A Simple Look at a Not-So-Simple Life

Archive for the category “Friday Five”

RGBP Friday Five: Grateful Edition

Kathryn writes over at RevGalBlogPals:

The Friday Five is very, very late but God is GOOD – ALL THE TIME so you are invited to share with us five things that cause you to be grateful.


1) I am grateful for family members who are also friends. They say you can’t choose your family, but I say you’re blessed when you know that if you could choose them, these are these exact ones you would have chosen.

2) I am grateful for friends who are like family. You know the ones: they love you on your bad days as well as on your good days; they know from your expression alone what you really are thinking, as well as why you aren’t saying it aloud; time together is easy – whether deep in conversation or in companionable silence, in the midst of adventure or in the middle of a long, trying work week; and fun and adventure are a given, whether they are planned or not!

3) For the long, hot, lazy days of summer. (Well, maybe not so much the hot part.) A more relaxed alarm clock and calendar, more time with children and friends, more trips to the beach, more extravagant (for us, anyway) trips to the cool darkness of the theater. Yet amazingly enough, the day will come when the long, hot days will make me welcome the change of time and season and the lack of schedule will make me ready for more routine. No matter what time of year it is, though, you can never have too much time with family and friends or too many trips to the beach and/or theater!

4) Good novels. How is it that I forgot how wonderful it is to get lost in a novel? I get so busy with reading and writing for work, the kids, maintaining (mostly) the house and yard, and the minutiae of everyday life that I neglect story and imagination. I just finished reading The Unfinished Work of Elizabeth D. by Nichole Bernier. Exquisite. I feel a blog about it coming on very soon. I just started Porch Lights by Dorothea Benton Frank. It’s an interesting combination so far of bittersweet and giggle-worthy.

5) Writing and writers. I’ve found such joy and fulfillment in writing recently, even if currently my personal writing is “just” for my blog. I am making connections with other bloggers, many of them published authors, and am finding that what I feared was an elite, closed clique is actually a group made up of people who live and think an awful lot like me. Who would’ve thought?!


RGBP Friday Five

Mary Beth offers our Friday Five over at RevGalBlogPals:

What are five things that you REALLY REALLY REALLY like about the current season where you live? 
and, for a bonus:
Something you are looking forward to about another season?

1) I love the beach.  Now that I live a short drive away, I can go to the beach on weekends and days off and still be home in time to cook supper. I find everything about the beach to be soothing: the sounds, the sun, the surf. My children love it. They can play for hours on end without a single squabble. And did I mention that there’s always a breeze? Today was the first day of a serious heat wave in the Southeast. The temps were 100+ with higher heat indexes. On the beach, the breeze and the surf kept it comfortable all day. It wasn’t until we left the beach that we realized how hot it really was.

droid back up 6-4-12 1084

2) I love Montreat. I don’t get up to the mountains as often as I used to when I lived in Landrum, but I try to get there for a week during the summer, even if it isn’t officially for a conference. Last year I spent the week reading, writing, and planning. I hope to do it again before school starts back.

Montreat July 2011 008

3) I love the flexible schedule. I’m not as strict about bedtime during the summer, nor do we have to wake up as early. I don’t feel like we’re running ourselves ragged with homework, projects, meetings, etc. I admit to being anxious when school let out for summer about the long days ahead of us. I can’t afford full-time daycare for two kids, so they are with me almost always, whether it’s a work day or a play day. In addition, I lose all of my alone “me” time in the summer – time that is a lifeline for an introvert like me. Even if my alone “me” time takes place in my study at work during the school year, at least it is alone time. I have been pleasantly surprised so far. We’ve been able to mix things up enough to hold boredom and aggravation at bay. We’re enjoying our summer together. About 51 days to go!

no schedule

4) I love a summer wardrobe. I much prefer sandals, flip flops, shorts, and cool summer dresses to pants and sweaters, socks and shoes. I’ve discovered a great new flip flop made by Olukai that offers enough support to keep my tendonitis (mostly) in check.


