The past two weekends, I’ve had opportunities to go out into the community as my alter-ego, Clementine. Clementine is a blue-haired (for now, anyway) Auguste clown who’s been enjoying spending her time at summer festivals and parades with her pet skunk, Blossom.

Dundalk Heritage Fair - July 4th, 2016

Dundalk Heritage Fair – July 4th, 2016

Clementine was asked a question by a ten-year old(ish) boy along the parade this morning: why does she put on her clown makeup? The answer is: with a bit of work (the makeup and costume stuff) and a good bit of energy, Clementine can be a grower of smiles and happiness. The number of kids (and adults!) who wanted to fist bump, snap pics, high-five, pet Blossom, and just generally enjoy interacting was huge! Clementine got to interact with little kids, big kids, parents of kids, and even had her picture snapped with a senior citizen or two who was enjoying the parade from a wheelchair. Blossom was already wearing beads to deck herself out for the 4th of July parade, and got a new necklace from a little girl along the parade route who was making bead necklaces and thought Blossom needed one more.

My ultimate goal is to get some experience under my belt and see about sharing this opportunity with folks in my church. Our clown alley has members from my age and younger, to retired folks. We have folks who have physical limitations, and some who will never be able to live on their own due to mental handicaps, but who delight in ‘bumping a nose’ and sharing a smile in the community. Each clown has their own set of gifts to share, which seems to me to be a perfect example of what we aspire to in Christian ministry. “But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body.” [1 Corinthians 12: 18-20]

Among the resolutions for the New Year this year was this one: work through all 31 Proverbs, summarizing each, and memorizing a key verse from each to help bring it back to mind.  31 is about 1 every week and a half, with a bit of room for catchup.  Bible memorization is not my strong suit, hence giving myself lots of room to succeed.  So far, the verses chosen are Proverbs 1:7 and Proverbs 2:1.  I must confess: Proverbs 2:1 is a long one.  It’s the one I thought was important in instructing me, not necessarily the verse important for summarizing the Proverb.  I was sorely tempted to choose a shorter one.  Given that I just chose today, it may yet retreat – though I hope not.  I’d rather learn the thing that I’m led to tuck away into my heart than learn the short one to achieve what is admittedly an artificial goal.

Our pastors are working through a sermon series talking about the Advent Conspiracy.  Its four tenets are Worship Fully, Spend Less, Give More and Love All.  Our family was honored to get to light the Advent candle on the week the topic was ‘Spend Less’.  So how’d we do, on Spend less in particular, or the Advent Conspiracy overall?

Tonight I headed to CVS to get stocking stuffers for my 3.  Some $70 later (at least it included tape), my kids stockings will have a bit of candy and several things they’ll otherwise need for our family trip later this year.  Counting it as a partial success – $70 seems like a good bit to spend on what I think of as relative inconsequentials, but everything in there is something that I think they’ll use for a particular need.  (Or eat, in the case of the smattering of candy.  On the plus side, I bypassed the normal ridiculously large candy bar / candy box as a Christmas present – my kids do not need an infusion of sugar.)

Present-wise, I think we as usual overdid it.  We worked to keep a running list (Google Docs!) so my hubby and I didn’t lose track, but it’s still too easy to keep finding neat things.  I did attempt to front-load with low-dollar items: each of the girls are getting mugs that I think they’ll enjoy both receiving and drinking from, mornings after mornings.  Each are getting knee high socks.    (I’m pretty sure neither are specifically aware of this website, and either way, even if they know mug and socks, I still think they’ll enjoy their particular mug and socks surprises..  )  These are things that speak to particular interests of theirs at low dollars.  My son didn’t get a mug or knee-high socks, but got his own corollary of things that are low budget, but have sentimental impact. At the end of the list, though, we get to the bigger dollar items.  Nothing ridiculous for any of them individually.  We did splurge on an item that I budget across the three of them – think they’ll be surprised, AND it solves a problem we’ve seen in our house.  By having one of these allocated to the kids, I’ll get my bedroom back, I think.  THAT I find very valuable – it’s basically a Christmas present to me and my hubby!

We did give more – of time, at least.  Haven’t tallied up funds.  But the point of give more is actually time.  We used time as a present more this year: GroupOns for activities with a young friend.  Concert or theatre tickets with either the promise of a companion or of a babysitter.  These, we hope, will be memorable for the recipients, moreso that a typical , well, maybe she needs one of these presents.

Worship fully..  ugh.  My advent worship is bursty.  I revisit my advent calendar and work to catch up, reading through 3-5 days of devotionals at a time.  SO reflective.  It’s better than it’s been in previous years, and I’ve tried to highlight aspects to my kids, but….

Love all…  my ENTJ is working on that…

 

 

Just saw an image of a woman giving CPR to an infant, and it reminded me of a few things I need to act upon.

