Sunday, July 31, 2005
You probably didn't know I go to Homemaking College.
Well, I do.
Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday afternoon. Or sometimes Tuesdays and Thursdays. Class times are up to me and can be held according to my own schedule.
That's the kind of freedom I have at Homemaking College.
The college is located in a really cool part of town. It's in my dream room.
We study from books which are never dull. Currently we're reading Mary Jane's Ideabook, Cookbook and Lifebook. It's a winner with the whole class, one of the best books from which we've ever studied. Someday I will live in the country and this book will help me be prepared for that.
We're learning 1940's-style decorating, too. We get to watch films in this class and are currently taking notes from the old Blondie and Dagwood movies. Our final exam will be to, on paper and in real-life, design and furnish a two-story home with a modern 1940's look.
I plan on getting an A on that final.
Another current text book is Laurie Colwin's Home Cooking. It's full of cooking stories from Laurie's early life and recipes, too. Cooking finals aren't my favorite, but they're good for me to complete anyway and they're fun to share with my husband.
We've covered all sorts of other things... childcare, classic adult and juvenile literature, gardening, economics, graphic design, nutrition, time management and creative writing. For the record, I am majoring in decorating and minoring in homecare and home organization. But in case that's not your thing, I won't bore you with more details.
Homemaking College isn't for everyone. The entrance requirements are stiff.
You have to be creative.
You have to be self-motivated.
You have to be disciplined.
You can't be all concerned with degrees you can hold in your hand. You can't be in love with money.
You must have an imagination.
And nowadays, you must have guts, too. You must believe in what you're doing so that you're not swayed by the crowds who lie and tell you that you are trapped or stupid or lazy.
You have to be brave.
Like I said... the requirements are stiff.
Not many people make it in.
Even fewer people see it through to graduation.
Saturday, July 30, 2005
It's probably My Way when I find myself buying groceries during the peakiest, most busy hour of the afternoon...
...it was probably My Way when I watched TV instead of doing the laundry and my husband had no clean shirts for work...
... or I was sitting in my car in the middle of a traffic jam...
... or my books were overdue at the library and I had to pay fines at the movie rental place...
... or when words came spewing from my mouth and now my friend is no longer speaking to me... or when she needed me and I wasn't there...
... and when I ate sugar and caffeine all those weeks to keep me awake while doing that project I never should have been doing in the first place...
But it's probably His Way when I turned my face toward His and listened...
... and I found myself at the supermarket during a quiet morning before the crowds...
... or when I took the back roads and sailed along in peaceful traffic...
... or the times I returned what I'd borrowed and no fines were due...
... or when I was patient with my friend's idiosyncrasies... and I was there when she called, needing a friend...
... or when I ate right and slept well because I followed my heart and not the tyranny of the oughts and shoulds...
God's Ways do not stress me out... but My Ways do.
God's Ways do not overwhelm and overtax and over-anything else me. His Ways are all-wise and they bring health and peace and take me to the right places at the right time. They lead me to do what needs to be done today and to leave what can be done tomorrow--and to never mix them up. He knows the surprises and interruptions of tomorrow so He's able to get me prepared for them today.
But to follow His Ways I must forsake mine... I must stop thinking My Ways make better sense and will achieve better results.
I do not want to figure things out or glory in the ability of my mind. Many people do, but not me.
I want to glory in Him, His thoughts and in His Ways. In increasing humility, I want Him to lead me in even the smallest of details. I want His wisdom, not mine, because His wisdom takes me to incredible places.
"If you are pleased with me, teach me your ways so I may know you and continue to find favor with you." ... Exodus 33:13
"He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is He." ... Deuteronomy 32:4
Friday, July 29, 2005
Currently, this world runs in Fast-Forward Time.
Rush, rush, rush, get that parking space at all costs--the one nearest the doors of the mall, so that you can hurry in and hurry out. Find the shortest check-out line in the supermarket... speed through that yellow traffic light... take the nondescript, walled-in freeway--it's so much faster...call ahead for Chinese so you won't have to sit there with your spouse and wait in the quiet...
Hurry, hurry, hurry, even at home... Quickly unload the car and put the groceries away... hurry and do your homework... only time for a shower, never a bath or a song or a story... answer the phone and the door and hurry and eat dinner so we can get going again.
The world is in Fast-Forward, but I am in Play.
I am still walking and noticing how the people in that lovely old Craftsman house repainted their porch and hung an airy green fern... and our neighborhood children have grown two-inches taller...
...still reading for fun in afternoons while summer hums... and taking strolls... and remembering when we had picnics at the lake with the church and with ourselves...
still stopping for coffee at the supermarket and smiling while guessing peoples' stories... still dreaming every chance I get so the dreams won't get lost...
...still listening to God-whispered secrets...
... and I'm still clipping flowers--one perfect bloom by one perfect bloom--in our yard for bouquets on our dining room table... and feeding seed to the morning birds and watching them eat the last of the raspberries in the patch...
Sometimes I find myself in Fast-Forward and you may not understand, but it horrifies me... and I slow down. I slip back into Play and Life is good again.
I choose Play because I choose Peace.
Wednesday, July 27, 2005
Oh my... We are having rain today... glorious wet, cold rain. And for the first time in weeks, the main part of our house feels cool. I cannot celebrate enough. I have tried and I cannot feel grateful enough for this reprieve we have been granted. I spent time reading on our porch. I drank coffee out there and reveled in those 65 damp degrees--and still I could not celebrate enough.
But anyway.... All morning and now into the afternoon, my house has had that Barnes and Noble Feeling. Classical music is playing....Oh, not the kind where a violin plays the same three notes over and over until you find yourself contemplating suicide. No, the good kind of classical music that makes you feel as though your home is filled with lovely, expensive things when in reality, it's not.
And more..... the lamps are switched on because of the darkness outside, lights shining down upon the woods of the tables I polished earlier... all the windows are open , welcoming an I'd-forgotten-what-a-cool-breeze-felt-like breeze.... and the scent of coffee is everywhere as well as my collections of books.
