Friday, December 28, 2012

Love Overcomes Depravity

            Humans are depraved creatures.  I have known this, but fortunately I live in an environment that often allows me to ignore this fact.  However, the day after Christmas I watched Les Misérables.  No denying the depravity—and the hopelessness—of mankind after watching that movie.

            Hopelessness.  Despair.  These two emotions flood the screen for this appropriately darkened and usually dimly lit movie.  Unfortunately, for too many people in this world, the visual created on the screen is a reality, not a special effect.  Although I do not believe the extremely harsh physical condition of the characters in the movie exist in modern United States, Canada, or England, I believe they do exist in less fortunate areas.  However, the depravity of the mind and behavior of the characters exist everywhere—envy, hatred, cruelty, theft, deceit, fraud, extortion, and destruction of character and pride—to name a few.  Each of these sins is coated with hopelessness and despair.

            Yet, cracks in the hard veneer of depravation can happen.    The main character Jean Valjean has every earthly reason to be a ruthless, scheming malefactor the rest of his life.  However, the unconditional kindness and respect of the elderly Bishop Myriel of Digne began to make a crack in Valjean's hard exterior.  Valjean repays his kindness by stealing from the bishop.  When given a chance by a patrolman to condemn the thief, the monsieur shows love to the ex-convict and hands over more silver as a gift from God to start a new life.  The veneer shatters.  He spends the rest of his life seeking to do good for others and showing compassion.

            Fantine, abandoned by her husband, works in a factory to support her daughter, who is virtually a slave for ruthless tavern owners in a nearby town.  When she is wrongly fired from her job, she becomes a victim of abuse and trafficking.  All pride is gone, but she endures for the sake of her child.  When she is rescued, she does not ask for food or comforts or even for revenge against those who wronged her.  She desires someone to care for her daughter.  Despite her ill treatment, love radiates from her heart, not hate nor the depravity of her condition.

            Although more examples of love motivating characters exist, the lack of hate does not always produce positive results.  Revenge, hatred, and disgust empower Officer Javert's efforts to make the whole life of Valjean miserable and virtually unbearable.  However, when Valjean rescues Javert from impending death, the officer becomes lost and confused.  He attempts to hunt down his savior but finds himself unable to shoot him when the opportunity arises.  Rather than graciously accepting the gift of unconditional love and finding a way to be compassionate as well, Javert believes his life is no longer valuable if cannot cruelly hate.  Ironically, the veneer of his depravity cracks, but he chooses to dispose of his life before the hardness can completely fall away for fear that his viciousness may be healed.  Love trumps depravity, but the beneficiary cannot reap the benefits if he refuses to accept the gift of love.

            The real world around us today is full of people with no hope.  People who live in despair that appear to have no way out.  Some have a flicker of hope buried deep, like Fantine, and others are so far into despair that they seem to be a lost cause, like Valjean.  Yet, love can reach them.  Love can make their lives meaningful again.  God has given his children the responsibility of sharing his unconditional love with all, just like Bishop Myriel of Digne.  We are not to first judge who is "worthy" of such love or who will accept it (unlike Javert).  We are to love, because love overcomes depravity.  What have you done this week to show love to someone in despair or to someone who may not seem to "deserve" it?  

Thursday, December 27, 2012

26 Expressions of Love & Kindness Plus 1

            In conjunction with the 26 Acts of Kindness trend honoring the memory of those slain at Sandy Hook Elementary School, I am going to dedicate my blog to 26 Expressions of Love and Kindness Plus 1 beginning January 1, 2013.  What a perfect way to start a new year!

            Instead of making personal New Year's Resolutions you may or may not keep, let's look at practical ideas that we can do to put a damper on the insanity and depravity in our world (see my blog on Dec. 27 and Dec. 28 for more comments).  I hope YOU will join me with your ideas. 

            If you have a blog and will like to participate, put a link to your blog in the comment section below.  Maybe before this officially begins I will figure out how to make it possible for you to add an icon to link to your first page of the series.  If you have a link to a site that tells me how to do that, please post it in my comment section below, too.  If I do not get the icon links figured out, I will copy links to your blogs at the bottom of my entry on January 1.

            If you have a blog and are going to participate (including putting a link to your blog on my page), I ask one thing from you.  Please put a link on your blog referring back to my January 1 entry on each day that you participate. 

            One more thing:  the 26 Expressions of Love and Kindness Plus 1 will start on January 1, skip all the Sundays, and end on January 31, which is a total of 27 days or 26 days + 1 day.  I just want to tell you this ahead of time, so you do not think I simply forgot to write on Sundays.

