Sunday, January 26, 2014

Socks: The Ideal Match

All I wanted was a pair of socks. It was dress-down Friday and I could wear my jeans to work. And that meant my new beaded  moccasins. And that meant socks. But while our house has a total of eight feet living in it--twenty if you count animal feet--and a large supply of socks, it is difficult--no, darn near impossible--to find two that match. Bonnie, creative girl, gave up years ago and  now just pulls out any two socks that are at least the same size. And, for the guys, it is equally simple. Their socks are either black or white. Reach into the sock drawer three times, and they'll have at least two that match.

My socks, however, are a completely different matter. I have trouser socks and knee socks and loafer socks and crew socks and sport socks that used to have little pom poms of yarn on the heels. Who thought pom poms on socks were a good idea? I have gray and blue and brown and striped and hot pink with purple dots, thick socks to be worn with boots and thin socks to wear with loafers. I have enough socks to shod the entire sandaled cast of The Ten Commandments. What I don't have is two that match.

Now, I am aware of the fact that every housewife in the world has lamented the missing sock syndrome. Many have tried to solve it, and I recently read a blog by Dr. George Johnson in which he explains the science of the missing sock at I myself have constructed many theories on the subject of the missing sock, ranging from the suction of the dryer pulling them into the vent to them running away to join a traveling puppet show.

I've tried to make the best of it. I've made orphan socks into toy bunnies and cat toys. When I taught middle school, I once used a whole bunch of rolled up single socks in a game called "Panic." And, of course, soft socks make really nice dust mitts. (In the recent spate of cold weather, my son was seen sporting a pair of mismatched socks as gloves. Clever. But I digress.)

So great has been the mystery of the missing sock that the United States government even formed an official office to look into the matter. No, I am not joking. The Bureau of Missing Socks was formed during the Civil War in 1861 when it was discovered that Union Soldiers, turning in a pair of worn-out socks for a new pair, often turned in only one sock. In typical government style, the United States rallied itself and decided to get to the bottom of the matter. Joseph Smithson, a haberdasher by trade who had proven to be rather a disaster as a quartermaster, was put in charge of the whole sock division of the Unions Army. I am sure his parents were proud.

Anyway, Smithson ran a tightly knit--excuse the pun--organization known as The Darners and insisted upon field repair kits so soldiers could darn their own socks. New England millers, who were making a profit from the feet of the soldiers, tried to put an end to the Bureau of Missing Socks and Smithson's thrift. Even President Lincoln was in favor of disbanding the unit. But the Bureau of Missing Socks became a convenient place to sequester soldiers who were not quite cutting the mustard and high ranking army officials insisted it remain. You can read more about the government's quest to end the mystery of the missing sock at And, yes, the Bureau still exists today because the United States is determined to unravel the great mystery. Many in America are threatened by this silent plague.

Back to my personal dilemma. My own pile of mismatched socks continues to grow and, frankly, I'm running out of places to stuff them all. At the moment, I have a whole dresser drawer and a basket full. My daughter suggests that we throw them all out and start again, but I am as determined and thrifty as the Bureau of Missing Socks. Recently, we took a huge basket of mismatched socks and made "close-enough" pairs, a method invented by my husband who really, really hates to fold socks. It is always a surprise to pull out a rolled-up pair of navy blue socks and find one knee sock and one ankle sock.

Recently, though, I came upon a possible cause. I cannot claim it is the reason that socks go missing in anyone's house but mine. While sipping tea one afternoon and pondering the great mystery of the Missing Socks, my son's cat, Sugar, entered the room carrying a dark object in her mouth. Of course, I thought the worst, but when she dropped the object, I discovered that it was one lone sock. Upon closer inspection, I noted an entire trail of single socks, leading down to the laundry room. Sugar sat there with her sock on the floor, waiting for praise. "Good girl," I said and gave her a treat. Now, if I can only find a way for her to seek out matches to the socks and bring them up two by two, the way Noah intended.

As for me and my quest for socks on that Friday morning? I gave into the "close enough" theory and wore two red socks, one of which had blue polka dots. I am pretty sure that there is another pair exactly like it somewhere in the house.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Journey of the Magi

Each year as I prepare my home for the Christmas season, I search for the Wise Men.

