Tuesday, November 30, 2004

You're Growing-Up When...




You're growing-up when...

... your plans for today went up in smoke--and you can gracefully accept that tomorrow is another day.

... you feel a burden to help people and you actually go out and help them--instead of just accusing others of doing nothing.

... little annoying things no longer make you wildly frustrated.

... being popular is no longer your #1 goal in life.

... you can accept yourself just as God accepts you.

... money, position and possessions no longer define who you are.

... your favorite video tape gets erased and you no longer feel like life, as you know it, is over.

... you can wait in traffic and smile at the same time.

... you realize that it really is better to give than to receive.


Some people hate being in their forties. I rather like it, myself.


***

Curb Shopping




I may lose my classier readers with this post...

I've written a couple posts about my old-fashioned town, but I've not yet mentioned what I fondly call Curb Shopping. Tom is one of the greatest curb shoppers in all the land--you should see the treasures he's rescued from the monstrous trash-munching truck. Well, you can see a smattering of them here
. In fact, you may want to peek at them before you read any further, lest you think I'm talking Disgusting Garbage. I'm not.

No, in our area, people generally stay-put forever, hence, all the hundreds of attics are crammed full of days-gone-by stuff. And our people are old-fashioned enough to even do a big Spring cleaning every year. Tom and I love April and May for that reason, amongst all the other weather-related ones.

But Curb Shopping is an enjoyable year-around sport. Tom and I sometimes drive down our streets together in search of an unknown prize and the anticipation is exciting. Being together is fun, too, especially when we drive into cozy lanes which resemble an aisle at a flea market (which I believe is called a car boot sale by my British friends). Tom peers out the window at the left, and I scan the sidewalk to the right. And if we see something delightful, and if no families are gathered in the yard or on the porch, we pull over and haul whatever-it-may-be into our car.

It's amazing what people throw away: hutches, antique dishes, bookcases and books, tables, chairs, TV's, stereos and appliances which still work great, garden furniture, bricks, diaries, old family photos and scrapbooks and so much more...

Oh, we're not the only ones who go on such treasure-in-trash searches. It's rather a well-known sport throughout our vintage area. It even becomes a contest of sorts to see who'll be first to raid the treasure from what appears to be just a trash pile.

Blessings from God can be found anywhere you look--even scattered along the street. Some days you just have to look a little harder to find them.



One person's trash is another person's treasure....copied

Monday, November 29, 2004

How's Your Home Life?



Tom unearthed a wonderful antique book for me at an estate sale two weeks ago in an old, old house...

The big, dusty book is called Dwight L. Moody: His Life and Labors. It was written right after Moody's death in 1899 and is full of interviews with his friends, family and colleagues. One thing is repeated over and over: Even if people disagreed with Moody's theology, they all agreed that he was a sincere man of God and he practiced what he preached.

Hmmm... If a book were written about me upon my death, I wonder how my friends, family and colleagues would speak about my life and labors.

Gulp.

But you know, I would be most interested in reading what my own family said about me. I firmly believe that what we are at home is what counts the most. Charity does begin at home, and if I am treating my family like they are nuisances holding me back from some supposed Greatness out in the world, well, I am confused. I am only as great as I am in my own home, on a bad day, among those who know me best.

Nothing brings that out better than good ol' marriage. What a challenge it is to merge opposites, especially in this age of "It's All About Me."

Well, it's not all about me. And as I clean my house today and prepare and serve meals, may I remember that. May I live as though it's all about kindness, love and putting others first.

Man, that's vital in these days when it's very unpopular to be an old-fashioned American Christian. It's more important than ever that it be said of me like it was said of Mr. Moody... "I may not agree with Debra's theology, but she was the real thing and practiced what she preached. And in her own home, more than any place else."


***

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Cheating At Blog Explosion



(To be read with a big smile on your face.)

I'm on a roll... In my last post I mentioned cheating at Christmas. Now I'm talking about cheating again--this time at Blog Explosion.

It all started innocently enough... Like the annoying Shirley-Temple-watchin', goody-two-shoes that I am, I patiently did my BE surfing the full 30 seconds for each blog. Even if I didn't like the blog at all, I sat there and stared at it.

Then I got bold and began opening another window and surfing fun websites--or even reading my email--while I waited for the 30 seconds to elapse on blogs that were not-so-fun and not my cup of tea.

Then a couple times I accidentally advanced to the next blog before the 30 seconds had run out. Imagine my surprise when no BE gremlins popped out of my computer to slap me! What happened, instead? Just a tiny little sentence popped up-- "surfing too fast."

I thought, "Hmm... Big deal."

And then one day I read the comment of one impatient BE surfer who said he always advances the blogs as fast as he wants to(!) He said he's mostly involved with BE just to find interesting blogs and is happy enough to earn a few points when he occasionally pauses at an interesting blog the full 30 seconds. That was good enough for him.

Well, I am blaming that guy for my sorry, cheating ways.

Now I always surf BE like a slightly slower cousin of the Looney Tunes' Road Runner. The sad part? I'm not even apologetic one little bit! (Is there any hope for me?)

I mean, why should I sit here and stare at a blog which is littered with swearing or vulgarities? (Yes, I have the filter set correctly.)And why should I have to look at pictures/drawings, which, er, I'd rather not see? And why must I look at blogs which are all about computer devices, or merchandise for sale, or ones that are under construction or ones that take 25 seconds to load?

Why, oh why?

Really, I love this new way of surfing BE. And I am finding new blogs I enjoy, too, because I've found that, generally, it takes me less than 15 seconds to decide if I want to read more of a blog.

Can I help it if 30 seconds sometimes feels like an eternity?


***

Christmas For Dummies



Speaking as the Chief of Christmas Dummies....and one who has been known to have a few Scrooge-like tendencies......

Just last November, after myriad years of total Christmas disorganization (perhaps a sub-conscious rebellion of sorts?) I finally came up with the perfect Christmas planner.

I unearthed an unused binder (notebook) from our deep, creepy basement and tucked a Christmas-Victorian-ish calendar page into the clear plastic on the front of it.

