Saturday, October 30, 2004

Supermarket Slowpokes and Different Drummers

One day while in the supermarket I stood mindlessly waiting in line at the check out...

The young woman ahead of me unloaded only half of her groceries upon the conveyer belt while waiting for the man in front of her to pay for his purchases. Then she calmly (was she humming?) stepped over to a display of Christmas decorations and gently picked up a tiny reindeer. In the meantime, the cashier had begun running her groceries through the scanner, yet the dreamy-eyed woman ever-so-slowly replaced the reindeer, stared out the big front window awhile, then revolved once almost like a ballerina back to her cart. Only then did she notice she still had groceries in her cart in need of being placed up on the belt. She turned to those of us in line (did I hear impatient tapping toes behind me?) and gave us a sweet, "Uh-oh! I'd better move a little faster" smile. And yet still she moved with grace and only slightly faster.

Here, just a few feet away from me, was someone who moved to the beat of a different drummer.

Oh, her clothes were different, but they weren't the most obvious thing about her. I believe she was wearing a long paisley skirt and a thin black cardigan over a white blouse.Her hair fell almost to her waist and was black. And her shoes were more like black ballet slippers.

But what struck me as unforgettable was her peaceful, un-stressed-out spirit. She stood out as a contented person in her own happy world, a world where neighbors still have time to chat over the back fence. A world full of delightful secrets. In fact,her world appeared so happy that I wanted to join her in it. While leaning upon my cart and watching her, I felt myself relaxing my gone-shopping-keep-up-with-the-crowd muscles, ones I flex only in public because at home I am a different person. Or feel like one, anyway. I am much more like that ballerina-slippered woman among my own people and my own stuff.

And one year later here I am writing about that supermarket woman. Actually, I've recalled her often because she taught me something. Namely, that I take who I really am with me wherever I go. And who I am--and who I've allowed God to become in me--can make other people pause and perhaps desire a different approach to Life. Maybe my calm spirit can help Type A personality people slow down, and in turn, perhaps this crazy world we've created will stop spinning so out-of-control.

If only for one precious minute.

P.S. Here is an article which may explain why some of the people in your life do what they do. Or it may even explain you to yourself.


Thursday, October 28, 2004

Ever Wanted to Tweak Your Gift?

Sometimes I visit blogs which have the most amazing, articulate, wise posts full of spiritual meat and depth. And sometimes this thought comes to me: I wish my blog posts were full of deep thoughts which make people think, "Wow, that was awesome! That's something I never thought about before."

But that lasts just a few minutes. Well, okay, a few hours.

But then God reminds me of a few things. Such as, I always feel He is guiding my thoughts as I'm writing in this blog. It never feels like I'm "squeezing blood from a turnip." And frankly, in previous years, I nearly always forced myself to write for the sake of practice and discipline and nearly always felt the frustration dripping down my face.

But no more. Those days are gone.

Now I only write when I sense that God is wanting to speak through me the simple truths which have changed my attitude toward Life. There is no struggle, even during the rewriting (and rewriting and rewriting). The whole process is a joy, because God is in it and where He is, there is fullness of joy.

Of course, I could probably manage to put together some rambling posts which sound quasi-deep and wise. And make myself crazy in the process. And be a phony. And make God look weird (or something).

So instead, I think I'll just keep sharing the simple truths which have restored to me the joy of my salvation..... simple truths which I'm, in turn, happy to share with those of you who check in here often (for which I say thanks).

It's important that I accept the gifts God gives me. Maybe someday my writing will become deeper and more philosophical. Maybe it never will. What matters is that I always do my best to be a willing, empty vessel through whom Jesus can speak in whatever way He wishes.

Give what you have. To someone, it may be better than you dare to think...
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow


Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Ye Olde Bookstore

Yesterday I drove through pea-soup fog to an old three-story bookstore in a town nearby.

The building is huge, old ,packed with used books in the basement and attic, and new books on the main floor. Three cats, one of them currently pregnant, roam each of the three stories. I wander around this bookstore probably two or three times a year and always, I spend most of my dreamy hours there in the basement and attic scouring the shadowy shelves of used books. The owner turns the lights on for me in the basement then tells me to call him when I’m ready to go upstairs. Later he walks up the creaking vertigo-inducing staircase with me to turn those lights on, too.

Nearly always I am the only customer.

