A Quiet Wood

A Quiet Wood

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Yes, Mother. ;-)

"Sonja," she said. "You should write another blog," she said. So, here I sit. Even at thirty ____ years of age, one should still listen to one's mother. (To all of you mother's out there, you're welcome. Feel free to point your children to this site. You know, if it's on the internet, it has to be true.)

Well, they came, and they left. The Christmas festivities, that is. Can't say as much for those Christmas cookies, candies, pieces of fudge, handfulls of snack mix, cheeseball and crackers, etc. Those seem to still be around. They've simply shifted forms. Oh well, let the disciplined life resume. I must say, it is lovely from time to time to just stop worrying about what one puts in one's mouth. But, like everything else in life, it has its consequences. And I've also found out that I really wouldn't want to live that way. Seems that God knew what He was doing when He called us to bring our physical appetites into subjection. Hmmmm. Go figure.

Our family really did have a very nice Christmas. We kicked off the festivities on Friday evening with our annual Soup and Carols night. I believe there were nine different kinds of soup. (I sampled at least 4 or 5. Small bowls, of course.) After feasting, we all gathered in the living room to sing our favorite Christmas songs. It's always a really special time with friends.

Like I said, a good time was had by all.

Our own Christmas seemed especially nice this year. So many happy things: being together, the joy of giving, the blessing of receiving, the awareness of the Greatest Gift, taking nothing for granted. Aaaaahhhhh.

Brent received a cello. Long story, and not quite as random as it may seem. Anyway, he believes that he will have it mastered shortly.

I'm not so sure.

Anyway, I pray that your holidays were special times marked by the presence of our Savior. I would like to go on here, but I feel quite sure that it has all been said already a thousand times by people much more qualified. I will simply say this. As I read Luke 1 this morning, the thing that struck me forcibly was the fact that several key people were READY for God to use them. I saw no kicking and screaming, no running about to tie up loose ends, no sweeping things under the rug. I saw people that were living lives that pleased God every day, so that when God needed them they were ready. Simple as that. I pray that I will live a life marked not by holiday experiences - in which I remember God at all the high points and celebrations - but by daily service, pleasing Him in the mundane. One day He may need me for something (though often I find He has used me quietly, almost without my knowledge), and I want to be ready.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

After the Feasting.

Well, the eating and the talking and the eating and the laughing and the eating and the game playing and the eating and the dish washing and the eating...are finally completed. I bask in the warm glow of the memories and the few extra pounds tenaciously clinging to my thighs. I was so blessed to be able to spend Thanksgiving with my dad's family in Alabama. We had close to 40 people there on the main feast day, but of course the celebration spread over 3 days. You can't get everything said in just one day. :) I was reminded of the blessing of a family steeped in love and dedication to our Heavenly Father. Sure we have our faults. Who doesn't?! But knowing each other as well as we do, we choose to drive or fly hundreds of miles to celebrate connections and laugh at each other's idiosyncrasies. So, before I get more sentimental, I'll give you a pictorial journey through my Thanksgiving.

The table was laid.

The stockings hung on the ladder with care.

And the fun began. It seems like at least a few guys are looking at a map at one point or another. I'm sure Phil is giving Brent good advice. :)

A classic pose of some uncles (James & Philip).

My sweet mother and dear Aunt Carole.

The newly married among us (Phil & Dana).

The soon to be married (Josh & Faith).

A classic shot where the background shots are even better than the foreground.

And a few other random shots of the hilarity on the night we opened presents.

And then, finally, we got a few cousins and spouses together for a group picture. Due to poor planning, not everyone was still there. Oh, well. We do the best we can. Oddly enough, we seem to be standing on an incline. In actuality, the house was on a level surface.

Central to our celebration is my precious grandmother. I want to be like her when I grow up!!

Saturday was the big ol' catfish fry. In case you don't know... Greensboro, AL is the catfish capitol of...hmmm...something. Anyway, they raise catfish there, and it is amazing. Some friends with big fryers came to do the honors.

Like manna from heaven.