            I am looking forward to this.  Now let's all put our thinking caps on!

Love Conquers Insanity

photo from Wikipedia "Sandy Hook Elem. School Shooting"

 Essentially it has been three weeks since the heart-stopping rampage at Sandy Hook Elementary School.  Quiet comments heard everywhere included the words, "This is insane."  There is no good reason to motivate someone to do this.  There is no justification for it.  There is no peace—only pain.  

            Surrounding the time of this insanity, joy and hope filled the streets decorated for Christmas.  Perhaps the contrast darkened the situation at Sandy Hook a little bit more, but probably not—that event cloaked itself enough in black mourning clothes.  So, did the opposite happen?  Did the tragedy darken your Christmas?

            I was blessed this year with having all my children, children-in-law, and grandchild with me for the Christmas season as well as having a refreshing time with much of my extended family.  Even so, thoughts of these other mothers* came to mind.  They had to stare at Christmas presents under a brightly decorated tree that would never be opened by the child whose name danced across its label.  With tear stained cheeks, they strained to hear stirrings of little feet trying to sneak out of bed Christmas Eve.  They prayed both for the morning to come quickly so the lonely misery of Christmas Eve would end and for the morning to never come so they would not have to endure a giggle-free Christmas morning.  I pray that I never have to live through their misery, whether it is at Christmas time or any other time of the year.

            Unfortunately, although I cannot say, "I know what you are going through," too many other mothers can.  Ask the mothers in Rwanda or Croatia in recent years.  Ask the mothers, especially the Jewish mothers, in Nazi Germany.  Ask the mothers in Israel living at the birth of our A.D. calendar. 

            At the time of this latter event, King Herod of Judea learned from distinguished visitors to his land that they were seeking the King of the Jews, who, by all signs, had recently been born.  Horrified, the reigning king shortly after sent out a decree to kill all male children two years old and younger living in or near Bethlehem in an attempt to make sure he eliminated the promised one. (Luke 2:1-16)  Insanity. 

            Warned ahead of time, Joseph had lovingly taken young Jesus and Jesus' mother Mary to Egypt to escape whatever fury King Herod may choose to release.  What about the others?  The countless others who were ripped from their mothers' arms and mercilessly slaughtered in front of their families.  Insanity.  I cannot imagine the horror that must have filled the streets, especially for those—and I assume this to be the majority—that had no idea that a new "king" had been born.  I doubt the soldiers supplied any type of reason why the king had ordered this murdering rampage.  Confused, these mothers figuratively had their hearts ripped from their chests.  They would understand the pain of the mothers in Newtown, Connecticut.

            The question left is, "Does God understand?"  Where is He in all this?  Despite my inability to truly know the answers to these questions, I do know where he was.  He was
lying in a manger after his birth.  He was hunted by King Herod and was on-the-run with Joseph and Mary.  As a human adult, he was flogged and beaten until he was nearly lifeless.  Then he was nailed to a cross where this sinless being willingly and lovingly died.  He understands what it is like to be attacked although he was innocent of wrong doing.

            You might be saying, "Wait, a minute.  Aren't you talking about Jesus?"  Yes, I am.  Jesus is not only the Son of God but also God in the flesh.  There is one god who manifests himself (or shows himself or functions) as three:  God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.  Although Jesus is God, he is not the totality of God, otherwise everything else would have fallen apart if God had allowed his total being to be trapped in one place at one time.  Thus, Jesus is the Son (part) of God.  While the Son walked as a human, the Father (and Holy Spirit) was over everything and everyone.  (I am not a theologian, but this is the best way I can explain it.)

            The point is:  God is here with us.  He even physically walked among us for a time.  He does understand.  Yet, there are many things I cannot comprehend.  I do not understand why he did not stop the mad man that killed the children in Sandy Hook or one that killed the children in Israel at the time of Jesus' birth.  I also do not understand why he willingly put on the restrictive confines of a human body.  I do not understand why he did not beam death rays from his eyes to vaporize the Roman soldiers who beat him with whips designed to tear and mutilate flesh or to zap the Jews (and Gentiles) who mocked him along his death march when everything he did was for them. 

            I do not understand how he can love the sinful, hateful, and insane creatures called human beings, but he does.  Love drove him to design a plan of salvation in place before the first sin was committed in the Garden of Eden and before the first murder took place a few years later.  At the right time, love compelled him to humble himself and take on the form of a man. Love convinced him to submit to a crucifixion (despite his unearthly potential to resist it) even when the human part of him was feeling abandoned.  Love sang the victory song of his resurrection (and of his conquering of sin and death).   I do not understand why he loves us, but he does.

