Saturday, December 31, 2005

This Is Your Life


My favorite Christmas present this year? The newly released set of This Is Your Life dvds. Oh my! This Is Your Life has always, since I was a child, turned me into an emotional wreck as I watched--in a good way, of course. I cry and laugh (often simultaneously) while I watch people reunited with those who had an influence on their early lives. How fun and inspirational to hear of the kindnesses actors and others were doing behind the scenes of their lives. How lovely to see their faces reflect joy and love and humility.

And, well, this past week as I've watched these amazing episodes, it has come to me over and over that right now, today, This Is My Life.

This Is My Life as I wash dishes and clothes and run up and down our stairs gathering laundry and Fiestaware mugs and bills to be mailed. This Is My Life as I arise in the mornings and pull back the heavy curtains at the windows to let the snow-light in and as I walk to the kitchen to make coffee, run back upstairs to read awhile, and then proceed to clean this old house with our furniture, old and new, which I love so much.

This Is My Life as I walk out in the snow to pull the trash can back into the carport from the curb along with the recycling bin, too. This Is My Life as I care for this home while Tom is away at work and then prepare dinner for him by the time he returns. This Is My Life while the retro-shaped radio plays music in the sunroom like the soundtrack from my life and while our cats play with their Christmas toys beside the fireplace. This Is My Life while I write in this blog and teach and tell stories of my life to people I have never met.

This is the only life I will have upon this Earth. I am determined to make it a good one.

I refuse to ruin it by spending my days wallowing in guilt or unforgiveness or trying to see into the future or reasoning my way through my days.

I refuse to stand before God someday as I give an account of my life and tell Him I knew better, yet I did not do better. I will not whine to Him that I couldn't help it if I was a sad, groaning, drunk-on-emotions mess. There will be no one standing beside me to point a finger at in blame, either.

Some people look for demons on every doorknob, but I choose to look for fairies. Some people concentrate on what's going wrong, but I choose to think about what's going right.

And some people choose to walk through this life alone, but since This Is My Life, I choose to walk through it with the Friend who sticks closer than a brother... the friend who squeezes beside me in my recliner, His shoulder to mine, while we watch tv or read or dream on snowy days such as this snowy New Year's Eve morning.

***

"I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want." ... Philippians 4:12

"And so each of us shall give an account of himself to God." ... Romans 14:12

Friday, December 30, 2005

What Will The New Year Bring?


Wow... have you read the latest news? I just found this in my Yahoo News box this morning. Hmmm... now the latest thing is Swedish anti-Christian jeans! (You might want to read the article before you finish reading this post of mine.)

Hmmm.... so it's all in our imaginations that Christians are the new popular-to-hate enemy? So we all just have persecution complexes, right?

Obviously, 2006 will be a very interesting year, indeed, for Christians. I believe that in 2006 it will become obvious that it's no longer enough to just have a message. Instead, each of us will need a message and a victorious life to match it, one filled with the power which comes from true humility and true Godly love and wisdom.

Anything less will not be enough. Just being like parrots mimicking what we have been taught will only lead to lots of parrots being eaten--or flying away in retreat.

At least, that is what I am seeing for 2006. And personally, I am excited to see what is coming toward us just around the corner. I am preparing for it during this relative time of quiet. It will be too late to prepare in the middle of the harder days ahead.

***

"Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour." ...1 Peter 5:8

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

LOST Lessons


Okay, now don't tease me, but Tom and I love the tv series, LOST. Only yesterday did we finally finish watching the first season on DVD--we've been borrowing the DVD's the last few weeks from the video store because we missed the shows when they first aired. Back then, we'd watch the commercials advertising LOST and think, "Eh, we don't like Survivor so we probably wouldn't like LOST, either." (Sigh. When will we finally learn to watch something before we criticize it??)

Well, anyway, we've watched the second season and have loved it so we thought it might be nice to see how it all began.

Tom and I both agree--LOST is incredible! How cool to find a tv series about adventure and mystery instead of all about s-e-x (she says, blushing) or crude humor aimed at the 5th grade mind.

So, like, what is LOST teaching me? Many things, but here's my favorite lesson: there are always reasons why people do what they do and why they are the way they are. It's reminding me that too often I have judged people without taking the time to understand their past--where they are coming from. Or 'the why behind the what' as my favorite teacher says.

Much of each episode is shown in flashbacks depicting one or two of the stranded islanders' past. And in each flashback we come to understand the characters better by the things they have suffered because of their own sins and mistakes, or because of the sins and mistakes of others. But either way, those flashbacks bring insight into why the characters now act as they do and a new understanding of each person's heart and motives.

And through this new understanding, we come to love each islander better, too, flaws and all. With understanding comes an empathy, with empathy comes compassion, and with compassion comes forgiveness.

Hmmm... Maybe Real Life would be easier, better, if we each came equipped with a small tv screen on which played the flashbacks of our past for all to view. Maybe if we could watch that screen, first, instead of criticizing and judging that which we, ourselves, have never seen or experienced, well, maybe we'd be a more compassionate group of people.

Or maybe if, right now without the screens, we could just listen to one another and realize we're each shaped by our past and present, too, well, maybe we could act in love instead of in ignorance.

And maybe love could pave the way for people to open their scarred hearts to the Healer and Lover of hearts damaged by a harsh, harsh world.

***

"If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing." 1 Corinthians 13:1-3

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Onward Christian Soldiers?


I have a dressing table closet--looks like something from the 1940's with its pink and white wall stripes and long floral skirt. This morning I sat there putting on my make-up and humming that old hymn, Onward Christian Soldiers,when suddenly I stopped and just stared into the green framed mirror in front of me.

I asked myself, "Just where are these Christian soldiers today?"

In my mind, I tried to see brave souls marching forward with great courage in the midst of danger and threats and jeering, but instead I saw the great fields of God Blogs wounding their own with accusations of all kinds...

...and I saw 'soldiers' lying in fetal positions because their feelings had been hurt by the immature actions of friends and relatives...

... and I saw many stomping off the fields because they'd been offended by unkind words of strangers...

...and others who were offended because God did not act according to the way they'd been taught that He would...

...and others who were limping away, injured, because they'd kicked themselves so often for their own mistakes...

...and others who actually ran bravely into battle against the enemy, but fell early because they chose to fight as they saw best, instead of with God's wisdom...

...and I saw many other Christians simply sitting and crying into their cappuccinos.

What I saw was a massive, bloody, confused battlefield and I knew just one thing for certain--somehow, we had better all band together, in unity, in love and in wisdom, or we will continue to lose the battles we are not winning now.

***

"And Jesus said unto them, Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand..." Matthew 12:25

"For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places." ... Ephesians 6:12

Monday, December 26, 2005

My Real Christmas


On this quiet morning after Christmas, the prettiest snow is falling outside my windows while my old-time radio plays Christmas symphony music. I wish you could see these snowflakes--lacey, soft and silent.

I am still in my nightgown and robe--Tom came home early this morning from having worked all night and we sat in our cozy little winter room and watched an episode of Lost--where Hawaii may as well be Mars, compared to our white, frozen yard right now-- on dvd.

But now he has gone to bed where he will dream all day and I am walking around our house idly picking up gift wrap and clearing the linen dinner napkins from the table and wiping away crumbs. I am remembering yesterday, Christmas afternoon, with our daughter and Carl and Tom and myself and smiling a lot because of those memories. I never mind washing dishes the day after any holiday--always they remind me of the kidding and warmth of the day before.