Well, there are many more pictures I could inflict upon you. Like the guys watching the sky for the return of our Lord. (Actually, David was flying his remote control helicopter. Really cool!)

Or my dear brother wowing the young ones.

Or pics of my wonderful parents.

I could do that. But I think I'll stop now.

Let the basking continue!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

In the Quiet.

I sit here in my "chair of power" in the Dean of Women's office, and for one brief, shining moment everything is still. No talking, laughing, running in the halls (grrr). It is quiet all around me. This is a bit unusual for a Thursday morning, but all is calm and (oddly enough) all is fairly bright as well. (Hmmmm, where have I heard that before?) Needless to say, I'm enjoying it immensely. I think the thing that makes this moment so special is its rarity. Something that is uncommon often becomes precious to us, and these minutes are no exception. My life has been full lately - full of kids in crisis (sickness, family problems, major spiritual issues) but also full of joy as I am reminded over and over again just why I'm here; why I have a job where my phone can ring at any hour because someone "needs" me.

I am also reminded that in the fullness of our lives, we can always have a "quiet place" where our ears are tuned to hear the still small voice of our Father. A song comes to mind that has become a favorite of mine in the last few years.

Mid all the traffic of the ways,
Turmoils without, within,
Make in my heart a quiet place,
And come and dwell therein.

A little shrine of quietness,
All sacred to Thyself,
Where Thou shalt all my soul possess,
And I may find myself.

A little shelter from life's stress,
Where I may lay me prone,
And bare my soul in loneliness,
And know as I am known.

A little place of mystic grace,
Of self and sin swept bare,
Where I may look upon Thy face,
And talk with Thee in prayer.

- John Oxenham, 1917

Well, in the process of writing this post, the quiet has been shattered. My little charge who was sleeping next door has awakened, and the room is now filled with his baby gibberish (another wonderful sound). People have come and gone from my window, but the stillness of soul, the quiet place, remains.

May all of us take time this day to "be still (even for a moment) and know that [He] is God".

Friday, November 2, 2007

Aaaaaaand We're Rolling...

Well, lest any of you dear folks out there begin to think that I leave posts up for an inordinate amount of time just to see how many comments I can get and if anyone will notice I'm missing, I decided to actually give you another offering. To be honest, the last month is a bit of a blur due to the amount of activity and lack of prolonged time to actually stop, rest, and reflect. I've worked three of the last five weekends and the weekends in between when I didn't work had major activities associated with them (Homecoming & Youth Challenge/my cousin's wedding). So, as you can imagine, I feel a bit blurry around the edges myself. But time off is coming if I can just hold on a bit longer. (Hallelujah.)

It was really great to meet up with old friends for at least a few brief moments at Youth Challenge. Unfortunately, I didn't get pictures of all of you, but the fellowship was sweet (though abbreviated). You know who you are! What a beautiful thing to be blessed with people who know you well and "knew you when" and love you anyway! Wow! What a precious gift. I know some YC pics have already made their way onto other blogs, but I'll post a few anyway.

Like I said, what a blessing!

This picture pretty much sums it up with these young ladies! (I'm actually under strict orders not to post this - which made me want to do it all the more. Sorry, Lauren, it's just too good!)

And what great kids! I won't name them all, but they are pretty cool! (And they know who they are anyway.)

After being Challenged along with the Youth, Brent and I left for Missouri and my cousin Phil's wedding around midnight Friday night. We made it to El Dorado Springs just before 9am, did a quick clean up and change of clothing and were at the church by just after 10:30am. We set up, took pictures, did some last minute practicing, and were in place looking our best when the prelude began at 12:30pm. The Lord was merciful upon our tired voices, and the music seemed to go pretty well. The couple was married without difficulty, and another single cousin bit the dust. As my Aunt so kindly reminded my cousin, Paul, "Well, it's just you, Sonja, and Brent now." Thank you, dear Aunt.

Here is the happy couple (Phil & Dana) with the wedding party - the whole kit & caboodle.

