March 6

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It is frigid once again here in Lima. I’ve consulted several 10 day weather forecasts, and I think this may be the last cold snap of the season.

There are plenty of overexposure spots in the photo above. I like how the winter morning sun dazzles the eyes when there is snow or ice to reflect it. If I let my camera meter the picture for the bright spots, I get all sorts of weird colors in the snow. If the sun were dim enough to permit our gaze, snow would include all the variations within mother of pearl.

I don’t have long to write this morning. There is a thought flitting through my mind, and it is this: in what ways do we hold onto pain because it has become useful?

Some thoughts on 1 Corinthians 3:18-19

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I’ve encountered another passage of Scripture that really resonates for me, 1 Corinthians 3:18-19 (quote from Good News Bible): “No one should fool himself. If anyone among you thinks that he is wise by this world’s standards, he should become a fool, in order to be really wise. For what this world considers to be wisdom is nonsense in God’s sight.”

There is so much to contemplate in this passage. For instance, am I drawn to these words in humility or because of those times in life when it seemed I was the lone (and sometimes silent) voice of reason? Lately I’ve become increasingly disillusioned by some of the comments I see on social media regarding local news stories. It seems like harsh judgment has become the reigning paradigm in such comments. If the authors of such comments could create a reality to their liking, we’d live in a world where children are never spared the rod unless they act like perfect servants, where all defendants, whose guilt is a foregone conclusion, should go straight from arrest to prison, where welfare no longer exists, and everything is seasoned with a heaping portion of capital punishment.

Then again, who am I to judge these people? I don’t bother to present an opposing viewpoint because I’ve seen dissenting opinions quashed several times over the years. It’s so hard for me to tell who is foolish in this situation: the harsh local pundits, people like me for letting them steamroll local forums unopposed, or the people who created essentially unmoderated forums?

The answer is likely to be something I can’t imagine, as least not yet.

Still Winter

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March is here, and the snow is still with us. Recently I overcame a decade-long phobia of driving over snow and ice, but I still don’t relish winter storms. I read the Book of Job in its entirety for the first time this week as part of Nicky and Pippa Gumbel’s Bible in One Year program available through the free Bible.com reading app. Near the close of Job, God mentions something about snow that resonated so deeply for me that I decided to superimpose the verses on one of my snow photos:

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Job 38:22-24

The idea that snow could be associated with perilous times is not alien to me at all. For nearly ten years, the mere presence of snow was a peril unto itself. I had the unfortunate experience of having the brakes of a now-defunct van give out while I was driving in snow. It wasn’t a matter of the brakes locking up because I wasn’t allowing enough stopping distance in the snow. Unknown to me at the time, the van had been leaking brake fluid, and I had no fluid left at all by the time I started up the van on that snowy day. I drove a mile through town and coasted through four stop signs (thank God I was the only who happened to be driving through those intersections at the time!). I managed to get the van stopped at my parent’s house, and those tense moments of sailing through the stop signs in the snow haunted me entirely too many times over the next ten years.

I tried getting past this phobia in many ways. Brief therapy. Rides from friends and family during snowstorms (in all honesty, sometimes when there was just the mere threat of snowfall). I even bought a SUV with all wheel drive. Still, I’d despair at the prospect of driving in winter weather, even though I’d gradually been doing better with driving myself though ice or snow. It’s not that I was quaking with the the physical signs of fear. It was like a proverbial brick wall would appear that demanded I drive nowhere, that almost nothing was worth the risk of driving in snow.

Recently I tried something entirely different. I’ve been experiencing a renewal of my faith, inspired in part by my daughter’s sudden, unexplained decision to read the Bible from cover to cover. We’ve started attending our neighborhood Methodist church, and one of the women in the congregation was kind enough to give me a copy of Sarah Young’s Jesus Calling, a daily devotional that addresses anxiety among other issues that can erode one’s peace of mind. A few weeks ago, when I was doing the day’s reading from that book, I decided to try trusting that God could help me with my winter driving problem.

A few days later, we had a four-inch overnight snowfall, and almost none of our local streets had been cleared by the time I needed to leave for work. When I looked out of our front door at the snow, I felt no dread and no plot emerged in my mind to call someone to come and get me. I waited for news that my daughter’s school day would be cancelled, gathered my things for work and drove five miles through the snow with no resistance or anxiety whatsoever.

I’m glad that my snow phobia is over. Before the brake malfunction ten years ago, I seldom thought about winter driving, let alone agonize over it. It’s a relief to be back in that state of mind on the subject.

On a clear day you can see the end of winter

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The saga of my lying coworker continues, but compassion has calmed most of this storm. In borrowing from the losses and frustrations of those around her, she may be telling us, “I am no stranger to pain, but I cannot bring myself to tell anyone what wounded me.”