Yet this morning I'm also picturing crowds of people rushing in traffic and through store aisles, returning gifts...mobs and long lines and children whining to go back home to play with new toys. And I whisper thankful prayers because I'm in this quiet, candle-lit house taking my time straightening the red table runner and candles, and doing whatever else I wish. No one will come to the door today, no telemarketers will call--I can stay in my robe all day long if I wish.

Tom is not the only one dreaming today.

My favorite, most delicious, most high and holy day of the year? Always, it's the day after Christmas.

There is no other quiet like the one on this day. No other calm like this after the storms, public and private, which December can bring. And all day long, He, that Christmas child all grown up, will sit beside me or walk with me down the stairs when I go to the kitchen for coffee and another piece of pumpkin pie.

You see, today is my real Christmas and my Friend and I will have ourselves a merry little Christmas, indeed.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Christmas


"If, as Herod, we fill our lives with things, and again with things; if we consider ourselves so unimportant that we must fill every moment of our lives with action, when will we have the time to make the long, slow journey across the desert as did the Magi? Or sit and watch the stars as did the shepherds? Or brood over the coming of the child as did Mary? For each one of us, there is a desert to travel. A star to discover. And a being within ourselves to bring to life."

---Author Unknown

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Christmas Gifts


Now, on this Christmas Eve, I am going to share these gifts with you once more, presents which I gave earlier this month.

But I will add one other gift, a blog I discovered just this morning. At Lanier's Books you will find much to feast both your eyes and heart upon. Scroll down for more and more beauty both in word and art.

Merry Christmas to each of you who have encouraged me this year!

***
For free bookmarks go here:

Mary Englebreit bookmarks (these can be printed-out full-size, but you didn't hear that from me, ok?)
Hundreds of Bookmarks
Printable Bookmarks

To watch free movies online go here:

Movie Flix

To listen, free, to old radio shows from the 1930's and 40's, go here:

Radio Lovers

To walk in and visit a beautiful cottage home, go here:

Becky's Cottage

For free Christmas gift tags and enclosures, go here:

Christmas Fun

For a fun online Advent calendar for kids of all ages, go here:

Tate's Advent Calendar

To have fun trying on clothes online (forget those depressing dressing rooms! This is more like the days of paper dolls--and you are the doll.)--go here:

Lands End (Click on My Virtual Model to get started.)

To receive a free issue of Good Old Days Magazine (no credit card required), go here:

Good Old Days Magazine (Scroll down to 'Send No Money Now' when subscribing.)

If you enjoy Victorian photography, go here:

Victorian and Edwardian Photography

To download free charts and lists to help keep you and your family organized, go here:

Digital Women

For lots of cool old black and white photos from life in the 1930's, go here:

The 1930's

For free dollhouse accessory printables, go here:

Dollhouse Printables

To find amazing pictures to copy and paste into your emails for friends, go here:

All Posters

If you are into the fairy scene, go here:

Wee Folk Studio
Cecily Mary Barker

If you would someday like to visit 'Mayberry', go here:

Mt. Airy NC

If you were a big fan of 'The Waltons,' go here:

The Waltons

If you like all things Victorian, go here:

Victorian Trading Co.

To read hundreds of classic books online, go here:

Page By Page Books

If you like vintage paper dolls, go here:

Betsy McCall
Dress the Digital Dolls (there's more than one page)

To receive a free issue of Reminisce Magazine (no credit card required), go here:

Reminisce Magazine (click on Bill Me Later when subscribing)

If you'd like to go window shopping in New York City, go here:

Window shopping
***

If you'd like to do something kind for fellow bloggers, leave comments at the blogs of those who almost never receive comments.

Add blogs to your blogroll...it's a compliment when you do so.

If a blogger's writing has meant something to you this year, let him/her know.

Friday, December 23, 2005

It's That Time Of Year Again


It's that time of year when, like this morning, I heard we would have a high of 43 lovely Fahrenheit degrees and my heart said, "Hooray! A nice, warm day for shopping and maybe even a walk."

It's that time of year when I find myself at the supermarket two days before Christmas, even though I promise myself every prior year that I'll shop way ahead so I won't get caught there in the maddening crowds.

It's that time of year when I recall that the supermarket's maddening crowds aren't so maddening after all. They're even what one may call festive, though in a feverish sort of way. Christmas music is playing and some people are even humming along. Smiling, too, as they reach for the whipped cream.

It's that time of year when at least twice a day I must remind myself what Christmas is REALLY about.

It's that time of year when I lecture myself to stop thinking it's all about crossing tasks off my list, and instead, just enjoy, enjoy, enjoy what I am doing...

It's that time of year when I sit with a cup of coffee, listening to my old 1960's Christmas memory-rousing record, looking out at the snow outside with a cat beside me, and thinking, "It doesn't get any better than this."

It's that time of year to wish each of my readers hours to sit and reflect and be thankful...hours to spend with your family, accepting them just the way they are for at least this one day... and hours to bask in the joy of Him whose birth we celebrate.

Merry Christmas!

***
Here is a special page to help share a snowy Christmas with you in case there isn't even one snowflake around you for miles and miles. A special thanks to Wilma for sharing this with me.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

If Jesus Was Real


I love to read Jeff's So I Go blog because I get to see Jesus every time I go there. Jeff writes about Jesus as though He was real.

Imagine that. Jesus being real. Hmm...

If Jesus was real, I would have a friend who stays with me in the silence after all other friends walk away. I would have someone to go everywhere with me--to restaurants, supermarkets and movie theaters, even. I would never, ever be alone.

If Jesus was real, I would have true, palpable peace. I would feel secure, even when my life was in the middle of huge storms, because Jesus can calm any storm. I'd hum the little songs which were always in my heart.

If Jesus was real, I would have the kind of joy which showed in my words and on my face, even in the midst of my supposed great problems. I would lean over and listen to Jesus tell me, "Everything is going to be all right." And I would believe Him.

If Jesus was real, I'd have no fear. I would feel protected whenever I drove downtown or walked through crowded places because He would be walking beside me. I would know He is big enough to protect and provide for my family, too. And I just might be brave enough to step out into the unknown.

If Jesus was real, I would never feel frustrated. I would just ask Him why things weren't working out the way I thought they should and then I'd do things His, way, instead, because His ways work.

If Jesus was real, I would have Christmas every day. Oh, not the stressed-out, worldly kind of Christmas, but the kind where I'd awaken each morning eagerly, all smiles, because I'd have more delightful chances to give to others during all the hours ahead. And more--I'd celebrate that Jesus came to Earth and He's still here living in a land of hearts.

If Jesus was real, I would have someone to comfort me when everything was going wrong. He would take me in His arms and stroke my forehead with a warm washcloth dipped in an oil called HopeForABetterTomorrow.

Hmmm... good news! The last I heard, Jesus is real!

Oh happy, marvelous, incredible day......................

***

"...there is a friend that sticks closer than a brother." ... Proverbs 18:24

"... I will never leave you, nor forsake you." ... Hebrews 13:5

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

The Arsonists Among Us


"Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business..." 1 Thessalonians 4:11

Sometimes I wonder if anyone has even read that verse before. Did I miss the memo which said it had been removed from the Bible?

This thing about many churches--mega and otherwise-- canceling services on this upcoming Christmas Sunday...