Then on the inside, I added those clear 'plastic pocket pages,' you know, sheet protectors, the kind you buy at Office Max (or cheaper at Target), in which you usually slip in pages of a report if you are the college or executive type (both of which, I am not.)

Then into those clear plastic pages I started tucking in things like:

Mailing lists: Ones for relatives and old friends and internet group friends, etc.

Tom's and Naomi's Christmas gift lists

To Do Lists

Self-stick address labels

Gift tags

Christmas stickers

Christmas cards to send

Copies of our annual family Christmas letter and family photo

Magazine Christmas stories and how-to articles (to keep me in the mood)

Receipts for the gifts I bought

'What To Do Differently Next Year' lists


Then after Christmas I added favorite letters,photos and cards from relatives and friends which had arrived in the mail.

Well, I'll tell you... This year I feel like I am downright cheating at Christmas. Here before me, I have this Christmas binder just bulging with all the things I need to keep me sane and organized this December.

So I thought I'd pass along this idea in case any of you wanted to create your own Christmas For Dummies book, too. I know some of us don't "do" Christmas well.

No, some of us need all the help we can get.

Saturday, November 27, 2004

Something You Don't Know...



Well, most of you don't know this, anyway...

Yesterday it hit me: I don't remember ever mentioning here in my blog that Tom had polio when he was a baby. His parents were missionaries in Mexico at the time and he came down with polio which settled in his left leg. He walks with a noticeable swagger(or limp)-- and people stare, then avert their eyes. They always have--it's natural, I know.

Part of me seldom thinks about the polio. When we were first married (long ago and far away) Tom and I visited a dear friend of my family's. She and I sat at her mountain cabin's kitchen table, talking, while Tom and her fiance spoke outside at the car. She asked me, "What happened to Tom's leg?" Wonderingly,I leaned over at the window to see what had happened and then caught myself and laughed. "Oh! You mean the polio he had as a child?" She smiled and said she had a grandson with a deformity, too, and that you do forget to notice it when you love someone and live with them.

Yet another part of me thinks about the polio every day. As the years have gone by, more complications have developed -- Tom has scoliosis in his spine, he's had surgery twice on discs in his neck, his hip messes up, etc. He now lives with daily pain for which he swallows more pain med's than I am comfortable with, morning, noon and night. Doctors say his is a special case and they make dire predictions. They're not sure what to do with him next.

Why am I sharing this? Because sometimes to hear me talk in this blog, you'd think I have a perfect life--and that's the last thing I want to convey. Instead, I want you to know that my life is dear and wonderful only because God and I are making it that way. He helps me walk through my weeks and through these rooms in a glow of gratitude, so much so, that everything appears enchanted and as good as it gets in this 2004 life.

That's partly why I share what I do in this blog. And I so want you to experience your own glow of gratitude, too, no matter what your story may be.


***

Friday, November 26, 2004

Shifting Into Christmas Gear



And so it begins today... This mind-set in which all thoughts and all roads lead to Christmas.

Part of me loves Christmas. Part of me...er...uh...hates it. (Yes, I, Mrs. June Cleaver Wannabe, said that.)

I'm not alone in preferring non-holiday days--am I?

Give me the other 345 (or so) days of the year to choose how I want to make them special. Give me an ordinary, oh-hum day to turn into one never-to-be-forgotten. Forget the stress, forget the pressure, forget that oh-so-crowded December calendar page. Day-by-day creativity and a sense of purpose--that's my challenge of choice.

Of course, I'll play along and do Christmas again this year. But as always, at that slower pace... To that beat of a Different Drummer.

I especially love walking slowly in front of those Christmas-crazed-minded folks I see careening down store aisles. You never know which of them may stop to pause for a breath--maybe even a revelation--when they almost trip over me.



Jesus is the reason for the Season.......

Brighten the corner where you are...copied


***

Thursday, November 25, 2004

Slowing Down



"You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you..." Isaiah 55:12

Gotta love this verse. I'd much rather be led by peace than be driven by:

Guilt-- "I'll feel guilty if I don't do such and such."
Fear-- "Something bad may happen if I don't do that thing."
Pride-- "How will it look if I don't do that good thing?" --or-- "But it all relies upon me so I must do such and such!"

Cruel taskmasters, All...

Oh, to just pause and ask, "Jesus? Is there something specific you are wanting me to do for someone?" And then to respond simply because of His voice.

And to be ok, really ok, with the times He says, " Right now, I don't need you to DO anything. Just BE.

Be real
Be grateful
Be encouraged
Be awake
Be aware
Be still and know that I am God."

Oh,to slow down and hear those things which can only be deciphered in silence. And to not insist upon cluttering-up Life with ridiculous complication.

To go out in joy and be led forth in peace--even in 2004!

Fifteen years ago I heard a sermon titled, "Are You Being Led? Or Are You Being Driven?"

That title has haunted me, in a good way, each year since. And I'm glad it has.

May it haunt you, too.





And he said: "I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven....Matthew 18:3


***

A Thanksgiving Anniversary



Today is a double celebration. Both Thanksgiving and Tom's and my 26th wedding anniversary.

I'm glad we only tease each other about their having been 26 long, hard years. They've not been hard, not the majority anyway, and they've not been long. No, they have sailed past, even when we've tried to slow them down, as though holding them in our hands so to examine and appreciate their beauty. Only certain moments can we grasp like that.

You may laugh, but this picture is our engagement photo. Yes, Tom proposed to me in a cemetery near Rattlesnake Dick's grave. Both he and I have never been ones to follow crowds so we like to choose our own way (as long as it doesn't contradict God's). Tom had traveled with me to be introduced to my parents and in this picture we had just come from church. By our clothes, you'd think we had just come from Western Days at the OK Corral. Be kind--it was 1978.

I see this picture and think, "God was compassionate not to have equipped us to gaze into the future." We'd not have the grace to bear what we saw ahead. Grace comes only at the moment it is required. That's why I don't try too hard to look down the road ahead--without grace, it only causes worry.
*
We must be doing something right. Our only child has been raised to adulthood and yet Tom and I are closer than ever before. We tell each other we make a great team. This 'opposites attracting' thing does come in handy. Where I am weak, he is strong. Where he is weak, I am strong.