5) I love fresh produce. Sweet corn. Juicy tomatoes. Refreshing watermelon and cantaloupe. Fried okra. Beans and peas of every variety. Yum. Oh, and while it isn’t fresh produce, ice cream – which is good any time of year – is especially yummy in summer. Bonus points if the ice cream is homemade!


Bonus: What am I looking forward to in a different season? As much as I love a flexible schedule, by the time August rolls around I will be ready for a routine again. Fall will bring that kind of routine (with alone “me” time included), as well as cooler temps. I might even be ready for blue jeans and long pants again . . . eventually. (Shoes? Never!)

Friday Five: Extreme Random

Today is Friday Five day over at RevGalBlogPals. Me random? Never! (Ha!)


Hi there~~
Happy Friday to all of you.  Today’s Friday Five has no theme, other than randomness.
That’s o.k., right?
So, just to get to know each other a little bit (even more) here is the meme:

1.  What is the first thing that comes to your mind (right now) that you want to share about yourself.

Speaking of random, I tend to be a bit random in my thoughts when I drive the kids to school in the morning. For example, yesterday I considered why mosquito bites on fingers and toes itch worse than bites on arms and legs. Do you know? Today’s thoughts centered around wondering why, in my mid-forties, I should be subject to the beginnings of smile lines (wrinkles), enlarged freckles (sun spots), failing skin elasticity (grandma skin), and zits, all at the same time. Seriously, world, where is the justice in this?!

2.  What is your favorite piece of jewelry or accessory? Why?

I don’t wear much jewelry, mainly because I don’t own much jewelry. That’s what being single for most of your adult life does for you. I do have a few pieces of jewelry. My favorite is a silver bracelet that Anna gave me for Christmas a couple of years ago. It is pretty, and more than that, I know she spent a lot of time selecting it.

3.  If you could have a starring role in a T.V. show/movie/series, which one would it be, and what would your character be like?

I would love to do an updated version of On the Road with Charles Kuralt. This version would be On the Road with Simply Jan. (Don’t you love my original title?) I would love to travel all over for the express purpose of discovering unique people and places, doing interviews, and sharing interesting stories. That would be the perfect job!

4.  What is one thing you will eat this weekend?

I am 99.9% sure that I will have a Texas Roadhouse steak and baked potato before the weekend is out. My family is nothing if not food-predictable!

5.  How do you waste time? (If you do, that is…)

Would I ever waste time?! Duh! Like many others, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Google Reader are my go-to time wasters. (Although I prefer to think of them as things that keep me connected to the world.) Don’t be fooled, however. I will even do housework to keep from writing sermons some days!

Friday Five: Internet Connections

Jan (different Jan, but doesn’t she have a cool name?!) wrote over at RevGalBlogPals:

From Studio North blog

I have vaguely been hearing about the coming trend of people using mobile internet devices rather than desktop computers. Having four adult children, I see them using cell phones, laptops, tablets, ipods/iphones/ipads instead of the desktop computer, which I am using right now.

So I am asking you to answer the following questions about whatever device you most often use these days, first by telling us what you have:

1. Do you use social connections, like Facebook, Twitter, Linked-in or whatever else there is? Describe how you use it/these.

My social networks of choice are Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. (I tried Google+, but it never seemed to catch on.) Facebook is my tool to keep up with friends, acquaintances, and colleagues – both old and new. Twitter is my window into the world. I follow people from all over, from all walks of life, and with all kinds of different interests. I find great resources and ideas from listening to what people have to say. Pinterest is still a work in progress for me. It’s great for sparking creative ideas, but I haven’t quite figured out how to most effectively use it. It is a great tool if you’re ever bored. I tend to be a gatherer (i.e. lurker) on Twitter and Pinterest, although I am beginning to make some efforts to add to the conversations I find there.

2. Do you text on your cell phone? Work, friends, family?

I text more than I actually talk. I use text messages not just with friends and family, but also with work. I do have some friends and family members who detest texting, so real conversation hasn’t totally faded from my life.