...why do so many Christians believe it is their right and privilege--their business--to voice an opinion about the decisions being made by pastors and boards of churches thousands of miles away?

Does no one realize that pastors and elders have God-given rights to make decisions for their own churches? Does anyone know that whenever a pastor and his staff make a decision, there will always be those in their congregation who agree and those who disagree with that decision?

If a church chooses to stay open on Christmas, there will be those who whine and accuse all decision-makers of being anti-family and obsessed and led by tradition. Some members will call house to house complaining about being made to look ungodly if they choose to stay home that day with their families. On the other side, if a church chooses to close on Christmas, the pastor and board will be accused of being anti-God, anti-Jesus and anti-true-meaning-of-Christmas.

Is it any wonder why hundreds of pastors quit the ministry every week of the year?

Blogland lately has been like one huge gathering on a beach at night, with everyone sitting around a fire over which is a spit where, one by one, a miniature of every Christmas-closing-church is turned round and round, slowly, over that fire. And as each church tied to that spit turns and burns, people sitting in the bright glow criticize its decisions, its size, its motives, and what is taught there each Sunday, even though no one in that circle has ever stepped foot inside. No, everyone lives hundreds and thousands of miles away, yet they feel qualified to express an opinion about the very soul and heart of churches they've never even seen.

(Heaven forbid if God ever told us now living in this 21st century, "Behold! I do a new thing!")

And meanwhile, back in the world, the press covers that huge beach 'holy barbeque' and spreads the caustic news across the land. And the people reading newspapers and blogs roll their eyes and make sarcastic remarks about Christians---and satan is handed yet one more victory.

And after the barbeque, the clueless ones sit around in the sand and wonder, "Why don't more people in our nation go to church throughout the year? Why are so many people anti-God?"

Many Christians say our nation isn't under judgment right now because judgment begins with the house of the Lord--first--and that hasn't yet taken place.

I wonder.

***
" There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to him:haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, a false witness who pours out lies
and a man who stirs up dissension among brothers." Proverbs 6:16-19

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Remembering John Sillick


You've probably never even heard of John Sillick, but I want to share this anyway. Maybe it will help lift the cloud which has been circling my head since Sunday.

John Sillick used to write a column, The Alps Road Journal, for various of our local newspapers. John was a farmer, naturalist and high school English teacher. He was an amazing writer, also. He wrote about simple things and made them sound like the most important things in life (and well, yes, I believe they are). He wrote about country life and the big farmhouse he and his wife, Kathleen, were fixing-up. And cows and horses and chickens and his students as well as his childhood and fatherhood and what it was like to stand in your own field on a spring evening after you've tilled the land all afternoon.

I used to read John's column most Sundays way back in the years around 1993-1996, even clipped some of his columns and mailed them to friends in Nevada. Then I mostly stopped reading the newspaper at all (long, involved story). Years later, I occasionally read the paper again and occasionally read The Alps Road Journal on Sundays, but John's columns seemed to get more 'technical.' He'd give details about the best tools to use in running a farm and how to grow a healthy pig or how to make a cow come home--things I tried to get into,but couldn't, though I really, really wanted to. I missed the old John and the columns he used to write. Ones with lovely prose like this:

"Some people tell me that I exaggerate the value of work. This may be true. In my view, things are enjoyable if they are earned. Everything is more satisfying if some kind of effort produced it. I don't want to return to the Middle Ages where people were worked to death, but I couldn't survive a life where I couldn't provide for most of my family's needs myself.

"Kathleen religiously returns sweepstakes entries hoping for a jackpot. I have bad dreams about her winning. I fear it would destroy what I love about our life. Unless we gave the money away, what incentive would we have to get up in the morning or pick up the house or fix what's broken? Would I be doomed to a life of playing golf?

"I would rather be in the woods with a homemade trailer and my old tractor cutting firewood with an offspring or two along to help load the wagon and listen to my rambling on about what a wonderful thing we are doing." (From the book, Alps Road Journal by John Sillick)

Anyway, this past Sunday, while Tom and I read the newspaper together in our cozy little room where we are hibernating this winter, suddenly the cloud came... the cloud which resulted from the article I read in which John's students were dedicating his favorite spot in their school library in his memory.

John passed away in 2003 at the age of 57.

He was thrown from his tractor, one which he often wrote about, and run over by it twice. Days later, he died from complications of the injuries he'd received.

I never even met him, yet through his writing, I felt as though I had. And now he is gone. He died doing one of the things he loved best,driving a tractor over his own land, but still he is gone, and well, it just doesn't seem fair. And it's not. Part of me wants to now hate tractors, but I think John would tell me that's silly. That tractors are ultimately a wonderful and necessary tool for farmers.

Our town's library has a copy of John's one and only book and I braved the snow and cold today and went and got it. It's a compilation of 50 of his newspaper columns and I am loving getting reaquainted with his writing. John even signed this copy--I gasped when I saw his words and signature and I am treating this book carefully, reverently.

I wasn't a writer when I used to read John's columns, but his columns made me want to write and now I fancy that I have a column of my own in this blog. Almost I feel like John and I are part of a brotherhood of writers, though I am in the Wanna Be section and I can almost see him way over in the Experienced, Inspirational Writer corner.

Another reason the cloud persists?

I wish I would have thanked John for the inspiration he gave me while I still had a chance.

Winter Is Here--Time to Complain?


Today may be the first day of winter officially, but around here, it's already been winter for a few weeks now. We're in a deep freeze, though not a deep, deep kind of deep freeze. Snow, crusted over, on all the yards, dirty at the edges. Trees, tall and bare, looking like the ones from those scarey woods in the movie, The Village.

It's gonna look like this till late April. Winter is long here. It just is. Year after year. And you either accept that, or you move away, or you go insane while complaining about it. Basically, those are your only three choices. No, make that four choices--you accept our long winters a little bit and complain a little bit. That's probably where most of us are.

Winter here always reminds me of a life lesson I have learned. Well, have almost learned. There are some things you can change, some things you can't change, and some things you must just accept as they are.

Sometimes I complain about the snow, but then I realize, hey! There's absolutely nothing I can do to keep the snow from falling. And complaining about the snow will only make things worse.

Complaining won't make the sun come out.
Complaining won't get my driveway shoveled.
Complaining won't make my house feel cozier.
Complaining won't make my friends appreciate me more.
Complaining will not spread joy.
Complaining won't fill me with peace.

No, complaining is like hitting your head with a rubber mallet over and over.
It's like drilling a hole in your heart so that all your hope drips out.
It's like being a cow who chews on the same drippy old cud all day.
It's like using the energy designated for great things and using it, instead, for something pointless.
It's like choosing to have a bad day when you could have had a fantastic one.

Complaining.... I'm still learning about it's harmful effects. Every winter reminds me.

***
"And when the people complained, it displeased the Lord: and the Lord heard it; and his anger was kindled; and the fire of the Lord burnt among them, and consumed them that were in the uttermost parts of the camp." Numbers 11:1

"If you don't like something, change it. If you can't change it, change your attitude. Don't complain." ... Maya Angelou

Monday, December 19, 2005

F.O.G.


As the announcer used to say before airing that old soap opera--"These are the days of our lives"--

"But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God--"

It's strange, but though that passage from 1 Timothy 3 often comes to my mind (like whenever I read the news or certain blogs or listservs), I almost always forget what comes next. Do you remember? It's this:

"--having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them."