We accomplish good things together.

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone. Yes, even to my friends in other countries. Because after all, Thanksgiving should be celebrated everyday, shouldn't it? Not with turkey everyday, of course.

But then, you knew it was about more than the turkey...


*****

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

What Memories Am I Making Now?


***

Magazines like Reminisce or Good Old Days are filled with childhood memories. I take notes, albeit mental ones, of what these now-grown children remember from years long gone. Funny how you can sit at a table with a cup of coffee and relive a day of someone's life all over again, even if that day happened before you were even born.

Sometimes I go back into my own childhood and relive a memory. I spend time with the good ones and tend to leave the bad ones alone, perhaps believing they will die from neglect.

But the pleasant memories make me smile and they make me wonder, "How am I spending my adult life? What memories am I making now?"

I have a friend I've known more than ten years. Sweetest person on Earth. But every time I've talked with her she's spent half of our conversations saying she hates her job. She's afraid to look for another career so she stays in the same one. Year after year. And her adult children make her crazy and sad with the choices they make. And she has an emotional (and physical) war going on with her house. And more.

She does have a terrific husband. And I try to bring a little happiness into her days, but there's only so much another person can do. So I watch her spending her years like money--using it up on stressful, worried days, one after another.

And that is the life she is remembering.

It takes a lot of letting go to have a happy life. Letting go of fear. Of perfectionism. Of thinking things must always be one certain way. Of our adult children as they live their own lives and learn from their own mistakes.

It takes letting go of guilt and condemnation. If I am always a guilt-ridden, sin-conscious mess, I will never be filled with joy. They cannot exist in the same place at the same time. A joyful life requires that everyday we leave our sins at Jesus' feet--and then toddle forward as a baby with her fingers squeezing, even crunching those of Someone who walks with ease.

When I look back at my life, I want to remember reading books on quiet afternoons. And sitting on my husband's lap in the recliner. And laughing with my daughter in the kitchen or chasing her cats with the cat-nip mouse. I want to recall kindnesses both received and given. And painting my walls while Leave It To Beaver blared on the tv. And looking at those walls and these rooms by lamplight at night while thinking, "Heaven must be pretty great if it's going to beat this."

My days are a gift and they are flying. Each year passes more quickly than the one before.

May I always spend my days wisely and with a whole lot of joy mixed-in.



The greater part of our happiness or misery depends on our dispositions and not on our circumstances.
-Martha Washington



"I have yet to find that God ever uses a man that is all the time looking on the dark side...and is discouraged and cast down...There is no life in (him). Now if we are going to succeed we have got to be of good courage, and the moment we get out eyes on God and remember who He is...then it is that we will have courage given us." ...D. L. Moody


Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Pink Sky Morning




I sat at my morning table and was surrounded by windows framing a quiet pink sky. So quiet--I think some people missed it. I thought, "I'm glad I saw the sunrise."

I don't want to miss anything.

When I get to Heaven I think Jesus will ask me, "Did you receive all the presents I sent you?

The leaves, like confetti, making your sidewalks golden,
The ironing board set up in your yellow kitchen,
The husband who took care of you,
The daughter of your love together,
The home with its rooms in autumn colors,
The trees tapping against your windows,
The soups cooking on your stove, scenting the air, inside and out,
The beds where you slept and dreamed beneath blankets,
The lamp's golden pool at your morning table,
The friends who made your heart smile,
The cats who nestled in your chairs,
The old, worn books upon your shelves,
The church bells which called Me to remembrance."

I want to be able to tell Him, "Yes, each present you sent me arrived safely. And I loved--and recognized-- each one."



"Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow."
~ Melody Beattie ~





***

Monday, November 22, 2004

My Homemade Time Travel Machine



In my house, there is a time travel machine. Well, sort-of. I made it myself.

I use it whenever I'm tired of what this 2004 world has become.

I use it often.

And because you are such good friends, I'll share with you how to make your own time travel machine. One thing though--this machine only travels backward. It carries you only to the past. You'll have to read a different, more progressive blog to discover how to be whisked away to the future.

Here are the mechanical aspects of my own time travel creation:

At a table with a comfortable chair, I gather these vintage ingredients:

Magazines from the 1930's and earlier. Ones like The American Magazine, Good Housekeeping, Mc Calls, and House Beautiful

To those I add pre-1950 books by authors like:

David Grayson, Harriet Lummis Smith, Gladys Taber, Dallas Lore Sharp, D. L. Moody, A. W. Tozer, Rosamond du Jardin, Carolyn Keene, Grace Livingston Hill, Ralph Moody

For the finishing touches I add:

Cookbooks and homekeeping books written before 1940. Ones like All About Home Baking (1933), The Butterick Book of Recipes & Household Helps (1927), Entertaining is Fun! by Dorothy Draper

Stack these all across the table.
Dress the part! Wear something from the era you wish to visit. (You wouldn't want to stand-out as an outsider, you know.)
Throw the switch on your coffee maker.
Start-up your big band era music CD.
Strap yourself in your chair.
Locate your first magazine or book and hold on.
You're going on one nostalgic ride.


***

Sunday, November 21, 2004

A Really, Truly Best Friend

When Jesus is your really, truly best friend, these kinds of things may happen:

You stop sucking the life out of your friends when you feel unappreciated. Instead, you run to Jesus and He loves you back into significance. And you love people better when you are receiving from Jesus what friends can never give you.

You stop basing how well you write in your blog by how many comments you receive. Instead, Jesus lets you know if your writing is good, bad or ugly and whether it is reflecting Him, or not. If it's lacking in any way, He helps you tweak it until you get it right. And He let's you know when it's time to stop tweaking and just let it rest.

You stop feeling so gut-level lonely because now Jesus is the Friend who sticks closer than a brother. He hangs around all the time just waiting to spend time with you. You don't need to make eight phone calls to find someone to go uptown with you. Jesus is on Friendship Call 24/7. He'd love to go uptown with you.

