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31 May 2011

UMP Initiative

Today I made a quick stop at the local grocery store, four items on the list, including milk. Milk is a complicated and divided affair at my house, with girls that prefer Skim and their dad and brother who are Vitamin D Whole milk kind of guys. Today I walked into that age old trap of milk buying. I stumbled through the mine field of colored caps and fell victim one more time.

It is the slickest and most deceptive of set-ups in the milk cooler. You can't let your guard down. I first looked for the Vitamin D, the most reliable, the ol' predictable, the red cap. No. Not here, not at this grocery. It was purple! Purple? Then I moved on down the row to the light blue skim. But the off-brand (hmmm... "off brand" is never a phrase you want to use with milk. Let's just say that it wasn't the store brand label...) was 50 cents cheaper and milk is milk and 50 cents is 50 cents, right? So I grabbed the light blue capped cheaper version and headed to the checkout line. I was out of the store and back in the car when I looked at the receipt and WHAT?!? One vitamin D milk, one 1% lowfat?! WHAT HAPPENED?

Foiled by cap color, yet again!

(of course, since it was 98 degrees outside, no way was I dragging that sweaty gallon back into the store, so hopefully the girls will see the blue cap and think "skim milk" and like their mom, not notice...)

So today, after years of making "we should..." statements, today I am publicly suggesting the UMP initiative- the Uniform Milk Packaging act. One color per label- standard across the industry. No more mistaken milk purchases in the parking lot!

And I'm not the first with this idea.  A quick Google search under "milk labeling colors" shows that Startled went public with a similar idea a year ago.
Red for Vitamin D whole
Purple for Reduced fat 2%
Green for Low fat 1%
Light blue for Skim milk non-fat ("because skim milk really is a pale, deathly blue. Also, it is gross." says Startled. My son would agree.)
It is easy and it just makes sense.

My conservative senses dare not demand government intervention or legislation, but really milk producers. Unite! You can make a difference!

(and wow! what's with the price of milk? It's the same price per gallon as gasoline!! And I think that my 15 year old son gets about the MPG, minutes per gallon, as our 12 passenger van... sigh.)


No matter our object of worship, the same is true of our lives today. That which claims the most thorough part of our hearts, souls, minds, and strength both reflects and shapes our lives. We most certainly live in a time when the greatest commandment comes with great difficulty, when focusing our hearts, minds, and souls on one thing is a challenge met with a constant parade of options vying for our attention. But the God who longs to gather us, whose arm is not too short to save (even from ourselves), nor ear too dull to hear, is the same yesterday and today.

- from "To Dwell in Possibility," by Jill Carattini at

That passage just one of a series of words that have challenged me over the past few days...
  • What do I allow to be a distraction from focusing my heart, mind, soul, and strength on glorifying the True and very faithful God who stretches His arm to me?
  • Am I passionate about taking the Gospel, the Good News of Christ, to those who are longing for good news?
  • Am I listening and responding and walking in obedience?
  • Do I have His word ready to share?
  • Do I believe it?
I just now read, "Our bondages are ruining our lives—and still we hold on to them for dear life. Why? It seems to me we don’t really believe that God has anything to offer that we would like better. Heaven has always seemed boring to those who live in darkness. It’s just a matter of not believing God, I guess." 

I will focus on Light.

(photo credit: Out of Focus Bright by Maddenphotography at Etsy)

30 May 2011

Memorial Day

A veteran once told Thames that he’d lost a buddy in World War II and that the body was never recovered. When he comes to the Tomb of the Unknowns, the veteran imagines that those remains belong to that guy — and this becomes the place where he can be mourned as if his name were cut in stone.

This is why the sentinel buffs his shoes, hollers for a good tucking-in, submits to having his creases measured to within a fraction of an inch. This is why he has seemingly shaved away every shred of his own individuality, his identity, for a task whose purpose is, at the heart of it, exquisitely tender. It is the physical expression of an intangible wish, the fulfillment of a promise.

Long past Memorial Day.

“All soldiers recognize that it represents them,” says Barrett, The Citadel professor. “Underlying the tomb is that if something happens to you and we can’t identify you or find you, that ceremony still honors you.

“We ask them, if necessary, to lay down their lives,” he continues, his voice faltering with emotion, for he was once a soldier. “This is the corollary: They will not be forgotten.”
- from "At the Tomb of the Unknowns, a ritual of remembrance," The Washington Post, May 23, 2011

I remember exactly every time that I've been to the Tomb of the Unknowns. It is that kind of place, indelible in your memory. I went when I was in high school, when I had my own camera, and I took an entire roll of film at Arlington. I got that roll developed, and saw all those photos of rows of white gravestones in perfect order and in perfect symmetry, and wondered why I took so many pictures of the same thing. But at the time, that's all I could do, standing there, looking out across the cemetery. That day I was part of a group that laid a wreath at the tomb, as a group of girls from the American Legion Auxiliary. We wore white gloves in late July and rumpled and wrinkled dresses, and it was hotter than blazes, that sticky humid DC summer heat. We took the task given to us seriously, but we were glad when it was over and we got back on the air conditioned bus.

But the soldiers at the Tomb, the sentinels, they never stop. The continue on at the tomb, the same cadence, the same steps, night and day, rain or shine, hot or cold.

And now I know, the soldier, the sailor, the airman, the marine, they don't stop either. Now I know that they are away from family and in far away places for unknown amounts of time. Sometimes their job is boring, and that is good ;and sometimes it is all too exciting and risky for their own good; and sometimes, sometimes, it is a job that requires the ultimate sacrifice.