Form of Godliness--or F.O.G--kills.

F.O.G. blinds you and Truth turns blurry. And when Truth gets wrapped in FO.G., you'll start heading toward any old foghorn you hear in the distance, even if it's one sounding from the enemy's camp.

F.O.G. confuses you because it's thick and dark and it messes up your sense of direction. And when you're lost, alone and confused, any voice is a welcomed one, even an evil voice when it's disguised.

F.O.G. hides the real face and the real heart of those who say they've come to pull you out of the greyness. And by the time they've pulled you along their path, you find you've been pulled in too deep to ever find your way back to the light of Truth again. You find yourself wondering if Truth ever existed in the first place.

F.O.G. can whip itself into just about any form you wish to see--it takes pride in always being ultra pliable and changeable. It criticizes Truth for being like a Rock--unmoveable.

F.O.G. is like the most subtle poisonous gas which gets sucked into your pores and lungs... You have to spend some time around it before it finally kills you. But during that time, you have no idea that your destruction is just around the next cold, grey corner.

Yes, F.O.G. kills. And that's why God more than gives His permission for us to stay out of it, even when He knows that insults and jeering and unfair accusations will be hurled at our backs as we step away.

He more than gives His permission--He commands us to have nothing to do with F.O.G., no matter what form it may show itself to us.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Peace On Earth


For me, Peace on Earth cannot be had unless it starts with Peace In My Home.

I watch people--that is what I do. I watch them and listen to them and read what they say. Always, even after years and years, I am amazed when people seek and fight to make the world a Garden of Eden, all the while allowing their own homes to go to tares and weeds and sorrow. Hiding crying children and lonely spouses in closets and corners...and not recognizing the disaster of that.

Seeds of peace are sown in our own homes and then gardens are created there and all gardens combine to form one large Garden which spreads from street to street and land to land.

The real, forever planting begins at home. And the planting can only be done with a gardener's heart, one which was first born of, and taught by, The Great Gardener.

And that is what I've been thinking about lately as I sit with Tom in our cozy little room on his days off and just love being with him. Just spending time with him, reading, watching movies and laughing together at what we see on the screen and making guesses aloud while we watch mysteries...and holding hands across the little table inbetween our chairs.

Not nagging him or trying to change him...just letting him Be who he wishes to Be. Sowing seeds of acceptance and reaping grand surprises.

All the while knowing, realizing, our home has become a greenhouse for seeds of peace. A place where God likes to hang-out in the cool of the evening. A place where He can get away from the arguments and strife He must deal with all day long. I see Him at the door looking almost a bit weary and I love to see Him, later, step away, refreshed by two hearts connected by peace.

Now,any good thing can grow here as long as Tom and I keep the peace. Anything sweet and good can start here and grow outward. We've been careful to tend our corner of The Great Garden...and who knows what will spread now from our garden plot? But whatever it is, it will be good. And the goodness will spread from our corner, outward, and the ripples will be like breezes rustling fields of flowers, weaving and scattering seeds abroad.

Monday, December 12, 2005

No Christmas Test Here!


The Christmas Test... I know women who give their husbands The Christmas Test every year and almost never have I heard of a husband actually passing it (the poor guys...).

Which Christmas Test? The one which starts with, "If you really, really love me, you will be able to figure out--on your own--what I really, really want for Christmas."

Oh my...

Why do women torture their husbands that way? And why do women even do that to themselves year after year,disappointing Christmas after disappointing Christmas?

If you are one of those women, I just have to ask, in the words of the O-So-Wise Sage--Dr. Phil, "How's that working for you?"

I guess I have an especially-sensitive compassion for men who must take The Christmas Test because my own brain came without the Good Gift Giver Gene. No, really. There's a blank space inside my brain right where that gene is supposed to be.

(Actually, I think there are lots of blank spaces in my brain, but that's a whole other post.)

The odds of my coming up with the perfect gift for my husband and my daughter are about 1 in 3,999,999. Finding the perfect gift for them (and often for friends, too) is enough to make my hole-splattered brain hurt and freeze and downright dread Christmas.

So what have Tom, Naomi and I done for years? We give each other nice, long, quite-detailed lists of what we would like. Lists from Amazon.... lists in emails... lists on little slips of paper. I have even been known to give Tom a coupon and a little map of the aisles of a store leading to just the right shelf where he would find just the right diary to match the title I'd written down for him. And hooray! He found the diary, used the coupon for ten dollars off, wrapped it up and put it under the tree. It was my favorite gift that year.

And, yes, there are still surprises this way. I never know for sure which items from my list Tom will choose to buy for me. I do try to list them according to what I want most and then second most, etc., and often he goes that route.

And I am always thrilled that I get just what I wanted! It certainly beats getting, instead, mad or sad or depressed all because my poor husband couldn't read my mind.

And then, too, Tom likes to buy me some little things I did not ask for.... and that's always a very hit-and-miss kind of activity. But since he also gets me things from my list, the 'misses' don't even matter. In fact, they are often comic-relief and our whole family (Tom included) has been known to laugh until we cry at some of those 'misses'. We even look forward to them.

Well, I just wanted to share this with you in case it might help. Tom and I haven't been married for 27 mostly-happy years without learning a few nifty, peace-giving tricks along the way.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Blog Legacy


I thought it was just me, but Kim at Coffee and a Muffin has noticed this, too...

What's happening with God blogs lately? It reminds me of this:

"If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other." ... Galations 5:15

It is scarey and naive to see ourselves through rose-colored glasses and see(examine) everyone else through a magnifying glass.

So I've begun thinking about the blog legacy I will leave someday... something like footprints in a jungle which others just might choose to follow after I am gone... and if anything can scare me into shaping up and acting right, that one thought certainly does.

If someday this blog is just sitting here with that quiet, ghost-town feeling, I pray that what I left behind will NOT read like this:

"There is only one way to teach or preach or run a church."

"God moves only in the old ways, never in the new."

"If I ran a church, I'd know exactly what to do and I'd never make the mistakes I've seen others make."

"There's only one style of music which should be played in church. (And only one way to pray or worship...and only one version of the Bible which should be read.)"

"I can't believe those people bought ______, when they should have spent their money on _______ like I would have."

"No, I have never read that book, but I know it must be trash."

"No, I've never listened to that evangelist, but my friend says he was wrong about _______, so he must be wrong about everything."

"My mind is made up about everything and I will never change it."

Heaven forbid that this would be my blog legacy! That would be more like a legacy path which might lead to this: "...the LORD hates... a man who stirs up dissension among brothers." ... Proverbs:6:16,19

Again, heaven forbid...

God help me that it would be this, instead:

"And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love." ... 1 Corinthians 13:13

***
"If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing." ... 1 Corinthians 13:2

Saturday, December 10, 2005

You, Too, Can Window Shop In New York


Ever wanted to go window shopping in New York City around Christmas time? Well, now you can, no matter where you may live!

Let's go together, ok? Just meet me here. Tap on a small window once, then step back, wait, and watch what happens in the large center window.

I'll meet you there!

***
A special thanks to Cindy of Maud-L for letting me know about this.

Friday, December 09, 2005

I Surrender All


I came in from shoveling snow this afternoon and, lo and behold on tv, Oprah was standing with Faith Hill and sharing a testimony. Twenty years ago she'd learned about surrendering--doing what you can and then surrendering what you wanted so badly, to God.

And then Faith Hill sang the old hymn, I Surrender All.