This 77-year-old bookstore has been in that 10,000 sq. ft. building for over 20 years. The son of the second owner now runs the huge shop along with his wife. The scarey thing is: they are the only life in what has become a ghost-town street. In the 1950’s, this street used to be one hopping place, especially on Saturday afternoons. I’ve watched a video showing women in hats and starched dresses crossing those same streets with shopping bags over their arms and similarly-clad daughters at their side. Men in sports jackets hurried, also, to hardware shops I suppose.

But now there are only silent, empty storefronts all down the line. Sometimes before getting out of my car to go inside the bookstore, I stare down this street and imagine that I see those people of 50 years ago with their daughters swinging hat boxes and little sons in baseball caps. But simultaneously, I also see reality: dilapidated buildings, some still with former business names permanently stamped above the doors. A few storefronts even have marble slabs at their thresholds, with fancy store names in gold cursive lettering. The sidewalks are now abandoned, except for crumpled leaves and yellowed newspapers rustling past.

Of course, I can buy favorite old books here at home from online any day of the week. And I often do that. It’s very easy to purchase books that way. And though the people who sell them are rather faceless and nameless to me, I still realize that they, too, need my business.

But there is such a thing as supporting a local business because it is local and because I’ve met the owners. And in this case, I care that this business in that eerie part of town not succumb to death like its neighbors. I don’t want to someday park in front of an empty building and picture myself, ghost-like, shopping there when it used to house a 3-story bookstore.

It’s fun to give. To be mindful to be a blessing, as the Bible puts it. Even if we never received anything back, it would still be fun, adventurous and rewarding..

But we do receive back.

And of course, spending a few dollars at a quiet, old bookstore isn’t a Big Thing. It’s not like I’m helping make this world a better place by shopping there. It’s not as though I’m making a difference in people’s lives.

Or am I?

Life can be just life. Or it can be gracious living…… Francis Gay

Monday, October 25, 2004

Scared Or Prepared?

I feel something in the air, something which says changes are coming. Do you feel it, too?

This upcoming U.S. Presidential election has something to do with it. I can't help but feel that whichever candidate wins, this election will bring about changes for us all.

Of course, I could be wrong. I have been wrong once or twice before (heh, heh).

But nonetheless, I want to be as prepared as I possibly can for whatever looms ahead in the future~~near or far away. The time to prepare for anything is always before it happens. I realize that sounds elementary, but you'd be surprised how often people experience a huge change and then feel a little sick while recalling earlier opportunities when they could have prepared for such a turnabout.

I'm not feeling another 9-11 is in the air, not exactly, yet today I am vowing to never again park myself in front of CNN, watching horrific events until I, myself, need a whole staff of counselors to peel me off the recliner. No, no more turning myself needlessly into a basket case. Instead, I want to prepare myself now spiritually, mentally and emotionally so that I can be one of the helpers, one of the counselors, instead of one of the counselees, come what may.

I am feeling like that Bible verse which says, "Be instant in season and out of season." Just as I'm stocking-up for winter now while it is yet autumn. Something like that.

And of course there's always the temptation of Distractions: allowing myself to get all caught-up in political arguments and hype or other such bunny trails. But lately I've been wanting to find a balanced type of single-mindedness which will keep me on the right track toward God's goals for me and my family.

Are you a list-maker like I am? Here is my own Get Prepared, Avoid Being Scared list as it stands today:

Spend more time with Jesus:
Listen to Him and keep my thoughts on Him throughout each day.
Express gratitude all day long.
Read the books He leads me to. Take notes.

Get my house in order, figuratively and practically:
Give away what we don't love or need (ala that famous quote by William Morris).
Pay our bills.
Stock-up for winter.
Update our emergency kits.
Catch up on long overdue emails to friends.

Finish what I start.

Well, that's a good beginning, anyway. I know if I do my part, God will be faithful to do His. But it does takes both.

And for the record, I'll be making these preparations not in fear, but in faith. There will be a sense of joyful anticipation that, come what may, God will take care of me and all those who look to Him as their provider.

"A person's true character is revealed by what he does when no one is watching."
from God's Little Instruction Book


Friday, October 22, 2004

Hooray! I Don't Have a Real Job

Some bloggers (and a few million homemakers) were angered by Theresa Heinz Kerry's remarks about Laura Bush never having had a Real Job.

But I wasn't upset when she insinuated that homemaking isn't a Real Job. Nope, not at all.

