’t even mention our blessings or what is going well.

And so a gratitude journal is a wonderful way of resetting our brains.   Of keeping our perspective. Of reminding ourselves of what is really true about our lives. When we are focused on that 1 or 2 or 5 things that are wrong/making us unhappy – we forget the 1,000s upon 1,000s of wonderful blessings in our lives. A gratitude journal reminds of our abundant blessings. A gratitude journal reminds us that our lives are filled to overflowing with blessings and things and people to be thankful for even if not everything is perfectly perfect.

(I think we need to start ending church council meetings with a moment of gratitude. It might help us/me keep our/my perspective . . .)

Since reading about the way being grateful shapes one’s happiness – I have tried to focus more on my blessings. It isn’t always easy. Honestly – some days I find it to be incredibly challenging. But I will say I have noticed over time that I am a happier – more joyful person. My heart has changed (so not kidding) since I started focusing more on my blessings and on gratitude. I am more grateful for my blessings and I think I see my blessings more often. Of course – I am still so very – very – very human so I take my blessings from God for granted all of the time – but it is better than it was before.

One thing I do on really tough days is list 3 DIFFERENT blessings each hour I am awake. (I consider it cheating to list Jason – Jack – and Will more than once a day.)

I have been up for 4 hours today (insomnia . . . time change weirdness . . . just me . . . ) Today isn’t a hard day – just a day – but I thought I would be extra mindful of my blessings.

1) coffee = I woke up at 4:00 am

2) our furnace = seriously – central heat what a gloriously awesome blessing

3) electric lights = I woke up at 4:00 am

4) Jack = by now he was up and getting ready for school

5) Ash = our kitten sleeping on my lap

6) our hot water heater = hot water just flows out of our pipes whenever I want it!

7) Will = 6:00 am and my little guy is awake and thrilled to be alive

8) abundant food = our pantry is full of it

9) our dishes

10) Jason = I can hear him in the other room working

11) sunshine = it looks like the sun might shine for a bit today

12) hugs = I just got an amazing hug from my favorite 8 year old

Gratitude is good for us. Gratitude is good for the people around us too. Yes – gratitude makes us happier. But gratitude also makes us nicer people and therefore might just make the people around us happier. How cool is that?

Studies have shown that grateful people are more likeable too!   This really doesn’t seem like rocket science though now does it? Who would you rather hang out with – a grumpy curmudgeon or a grateful ray of hope and sunshine? Yeah – me too!

Gratitude is good for us. And gratitude is good for those around us too. I encourage you to give gratitude a try. You might just find you like it and that those around you like you on gratitude too!?!?!

What are you grateful for? Who are you grateful for? How has God blessed you?

You are all in my heart – thoughts – and prayers.

In Christ and with Love –

Pastor Kerri

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Worship for Sunday, November 14, 2021

Daniel 12:1-3

“At that time Michael, the great prince, the protector of your people, shall arise. There shall be a time of anguish, such as has never occurred since nations first came into existence. But at that time your people shall be delivered, everyone who is found written in the book. Many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. Those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.”

The Word of the Lord.

Psalm 16

Protect me, O God, for I take refuge in you;
I have said to the Lord, “You are my Lord, my good above all other.”
All my delight is in the godly that are in the land,
upon those who are noble among the people.
But those who run after other gods
shall have their troubles multiplied.
I will not pour out drink offerings to such gods,
never take their names upon my lips. 
O Lord, you are my portion and my cup;
it is you who uphold my lot.
My boundaries enclose a pleasant land;
indeed, I have a rich inheritance.
I will bless the Lord who gives me counsel;
my heart teaches me night after night.
I have set the Lord always before me;
because God is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken. 
My heart, therefore, is glad, and my spirit rejoices;
my body also shall rest in hope.
For you will not abandon me to the grave,
nor let your holy one see the pit.
You will show me the path of life;
in your presence there is fullness of joy, and in your right hand are pleasures forevermore. 

