Friday, June 30, 2006

Supermarket Blues

When I was a young wife, grocery shopping was a breeze. At home, I'd consult the sales flyer, make a menu for the following week, write up a list according to the store aisles, look through my coupons (the ones I'd sorted by catergory, throwing away the killer coupons which had, of course expired), get Naomi dressed, get myself dressed, search for my purse and car keys, grab my shopping list and head out the door to the supermarket where I'd walk up and down the aisles, feeding Naomi Cheerios and then pretty much just choose the cheapest forms of food I could find.

Man, those were the days. Easy-breezy, carefree days.

But now Tom and I are in our late-40's. Some of you know what that means. (And let the rest of you youngsters be warned.) Because of our various and assorted food allergies, medical conditions, diets and volumnous reading about chemicals and sodium and fats and sugars in foods, well, basically, Tom and I are no longer allowed to eat anything.

Okay, maybe fruits, vegetables and water. But only some kinds of fruits, vegetables and water.

Supermarket shopping is now officially downright complicated. Even shopping in the awfully-quiet (hellooo... oooo) dusty,way-over-priced health food section. It makes those years with a baby and trying to buy a week's worth of groceries for $20 appear positively heaven-like in retrospect.

I mean, just today while at the supermarket, I casually walked up and down the aisles with no real list, plenty of time, money and a simple desire to just fill my cart with enough food for the weekend. But soon I recognized the song playing in my head--the same old supermarket song I hear in between my ears as I wheel my cart past shelves and tables and refrigerated sections of food I can no longer buy. A song which goes rather like this:

Nope, can't get that--
Too much sodium, too much fat
Tom's high blood pressure--
Remember that.
Not that either, it's way too sweet--
Not that other thing--it's made with wheat--
And wheat makes my head explode--
The same with milk and cheese,
Citrus and caffeine too... (boo hoo)...
Way too many chemicals inside that box,
And they say that stuff over there
Will make you sick and lose your hair.
Nope! Too much sodium,
Too much fat.
Too much sugar--
Put it back.

And then there's the ol'-- Oh good! No wait.... this-has-no-wheat-but-it's-loaded-with-sodium and this-is-low-in-sodium-but-high-in-fat-and-calories.....

Oh for the days of blissful ignorance... the pre- learn-what's-inside-your-food days.. the pre- now-you-can't-get-away-with-anything days... the days I could live on sugar and still feel young and vital... the days when I simply bought groceries according to the amount of money I had--or didn't have--and complained about it.

How sweet--and simple--it all was....

Thursday, June 29, 2006

That Annoying Reaping and Sowing Thing

"Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously." 2 Corinthians 9:6

Funny how often I've forgotten about that verse (and then complained when I did nothing and (gasp!) reaped nothing)... or tried to find a different way... or outsmart God's plans and ways and designs.

But there's just no getting around verses like that one, though Heaven knows I've tried...

It often takes me days or weeks to answer emails... and then I've complained that my friends sure do take forever to write back...

Some years I've spent little money and even less time working on my yard... and then driven around town questioning why my neighbors have such beautiful flower gardens yet I don't...

I've not left many comments at other peoples' blogs... and then wondered why my own comment box was like an empty canyon...

I have this weird thing about not liking to phone people... and then I've sulked when friends never call me...

I've been critical and unmerciful toward others... and then questioned why others were critical and unmerciful toward me...

I'm usually too shy to make the first move when it comes to making new friends... then find myself wishing I had someone to go out for coffee with...

I wish I knew as much about decorating or gardening or the Bible as some people do... yet I'm not willing to study half as much as they have...

I am always complaining about our horrible, overcrowded basement, yet I nearly never clean it out... We hardly ever invite people over for dinner, yet I wonder why people don't invite us over... I find myself gaining weight each year, yet I'm eating as though I was still in my 20's...

Well, duh.

Someday I plan to stop trying to get around biblical principles. Probably God will throw confetti and blow horns in celebration.


That's Naomi in the middle of her two friends, Andrea and Matt.

About a million years ago.

Have you ever tried to slow down time? I tried and tried and tried. I'd sit on the couch and watch Naomi, at six, line-up her stuffed animals, singing under her breath and I'd long for all the hands of all my clocks to stop, even for five minutes. Just give me five minutes, I'd think, five motionless minutes to memorize Naomi just as she is right now, today... five minutes longer to bask in this moment which will, one day, belong to the time of Very Long Ago.

But always, I felt that hard press of Time moving forward. Always, even when later, I stood at the bottom of the stairs, appreciating a teen-age Naomi who played her Beatles records, I still felt like a woman on the edge of the ocean, unable to stop the tide from sweeping back out to where it had begun. I could not appreciate moments enough and I never, never was able to stop a single one.

And even though Naomi lived with us for 25 years, and yes, beyond the time which experts consider kosher--still there was that press of Time. Still it all went by in a blur... even though I took pictures.... even though I sat and memorized Naomi at 6 and 10 and 14 and 20...even though I chauffeured her to Tai Kwon Do and beyond... even though I sat, alone, on the front porch in evenings and told myself, year after year, to treasure Now, because Now would not always be like it currently is.

Even though I lived very, very consciously through Naomi's childhood and tried to make the most of every minute.... still... still... still... it sailed by out on that ocean of Time until, standing, shading my eyes on the beach, I could see it no more, other than in my memories.