3. Do you play any games? Which ones?

I don’t play games often. Once upon a time I got sucked into a few of the games on Facebook, but when I started having thoughts during meetings about how I needed to harvest my crops before they died, I realized I had a problem and quit cold turkey. The only game I have installed on my phone is Mahjong. I find that to be a good stress reliever every now and then.

4. How do you predominantly use the various electronic devices you possess?,

My smartphone is my lifeline (and sometimes my time-suck). I use it not just for communication (talk, text, and email), but also for reading (news, blogs, occasionally a Kindle book if I’ve left my Kindle behind), social networking (see above), organization (notes, calendar, task lists), and research (Google and Google Maps at my fingertips). On rare occasions, I will write using apps on my phone. I do not recommend that except under dire circumstances. My laptop is my traveling office and my writing companion. I dream wistfully about one day having a tablet of some sort. I’d love to figure out how it would enhance life!

5. How do you feel about blogging? Are you as involved in blogging as when you first started? What facilitates your blogging?

I love blogging. My blogging life has had its ebbs and flows, but it is one of my favorite forms of self-expression. Things have changed drastically since my first days of blogging. I am much more careful about what I write, especially as it might relate to my work. Blogging helps me clarify my thoughts and opinions. It makes me work to find ways to clearly express myself. It is a tool of humility when I throw something out there that is only half thought-through, especially when I receive feedback that lets me know I need to think a little deeper. It has helped me build confidence as a writer. Reading the blogs of others also widens my world – both in understanding my world and in building relationships with people I otherwise may never meet.

Bonus: Anything you want to add. You might like to discuss what helps you most in your vocation with internet connections.

For people who think that social media is detrimental to ministry practices, I would encourage them to think again. I have been able to build relationships through seemingly casual contacts on Facebook. Facebook is where you often find out what is really happening in people’s lives, things they often wouldn’t get around to telling you at church. Twitter is an excellent way to spread information and quotes/verses/words of encouragement. People who might ignore a phone call and would be mortified at a drop-in visit will often respond immediately to a text message. Passing along information or asking a quick question, especially with church leaders, can be done by text in a matter of seconds, where a phone call might end up taking 20 minutes. Yes, face-to-face and/or voice-to-voice contact is still of utmost importance, but social media can be a wonderful tool for ministry.

Friday Five: Mission Impossible

Revkjarla wrote:

I am in mission trip mode right now, as I get ready to take a group of youth to DC to do service work around hunger and homelessness issues.   So, in that spirit, our FF is Mission Style!  So here are your questions:
1) Have you ever been on a mission trip, as a participant or adult chaperone? What was it like?
2) What is the worst thing that happened to you/your group on a mission trip (or retreat, or camp, or Habitat for Humanity experience, or something like that–hey, this is YOUR Friday Five, so you get to play it how you would like.)
3) If money were no object, where would you want to go to help and serve?  What would you do?
4) What would be your advice to someone who will be sleeping in a gym with 20 other people for a week?
5) Any parting thoughts, stories, or questions you have around the whole theme of Mission Trips?

1) Mission trips and choir tours with embedded mission days were the highlights of my youth. I went on four choir tours and a couple of mission trips in high school and a  “hardship” mission trip to Bermuda in college. (Yes, we did work very hard. We were just fortunate enough to work hard in paradise!) During my seminary internship as a youth minister, I planned two mission trips. I was only able to chaperone the first. The second one took place after my ordination/installation to my first call. It killed me to send them off and to have to stay behind!

2) The worst trip was probably the year our church decided to rent a bus for one of our chaperones to drive. It was a total clunker. It broke down on the side of the road twice – out in the middle of nowhere, of course. Then one afternoon when we were traveling on a remote back highway, our church van came speeding past us, honking the horn. Turns out the back of the bus was on fire. Never a dull moment that year, except for all those moments we spent sitting in the hot sun on the side of the road waiting for a mechanic to show up.

3) My two youngest children were born in Guatemala. I would love to go back there one day and work with the children, especially those in orphanages. The land and its people hold a special place in my heart.

4) Okay, I’m trying to be practical here and not crass. I would recommend three items: ear plugs, Febreze, and Gas-X. No further explanation needed!