Hebrews 10:11-14 [15-18] 19-25

Every priest stands day after day at his service, offering again and again the same sacrifices that can never take away sins. But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, “he sat down at the right hand of God,” and since then has been waiting “until his enemies would be made a footstool for his feet.” For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are sanctified. [And the Holy Spirit also testifies to us, for after saying,
“This is the covenant that I will make with them
after those days, says the Lord:
I will put my laws in their hearts,
and I will write them on their minds,”
he also adds,
“I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.”
Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin.]

Therefore, my friends, since we have confidence to enter the sanctuary by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain (that is, through his flesh), and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us approach with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who has promised is faithful. And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

The Word of the Lord.

Mark 13:1-8

As [Jesus] came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher, what large stones and what large buildings!” Then Jesus asked him, “Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down.”

When he was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter, James, John, and Andrew asked him privately, “Tell us, when will this be, and what will be the sign that all these things are about to be accomplished?”  Then Jesus began to say to them, “Beware that no one leads you astray. Many will come in my name and say, ‘I am he!’ and they will lead many astray. When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed; this must take place, but the end is still to come. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. This is but the beginning of the birth pangs.”

The Gospel of our Lord.

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

When most folks – especially those of us who are parents or who have ever been in charge of people under the age of 18 – hear the word “provoke” – we get a cold chill down our spines. Because for us the word provoke is not an especially happy word.   When we think of provoking – we think of the incredible joys of having to separate the children who are warring with one another yet again.

We think of settling disputes over who touched whom. And negotiating disagreements over just who it was who left that pile of Halloween candy wrappers in the middle of the living room floor – AGAIN! Or who left the front door wide open in August letting every single flying creature in Kentucky into our home – for the 1000th time that month . . .

We think of making less than profound statements like “fine – just don’t touch your brother. Don’t look at your brother ever gain. Actually – don’t even breathe in your brother’s direction.”

Or maybe that’s just me and a problem that I have . . . It is probably just me – isn’t it!?!?

Anyway – the word “provoke” can have very strong connotations.

But did you know the word provoke doesn’t just exist to describe the behavior of annoying siblings?

I know! This particular revelation shocked me too.

I was absolutely – positively floored when the Word of God boldly declared to us today that provoking someone could be a good thing!

Seriously – folks – it is right there in the 10th chapter of Hebrews.   Provoking can be a good thing . . . Apparently – provoking can be a really – really good thing!

In fact in our second reading for this week – we are all encouraged to provoke one another as often as possible.

I think some of us are so totally going to rock at this! Because we have been perfecting our “provocation” skills for years!

But regardless of our personal skill sets – we are all called to acts of provocation. We are all called to be provokers! We are all called to boldly provoke others in the name of the Lord no less!   (Finally – something for which I seem to have a true talent!?!?!)

Hebrews chapter 10 declares to all of us – “let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, but encouraging one another.”

We are all supposed to be provoking one another to love and to good deeds! And we are supposed to meet together regularly and to encourage one another too.

Okay so this is probably a twist on those provocation skills we all worked so hard on as kids. Because the provoking we did back then probably tended to look more like torment and torture and treating our siblings to basic acts of terrorism.

So I want you to take a moment and think about someone in your life who was an encourager. Who was a cheerleader. Who was genuinely kind – loving – and helpful. Think about those folks in your life who did exactly what Hebrews calls ALL of us to do.

I know I tend to remember 2 kinds of people most vividly.

Unfortunately I do remember the mean folks. The yucky – awful people who made my life miserable are hard to forget. The folks who hurt us and left scars. The ones who said thoughtless things. Most of us remember the people we wish we had never met because they were filled with meanness and criticism.

But we aren’t going to think about those folks today. Because we know for certain we don’t want to be like them! We know our God doesn’t want us to be like them.

We are called to be encouragers. And I DO remember the encouragers. The people who cheered me on. The people who were helpful and hopeful and loving. The people who made my life easier and better. The gracious folks. The people who made me laugh and smile and thankful to know them.

And this is who our God calls us to be. We are being called to be the loving – gracious – merciful – understanding – thoughtful – compassionate – encouragers our world so desperately needs. We are called to bless others. To spread love rather than hate and negativity. To generously share God’s love and our own love with others. To be helpers and bringers of hope and kindness.

