My Favorite Part: The Oscars













Look at that ring! It isn’t my favorite part exactly, but it represents my favorite part. And it is stunning! It includes my favorite stone – aquamarine; I wrote about aquamarines here. Not only is the ring beautiful, it is also marketed as Fairtrade Fairmined Ecological, a line of jewelry in which I have a growing interest. It means the gold for the ring was bought at a fair price from a traceable source. Likewise, the aquamarines and diamonds are from community-based mines that meet specific standards for health, safety, and value. This ring is on the hand of Livia Firth, owner of the London boutique Eco Age and blogger for Vogue, and, although you may not have heard it before, that name might ring a bell after last night’s Oscars.

Colin Firth won the Academy Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role, and Livia is his wife. I haven’t seen The King’s Speech but I have it on good authority (from people I trust) that it is worthy of the acclaim it has received. And as much as I love Colin Firth (Mr. Darcy), his win wasn’t my favorite part either. His speech was my favorite part.

My favorite part of the Oscars is always when the winners give speeches that acknowledge the relationships that have culminated into that moment. I love when they celebrate someone most of us do not know and recognize them as their source of strength or inspiration. Somehow you can tell when the acknowledgment is genuine and when it is forced.

Genuine moments from last night included a winner telling the story of how his mum ignited the idea for his winning movie, another winner smiling back tears when he met eyes with his wife, and Firth himself thanking his wife, “who I hold responsible for this and, for, really everything good that’s happened since I met her.”

You can see more of Firth’s wife, Livia, at this fashion website. The photos (including the one above by Jason Olive) are gorgeous and portray a couple consistent with Firth’s humble speech. He is proud, you can tell, to show off his treasure, just as she is proud to wear hers.

The Problem with Visionaries

Maybe it’s because my sister is emotionally broken by the effects of chemotherapy and the reality of cancer.

Maybe it’s because my daughter has grown an inch since November.

Maybe it’s because I’ve recently watched the blogs of two relatively well-known Christian women go dark after their lives were devastated by divorce.

All I know is that some things don’t feel quite so important anymore.Things like platforms and networks and recognition.

I love to hang out with visionaries, people with big dreams and big faith and big ambition. Sometimes I think I’m one of those people. But lately, I’m embracing small.

I don’t want the dreamers to stop dreaming. I just think this is a pretty good dream: Living well. Growing children. Cultivating faith. None of it is easy. Most of it doesn’t come naturally.

But I’d rather have a small life that is beautiful than a big life that doesn’t work anymore. It’s not that I think the two are mutually exclusive, but I’m pretty sure anyone with a big life that works is there because they were faithful to spiritual cultivation when it was small.

The problem with visionaries is that sometimes their vision takes priority over their living well, and that won’t work forever. They may be left with a lot of vision but no one with whom they can share it.

Things that are important right now?

– family dinners

– memory verses

– hand holding

– game playing

– keeping promises

What’s on your important list right now?

Three Things . . .

. . . really working for me right now.

1. For inspiration: Anthology Magazine online. I’d love to splurge on the print subscription because the feel of this site is fantastic. Engaging subtitle: “Living with Substance and Style”! Look to the right-hand side bar for a preview of the current issue.

2. For making life easier: E-mealz Mealtime Makeover. Women, don’t hate me when I tell you this, but my husband is the brain child here. He found this program via Dave Ramsey and decided to give it a try. He printed his first shopping list on Friday, bought everything he would need for meals this week (evenings), and has cooked us something new each night since then. We use the Weight Watchers plan, but there are tons of options: gluten-free, low-carb, vegetarian, etc. Or, choose a plan for a specific store. It costs $5 a month for all this prep work and the weekly plans are designed to cost around $75 per week. So far we’ve loved every meal. In one he switched out a broccoli salad for a regular lettuce salad (I’m not so much for the broccoli). Look at him, already a culinary genius!

3. For a challenge: blogging. It started because Mom and Serenity needed something new to read everyday in the chemo pod. It resulted in me realizing I actually have more ideas when I’m blogging regularly. Also, I needed to remember that I don’t have to be the best blogger with the highest stats, I just need to give of what I have been given. And that’s a lot. Thanks for showing up here, friends.

Since Sara asked yesterday, feel free to click those little “retweet” or “share” buttons on the left side if you like a post. And don’t be shy, you are welcome to comment any time. Don’t let the regulars have all the fun! : )

With Facebook as My Witness

I know there is some debate about the usefulness or redemptive qualities of Facebook, but I am personally a fan. However, I do have certain qualifications for my Facebook interactions that I thought might be useful to others. It isn’t a gold standard or anything, but it is the way I work it.

To me, Facebook, like any other website or communication medium, is a tool. And a tool can be used well or abused. A chainsaw, for instance, is best used for cutting firewood, although it has made a small name for itself in the roadside murder gig as well.

These are my Rules for Making Facebook Useful:

1. No games. None. I delete or block all these applications. That’s not what Facebook is about for me.

2. Stay positive. I realize most people skim through their Facebook feeds to see the highlights of others’ lives. If you are doing that in the line at the bank, you don’t need to add my stinky attitude to your stressful morning. If I don’t have something positive to say, I just say nothing. Recently Serenity and Mom sat for hours and hours in a chemo pod and Facebook was one of their best distractions. Thinking of them reading my updates helps me ask, “Will the person reading this find joy or death?” I want to be honest about my life, but I don’t want to burden you needlessly with my trivial daily inconveniences. You have enough of your own.

