Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Expect the Unexpected

Just a quick note today before flying out to the national American Christian Writers Conference, held this year in beautiful Denver, CO. I always have these grand plans of being prepared a day ahead of time, just needing to put my toiletries in at the last minute. But, as usual, I was up late last night finishing my to-do list.

One of the necessary things before taking off on a trip is to make sure the bills are all paid. Because John is a school teacher and just gets paid during the school year, summer is a lo-o-o-ng stretch with little income. By the time September rolls around we're counting the days until the end of the month and a pay check. But there was no getting around it on Saturday--I had to pay those pesky bills.

I wondered aloud, "Lord, how are we going to do this?" I closed the checkbook and walked away, still stymied. A few minutes later Christina brought my mail and placed it on the counter. What did I find tucked between various junk mail and fliers? A check from the school district John had tuned for several weeks ago--to the "tune" of $1,000. Thank you Lord!

On Monday I happened to stick my hand in the back pocket of a pair of capris and felt a hard lump. (No, it wasn't me!) I dug a little deeper and pulled out a folded roll of $14. I realized it was left over from going to the State Fair and not wanting to carry a purse. What's funny is that those pants had gone through the wash probably four or five times since then, and the money was still perfect. It wasn't enough to do much on the bills, but it was there. Thank you, Lord!

God gives us unexpected blessings more than we realize. It may be a $14 blessing--an easy-to-find-parking space, a new checkout line opening up at the grocery store when we're in a rush, or a phone call from a friend--these small things we blithely accept, then move on. It's the $1,000 blessings that garner our attention--healing from a disease, a restored relationship, a job after being out of work for months. But I say blessings are blessings are blessings! Keep your eyes open today for what the Lord is doing in your life. I'd love for you to leave a comment and let me know what you see!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The Great Cover Up

I don’t know about you, but there are times when I’m a messy cook. People always say, “The proof’s in the pudding,” but for me, the proof’s in the cookbook. Just thumbing through my cookbooks can prove my claim, as pages are glued together by an errant drop of batter or boldly decorated with oil splatters.

Not only are my recipe pages victims of unplanned food fights, but my clothes become part of the fray. Homemade barbecue sauce accidentally dribbles down a white blouse, or chocolate pudding on my jeans. Sometimes, if I put my clothes in the washer with hot water and no soap, I could end up with a unique soup!

Because of my propensity to wear ingredients instead of mixing them, I rely on a relic from the past—an apron. I’ve had a lot of different kinds of aprons throughout my decades as a wife, but my favorite is the one my parents got me for my birthday last year. It’s an old-fashioned cobbler apron in a pattern that appears to have come from the 1950s—drawings of dishes, stoves, mixers, and tea kettles, all colored in red and green. Every time I look at it, a gentle breeze of nostalgia caresses my mind.

Now you may not be a woman who must cover up with an apron, but there’s a cover up that we all need to use much more than we do. I Peter 4:8 says, “Above all things have fervent love for one another, for love will cover a multitude of sins.” Yep, what the world needs now is love, sweet love. It’s what our church needs, as well as our friends and members of our families.

I’m not talking about a kind of love that glosses over the seriousness of others’ sins. Not a love that turns its head the other way when wrongs are committed, or a love that refuses to take a stand when injustice is involved. None of those are really love, but an easy way out of confrontation or accountability. There are times love has to be tough.

The verse in I Peter is a reference to Proverbs 10:12, which says, “Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all sins.” When we make a conscious choice to overlook an offense against us, we are taking away the power of strife and adding a huge measurement of love. When someone hurts us, either intentionally or without meaning to, we have the option of tamping our resentment down into the crevices of our heart, where it hardens, or of letting it go. If we cherish resentment, instead of the relationship with the person involved, we are the one to lose.

So the next time you don an apron, or look down at your messy clothes and think, “I should have worn an apron,” remember the greatest cover up of all—love.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Interview With My Daughter, Author Christina Berry--The Familiar Stranger

There are days in the life of a mother when her heart nearly bursts with pride at the accomplishment of her daughter. Maybe it's the first time she uses the potty, or her high school graduation. (Hopefully there's a long time between the two!) Perhaps it's her wedding day, or the birth of her first child.

I've watched my daughter, Christina Berry, follow her dream for the past ten years--her dream of writing a book and having it published. I've seen her persevere through the times when it seemed like it may never happen, and I've been there to jump and squeal with excitement when it did. She's got a two-month blog tour going on with the release of her debut novel, The Familiar Stranger. It's my joy and privilege to introduce you to a side of Christina maybe you don't know.