            However, the plan begun in ages past has not yet been completed.  We stand confused and lost because we cannot see the culmination of his design.  Fortunately, we do not need to see the end; we just have to trust the Designer.  Evidence of our trust can be found in our following his example:  loving despite the hatred and insanity around us.  On the cross, Jesus cried out with love and forgiveness, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing."  (Luke 23:34)  In Nazi occupied areas, the insanity of Hitler was thwarted by the compassion of many who preserved hidden Jews.  The words of hope that radiate from the incident at Sandy Hook are rooted in acts of love and compassion.  Love conquers insanity.  What have you done today to throw love into the face of insanity?


*I realize this tragedy affects more than mothers—fathers, grandparents, siblings—but being who I am, I am writing from a mother's perspective.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Who isn't touched?

     Who isn't touched by the absurdity of yesterday's shooting?  Today I think the words of Max Lucado are better here than mine.  You can find this on Max Lucado's website and on his Facebook page.

A Christmas Prayer

Dear Jesus,

It’s a good thing you were born at night. This world sure seems dark. I have a good eye for silver linings. But they seem dimmer lately.
These killings, Lord.  These children, Lord.  Innocence violated.  Raw evil demonstrated.
The whole world seems on edge. Trigger-happy. Ticked off. We hear threats of chemical weapons and nuclear bombs. Are we one button-push away from annihilation?
Your world seems a bit darker this Christmas.  But you were born in the dark, right? You came at night. The shepherds were nightshift workers. The Wise Men followed a star. Your first cries were heard in the shadows. To see your face, Mary and Joseph needed a candle flame. It was dark. Dark with Herod’s jealousy. Dark with Roman oppression. Dark with poverty.  Dark with violence.
Herod went on a rampage, killing babies. Joseph took you and your mom into Egypt. You were an immigrant before you were a Nazarene.
Oh, Lord Jesus, you entered the dark world of your day. Won’t you enter ours? We are weary of bloodshed. We, like the wise men, are looking for a star. We, like the shepherds, are kneeling at a manger.
This Christmas, we ask you, heal us, help us, be born anew in us.


Your Children

Saturday, December 8, 2012

The Winner Is . . . But You Can Be a Winner, Too

      The winner of this cute little purse is Lobela with her post on December 5.  I have contacted her by email and will be sending out her prize this week.  

     To find my winner this time, I used  This was much easier than my old way of cutting up little pieces of paper for each entry and randomly drawing a name.  I only learned about this simple, helpful tool this week.  I have so much to learn about blogging!

HOWEVER, you can still get a little something for yourself.

     If you want to get a cute number like this (or something different), go to  But in celebration of Give-A-Gift, the creative talent behind Twice Is Nice will give you a 15% discount if you enter the code JOLLY12 at the checkout. It's that easy!  Merry Christmas!

       By the way, shouldn't we be saying Merry Christmas everywhere we go and writing it on everything we write everyday in December?  

     Merry Christmas.  :-)

Friday, December 7, 2012

Returns Already?

            Nearly every family has been touched by the Day-After-Christmas gift return; however, do you start returning presents before Christmas.  I have.  In fact I have nearly every year for the past few years.  Why? 

As I check off my shopping gift
list, I number my receipts and match
the receipts to the gifts on my list.
This one is waiting to be numbered.
            Sometimes I get carried away and neglect to total the amounts I am spending per person as I am shopping.  Since I have started using my Christmas Club account, I mistakenly think I will have no problem purchasing the presents.  Then reality reminds me that there limits for each person.

            Sometimes the furry of the Black Friday Sales confuses my thinking, "If I don't get it now, I won't be able to get it at all."  So, it lands in my cart.  Then it goes into my car.  Sometimes the extra item makes it home; other times it's returned to the store after I am done shopping and before I go home.

            Sometimes the item has made it home and may even be wrapped.  Then the person who "had to have it" suddenly wants something else even more for Christmas.  Now, this situation is not a guaranteed return.  Usually the gift receiver has to graciously accept the first item without a complaint since that was what was on the wish list at the time purchases were made.  (I was thinking of my children as I typed that last sentence.)  However, sometimes I am willing to make an exception.  For example, if I have a child that has no definite desires but is pressured to put something on the wish list so I can go shopping and then that same child later knows exactly what she wants, then I would probably return the first purchase if possible and give her what she really wants instead.