And then there's the Vernon family - not nearly the whole kit & caboodle.

And then you have Brent & I (looking slightly fuzzy around the edges) with the happy couple.

Anyway, there you have it. By 3:30pm I was back in the car headed toward Cincinnati with my Uncle Mike & Aunt Ruthie. Fortunately, we decided to stop for the night, so I actually got some good sleep. (Yay!)

This week has been full of the Leadership Conference & the Inner City Summit held here on the Hilltop. Dr. H.B. London, from Focus on the Family, was here as the special speaker for the Leadership Conference, and he was incredible. What a great man - and really fun to listen to as well! I was truly blessed by his ministry.

Oh, yes, Halloween was this week as well, and my best buddy had a costume. Please indulge me a few moments of unadulterated gushing.

Cool, huh?

Well, that about wraps it up. "Well, it's about time," you say. "Maybe you should post more often," you say. "Perhaps then you wouldn't have to do these monster blogs that we must wade through in the vain hope that you will amuse us," you say. Sigh. You are right. *hangs head in shame* I'll try to do better. ...But I probably won't, so Jesus is just going to have to help you endure...or you could always just quit reading. But you know you don't want to do that. What if, maybe...just maybe, I actually entertain you at some point? Are you sure you want to risk it?

Something to think about this week.


Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Lament...Or Not

"It's that time of year..." unfortunately not when the world falls in love. It's mid-October, and striding jauntily along with an evil glint in his eye is Mr. Stress. He has successfully weaseled his way into the lives of most of my girls during this season of mid-terms, school activities, boyfriend problems (or the lack thereof), etc. In the last few days, my office has been full of the sounds of weeping and woe. Fortunately, at this point at least, I am not the one supplying this excess of lamentation. I am simply the one who is there, the one who listens, the one who comes alongside. Along with the normal, run of the mill college stress, I have also encountered some heartbreaking sagas as well; broken hearts, crushed spirits, deep sadness, true woe. In the face of this grief, it is a blessing to know that I don't have to know all the answers, fix all the problems, offer the sagest advice. I just have to be there, and together my girls and I can go to Jesus. What a privilege! What a comfort! Not quick solutions and pasted together remedies but the person of Jesus. He offers us Himself, and it is enough.

So, I'm sitting at the computer waxing eloquent about grief when my world shifts on its axis ever so slightly. THERE'S A GAS LEAK IN THE DORM! CALL THE FIRE DEPARTMENT! EVACUATE THE BUILDING! THE GAS COMPANY SAYS THE NUMBERS SAY WE'RE IN DANGER OF AN EXPLOSION! QUICK! MOVE! NO, YOU CAN'T GO BACK INTO THE DORM TO GET YOUR HOMEWORK TO DO WHILE YOU'RE WAITING! ARE YOU KIDDING ME?! OK, slight overkill, but it was fun to read, wasn't it? We did have a gas leak, and the fire department did come - as evidenced by these grainy cell phone pictures. It's actually kind of cool to post grainy cell phone pictures. Those are usually the ones posted in the tabloids. You can't really tell what's happening, but you're sure it has to be bad. Anyway, here are two for the tabloids.

This is the truck from the gas company with various firemen being helpful by setting up a large fan to blow out the fumes and generally just being there in case the aforementioned explosion decided to become a reality.

Here we have the fearless firemen ACTUALLY ENTERING THE BUILDING. *shudder* Oh, wait, some of them are leaving. THAT MEANS THEY WERE IN THE BUILDING! *second appreciative shudder*

I do praise God for keeping us safe. The gas was leaking into the building for several hours, and we could have had a major catastrophe.

I guess I will skip my lamenting for now. I had a good lament planned. I was going to pronounce woes on a great many things, but now I just don't want to anymore. So...I won't.

Have a stupendous day, and if you smell natural gas CALL THE GAS COMPANY AND GET OUT OF THE BUILDING!

Saturday, October 6, 2007

All I Ask...

