Taking stock on the Ides of December

Today is December 15. We are nearly halfway through the final month of 2017. We are ten days from Christmas and six days from the winter solstice, after which the days will start getting longer again.

This is one of those times when it is appropriate to sit back and take stock.

Reading: I am a book juggler. I never read just one book at a time. Right now, I’ve got three going at once. They are, “Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe” by Fanny Flagg, “World Without End,” a monolith by Ken Follett, and “The North and South Trilogy” by John Jakes.

Listening: My two latest discoveries are both jazz albums. They are “Civilization” by Tony Williams (1987), which I came across while listening to Real Jazz on SiriusXM, and “The Blues and the Extract Truth” by Oliver Nelson (1961), which I discovered while streaming a jazz channel on Apple Radio. Both have left me wondering why it took me so long to find them.

Cooking: Yesterday I made a batch of broccoli cheddar soup. I have concocted this recipe several times in the last few months and yesterday’s was my best effort yet.

Traveling: I have been to Memphis 10 times since July, and thought I was done for awhile after the St. Jude half-marathon back on December 2. Then, lo and behold, Memphis got invited to play in the Liberty Bowl on December 30 for the first time ever, so we’ve worked that into our post-Christmas trip to West Tennessee.

Running: Yesterday was just my 2nd time to run following the half-marathon. The combination of a self-imposed week off after the race, cold weather, and illness have kept me bottled up. But your body has a way of telling you it needs a break. Lord willing, I will start training for the next half-marathon on March 1, so until then, I’m planning on “maintenance running” only, where I more or less run a 5K every other day.

Needing: I don’t need anything. Even with Christmas approaching, it is always a struggle to come up with ideas for useful things. All the wonderful expensive objects of desire advertisers tell me I need in order to experience the perfect Christmas don’t do it for me. I don’t need any gadgets. My car runs just fine. Our TV’s still work. And my running shoes are still relatively new. There is a peace that comes with being able to face the advertisers and photos of shiny new things without the slightest whiff of desire. (Okay, I did ask for a couple of new long-sleeved shirts for work.)

Relishing: Health, a 10-2 season by the Tigers (darn that UCF), President Trump and all this winning, family, church (I thoroughly enjoy being part of the media team) and our current series in Ephesians and also the life of Joseph.

Seeing: Christmas lights. My sweet wife enjoys seeing Christmas lights. I’m not into excessive Christmas displays at home (to her dismay), so last week we visited the Opryland Hotel to stroll through their highly-decorous indoor jungle, and earlier this week I took her to the Cheekwood Botanical Garden to see their lights.

Wishing: The cold weather would turn warm. Yes, I know, it’s winter. (Well, technically, it isn’t even winter yet.) There is a time for all seasons. There is a time for things to grow and a time for them to lie dormant, and this is the time for dormancy, cold, and short days. There’s nothing I can do about it. So I accept it because I’ve got no choice. Still, day after day of soul-crushing cold weather has me longing for spring, which is still several months away.

Feeling: I have been ill for over a week. I had some sort of viral illness last month and was hoping that would assuage the sickness gods for a while, but now I’ve come down with sinusitis and it does not go away without a protracted fight. Otherwise, count your blessings, dear readers. Practice contentment regularly and it will literally change your outlook.

Praying: A friend of mine from high school named Bob had a deep stroke almost a month ago and has been incapacitated ever since. This is quite shocking because he’s a few months younger than I am and has two children at home, one of whom is still a toddler. Every day I get updates about his progress. It seems that there’s something to rejoice over with every status summary, but he still has a long, difficult road ahead, and no one knows how much of the former Bob will return. This is one of those things that causes a person to take a good, hard look at his life and ask himself, “What if?” The world can be a harsh, difficult place and we take too much for granted. But for the grace of God go I.

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