We are called to feed the hungry – to give water to the thirsty – to clothe the naked – to comfort the hurting and the heartbroken and to love one another in God’s name. We do this so others can experience and come to know God and God’s love through us.   So others can see our God reflected in us. So others might want to join us in doing these very same things for others.

We are ALL called to share and show God’s love. We are all called to be encouragers and provokers!

We can share and show God’s love by being encouragers and helpers and people who speak encouraging – kind – gracious words.

And often the most powerful way of sharing the Good News of God’s love – is by rolling up our sleeves and serving others in God’s name.

Perhaps you will share God’s love by bringing food for the Fern Creek – Highview United Ministries or by volunteering at the school in your neighborhood or at the hospital that saved your life.

Maybe you will be an encourager by helping at the Ronald McDonald House or by volunteering to help us clean or decorate the church.

Maybe you will be an encourager by calling someone from church to check in with them – or by sending a note to some of the people on our prayer list. We all should be supporting one another through these long – hard days of the pandemic.

Perhaps you will serve by helping a neighbor with some fall yard work or by donating Christmas presents to a family in need.

We have ALL been called. Called to be encouragers and spreaders of God’s love.   We are people with a mission. A mission to be kind – gracious – loving – generous people. – Amen.

Opal Ivy Ash

Why yes that kitten is sleeping in a very expensive nest of hand knit hats . . .

We did not remain a cat-free household for long. The very same weekend Craig went to live with Mimi and Papa – William chose a new kitten for our family to love (and obediently serve).

You see – Craig’s mom – Lexi – had a new litter of 6 adorable kittens needing loving – nurturing homes. And we were in need of a kitten. After all – we had 2 litter boxes and cat toys and dishes and collars and a cat shaped place in all of our hearts that needed filling.

But Jason and I declared there would be rules. We were wiser/jaded. This time the kitten had to be a girl kitten. I read that girl kittens are more content to be housecats.   And this kitten/cat would never – ever – ever know the joys and pleasures of the great outdoors.

In fact – I tell her every single time I leave the house that it is terrifyingly – wretchedly awful out there in the world. That nature is monstrously horrible and I am miserable the entire time I am out under the nasty – ugly – blue sky. I tell her nature isn’t fun and nature will get you if you aren’t very – very careful.

Yes – I am a great big lying liar – but we cannot afford to move someplace more outdoor-cat friendly. (Although I dream of 100 wooded acres and my own greenhouse.) I want/need this cat to be a happy indoor cat!   I do not want to feel like I am holding her hostage for the next 15 or so years of our lives together!?!?!   Even if I am . . .

William chose the only female with a bit of orange on her. She is mostly gray and very fluffy and so very – very soft and cuddly (and just a little bit orange. The orange is very important to Will and therefore to all of us).   Her eyes are quite green. She is tiny with a very loud purr and an even louder meow. She has a huge personality.   She is a very big talker. And wow – is she bossy! She is 3 pounds of fluffy – gray sass. She and I have a lot in common. I too am gray and sassy!

We call her Thunder Kitten for the way she tears around the house when she plays.

And she cuddles and naps on my lap while I work and write and knit.   She does attack my knitting which we are working on. She thinks this a delightfully amusing game. I do not! The yarn is mine I tell her and so are the knitting needles. A few times Jason has had to intervene and separate us because we were arguing so passionately about yarn . . . If she wants yarn – she needs to get a job and buy her own!

It took us a few days to settle on a name. Jack and I suggested Ivy because her eyes are so very – very green. Will wasn’t sold on Ivy. Perhaps because I was suffering horribly from a severe case of poison ivy all over my body at the time and taking big doses of Prednisone in an attempt to get it under control and it was only kinda – sorta working thanks to my autoimmune stuff and my body’s amazing ability to overreact to things it perceives to be dangerous. I suppose I can see how the name Ivy lacked a certain appeal when your mom was constantly declaring that poison ivy was the work of the devil!

I floated the name Opal because she arrived in our family in October and opals are the birthstone for October. Neither of the McFarland sons were sold on Opal but they didn’t hate it either. Perhaps it was a little too old-fashioned for them.

And then Jack suggested Ash.

Opal – Ivy – and Ash made the short list of names.