You stop letting guilt pull you into a scarey pit of despair because now Jesus is there reaching out His hand. He pulls you up and puts you on solid ground. He smiles at you and says, "Try again. This time with My help."

If there is a better Friend on this Earth, I've never heard of him.


***

Blueberry Muffin Morning



In the jade-ite mixing bowl this morning, I stirred together blueberry muffin batter. I used the recipe from the Joy Of Cooking cookbook, a sorely-needed wedding present. The muffin page is coated yellow with oil stains--that happens when you've used a cookbook nearly 26 years.

My family was sleeping when I warmed up the oven and turned on the little tv to play Home Alone. Christmas is coming and I need to brace myself with all the Christmas movies and books I can watch and read. It takes a lot of preparation to get through what the world calls Christmas.

I still need more light in my kitchen, especially on these dark-cloud mornings. I always set my cookbook on our stove beneath the light and must sock-slide from there to the counter, back and forth, to read the list of ingredients. You'd think I'd have the muffin mix memorized by now. I think I used to when I was a young aproned- wife and still had a memory.

I'll make coffee for Tom when I run back upstairs to the kitchen and then he'll read the newspaper at the dining room table. I will read my books at my quiet corner table. Naomi will come down sleepy-eyed from upstairs at a later hour and then Carl will join us.

But minutes ago I slipped the muffins into the hot oven while the ending credits of Home Alone played (that tape has been in the vcr for three days and I switch it on at will, wherever it may be in the story). For years I've wanted the Home Alone soundtrack on CD and just this week I finally ordered one from Amazon. I hope it arrives soon and plays us into more Christmas.

But that's the thing... It's Christmas in our home most days of the year-- the Real Christmas--and we don't take that for granted. The world can have their political arguments and Christian bashing and just plain major-unrest.

But as for me and my house, we will have blueberry muffins and Peace.

Saturday, November 20, 2004

House At The Crossroads



No, actually it's me at the crossroads concerning my house.

I've been a moderate neat freak over forty years. Even as a blue-eyed child I kept a prim and proper room. Slipped my books into neat rows. Stuffed my Barbies (neatly) into their homemade suitcase house before climbing under sheets at night. Kevin Lehman must have secretly studied me for his book on first-borns--I'm that classic of a case.

But lately I don't want my house to echo "a first-born-neatness-obsessive-type lives inside." Instead, I long to let go and leave dishes in the sink all day sometimes (bad example--I'm already pretty good at that). I want to feel like it's okay if my house isn't as organized or as elegant as my friends' homes. I want to blithely toss my wrinkled clothes on top of the hutch in our bedroom and let them stay there a couple days. Or not feel antsy that someone may come for coffee when Tom's guitars are sprawled across the living room. Or not assume the UPS man drives away thinking how sloppy my back entryway appeared with stuff awaiting to go downstairs.

But it's more... It's coming to the acceptance place that I prefer a decorating style somewhere between Ma and Pa Kettle Down At The Farm and Blondie and Dagwood's home of the 1940's films. And being truly ok (not just pretend ok) with the fact that no one else I know in the 'real world' would ever, ever decorate like that.

I want to let go and just....be....me... The new me I have evolved into these past ten years of changes. I'm not the same person I was 40 years ago and it's time to stop feeling so awkward, so tug-of-war-ish about wanting to live differently in my own house.

But the old me remembers the seminars she taught at church about keeping an orderly home. She recalls her essays about the Proverbs 31 Woman, too. And she remembers always straightening or picking something up. Not easy things to forget.

Yes, part of it is a control issue. I probably fear losing my grip and watching my house fade into those wild pictures on the Net. You know, the ones showing rooms four feet deep in grocery bags, clothes and garbage belonging to hoarders. But knowing my past record, I hardly think that could ever happen. The person I've become may be different, but she's not a total slob. She's more relaxed, very contented, but she's not slovenly.

Mainly, she just wants her house to reflect the new her. The more contented person God helped her to become. The one who is comfortable in her own skin and now wants to be comfortable in her own house. But she still wonders if people will misunderstand. And she's still living in the house of the old her. The old gal wasn't so bad, you understand, just one who wrongly based her self-worth upon the way her house appeared to others.

It's taking enormous amounts of letting go in order to walk past all that.

You don't change forty years' worth of being one way overnight. It takes time. All changes take time. All real changes, mine anyway, take acts of God, too. It's as though He changes me in layers (think onion). I'm glad, because it would be far too painful to make the biggest changes all at once.

But oh how wonderful to start moving beyond the crossroads, out across the golden prairie and into the open Freedom Land beyond.




P.S. It may be that only fellow first-borns understand my weird spin on this subject. Maybe I should have opened this post with that warning. Though perhaps there are other parallels to be made. I hope so.

My Choice



When I stand before God someday, will I hear, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant!"?

Or will it be more like, "Man, did you ever mess up!"?

It's up to me. Well, pretty much. There will be no one kneeling beside me who I can blame for my wrong choices. My choices are my choices.

Today there is only me standing before God, too.

It's time to stop blaming and instead, start from square one. Just living today with God's strength, not mine. His ways, not mine. His thoughts, not mine. His love, not mine. His forgiveness, not mine.

Just for today. One day at a time.

With Him, that is possible. With Him, all things are possible.

Gotta run...Gotta go start living as though today matters. Because it does, you know.


***

Friday, November 19, 2004

Ready--Or Not




If you falter in times of trouble, how small is your strength! ... Proverbs 24:10

This verse won't leave me alone.

When the sun doesn't shine for a week and I get frustrated about that, I think, "How small is my strength."

When Tom does thirty things I've asked him not to do and I get, shall we say, quite perturbed about that, I think, "How small is my strength."

When our appliances groan and die...and emergency sirens wail down the street eight times a day...and money is tight--and I'm frustrated by all that-- I think, "How small is my faith."

Times are changing so fast and they're not getting any easier--anyone else noticing that? And with Christians being the new Bad Guys, well, more than ever I'm asking God to remind me that peace is power. A peaceful person is a powerful person because he can keep his head while everyone around him is losing their's (as the saying goes). A calm person hears the way in which he should go--and walks therein. And inside a peaceful person all is well, even while on the outside all is not well one bit.