3. Value others. I won’t complain about a co-worker, a service provider, or any other person specifically. Why? Because they are people. (This is a post for another day.) However, I also value myself and my time. When a particular friend fills my Facebook feeds with low-brow content, obscenities, or other filth, I block freely. Be gone! In real life I may have to deal with you, in virtual world, I don’t. (This is also not to say I am only Facebook friends with people just like me. This is about what is going into my mind on a regular basis.)

4. Avoid Conflict. I’ve learned this the hard way. Facebook is NOT the place for intelligent, thoughtful debate. Save that for face to face. Tone is too difficult to detect in print and people will type way more than they will say in person. Feelings get hurt. Don’t engage conflict. Comment on cute babies, congratulate on new jobs, but walk away quickly from theological or political debates. No one wins. If I don’t agree with someone’s statement in a status update, I simply don’t comment.

5. Be True. Being happily married is tough enough, we don’t need to add Facebook drama to that! Extramarital affairs have never been a personal fear for me, but I can’t close my eyes and pretend it isn’t a real problem in our world. For Dan and I, we have each other’s passwords so when we send private messages we can always read them (although we rarely do). We talk about our Facebook interactions, even small ones, so there is no room for suspicion. I also know my personal weaknesses (and that isn’t easy to admit) and I avoid certain triggers.

How about you? Do you Facebook? Do you have rules for yourself?

Do you wish some of your Facebook friends had rules? : )


Walking into a nursing home is a distinctive experience. You are overwhelmed with a two-sided sense of compassion and admiration. The patients are genuinely in need, and the staff is providing a beautiful service.

Many times my audience here is barely awake, struggling just to lift open the cover on their hymnals. But this Sunday’s crowd is more lively and a bit more vocal. One woman announces she will be leaving tomorrow, her healing from a total hip replacement is ready to transition home. She brought a pencil with her, a blank piece of paper, and assures me she doesn’t mind women preachers because she watches Joyce Meyers on the television.

Another congregant is less cheerful and obviously in physical discomfort. One arm is in a sling and her face bears the marks of age and impairment. Just before we open the service, this woman begins to cry out for food, “I’m hungry, so so hungry. Won’t you help me?” Luckily, Grandma Harriet is playing piano for us and she knows the woman. She looks her straight in the eyes and says, “You can wait, I’ll get you something as soon as we finish.” Harriet assures me, “She feels hungry when she is upset; she not physically hungry.”

We launch into “Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus” and “A Mighty Fortress in Our God.” Then I pray and open the sermon. Everyone is quiet.

Today I want to talk to you about the word portion.

“What?” asks the hungry woman.

The word portion. I want to share with you what God has promised to be for us. I read the passages I’ve selected:

My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. (Psalm 73:26)

I cry to you, LORD; I say, “You are my refuge, my portion in the land of the living.” (Psalm 142:5)

He who is the Portion of Jacob is not like these, for he is the Maker of all things, including Israel, the people of his inheritance— the LORD Almighty is his name. (Jeremiah 10:16 and 51:19)

You can see that the Psalmist was wrestling with the question of what his portion would be in this life. His flesh was failing him. He was looking for a refuge in the storms of life. Then in the final passage, Jeremiah is reminding the people of Israel about the goodness of their God and his uniqueness from the other gods and idols of the ancient world.

Around here, I say, we aren’t likely to have statues of silver that we pray to, but we do mistakenly believe that our portion will come from places other than from God. We look to our homes, our families, our money, our health. I make this statement without really thinking and then look around at the faces fixed on my words.

But these substitutions for God have failed us all, haven’t they? Here, in this place of all places, we understand what the Psalmist cried about. He was looking for his portion and the avenues he had expected it to come from had failed to deliver.

But “He who is the portion of Jacob is NOT LIKE THESE” – I repeat; emphasis mine.

He is our portion. In turn, we are his prize. (I’m reminded of a favorite John Mark McMillan lyric, “We are his portion and he is our prize.”)

How many of you feel like a prize right now? A small woman in a blue sweater and coordinating string of beads giggles and shakes her head. But that is how he sees us, as his prize. That is how he sees you. She smiles and nods.

No one can take away your portion, if your portion is him. Other portions – health, money, relationships – can all be taken from you, but not him. And likewise, you are his prize, no matter how you feel, what you look like, where you live.

We prayed and sang one more hymn, “What a Friend We Have in Jesus.”

When I left, Grandma Harriet was settling our hungry friend into her room, holding her hand and talking to her softly. Sometimes the portion is more tangible than other times. But he is always ours.

*Flickr photo borrowed from Rosie O’Beirne

The End!

It is the last day of Serenity’s chemo treatments!

She won’t be able to enjoy our celebration for a few days (see Mom’s post here), but feel free to share your celebratory remarks on her Facebook page (if you are a friend) or here in the comments section. It really helps them pass the day in the infamous chemo pod if they can hear from us throughout the day. Wouldn’t it be awesome if we could just keep them distracted reading our cheery notes and encouragements? Go ahead, post a Scripture, a joke, a cute picture of your kids, anything — use your social networking powers for good, my friends!

By 3 p.m. or so today (Friday) the worst should be over.