Friday, July 29, 2005

My walking shoes! Posted by Picasa

Can't Get No Respect

Left, right, left, right. One leg stretches out in front of the other as each foot hits the sidewalk. My walk becomes an unexpected reverie.

We sure take our legs for granted, I think. Without them, I wouldn't be out here walking in the glorious sunshine.

Nevertheless, I've always regarded my legs to be—well, let's just say less than satisfactory. I've never given them much respect.

Too short. One small mole. Two scars. A roadmap of spidery blue and purple veins. Thick thighs. Cellulite lumps.

In spite of my disparaging thoughts, these hinged limbs of bones and sinew, threaded with nerves and blood vessels, and covered with soft skin, have taken me everywhere I have ever been in this life.

These legs first learned to crawl—then take unsteady steps.
These legs jumped rope, played hopscotch, climbed trees, and rode a bike.
These legs played hide-and-seek with my cousins.
These legs walked me down the aisle to marry the man of my dreams on my wedding day.
These legs have walked back and forth late at night comforting a colicky baby.
These legs have strolled the sandy shores of the East Coast, West Coast, and the Gulf of Mexico.
These legs have sauntered along the Thames, Seine, and Blue Danube Rivers.
These legs have traipsed through castles, cathedrals, and catacombs.
These legs climbed high mountain trails.
These legs paced the floor of a hospital's ICU.
These legs that I have disrespected have walked more miles
than I could imagine.
Upstairs and downstairs, outside and inside. My legs have taken me everywhere I've ever been. How then can I be so contemptuous of them? Where would I be without them? Would I want to trade places with someone who is confined to a wheel chair? Yes, for too long I have taken for granted the mobility they provide for me.

I know I'm not alone. I'm certainly not the only one who is a bit contemptuous of one body part or another. It seems to be a common malady. Some think that they're too flat chested or too big-breasted. Too tall or too short. Too fat or too skinny. Others hate their noses or ears or lips. We look in the mirror with disdain. Thus, we keep the revenue streaming for anyone who promises us a bit more beauty with some new "miracle" cream, liposuction, plastic surgery, Botox and collagen injections, or diet and exercise plans. (Recently, I received an email advertisement that said, "Lose weight while you sleep!" How's that for a gimmick!)

When will we learn to be comfortable living in our own skin? When will we begin to respect our God-designed bodies? As for me, it's time to appreciate these legs and to give them the healthy dose of respect that is long overdue.

Yes, today, the steady rhythm of my gait is a reminder of the gift of legs. I shall never win a beautiful leg contest, but these legs have been loyal, lifetime friends. Their fifty-plus years of service should warrant a full-blown, all-out celebration. No longer will I withhold the gratitude and dignity that they so deserve.

(SORRY! NO PHOTOGRAPH OF MY LEGS---just my walking shoes!)

(c) 2005 Marlene Depler

Thursday, July 21, 2005

My front door. Posted by Picasa

On Hospitality

Many people have crossed the threshold of my front door over the years of my adult life. I wonder if everyone who entered experienced hospitality under my roof. What exactly is HOSPITALITY anyway? What does it take to extend it to others?

I pulled some books off the shelf to do a little investigating. Webster defines hospitality this way:
"given to generous and cordial reception of guests"/"offering a pleasant or sustaining environment"/"readily receptive."

While perusing the dictionary, I also noticed the words HOSPITAL and HOSPICE. Isn't it interesting that these words are derived from the same root word as HOSPITALITY. Hospital and hospice both speak to me of care and comfort.

Searching a bit further, I found that the Greek word philoxenia is often translated hospitality. Philos means to love as friends, hence Philadelphia---the city of brotherly love. No doubt, love is a key component if we are to give hospitality. I'm beginning to get the picture.

Joan Chittester says that hospitality is "an act of a recklessly generous heart." Isn't that a great way to put it?

Henri Nouwen believes that listening is "one of the highest forms of hospitality." I had never thought about it that way.

After mulling over these thoughts and definitions, I am led to conclude that we must first have a hospitable heart before we can extend hospitality to others. This requires intentionality on our part. We invite people into our home and into our lives so we can provide a comfortable, caring environment where our guest then feels safe in allowing us to enter into his or her life. Yes, this is what I want to give my guests! I want to create a home in which family, friends, and neighbors are welcomed and valued.

But what stands in the way of hospitality? Sometimes we think we are too busy. Many think their homes are not clean enough or decorated well enough. Do we wait to achieve domestic perfection before we welcome another into our homes? If we wait for our homes to be immaculate, then we will miss the joy of sharing our lives with others. So don't wait for perfect!

I'm convinced that if we first open our hearts and then open our doors with a smile, our guests will surely feel welcomed and comfortable. Add to that a listening ear over a cup of coffee or simple meal and someone will leave feeling blessed---I'm quite sure of it!

"Generosity begets generosity. Stinginess impoverishes." Luke 8:18 The Message

(c) 2005 Marlene Depler

Note: If anyone feels like it, I would like to know more about the places where you have experienced hospitality.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Wild columbines---a small wonder to be enjoyed. Taken in the Rocky Mountains. Posted by Picasa

It's the Small Things

Sometimes the smallest things get under my skin! Pesky mosquitoes or flies zooming around in my space. A tiny pebble in my shoe. A stain on the front of a white blouse. Stubborn price stickers that aren't easily removed---and when they do, they leave behind the sticky adhesive. The tailgaters out on the Interstate that insist on riding my bumper at 70 m.p.h. These are a few of my irritants. What little things annoy you?