But then, childhood and Life are like that.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Unfaithful Faithfulness?

Here's one thing I've learned--there is faithfulness and then there is faithfulness.

I mean, if I wrote in this blog every single day (which maybe you noticed I don't), I would be quite the little faithful blogger, indeed.

Or would I?

For me, personally, the answer is a sure "No. No, it would actually be unfaithful of me to blog every single day."

Because you see, I try only to post here when 1.) I feel God is giving me something specific to say or 2.) When I feel God's giving me permission to write about well, just anything ol' thing I happen to be doing or thinking about. And for nearly two years, I've experienced much peace in trying to follow those two directives.

So what about the days when I'm hearing neither of those things? What if, to remain true to my (legalistic) idea of faithful blog-keeping, I just blast past God's directions for me straight through to my own idea of what faithfulness looks like or what someone else says it is?

Well, for me, that would equal disobedience, otherwise known as unfaithfulness (no matter what it looks like to anyone else). For me, faithfulness to things is what used to burn me out barely after even 'leaving the gate.' Doing ones own thing, ones own way, nearly always requires some kind of price to be paid someday--usually having something to do with stress. Good old-fashioned I-can't-take-this-anymore-why-did-I-agree-to-do-this-time-consuming-thing? stress.

Been there, done that the whole first half of my life.

Now, instead, I am finding that faithfulness to God--obedience--is the way to go. There's just something amazing, calming, about obedience to God.

For one thing, God knows me better than I know myself. He knows how much is too much for me. He knows what will push me over the edge. He also knows exactly just how much time I have/don't have and He's concerned that I stay balanced. So, always, His ideas and goals will lead me in balanced ways.

Obedience comes with godly strength. When God wants me to faithfully do something, He provides the stamina, the money, the time and the wisdom to do it. (But of course, I must listen carefully and obey just as carefully in order to walk in all that.)

Obedience means that the results belong to God... I can give Him the credit for what went right (realizing--not just saying--the whole thing was His idea). Or I can hand over to Him any flack or difficulties I got from people, since only God can work on hearts, anyway. (And again, trusting that since this was His idea, not mine, He's going somewhere with this, even after He releases me from my part of it.)

Always, even now, I remind myself that faithfulness to God is incredibly more important than faithfulness to a task, an idea or a dream. They are not the same thing. God's ways are higher than mine and just that one fact explains why His ways usually make no sense at all to my mind.

All the more reason to stick with faithfulness to God... Besides, I'd hate to have my head so consumed by faithfulness to just any old thing and then miss the amazing, custom-made, though hazy-to-me plan God had in mind all along.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

The 24/7 Friend

Last week I read some 'Mommy Blogs' and, for a moment, wished blogs would have been invented when I was a young mother.

But no! I smiled and was immediately grateful that I did not have a blog back when I was the most insecure little thing ever to have a baby. I would have loved blogging too much. I'd have poured my whole soul, my everything, into posts without missing a day.

Back then, my blog would have become who I was--my whole identity. And if the Internet was down or if Blogger was down-- I would have gone down, also. If either ever crashed, then I, too, would have crashed. 

When I was in my 30's and the mom of a ten-year-old, I was lonely beyond lonely. This was during those Nevada Years some of you know about already. While Tom worked a hundred desert miles away, I'd spend mornings and afternoons searching for friends, almost like working a desk job. Naomi would come home from school and we'd walk to the park on hot Nevada afternoons and I'd glimpse women sitting together chatting on benches or pushing their children on swings and laughing--and I'd die and die because I could not step over to those women and ask them to befriend me. I was too shy, too chained-up inside to do that and just too overwhelmingly needy. Doing such a thing was risking way too much.

So I put a pen pal ad in the old-fashioned Women's Household magazine and received envelopes with bits of women's lives from farms and city places and discovered a few friends that way, others to add to the list of old friends I wrote to already. I'd pen a hundred letters in a month and still I was lonely. 

Eventually I found a friend down the street and some at church, yet still the loneliness washed over me almost like the scariest, blackest ink when days I'd look at the clock and swear the hands had moved backward.

I poured-out friendship, but never seemed to reap as much in return as I sowed. But back in those years I could not see that there was no friend alive like the one I was searching for-- a Friend who constantly followed me around my house and my heart, someone I could talk to and laugh with anytime I wanted to wash dishes or take a walk. 

I wanted someone who never went away on vacation or ignored me during their family reunion weeks or went back to college, got jobs and always started their sentences with, "I've just been so busy!". I didn't need a just-sometimes friend, or a once-a week-at-the-playground friend or a coffee-shop friend or one who came through written words in a letter. No, I was desperate for a 24/7 Friend.

But not until later, not until 1994 did I finally search in the right place. Not until then did I find the Friend who sticks closer than a brother, much closer than friends down the street or ones connected by old-fashioned mail or who you meet at church. And now we have a 12-year wonderful history together, a love which grows deeper, more vital and moment-by-moment each day.

And I believe that's why I'm so grateful that blogs did not exist during my loneliest years--because if they had, I would probably even now be searching, this time online, for that 24/7 Friend. And not finding Him here, I'd have settled for a few hundred sometimes-there, sometimes-not friends instead, all while trying to convince myself that they are the best of what Life offers. That they are what I'd searched for and needed most. Yet always hungering, deep down, for something, Someone, else.