People with Real Jobs probably burst Dagwood Bumstead-style out of their doors in the morning. They probably drive through insanity-prone traffic to arrive at a place where they will work for eight or more hours. They must report to a boss (unless they are the boss) and do as he/she dictates. And depending upon what kind of Real Job they have, they probably deal with dissatisfied people or handle tons of paperwork or clean up after adults (or children) or drive adults (or children) around. They probably stand all day or sit all day and must stay focused on work-related subjects. They probably punch a clock and are responsible to a company for what they do and say during those long hours.

And then they probably run errands after their Real Job and get home and wonder what to make for dinner (or pick up something at frenzied supermarkets along the way). And if they have children, they probably try to squeeze nurturing and homework help into three hours plus a hundred other tiny domestic details too numerous to write about here. Maybe they compare notes with their spouse before they fall into bed exhausted.

Notice I said probably. People are different, jobs are different, but many things about Real Jobs are similar.

So why wasn't I upset about Ms. Kerry's insinuation that we homemakers don't have Real Jobs? It's because I agree that I don't have a Real Job.

No, I have a Dream Job.

With a Dream Job, I can have Fairy Days. I can begin with a leisurely coffee break first thing in the morning. Write in my journal. Do a little laundry. Write in this blog. Fill the bird feeders. I can run a couple errands during peaceful, non-peak hours and come home for a sandwich and a book. I can do a little ironing while watching TV. I can check my email, wash a few dishes, then take a long walk beneath autumn skies and pray. I can write an article for publication, dust the furniture and listen to favorite music. I can phone a saddened friend, make dinner and read my mail on the front porch. I can mow the lawn then drink lemonade in the backyard. I can relax in the evenings, talk with Tom and watch fireflies because all my housework and lifework is completed for the day.

People who have Dream Jobs don't mind when those with Real Jobs berate or ridicule them. No, they just smile and go through their lives hugging a delicious secret.

Real success is finding your lifework in the work that you love.
David McCullough (1933 - )


Thursday, October 21, 2004

Secret Rendezvous

Where do you have your secret rendezvous with Jesus? (And just how does one make the word 'rendezvous' plural? I took high school French, like, 80 years ago...)

See the above photo of the old table in my sunroom? Well, that's where Jesus and I sit and chat most mornings. I make some of my 'pretend coffee', grab a few books and my diary, then sit at this table and well, dream mostly. And I read a little from a devotional book titled God Calling. It blows me away how often each short entry is exactly what I needed.

What else do I do? Well, I stare out the window during summer mornings and listen to Jesus while I watch my neighborhood wake up. I meditate on a Bible verse. And write in my diary. And pray awhile. Some of that or all of that~~it varies. Or I think great thoughts as I soak in the presence of Jesus. It's that soaking part that keeps me connected to Jesus for the rest of the day. Keeps me aware of His presence as I clean the house, run errands, mow the lawn, take walks or converse with you here.

Of course, Jesus and I have other secret rendezvous places (we hate ruts). We have a blast at Starbucks-like places or trendy bookstores. We sit at a table while watching people and dream about what a world of folks who all loved God would be like.

(And okay.... So it's posts like these why I've not mentioned in this blog where I live. What a bother it would be to have you send men in white coats to take me away to a padded room!)


But I know many of you understand exactly what I'm talking about, though. Be sure to tip your hat and smile the next time you see me at Barnes and Noble.

Really, I don't know how anyone functions or has a life of joy without having daily trysts with Jesus. My secret rendezvous with Him are like my life blood, or something. I can't even explain their necessity or their delight.

But these encounters require a heart-born determination, especially at first. They don't 'just happen.' No, everything under the sun will come along to keep them from taking place~~guaranteed. And the worst thing you can do is to turn them into a dry, Law-like, must-do-things-the-same-way time. That will murder the fun.

But after you plow through all the interruptions over and over....and once you taste of all the delight which comes from these daily getaways, well, you reach a point where you wouldn't miss one for anything in the world.


Where do you have your quiet time?

Oh taste and see that the LORD is good.... Psalm 34:8

Whatever God's dream about man may be, it seems certain it cannot come true unless man cooperates.
Stella Terrill Mann


Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Winter Changes Everything

Where I live, Winter rushes in with a furry and like a guest who doesn't know when to leave, overstays his visit.

It snows where we live. A lot. And that's why I stock-up on non-perishables as I posted here ~~ I do not like driving in the snow. Oh, snow when it's heavy upon tree branches and sparkling in front of houses gives an Enchanted Land sort of look, I agree. And it's even rather a fun challenge to drag and yank your shopping cart through an unplowed supermarket parking lot. But when snow is on the busy, icy streets and you are gripping your steering wheel lest you slide into oncoming traffic just inches away, well, the enchantment ends. So I stay home a lot in the winter and pray for my family members who must drive roads covered with snow and ice and salt and mush.