I do not ask that I may steer
My peaceful bark by peaceful shores alone,
Nor that I linger, harbor-bound,
And sail no stormy seas unknown;
I only ask this boon of Thee:
Be ever in the ship with me.

I do not ask that I may dwell
From din of battle far removed,
Nor ever feel temptation's force,
Nor ever know mine armor proved;
I only ask, through Life's long fight,
Grant me the power of Thy might.

I do not ask, that I may walk
Only on smoothly trodden grass,
Nor ever climb the mountain's height
And trembling, through its dangers pass;
I only ask, on rocks or sand,
The sure upholding of Thy hand.

I dare not pray for any gift
Upon my pilgrim path to Heaven;
I only ask one thing of Thee:
Give Thou Thyself and all is given.
I am not strong not brave nor wise;
Be Thou with me - it shall suffice.

-Annie Johnson Flint

Borrowed from the blog Holy Experience which has been blessing my life lately. Would especially recommend her Sept. 28th entry entitled "Cup" - a worthy read! (Thanks, Linda, for the recommendation.)

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Thoughts and Thanks

This weekend I had some extra musing time, as it were. A trip I had planned came to a screeching halt when I had some symptoms that were very suspiciously cardiac in nature. For those of you who lie awake at night worrying about my cardiac health, everything seems to be fine now, but this weekend I wasn't so sure. (Thanks for your concern, but you really should get some sleep.) But I digress. As I was saying, I had some extra time to think. Shaping my thoughts was a passage that I came to in my devotional reading - I Peter 1. What an amazing chapter! What incredible timing! (You should go read it. Right now. Well...OK, I'll give you a bit of it here.)

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ; and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls." (vv. 3-9, NASB)

I was blessed this weekend by the reminder that my "comfort", so to speak, is not God's primary concern for me. Obviously, I knew that, but it was good to be reminded that He is so much more interested in the genuineness of my faith. He wants it to be robust; able to stand the twists and turns that life will inevitably send my way. I, a great fan of comfort, need desperately to be reminded of this from time to time. I need to remember that all of this is temporary. It's only a shadow of the reality to come. *Shameless borrowing from C.S. Lewis* Anyway, those were a few of the many thoughts that raced through my pointy little head this weekend. Thanks for bearing with me.

Abrupt change of subject. This last week I made a fruit pizza for my D-group, who set upon it like ravening wolves. That, however, is not what I wanted to tell you. It turned out kind of pretty, and it made my eyes happy. So, since I have no offspring about which to post, I shall post a picture of my fruit pizza in all its glory.

Well, there you have it - the fruit of my labor. Literally.

Blessings on your week!!

Monday, September 24, 2007

Seven Levels of Torment

Why is it that when we're tired everything seems bigger, more ominous and menacing? (Don't answer that. I know the reason. It was rhetorical. Good grief...you're so eager to show off your knowledge.) Today was one of those days. Short, restless night = stressful day trying to stifle that perpetually annoyed feeling. OK, to be completely honest, the whole day wasn't like that. (It just seems like it because I'm tired.) There were some wonderful interactions with old friends, great conversations with kindred spirits, but there were also some crazy people and some stressful moments. Thus, when I received notice that I had been TAGGED, I felt like I had entered into some bad reenactment of Dante's Inferno. Seven random facts? What? You've got to be kidding me! I don't even know seven things about myself right now! (See, I told you I was tired.) However, one thing I've learned about being weary, one should usually never go with one's first response. It most often is, in my case anyway, over the top, emotional, and possibly not the best option. Thus, the weary email to my dear friend asking to be "excused" from the game. (Sorry, Tara.) Well, I've gotten a second wind and have decided to wring out seven random facts from somewhere. (I can even make them up if worse comes to worse.)