            Tonight I did a different type of return and repurchase.  Last month I had earned a gift card at a store and planned to use it to help purchase presents, but I kept forgetting to pull it out until after I had already paid for the items.  It happened again this afternoon.  However, tonight I went back to the store and returned one of the gifts I had purchased only hours earlier.  While standing there, I re-purchased the very same item and used my gift card to pay for it.  Wah-lah!  No more forgetting to use my card!  I may be little over-excited about using my gift card, but you would understand if you knew how frustrated I was about continually forgetting to redeem my card.

            Even though this last instance was not technically a before-Christmas return, I have had my share of them.  How about you?  Has your family already been touched by a before-Christmas return this year?   

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Another Give-Away-Day Chance

Can't you just see that on you?
      I hope you signed up for my darling purse and matching accessory yesterday; if not, you still have time!  In yesterday's blog, I also gave a link to Sew, Mama, Sew, which has triggered all this fun, but some of the good items can be lost in the large list.
      Fear not.  Here is a direct link to my daughter's blog More Like Home where she is also participating in the Give-Away-Day event.  However, she has TWO prizes she is giving away:  a corduroy tote and a pattern book.  If you have not found her blog, take a look.  It is much different--and more engaging than mine.  Have fun.  Then check out the website where she and her twin have more quality, handmade items, art, and jewelry for sale at HyenaCart--Twice is Nice.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Give-Away-Day December 3, 2012!

            Now is the time for giving and receiving.  This week I get the pleasure of giving, and you might get the pleasure of receiving as I participate in the Give-Away-Day Dec. 3, 2012, which is sponsored by Sew, Mama, Sew. 

            What can you get if you win this drawing?  --this darling handbag and matching accessory pouch that one of my daughter's made.  This perky floral print is 9 ½ inches long, about 6 inches tall, and almost 3 inches deep.  To get your chance at winning this snazzy little number, do the following:

            1.  Read any of blogs posted before December 3.
            2.  Come back to this page:  give the date and title of the blog you read.
            3.  Make a comment about that blog.

            That's it.  And guess what?  You can enter the drawing up to 3 times, but each entry has to be about a different blog.  Be sure to include your email address with each entry or check back on Dec. 9 to see if you won and then leave your email address.  The contest ENDS at midnight on December 7.  The winner will be announced here by Dec. 9.

            Sorry, I will only ship to addresses in the contiguous United States.  The good news is that I will pay shipping to a qualified winner.

            Do you like this bag and want to see what else is available?  Then check out the online store of my twin daughters at

            I cannot wait to hear from you.  Check out the other offers as well.  I hope you come back to visit (or follow!) even after this fun give-away.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Welcome to December 1, 2012

            "It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas."  Has the Christmas spirit touched your family yet?  My husband and children have put up multiple, decorated trees, and lights.  It is beautiful.  Then I got a surprise last night. 

            My married daughter, her husband, and little boy made a surprise visit to our house last night.  Well, it was a surprise to half of us.  She called to make sure we would be home before making the three- to four-hour trip.  My husband and half the kids were home.  They all conspired to keep it a secret, and amazingly, they succeeded.  It was a wonderful surprise.  Then my other adult twin's boyfriend was able to join us as well.  Having all my kids and their families (or special people) is wonderful.  I know it will not be able to happen as much as I would like, but it is wonderful.

            How has this time of the year touched your family so far?

**If you were following my 30-Day Farm Theme Series, it might appear to you that I just entered my last three days today.  Well, it does not just appear to be true; it is true.  J

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Where does it go from here?—Day 30 of a Town Girl Touched by the Farming Life

From MIT Technology Review: A computer
with a camera and projector fits into a light
bulb socket, and can make any surface
 interactive.  Could this affect farming technology?

            Technology has triggered enormous changes, even from year to year, and those changes touch families almost as quickly.  Its affect on farming is no different.  I have no idea where it is going next.  As my last entry in this farm-related series, what are your thoughts?  If you were writing a science fiction story regarding farming or agriculture, what would you include?  What is the next step?  What is the "ideal" situation even if it seems impossible at this time? 

            Remember, many of Jules Verne's ideas in his science fiction stories are possible today.  The same is true with 007 James Bond's gadgets—not all of them—yet.  I also remember lamenting over my desire to have a telephone that I could take with me in the car to call for help (or to even say I was running behind).  Now, nearly everyone has this device and refer to it as a cell phone.  It does what I wanted and so MUCH more that I did not even begin to dream about. 

            I would love to hear your thoughts on this and how you think it may touch your family.