I want to hear God's still, small voice. but I'm going to need to quiet my heart during these days before the biggest changes arrive. And they will arrive. The Bible tells us so--and it warns us to be ready.

I want to be ready for anything--whether it be the next broken appliance or something huge like Armageddon. I want to face come-what-may with the utmost serenity because of having learned, beforehand, to walk with God. Because of having had a little of Him rub off on me. But that will require staying extremely close. I'd better start right this minute because this is gonna take a long, long time.


Faces and Hearts In The Supermarket



Sometimes I'll see certain women in the supermarket and wonder if I'm looking at kindred spirits.

These women might have kids draped and folded over their shopping carts. Or a woman might be with her husband. Maybe it's the way she calmly interacts with her children which intrigues me. Or if she's alone, it may be the peaceful way she handles the jar of low salt spaghetti sauce. I'm not fond of the word 'aura', but maybe it's an aura of contentment to which my heart responds.

You would think I'd love discovering women like that, but I don't. Because my head knows darn well I can't just walk up to a person and say, "I'll bet we are potential friends! Maybe even kindred spirits. Tell me all about yourself and then I'll let you know if I was right."

If I did that, I'd probably get arrested. A few times over. So I just roll my cart on past the pasta boxes, wondering...

Here's something else which happens to me, something I've never heard anyone describe. Very often, especially when I run down to the convenience store, I'll watch men buy things like bread or milk or a candy bar and I'll look at their faces and see a child-like innocence. Almost like I am glimpsing how they looked while yet a small boy beneath a layer of how they appear now. Or it goes even deeper--it's as though I'm seeing the heart they had as a child--one of vulnerable wonder and love of adventure--but one which has since been scarred and torn-up along a bleak, stoney street named Life Without Jesus.

And I find myself standing behind them in line praying with a God-sent compassion for that boy inside the care-creased face. Praying that he will find his best Friend and be lonely no more.

Does anybody else experience either of these things? (Or have I dived off the deep end, drowned, and just haven't realized it yet?)


***

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Mystery Blog



There's someone on my blog list whose writing I study. I'll only call her The Mystery Woman because we all need a little mystery in our lives...

I'm not even sure she reads my blog and I'm pretty certain she's not looking for a traffic jam over at her's. So if my description of her intrigues you, you will have to click through my whole blog roll (but that's a good thing because everybody over there is special for different reasons).

I visit The Mystery Woman's blog often just to stare at her words. "Why am I so mesmerized by them?," I ask myself. "Why do I zip over to her blog first thing in the morning as though real-live coffee and donuts await me there? Why, in my heart, am I longing to write like she does? Why?"

So far, I have only sketchy answers. They came to me last night while I tossed and turned. I think God gave me a break and explained a few of the answers so I could finally return to my dreams.

The Mystery Woman is honest. She shares from a vulnerable heart, one which is unafraid to show us exactly how she feels. She reminds us of a childhood friend from long ago. A foggy, hazy friend who we only vaguely recall because she introduced us to a silly, creative way of looking at life--and then she moved away.

The Mystery Woman captures, in beautiful words, delicious thoughts which flicker and are gone when most people think them. Her words call back the warm flicker, though, and we think, 'Yes! I've felt that way, too. But I'd forgotten."

The Mystery Woman uses simple words. Each one has layers of meaning because of the way she uses them--she expresses what she has known and experienced for herself. She doesn't try to impress us with words the length of a train and she almost never links to others' words in Blogdom. Her heart is so full, that it will take years to deplete the wonder found there (if that's possible).

The Mystery Woman writes from her heart's deepest places. When she describes standing next to Jesus in His big winter coat while waiting for a ride, well, you believe her. Even people who don't believe in Jesus would find it hard not to see The Mystery Woman leaning against His shoulder for warmth. They'd find it difficult to condemn her faith--it's extremely hard to condemn that which is so real to another person, especially if that reality causes you to thirst for the same thing.

You'll have to excuse me. It's time to escape back over to the Mystery Woman's blog for more coffee, another donut and more time for study.

So, Like, What Are You Afraid Of?



Yesterday my 60-something mother took her first plane ride. Ever since I've known her (a considerably long time) she's proclaimed she would never, ever, fly in a plane. No way. Don't even go there. My dad, though, had flown before. Just a little bit ago when he was in the Navy--back in the 1950's.

Somehow my brother talked our ground-loving parents into flying out to see him in Texas. Kudos to him. My mother said she'd go through with it because she's older now and is prepared to go to Heaven if they crash. Good ol' optimistic Mom.

Fear. There's a good, common-sense kind and a life-spoiling, regret-making kind. I hate that latter one.

There's a saying: "It's never too late to be what you might have been."

Huh! Try becoming a gymnast, a firefighter or a professional football player when you are 50 and you've just sat in a chair for the last 40 years. Try becoming a young and up-and-coming executive when you are no longer young and up-and-coming.

Lesson? Whatever you are afraid of--get over it. Now.

Here's a 'saying' which is true:

We have different gifts, according to the grace given us....Romans 12:6

The most famous people throughout history--the inventors, the great thinkers, the world-changers-- are remembered only partially for their inventions, their thoughts and the changes they made. They're also immortalized for doing what they were meant to do. For fulfilling their unique calling.

Have you ever watched someone, or read something an author has written, and been struck by the thought, "He's doing exactly what he was meant to do on this Earth."? You look at what he has accomplished and it's as perfect as it gets in this imperfect world. It rings true somewhere inside you and you almost shiver with awe.

Well, what are you waiting for? Don't you think it's time to do what you were put here to do? I hope you're not waiting for all the fear to go away--God is really big about this walking on water stuff. He purposely gives us something to do that's beyond our own ability so that we'll always need to hold His capable hand. And if He's in the mix we will accomplish incredible feats.

In the words of that great philosopher, Nike-- Just do it.