Earlier I swept the floors, washed the dishes and even washed a few cat nose prints from the windows. Everything is shiney and glowing.
Oh my... I love caring for my nest and my family and making them comfortable and giving them a cozy, clean place in which to grow and learn and relax. I've tried to be apologetic about being an old-fashioned happy homemaker, but I cannot apologize for enjoying working with my hands to make a lovely, comforting home. I just cannot jump on the band wagon with women who proclaim that housework is demeaning and demoralizing.
The Bible tells us to serve one another in love and I believe true servanthood begins in our homes. Who are the greatest people in God's kingdom? Jesus said they are those with servants' hearts. Maybe if we could all begin humbly serving our families, we could then branch out and successfully serve and change this hurting world as Jesus, Himself, did.
Gotta run back upstairs for more of that Barnes and Noble Feeling... Tom will be home soon and I'd like to make some homemade cherry soy ice cream for him in the electric ice cream maker Naomi gave us for Christmas. Yes, I said soy ice cream... Don't knock it till you've tried it.
Iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another. Proverbs 27:17
What do I mean by secret marathon runners? People who are easily and not-so-easily offended.
For some, it's the natural thing to run away from people who hurt their feelings... from that thing which exposes an inner lacking of anything from intelligence to love to patience. For others, the natural thing is to run forward and attack, in retaliation, anyone who has caused an emotional injury.
Being offended usually in some way involves running to escape the pain of wounded pride. Running and/or lashing out. There is such a thing as running to win and then there's also running away while scared and hurt. Here, I am speaking of the latter.
Not until rather recently did I stop the running and, instead, face the knives, the iron, of offense. There came a time for me to stop doing what comes naturally and instead, start doing what can only come supernaturally. And isn't that what being a Christian is mostly about? Shouldn't we be examples of transformed lives, lives lived with a supernatural grace which frees us from just reacting naturally as anyone else would?
To become changed I had to learn to stand still in the face of offense. To let it sharpen me instead of wounding me. I had to let God hold me still, close to His heart, long enough for me to stop and look the offense straight in the eye and ask, "Could there be some truth in what was said? Was I guilty of what I'd been accused of? Did I do something to cause that person to speak that way to me?"
Only when I stopped running.... only when I stopped lashing out defensively did I begin to grow.
I began to see that very often, yes, I had spoken too rashly or without understanding or compassion. And yes, I needed to change my tone and my quickness with words and thinking I had the answers for everyone's problems. And then in the stillness, God was able to show me a whole lot of 'whys': Why my mouth often got me in trouble... why I was insecure ... and why my insecurities were driving people away.
Those were all things I never saw while I was on the run... I had to stop and face the fact I was doing things which were keeping Jesus from shining through me. He wanted to draw all men unto Him through me, but He couldn't as long as I was running away from them or lashing out at them. Too many mixed messages.... too much mixture of both me and Him was like adding a bunch of stale water to a perfect bottle of wine... was causing too much confusion in others (and leaving a really flat taste in their mouths).
There are verses which say something like, Stand still and behold the glory of God. Like many verses, that one has many layers of meaning. In this case, it meant my freedom.
"Love (God's love in us) does not insist on its own rights or its own way, for it is not self-seeking; it is not touchy or fretful or resentful; it takes no account of the evil done to it [it pays no attention to a suffered wrong]." I Corinthians 13:5
Tuesday, July 26, 2005
I was extremely blessed by reading this post, Truth and Blogging, over at Under the Acacias. It put into words what I've been feeling this past week. A special thanks to Mr. Standfast for recommending it.
This might be controversial (hey, we all have to step out and be bold sometimes), but on Sunday I was Blog Exploding and found myself inside some both familiar and unfamiiar Christian blogs. Much of it disturbed me because many of the posts were written complaining about celebrities and evangelists and churches. And the resulting comments went on and on in agreeing complaints, almost as though the commenters were having a good ol' time standing in a circle and throwing stones.
I wasn't quite sure why this all bothered me until it hit me... Isn't that something like gossip? Aren't we as Christians supposed to stay away from that? Aren't we supposed to say what Jesus would say if He was here?
And then this weird picture come to my mind... I could see Jesus sitting on the right hand of God in Heaven, leaning over to Him and saying, "You know, Father... ______ has all this television time and all she ever talks about is herself. I can't see what anyone sees in her. People say she does good things for others, but I just don't see it.
"And ________! Man, I would not do what he is doing if I was preaching on tv. I don't believe what he believes about _____ --he must be off-base in all areas and not worth watching.
"And that church! They can't seem to do anything right. They should listen to the congregation's complaints more and then everything would be better."
And on and on....
And the more I meditated about how much Jesus passionately loves each and everyone of those people-- Christian and otherwise-- how He died for each one... how He is pulling for and praying for each one, well, the more ridiculous that picture in my mind became.
Isn't it time we pulled for and prayed for each other so much that we ran out of both the time and the desire to blog about others' mistakes? Shouldn't we be asking God to shine His spotlight down upon our own imperfect heart first?
"We dislike in others what we dislike about ourselves." ... Joyce Meyer
"He who guards his mouth and his tongue keeps himself from calamity." ... Proverbs 21:23
Monday, July 25, 2005
... to my blog!
One year ago today, I began this blog with a post entitled, The Marys Of This World.
Hmmm... My theme has hardly changed in all these months. I have a feeling no matter how much I branch out and speak of other things, I will always return to this theme of quiet listening time with Jesus. I can't help but return to what changes me from day to day and gives me life.
One year ago I did not know most of you who read this blog. One year ago I didn't go around thinking, "Hmm... I should blog about that to my readers." I didn't walk around with you always on my mind. How much richer I am this year because of your friendship and words of encouragement and just by your being who you are.
I do thank you... and I do look forward to another amazing year with all of you here!
Eleven years ago our church experienced an invasion of the presence of God. Invasion is the correct word, because He invaded our same ol', same ol' traditional way of playing church and He gave us something a million times better.