Then oh my... that amazing, life-giving, healing name of Jesus was broadcast into millions of homes as Faith Hill sang that song. "All to Jesus I surrender...make me, Jesus, wholly Thine... I will ever love and trust Him, in His presence daily live..."

And I closed my eyes and smiled and smiled and was blessed because I could see that this was 'one of those God things.' One of those incredible things only God could arrange and set-up--the broadcasting of His name throughout the land--everywhere where Oprah's show is aired.

And inside I laughed because here was a miracle before my eyes and yet I could just hear "the religious people" whining, blogging:

"Oh, but that's not an amazing thing at all!"
"I mean, Oprah is Oprah, you know. She doesn't believe like we do."
"And look what she believes about marriage! She's just living with Stedman, for goodness sake."
"And Faith Hill. She doesn't live like we think she should, either."
"And how much power was there involved? This song was not performed and sanctioned by the church, was not sung inside a church and was not sung by a woman of the church!"

And I just laughed because God is going to do what God is going to do! And He's not going to need our permission to do it, either. If He wants the name of Jesus sung on national and international television, then He's going to see that's it done on probably a show which will rile up the most straight-laced "religious folk" possible. ('Way to go, Lord!)

And all I know is that we'd better be on board with Him when He does whatever He does. All of it. Whether we understand it or not, (it will probably be 'not')...

Whatever God does and however He does it, I want to be watching in great anticipation, for I am so tired of hearing all about the pretty little boxes "the religious folk' have got God all wrapped up in... How He is only going to move one way and no other. I am ready to see Him burst out of those gaudy little boxes, crushing and stomping each one beneath His feet.

***

"...that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth..." ... Philippians 2:10

"It is by the name of Jesus Christ ...Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved." ...Acts 4:10,12

Alaska Outside My Window


...or at least, it looks like Alaska right now.

We are having an old-fashioned blizzard--swirling snow everywhere and howling winds against my dream room windows and that blue-grey tinge to the whole world out there. I was going shopping today, but instead, I'll be fortunate to change out of my robe and nightgown. When you live in snow country you have to be willing to change your plans. It helps if you listen to that still, small voice when it tells you to drive around and do your errands on a clear blue day...make hay while the sun shines...think and plan ahead.

I've already had my cinnamon and sugar toast and my pretend coffee while listening to Christmas carols and reading the best Christmas book ever made, the Good Old Days' Big Christmas Book (and here,too). Five-hundred-ninety-six pages of peoples' memories and photos of their favorite childhood Christmasses from the early 1900's. I'm not even a big fan of what the world calls Christmas, but I love this book. If yours is an old-fashioned soul, you might also love it.

Tom is home sleeping downstairs... he went in to work last night at midnight and came driving through all the blowing snow an hour ago. So he is safe and I am safe and our cats are safe upon my dream room bed. I pray that Naomi is safe in her little home across town, too.

I watched my much-loved Christmas movie, Prancer, this week and was surprised! Last year I wanted my own little cozy room upstairs like Jessica's, complete with a record player, slanted walls and snow blowing outside the window. I did not have a room like that last year--but I have one now.

And then I watched another Christmas movie, Hook, and remembered that, for more than ten years, I'd also wanted an upstairs' room like the childrens' English nursery, and this time, I even noticed their room was pink--guess which color I painted mine? A sub-conscious choice perhaps?

And Home Alone... When it first came out, we lived in a double-wide mobile home in the bleak Nevada Desert and I so wanted, instead, a lovely three-story house with a basement, even, all dressed in traditional decor like the McAllisters'. When the movie later came out on video we bought it and I watched it sometimes solely to memorize that house--to feel as though I was there--really, there, myself. Well, three years later I found myself living in a two-story house (with an unfinished attic on the second floor) and even with a basement below. A mini-mini-version of the McAllister house, but grand enough for me. And here I still am and when I re-watch Home Alone now, the decor of that house, though pretty traditional, appears a bit too 1980's for my taste. And amazingly, I prefer my own home to theirs.

What is the point of my rambling? Dreams take time to come about. But they do still happen, just maybe not exactly as we'd pictured them.

Dreams can be better than we'd imagined if we give them time and room and hope and lots of never giving-up. And often dreams break out of our imagination and into reality when on the oh-hum, regular, ordinary days, we place them in God's hands and let Him do whatever He wants to them. Even if it means, at first, we don't understand the ways He is tweaking them as we watch Him with questioning eyes and hands just itching to create something much more logical.

But God is big on trust. And He's worthy of any trust we may give Him when it comes to dreams. For He knows us better than we know ourselves and He knows what ten and twenty years from now--after changing and changing-we will love best.

No--really.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Early Christmas Gifts


I thought I would give you, my readers, some early Christmas gifts. Ones I don't have to wrap (hooray! Does anyone else think the inventor of the gift bag should be given a Pulitzer?) I appreciate all of you more than you know, so here is a small, small token of that appreciation. Here are some gifts for you online, something for everyone, I hope... And I am giving these early so that you can pass them along to other people you know online. The ripples created by giving are endless...

Wishing you all an early Merry Christmas and a Happy Hanukkah.....

For free bookmarks go here:

Mary Englebreit bookmarks (these can be printed-out full-size, but you didn't hear that from me, ok?)
Hundreds of Bookmarks
Printable Bookmarks

To watch free movies online go here:

Movie Flix

To listen, free, to old radio shows from the 1930's and 40's, go here:

Radio Lovers

To walk in and visit a beautiful cottage home, go here:

Becky's Cottage

For free Christmas gift tags and enclosures, go here:

Christmas Fun

For a fun online Advent calendar for kids of all ages, go here:

Tate's Advent Calendar

To have fun trying on clothes online (forget those depressing dressing rooms! This is more like the days of paper dolls--and you are the doll.)--go here:

Lands End (Click on My Virtual Model to get started.)

To receive a free issue of Good Old Days Magazine (no credit card required), go here:

Good Old Days Magazine (Scroll down to 'Send No Money Now' when subscribing.)

If you enjoy Victorian photography, go here:

Victorian and Edwardian Photography

To download free charts and lists to help keep you and your family organized, go here:

Digital Women

For lots of cool old black and white photos from life in the 1930's, go here:

The 1930's

For free dollhouse accessory printables, go here:

Dollhouse Printables

To find amazing pictures to copy and paste into your emails for friends, go here:

All Posters

If you are into the fairy scene, go here:

Wee Folk Studio
Cecily Mary Barker

If you would someday like to visit 'Mayberry', go here:

Mt. Airy NC

If you were a big fan of 'The Waltons,' go here:

The Waltons

If you like all things Victorian, go here:

Victorian Trading Co.

To read hundreds of classic books online, go here:

Page By Page Books

If you like vintage paper dolls, go here:

Betsy McCall
Dress the Digital Dolls (there's more than one page)

To receive a free issue of Reminisce Magazine (no credit card required), go here:

Reminisce Magazine (click on Bill Me Later when subscribing)

If you'd like to go window shopping in New York City, go here:

Window shopping
***

If you'd like to do something kind for fellow bloggers, leave comments at the blogs of those who almost never receive comments.

Add blogs to your blogroll...it's a compliment when you do so.

If a blogger's writing has meant something to you this year, let him/her know.

When What I Had Wasn't Enough


Sometimes I read through the journals I kept while Naomi was small, but there are some pages I dread rereading. Why? Because on those pages I wrote of wanting, no, of aching for more than I already had.