Sunday, June 25, 2006

Yes! That's It!

...Found a marvelous, though simple, quote this morning in an old issue of Mary Engelbreit's Home Companion. It says in few words what it takes me millions to say:

"Don't bemoan the sad state of the world. All around you there are things that need to be done. So do them." ...Patty Shaner

Or as I like to tweak this Bible verse, "Be ye doers of the Word, and not complainers only."

Saturday, June 24, 2006

I'll Take Adulthood

Some people dearly miss their childhood. I guess on one or two levels I can understand why they might. But mostly, oh my... Any day of the week, I'll take adulthood.

You might laugh, but there are still times, even at 47, when it's evening and while watching tv, it hits me, "Just think... I can stay up as late as I want! Heck, I can stay awake all night if I feel like it." No one will gasp, "Debra Lynn! You should have been asleep hours ago!"

Or other times while standing in a supermarket aisle, I'll think, "How nice that I don't have to ask permission to buy a certain kind of cereal."

It's wonderful that Tom and I can drive wherever we want and stay out really late. We have no curfew and no parents waiting, worrying, ready to ask, "Just where have you been?"

Tom and I can make our own choices, and if our parents disagree with those choices, we can choose them anyway (hopefully, our plans being ones God initiated).

We live in our own house, can do what we want to inside it, and can decorate the whole thing however we wish. No one will step through the door and tell us to take something down from the wall because it's not appropriate.

We can play whatever kind of music we want within our house, too. No one will say, "Turn down that awful noise up there!" (well, as long as it's not booming out from our windows, quaking the neighbors' houses). We can watch any movies and read any books we wish (again, hopefully at God's discretion).

We can choose our own friends. No person ever takes us aside and whispers, "I wish you wouldn't hang around with ________." (Though in a couple cases, God has advised us to let go of friends who were negatively affecting our relationship with Him.)

And the amazing thing is that I can be an adult and still be creative and child-like at heart. I can still paint pictures... still jump rope... still have slumber parties and tea parties... still go camping and ride bikes and skip and climb... and I can still play games in parks and rivers and swimming pools.

I guess what I'm saying is that I love the freedom of adulthood and would never go back to the confines of childhood (which, no matter how idyllic your childhood, you would find quite hard to live under, should you time travel back there). And yes, there are people I miss from so long ago, and yet when I am open to new folks and new friends, it's amazing the dear, similarly-hearted souls God plucks out of the crowds to present to me.

And while living freely in this Land of Adulthood, I have discovered here that God is the perfect Parent for the parent... the adult... the grown-up child which populates this grown-up place. A place where freedom sweetens the waters of adulthood responsibility, such as the lemonade your grandmother once gave you on the hottest of summer afternoons.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Some Finds & A Helpful Hint

Since some of you like retro stuff as I do, I thought I'd share a few finds... But first, here's the helpful hint: Twelve (or so) years ago I bought this 'jailer's key ring' and it instantly made my life easier. If my hands are full of groceries or boxes or whatever, I can just slip this ring easily around my wrist, leaving my hands free. Love that.

Okay, I have this thing for old figurines and these two little guys, above, are favorites. And I found this elephant at an estate sale inside a house which whisked me back to the 1940's. Truly, it felt like nothing had been added to this house since that decade--my favorite kind of house to stumble upon while time traveling under the guise of 'estate sale shopping.'

Of course I had to have this old 1947 Blondie's Cookbook the minute I discovered there was such a thing. Since the Bumsteads' tv house is my all-time favorite, I simply had to own their cookbook, too. I have some nice old cookbooks, but this one makes me happy with its many cartoons inside and its old-timey feel.
And lastly, here's a closer close-up of the adorable little dog I found yesterday. Is he cute, or what?

Thursday, June 22, 2006

While Driving Out In The Country...

... here is what I found at an antique shop today. Isn't he darling? We don't have a real dog, so for now, he is as real as it gets around our house.

Tom and I went to one of our favorite places in the whole world today, one which is nearby, thankfully (considering how big this world actually is). It's a park on one of the Great Lakes, a park sitting next to a little town which time forgot. We had a lovely picnic and sat and read and looked out over the hazy-blue ocean-like lake.

On the way home we stopped at this cabin-in-the-woods antique shop and that is where I found this little dog waiting for me. And now here he sits on top of our library hutch. And as an aside, we found all the pots and the eucalyptus valance on the curb over the years.

We do love living here... in a place where people can still find treasure along the street... We even found this treasure in our tree when we got home... a baby robin. Fortunately, its parents know where it is--Tom saw its mom (dad?) feed him a worm awhile ago. Poor little thing has been sitting there for hours and lets us get quite close... In times like these I'm reminded how I'm always close to a prayer--I've been praying for this little guy to fly back to his home over in our neighbors' tree where his family, I'm sure, is waiting for him.

(Click on photos to enlarge.)

P.S. The baby robin stayed in the tree all night long... he was there this morning and you should have seen all the robins on the telephone wires encouraging him to fly home! Finally, by the time I returned from my walk, he was gone... and I am going to assume he's safe back in the ol' family nest.