He gave us His Presence. And suddenly I felt as though if I didn't kneel down, I would fall down. So I knelt, along with others around me, and that's when the liquid love poured down upon me. Oh my, the love poured down and I felt love for everyone in that room--even for those I'd barely liked before--and for all people I had ever known.
An hour later I got up, swaggered a bit... And that was the night God followed me home from church. And He has lived here ever since.
When God lives in your house, everything changes. Usually He starts by changing you, yourself. You can't get over the fact that He walks from room to room with you. It amazes you that He's staying this long... it amazes you that He desires to be with you--you!-- every minute, whether night or day. You are shocked that He loves you that way. And when you know you are loved, you can do and be just about anything He wants you to do and be.
When God's in your house, you can't get away with what you used to. But then, you don't want to. You want to live better and be better.
His presence... It was His presence that changed me. After being in the same room with Him you can't help but open the door and walk out changed. He brings great love and great light--and the light uncovers your heart's ugly junk. You are horrified to see it exposed.
But then--wonder of wonders-- the Light cleanses and heals your heart.
And your house shines from the inside-out... and the Light follows you wherever you go, making your city appear different. People look different and so do you.
It was the Presence of God which softened my stoney-Christian heart so that it could be further molded and changed by His hands however He chose to mold it on down through the years. His Light is like supernatural fire--it even melted the brick wall I'd built to keep Truth and other people outside.
And since God followed me home from church that night, everything has remained in a constant state of change. His presence always brings change, usually before I understand what God is doing and how and why He is doing it. Life is inside-out and upside-down and seldom logical with His Presence--and all these years later He is still living here...
...He and His Light which uncovers, sears, and then heals.... He and His Presence which wakes me in the mornings and lies down with me at night. He and His Presence which, now, I could never live without for even half a minute.
"He places the cry in your heart, and He draws you--from beginning to end, it's all of Him." ... Bob Sorge
Sunday, July 24, 2005
I am still reading, still savoring the book, I Go By Sea, I Go By Land. Here is what I read this morning:
"Thirteen seems a very difficult age... Life seems to be running past you and you can't catch it... and you feel happy one day and miserable the next and like people and don't like them all in one breath and Nobody Understands You."
I read that and thought, "Gee, some of us are thirteen for such a long, long time."
I know I was. Happy one day, miserable the next, liking people then not liking them and believing no one understood me. Yep, I spent probably twenty years being thirteen.
Oh, the misery of living like that. The seldom controlling my emotions and believing self-control was for everyone else. Believing everyone else was the one with the problem. And never growing-up or growing beyond my changeable feelings.
Childishness--that's what it was. And I did not begin to grow up until I gained control of my own emotions. Until I slipped out of the leash they had around my neck.
Child-likeness, though, is different. I think I am now growing-up child-like... with wonder and curiosity and appreciation of art and music and nature.... and wanting my life to be so full of those things, that even the corners are flooded and not empty. Or maybe not even have any corners at all--just a circle of love and peace and joy.
Child-likeness is everything that's good about being a child. Childishness is everything that's bad or lacking or mis-directed.
And I had to lose the childishness before I could grow-up happy and child-like. Childishness and happiness could not co-exist inside me. One of them had to go.
It took a choice--no, many choices-- on my part. And it took a whole lot of letting go of that which was old and familiar.
"You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness." ... Ephesians 4:22-24
Saturday, July 23, 2005
Ok, I'm going to get real, even though it might hurt someone's feelings.
You're probably not supposed to have a favorite blog just like you're not supposed to have a favorite child.......but..... my very favorite blog in all Blogdom is Kelly's Home Is Where One Starts From. Her blog has been my favorite since the day I discovered it. I love both her writing style and what she writes about.
I want to write like Kelly when I grow-up. Funny thing is, I am exactly twice her age.
Hmmm... I think I'm already hopelessly behind...
Anyway............ Does anyone out there know of another blog very much like Kelly's? One with similar writing style and full of contemplative wisdom and with great attention paid to detail? I've tried for months to find one but have failed. Of course, there is only one Kelly--I realize that--so there is only one blog exactly like hers... and that is hers.
But still..... Do you know of one which comes close? I am blog hungry again... and well, you know how sometimes you have a craving for just one thing--spaghetti or potato chips or mashed potatoes--and only that one thing will do? Well, that's how I am feeling during this latest blog hunt. Only another blog like Kelly's will do.
All suggestions will be appreciated!
Friday, July 22, 2005
This morning I am rereading the book by P.L. Travers called, I Go By Sea, I Go By Land. A highly re-readable book indeed... probably my fourth time to read it.
I read this passage and knew I had to share it with you:
"Pel is our Family Friend. She writes books...She makes you laugh and dance inside yourself and at the same time you feel that she is somebody who will always be there and that is a very safe feeling."
I think we need more Pels among us. We need more Christians who make us laugh and dance inside. I find so few... And I read so many serious blogs--wordy, critical, stuffy-choking Christian blogs... after awhile, they make me hang my head. They do not make me dance.
Oh, I'm not saying that everyone should go around pretending to have joy if they do not yet have joy. After all, you can't pretend to be a real-life Pel. You either are one or you're not.
I am saying though, that I wish I knew more Christians who have really been set free. Ones who have so much real joy that they can't help but spill it over in showering drops onto those who stand next to them.
People who are built stronger than the Titanic--ones who don't sink after running into just one iceberg.
I wish I knew more Pels. People who are free...people who have learned to stay free.... and to share their freedom.
People who are fun to be with, ones who laugh and dance inside and out, shaking-up the joy like shaking-up a bottle of 7-Up and swoosh! Spraying it upon the hopeless wherever they go.