The rest of us are waiting for the pleasure we'll derive from watching you fulfill your calling.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

The Last Straw:This Housewife Speaks Out



So yesterday I'm reading one of my favorite political columnists (who shall be nameless, lest her name cause an uproar and detract from my post...)

Like a bobble-head doll in the back of a speeding car, I nodded my head in agreement of her wise words. That is, until I read this half of a sentence:

"...limits can be set without condemning women to life terms in the kitchen."

Good grief.

If I had $5 for every time I've heard the kitchen referred to as a female prison, well, I'd probably be living in a huge, expensive Victorian mansion by now.

I've always told Naomi, "Any job is honorable because of the dignity you bring to it. Any career is successful only because you, yourself, make it successful. Basically, we get out of Life no more than what we put into it."

If you want to call what I'm doing a "life term in the kitchen," well, go ahead. In the meantime, I will tie on my apron and bake like a chef. (Why is it that a professional chef who cooks for a living, is greatly admired, yet we homemakers, who cook because of familial love, are looked down upon?. Hmmm...Can you say, "materialism-is-somehow-involved-with-that-attitude?")

And while the cookies are baking (heh, heh Hillary, and you too, Teresa...),I will sit upon our scuffed-up hoosier cabinet, lick the batter bowl and watch a documentary on the little kitchen tv. I'll then use my imagination--you've gotta have one awesome imagination to be a successful homemaker-- and create something beautiful for our home. Maybe I'll paint a room and save us a few hundred dollars by doing it myself.

Or maybe I'll just plain have another Fairy Day. After all, I'm the boss of this dream job and I can take an all-afternoon lunch if I wish. Or perhaps I'll drive to the bookstore uptown and intermittently study and dream. And drink coffee. And go any place else my contented-homemaker-heart desires.

And as I go tooling along, I'll glance up at the office building windows and feel bad for all the women imprisoned inside their cubicles. Bad enough to pray they'll be released early for a lovely evening at home and a little extra fun in the kitchen.





Blog Explosion and Kindred Spirits



I joined Blog Explosion yesterday.

Probably most people sign-up for two simple reasons-- to read and to be read. My blog is still in a stack on someone's desk waiting to be approved, so it's not yet officially listed. Hence, another waiting time. So much of our life is spent waiting--or maybe you've already noticed.

You have to be brave to sign-up with Blog Explosion. Fellow-bloggers critique your blog according to their own standards. One blogger said that he gives a very low rating to blogs whose authors don't share his political or religious views. Hmmm... I hope I will be a bit more open-minded than that.

Though I do love finding the blog of a kindred spirit. Nothing tops discovering a potential friend who, it seems, was made from the same batch of batter God used to make your own soul.

But I could never criticize a person's blog just because his feelings are different than mine. To me, that's like finding someone's diary beneath her bed and then grading it on content. I can only share what I have learned and hope that others will find that interesting enough to read. And I can try to understand where others are coming from, even if it appears they grew up on a whole different plain or planet.

I want old-fashioned peace in my home and my heart--and that begins with me. There's enough mud-slinging going on in this world. May I learn the difference between exposing the darkness and ridiculing the brain-washed.

And may I never look down at my hands and see mud between my fingers.


P.S. Just got an email saying my blog was accepted at Blog Explosion! A special welcome to those of you who are visiting by way of the 30-second search.



The everyday kindness of the back roads more than makes up for the acts of greed in the headlines.... Charles Kuralt



Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Be Careful What You Teach Your Cat



Don't make the same mistake I did.

I taught my daughter's cat, Oreo, a new trick two weeks ago. As I've mentioned before, Oreo loves to play with his plastic fishing pole, the one with feathers at the end of the plastic string. He'll race around and around in circles chasing after that thing as you swing it around just above the carpet. He'll chase it until he falls over, if you let him.

He adores that fishing pole. I step from my bedroom door while it's still dark in the morning and here comes Oreo meowing with those silly feathers in his mouth, wanting to play. Throughout the day he stares at you, not blinking, until you get up and swing that fishing pole around for him. It's eerie. He is eerie.

Well, I thought it would be cute to teach Oreo to nibble on my toes whenever he wanted me to get up from a chair and play Fishing Pole Tag with him.

Never teach a cat a 'cute trick.'

Now, whenever Oreo sees my still, sock-clad foot, he sneaks up on me and starts chewing on my toes.

At first it was cute. Even hilarious, according to Tom.

But now...sigh... I can't even have an uninterrupted morning quiet time. Now I must always pay attention as to where my feet are located while sitting in my chair. I must tuck my feet beneath my robe and sit on them or the darn cat will nibble on my toes and I will be forced to get up and play Fishing Pole Tag yet again.

It took consistency to teach Oreo a new trick. And now that he has learned it, I'm obligated to follow through out of my sense of integrity. After all, I did teach him this new trick. I did reward him over and over for toe-nibbling.

This all reminds me of what good ol' Doctor Phil constantly drawls:

"We teach people how to treat us."

Boy is that true.

Be careful what you teach not only your cat, but your kids. Your spouse. Your in-laws. Your friends.

Teach them that you are a people-pleasing, never-say-no person and they just may never forget it.



Oreo


***

The Afternoon Pause Café




There's a quaint little cafe I love to slip into. Homey, 1940's atmosphere. Tiny round tables and steamy coffee served in Fiestaware mugs. It's called the Afternoon Pause Cafe. There's a chain of these cafe's, though each one is decorated differently. There's one in your town.

Chances are, you are sitting there right now. Or you will be soon.

What? You've never visited an Afternoon Pause Cafe?

Oh, what you are missing--

Quiet, reflective times after a hurried first half of the day.

Coffee or tea. Munching on cookies or a cinnamon scone while reading a chapter of a delectable book.

A peaceful chat with your Friend when He arrives.

The pause at the door as you both leave. Looking out at the Nascar-paced, scurrying world and feeling calm, but invigorated.

Continuing the chat with your Friend as the two of you amble down the sidewalk. The rest of the day awaits and you will face it together.

Do stop in at the Afternoon Pause Cafe. I'll tell them you're coming so they'll have a table prepared.