My, my... According to some bloggers, you'd think 'contentment' was a dirty word.

Personally, I believe it's a marvelous one. The Apostle Paul didn't think contentment so terrible, either, as when he said:

"I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation..." (Philippians 4:12)


"But godliness with contentment is great gain." (1 Timothy 6:6)

I can't imagine anyone advocating being discontented. Oh, I can understand part of that reasoning-- not wishing to settle where you are and never moving forward. But that, to me, is not godly contentment at all.

No, I am aiming for the best kind of contentment. One like my favorite teacher describes when she tells me I should "be content where I am on the way to where I am going."

Mmmmmm... read that sentence again. I love that because there is a huge degree of gratitude and thankfulness involved with contentment and I believe God is greatly pleased when contentment is of that grateful sort. What's the point of living of a God-given, God-blessed life, never to be contented with it? If I'm never happy with where I currently am 'in any and every situation' (including who I am, where I am and what I have), then what's the point of moving on to another place ahead where I'll be just as discontented? What's the point in living a lifetime always disatisfied and complaining about it?

At that rate, I'll wind up in Heaven never having enjoyed the life, the people, the circumstances God gave me because I'll always have been looking ahead to become better, beyond my discontent, and then after getting there, not even enjoying that new place, but looking ahead again to another place I'll be discontented with, too.

And I can imagine no greater tragedy than that.

So today I will walk around my house and drive around my town, with my husband, perfectly contented with this amazing life which God has given me.....All the while keeping my heart open to whatever it is God wants me to change or wants me to do or be up the long road ahead.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Spreading The Light

"You are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid." ... Matthew 5:14

"...And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? ...As it is written, "How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!"... Romans 10:14,15

I have some confessions to make.

Tom and I were handed a "Christian Business Directory," and yet I still shop at many places where the owners are not Christians. I like to take Jesus with me when I go to those places.

I did not ask my dentist if he was a Christian before I began going to him. I hoped to take the Light to his office.

Tom and I have friends who are not Christians and sometimes He opens doors for us to share Him with them.

I belong to some secular listservs. I share my life there and God slips into my writing because He's such a big part of my life. (And sometimes people email me privately and want to hear more.)

When Naomi was growing-up, we allowed her to play with kids who attended different churches than ours and children who were not Christians. She went to secular school--and was a light in a dark place. She shared stories with us of opportunities she was given to share Jesus in the classroom and our mouths often fell open. (Though if she were young in today's world, yes, I might homeschool her, not because of the kids in today's schools, but the curriculum being taught.)

I guess always, since Tom and I were first married, we've been concerned when we see people who go only where Christians will be and shop only where Christians are the owners, make friends only with Christians, eat only with Christians and speak only with Christians.

Of course, we all must do what we feel God is calling us to do and I am learning to allow others that freedom. After all, we do reap what we sow and well, I want others to allow me that same freedom (I hate it when people freak-out and tell me I'm totally wacko when actually, I have total peace that I'm following God's specific orders for me.)

God places people in strategic places--work places, school places, market places--so that His will will be completely done. And done well. And so that His light will be cast as shining seeds all over the land...the world... growing into something amazingly bright.

And that is why here, in this blog, you will (hopefully) never hear me slinging around vast and broad assumptions, sweeping generalizations, rules, and declaring my choices are the ones God dictates to everyone and woe to you if you don't believe and follow exactly-to-the-final-dotted-i as I believe and follow.

To me, that is horribly like trying to squish and shove a great big, creative, enormous, multi-faceted, creator of the universe God into a tiny bracelet box. And He will not go there. He refuses to go there. He simply cannot go there.

He is even bigger than I can imagine Him to be and I hate it when I bring Him down to my oh-so-limited ways of thinking. How uncomfortable He must feel when I try.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Another Prayer Request for Michael

I wrote before about my nephew (here), the one in the Army National Guard... the one who was sent to protect those who were cleaning-up Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina.

The photo: Michael, Tommy, Naomi...

I asked for prayer for him then and I'm asking for prayer again now. Last week he was sent to Afghanistan....sigh... My sister hears from him online and says he is in good spirits. Of course, I'm grateful for that.

But here's the strange thing. Even though he's in his mid-20's, even though I saw him a year-and-a-half ago and I know what he looks like...even with all that, I still, still picture him looking like the little boy he used to be. I sit here and see him as a boy of four--or maybe twelve-- standing, this time, in a hot desert, in a uniform much too big and carrying a gun, as well... No matter how many pictures of him I see now, photos such as this one below, I'll always see him as that little guy so very long ago.

And we would very much appreciate your prayers for the protection of him and all those with him in our armed forces.

As for the first photo, some mothers do not allow their children to play in the dirt, but my sister and I were not of that persuasion. We believed they should play in the dirt for as long as they could, for childhood evaporates, and unless they became gardeners later in life, they may never have that chance again.

Monday, June 19, 2006

The 'Supposed To Be' Disease

During my Nevada Years so much joy totally bypassed me because I'd contracted the dreaded 'Supposed To Be' Disease.

Tom's job was 100 miles away out in the middle of the desert (literally) so he and his co-workers would live out there for four days and then be home for four days.