"So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed." ... John 8:36
Thursday, July 21, 2005
1. We make excuses for the way we are.
2. We blame others for the way we are.
3. We like the way we are.
4. We compare ourselves with others and think, "I'm not so bad."
5. We are proud.
6. We think we are already like Jesus.
7. We try to change ourselves.
8. We say it will take too long to change.
9. We have no faith that God can change us.
10. We wait for our spouse to change first.
11. We are too busy.
12. God starts to change us, then we take over.
13. We give up before we even begin.
14. We don't know how to change.
15. We don't get quiet and listen to God tell us how to change.
16. We started to change, but gave up when it required laying down our pride.
17. Others seem to be changing quickly, so we get discouraged at our slow pace.
18. God starts to change us and we just don't get what He is doing.
19. A tragedy or hard time comes along and we get blown-away-angry at God and everyone else.
20. God uses other people to help us change and we, instead, become offended at them and quit.
I spent too much of my life feeling overwhelmed. Feeling that, because I didn't have time or the ability to do huge, important things, I could accomplish nothing lasting. But that greatly changed when I learned about One Day At A Time Philosophy.
There are 365 days in a year. If I round that off to 350 days , here are some figures I will get if I apply One Day At A Time Philosophy:
If I make one simple improvement to my house each day, in one year I will have made 350 improvements. A little improvement can be anything from hanging a picture, painting a door, dying a load of dish towels, rearranging my living room or cleaning out a closet(or drawer). And if I make two small changes each day, by the year's end I'll have made 700 changes in my home (!)
If I read and meditate upon one Bible verse each day, in one year I will have meditated upon 350 Bible verses. I don't know about you, but I have a hard time consciously meditating upon two Bible chapters and a Psalm and a Proverb--intricately and thoroughly--all day to where all those verses change me forever. I can handle one verse, though, and let it sink in deep.
If I do one small act of kindness each day for either friends and/or strangers, by the year's end I will have done 350 acts of kindness for others. Three-hundred and fifty!
And on and on....
And of course, I'm not just talking about numbers for the sake of numbers so that I can pat myself on the back. But rather, so much of our life is out of our control (face it, it is), and yet each day I do still have choices I can make and see through to completion. Simple things which add up into the thousands over years and over Time.
In other words, I am not as helpless as I sometimes whine that I am.
One day at a time.... one thing at a time... There's nothing too overwhelming in that.
"Inch by inch, anything's a cinch." ... Robert Schuller
Wednesday, July 20, 2005
The world must be ending... Last week Miss Pollyanna starting watching a real-live tv reality show. What's more -- I loved it. I'm planning on watching it every single week.
Unfortunately I caught only the last hour--it lasts two-hours. What in the world was it? It was Brat Camp on ABC. It's a show where troubled teens were sent out to the high desert by their parents with a team of counselors/professionals who take groups out like this all the time. The kids were told by their parents they'd be gone a week, but turns out, it will be a minimum of 40 days (if I recall correctly).
Now, ok... The parents should have probably told the kids the truth up front--what exactly they were getting into and how long they'd be away. But (and some of you will disagree, probably those of you who have tiny, cute, obedient children)--desperate times do sometimes call for desperate measures.
The show will be on again tonight... And rather than tell you all about it and all about the problems these kids were exhibiting in their homes, I'll let you watch it for yourself if you are interested.
Why would I like such a program? It must be the teacher in me.... the huge desire I have within my heart to see people turn around and begin looking at things in a different light... my wanting to see people change and come to peace within themselves and their families.
And ok.... I'm a fixer.... Or rather, one of my main goals is to aim people toward the greatest Fixer of them all. And not that Brat Camp will do that by the series' end, but hopefully it can calm these kids down so that they can see a little bit of light at the end of the tunnel... something to keep them going, keep them alive and out of prison while they are searching for that which is real, abundant life.
**A note: If you are the type of person who believes that an easy, pampered life will make kids and adults stronger, you will definitely not like Brat Camp.
I have insulted God many, many times, past and present.
I have insulted Him by trying to change myself, when all along, He wanted to be the one to change me. He asks for my cooperation with His plan, His ways, not my own bright ideas and my own feeble attempts to make myself better.
I've insulted Him by getting my worth and value from how I look, what I do and what I own, when all along, God wanted me to get my worth and value from how He sees me. From the fact that He loved me enough to send Jesus to die for me. From knowing that He loves to hang out with me all day long because I mean so much to Him.
I've insulted God when I've followed my feelings instead of following His Word and His voice. When I act according to the (changeable) way I feel on any given day, I am exalting my feelings--holding them up higher--than the very words and directions of God.
I insult God when I worry. When I believe He won't / is unable to take care of me and my family.
I've insulted Him by thinking He stopped loving me when I messed-up. And that's a huge insult because I've never stopped loving my own daughter when she messes-up, so what I was really saying was that I had greater love than even God Himself(!)
And here is what I believe is the biggest insult to God, probably the only one I don't do (at least, I sure hope not). The most enormous insult to God is to really believe that we will get to Heaven on our own merit, our own good works, our own kindness. To believe that, is to believe that Jesus' death, burial and resurrection meant absolutely nothing. That God's supreme sacrifice in sending His godly Son to this ungodly place to die for our sins really didn't mean what God said it meant. It didn't count. It didn't matter.
That's the ultimate insult to God. At least, that's how I see it.
"Jesus answered, "I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit." ... John 3:5
"Therefore Jesus said again, "I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep. All who ever came before me were thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture." ... John 10:7-9
Monday, July 18, 2005
I so do not like being busy. These past few days I've had to run errand after errand and nearly always I'm wishing myself home where things are calm.
I can't believe what I used to do years ago. Each September as soon as Naomi would return to school, I'd put on my 'business face.' I'd dress-up and make-up and then leave the house in the car after Naomi walked out the door. I'd shop and run errands--some real, some made-up-- trying to appear efficient and important and as busy as all my friends. I wanted everyone to know I took my homemaking seriously and that I treated it like a 9 to 5 job. I was 'just a housewife' and I was so concerned about how other people viewed me and all that I did.
Good grief--it may as well have been Halloween with all the pretending I was doing. Talk about insecure.
I was remembering all that play-acting lately--it must have been like being an actor on a stage in front of an empty auditorium. I mean, who really cared about my supermom-pretending? Who was watching me and being impressed? That is, who besides me?
No wonder I was so often unhappy. It was because I was so often untrue to myself. So often a phony. So often trying to be someone I only thought I wanted to be--and never being empty enough of myself so that Jesus could be seen. It's hard for Him to shine through the fog of pretence. And it's nearly impossible to accept and love other people right where they are if I cannot first love and accept myself right where I am.