It's an honor to know military service people. Recently a met the wife of a retired submariner, and even though we were never in the same place at the same time, we knew each others experience. We knew about underways and inspections and moves and lonliness and the "if I told you I'd have to kill you," spoken in jest, but lived with all seriousness. And even though our husbands never knew one another, they knew too. I'm proud of my friends sons and daughters that are now serving, some in really hard (and hot!!) places.
Thank you to those that serve; thank you to those that served.
They will not be forgotten.

(photo credit: Washington Post)

27 May 2011

three weeks

Three weeks?
For three weeks, I've thought about writing, every day. 
And every day, I haven't.
This writing, it's not as easy as riding a bike.

In three weeks, we traveled almost 1200 miles nearly straight north.  And then we turned around and did it again pointed south.  We drove up to that place that I never-ever imagined I'd like, let alone love. We saw the dirt and brush of south Texas turn into the green fields of the Midwest turn into just barely spring of Nebraska.

My husband did the hard work, the arranging and planning and details of making the arrangements to get our stuff from storage to the border.  I had the easy part, meeting friends for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and ice tea, and coffee.  Catching up.  Sharing surprises.  Laughing plenty.  Crying too.  And at the end of ten days, it was just as hard to leave as it has been before, but that's good because it means we have been blessed.  Abundantly so.

Now we're in the new place, and slowly finding order. Boxes full of random things remain. When you lose your attic and basement and front door closet, I suppose that happens. I found a library in walking distance. And a grocery store that has air conditioning so cold my fingers become numb.

I'm trying to figure out how to live in the this place that's not really like north of here, but not really like south of here, either. Can a gringo speak Spanish to Spanish speakers in the US when you know that they speak English too?  How do I reconcile the poverty just miles from my door with service? What's help? What's harm? Where do we worship? And where is the post office?

Yes, in a new place, and still, prone to wander.

Full of...

He’s already at the back door. He turns, hand on the knob and I can see how he’s aged in a day, worn by the dirt and the wind and the sacrifice, his eyes shot red through.

“Wagon’s right full of seeds.”

Full of dreams, full of possibility, full of what can only be – only if we let it go.

In this hard world, there is disappointment and there is death and there is dark and is it all only hard when we’re fooled into thinking this world is the only world we’ll ever get?

That is the paradox: this wondrous mess, this is it, right now, and there’s no waiting for another elusive life of perfection here, so we’ll laugh praise now, knowing that the real, righter, forever life is still coming, if we walk gratefully through our Christ doors of now.

from "When you're burying all your hopes and dreams," A Holy Experience, 05.11.11, by Ann Voskamp

I marked this beautiful post by Ann Voskamp a couple of weeks back, because it is about farming but it is about Christ. Reading it, I couldn't help but think of my favorite farmers in the entire world, starting to seed their crops at the exact same time.

Farming is such hard and uncertain work. Each step of the way is taken in faith, so many factors completely out of their control.  The weather can't be too hot or too wet. They face the uncertainty of the plagues each growing season, of storms or pestilence or disease.
If the seeds sprout...
If the plants grow...
If the crop is harvested...
If the market is good...

It all starts with burying the seed in the ground.
The dead is brought back to life.
Full of dreams, full of possibility, full of what can only be – only if we let it go.
And isn't that where a walk of faith always begins?

(photo credit: taken in Iowa, not far from my friends' farm, on a beautiful Sunday afternoon in May.)

5 minute friday- Forgetting (not)

Breaking a bloggy fast this morning, easing in gently with a prompt from The Gypsy Mama for 5 minute Friday...

Or perhaps, forgetting not.

I never want to forget how sweet it is to stand in worship and know the songs so well I can sing them with my eyes closed and hear individual voices all around me, the mingling with the melody of the keys.

Or how it is to look across the room at a friend and be known, without saying a word, but with the history of all those words spoken through the many years before.

I never want to forget how it is to be the stranger, and not understand and not know a thing, to be the helpless one.

Or how it is to walk into the room and not know a soul, and hardly the language, and yet remember that a kind smile speaks volumes.

… keep your soul diligently, so that you do not forget the things which your eyes have seen and they do not depart from your heart all the days of your life; but make them known to your sons and your grandsons. (Deuteronomy 4:9)

Bless the Lord, oh my soul, and forget none of His benefits. (Psalm 103:2)

(art credit: Forget me Not by ZENdaisies at

Don't forget to check out other 5 minute friday contributions at The Gypsy Mama.

06 May 2011

To tell the short version of the story of the last 8 months would sound something like this:

We left the United States.
We lived in Costa Rica for 8 months.
We learned some Spanish (but not as much as we hoped).
We made new friends, who will live all over the Spanish speaking world.
We saw the mighty provision, goodness, mercy and love of our Lord, daily.
We returned to the States.
And we started again.

Of course, that leaves a lot of details out..
Isn’t it funny how the story of even just 8 months might take years to unpack?

My family and I are back in the States. We are settling again, this time in the Rio Grande Valley of southeast Texas, right up alongside the Mexico border. And we are eager and anxious and ready, for whatever stories the next chapter holds.

But, since we’ve been back,
I’ve been noticing that everything seems bigger here.
And more expensive than when I left.
I’m not even close to being over the wonder of hot strong showers and comfortable beds.
I’m still trying to get my fill of unsweetened fresh brewed ice tea.
I’m absolutely cherishing being with old friends and so thankful we have started to see family.
I still think of how I would say it in Spanish.
But I haven’t had to very often.
My computer knows that I'm not in Costa Rica, and suddenly spellcheck works again.
And, slowly, I’m getting the blog groove back…

(photo: that picture was taken looking up from my new front yard- yes, we have palm trees in our front yard!)