5) I will defer to an ongoing conversation that’s taken place over the last several months over at Jamie, the Very Worst Missionary’s blog. Warning: some people have gotten pretty upset about some of the things that have been said over there. Still, I see the wisdom in listening to the words and advice of someone who has been there at ground level for a long time. The most recent post can be found here. For an index of the conversation from its beginning, look here.

Friday Five: Vital Connection

beach 3

For this week’s Friday Five on the RevGalBlogPal website, Sally writes:

OK I’ll admit it, right now I am exhausted, there is so much going on and so much to do that I fell like I am running around in small circles, add to that the fact that there is so much that I’d like to do ….

What I need to do is give myself permission (make myself) to stop and to refocus, to breath the air and smell the roses to get perspective and to rest in God’s presence, and sometimes that can be hard to achieve but I know that the harder it gets, the more essential it becomes. Somewhere deep inside I hear the Spirit whispering to my soul:

Live in me, make your home in me just as I do in you. In the same way that a branch can’t bear grapes by itself, but only by being joined to the vine, you can’t bear fruit unless you are joined to me… (John 15: 4)

So I want to ask you

1. How do you intentionally make a vital daily connection with God? What roots you and gives you life?

I am a nature kind of girl. The cool dark air when I step out on the back porch first thing in the morning to let the dog out, or the sunrise I get to watch each morning after I drop the kids off at school, or the azalea blooms all around the church decorating my walking breaks with Rookie – these are the kinds of things most likely to make me most aware of my connection with the holy.

2.  Do you have a favourite space/ place that you go to?

In light of my first answer, it probably is no surprise that I like to head outdoors. The beach is my all-time favorite place. Nothing tops the sights, sounds, and smells along the coast. The beach is my peaceful listening place. I also like to slip away to the gardens at Mepkin Abbey. A walk in one of the parks along the rivers here, especially Riverfront or Waterfront, or a walk along the Battery works well, too.

3. Is there a particular passage, phrase or prayer that brings you immediately into God’s presence?

Two scripture passages come to mind immediately.

First is the passage in I Kings 19:11-12 where Elijah goes out on the mountain for the presence of God to pass by. First came the wind, then the earthquake, then the fire. But the voice of the Lord was in none of these. Then came the silence, out of which God spoke in a whisper.

Since it is so easy for me to get lost in the flow of the day (and the flow of media), or in whatever the latest crisis might be, or in the most pressing “emergency,” I need to be reminded to be quiet and to be still every now and then.

That leads to the second – my call to quiet – from Psalm 46:10: “Be still and know that I am God.”

4. Music- essential ingredient or distraction- discuss

If I am outdoors, then music is a distraction for me. When I am on the beach, soaking in the sounds of the waves, the seagulls, the wind, the squeals of delight from children and the contented talk of adults, I am mortified to see someone blocking all of that out with earphones. That’s like going to an art museum with a blindfold on! Normally I find it excruciating to try to run without music, but if I am running on the beach, I don’t want or need it.

Inside, however, when I am studying, reading, writing, or thinking, music (especially instrumental music) can be helpful – although I probably wouldn’t rank it as essential most of the time.

5. Silence and solitude or engagement with like minded others?

I am an introvert through and through. While I love worshiping with others, even large numbers of others (think Anderson Auditorium at Montreat), for me to find those moments of connection that sustain me, I need time alone as well. Like everything else in life, I need a balance.

Friday Five: Late!!


All day I have looked repeatedly at RevGals to see where today’s Friday Five is. . . . AND only right now, at 2 pm in Texas, do I realize I am the one in charge! I am sorry I am so late and forgetful.
That brings forth all the times I’ve been late or forgot something. How about you?
When have you been late or a no-show? When have you forgotten something or someone?
1. at church
2. at home
3. at work
4. with friends
5. ? where else?

Me late? Well duh! Unfortunately, being late isn’t an unusual event for me.