Half an eon ago in internet history, I read a superb parody tribute to Journey’s Steve Perry which listed bizarre fictional accomplishments. The feats included being locked in a sauna for seven years, which somehow destroyed his perceptions of the present tense. It’s like my coworker was locked in that sauna too and emerged with a faulty grasp of the past and the present.

I took the picture above the morning after last month’s storm. The beauty of that snow reminds me that I need to alter my attitude about winter. In the past ten years, I’ve felt like winter is at best a waiting room for spring. I’ve considered that this is a habit that could result in my wishing away 25% of the rest of my life.

Would I Lie to You?

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I resolved this year to dwell much less on the faults of others, but I continue to deal with a situation rich with temptation toward judgment. Last summer, I mentioned that I know someone who lies more often than she tells the truth.

What would you do if you worked with someone who told the truth about the work itself but lied about her personal life 80% of the time?

I’ve tried to approach this matter from many different angles. I’ve considered that her lies could be a firewall of sorts between home and work. If that is the case, I’d rather that she remain mum about her private life. For months, I’ve tried the strategy of I’ll-ask-you-no-questions-so-you’ll-tell-me-no-lies, to little avail. The tales continue, embroidered with ever-deeper fabrication.

That I even know she lies about her personal life is a problem in itself. I “smelled a fault” in her stories early in my acquaintance with her, which provoked my natural tendency toward playing Bluebeard’s wife. I admit that I’ve checked her stories versus information online about herself and some of the people she talks about. Yes, I’ve spent time enlightening myself about things that are not my business. I’m aware I should “get a life” and stop looking, but I think many people would be tempted to do the same in my shoes.

My husband warned me that I could discover something I wish I didn’t know (Bluebeard’s wife strikes again!), and he was not wrong in that warning. I know that my coworker is in the midst of a whopper of a lie, a lie of such epic proportions that I’m stunned she can craft such a tale and hold down a full-time job at the same time. In the past fortnight, she has fabricated the birth of a special-needs, born-at-25-weeks grandchild who was actually born full-term and healthy two months ago! She announced her daughter’s pregnancy to us the day after her grandchild was born!

Today she told me that her grandson weighs 2.2 lbs, is 9″ long and has an 80% chance of having Down’s Syndrome. And he was born this week, too. Apparently, he may be older than I am because today’s conversation makes me wonder if I was born yesterday.

I just let her talk, like I did a few months ago when I encountered a woman (outside work, btw) who told me the story of how she sustained a pregnancy at age seven complete with home birth and immediate, involuntary adoption of the baby. Sadly, the 7-year-old mother story is more plausible than the chances of a baby born healthy and yet reborn months later at 25 weeks with an 80% chance of a genetic trisomy (really?!? what hospital can handle an extreme preterm delivery that wouldn’t offer genotyping of a newborn at risk for genetic issues?).

What complicates matters at work is that her lies are circling the proverbial airport of actual struggles of some other coworkers, myself included. For instance, she told me a fictional name for her grandson today, and it was the same name that my late maternal grandmother gave a son that she lost late in her second trimester of that pregnancy. Worse, yet another of my coworkers, a person who is very, very dear to me, actually received a devastating, pregnancy-related diagnosis years ago at the same hospital the liar claims her daughter gave birth at this week. It’s like the liar is retelling the greatest loss my dear friend ever suffered and corrupting it with a false ending!

Has the liar become malicious or is she disintegrating into delusion? I wish I could tell my friend that I’ve discovered that life had broken the liar in our midst before we even met her, that her stories tell us no more of her heart than a trail of broken glass on the road speaks of a car accident. I do believe that the liar is broken, but the revelation of her fractures doesn’t do much to heal the hurt she is causing to my friend.

I’ve tried talking around the subject with the liar, trying to remind her through stories that it’s never too late to tell the truth. I retell the tale of how one of great-grandfathers lied about his identity and how blessed my family was to discover his real life story, even 80 years after his death. How much better things would have been had my grandma not lost 80 years of time with her father’s extended family!

It’s times like this that I must remind myself that Christ died for everyone’s sins. I try to see my dishonest coworker as Christ would see her, and I know that I am only beginning to understand the how vast the mercy and love of Christ is.

Weekend Snow, January 20

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This weekend offered the first snow storm of the season. The snow has drifted too much for accurate measurement. Some patches of our yard show blades of grass, but other parts are buried beneath drifts 12-18″ deep.

Here in Lima we don’t suffer from the sometimes massive lake effect snowstorms well known in northern Ohio, so any projected storm with rumors of snowfall in excess of 3″ tends to inspire milk-and-bread stockpiles. Actually, one of our local restaurants shared a meme online that showed a weather map in which the inches of snow in the forecast were replaced with how many loaves of bread should be purchased in advance to endure the storm. According to the map, this weekend’s storm was a three loafer.

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