On our first married Christmas, Ron gave me a white porcelain set of the Holy Family with the intention of adding a piece each year. The following year I got an angel, and the third year a shepherd. But before we got to the Wise Men, the set was discontinued. As I set up my creche each year, I feel that it is incomplete. No Wise Men. So, as I bustle about  my Christmas duties, I got into the habit of keeping an eye out for those tall, imposing figures to complete my Nativity. So far, they have eluded me.

But, as always when January 6 and the Feast of the Epiphany rolls around, I get to thinking about the Wise Men, not the porcelain ones but the ones who traveled across those ancient paths. What we know about them comes from the gospel of Matthew, and it is precious little. Despite our American tradition of putting the Wise Men at the scene of the manger, history tells us that they were not really there. Jesus was almost two by the time the Kings from the East found Him, not a Babe in the manger any longer but a toddler in a rented house. The journey of the Wise Men was not an easy one. They were not guided by maps of GPS. There were no four-star hotels along the way to ease the weariness of their travel. But they continued on, night after night, mile after mile, with only a Star and a promise to guide them.

The journey my family began on March 1 of 2000 has been long and arduous. In the years since Ron's car accident, there have been 26 major surgeries and twice as many hospitalizations. I often wished for Wise Men who could help me make the many decisions suddenly thrust upon me, who could bring comfort to my family and rest to my soul. I have yet to find them. What I have found, instead, has been Wise Women who have journeyed by my side, their characters emulating that of the original three gifts: Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh.

GOLD. Gold is a very practical gift and probably provided the money for the journey of the Holy Family to Egypt. The precious metal, Au on the periodic elements chart, has sustained its value over time. Banks may collapse and economies decline, but gold holds its own. In ancient times, gold was the traditional gift for a king. The Wise Men, in presenting a gold to young Jesus, recognized His kingship.

Symbolically, gold is that which lasts. It represents the highest achievement of society, and is the color associated with success and triumph. God has blessed me with many long and enduring friendships, the gold separated from the chaff. It is these friends, bless them all!--who have sat in the waiting rooms with me through long hours of extensive surgeries, who have prayed with me and sang hymns with me and never, ever failed to offer me a shoulder upon which to cry. They have answered their phones at all hours of the night or day, left their own families to come to the aid of mine, and brought with them hot casseroles and soup. Their value has never declined over the years, even if months go by without a face to face meeting.

FRANKINCENSE. This is a white resin, very fragrant when burned and often used in worship. Traditionally, the gift of frankincense to the Christ Child symbolized the willingness of His sacrifice, the "sweet savor" the Old Testament tells us is pleasing to God. Frankincense is known to herbalists as a a calming and restorative herb. In Biblical times, it was often used to treat depression.

When one spends a lot of time in hospitals, worrying about the outcomes of surgeries, and when one is suddenly expected to shoulder alone the responsibilities of two adults, one needs friends who are like frankincense, who bring with them the common sense and restoration needed in order to keep from going off the deep end. These friends have helped me to see that, while often not easy, my life is what God has given to me and He will give me the courage and the grace I need to live it. They have helped me to find joy among the losses, and to find my voice as a writer. These are the friends who will not let me give up on myself.

MYRRH. Myrrh is an Arabic word for "bitter" and has properties in the healing of wounds. The Chinese use it as an anti-inflammatory and the Egyptians perfected it as an ingredient in embalming. In fact, John 19:39 mentions myrrh as one of the spices used to prepare the body of Jesus for burial. While it might seem a strange gift to bring to a child, the myrrh represents the destiny of Christ to die.

And what of my friends who fall into the category of myrrh? Sometimes, I have needed to be very bluntly told the truth. I might bemoan my fate and the loads I carry, but they are what they are and no amount of griping about it will change that. My "myrrh" friends have sometimes needed to tell me--kindly--that I am pretty much stuck with it all. But that does not mean there cannot be joy in my life. They have pointed me towards the joy that comes from obedience to God.

The Wise Men have continued to elude me. Last Christmas, I gave up on ever finding them and treated myself to a new Nativity set, one complete with buildings and village folk. It stands on my mantel, with the Wise Men appropriately at a distance, still finding their way.