And well, of course, (I thought), things just are not supposed to be that way. As a husband and father Tom was supposed to be home every night for dinner. He was supposed to be home whenever sinks and drains got plugged up or Naomi had a concert or when we had loud lightning storms. He was supposed to be home just like every other husband was home. Right? And while I was at it, people (like us) were supposed to live near their relatives, not in the middle of nowhere... and we were supposed to be able to have more than just one child... and Tom was supposed to get every holiday and Sunday off like my friends' husbands did...

Well, wrong. I mean, I was so self-absorbed in my assumptions that I didn't even consider all the wives living at the nearby Naval Air Station--wives who sometimes lived without their husbands lots longer than just four days. Not to mention the millions of single women 'out there' who no longer even had husbands or any children at all or enough money or... (on and on). But Self is like that-- it blows a thick fog of selfishness somewhere behind our eyes, one which blocks out any view of others in need and we concentrate on our own misery rather than relieve the misery of others. Self rolled in a fog so thick that I too often ignored how blessed I was to have Tom home for four whole days out of eight--I was even blind that, actually, he was home more often than many other husbands we knew.

There is more than one way to live! And amazingly, if we'll let Him, God will give us grace and strength and happiness while we are marching to different beats and different drummers and living differently than we assume everyone else is living... and accepting, making better, those things which cannot be changed.

Except that in Nevada, I did not let Him. No, I just complained and nagged and whined and threw tantrums. And I missed out--terribly. So many secret joys just zipped past my heart because I did not believe they existed if Life was not as it was Supposed To Be. Remember "Be it unto you even as you believe?" Well, for five years I believed Life to be unfair, the power plant industry to be unfair and Tom to be unfair for hauling us out to the God-forgotten Nevada desert in the first place.

And that is sad. It saddens me whenever I recall our years in Nevada--not because of what took place there--but because of how I acted there... How I way too often allowed the Supposed To Be Disease rob me of simple joys and appreciation and the realization of how I was becoming, in some ways, better equipped to handle Life's little emergencies, especially the ones which only seem to happen while your husband is out-of-town.

There are many ways to live. There are many ways to be--even within the confines of the Biblical mandates and examples we follow. God made us all so unique--and even though we hear that constantly and nod in agreement, why do we still use our blogs to tisk tisk when other Christians do things differently than we would?

(Don't get me started.)

How freeing it was for me to finally 'get it'-- to realize it's ok if my life is not like everyone else's. As long as I have God's stamp of approval and His encouragement to get back up when I fall, well, it becomes just one of many, many different and amazing ways in which to live for Him.

Joy's Early Summer Evening

Ack! This got me all teary-eyed. (And here I'm perfectly content with this phase of my life, but it still got to me.)

Warning: If you're a mom struggling with the empty nest, this poem just might shove you over the edge.(And the music which is playing might only make it all worse.) Read it at your own discretion.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Blog Magazine?

Last week while walking away from Barnes and Noble and grumbling about the direction of today's decorating/women's magazines, I wondered, "If I had my own magazine, what would it look like?"

And then it occurred to me that, in a way, I do already have a magazine of sorts--I have this blog. As I thought more along those lines, I, again realized, as with any venture, I am limited only by my imagination.

So anyway, I said that just to say that I want this blog, this 'magazine-of-sorts', to have, well, something for everyone. Not that everyone will like everything, but for the sake of balance and in hope of having something here which will appeal to as many people with varying needs/tastes/hobbies, I hope to mix things up a little more.

Which is a lot of words just to say, hang in there if you don't see something today which appeals to you. Come back tomorrow and you may be surprised.

.......Anywayyyy.... I like to save my Victorian Trading Company catalogs and use them for the occasional attempt at collage. The first two photos, above, are done on paper in a little Victorian scrapbook I found at Dollar Tree..

The third one is done on the back of a clear glass plate. I've done many collages on plates and given them as gifts. This plate is probably my favorite.

The last photo is meant to appeal to the penny-pinching lovers of art nouveau amongst us. I bought these coasters at Big Lots months ago for only $1 (that was the regular price!). They live upon my front porch.

(Click upon photos to enlarge.)

In need of a laugh today? Check this out over at Mel's blog. ...Heh... If I had a REAL magazine, I would hire Mel as my humor editor. Definitely.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

"Well, I Would Never Do That..."

Six little words I try never to say: "Well, *I* would never do that!"

Probably I'd uttered those words 200 times before God called me on it. Way back in 1993, Tom got a new job here in our present state, so for 10 weeks, Naomi and I remained back in Nevada while Tom searched for a house here for us to buy. He mailed us a video tape which he took after walking through this house (our house now) with a realtor and when I saw the huge collection of junk in the attic, I said, "I would never let my attic look like that!"

Huh. Two years and tons of yard sale and curb finds later, our attic looked nearly identical to the junk-shop-gone-bad way it had when the previous owners lived here.

Ouch. Unknowingly, I had made myself out to be a liar. Unknowingly I was displaying a whole lot of pride when I said those "I would never do that," words in the first place. Pride believes, "Other people may mess up, but I would never mess up as badly as they did." And Pride especially loves to throw darts at leaders--religious and otherwise--in the public eye, especially when it has never held such a huge leadership position, itself.