We decided to think on it for a few days and jokingly called her Opal Ivy Ash because if members of the British Royal Family can have 3 names so can our cat . . .

We gave it 72 hours.

And then – the McFarland sons came to a consensus. Her name is Ash. She is the color of ashes and it works perfectly for girl who we all know will never – ever – ever acknowledge her name anyway. Ash is a cat – after all. Her name is for us. And as the 3 oldest McFarland have all pointed out more than once she can be “a real pain in the . . . ”

Her name truly is perfectly perfect for a sassy – fluff-ball who thunders through the house at 5:00 am meowing as loudly as a tiger!

I would say that Ash is our kitten – but that would be another lie.   We all know she owns us and we are HER people!

PS – If you ever meet Ash – please – please whatever you do don’t tell her how much fun it is to play outside!  What she doesn’t know won’t hurt me?!?!?

Letting Go (My In-Laws Save the Day AGAIN)

This summer William and his delightful Auntie and his charming Uncle sweet talked us into welcoming a kitten into our lives. A gorgeous – sweet – orange – boy kitten named Craig for the McFarland boys.

And Craig is sweet. He has the nicest personality. He loves to cuddle and he talks A LOT. He is a very vocal cat. We fell in love with Craig. Craig is a charmer. Craig is easy to love because he is so thoroughly lovable.

But Craig – quite frankly – is also a bizarrely strange cat.   Craig is friendly and I mean incredibly friendly. He doesn’t have an aloof bone in his little orange tabby body! He loves – loves – loves people. Craig also loves dogs. Craig enjoys the company of other cats too.

Honestly – we decided Craig may think he is a dog himself.   More precisely – Craig seems to believe he is a golden retriever. On more than one occasion Jason and I would comment that Craig is the cat version of a golden retriever. This makes sense, because Craig spent the formative weeks of his kittenhood with our in-laws 3 golden retrievers. For weeks Craig was one of the rumble – tumble 4-legged crew.

We welcomed Craig into our lives and our hearts and quickly fell in love with the little orange-eyed charmer.

Craig is charming and sweet – but Craig also has a mind of his own.   He hates to be confined to the house with a deep and abiding passion. I can absolutely – positively understand this attitude. I too hate to be stuck inside. A lazy day of reading on the couch with my knitting is a delightful indulgence – but a lifetime stuck inside sounds like torture. I need to be outside. I crave nature and trees and grass and blue skies. I need to be able to get outside frequently to be truly happy. And Craig agrees with me.   Craig is NOT an inside cat. Just like Jason and I are not inside people!

Craig loves to be in the house for naps and cuddles and petting.   He enjoys his family and his house but Craig does not have the soul of a fat – lazy house cat. Craig will not/cannot be confined to the house. He turns into a tiny terrorist once he decides it is time to be outside. Craig tormented us and yowled and howled and attacked and turned into the devil himself once he was done with napping on the couch. If Craig the Cat was miserable then so was EVERYONE else!

It felt cruel to keep Craig confined (both to Craig and us).   And yes – I have done significant reading about how keeping cats confined to the house lengthens their lives.   But – if the cat is miserable and tormented – is that really a life and living? I think not. It is a quantity verses quality issue. I come down on quality and so does Jason (thankfully).

So Craig became an indoor cat with outdoor privileges and he was a much – much happier cat. And then we discovered another quirk in Craig’s personality.

Craig likes to go for walks and would regularly go for walks with Jason and me around the neighborhood. Craig’s delight in the daily constitutional is likely linked to yet another quirk our boy has – Craig talks to strangers. Craig talks to EVERYONE! Craig the cat who does not seem to know that he is a cat (or that cats are supposed to be aloof and ignore people) marches right up to people and talks to them!?!?!

This did not work at all. Our neighbors freaked out BIG time! I kid you not. The stories of the great freak out of the summer and fall of 2021 will go down in McFarland family history/legend. It was not good . . .

Craig was a definite mismatch. Craig is not a city cat. Craig belongs in a neighborhood that is friendlier and more animal welcoming.   Craig doesn’t understand city people who are afraid of one another and nature and are unwelcoming. Craig doesn’t get modern city people and their quirky – nature fearing ways (actually – apparently I don’t really either).