I was not content, even though I had so much.

I always put down these journals and remember farther back to the church service where I prayed with my whole heart for a child. I was having that enormous, Rachel-like "Oh God, give me children, or I shall die!" ache, yet I'd been unable to conceive. Amazingly, within one month after that heart cry, I did conceive.

And for awhile, Naomi was more than enough. But then later, I wanted another child and that did not happen, no matter how many heart cries and pleadings I flung toward God.

So then my heart started aching for other things. Money was one. God moved us to Nevada and gave us more money than our little family needed. I experienced what many people never get to--how having a purse full of money when I went shopping did not take away an inherent loneliness. My 'wealthy' Nevada Years were the most depressing years of my entire life.

So then my heart began aching for friends. The Nevada desert felt more like a friendship desert, so I wrote in to Women's Household Magazine for pen pals. And for awhile this flood of friends inside my mailbox was enough.

But that was during the 1980's when a career was everything and if you were a woman without a career you were Nothing (with a capital N). Moms returned to school or the workforce and magazines told me I had better go, too, or I'd always be Nothing. (For a better idea of the propaganda we were fed, check out Mel's post at Actual Unretouched Photo.) For awhile I tried to convince myself I, too, would be happy and fulfilled if, like everyone else, I got a career. But I never did. Instead, I just sat at home and felt sorry for my unappreciated, Nothing self.

I had so much..... a terrific husband and daughter and a home and cats and a garden and a church and a few good friends. But always, they were enough for just a little while. And always, I'd end up wanting something else after that little while had passed.

And only years later did I discover what God was doing.

He was letting me find out for myself that all the stuff on this Earth, all the things and people and relationships and houses and careers and friendships and appreciation and fame and pets--each of them are only temporarily satisfying. Each of them bring just a timed contentment and the contentment they derive is always running out of time, like sand in an egg timer.

I had to find out for myself that only God is enormous enough for my enormous needs. Only my friendship with Him is Enough (with a capital E).

Only my relationship with Him comes with Timeless Contentment...like sand in a giant egg timer whose top is so tall, it touches the skies.

***
"Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, 'Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.'" ... Hebrews 13:5

"But godliness with contentment is great gain." I Timothy 6:6

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Merry Christmas!


I've been as concerned as many of you at how a minority are trying to not only take Christ out of Christmas, but Christmas out of Christmas, too!

Good grief.

I was going to (also like many of you) post about this, but I found another post which says it better than I can. You can find it here over at Berrymom's blog, The Sojourner's Journey. I found this post to be an inspiring wake-up call.

I don't know, but isn't this a form of terrorism? I mean, trying to make the majority of us afraid to live our lives as we have lived them before? To make us fear saying/singing/displaying the two little words, "Merry Christmas"?

Or from a different angle, isn't it rather like trying to turn our nation into something like an ice cream shop where only vanilla is served, whereas years ago we were more like Baskin Robbins with its 31 (or more) flavors? Where there is no variety offered and accepted, there is no real freedom offered or accepted, either.

I mean, if someone wished me a happy Hanukkah, I would simply wish them a happy Hanukkah back. If someone else wished me a happy Kwanzaa, I'd wish them back a happy Kwanzaa. WHERE IS THE PROBLEM? I just don't see it.

In an earlier post I said too often our God is tiny. In this instance, I believe our hearts are too tiny.

Well, don't get me started...

I hope you'll zip over to Berrymom's blog and until my next post, let me just do my part and say,
"Merry Christmas!"
"Merry Christmas!"
"Merry Christmas!"


***
And a very special thanks to Berrymom for her post.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Got Grace?


Eleven months out of each year for the last few years, I've tried to do only things which God was giving me Grace to do. I've written about my days with Grace before here and here.

Letting Grace lead me around to help me, teach me and strengthen me has totally changed my whole, entire life, even though I am still living in the same ol' house in the same ol' town and with the same ol' husband that I lived with in my days before Grace. They are all the same, yet the way I treat them and look at them is vastly different.

So anyway, like I said, eleven months out of each year I've gotten pretty good at cooperating with Grace and going only where she goes and doing only what she whispers to me that she will help me do. She brings a flow to my days, a type of ease, a rhythm--all of which were once as foreign to me as Timbukto.

And then comes December.

Yes, the Christmas month arrives and immediately I return to the old ways. The old habits of over-doing, over-spending and over-analyzing. Where I spent eleven months trying not to live like everyone else around me, suddenly I'm trying to be just like them once again. And then also once again, everything feels like a struggle, as though I'm walking against hurricane-force winds--trying so hard to step forward, but mostly just falling and twisting and slipping behind.

Well, this Christmas month is going to be different. No, I mean it this time.

I am not going to stuff and roll Grace somewhere beneath the Christmas tree. I am not going to celebrate Christmas the way everybody else in this stressed-out world does. And I am not going to allow myself to feel hurried or harried or worried or frustrated, either.

No, instead, this December, I'm going to hand over the controls to Grace. I'm going to send Christmas cards only to those people she tells me to send them to and I'll give gifts only to those people Grace points to. I'll go shopping, buy decorations, mail packages, eat desserts, and watch Christmas movies only when Grace nudges me.

Well, that's my goal, anyway.

It's time that I let Grace guide me even in December. Her wisdom is indispensable the other 11 months.

I think she just might be up to helping me through the Christmas month, too.

***

"And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was upon him." Luke 2:40

"From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another." John 1:16

Friday, December 02, 2005

The Tiny God In Blogland


Ever written a post which you know is going to cause some flak? Well, this is one of those posts. But oh well.

I love to surf Blogland, but sometimes I'm not even sure why. I mean, most days, the God in Blogland appears positively tiny! And then I come away grieved--especially when in my own blog, I have made Him small, too.

How do you know when you've seen a tiny God?

You've seen a tiny God in Blogland when we question the accuracy of the Bible instead of questioning our own understanding of it.

You've seen a tiny God when we accuse God of what satan is actually doing.

You've seen a tiny God when we think our own plans and dreams for ourselves are better, more exciting than God's plans for us.

You've seen a tiny God when we think our lives are boring when in reality, it's our own attitude about our life which is boring.

You've seen a tiny God when we're living in a rut and we believe God is the one who plopped us down inside that rut.

You've seen a tiny God when we live with a sense of fear and lots of worry every day of our lives.

You've seen a tiny God when we whine about the way things are, yet we sit, feeling helpless to change what is wrong because we're relying only on ourselves.

You've seen a tiny God when you believe He acts like the people who do not know Him.

You've seen a tiny God when we scatter like chickens looking for a thing, a dream, a person, a friendship, a meal or an event to fulfill a desire only God, Himself, can fulfill.

For myself, I'm tired of living with my own tiny God. I am ready to give Him lots more room in my every day life. Then, when I get to Heaven, maybe I won't be so shocked at how big He really was after all.

***

"Oh magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt His name together (let us hold Him in greater esteem or respect)." ... Psalm 34:3

Angels On a Rainy Night


"Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it." ... Hebrews 13:2

I was 16. My family was gathered around the dinner table one rainy Wednesday night along with our pastor and his wife--at that time, my dad was the assistant pastor of our church. The phone rang toward the end of our meal, so my dad answered it (this was before answering machines) to find that a woman was calling from a damp phone booth in a nearby shopping center(this was also before malls were commonplace). She sounded anxious as she told my dad she and her young daughter were traveling to go live with her (the mother's) father. She'd thought they'd reach his home by nightfall yet still they had miles to go-- she needed a place to stay overnight, and she had no money.