For a few more years, I still blithely went around shooting my mouth off in similar fashion. "I would never go online. I would never hang-up on a tele-marketer while he's still reciting his spiel. I would never all-out yell at Naomi. I would never," well, you get the idea.

Then along came the years when I finally got around to letting God change me, instead of me always, albeit subconsciously, trying to change God... and other people... and the way Life tends to go. One by one, God begin to address areas of my life where I was blowing it and eventually, this "I would never do that" area came up. Firmly, He pointed out the extreme pride in such statements--and the extreme ignorance, too.

He'd ask me, "How do you know how you would act in new-to-you situations? What makes you so certain you would not act as others have, given the same opportunity or hard times? And why do you feel so comfortable tisk-tisking people whose backgrounds you do not know and do not understand? And whatever happened to, 'There, but for the grace of God, go I?'"

(Trust me, anyone who says God never lectures people, well, they've probably got a few lectures coming their way.)

Anyway, now if I even think about saying those six words, there comes upon me such a strong conviction--well, I'll just say it-- to shut-up. After which, I'm reminded to seek to understand rather than seeking to judge. And to seek to remember that I have done many things I thought I'd never do--and I will probably do some more.

God can be pretty strict sometimes.... Personally, I'm glad He is.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Clarifying Just a Tad

You know my post below, the one called, Trying to Share What I Didn't Have? Not always do I say clearly what I believe (drats)... I received a couple questions, so I will add these words...

I do realize right where we are, wherever we are and whatever we are doing...and so very far from perfection... we can... we should always help people. We can always make ourselves, our shoulders, available to cry upon. And God appreciates that so much, especially when, rather than hiding ourselves away in a corner during our own times of grief, we, instead, dry our tears and knock at the door of a hurting friend.

I do believe and realize those things.... and for years and years I have tried to do them.

But I guess what I was really trying to say was that there came a time in my life when for me, I dreaded hearing people say just one more time, "Debra is so thoughtful. Debra is such an encourager. Debra writes such sweet, uplifting notes."

I guess there came a day when I realized something. Debra was being thanked. Debra was being appreciated. She was being thought of as the great encourager, the awesome letter-writing-poet and a darn nice woman.

And it made me sick.

Seriously. I mean it.

There is a different way to live. There is a different way to be. I know--because I have lived both ways... And this way I live now, well, I have found it to be far and away better than what I knew before.

It is better to let God drain me out of me. The me who had way too much of me invested in every kind, thoughtful thing I did. The me who got high on being appreciated. The me who got her self-esteem by exercising her God-given gifts (when actually, God-given gifts are meant to help the other person--not myself).

It has been a million times better to let God fill the newly-empty parts with Himself. With the part of Himself which knows exactly what a person needs and exactly when she needs to hear it or receive it...With the part of Himself who can do anything through a vessel not already filled to the brim with Self's interests and agendas and plans and best-ways-of-doing-everything things.

And here is the greatest, the very best difference of all... Very, very seldom do I now hear anyone say, "Debra is so thoughtful."

Thank-goodness. If I never heard it again, that would be marvelous.

Why? Because now what people tell me is, "God spoke through you at just the right moment... Only God could have known that I needed to hear that... God showed me He still loves me by that one thing you did--that thing that only God could have known I needed someone to do for me."

Do you hear the difference? It shines and sings differently like night and day. God is praised, not me... God is the thoughtful one and I am simply the carrier of his love notes.... Like a simple, blue-clad mailman (and everyone knows it is not the mailman who writes you the letters he delivers). I come out looking only like the vessel God used... The plain ol', ordinary jar filled with one amazing God.

People try talking me out of this Jar Life, but that's Life the way I want it... the way I love it... Being filled and then emptied... being filled and then emptied... And always coming back to the fountain for more of Him.


"So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow." ... 1 Corinthians 3:7

If It's Anyone's Fault...

This week I wandered through many antique shops. Oh, not the kind where everything is ancient and priced right for millionaires only. No, but the kinds where our grandmothers would probably laugh to tears to see, 1.) The rusty tins, mixing bowls and aprons they would have handled in their kitchens every single day and 2.) The price tags on their 1930's stuff!

But anyway, as usual, I began taking mental notes on how these old objects were displayed. Many were placed in tiny room-like scenarios. Little kitchen corners with painted sifters, metal canisters, Formica tables and egg beaters. Small bedroom-like boxes with beds, oval-framed sepia photos and chenille bedspreads. On and on I wandered until I began to feel a little discouraged that most of my own rooms at home aren't quite as cute as these displayed rooms.

Then right away I realized that I already own much of what was sprawled all over (or variations, anyway). So really (it hit me) if my rooms don't look that cute, well, it's my own fault. I mean, it's my own fault if I've neglected my decorating skills this year so far. It's my own fault if I've gotten downright lazy in the Creativity Department of my own head.

Basically--if my house doesn't look as cute as I'd like it--and if I'm spending money on things I do not love--and if I'm not creatively arranging and painting what I do own, well, the fault is not my husband's or our budget's or God's or Life's. But mine. All mine.

Well, standing in one of those shops, I once again vowed not to become one of those people who blame everything and everyone for the lack in their life. No way. So today I began tackling our Guest/Music/Exercise/Throw-It-In-There Room. And after only a couple hours, just by moving things around and trying to stick to a three-color scheme, I created a little bit of order up there. A cozy retreat. All just by jumping out of my laziness and choosing creativity over a vague sense of blame.... There are now bits of calm up there--as you can see by the photos in this post.