Learning CPR is important – being ready for the emergency, for the opportunity to save a life – that’s important. I was trained in college, when I was a rugby coach. But I haven’t renewed in a long time. Time to find a class

Giving blood is important. My body produces blood, through no talent of mine. Even on my worst day, in terms of impact to the world, I can give blood and help tip the balance for someone’s life. Time to donate again, particularly before I get my next tattoo (tattoos mean you can’t give again for a year – the ink can be in your bloodstream, which could cause an allergic reaction in others…). Which means, time to take more iron – to not repeat the last ill-fated donation. If I’m going to get my finger pricked, I’m darn sight gonna give some blood this time.

Sharing my faith, particularly with my kids, is important. In fact, growing in my faith, so that it’s more evident as being meaningful, is even more important. My oldest daughter has been asked by our church to consider confirmation classes, and I think she’s likely to side-step this year… She can claim she’s shy (true), that it’s a lot of work (true, too)… I count that as a loss, but I’d rather have her do so when _she’s_ ready to investigate than when I wish she were ready. However, our pastor sent ahead the confirmation “to-do” list. I want to share the list with her, and then let her hold me accountable for working through the list myself… It may make an impression on her, it may not, but I certainly think that the things they ask teenagers to learn and practice are ones that would be valuable for me, as well.

I’m looking around my home this morning, two of my three kids in view. One’s at the computer – I’m thankful that we can provide them things that let them explore the world. The other greets me with a chipper “Hi, mom!”. I’m thankful for the great relationship we have with all three of them. The last is downstairs, I think: of the three she’s the one who most often leaves little drawings around, and I’m thankful for her creative spirit. Yesterday, she and her big sister got tasked with “make something that looks like a turkey – here’s some walnuts, pipe cleaners, and other craft supplies”. Our centerpiece of mums ended up with 3 turkey heads poking up out of it, and the explanation was that the turkeys were hiding from becoming Thanksgiving supper.

My husband walks into the kitchen, on the phone with his mom. They’re finalizing the preparations for him to fly out tomorrow to go help his brother and brother’s family move to our area. I’m thankful for my husband’s generous approach to life: his brother one of many folks he’s helped in various ways this year. I’m thankful for the opportunity upcoming to get to know my brother-in-law, sister-in-law, and niece, as they move into the area for a few years. And I’m thankful for my mother-in-law and father-in-law: they were over yesterday for an early Thanksgiving dinner. They have always been supportive of our family, and are just great folks in general.

I think out more broadly… we’ve changed churches lately, and I’m thankful for both the church we’ve left and the one we’ve been attending. Both have and are teaching us much, and I cherish the friendships we grew at our “old” church, as well as the chance to engage with new folks at our “new” church. Both churches honor and worship God, and I am thankful to get to share in their fellowship and worship.

I think of my extended family. Those relationships are more strained this year than I’d like. I’m thankful that there’s still at least the potential to repair them, that family members still seem to have their health, and that for one family member, at least, this year wasn’t their last.

I think of our health, those of my kids and my husband and mine. My husband’s been given a clear bill of health again this year from his doctor’s, and we get to grow another year older together. My kids have been blessedly healthy and even injury free this year. I drew the short straw on injuries and managed to top out our HSA this year (thankful for great healthcare! and thankful for a reprieve from surgery!), but have recovered and gone back to the activities I love.

I’m looking around at my WordPress dashboard, and seeing an upgrade notice. That reminds me that I’m thankful for the opportunity to work in a field I love. Later today and this weekend I’ll be working on a volunteer project to provide a registration system for a charity that’s doing some great work in the community. I’m thankful that the Lord’s blessed me with skills that I can use, and pointed me towards opportunities to use them.

Yesterday we had the mom of Cora’s friends over, and the day before we were out and about with a young lady who’s an extension of the Coleman family. The day before that, we were retrieving Callie from a not-quite-successful sleepover at another friend. Very thankful for friendships, growing and grown, and hope to always remain open and inviting for more.

The Lord has blessed us this year in many ways, and I offer thankfulness to Him for another year to live, to enjoy His blessings, and to learn more how to serve Him well in every area of my life.  May your Thanksgiving be as abundant in thankfulness!

Submitted for OSCON 2013, in what’s now become an annual tradition.  I attended in 2010, submitted briefs in 2011 and 2012, and now submit again in 2013.  I have the topic to bring it home: two, actually, both related to government FOSS, with a third idea in mind related to some innovations in our new architecture.  I also have, of course, the strong interest to be a visible female presenter at a technology conference.  Today’s sermon topic at church had to do with living big dreams, specifically those that are bigger than your largest life-bound items, which are tied to purposes put in place for you before you were even born.  I keep returning to themes in my life of Christian business, Christian women leaders, female technology leadership…  these appear to me to be directly in line with listening to talents and interests given, and using them to help show paths to other women so that they too might make use of their talents.  I am convinced that one could update Proverbs 31 to show that same woman providing for her family through programming.  I say with quite a bit of tongue in cheek that her “lamp does not go out at night” could be because much programming is done in the late evening hours.