One of the greatest necessities in America is to discover creative solitude. --Carl Sandburg

People who take the time to be alone usually have depth, originality, and quiet reserve. --John Miller

Monday, November 15, 2004

An Easier Way to Write




Just a simple post today, but one which I hope will shake you as it shook me.

William Cobbett in his book, Rural Rides, wrote:

"Sit down to write what you have thought, and not to think what you shall write."

Since reading that sentence two years ago, I've recognized that my best writing nearly always comes from recording the thoughts I've pondered for days, months or even years. And if God has been part of that meditation, well, the writing flows.

(Seems everything keeps coming back to spending time with God...hmmm...)

Just handing out a piece of gum for you to chew on today.

Happy chomping.


***

Sunday, November 14, 2004

Are They Discussing Politics In Heaven?



When we get to Heaven, will our conversations center around President Bush and how he ran the United States?

Will we discuss the U.S. Presidential Election of 2004?

Will we debate who has better morals--Republicans, Democrats or Liberals?

Will we discuss red states and blue states? John Ashcroft? Arlen Specter?

Personally, I think not.

There is a time to speak and a time to be silent. A time to fight and a time to pray. How refreshing to discover blogs whose authors can move with grace from season to season (I found some this morning). And especially blessed are those bloggers who have moved on from the Election and are discussing subjects which help people change from the inside, out. Subjects which maybe, just maybe, we will discuss in Heaven:

Love, kindness, joy and grace...

Prayer, hope, worship, praise.

Power, encouragement and sowing seeds,

Helping others and priorities.

God, His Word and heavenly life,

Angels, strength, bringing peace out of strife.

Songs, creativity, our forever souls,

Miracles, changes and our eternal home.


And no, we're not in Heaven yet. But to me, these subjects are both vital and eternal--and they will take an eternity to explore. And now we're in need of writers who will tackle these subjects and write about them in relevant ways for this 2004 world of searchers. I want to join those who are trying to do just that.

Besides, when I travel to Heaven, I want to be able to speak the language.



And he said: "I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven." Matthew 18:3


These Coming Days




I heard this from a pastor many years ago. I believe I read this story in a book later, too, and this is how I recall it...

A man was walking through his quiet, harvested fields alone, contemplating how good God had been to him.

Suddenly, he heard happy, excited voices approaching him from the distance, yet he could see no one. The voices became louder and then he looked up and saw three angels flying above him, just feet above his head. They fluttered right past him, appearing to take no notice of him. They were too happily speaking to one another in a language the man could not understand.

(Now, this story appeared way before the Urban Legends reference website was even thought of. I'm not going to look-up this story there, though... I've not yet become that cynical.)

Instead, I love believing that the skies are full of joyful, conversing angels. Especially in this time of global unrest, unhappy blogging theologians and the politically-consumed.

In these Last Days, darkness will increase--but so will the Light. Who knows what kinds of fantastic things we will see? Maybe we'll see totally mind-boggling things like Christians putting away their differences and really loving one another.

Now that would be an eye-popping sight.


"It is not the arguments of theologians that solve the problems of a questioning heart, but the cry of that heart to God, and the certainty that God has heard."
... from the book, God Calling


Saturday, November 13, 2004

Living a Pretend Life



Last week I had a strange thought. What if I created another blog, one in which I would write as someone else--someone living my "dream life"?

Years ago, Tom and I used to drive through the countryside and imagine a wildly-different, dreamy life for ourselves. What if we ran a bed-and-breakfast inn from a great big cobblestone farmhouse? What if we lived on ten acres and had a barn and a few farm animals? What if we had three or four kids under the age of ten who we would homeschool and let run all over those ten acres?

Dreams like those made us smile. They also made us tired.

(Along the way, Tom and I learned that, although we "can do all things through Christ," we still can only accomplish God's custom-designed plan for us with His custom-fitted grace.)

But back to this Pretend Life blog... For just a couple minutes I imagined making up a name and yes, a fake life and using the whole thing as a writing exercise. As a way to let my imagination run around the park for stronger muscles, I would describe how I baked blueberry muffins which drew down the inn's sleepy guests from upstairs. Or I'd tell how little Aubrey skinned her knee when she fell out of the swing which she shared with her brother, Benjamin. Or I'd write about gathering apples from the orchard and making a scarecrow with our oldest son, Luke.

I might have quite the audience who would enjoy living vicariously through my romantic country adventures with the inn and all those little kids. People would leave comments. I'd make new friends. It would be great.

Except for one thing: It would be a lie.

I'd be making friends under false pretences. They would like me for who I was not. I would be describing a life which didn't exist and one which I knew nothing about firsthand--so I'd be leaving out lots of gritty truth. Maybe enough to tempt someone to take on this sort of life without realizing what hard work it really involves.

Of course, I could keep the blog private. For my eyes only. But somehow, that doesn't sound like much fun.

Oh well....

But all this imaginary-life-blogging got me to thinking. How often do we present a fake life before other people? How often do we hold back our real self and instead, present something we believe is better? Just how many masks do we wear in one day?

Can we live a real life without being real with ourselves, and with God, first?

Just wondering. (I think I already know the answer to this one.)


Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away...Philip K. Dick


***

Friday, November 12, 2004

Doesn't Anyone Laugh Anymore?




Man, there are a lot of uptight people on the Net! Each day I do a little surfing, hoping to find inspiring things...funny things...meaningful things...

Sometimes it's like a desert out there.

Remember how the Bible says in the Last Days people will be dying of heart attacks? ("Men's hearts will fail them...") Well, after reading the uptight, no-sense-of-humor, critical, stressed-out, mostly-politically-induced angry words that I find on many websites, I'm not surprised.

Anyway, before I go any further, I wanted to follow-up on one of my posts. Here's a list of the new blogs which have made it to my links list. Maybe some of them are ones you will enjoy, also:

Blogin' Idiot
C/San Bernadino
Heavy Revvies
The Main Point
MUD International Ministries

Each of them made me smile... or even laugh aloud in some cases.

And just a reminder...

Laugh everyday. At least a little.

Watch a funny movie. Allow yourself to laugh right out loud.

Find the humor in everyday life. "It's in there."