1. My middle name is Joy because the first thing my dad said when he saw me was, "Joy, joy, joy." *feel free to say "awwwww" or become annoyed with the sentimentality - as you so desire*

2. I don't know how to skate (roller or ice).

3. I once spent the night alone in the Cincinnati airport due to snowy conditions. (Thanks, Kimberly, for the memory.)

4. I enjoy the original versions of stories much better than their Disney counterparts.

5. I really love Boston Baked Beans. (I used to buy them for 10 cents a box when I was a little kid.)

6. I listen to a lot of NPR on the weekends (Car Talk; PHC; This American Life; The Splendid Table; Wait, Wait Don't Tell Me; Sound Money; Weekend America; Rick Steves; etc.). Yes, some of them are wildly liberal and make me absolutely furious, but they also make me think. And I think that's important!

7. Just about every time I've had heart problems, I've told my friends I thought it was just a fluke. (14 heart caths, 7 stents, 3 bypasses, & 1 cracked sternum later, I think maybe it was for real.) Thanks to another good friend for this insight.

Yay!! I did it!! And I'm glad I did. So there, you nasty, tired, decrepit, old bad mood.

You know, there's one other thing that can cure a bad mood pretty quickly. Allow me to share it with you.

See what I mean? Have a great one!!

Monday, September 17, 2007

The Days are Just Packed

For any of you dyed-in-the-wool Calvin and Hobbes fans, you will recognize the title of my blog as the title of one of their comic book collections. I personally am a dyed-in-the-wool fan (whatever that means), so I knew that useless bit of trivia. Anyhoo, that title probably best describes my life as of late. My weeks are jam packed, and by the time I get a moment to breathe, the last thing I feel like doing is attempting to write compelling and amusing phrases with the intent of bringing mirth mingled with thought provoking profundity to the masses. *sits back in awe of the last sentence* So, there you are. I finally decided to steal this moment before chapel to at least let you know of my harried existence. ("We are here! We are here!" - Horton Hears a Who by Dr. Suess) If you can't tell by now, I am suffering from what psychologists term "flight of ideas", in which the subject's mind can quickly flit through a variety of thoughts without any seeming connection between them. That's how I feel this morning. So...how about that Bengals and Brown's game yesterday? Cincinnati fans are ranting and raving this morning. ...See what I mean?

So, as you can see, meaningful words elude me, and I'm afraid I am about to begin spouting meaningless cliches. "When life gives you lemons, make lemonade!" Oops! Sorry, I warned you. I'd better close now before anything else happens. I'm signing off now from GBS, "where the women are strong, the men are good looking, and all the children are above average." (Garrison Keillor)

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Labor Day

Happy September! It's Labor Day weekend, and that's just what I am doing - laboring. (Well, not actually at the moment. Right now I'm writing this post...but I am doing it in the office.) It has fallen my lot to work this weekend. I've actually gotten LOTS accomplished last night and today, and true to form, I am wildly self-impressed by it. :) *knowing smile by all family members reading this*

(I was just interrupted by some students at the window. We had a great discussion on adopting personal standards and boundaries for our lives. One never knows what a moment will bring!)

Anyway, school is officially under way. We had a wonderful revival last week with Rev. John Manley. God really helped him to preach close, penetrating messages with a lot of love, humor, and transparency. What a blessing! Since I have a personal interest in how our revivals go, I was so blessed and thankful to watch God working on our students. It is so incredible to watch tender hearts respond quickly. I hope and pray that this signals a semester blessed with hearts that are open to the voice of our Heavenly Father.

I have been reading this week about our great High Priest who made the ultimate sacrifice for us - once for all. The High Priest who is able to perfectly identify with our humanity, our pain, our temptations. The High Priest who loved us long before we loved Him. The High Priest who even now intercedes for us. On this Labor Day weekend, I remember that the great labor it took to reconcile God and fallen man is complete. The work is done, and we all may reap its benefits. No more striving and struggling on our own. We may rest in His ability, His strength, and His love. What great news! Maybe we should tell someone! :)

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Hot, Hot, Hot.

"Hey look, it's that Vernon girl."

"Wow, she's been gone for a really long time. She's even lost her tan."

"I know. Sad. I wonder what great excuse she'll give this time about being gone so long."

"Who knows, probably something lame, like she's been so busy."

"Ha! Lame."