But let me be quick to add-- three-fourths of the room is still in utter, unorganized disarray. We are talking pathetic--so pathetic, that if you saw photos of the mess, you would be embarrassed to even admit you read my blog.

But this is a start. And sometimes, rising-up against inactivity--and the futility of blame and excuses and that lazy pull-- is all it takes to make you feel a whole lot better. (And I'm not just talking about decorating, either...)

(Click on photos to enlarge...)

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Trying To Share What I Didn't Have...

"... he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts." ... Acts 11:23

One of my (many) biggest problems for years was that I encouraged people to do what I, myself, wasn't doing.

I mean, words fall kinda flat when I encourage people not to worry while I, myself, am a card-carrying member of Worriers Anonymous.

It's not exactly powerful when I'm patting a woman on her shoulder, telling her to stay calm because God is all-powerful--and then, myself, going home and stressing-out over the tiniest mishap.

Personally, I don't want to be a kind of stressed-out, whining, fearful, impatient, frustrated, just-plain-sad Christian.

I think that quota has already been filled.

So years ago it hit me-- I should slow down and let God work on me first. I needed to let Him calm me, de-stress me, encourage me, not to mention just plain change me into something which reflected Him... I needed to take some time out for Him to empty me of myself and all those rickety, laughable self-improvements I'd attempted--and then fill me with Him so that finally, I would have something worth pouring out to others. I mean trust me--people certainly do not need a new and improved Debra--they need God. And either God is God inside of me, or He isn't. Either He is able to move around freely without my stopping Him with my 'better ideas'--or He isn't.

It took years. It is still taking years (and oh, what I am finding in Friendship with Him. Like, something's gotta change in His presence--and it ain't God). :)

It takes time to empty out a soul of a whole lifetime of so-called improvements. If only we weren't so afraid of being left behind the crowds in those runners coming in last. But we forget (and forget)-- with God, the last will be first. And the changes are worth every pause, every hidden minute of coming away which they required.

Because, finally, there appears something Real to pour out to others. Something they--we--needed all along.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Something New Around Our House

Remember how, way back in April of 2005, I told you we went couchless the previous year because we thought we didn't need a couch?

Well, I lied.

Heh. No, I'll skip the long story, but this last March we realized we needed, maybe not a huge couch, but a little loveseat in our sun room. Tom had his comfortable chair from which to watch tv, but poor ol' Debra had just a series of straight-backed, back-pain-inducing chairs which just were not making her happy. Or comfortable. (And if Mama ain't happy, etc., etc....)

We searched throughout the land for just the right loveseat at just the right price (long, hard task) and finally, last Saturday, we found one. A used one, but a nice one. Rather a Goldilocks kind of thing-- "And this one is juuust right."

And now Debra and Tom are living happily ever after.

The End.

(No... I mean, The Beginning.)

(Click on photos to enlarge.)

The Kindness Search

"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

One of my favorite books is Adventures in Understanding by David Grayson. This morning this is what I read:

"I wonder if ever you change human beings with arguments alone: either by peppering them with little sharp facts or by blowing them up with great guns of truth. You scare 'em, but do you change 'em? I wonder if ever you make any real difference in human beings without understanding them and loving them. For when you argue with a man (how much more with a woman), you are somehow trying to pull him down and make him less (and yourself more); but when you try to understand him, when you like him, how eager is he then to know the truth you have; and you add to him in some strange way, you make him more than he was before; and at the same time, and that is the sheer magic of it, you yourself become more.

"... (Now, facts are not to be thrown at people like dishes or vegetables, but somehow warmed into them.)"

That passage reminded me of areas of Blogdom where I dare not wander, lest I accidently step into certain 'God Blogs' which are just itching for a fight.... ones which between-the-lines declare, "Agree with me and God--or else-- we will shake you and slap you until you do."

No, I dare not go to those places anymore... I search, instead, for hands which help, not hit, and I have no desire to go anyplace where Love is absent. Why wander to lands where I come away feeling worse than when I went in?

Once you've found something better, why go back? Well, unless God directs you back in order to help... but go with God, go with Love, lest you fight as you once fought, in vain, on levels where Love never stepped a foot upon.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Secret Corners

This post at Storybook Woods inspired me like crazy. She talks about bringing summer into the corners of your house and out into your garden.

I especially loved this photo...

In my house and garden I like creating corners where I can meet with God. Quiet, peaceful places which woo me to sit back and dream... to meditate upon just how good God has been to me.

My own summer project will be to turn our neglected upstairs' catch-all guest room into such a tranquil place... perhaps reminiscent of a seaside room, though it stands high and far away from the nearest ocean. But I can try...

...and truth be told, perhaps even unconsciously, my quest for years has been to create as many getaway-with-God corners as this house and yard will accommodate. I have one inside a closet, one in our sunroom, one in my own second-story room, as well as one out on our front porch and in our backyard, also. And one day I smiled when the thought came to me, "If you build it, He will come."

Besides, there can never be too many Secret Corners in which to meet with God, can there?