My dad asked her to hold for a minute, then he turned to all of us and told us this woman's story. Our pastor said, "Oh, you can call Brother ______ about it. I usually let him take care of things like that."

That sounded odd to me. Shouldn't we help this woman since she called us? (Living in the parsonage, we shared the church's phone number.) Wouldn't it take a long time to get her some help if she had to make another call and start all over with someone who lived farther from the shopping center than we did?

My dad must have thought that, too, because he told our pastor he would drive over to the shopping center and lead her back to our house. He turned back to the phone, relayed the message to the woman in the phone booth, and hung up. We were finished with dinner anyway and our pastor and his wife needed to walk up the hill to our church to prepare for the mid-week service. So they left, my dad left to guide the woman to our house, and my mom, sister and brother and I hurriedly cleared the table and changed the sheets on the double bed in my room upstairs which always doubled as the guest room.

We kids loved to have company. It didn't matter whether our guests were relatives, old friends, or the down-and-out people my dad sometimes brought home from Life's harsh highways. In fact, I loved caring for the down-and-outers best--I loved that we could provide a comfortable place for them, if just for one night. To help them, to encourage them, with no strings attached, well, it just did something to my heart each time--made my heart feel as though it would explode from joy.

To shorten this story, the woman and her 7-year-old daughter arrived and we showed them my room upstairs where they'd be staying. They both appeared grateful, commented on my teen decor, then they settled-in while the rest of us walked downstairs. We'd all planned to go to the midweek service that night, but after some discussion, it was decided that I would remain at the house in case our guests needed anything (back then, we weren't as paranoid about strangers as we all are now). So the rest of my family walked up our backyard hill to the church and I settled down with a book in our living room.

Fifteen minutes passed then the woman and her daughter came down the stairs with their big suitcase. The mother said, with smiles, "My daughter really wants to go see her grandfather tonight instead of in the morning. So we're going to go now, but we do want to thank you so much for being willing to have us stay with you. We really appreciate it so much and please do tell your parents how grateful we are."

She gently shook my hand, picked up her suitcase and then both walked out the front door.

I was surprised at this turn of events and I just stood near the door wondering if it would be ok with my parents that I let these guests get away so soon without convincing them to stay.

And then it hit me--after they'd left, I'd heard no car motor start up. Their car had been parked in front of our house, yet I'd seen no headlights. My heart began to pound as I stepped to the window, pulled back the curtain and saw nothing out on the dark, wet street.

To this day thirty years later, I still believe what I told my family when they got home after church-- we had entertained angels unaware. And my story must have sounded convincing, because they all still believe it, too.

Each of us will never know.... we'll never really know until we reach heaven, perhaps, just how many angels crossed our path to test what we had learned and what we had become...

.. and yet if we cooperate with God in the little annoying trials of Every Day, we will always be willing and prepared for any angels who may call.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

The Tragedy of Noise


For years people have told me that hearing God's still, small voice inside them is nearly impossible.

I'm not surprised.

Have you ever thought about how noisy our lives are? We have tv, movies, cell phones, radios, music videos and music blaring inside our cars, supermarkets, elevators, department stores and shopping malls. There are car noises and bus noises and plane and train noises, too. There are people talking and walking and kids crying and whining and people and friends and spouses and bosses and tv commercials(and even books) telling us what we should do and when we should do it and what we should think. And there are mp3's and online radio while we surf the net or read our email or blogs or shop online. There are leaf blowers and lawn mowers and ambulance sirens and beeping, beepings, beepings of fast-food kitchens and check-stand machines and trucks backing up.

And that still, small voice gets drowned out.

Not exactly shocking news.

We need quiet. We need to hear from God where He wants us to take Him so that we will be in the right place at the right time to say what He wants to say through us.

He doesn't want us to live our lives off the top of our head or even as we see best. Instead, He planned before we were born to use us in specific, powerful ways. He planned to love others through us, using our hands and eyes and voice. And He wants to tell us exactly how to carry out this custom-made plan during the minutes of our days.

How necessary, then, it becomes to listen to Him in the quiet places. How necessary it becomes to strip back and hush and silence whatever noise threatens to drown Him out.

Some noises are unavoidable. Some are not. I am on a journey to come to know the difference. I am learning to crave the silence, especially during this crazy month of Christmas.

I don't want to miss one custom-made, God-planned detail.

***
"He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters..." ... Psalm 23:2

"My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me..." ... John 10:27

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Walking The Blog Neighborhood


I took a walk in the rain this morning with my wooden-handled umbrella--it's harder to be whisked back in time with a plastic-handled one. I raised the umbrella a bit so I could see the houses in my favorite quiet neighborhoods, the ones where I gain so much creative inspiration. I saw the Blue Door House--the one which inspired me to paint my own back door blue. I also walked past the three houses which inspired me to use wicker furniture on my front porch because it looked much more friendly than our wrought-iron stuff.

There are five houses which stand high and alone upon one short street. There are no homes across from them, just a green field and the back of an ancient three-story brick school. Just five old houses all alone, quiet on this little half-block. There must be some sort of time warp wall at the corner there--always I feel transported to the 1930's when I step upon the sidewalk in front of those silent houses.

I take a lot of inspiration and dreams and wishes from all the early-1900's houses I pass on my walks. I often go home and dive into my old homemaking books and magazines to continue my feeling of backward time travel just a few moments longer. Usually, it works. It kind of reminds me of what Christopher Reed did in Somewhere in Time, and maybe that's why I'm always flinging away my new stuff and replacing it with old.

It's funny that all the people who live in those big old, sturdy homes have no idea how they inspire me and turn my normal days into something remarkable. Most will never know how much I carry away in my thoughts from their houses and yards or how, on winter days of blizzards when I'm caught inside, I still walk past their houses, only in my mind, instead.

And while out on my walk this morning I thought about this blog and how it, too, was in a sort of neighborhood. One in which people walk its sidewalks all day long, taking whatever inspiration they may need and using it in a myriad of different ways when they arrive back home. Some people stop by and knock and tell me what they are carrying away, and that always blesses me, of course. But even when they do, still I will never see the exact results from their using what I gave them.

That's not what is important. What matters is that my house, my blog, stands here, ready, to give away something of value for anyone passing by on rainy days or ones of full sun.

***
"From that house there has come so much life that it ought never to die or fall into ruin..." ... Pearl S. Buck

Monday, November 28, 2005

Worry


"But make up your mind not to worry beforehand how you will defend yourselves." Luke 21:14

I keep my old diaries in a little cupboard of an antique, peeling dresser. I got out a couple of those diaries yesterday and read entries, here and there, and frowned a bit, too. My main thought? "Man, I used to worry a lot! It's all over these pages."

And then I thought of the above verse, though with variations. These past few years I've had to make up my mind not to worry beforehand about tons of stuff. I finally realized I couldn't just wait for the worry to go away-- I had to stay determined not to worry.

And so now, that verse, for me, reads like this:

"...make up your mind not to worry beforehand about the crazy Christmas month (otherwise known as December)..."

"...make up your mind not to worry beforehand about Tom's arm which he hurt a week ago and again two days ago..."

"...make up your mind not to worry beforehand about how Naomi will continue to support herself out on her own in this big, expensive world..."