Why do we do this to ourselves? (I'm glad you asked...) For me, it was a case of not being able to accept that what I was was just fine. The things I liked and enjoyed were just as valid as the things other people liked and enjoyed. And to God I was just as valid as everyone else, too. Just as I was. Only when that became a fact to me--not just a nice thought I repeated over and over, but a fact--only then could I slow down and just be me. And love who I was--and who Jesus is-- too.
Now.... Now I love, best and most, the days I just get to stay home and paint walls and read and garden and embroider and wash dishes and dream. I am so grateful that now I'm perfectly content to play--to be real-- before my audience of One.
Sunday, July 17, 2005
...So I've been giving Lennon his insulin shots--and surviving it with God's help. Years ago I reached the point where I didn't want to do anything without God's help or without His blessing or His strength. Nothing.
And ok, I'd said that for lots of previous years, but I didn't mean it. Not at all. Back then I lived for pats on the back and kudos and uplifting words which would make me feel special and noble and strong. I thought that was ok, but really, when I compare it to the way I am now--to the way God has changed me--it smells selfish and ugly. Most of the time my giving, my writing, was 90% Debra and 10% God--if that much--and even now, that thought sickens me.
Now it's different. Well, at least most days. Probably as long as I'm in this body there will always be ugly smell residue. But in the old days, I would read and reread and reread any kind words people had written about me in letters. I would memorize those words and live off of them for days and weeks. Heck, it was almost like taking a bath in kind words.
It took around 20 years, but I got sick of that. I think many changes in our lives come only when we get sick of the way we are. Sick of drinking from a cup something which never quite satisfies our thirst. So sick that we are willing to go ahead and 'die' to those old ways and then rise and become alive to what God deems best.
Now, it is different. When you leave me comments in my box, I do not read them over and over as I used to read my snail mail letters of kind words. I read your comments just once, sometimes twice. But I do not take a bath in your kind words. I appreciate them so much, but they are no longer my lifeblood.
No. The need to do so is finally gone. Ok, nearly gone.
What I feel now is gratitude. Gratitude that God used the words He spoke/wrote through these fingers to encourage your heart. To help you approach something a different way. To help you keep going, and hopefully, to help you stay positive in this oh-so-negative world.
And if I ever go back to the days of living off of a compliment--instead of living off of God's love-- I give you permission to slap me. To wake me up. To show me how far I've slid backward.
Saturday, July 16, 2005
I just finished reading Honestly, Katie John! by Mary Calhoun. And ok, so it's a book aimed at 11-year-olds. But it was a painful book for me to read, even now at my ancient age.
Painful because Katie John felt wildly different than all her friends--and oh, the memories that brings back! She thought they were giving such importance to little, non-important things, wasting their days. Katie-John then rebels and becomes anti-everything her friends stand for--which she discovers is not the answer, either. By the book's ending, she learns to allow her friends to be who they are and to allow herself to be herself.
At age 14 I was like Katie-John. I remember standing in my bedroom all Scarlett-O'Hara-ish declaring, "I will no longer try to act like everyone else because I am like no one else!" It's one thing to realize you have different likes and thoughts and values than most people you know, but it's quite another thing to accept that as being ok. To accept the fact that you are out-of-step with 95% of everyone you meet.
But while I was 14, that's exactly what I did--or began to do. I don't think it happens in just one afternoon. And that has made all the difference. Instead of being blown away by the 95% of people who were unlike me, I began being grateful for the 5% who enjoyed the same things I did.
And this will sound weird, but I also grew to be thankful for my own company. I enjoyed being with this girl inside my own skin. She wasn't like most people, so I found her interesting. She and I made all sorts of fun discoveries together--we read books no one else was reading (and we're still reading and loving those same books three decades later). We wrote stories and imagined all sorts of adventures and we're still finding that helpful, even today. Most important, we began following where we thought God was leading, even though that path was a different one than the path of the crowds, and we found ourselves in some pretty wonderful places which led us to where we are now.
And we are happy. After all these years, we are happier than ever.
And I'll bet Katie-John is one happy lady, too.
"Birds fly in flocks, but eagles fly alone." ... Joyce Meyer
"Haven't they got anything more important to do?"
Sue murmured soothingly about it being a little thing, but Katie-John surged on.
"That's just it. It's little!... Everything they do is little, silly, giggly. Don't you see, Sue, this boy-chasing--it's such a little way of life!"
... From Honestly, Katie John! by Mary Calhoun
Friday, July 15, 2005
Well, I could give you a whole list of what went wrong yesterday, too, but I will spare you. It was one of those days which was so ridiculous--one thing after another--that you just had to laugh. Either that, or ruin the day by feeling frustrated and cranky.
But I chose to laugh. I chose to just keep drawing Life and humor and strength from God because I had too many years where, on days like that, I drew negativity, whining, complaining and misery instead. I now prefer Life and I've learned to receive it in the midst of days-gone-wrong, almost like an injection from God, Himself. It's hard to explain. It's kind of like the sap which keeps trees healthy and holding up their branches toward heaven. Lovely, life-giving God Sap.
Anyway, the highlight of my day? Going to the little supermarket less than a mile from us. I really should shop there more often. They have been in business for ...hmmm... I believe nearly 70 years and recently they had old black and white photos enlarged of their early years. All around the store up on the walls are huge photos of past clerks in their white aprons and customers, too, in their nifty hats and dresses. And the outside photos show old cars from the 1940's in the parking lot. Also, there are other scenes of other buildings in our town from days when much of it was empty fields.
Every time I walk into that store I feel as though I am a young bride again, of 25 years ago. This store is very much like the one I shopped in when I was first married and Naomi was just a baby munching Cheerios in the cart. Only that store was 2,500 miles away from where I am now, and more, that store was demolished years ago. How sad to see the empty lot there on Main Street when we visited our old hometown last October.