The Christmas season is fast approaching. If you’re looking for an opportunity to spread some Christmas cheer, particularly with families who are finding it hard to make ends meet, consider contributing a toy to the New Hope Community Church Christmas store. I’ve visited their church a few times, and always been impressed by their approach and attitude to reaching out to the community. The Christmas Store is a great model: new or gently used toys of ~$10 value are made available to families for $2. That lets families shop and obtain toys at a much lower impact to their budget, allowing them to use their money in other ways more necessary for their families (food, rent, medicine, etc), while letting them still enjoy the holiday aspects of giving gifts to your kids that so many of us so look forward to. How much fun is it to select that perfect gift for a person you love and then get to anticipate their face as they open it and play with it?

Their church will hold two Christmas Store days – once in their worship center, and once in a recreation center in the Curtis Bay community. They’d like to provide for 600 children, so every gift added in counts! Look for sales at your local stores, and see what your budget can score to bring a ray of joy not just to the child who opens that package, but to their parents and extended family… This ministry grows each year – your gift will be put to good use.

Happy to serve as a gathering point for these toys, or to put you into contact with the ministry leaders organizing the drive overall. They’re also seeking gift wrapping items – paper, tape, gift bags, tissue paper. Leave me a comment with your contact info or email me directly if you have my address already: comments are moderated, so your info won’t be visible to the world.

My womens’ rugby team, Severn River Rugby,  is planning a tour of South Africa next summer!  Very exciting!  We’re planning to be there for two weeks, and our coach is looking at finding us three games.  Doing some poking around, apparently womens’ rugby has only really been in action there since 2001.  Coach took another local team, the Washington Furies, in 2004, so this then becomes a chance to introduce a new set of ladies to each other, communicating through the hard-hitting language of tackles on the field with socials off the field.  We’re seeking sponsors for this trip: if you’re interested in helping encourage the growth of womens’ rugby, not only here, but internationally, please let me know.

I have other interests beyond rugby  – surprise to so many who know how driven I am about getting to play my sport.  If we/I am going to Africa, I’m seeking to make good use of that time and expense to do something which honors the Lord.  I’ll sneak as many of our players in along with me, whether or not their personal motivations are for the Lord, for serving others, or just for checking out an interesting experience.  It turns out our church is connected with a missionary family in South Africa, so reaching out there.  Our coach connected me with a group called ‘Hope in South Africa’ – check out their Sundowners event this Oct 20.  I’m not personally involved with the group yet, but the things I’m seeing on their site and on their Facebook page are very interesting and inspiring to read.  If you’re personally aware of other areas, very interested in hearing.  Again, the driver here is just that if I’m investing the time and money to go to Africa, away from other areas in life, it oughta be for more than “just” playing rugby and touring around.

God does things in interesting and exciting ways..  discussed things that were high points for the week with the college group this morning, and mentioned my excitement at possibly playing rugby again.  The young man to the right of me, relatively new to the group, very quiet, spoke to me at the end of our session and was excited to hear that there’s rugby in the area.  Turns out, he was a scrumhalf and would like to play again.  Thank you, God, for giving me an opportunity this weekend to both be excited on my own behalf, and the opportunity to share that with another person who seems to be looking for his place in a new country (young man is here from Africa), new church, and new group of people.

Now, low side: turns out we may need adults to help travel with the college group to Florida for their retreat trip in May.  The college students can’t drive the rental van, and of course, we want to make sure their travels are safe.  I love this group of people, am happy to work with / alongside them.  But a week at the beach, with a mass of college students (ours + possibly hundreds more), with a 19 hour van ride?  Personally hellacious.   This week is a missionary weekend at our church – folks describing opportunities for ministry amongst hardships in the field.  This trip to Florida, and I know how ridiculous this sounds, would be my personal hardship stint. I know that sounds ridiculous: a beach trip in America as hardship?  For a 35+ year old person who sunburns easily, has all sorts of mental hangups with being in a swimsuit, and then to spend a week in that environment where I’d stick out like a sore thumb, PLUS 19 hours in a van each way??!   Talk about needing to step forth in faith that God would use my discomfort and fish out of water challenges to his glory.

Very interested to see what God will do with both of these areas over the next few months…

Callie and I decided to do the talent show at church together this year – reasonably happy with how the skit turned out, in terms of writing, and what a blast to get to do it with Callie.  She’s a natural clown, and we had a whole lot of fun working it out, practicing, and then performing.

 

The Treasure Chest