It broke our hearts. Many tears were shed. But the telephone call had to be made. Jason called Auntie. (Jason calls her Elizabeth because she isn’t his auntie.)

Craig was in desperate need of sanctuary. Craig needed a safe – welcoming environment to land and live and explore. A place where Craig would be accepted and loved for who he is!

Auntie – Uncle – Nic – Bella – Mimi – Papa – and the 3 golden retrievers – live in the perfect neighborhood for Craig. Their cul-de-sac backs up to a woods for Craig to explore.   Their neighborhood is more “old school.” It is friendlier and far more welcoming. They still have actual neighborhood gatherings on the 4th of July.   (How retro is that?) A friendly cat will be welcomed here. Craig will be a welcome quirk of this neighborhood – not something that is troubling and upsetting.

And Craig will have 2 families and 2 houses to roam to and from because Auntie and Uncle and Mimi and Papa are next door neighbors.

(William so totally thinks we need to buy the Broadwell’s house if they ever decide to sell because he would love nothing more than to live on the other side of his Mimi and Papa. I have to agree living that so close to the people I love the most in this world would be pretty awesome – but the commute would be a bear!)

Craig is quite happy with this arrangement. Craig is free to explore the great and glorious outdoors.   And when he is done – he naps with his buddies – Catherine – Hudson – and Eleanor Charlotte (Ellie for short).   And honestly – it would be the rare being who wouldn’t want to be loved and cared for by my in-laws. They are simply delightful – loving – kind – gracious people (and I am not just saying that because Christmas is coming or the fact that they let me marry Jason with nary a protest or a complaint!)

We miss Craig. We talk about him a lot and wonder what he is up – but we know this is better.   Craig is so much happier. He is where he needs to be. We get updates and pictures from Mimi and Auntie and Uncle whenever we need them.

And it is good practice for me – this sending a being I love out into the world to be loved be others. Because Jack is going to college in August . . .

All Saints’ Sunday Worship 2021

Isaiah 25:6-9

On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples
a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wines,
of rich food filled with marrow, of well-aged wines strained clear.
And he will destroy on this mountain
the shroud that is cast over all peoples,
the sheet that is spread over all nations;
he will swallow up death forever.
Then the Lord God will wipe away the tears from all faces,
and the disgrace of his people he will take away from all the earth,
for the Lord has spoken.
It will be said on that day,
Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, so that he might save us.
This is the Lord for whom we have waited;
let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.

The Word of the Lord.

Psalm 24

The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it,
the world and those who dwell therein.
For the Lord has founded it upon the seas
and established it upon the rivers. 
Who may ascend the mountain of the Lord,
and who may stand in God’s holy place?
Those of innocent hands and purity of heart,
who do not swear on God’s being, nor do they pledge by what is false.
They shall receive blessing from the Lord
and righteousness from the God of their salvation.
Such is the generation of those who seek you, O Lord,
of those who seek your face, O God of Jacob. 
Lift up your heads, O gates; and be lifted up, O everlasting doors,
that the King of glory may come in.
Who is this King of glory?
The Lord, strong and mighty, the Lord, mighty in battle!
Lift up your heads, O gates; and be lifted up, O everlasting doors,
that the King of glory may come in.
Who is this King of glory?
Truly, the Lord of hosts is the King of glory. 

Revelation 21:1-6a

I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying,
“See, the home of God is among mortals.
He will dwell with them;
they will be his peoples,
and God himself will be with them;
he will wipe every tear from their eyes.
Death will be no more;
mourning and crying and pain will be no more,
for the first things have passed away.”
And the one who was seated on the throne said, “See, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true.” Then he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.”

The Word of the Lord.

The Holy Gospel according to Saint John 11:32-44

When Mary came where Jesus was and saw him, she knelt at his feet and said to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved. He said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” Jesus began to weep. So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?”

Then Jesus, again greatly disturbed, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, already there is a stench because he has been dead four days.” Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?” So they took away the stone. And Jesus looked upward and said, “Father, I thank you for having heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I have said this for the sake of the crowd standing here, so that they may believe that you sent me.” When he had said this, he cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with strips of cloth, and his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”

The Gospel of our Lord.