1. At church: The most memorable late event at church was back when I was a seminary intern. I lived about 35 minutes away from the church. It was a Sunday morning in spring, and you never could tell what the weather might be like so I called the number for time and temperature. (Do you remember those numbers? Do they still have them, or has the era of the smart phone wiped them out?) Anyway, when heard the time and temperature, I was shocked to discover that I had totally missed the time change the night before and I was running an hour late for church!!! I did make it in time for church – barely. Unfortunately, I also made it in time for a tongue-lashing from my supervising pastor: “What on earth are you going to do when you’re a solo pastor somewhere?” My response? “God knows me well enough to know to send me to a church with a really good clerk of session who will also know me well enough to call and remind me the night before the time changes!” Sure enough, I’ve been blessed for over 12 years to have clerks and/or elders who know me well enough to give me those little reminders. It hasn’t happened again.

2. At home: This isn’t exactly at home, but it is with the kids. This year my two youngest children stay in after school care two days a week, usually Tuesdays and Thursdays. For whatever reason, that schedule changed one week and I was supposed to pick them up immediately after school on a Thursday. One of the elders came in about fifteen minutes before I needed to leave to get them and we got involved in going over a number of things that we needed to discuss. Fifteen minutes turned into thirty. The administrative assistant came on the intercom saying, “Jan, the school in on line one. They are asking if anyone is coming to pick up the kids.” Nooooo! I actually forgot my own children! Major mommy FAIL.

3. At work: Since my work is also at church, you could see #1 above. I will also say that it is consistently hard for me to be on time, much less early, for Sunday School on Sundays. No matter what time I get up or how much preplanning I do the night before, there is some kind of time warp that happens every week that keeps me from walking out the door early enough to get me there with time to spare.

4. With friends: My friends know my tendency to run right down to the wire on timing. Several of them are just like me. So far I haven’t stood anyone up or made anyone angry. Slightly frustrated, maybe, but not angry. And I am good about calling when I’m running late so that they know I haven’t forgotten them.

5. Other: My father has always teased me by saying: “You were born two weeks past your due date, got here at 10:01 a.m. on a Sunday morning which made you late for church, and you’ve been late ever since.” My father was a pastor and church started at 10:00. He led worship and preached before he even laid eyes on me. He says that I’ll be late for my own funeral. I hope he’s right about that one, too!

Friday Five: My Name Is Gratitude

A wise person once told me to make an ABC list of things I am grateful for any time I feel sad or depressed. It is a good practice when one is feeling happier than that, too. So for this Friday Five, I suggest that you use your name or nickname of about five letters and express your gratitude about something that starts with each letter. Some people have longer names, so you decide how you will go about this! (Last names, middle names, and nicknames count!)

Hmmm. Jan is a little short for this project. My real name is Janet, but no one ever calls me that so it doesn’t even feel like me. My last name too long, as is Preacher Mom. So how about PM Jan?

P = The present. I am grateful for today, even though I spend a lot of energy thinking about what I want in the future. I’m learning to live in and love the only time I really have, which is right now.

M = Mentors. I’ve carried a dream around for a long time without ever doing anything to try to make it come true. This summer I have some excellent mentors who are helping me as I take my first tentative steps.

J = Joy. Memories of my sister, Joy. Time I spent this week with my niece, Melinda Joy. Tales of my energetic great-niece, Addison Joy. The sweet smile and tender heart of my daughter, Mia Joy. Can you tell we like Joy in my family?

A = Antics. Whether it’s the summer adventures of my children, or the cuteness of our puppy, or the acrobatics of our cats, or the sense of humor of someone I encounter. It keeps me smiling.

N = Night. Summertime is a challenge sometimes for this introvert. With the kids out of school, I have someone with me all day long, every day. There is no solo commute for making the transition from home to work or work to home. There is no office time that I can say, “Please take my messages for the next hour (or two) so I can work on my sermon.” If my kids need me (and of course they do) there will be interruptions. So in the summer, night has become my time. I may not be awake to enjoy it for long, but even the sleeping dreams are my time. I love night.

Summertime Friday Five

So, what’s up, Rev Gals and Pals?  How are you spending your summer?  (I know, some of you are in a different hemisphere and it may be chilly…sorry!)  Are you experiencing fire or floods or tornados?  Vacationing?  Working harder than ever?  Experiencing change?  Longing for change? 