Friday, June 09, 2006

Your Own Custom-Made Magazines

I've mentioned these 'scrapbooks' before, but they're worth mentioning again. For one thing, they save money. For another thing, they save space.

For women--and for men--these are great.

What are they? They are custom-made magazines. Fifteen years ago I began making these and now I find they are saving me, well, like I said--money and space.

All you need are old-fashioned three-ring binders, some clear plastic sleeves (can be found cheaply at Target when you buy a package of 100 or more) and your favorite magazines--any type of magazines.

All you do is tear out your favorite pages from magazines, place them in the clear plastic sleeves, (two pages per sleeve), then place them in the binders and toss the remainder of the magazine into the recycling bin. You're saving space because, let's face it--most magazines are full of ads and/or articles/photos which probably aren't relevant or to your liking.

And you're saving money because, once you have a few binders full of your favorite magazines pages, you can (if you want) just buy the occasional magazine, ones which stand-out as extra-desirable and full of pages you can add to your binders. (I no longer subscribe to any magazines now.)

Magazine pages can be added to the binders haphazardly or can be grouped by subject (theme) or according to the contents of just one type (title) of magazine. For instance, I have one binder for just Home Companion Magazine pages, two binders with only Victoria magazine pages, and the rest are assorted from various magazines. Perhaps someday I will put together a binder with only photos, ideas and stories having to do with gardening... The possibilities are endless.

In fact, I made a cookbook this way using both magazine recipes and recipes copied off the Internet. If I spatter food on the pages, it's no big deal--I just wipe them off with a dishrag.

Just thought I'd pass along this idea... Oh! And here is my find for the day--a 'yum cup' which I found in an antique store. Isn't he cute?

Now, I realize some people LOVE their magazines and would rather drink a thimbleful of poison than tear them up. Obviously, this post is not meant for those people. :)

Feelin' Better

I only have a few minutes... We are on our way to estate sales this morning, but I didn't want my last (whining) post to still be the first one to pop up when you got here. I am feeling better now--hooray!

So here is a picture I took of Tom yesterday down in our so-messy-you-can't-believe-it basement. One of those 'candid' shots which he's always trying to take of me because he read somewhere that candid shots look better. Sadly, he's discovered that is a miserable lie when it comes to candid shots of Debra. But, alas, he keeps trying (and bugging me like crazy in the process!).

So anyway, here is my sweetie of 27 years. You'd never guess that next year he will be 50, would you? Everyone agrees he looks good for being such an old guy. Six years ago, he and Naomi went to college together and some of their classmates honestly believed, at first, that Tom and Naomi were brother and sister rather than father and daughter!

And honest, I was happy for Tom each time they were mistaken for siblings (and trust me, he was always sure to come home and brag, uh, tell me about each incidence). And for, like, 6 seconds, I even toyed with the idea of joining Tom and Naomi at college to see if anyone would mistake Naomi for my sister.


I chickened-out of that real fast. My grey hair and crows feet and inching-toward-matronly figure would have clearly declared to all: "Obviously we are talking Naomi's mom here. Don't even think about confusing her for Naomi's sister."

Good thing I have a sense of humor about it.
Good thing I am at peace with being in my 40's.
(Well, most hormone-calm days, anyway.)

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Pardon My Mini Mid-Life Crisis

Raise your hand if you've ever experienced a mini mid-life crisis.

I see those hands.

Once again, poor ol' Debra is Mini Mid-Life Crisis Cranky. I say once again, because it's certainly not the first time. And thank-goodness it never lasts too long.

Just the same ol' same ol' symptoms:

I want to decorate my house to reflect myself, yet Tom and I keep talking about moving in the near future. Moving where? We have no idea.

I think about fixing up this house to sell and then I run out of energy just thinking about all that needs to be done.

I feel absolutely terrificly-healthy one day, then have the pre-menopausal bleary-eyed-headachy-blues the next. Oh, and did I mention that I'm now allergic to all my favorite comfort foods and if I don't eat like a boring Healthy Hanna every single day, my body rebels?

(Moving right along....)

.......Tom and I both agree we need to come up with some new hobbies, but for the life of us, we can't decide on any.

Tom has a whole string of days off right now and we'd like to go on vacation, but we can't think of any place we'd like to go... and all the packing-up and taking our high-maintenance cats over to our daughter's (and having her come over here to water our yard) just sounds like way too much trouble anyway.

We consider taking day trips instead of a vacation, but we've already done that to death and, after 13 years, we have this whole area memorized.

I want to have company, but Tom doesn't (he's having a little mid-life crisis of his own. It's more fun, of course, when you are both looney-bin-bound at the same time.).

One day I feel certain of the Life Direction which Tom and I should take. The next day the whole thing sounds preposterous, unlikely and just too much work. We both know God is going to change our lives soon, but we don't know how (so we make blind little preparations month after month and year after year and just hope we're, if not on the right track, at least pretty darn close).

Oh the Limbo Land-ness of it all......

Growing pains.... that's what it boils down to, I think. These mini-crisis' always feel like being a teenager all over again, though being one in a much older body, one with grey hair (which isn't helping my morale a whole lot right now, either).

Oh well... this too shall pass... it always does...

I mean, thank Heaven that God is still God.
He is still good.
And He still hangs-out at my house--even when I'm not exactly pleasant to be around.