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Even in the best of times living life in this very human world can be tricky and challenging. And we ALL know that these certainly don’t feel like the best of times.

This year – like last year – has been hard. Some might say really – really hard. The times we are living through are full of trials and tribulations that have taken a real toll on all of us.

This pandemic has left deep – lasting scars on our daily lives. And on our hearts and our souls.

Covid-19 has changed us. ALL of us . . .

So much pain. So much loss. So much anger and hurt and human suffering and sickness. So much lost opportunity and so many lost lives.

As of this week – researchers announced we have lost over 5 million precious human lives to Covid-19. And we know this pandemic isn’t over yet. We know more people will die because of this dreadful virus.   More people will be scarred.   More people will be left grieving.   There will be more loss and more sorrow and more pain to be endured.

We wish this wretched pandemic were over but it isn’t. We wish we were on the other side – but we are not. We wish Covid-19 was behind us and in our rearview mirror – but not yet.

We still have work to do.

It can be so physically – emotionally – and spiritually exhausting to live under the pressure of a pandemic. We were already dealing with quite enough – thank you very much – and then the pandemic made everything so much more complicated.

Being human is hard enough and now all of this too!?!?

We can feel so helpless and hopeless. Overwhelmed. We can feel lost and alone in the world. We can feel like no one understands what we are going through.   Like no one gets what we are thinking and feeling. Like no one understands how hard it is to be us. How hard all of this human humanness is!?!

There are times in all of our lives when we find ourselves feeling like no one else understands what we are going through. That no one else gets it!

There are times in all of our lives when we wish others could see our lives aren’t easy-peasy. That we are doing our best and trying really hard. That we are giving it our all.

We all find ourselves wishing other folks could walk a mile or two in our shoes.

We long for empathy. And just to be understood.

Well – let me assure you – someone else does get it. Someone else does understand. Someone else has walked a mile in your shoes.

Your Lord and Savior understands. Jesus gets it. Jesus knows how you feel – and what you are going through.

Jesus has been there and felt that. Jesus has walked in your very human shoes.

In our Gospel reading for today Jesus learns his beloved friend Lazarus has died.

As soon as – Jesus learns Lazarus has died – Jesus and the disciples set off for Bethany.

As they draw close to Bethany – Lazarus’ sisters Martha and Mary hurry out to meet Jesus. Their hearts are broken – because these two sisters loved their brother deeply.

And when Jesus sees his friends’ grief and pain and their tears – Jesus is overtaken by his own grief and he begins to weep.

Jesus wept. Jesus cried!

Jesus – who is God. Jesus – who is our Lord and Savior – weeps when his beloved friend Lazarus dies. Jesus did not pretend to cry like an actor does. Jesus did not preach a sermon about how no one should be sad because death isn’t eternal for Christians. Rather – Jesus wept.

Jesus wept because his beloved friend was dead.   Jesus cried because death is sad – because grief makes us feel like crying. Jesus cried because he is a human being just like us and his friend’s death caused his heart to ache.

There are times in all of our faith journeys when we start to forget that Jesus was both God and human. We tend to put more emphasis on the fact that Jesus is God and to let the human part of Jesus slip from our attention.

But when we fail to remember that Jesus was really and truly a human being – we start to forget something very important about our Lord.

We forget is that Jesus gets it.

He knows what it is like to be one of us.

Jesus knows what it is like to be hungry and tired.   Because he got tired and hungry too.

Jesus knows what it is like to be misunderstood.

Jesus knows what it is like to have people criticize you and judge you and to say hurtful things about you.

Jesus knows what it is like to be tempted.

Jesus knows what it is like to hurt and feel pain and to get sick.

Jesus also knows the fun and joy of spending time with friends and family.

Jesus knows what it means to love and he knows what it means to mourn when loved ones die.

Jesus even knows what it is like to feel afraid and alone in the world.

Jesus really and truly does know what it is like to be a human being. Jesus has walked a mile in your shoes – in fact Jesus has walked thousands of miles in your shoes.

Jesus doesn’t just imagine what you are going through. Jesus actually knows what it is like. Jesus understands and Jesus cares.

Your Lord and Savior gets it. Jesus cares and Jesus loves you. Truly this is Good News. AMEN.