I've also noticed that it's the little things that have great potential for bringing us blessing---that is if we aren't too preoccupied to notice. Yet all too often we wait for the spectacular while overlooking the wonder and blessing of small, ordinary things all around us. Here are a few things that bring me a bit of joy when I pay attention:

A cup for fresh brewed coffee
Fresh sheets on my bed
A hug
A smile
Kind words
The first ripe tomato in my garden
Candles flickering
A bite of chocolate
A robin preening in my bird bath
A cheery tune
A phone call from family or friends
What would make your list? What brings you a smidgen of pleasure in the midst of daily living?

Let's not wait for mountain-top moments when we could sip on joy in the middle of our ordinary days.

(c) 2005 Marlene Depler

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

No such destination as All Caught Up!  Posted by Picasa

No Such Destination

I have tried for decades to find the quaint little village of "All Caught Up." I can see it in my mind, but it isn't on any map. Nevertheless, I'm in love with the false notion that if I work hard enough, smart enough, fast enough, and long enough, perhaps one day I will find myself zooming over the mountain and into a beautiful lush valley. Just before entering a peaceful little town, I will see the sign, "Welcome to All Caught Up!"

Are you like me? Do you wish that for once all your work and chores were completed? All the laundry done, folded, and put neatly away. All the closets clean and organized. The basement all neat and tidy. The garage swept. The bills paid. The desk cleared of all that random paperwork. All correspondence completely up-to-date. The weeds pulled. The lawn mowed. The windows washed. The refrigerator filled with marinated salads and a casserole just waiting to be popped in the oven. Fresh cherry pies cooling in a row on the counter top. And the feeling of delight and satisfaction that at least for once, everything is "all caught up."

Instead everywhere I look, something calls out for my attention:

I walk through the laundry room. Look at that heap of laundry. I really must tend to that.

Then I see the stack of dishes by the sink. I had better get those in the dishwasher right away.

My eyes fall on my kitchen desk. Oh, I need to get those insurance claims filed and the checkbook balanced.

I think of a friend who needs some encouragement. I need to call and see how she is doing.

Oh, I had better figure out what I'm making for dinner and thaw some meat.

I really must get to my office and write that article I promised to have done this week.

On and on it goes, this never-ending dialogue with myself. The chastisement for what is not done rather than the pleasure of what has been accomplished. Just yesterday I weeded and cultivated the soil around my plants in my six garden beds. Immediately, I began to think of other things that still needed to be done: the roses need fertilizer, two rose bushes wait in their pots to be planted, a flower bed needs weeded. But I was tired and hot, so I stopped. As I entered the house through the laundry room, I saw the laundry that needed sorting and washed. That was just the beginning of endless things indoors that clamored for attention. Then I caught myself.

Marlene, your garden is weed-free for the moment. Enjoy what you HAVE done. Stop always focusing on the next task at hand. So I went back outside to enjoy the garden beds all neat and tidy. Everything else would have to wait for a few moments. Then I came inside and cut two large chocolate chip brownies to take to my neighbors who had just come home from putting their dog down. Then I called a friend who has been having some health challenges. (Neither one was on my list!) I continued my day with a variety of other tasks. But when the day ended, many things were still undone---as always.

Since my mental to-do list will never end, I must find a way not to let things yet undone become my cruel taskmaster. There must be a way to gracefully move through the day seeing my work as sacred and accepting the rhythm of my daily round. I want to find joy in what I have accomplished and to thank God for the strength and energy he has given for today. For today, I determine to give up the search for the mythical destination of All Caught Up. What about you?

(c) 2005 Marlene Depler

Friday, July 01, 2005

Come Away and Rest  Posted by Picasa

An Invitation to Rest

When I was in kindergarten decades ago, we each had our own rug to spread out on the floor for rest time. My mother made my rug and stitched my name on it. I was quite proud of my peach and green mat.

Our teacher required everyone to lie down and close our eyes a few minutes each day. When the teacher tapped us on the head, we could get up. I didn't appreciate this forced activity as a five-year-old, but after moving into adulthood, I would have welcomed it.

In our performance-driven culture, it seems that periods of rest are not highly regarded. Many even think a good night's sleep can be shortchanged. Just think how much more we could all get done if we each denied ourselves a couple hours of sleep each night! But are productivity and performance our only goals?

I have run across several articles in recent months on the subject of sleep. Research is now touting the value of sleep in promoting good health. One study I read said, "Sleep Essential for Creativity." Scientists are now validating our need to be well-rested.

I'm not a scientist. Nevertheless, I am continually reminded of the importance of rest, both sleep at night and other short interludes of rest amidst our busy days. God rested on the seventh day after creating the world. God instituted the Sabbath rest so the Israelite nation would take a day off to worship and rest. In the New Testament, Jesus invited his disciples to "come away by yourselves to a lonely place and rest for a while."

It's easy to to disregard our body's need for rest. Just last night I was tempted to stay up late to write this blog because I knew I had a full day ahead. I reminded myself to practice what I preach!

There are times where things beyond our control inhibit our sleep and ability to rest. To name a few: a new baby, illness, menopause, and unexpected emergencies. During times like these we cope the best we can. The problem is in letting this become a way of life---and then relying on four shots of espresso and adrenaline just to make it through the day.

Rest is an invitation to slow down, change our pace, take a deep breath, refocus our priorities,and refresh ourselves. So pull out your kindergarten mats---or tip your head back, close your eyes, and enjoy a few moments of "sacred idleness."

And tonight go to bed at a decent hour!

"To be well-rested is a blessing, not a waste of time."
-Richard A. Swenson, M.D., The Overload Syndrome