But our store here is still very much alive and hopping and always has a festive feeling. It's customers always seem happier and from a different time. And like I said, I'm reminded of the years I was in my 20's and pinching pennies like crazy and using ground beef 100 different ways and trying new recipes every week--trying to make something from nothing and feeling pretty proud of myself when I succeeded. Those were the days I would search the couch cushions for change when I needed margarine and then I'd walk to the store because I had no driver's licence, and buy the margarine (on sale) and feel downright thrifty--and grateful.
And now I am 46--or 'pushing 50' as I call it--and those days feel so long ago. I don't buy half of what I used to because we are trying to eat healthier--we can't get away with eating the old way anymore. But when I visit that store and push my cart through aisles which have seen fashions and hairstyles and fads from the 1940's through today, I feel catapulted back in Time. I am that young wife feeling like she's playing house and loving the game. It's even the days of Father Knows Best and Leave It To Beaver once again -- and I feel as though I have come home.
Thursday, July 14, 2005
First thing in the morning, the house was like a sauna because the great outdoors was like a sauna, too.
Second thing, the vet called at 8:30 a.m. to say that the previous day's tests came back for our (favorite) cat, Lennon. Looks like he's a diabetic. I will have to give him shots (Tom faints at the sight of needles. I am so not kidding.).
Third thing, Tom had the day off, but he wasn't feeling well. So we camped out in our room all day with the air-conditioner and tv and DVD's. I embroidered a little bit. It was too hot to do anything else.
Fourth thing, Naomi emailed me to say she'd been very sick since Sunday, had seen the doctor on Tuesday and was told she had an ear infection in each ear. We called her to see if she wanted us to bring her anything, but she said no thanks.
We all have days like that. The temptation when I do? To meditate upon what is going wrong. To play it over and over and over in my mind like a video tape you watch until the tape wears thin.
And that is the test... Will I play that tape in my head until I have it memorized? Until it gets me so down that a grey day turns black? Until it overwhelms me to the point where I just choose to let the sad waves wash over me and I'm unable to reach out and help anyone else out there in that sea?
Or will I choose discipline? To make my mind go only where I want it to go... To things which are lovely, worthy of praise, excellent and of a good report... To just take care of what I can take care of and then trust that the rest will either take care of itself or that I'll be given Grace to handle the rest on their appointed days...
There is a season for everything. Yesterday was my 'season' for acceptance ...for trusting that this, too, shall pass... for keeping foremost in my mind and heart that God is still God, He is still good, and He is still in control.
And He still brings joy in the morning.
Monday, July 11, 2005
I just finished watching the second part of Oprah's interview with Brooke Shields concerning Brooke's postpartum depression. I remember after I watched the first half months ago, some women bloggers sounded quite surprised that someone as gorgeous and wealthy as Brooke could ever be depressed. Some of them even questioned the validity of Brooke's incredible struggle as though being a beautiful, famous celebrity would, of course, make one immune from such problems.
Well, I was shocked, too--shocked that anyone could believe that wealth and beauty and stardom would totally satisfy, fulfill and guard anyone from deep pain.
But then I reminded myself that many years ago I used to make my own share of "If only..." statements. "If only I was gorgeous like ____, then I would be happy." Or "If only I had more money, then I would be happy and content." "If only I was thinner/well-known/living in a bigger house/driving a better car/had more friends/had more opportunities to teach...blah...blah...blah.... then I would be happier/more fulfilled/able to do more/ and just generally a much better/kinder/freer person."
It took me a few years, but I finally woke up.
I could have each and every one of those things, and still--still--not one of them would fulfill and satisfy me for me than just a little while. Only Jesus brings with Him any permanent satisfaction. Only in Him have I ever found true joy, peace and contentment--anything-- which lasted more than a few months.
Trust me, I spent quite a few years looking in lots of other places for what only Jesus gives me now every day of my life. I am grateful beyond words that fortunately, I looked in 'nice' places and not the terribly scarey places where some people search. But no matter, even in those nice places I kept hitting brick walls--no real, lasting peace or anything else of lasting goodness. Just a whole lot of frustration and discontent because God designed it that way--that the more I searched in places where He was not, the more I relied upon other things and other people to make me happy--the more unhappy I became.
I am never going back to where I once was... Yet even as my title says, no one has it all. Not even Christians. Why not? Because if we did, we'd lose our sense of needing God every single moment of our lives. We'd also feel like we didn't need other people, too. We like to believe that could never, ever happen to us, but it could...it would... because of these earthly bodies we now occupy("The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?" ... Jeremiah 17:9). These hearts like to take control and run with it.
Jesus likes to keep us needy... needy for Him... needy for that which is true life.
I began growing (finally) when I learned to recognize the difference between feeling something and knowing something. No, they are not always the same.
And I began having more peace when I realized that satan loves to play around in the realm of my feelings. He will always tell me that whatever I do, it is not enough. Or to really confuse me, he will tell me that I'm doing too much, when actually I'm not doing enough.
You have to watch for that sort of thing. You have to watch for the guilt satan will try to push off on you when you are smack-dab in the center of God's will. Satan will use anything to take us out of that peaceful center of this tornado-like world.
Like lately... I know that God wants Tom and me to get our house ready to sell and I know that He wants me to be more giving and to worry less. And in the last two months I've watched myself do all those things out of obedience to what I have known. And yet there's this vague sense of guilt which tries to get a hold of me and often I can't shake it off me.... I wonder about it... until aha! I realize where it is coming from.
There is such a thing as conviction from God and condemnation from satan. To have peace, we must know which is which so that we're not tossing aside conviction and trying to make peace with condemnation by running around like little hamsters on the Good Works Wheel. You know, that wheel which will never, ever stop--until we jump off.
It's scarey to jump off at first--especially if you've forever based how you feel about yourself according to your wheel performance--but oh the peace once you do! And the serenity when the jerking leash of feelings is replaced by the gentle hand-grasp of knowing--there is nothing else like it.