Share five things that are happening in your life, personally or professionally or some of each, in this season of life.

1. Kids, kids, kids – With all three of mine out of school for the summer, we have a lot of family together time. The church has graciously allowed me to work from home one day a week during the summer, which limits the office days that the kids tag along to just 3. Anna has a part-time job this summer, so some days she is with me as a great personal assistant and other days she does her own thing. Nothing like a little (or a lot) of togetherness!

2. Beach – I do love the beach. My day off is beach day for us unless the weather prevents it. I’ve written numerous times about my love of the ocean – its sounds, its smells, its calming influence. I also love to go late in the evening just to walk. Ahhh!

3. Writing – I’m not sure what I’ve gotten myself into with this writing intensive. I have a lot of work to do between now and Sunday, when I have to submit something for peer review and critique. I’m enjoying the work of writing and being a part of this kind of group gives me both the accountability and the “excuse” to write more often. Still waiting for the project to gel, though.

4. Montreat – I think that everything is coming together for a week at Montreat very soon. While it will be a study leave for writing and planning, it will also be a week of peace and relaxation. As much as I love Charleston, I haven’t taken more than a day or two away in a very long time. It’s time for some get away. And I love the mountains almost as much as I love the beach!

5. Decisions – We’re spending a lot of time at the church this summer making decisions about fall programming, worship themes, fellowship, and mission events. It’s fun to dream in outline form, knowing that the real work will come when it’s time to fill in and implement the details. At home I’m weighing the pros and cons of staying in our current rental vs finding a new place. The market isn’t so great right now, but it sure would be nice to have work, school, and home all closer together. Researching, thinking, and praying a lot about that right now.

RGBP Friday Five: The Way We Blogged

A friend and I were lamenting recently about the good ol’ days of blogging and memes. Certainly there are still some very active blogs around our web ring, but the days of the Friday Five getting 50-70+ responses are in the past. We lamented that the Friday Five is the equivalent of the women’s guild of RevGalBlogPals.

I am one of those who went from blogging just about daily to periodically at best. Unfortunately, the number I routinely read has gone down as well. What about you?

1) Have your blogging (writing/reading) habits shifted since the days of yore?

I’ve been blogging for over 6 years, but my posting habits have been sporadic. My “high” years were 2007 and 2008 with 200+ posts. My “low” was last year with a measly 48. I came very close to closing down the blog this spring, but instead I got a second wind and recommitted. I posted every day in May and June. Yay me! I like the discipline it brings to my writing and my attention to the details of life when I blog. I’m giving myself permission to back off from the 7 day a week posting schedule starting this month, but I still intend to post 4-5 times a week.

As for my reading habits, I still follow my favorites via Google Reader. I’ve gotten pretty slack on leaving comments though. I sure do miss the interaction we used to have through posts and comments.

2) Do you have some favorites that you miss?

Real Live Preacher was the one who introduced me to blogs to begin with – ironically, when he published a book of his posts and essays. I still read Gordon as he posts in other places, but I do miss Real Live Preacher.

3) Are there some blogs you still put in the ‘must read’ category?

My “must read” blogs are mainly those of fellow clergywomen who have formed a community via the RGBP ring. I’m afraid to start naming names, because just as soon as I do I’ll leave someone out. I’m still very much interested in following the lives, adventures, and ministries of these amazing women.

4) If we gathered at your knee, what would you tell us about those early days of blogging?

That the most amazing thing can happen – people just might actually read what you write. And they might respond. And you might find your world expanded exponentially through these amazing connections. Who would’ve thought it?!

5) Do you have a clip or a remembrance of a previous post of yours or someone else’s that you remember, you know an oldie but goodie?

Every Saturday during the months of June and July, I’ve revisited some of my favorite posts. Most of these I had forgotten until I took the time to re-read my blog back in April. Finding these forgotten memories were like stumbling upon precious treasures. They may not be of much value to anyone else, but to me – priceless.

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