To the all the Wise Women who have shared in my journey, I want to thank each and very one of you for not being in the distance, but at my side.

You have helped me to continue to follow my own Star.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Beat The Clock!

Last night, millions stayed up beyond their bedtimes and good sense to experience a great event: a transition from one year to the next. Accompanying the dropping of the giant ball in New York Times Square was the tooting of horns and tossing of confetti. We celebrate the passing of time, but why? For most of us, time is the enemy

My own life is hectic. Anyone who has spent more than half an hour with me can attest to it. But almost all of us--I discount my cats--have lives that are stretched far too thin. There are too many commitments, too many responsibilities, and too much competition for the precious 24 hours we are each given. Time is our enemy and every day we play our own versions of "Beat the Clock". We can hear time, like the alarm clock Captain Hook fed to the crocodile, ticking away.

My question today, on a new day of a new year, is why? Why does time rule our lives and, more importantly, how can we find time for what we really want to do? If time is a social construct, why haven't we as a society learned to master it? More personally, why can't I seem to sit still for more than half an hour without feeling guilty that I am not DOING SOMETHING?

Revelations 1:8 tells it like this:

I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end, says the Lord. I am the One who is, who always was, and who is still to come, the Almighty One.

Clearly, God has no problem with time. He just IS. And, as we enter 2014, I have no doubt He will continue to be.

Great. God's not going anywhere. But how does knowing that help me to tutor the 52 students on my roster, teach a full regiment of classes, run a household with a chronically ill husband, and find time to write the Great American Novel?

A few weeks ago, in the midst of holiday preparations, I asked a friend this question: How do I find time to write? My friend did not respond hastily. He took--ahem!--his time.

"Linda," he said, "I often feel you think you should spend all of your time writing, and it is true that God has given you a gift. Maybe, someday, you will be able to write full-time. But don't all the other factors in your life give you things to write about?" He patted my arm. "God will open up windows of time, if you let Him."

It was not the quick fix I wanted. But I put his advice into my head and, as is my custom, began to mull. How could I let God open up windows of time?

The Bible is full of references to time, and time belongs to the Lord. Here's a link to a whole bunch you can read for yourselves:

Obviously, God knows how important time is for each of us humans, although He himself is not overly concerned about it. In Isaiah 5:1, He even says:

But as to suitable times and precise seasons and dates, brethren, you have no necessity for anything being written for you.

Say what? Does this mean I am supposed to throw away my calendar?

Rick Warren, author of A Purpose Drive Life, offers this advice for managing our time: "If you give God your time, He multiplies it." Malachi 3:10 establishes the promise for us.

Bring to the storehouse a full tenth of what you earn. Test me on this, says the Lord-All-powerful. I will open up the windows of heaven for you and pour out the blessings you need. The NIV translates the last part as there will be no room to store it. Now, that's some quantity of time!

Slowly, I began to see the sense of what my friend had told me. God, making no mistakes, had placed me exactly where He wanted me to be. It was my own Walden Pond, my inspiration for writing. The way to find more time was not to be found in any mathematical formula that would make sense; it was to give  more time to God.

A calendar still hangs by my desk and I still wear a watch. I still teach my students to plan out time for study and assignments and expect their papers to be on time. And I still struggle, every morning, to make choices about how to spend my time. But I have found that, as my friend said, God would and does open windows: a snow day here, a canceled appointment there. It all adds up, if not to the weeks of endless writing I aspire to, at least to moments where I can pen my thoughts.

And so, on this new day of a new year, I leave you with a poem about time. I did not write it, but I hope to use it as I continue to struggle with and against time this year. I found the poem at

The Difference
by Anonymous

I got up early one morning
And rushed right into the day;
I had so much to accomplish
That I didn't have time to pray.

Problems just tumbled about me,
And heavier came each task.
"Why doesn't God help me?" I wondered.
He answered, "You didn't ask."

I wanted to see joy and beauty,
But the day toiled on, gray and bleak.
I wondered why God didn't show me.
He said, "You didn't seek."

I tried to come into God's presence'
I used all my keys at the lock.
God gently and lovingly chided,
"My child, you did not knock."

I woke up early this morning,
And paused before entering the day;
I had so much to accomplish
That I had to take time to pray.