There's also the added hours I must shovel the snow in our driveway. That takes not only time, but energy and fortitude against near-zero temperatures. I think I heard on Oprah that shoveling snow for 15 minutes is the equivalent of a three-hour workout at the gym. Well, ok, if you shovel like the Looney Tunes' Tazmanian Devil and don't pace yourself~~maybe. But I try to use common sense and chip away at it slowly throughout the silent afternoon. I don't complain too much about shoveling snow since it's the only real exercise I get all winter, considering it's usually too frigid/slippery to take my daily walks.

Winter slows me down, and my life is already pretty slow-paced (on purpose). If I dread (uh-oh! There's that word again) anything, it's becoming so busy that I miss all the delights God weaves into our days~~ones which take a calm, watchful eye to notice. I'm determined not to miss a single custom-made surprise He sends me.

But anyway, some of my winter days become too long even for me. Often before Tom gets home from work, I've read enough books for the day, spent time with Jesus, caught up on my email, played with the cats, done enough housework, and shoveled enough snow. And so those one or two hours after the curtain has closed on daylight can get a little too dark and too quiet (Tom works 12-hour shifts. Twelve hours at home on grey, winter days can sometimes feel like an eternity, even to us happy homemaker types.) So I usually start preparing dinner early and flip on the kitchen TV for comedies which will make me laugh. Laughter~~only in the last few years have I discovered its importance. For too many years I was one of those 'everything-is-a-big-deal-so-let's-get-serious' kind of people. No more.

But I digress...

Winter is a contemplative time, one which I would greatly miss if we had only three seasons. In fact, one year while living in Nevada we had no snow and no real winter. For the next 8 months I had an eerie feeling that I'd missed something. That something had been forgotten and I'd never taken the time to remember what it was. And that year I concluded that I need winter. I need the pattern of the seasons which God in His wisdom provided when He first thought-up the whole winter/summer/spring/autumn idea.

And it was that winter-less year when the vital truth of Ecclesiastes 3 became real to me, or began to, anyway. To everything there is a season. (Have you ever noticed that when God uses the word 'everything', He means everything?) Really, it's important to let go of Life's seasons which have passed~~to learn from them, appreciate their memories, but to release them when it comes time to move into the next one. To realize we will have to approach things a whole different way.

There's nothing sadder than trying to resuscitate the dead Past or cling to a season already gone. Trust me. Been there, done that.

The happiest people are those who live wide-eyed awake in the Present, even when that Present means winter. Even then, they are certain that God will bring along something good in the midst of it all.

Monday, October 18, 2004

Dread: A Major Life Spoiler

Speaking of Fear.... Dread is Fear's cousin.

Yeah, really.

Think about it. When you're dreading a dentist appointment, you may be fearing that the time in the waiting room will be long and boring like the last time. There'll be no good magazines. The hygienist will nag you about flossing and will take out her problem marriage on your gums. Or the dentist will get a little drill-happy when he fills your tooth. Etc. Etc.

What else do we dread?

How about driving through slow or insanity-prone traffic to work?
Or the long eight or ten hours at work~~the stressed-out co-workers,boss,consumers, patients, etc.? The paperwork? The meetings? The potential problems? The Muzak?
How about carpooling our kids or sitting through their recitals, sports or doctor's appointments?
Or paying bills? Cooking dinner? Cleaning house? Car repairs? Harsh weather?
Or shopping in crowded stores? Paying obscene prices for groceries or gas?
How about waiting in long lines?
Or buying clothes (and those ghastly-lit dressing rooms)?
How about discussing touchy subjects with our spouse? The grumpy neighbor? Or an upcoming visit with in-laws?

If you never dread anything , pour yourself an extra cup of coffee. You deserve it.

Fear is crippling and brings torment. If Dread is a form of fear, then dread brings torment, too. And who wants to spend their daily life being tormented?

Not me.

So years ago I asked God to deliver me from a vague, year-around sense of dread. To alert me when I begin to dread anything. I wanted to enjoy my everyday life because there was so much of it, and I knew I had to fling away anything which would spoil joy.

Now, when I catch myself dreading an upcoming situation, I take myself by the scruff of the neck and say, "Stop dreading things!" Then I purposely think of at least three good things which may come out of the situation, instead.