For just one day, don't blog about our current political unrest.

People are often funny. Laugh along with them.

Watch your favorite sit-com.

Check your worry at the door.

Stay healthy--laugh.



A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones...Proverbs 17:22


Laughter, the best medicine...

Our Neighbors Are Moving Today





One cold January morning in 2001, our 90-year-old neighbor died. I saw them carry his sheet-draped body from his front door which is just outside my sunroom windows, the ones where I sit and have coffee with Jesus. I have watched much of life and death from those two big windows. I've seen a few neighbors carried away by ambulance never to return. I've seen their loved ones dressed in black returning from funerals.

But like I said, I've also watched a whole lot of Life outside of those same windows.

Al's house stood empty for 18 months. Dark windows at night. No life there just below my own window sills. No paper boy leaving the newspaper. Only eerie silence.

I began experiencing sinus problems for the first time in my life during February of 2002. They eventually turned me into a slug. A real sloth. Months later I dragged myself to a doctor, got some antibiotics and began to feel better. But the godsend book, Sinus Survival, is what really helped the most. I began taking the author's natural, common sense advice and have felt like my nearly-normal, semi-healthy self since.

(I'm getting to the part about my neighbors moving away. Honest.)

Those six months of being a slug meant that our yard suffered. Tom doesn't do yard care. That's my department. So by August, the month I finally began to feel better, our yard was like a travel advertisement for Death Valley.

Enter: our new neighbors.

Mario and Audrey looked over Al's house with a realtor in August. After an hour, Audrey came over to our house and knocked on our front door. Tom answered. The first thing Audrey said after hello was, "Are those your weeds beside the driveway next door?"

Well, the last time Tom had looked on that side of the house was when I dragged him over there to show-off my beautiful Spring-time perennials which were at their peak. We'd had a wet Spring. I'd planted lots of perennials the year before. They were gorgeous. And now, three dry summer months later, they were also gone. But he didn't know that.

"You call those weeds?!" he asked. The gasp in his voice was enough to let Audrey know he was offended.

Tom came and got me and I talked to Audrey out on the porch. Told her I'd been sick and the yard had suffered the most.

Audrey and Mario bought the house next door. And so it began.

Audrey is like Ray's mother on Everybody Loves Raymond. She looks like her. She speaks like her. At least, that's what I told everyone, because, hey! She does.

All winter I looked forward to the following Spring to my great reunion with my yard. This Spring I would have energy. I would plant hundreds of flowers. I would wear my gardening dress and have romantic, quiet times alone out there beneath the towering lilac bushes. I'd sing little songs. Watch the birds eat from the feeders.

Finally Spring returned and I skipped out to my yard. I dug around my little yellow daffodils with a fork from my kitchen. Fed them fertilizer granules with the fork. And then, there was Mario standing over me.

"You're using a fork? I've got some garden tools if you want to use them. Come over and use them anytime. Are those daffodils? They sure look short. I've never grown daffodils. Are they hard to grow? Is that as tall as they get? I always thought they were taller. Oh? They're miniature daffodils? I didn't know they had such a thing. You can borrow my gardening tools anytime. They're just sitting there. They're better than a fork."

And on and on.

My romantic visions of quiet, Victorian-like dreamy mornings in the garden were dashed. Day after day Mario was out in his yard, too, just when I was. He'd come over and talk--every time. Or if he wasn't there, then Audrey was, saying things like, "Do you mind if I ask you a question? Why do you always wear dresses? I told my daughter, 'The whole world wears pants, but Debra still wears dresses.'"

Well, I became sneaky. I began creeping out in the yard before the sun had even finished rising. I gardened on tip-toe. I needed time alone out in my garden. And in my shadowy yard, I got it.

But you know...after a couple weeks, I missed running into Mario and Audrey. I missed our earlier conversations. I missed them. So I went back to gardening when I knew they'd be out there, too. And we began sharing our extra garden vegetables. I learned to love squash, even, because Audrey gave me some and I didn't know how to tell her, "No thanks, I've not eaten that stuff in 20 years." I couldn't throw it away, either, so I cooked it with onion and spices and loved it. We eat it all the time now.

Audrey would stand under my sunroom windows and talk with me. She raved about our beautiful spring flowers which she enjoyed from her windows. She invited me to her house to see all the many wonderful improvements her carpenter son made. She gave me some old magazines she'd found at a yard sale because she knows I love old stuff. She called me just to chat. Mario said I was a hard worker (made me feel like Hercules--in a good way). And we even found the world's best carpenter by way of Audrey and Mario. He was their grandson and he put up our remarkable carport.

And along the way, I realized it was comforting to look over at their lighted windows on dark nights and know that Mario and Audrey were inside, cozy and together.

But today Audrey and Mario are moving.. It's a long story. (It was nothing we said or did...). My sunroom windows are now playing the scenes from Mario and Audrey's Moving Day.

But here is the good news. They are moving only twenty minutes away. To a home in the country. And they've invited us to come visit them anytime. Already, we are looking forward to that first visit.

I will miss Audrey and Mario. They cannot be replaced.



As man draws nearer to the stars, why should he not also draw nearer to his neighbor?
...Lyndon B. Johnson



***

Thursday, November 11, 2004

You Can't Have It All?



Phooey... Who says you can't have it all? (Must be that dreadful THEY family.)

It depends upon what All means to you.

For instance, I have it All.

No, really--

An awesome God.

A wonderful husband.

A terrific daughter.

A cozy home to care for.

Friends.

Three cats, four mice.

Music.

A car I share with my husband.

An old TV (or two).

A computer.

A town full of potential friends.

Stars and the moon at night.

A backyard with birds.

Bookcases which runneth over.

Autumn leaf bookmarks.

An imagination. A dream.

Pictures hanging on my walls.

Painted furniture.

Old dishes and new ones,too.

A soft bed. Pillows.

Hot running water. A bathtub.

Clothes.

A pantry full of groceries.

Windows full of sun.




I'll wager you have it All, too.



Unless we find repose within ourselves, it is vain to seek it elsewhere. -- Hosea Ballou.


***