Welcome to The Mother Blog, Christina. It's great to have you here. I hope you'll feel at ease as we spend a few minutes getting to know each other better.

I know you were born in NV, (I remember it well) but where else have you lived? What was your favorite place and why?

From NV to Georgia for the language school before you guys were sent to Nigeria, West Africa. Then stateside to recup in South Lake Tahoe, CA, one year in Reno, NV, most of my growing up in Fallon, high school in Pendleton, OR, college in Forest Grove and now settled in the metropolis of Gaston,OR. (625 people)

My favorite place would have to be ... your womb. I had no worries, was always well-fed and warm enough, and my skin was baby soft!

What was your family like?

Crazy! If I were to tell you some of the stories ... man, especially about my mother! She threw shoes before it was even Middle-eastern-cool to throw them. :-) Really, I had a fantastically close family growing up. Friends used to say that our house was better than Disneyland because they could feel the love. My parents taught me God's way not only with words, but with actions.

What was the best advice your parents ever gave you?

That life wasn't fair. I actually don't remember hearing this often, but you claim to have said it often, and I trust you, so I'll believe it. Here's the thing: you were right. This last year has proven beyond a doubt that life is not fair ... and that our God is!

How did you come to know the Lord?

My daddy was a pastor. Not even four years old, sitting in church, I heard Dad preach about heaven and hell, and thought, "I want to be with God in heaven." A very simple choice, which many could say didn't mean anything because of my depth, or lack thereof, of understanding and my young age. To that I say, like a marriage vow, a promise can be made for a lifetime with no real comprehension of what the commitment entails, but it's no less a promise.

Long about 9th grade, I went through a time of questioning: do I really believe this for myself, or am I leaning on my parents' faith? It didn’t take long to figure out that nothing in this world makes sense if God didn't make it, if He doesn't control it and redeem it, and nothing is worth living for if Jesus isn't coming back. Since then, I’ve never doubted, though I have wrestled.

Your book is entitled The Familiar Stranger. How did you feel about strangers when you were young? Has your perspective changed?

I'm pretty sure I was shy and ran from strangers. Now, I'm much more extroverted. I'll talk to inanimate objects if no one is around! Plus, listening to strangers' conversations or watching gestures is fascinating as book research.

Is there anything you've never confessed to me that you'd like to right here in front of millions of readers?

Once--unbeknownst to me--a chocolate chip got stuck in my belly button, melted, and I thought I was bleeding. Oh, wait, you already know that ...

I snuck out of the house one time in high school to walk the loop with some friends. Terrified of something tragic befalling me and you never knowing what happened, I left an apologetic note on my pillow in case you checked on me. Uh ... you already knew that too. Guess I have no secrets from you, Mom!

Your birthday is the last day of this month. What was your most unusual birthday celebration? The time you packed a picnic for us to take up on the huge stone hill in Nigeria. Once we spread out our food and began to eat, the witch doctor woman came out and yelled and cursed us and ran us off the mountain.

I thought that would be the one you picked! I remember being emotionally wrung out from that experience and we came home and I spent the rest of the day on the couch. You made your own birthday cake, using a little "play" mix someone had sent you for Christmas. I felt like I'd win the award for the International Worst Mother of the Year! But it didn't seem to scar you for life, and you've never held it against me.

Christina is a single mom and foster parent who carves time to write from her busy schedule because she must tell the stories that haunt her every waking moment. (Such is the overly dramatic description of an author's life!) She holds a BA in Literature, yet loves a good Calculus problem, as well. Her debut novel, The Familiar Stranger, releases from Moody in September and deals with lies, secrets, and themes of forgiveness in a troubled marriage. A moving speaker and dynamic teacher, Christina strives to Live Transparently--Forgive Extravagantly!Her work has also appeared in The Secret Place, The Oregonian, and Daily Devotions for Writers. Find her at http://www.christinaberry.net and http://www.authorchristinaberry.blogspot.com/.
Christina, it's been fun to sit down and visit with you about your life and your book. We don't want to leave without inviting people to sign up for our infrequent, humorous newletter. There's a great contest going on at the Ashberry Lane newsletter, so everyone needs to stop by www.ashberrylane.net/update.aspx and sign up. Is there anything else you'd like to say in closing?

I just want to thank you for being the best mom in the whole world.
(So, okay, I didn't ask Christina that last question, but I'm sure that's what she'd say!!)
If you leave a comment on this blog, you'll automatically be entered to win an autographed copy of The Familiar Stranger.
Look for Christina's next interview tomorrow with Edwina Cowgill at http://musingsofedwinacowgill.blogspot.com