Saturday, July 09, 2005
Early this morning I drove over to our local tourist town, well, to the newer half of it which still sees its share of tourists. I mostly window shopped, but then my feet became tired just as my head became tired of such outrageous prices everywhere. Although I am not the pinch-penny I once was, neither have I abandoned all my common sense to the point where I will pay $149 for a simple bedspread.
So I picked up some lunch then drove to a parking lot very near the old-fashioned movie theater I have told you about. From the outside, the theater is just a squat, white, non-descript building. It is the inside which grabs your collar and whisks you away to the 1940's. Like many things in this life, if you judge that theater only from the outside, you'll miss every wonderful thing about it on the inside.
Anyway, I sat in a parking lot very near there because there are huge green trees across the street and only a couple houses. I sat there and thought, "How do some people live without trees and woods, especially the kind which go-rainbow in Autumn? It's hard for me to dream while I am looking at buildings in a city like the one I visited today--that's why I took my lunch to that parking lot--to watch the trees and dream at noon on a Saturday morning.
And in the middle of my dreams and onion rings I thought, "You know? I feel just as safe right here as I do in my own home." In fact, all morning as I'd driven from store to store to shopping mall, I'd felt God's arms, His presence, around me, even as the thoughts of the horrible tragedy in London came to mind. Our own tourist town has often been mentioned as a potential place for a terrorist strike.
Often I think about what it is that really makes me safe--it's not the locks on my doors and windows at home--not really. If some lunatic was determined to break into my home, he could probably find a way. Same goes for my car.
Do I usually keep my doors and windows locked at home? Yes, out of wisdom, I do. But you won't find me cowering, afraid, inside. You won't find me depending only upon those locks. You'll find me depending upon the One who loves me more than anyone. You'll find me trusting Him and the wisdom He gives me. I mean, you'll never see me walking dark streets late at night alone or accepting rides from strangers! No, again, there is such a thing as wisdom...and common sense... and listening so that I can obey God and always be found in the center of His will.
Yet, if the center of His will someday takes me to an unsafe place, I will trust Him there, too. No matter what happens. I just pray that I'll always live my life ready to leave it in a second... and leave it without any loose ends and regrets.
And in the meantime... that I'll just know in my heart that I am safe and loved wherever I may go.
"Go with God..."
"For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways..." Psalm 91:11
Thursday, July 07, 2005
You ask a simple question like, "Can anyone have too many friends?," and people morph into instant parrots, mimicking words they have always heard before: "No, of course not! A person could never have too many friends."
Come on... Has anyone besides me ever thought that question through before?
For one thing, it's possible to have so many friends that you end up being a really good friend to none of them for the trying to be a good friend to all of them. We can spread ourselves too thin. We can become overwhelmed, even burned-out by trying to juggle each friendship so to stay close to everyone (and ending up being close to no one).
We can have friends who pull us in directions we ought not to go. Friends who spin our world out of balance because of the time and energy and money and effort they ask of us. Friends who require they come before our families, our work, our other relationships.
...friends who keep us so busy and distracted that we come to the end of our lives never having fulfilled our destiny, our purpose.
...friends who carry with them a negativity about life which attaches itself to us like a led weight and pulls us down... colors our world black.
... friends who get offended at the drop of a hat, therefore requiring all sorts of extra time in trying to heal their wounds and keeping them happy.
... friends who ask us to support their dreams with our words and time and help, but never return the favor.
... and again, we can even have so many wonderful, generous friends, that we spend the majority of our days feeling guilty because we're unable to give back to them what they give to us.
And these are just off the top of my head--I am leaving out other reasons, I'm sure. Why did these come so easily to me? Because I have been involved in all these situations at least once (but more likely, lots of times) throughout my life.
Even now.... Five years ago I went online and found old friends in this Internet World..... and new friends..... and kindred spirits by the dozens.... and now this incredible Blogland.
And I am overwhelmed. I so want to keep up with everyone, with each and every one of you, but I cannot. Not if I also want to complete the callings God has given me to fulfill during my short time upon this Earth (short, as in relatively speaking... like that verse which says we are just like a vapor or a blade of grass or something).
You'll find no parrot here. I've thought this one out and this is what I have experienced first-hand. If you can keep up with 200 close, personal friends, more power to you. I wish I could. I really, really wish I could.
Clarification: I do realize there are many different types of friendships, each requiring different amounts of time, effort, etc. But the real tragedy is when I start telling my closest friends, "If you want to keep up with what's new with me, you'll have to check my blog." That, to me, is pathetic. And that is exactly what I've been doing lately--and it's going to stop.
"Look carefully then how you walk! Live purposefully and worthily and accurately, not as the unwise and witless, but as wise (sensible, intelligent people)... Therefore do not be vague and thoughtless and foolish, but understanding and firmly grasping what the will of the Lord is." Ephesians 5:15,17
I was watching the news of the terrorist attacks on London and I thought, not for the first time, "This is our world now."
Oh, not the everyday and everywhere world, but a bigger part of our world than I like to realize. And I think we must each ask ourselves what are we going to do about it?
No, what am I going to do about it?
Will I hide in my house, will I make it my world, only venturing out when I must? Will I watch life from a tv screen with movie actors instead of experiencing it for myself? Will I leave a legacy of fear and distrust to my daughter?
Or will I keep my eyes on God? Will I do whatever it takes to keep the peace within me when I can see it nowhere outside of me? Will I operate from a base of the peace and assurance others who fall apart in times of great stress will need to help them keep going?
The time to prepare for a crisis is not in the middle of a crisis. I first heard that ten years ago and I have spent those years preparing for times such as these. But too off and on... too hit and miss--and that must change.
I believe in walking ready, living ready, 24/7, to share comfort and encouragement with those who did not prepare in the times of relative peace. With those who have never even known what a time of relative peace feels like.
...with those who have absolutely no idea that there is One who sticks closer than a brother, especially in days and times like these. Especially in this world such as we know it now.
How to prepare? By paying attention to that still, small voice, even if it means getting quiet when everyone is telling you you are wasting your time...
... by reading what God says about real life in His word... And then doing what we have read--even when it hurts.
...by always staying teachable...