Trying to be a More Interesting Person

I know some folks tend to focus on the negative and on what they don’t like.

Believe me – the people who raised me taught me this. Sadly – this focus on the negative was one of their superpowers. They could and did find a flaw with everything and anything and anyone. No one and nothing was above their stony-eyed critique.

They also taught me just how destructive and hurtful this can be.

And – in spite of growing up immersed in this world of negativity and critique – I just don’t understand why anyone would want to live this way.   Why anyone would want to live a life focused on what you don’t like. Looking for the negative. Looking for the flaws. Pointing out to others what I think they are doing wrong. Thinking so much about what makes you unhappy and upset. The very idea of living this way exhausts me and it breaks my heart.

Of course – there are things that I don’t like. So many things. Of course – I see junk and gross stuff happening all around me. Of course – I have things I disagree with.   I most certainly dislike a multitude of things (sweet potatoes – celery – trips to the dentist – and meanness).   I even think and talk about and discuss them. But I try not to dwell on them for too long – because I don’t like the person I become when I focus on the negative.

When I focus on the negative it is like I can feel my very heart shriveling up inside me and withering away. When I focus on the negative I feel myself changing into someone I don’t want to be . . . Negativity begets negativity.   Negativity spreads and grows.   Negativity is contagious.

Instead – I try to look for the good in a situation.

I regularly refocus. I intentionally (try valiantly to) shift my thinking and focus all of the time.

The clerk at the grocery store was distracted. I could be deeply annoyed with him. Or – I could be understanding and remember he has a complicated life too. There is a reason he is distracted. Perhaps his daughter is sick – his son is struggling in school – he has a huge car repair bill. Or maybe his coffee just hasn’t kicked in yet . . .

The same goes for the nurse at the allergy doctor’s office who seemed especially jabby/stabby last week when she was giving me my allergy shots!

Someone sporting an outfit in public I wouldn’t be caught wearing unless it were literally the last set of clothing on the entire planet. I admire her self-confidence and self-expression.   I would love to have that kind of self-esteem. But – I have always found both fashion and self-expression intriguing.

I actively refocus my thinking when I find myself seeking the negative or getting particularly self-absorbed (“navel-gazing” as my seminary professor called it.)

I try to remember that I will feel so much happier and better and folks will likely prefer to be in the same room with me if I am speaking words of kindness and love and understanding.   And if I mean them!!! The genuinely meaning the words of love and kindness part is quite important . . .

We are exhausted and fatigued and frayed around the edges these days (some of us more than others.) We are stressed out and overwhelmed.

This wretched pandemic is wearing us all down. I know that it is wearing me down. It is bringing out the less than splendid parts of us. Our human humanness is starting to show again . . .

When we are stressed (and I think most of us are stressed right now) we tend to be less patient – less kind – less understanding.

So we start dwelling on the flaws and what we don’t like. We start being less kind and a bit less likely to step up with the grace – understanding and compassion.

I am trying to be more patient. More understanding. Just a bit kinder. I am trying so hard to remember that most of the time it simply isn’t about me . . . and to let things go.   To smile more and to be gentler and more loving.

I am looking for the good and seeking the beauty and the lovely in as many situations as possible. I am trying to remember to stick with the knitting and to skip the to nit-picking and the fault finding. Some days – some moments that is easier than others (again with the human humanness).

I am a work in progress but at least I have a goal . . .  Goals are good.  Goals are excellent.  Goals tend to keep us focused and keep us from navel-gazing!

I pick Bible verses on occasion to ponder – to dwell on and to live with for a time. This week I am pondering a passage from Saint Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians. It is perhaps the most famous passage of the Bible after John 3:16. You can’t go to a wedding without hearing it. But it isn’t just for married couples – it is for ALL of us.

Saint Paul writes to the church in Corinth and to us – “If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.”

“Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”

“Love never ends. ”

“And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.”

Wow – I think – that I will need more than a week to absorb those words and the lessons there – don’t you? There is so much there to meditate on and consider and to apply to our lives.

And if nothing else – it will give us something much more interesting to think about in our free time than ourselves and what bugs us and we don’t like. It will probably make us nicer people and make us more interesting people to talk to also . . .And who doesn’t want to be more interesting?