Examples, you ask?

Well, the time at the dentist office may be just what I need to slow down a busy day. I can spend the time meditating on God's goodness. Having my tooth filled will help me avoid worse pain in the future.
Or my shopping trip may result in a great sale.
Or I may be able to smile at a fellow-shopper who needs a smile desperately (when you've gone through depression in the past, you think of those things).
Or I may discover a new friend at my daughter's recital.
Or I can listen to my new Joyce Meyer cassette while I'm driving in traffic.

The list is endless, one you can expertly add to with practice.

All I really have is Today, and I don't want my Today to be colored grey by dread.

I prefer the light of joyful anticipation.

Do not anticipate trouble, or worry about what may never happen. Keep in the sunlight.
Benjamin Franklin (1706 - 1790)

Worry a little bit every day and in a lifetime you will lose a couple of years. If something is wrong, fix it if you can. But train yourself not to worry. Worry never fixes anything.
Mary Hemingway


Saturday, October 16, 2004

Take My Advice--Forget Pet Mice

Here's how it goes...

You spend the first year-and-a-half watching nine baby mice playing and looking adorable. They wiggle out of their homes and smile at you when you come to feed or hold them. They race around on their wheel like tiny maniacs. You get attached and lose your heart to them even though you lectured yourself not to because of their short life-span.

Then you spend the next six months watching them die. They suffer for days with sickness or just fade away from old age. And as your favorite mouse lies there weakly, you pet its head and speak softly to him as his life ebbs slowly away. Then when you return an hour later and see his lifeless form, you cry.

And you vow never, ever again to keep something which lives such a short time.

I am sticking with cats. Our oldest is 14 and yesterday the vet said she's in great health, considering she's like a 72-year-old lady in human years. She just needs to start taking glucosamine for her arthritis.

I can handle that.

Good-bye Little Buddy... March 12th, 2003 - October 15th, 2004

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Wondering About Marriage Nowadays

These are the parents of the girls who I wrote about here.

I look at these people and wonder what their marriage was like. And from there I question why there were so fewer divorces back when this couple was alive. Many people now would be quick to say things like, "Women had to stay married back then if they wanted to survive because of so few other choices in employment." Or, "Couples were probably just as unhappy together back then, but it was generally taboo to speak about it."

Well, maybe.

Then I wonder about the rampant divorce rate of today. Oh, of course I realize that some spouses are just plain jerks. And jerky-spouses have always been around and always will be. But I'm not talking here about extreme cases. I'm speaking of the thousands of marriages which end because of vague, general reasons such as incompatibility.

And still I wonder... Could divorce be rampant today because people are generally more selfish? Instead of asking, "What can I do for you to make you happy?," aren't we usually asking, "What about me? What's in this for me? Why aren't you meeting my needs?"

What if we asked ourselves instead, "Why am I so insecure in some areas? Why do I crave so many pats on the back? Why do I need recognition outside of my marriage? Outside of my relationship with Jesus?"

Speaking of incompatibility, I think even we as Christians wonder whether God made a mistake when he created that annoying thing about opposites attracting. Have you ever wondered what's up with that?

Well, maybe I've been married too long, but it's all beginning to make sense to me now. I mean, I've even thought of some advantages to opposites attracting! Here's a partial list:

If you and your spouse are sharing the morning newspaper over breakfast at, say, McDonalds, there's no argument over who gets to read it first. No, he takes the sports page and the classifieds and she takes the entertainment and local sections. Perfect, harmonious solution.

When each spouse prefers a totally different genre of movies/tv shows, it's a good thing to broaden one's horizons by taking turns and watching each other's preference. Who knows what you might learn to help you think more creatively or communicate with others better? This carries over also to preferring vacationing in different areas, meeting different people, trying different foods, etc.

My favorite: When a child has two totally different personality types for parents, he/she then has the blessing of the whole spectrum of being human. For instance, where I am weak, my husband is strong and vice versa. So my child is able to see strength in more areas than in just, say, my piddly areas where I am strong.

And the list goes on and on. Where my husband is not a bookkeeper, I am. Where I am a pinch-penny who would probably have an empty house by now, my husband is braver financially and has purchased many of our necessities. And right there is one of many areas where we help keep each other balanced.

Well, you get the idea.

We're pretty experienced at asking others why they act the way they do. Every once in awhile it's good to ask ourselves that same question.

"We insult God when we go to people to meet the needs only God can meet." ...Joyce Meyer