"Yeah, lame." *snicker*

Greetings from the smoldering city of Cincinnati. Today my car thermometer registered 105 degrees. I know it really wasn't that hot, but it sounds impressive doesn't it? They say the heat index has been 100 degrees or more the last couple of days. (Whoever "they" are. "They" say a lot of things. Not sure if all of them are true.)

The last couple of weeks have been truly wild with the preparations for and arrival of the incoming freshmen at the old Hilltop. My days have been spent moving furniture, cleaning rooms, sweating uncontrollably, assigning rooms, matching up roommates, praying for grace, entering data into the school computer system for billing, giving pep talks, praying for grace, checking out forlorn faces, answering a myriad of questions, praying for grace, and...last but not least...watching God answer my prayers in a quiet and beautiful way.

It is an amazing thing to tap into the strength of our Heavenly Father; to go through impossible days and find out that it truly is possible to operate in His Spirit and maintain a rest of soul amidst the madness. And the learning continues. I hope this lesson lasts. Sometimes I seem to have to learn and relearn over and over again. *sigh*

One other really neat thing I've been doing is spending time with my buddy, Carson. Those of you who have been on this journey with me for a while have already been introduced. He is a pretty cool guy. I am hopelessly, helplessly smitten. I think he is amazing.

And one more for good measure. Here is complete relaxation - with a really proud grandpa!

OK, I'm done. Life is good. It's hot, but God and technology provide air conditioning. (I really like my air to be conditioned.) So, dear friends, stay cool, drink lots of water, and may your air always be conditioned...or fresh, as the case may be. Fresh is good too.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Home Again, Home Again, Jiggety Jig

Well, at last the pall of reality has settled, the fairy dust of summer vacation has cleared, and behold I am back on the Hilltop again. Not that being back on the Hilltop is a BAD thing. Oh no, dear friends, it is a hallowed place, beloved by many. (Former haven of our exalted founder, Martin Wells Knapp, blessed be he.) However, my return signals the resumption of my responsible life as an adult, ready to mete out justice and wisdom and tackle the pressing issues of our day (things like curfew, skirt lengths, and chapel attendance). Ah yes, summer is over. *sniff*

However (she says again, as if she has no other transitional word), the summer was wonderful while it lasted - actually a direct answer to prayer. After a bit of a rocky spring, I did ask our Heavenly Father if He would like to give me a healthy summer, free of those nasty little hospital visits, and He did! I know He is never obligated to do things like that, but it is so nice to have those blessings when He chooses! Yay for healthy summers!

The end of the summer was blessed by a flurry of activities with friends. To name a few, there was a shower for my cousin Phil's future bride, Dana. It was a really nice occasion with old and new friends alike. (Side note: my mom made the cake. It was beautiful!)

Seeing my mom's cake for Dana brought up the painful realization that I hadn't had one of my mom's birthday cakes in many years. *smile* I'm never home on my birthday. So, I whined until my mom made me a birthday cake. No, my birthday's not for a few weeks yet. But I WAS SO HAPPY! I loved my cake so much. Not only was it beautiful (note the little blue flowers around the edges). IT TASTED GREAT! Every heart patient's dream. :)

We had some special friends over to celebrate my Unbirthday. I have known Marie & Carmelo for many years. They are pretty much in the "family" category by now. It was a great evening, complete with homemade ice cream. *gazing off into the distance in fond remembrance*

It was also very special to be able to spend an evening with several of my high school classmates. Reminiscing brings lots of laughter, and catching up with current news is always nice. We always seem to bring up some of the same stories, but they are just as funny or funnier every time they are told. We had a really nice evening together.

Yes, it has been a fantastic summer, a time to rest, recharge, and renew. I return to "real life" with a bit of anticipation and an excitement to see what God will do for my girls and me in this new school year. If you have any extra prayers that you're not using right now, send them my way. I long for some of my girls to truly meet Jesus this year and have their lives transformed forever. I want to see God do things that ONLY He can get credit for. I know He can.

You know, I think it's going to be a good year. :)