 

Cost Benefit Analysis (Or Boy These Kids are Expensive!)

Jack was teasing me on the way home from church yesterday and telling me how much more money and free time his dad and I would have if we had decided NOT to have kids.

Jack is most certainly correct about this and many – many other things. Jack is getting so wise in his late teen years (seriously – absolutely no sarcasm here at all. This young man regularly dazzles me with his insights. He is a listener and a careful observer of people like his dad.)

Jason and I would have tons and tons more free time and disposable income if we had chosen to remain childless/child-free/without offspring.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture it costs just over $284,000 to raise a child from birth through the age of 17. (Our beloved Jack is 18 and we are still loving – caring – nurturing – feeding – and clothing him = so we can add bonus funds to his tab!?!?

The U.S. Department of Agriculture doesn’t count the college years either – those don’t look particularly inexpensive from where I sit . . .

Yes – my oldest son was correct. If Jason and I had skipped welcoming John Stuart and William Andrew into our lives we would have a whole lot more money in the bank and in our billfolds! We could retire early(ier).   We could buy that home in Mexico or those wooded acres in Appalachia. We could travel on a whim. We could do lots of nifty things we dream of doing – but need to save our pennies – nickels and dimes for right now.

Oh and the free time Jason and I would have . . .

I taunted Jack right back and declared – “Now that’s just plain mean!” (It isn’t money I long for/experience greed over – it is time!)

No school drop-off. No trips to du-Pont Manual. No packing lunches – making breakfasts – checking backpacks. No school uniforms. No spelling words. No extra trips to the grocery store for ice cream. No emergency – last minute anythings because Jason and I don’t procrastinate. No picking up Legos and ships and accidentally forgotten candy wrappers. No trips to the vet clinic at 5:45 AM on Saturday morning before my coffee has kicked in.

Yes – Jason and I would have tons more free time if we had chosen to skip this whole parenthood gig. And we would most certainly have more money in our retirement accounts.

But . . . I said to Jack as tempting as $600,000 is (and believe me that sounds mighty nice!) – I have bonded with you guys now. I can’t return you. . . Besides that Mimi and Auntie would be furious with me!

And more importantly . . . I think that my Saturday evening was priceless and my Sunday evening was too. I made cherished memories with my beloved family this weekend. We enjoyed and delighted in a few favorite family traditions.

We carved pumpkins on Saturday evening and dined on take away and watched an old black and white scary movie together.

This is a ritual we established years ago when Jack was still just a little guy. Pizza (from a box/take away) must be eaten on pumpkin carving night while watching a carefully selected classic horror movie and drinking soda (for the soda and pizza consuming members of our clan).

I love carving pumpkins with Jason – Jack and Will. The mess. The chatter and joking. The planning. The guts. The laughter. The memories of Halloween pumpkins past.   The annual lighting of the pumpkins! I love all of it – because I simply love to be in the same room with these 3 human beings!

With each passing year – Jason and I are needed less and less on pumpkin carving night. Now Jason is simply needed to handle Will’s lid cutting and to help with the gut removal.   Now that he is almost 9 – Will drew his own design and took over most of his own pumpkin carving this year.

Of course – Jack has been masterfully carving his own pumpkins for years.

I hang out and take pictures and ohh and ahh and laugh and talk.   And provide the supplies. I am very good at my job.

This year we watched – “Night of the Demon!” Jason and I had read the truly excellent short story “Casting the Runes” by M.R. James and we were curious about the movie. I highly recommend the movie – but – of course – like always – the book/story was way – way better! So I recommend the short story even more highly . . .

And Sunday – well – Sunday – I took a handsome navy admiral Trick-or-Treating!

Admiral McFarland and I wonderful evening together. 8 year old human beings truly are such delightful creatures. Will love – love – loved the costume Jason found for him and he wore it with such pride.

So – Jack was absolutely – positively correct when he stated that – his dad and I would have tons more time and oodles more disposable income if we had skipped parenthood.

But – I think we made the right decision for us when we welcomed these two guys into our lives and wallets – because the blessings they bring with them are priceless. . .