... by getting real with ourselves.... Letting God deal with and humble us down to our very toes, instead of always running to Him complaining about how others act and trying to do in them what only God can do.
...by keeping our houses in order--the one of wood, the one of flesh.
...by letting God have the final word. Staying when He says stay, going when He says go. Speaking when He says speak, shutting our mouths when He says shut your mouth.
Ultimately---by surrendering to and obeying God and loving others as He does... and keeping our own hope intact and close to our heart--for if we lose it, we'll have nothing left, nothing real to give anyone else. We cannot give away that which we do not already have--to give away the comfort of God I must first be receiving it for myself.
Wednesday, July 06, 2005
"...whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron." ... I Timothy 4:2
I have this great friend named Conscience. We spend an incredible amount of time together and she knows me better than just about anyone.
Conscience is wonderful, but there are times when I feel she is downright bossy.
I want to continue eating ice cream, but she says I need to make the healthier switch to non-fat frozen yogurt.
I want to put-off work and chores until tomorrow, but Conscience nags me about doing at least some of them today or else they'll all be piled-up tomorrow--and harder than ever to finish.
When I watch a movie which has all sorts of things in it which I would never, ever do myself, Conscience usually stands beside the screen the whole time, shaking her curly head back and forth, and spoiling the whole thing.
I walk past someone in the supermarket who needs a hand and Conscience whispers, "Debra! I can't believe you didn't stop and help that woman."
Man, that Conscience can be such a nag. And I have done such dreadful things to her--told her to leave me alone so often--yanked at her wrist so hard in trying to pull her over to my way of thinking that I seared it, which caused her to back off and let me have my own foolish way.
Yet when her voice is no longer there--when I get what I thought I really wanted--I feel alone and strangely unsatisfied and cranky. So I end up running back to where I left Conscience and I apologize and help our relationship heal by my own repentance.
Conscience can be a life saver. I'm talking Real Life. I experience Real Good-As-It-Gets-Life when I listen to Conscience and do just as she says, right when she says it. Amazing things happen when I obey her every single time at the drop of her floppy red hat. At the first whisper of her voice.
There is peace.... There is serenity.... There is no better way to live.
Tuesday, July 05, 2005
Always, we've been able to watch our town's fireworks display from our sunroom windows. Well, usually it's been just me watching, alone, because nearly always Tom has to work graveyard shift on the Fourth of July. Or it's been me with a cat beside me.
Well, this year was supposed to be one of those rare, gleaming 4th's which Tom was going to have off from work, but we got a call early in the afternoon....someone was sick.... could Tom come in and work the graveyard shift?
I will spare you my biting words of disappointment. We'd been ready to head out the door to go to our old-fashioned theater, the Step Through Our Doors And You Step Back In Time theater, to watch Cinderella Man. But now Tom would have to go to bed and sleep away the afternoon. On normal days this is hard enough, but on holidays, it's nearly impossible for this Pollyanna to handle that stuff with grace.
Well, Pollyanna failed that test. And that's sad, because the day didn't turn out badly at all. Tom went to bed, yes, and I hung around feeling sorry for myself, yes. But then Naomi came over later and I got Tom up and by phone we discovered he wouldn't have to work the whole night--just 3 a.m. until 7 a.m.. And so the three of us sat around the dining room table and had one of the nicest talks we'd had in months....
...and after Naomi left, Tom went to get the two of us movies and dessert. Surprisingly, he was able to find the old classic, Double Indemnity, which months ago, Hollywood Video told us they didn't have in stock--but they had it yesterday. Tom had never seen that movie and I only vaguely remembered that although I'd hated the ending, I'd enjoyed Fred MacMurray and Barbara Stanwyck and their over-the-top dialogue.
... and then just after the movie ended and Tom said he'd been pleasantly surprised at how good the film was, the fireworks outside our sunroom windows began. Tom said, "Hey! Maybe we can watch them from the roof this time." Yes! For the first year, those windows which stretch across the top front of our house belonged to me, not Naomi--they are the windows of my dream room. So we ran upstairs, into my hot, darkened room and then threw open one of the small windows. And this was no easy task--we each squeezed through and on out into the black night--out upon roofing shingles like the world's best sandpaper.
What a view! Much better than the one in the sunroom below us, where we could only see the high-shooting lights lucky enough to clear the huge trees down the street. We sat there watching the bright exploding colors before us, telling each other how much better this was than fighting all the traffic surrounding the park where the fireworks originate. And it was so much better, as always, just watching fireworks from our own home--this time upon our own roof.
And I sat there next to Tom feeling sorry about the way I'd handled the disappointment of the early afternoon. I should have known that God would come through for me and turn this day into something just right. I was sorry I had doubted His ability to redeem a day-gone-sour. I was sorry I'd acted like I used to almost constantly ten years ago.
And, sitting up there on the sloping roof in my black skirt and bare feet, with sweat dripping down my neck, I knew that some review lessons on handling disappointment are probably heading my way. Hopefully I will pass those upcoming tests.
It was even harder squeezing back into my room though the little window when the fireworks ended. But the show had been worth every bit of the trouble to see it. The night, the whole day, had become one to remember.
"Is anything too hard for the Lord?" ... Genesis 18:14
Saturday, July 02, 2005
I've been taking some time off from blogging because, well, nothing is coming to mind to write about. Just little themes here and there ("Maybe I could write about ___. Or wait! Maybe about _____, instead.") But it gets no further than that and I know I'm only grasping for straws. And you deserve better.
I am learning to respect God's silences. To respect His teaching times and my student times--and to not panic and start reasoning why, why, why I'm unable to write freely like before. Instead, I love being reminded of who I am apart from my blogging and who I am alone with Him. I have watched so many people get excited by their ministry and then turn unexcited about Him. I don't want that to be me.
And I am learning to not run out and shoot off my mouth, pretending like it's God speaking through me, when it's so really, really, really not.
Maybe the words will return tomorrow. Maybe He will let me write about my day or my weekend or silly things. Maybe He won't. This blog is His--my life is His--so again, I must respect the silence.
And I know you will too.
"Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth." ... Psalm 46:10