Lentil-Bulgur Salad—Day 29 of a Town Girl Touched by the Farming Life

a close up photo of bulgur from Wikipedia

            The stereotypical menu for a farming family is meat and potatoes; yet, many farm families are touched by menus full of vegetables or other produce grown in the family garden.  As a town girl, when I want to think about eating in a more healthy way, I think about getting back to whole grains and vegetables, not necessarily to replace meat and starches but to have more balance in my eating.  For the first time, I am going to include a recipe here.  It is full of whole grains, protein, fiber, and other good things for a healthy and surprisingly filling meal.

            The name of it refers to it as a salad, but it can also be used as a non-meat, main dish.  I have never put everything in the recipe in my mixture at the same time, but I have always included the lentils, bulgur, and feta cheese.  The other ingredients depended on what we had on hand or remembered to purchase. 

Lentil-Bulgur Salad
Prep. time 30-40 min.                          Yield 6 servings or more (for me it's definitely more)

1 c. dry lentils                                     fresh black pepper, to taste
2 c. water                                            1/4 c. packed freshly minced parsley
                                                            1/3 c. finely minced red onion
1 c. dry bulgur wheat                          1 small bell pepper, diced
1 c. boiling water                                1/2  stalk celery, finely minced
                                                            1/2 c. crumbled feta cheese
1/4 c. olive oil*                                    1/2 c. olives
1/4 c. lemon juice**                            1 med.-sized tomato, diced (or cherry tomatoes)
2 med. cloves garlic, crushed              1/2 c. chopped toasted walnuts (or other nut)
1 tsp. salt                                             squeezable wedges of lemon, for garnish
1/2 tsp. oregano
2 Tbs. freshly minced mint
            (or 2 tsp. dried mint)
1)  Place the lentils in a medium-sized saucepan.  Cover with 2 c. water, and bring just to the boiling point.  Turn the heat way down, partially cover, and allow to simmer without agitation for 20-25 minutes—or until tender, but not mushy.  Drain well, then transfer to a large bowl.

2)  While the lentils are cooking, place the bulgur in a small bowl.  Add boiling water, cover with a plate, and let stand 10-15 minutes while getting the other ingredients ready.

3)  Add everything to the lentils, except tomato chunks, walnuts, and lemon wedges.  Mix gently but thoroughly.  Cover tightly and refrigerate.

4)  Just before serving, top with tomatoes and walnuts.  Garnish with lemon wedges.  Can be served warm right after its creation or can be served cold. 

            *I sometimes like my onions and bell peppers to not be totally crunchy, so I might sauté them a little in the oil before mixing in the other ingredients.
            **I have substituted apple cider vinegar or red wine vinegar; however, that often makes the salad a little too tart and requires a sprinkling of sugar added in.

            If try this, let me know what you think.  Have a healthy recipe that has touched your family and that you would like to add?  Please feel free to share it or provide a link to it.

Farming Ads vs. Fashion Ads—Day 28 of a Town Girl Touched by the Farming Life

            This week in the newspaper I received a whole section on agriculture news.  This is an occurrence that commonly touches our family.  Even when there is not a whole pull-out section, we will find sections dedicated to agriculture news.  If I wanted to get up early enough, I could listen to the morning farm report on the radio.  In addition, various times of the year, especially in the spring, the commercials on television are flooded with seed, fertilizer, herbicide, and pesticide products.  For me, even as a town girl, this is normal and to be expected.  I live in the middle of a farming area. 

            I did not realize how unusual this is for some people until two new professors from New York came to the university I was attending.  The men had been friends in New York and both received job opportunities in the education department.  Before they came to this part of Illinois, they joked with each other that the television and radio would probably be full of advertisements for corn seeds and bean seeds.  Then they thought it was hilarious when they got here and found out that they were basically correct.  I asked them to what kind of ads they were accustomed.  Matter of factly, they replied, "Fashion ads and ads regarding banks and Wall Street."  Fashion ads!  Now, to me, that is a waste of time.  I'm not talking about a few clothing ads.  I am talking about non-stop, high-fashion, non-practical-clothing ads.  Those are the kinds of ads these men were used to seeing on their television. 

            To be honest, neither of these types of ads have anything to do with anything that is part of my daily life, but to me, the agriculture ads are overall more worthwhile.  Farmers feed the world.  The quality of food they produce, the ease of producing this food, and the cost effectiveness of everything they use from the seed itself to the combine (the machine that harvests many crops) affect the ultimate cost and quality of food available to everyone in town and country.  Thus, farming directly touches every family, unlike high fashion ads. 

            What kind of advertisements or commercials do you see most often?