"...make up your mind not to worry beforehand about driving in snow, terrorists, my soldier nephew, bills, slipping on the ice, our aging parents, our diabetic cat, my weight, moving to a different state, other peoples' choices, my blog stats, politics, the end of the world..."

Life is too short for all that... Besides, how does it make God look if I say I know Him, yet I'm a trembling, card-carrying worrier?

I think we tend to wait for things to drop from the sky, like, a sudden ability to stop worrying, among other things. But not much comes that way. Freedom comes from making up our mind not to worry, but to trust, instead. It comes by getting to know God for ourselves--getting to know the joy which comes from hanging-out in His presence... getting to know His endless, passionate love for each of us, personally... and coming to know, for ourselves, that He never falls out of love with us...

...and as the love and joy grow, so does the trust, and the worry becomes just words in a long ago diary you pull out on a snowy Sunday afternoon.

***
"You have made known to me the paths of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence." ... Acts 2:28

"Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?" ... Matthew 6:17

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Of Thanksgiving and Anniversaries...


I awoke on Thanksgiving morning and looked up at my ceiling which lit up and became like a movie screen. Upon this screen I could see an outline of the East Coast and thousands and thousands of lighted kitchens in thousands and thousands of homes. I could see women in aprons placing turkeys into ovens. And in each kitchen there was light and warmth and baking scents and a daring anticipation (one I wish we had daily).

What a lovely vision to awaken to on Thanksgiving morning.

***

Yesterday was Tom's and my 27th anniversary, which still feels odd because half the time I feel I am only 27 years old. Well, in body, but in mind I feel older because I feel wiser than I did back then--wiser and happier and a million times more peaceful. It's not popular to say this, but I love this getting older stuff.

So anyway, Tom and I did not exchange cards or gifts yesterday... can you believe that? Instead,Tom was able to take 12 days off from work prior to our anniversary and we spent those days together in our new little room watching movies and tv series on DVDs. Ok, that probably sounds incredibly dull, but you know? For us, it was marvelous. There was a grace upon us to spend our vacation that way and grace always brings a serene kind of contentment.

I love having a marriage history. I love that we have ironed-out many things which used to make us scream like children. I love that we finally got wise and learned to let each other be unique and have some space...

... and to stop with the pressure to do things like everyone else does them. Like with anniversaries--who says we MUST travel to Europe or take a cruise? Who says we MUST buy cards and gifts? Who says we MUST put that pressure upon ourselves? As long as both of us are fine with no cards and gifts and no Europe, then it's perfectly ok for us to skip them.

A marriage history... it's like writing a book each year of what you have learned both to do and not to do. Memorizing its pages and gleaning wisdom from them...

... and gleaning peace, too... blessed, blessed peace.

Friday, November 25, 2005

The Balance in Life


"Excess is the devil's playground." ... copied


*****

For some years, I hated the thought of having balance in life. I believed one should have passion in all areas and any talk about balance was an excuse for wimpy, mediocre people who didn't care if they were forgotten after they died.

Oh brother.

Now, years later, I love balance. I seek it, crave it and try to walk with it on that great tightrope called Life.

I could give some lengthy explanation of just why that's so, but I'll give examples of what I mean, instead.

Eating healthy food is a wonderful idea, but eating too much healthy food will still make me fat.

Getting enough rest is vital to my well-being, but laying around like a slug 24/7 could eventually kill me.

Exercise is necessary to stay healthy, but too much exercise could not only lead to injuries, but to an unhealthy obsession and a whole list of physical/mental/emotional dangers.

Caring for others--as a doctor or pastor or missionary or volunteer--is terrific, but a frenzied, always-on-call lifestyle can lead to breakdowns, illness or even early death (and how many people can you help when you're dead?).

Caring for one's own children is holy and right, but when done to the point of neglecting one's spouse, can lead to discord, divorce and myriad emotional problems in the children and all involved.

There is cleaning a house all the time and there'a letting it go and living in clutter and frustration. There's being obsessed with working and making money or hating to work and making no money. And there is balance.

Putting God first is a holy thing, but when taken to extremes (and not led by God's own wisdom) can lead to destruction of families with far-reaching emotional damages and basically, can crank out yet more 'Christian flakes' of whom it can be said, "They were too heavenly-minded to be any earthly good."

And well, the list goes on.

Passion is marvelous, but only when led by wisdom,balance and God's ways. His ideas lead us to our best life, the one He meant us to have and even if we had 7 or 8 lifetimes we could never come up with a better plan. Never. It's only pride which ever tries.




***


"Be well balanced for that enemy of yours, the devil, roams around like a lion seeking someone to seize upon and devour." ... I Peter 5:7

Letting go helps us to to live in a more peaceful state of mind and helps restore our balance. It allows others to be responsible for themselves and for us to take our hands off situations that do not belong to us. This frees us from unnecessary stress.


Too much of a good thing is a good thing no longer.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Thanksgiving...


This Thanksgiving I am thankful that Tom does not have to work on Thanksgiving Day (as he's had to many, many years past)... I am thankful for my husband and daughter and all our friends and family...

... I'm thankful that I can afford to feed the sparrows, cardinals and finches in our backyard every day...

... I am thankful that our town is not buried in snow right now, just powdered with it...

... I am thankful for this blog which allows me to share how I feel with so many of you... I am thankful for you who read my feelings...

...I am thankful for the way the sun shines through my windows and makes our furniture and knick-knacks look nicer than they really are... I'm thankful for the geese which fly, honking, over my rooftop...

...I am thankful for email which enables me to keep in contact with friends whose houses I used to live near...

...I am thankful for my job, that of being a homemaker... I'm thankful I live in the United States...

...I am thankful for shelves and shelves of old-fashioned books behind glass...

...I am thankful that God did not give up on me during my Incredibly Stubborn Years... I'm thankful I'm no longer in my 20's or 30's...

...Basically, I am just plain thankful for every new day which God gives me to walk beside Him...

Monday, November 21, 2005

"That's Just The Way I Am"


Oh my... You will never hear me say the words, "That's just the way I am."

But I used to say them all the time. I was even a little proud to say them.

God would come along and say (through the Bible, people, books, songs, Life situations and my heart), "I can free you from that depression, you know."

And I would reply, "Oh, that's just the way I am."

Other times He'd say, "If you'll listen to Me, I can free you from the way you tend to bite Tom's head off and worry about Naomi."

And yes, I'd say, "But that's the way I've always been. You can't change that, can you?"

He'd try over and over... "I can help you not complain so much.... or be offended at church people... or think things must always go your way or else they're wrong."

Yeah, again... "But Lord, that's just the way I am."

But now, oh my.... I'd almost rather die than say, "That's just the way I am."

It took me 30 years (I am so slow sometimes) to discover that "That's just the way I am," is like smacking a helping hand...

...it's like slamming a door...

...not believing in miracles or truth...

...labeling myself as unchangeable...

...pressing my fingers, hard, against God's mouth...hushing Him...

...telling Him, "You can't help me!"...

...and giving-up and going back home to darkness.

It's like blacking-out and burning this Bible promise, "He whom the Son has set free is free, indeed."

Free indeed... The inside, outside, upside-down kind of freedom.

Free indeed... It exists. It is real.

And for me, it began when I stopped saying and stopped believing, "That's just the way I am."

***
"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!" ... II Corinthians 5:17