Friday, March 31, 2006

I Am From ...


You may have noticed I don't do the meme thing... Just feel too awkward/plain ol' weird trying them, I guess. But oh my.... I found one I love, so this is gonna be a rare day in my blog. I read Ilona's "I Am From" and was awed by it--simply awed! And if I've copied any of her responses, it's only because we have a ton of things in common. :)

If you'd like to make your own, please visit Fragments From Floyd here for an outline, an explanation and a boost.

But first, here is my "I Am From":

I am from backyard clotheslines on hot afternoons,
from Ivory soap and red-checkered tablecloths. I am from church parsonages with tiny rooms and doors always open
and from roasts baking in ovens as the sun goes down and children stop skipping rope.

I am from roses hanging over picket fences,
and fields of wild lavender blowing warm scent through our Ford's windows on road trips. I am from mornings spent with Captain Kangaroo and Friday evenings with the Brady and Partridge families.

I am from Christmas at grandparents' houses and travelers always searching for a better place,
from people near and those very far away.
I am from the quiet ones who are lost in thought and those who spend their lives loving simple things which others never pause to see.

From reading in bed when the rest of the house lay dark
and from stories of family long gone. From people-are-watching-so-you-need-to-behave and folding down my ankle socks just right.

I am from old Baptist churches with hard wooden pews
and services on sweaty summer nights with people waving fans labeled
Owl's Drug Store and Fountain on a stick.

I'm from the busy shores of California, from a people who migrated from silent, muddy mid-western plains,
from mashed potatoes and fried chicken on Sundays with company after church.
I am from Yosemite summers in tents and swimming in ponds just down the road.

From the days of plaid dresses and ponytails and hopscotch and hula-hoops.
From moms at home wearing aprons, from Batman on tv during your after school cookies and milk, and from that scent of sprinkler water sizzling on sidewalks.

I am from family reunions potluck-style and cousins who you saw just once a year.
I am from scrapbooks and photo albums all yellowed with age,
and from hundreds of memories playing in my head like fading, speckled home movies.


***
Other "I Am From" posts in Blogdom:

Nearest Distant Shore
Pazette
Miss O'Hara
Is There Anything of Interest?
Magically Mama
Semicolon
Promptings
Owlhaven (Mary)
Owlhaven (Mary's son)

Contentment


In her comment to my last post, Saija mentioned that contentment saves a lot of money.

My oh my, yes indeed it does.

Paul (the Bible Paul) had to learn contentment and so did I. I had to learn to stop coming away from my friends' houses and wishing I had a couch like theirs, a kitchen like theirs, and cats and tv's and dishes and cars and paintings like theirs.

I had to learn to stop sighing, "If I just had ____, I would be happy." Because you know how that goes.... You get _____ and then 8 days later you are saying, "Hmmm, well, no really! If I just had _____ too, then, I mean it, I would be happy." And so it goes, for like, the rest of your life because happiness from things is wispy, like smoke.

I had to learn to get happy today. Happy with my own couch, my own kitchen, my own cat and my own everything else. I had to learn to use my God-given creativity and rearrange my oh-hum furniture until it pleased me. I began to clean what I owned and feed what I owned because God was watching me inside my very walls to see if I was ready, truly ready, for new stuff. He stood there and took notes and decided if He could trust me with more.

He watched me while I walked around my house... I think He stood there with a clipboard each time I gave things away, because when you let things go, you make room for more. And when you give away what you love, well, you make room for more than new stuff--you make room for God to bless you with something beyond just stuff. A spirit of giving opens a lot of good doors, and well, maybe this is just me, but I think it keeps some bad doors closed.

But beyond, beyond, beyond all this, I had to learn to become content with God, Himself.

A.W. Tozer said something like, "We get into trouble when we start saying, 'All I need is God and--.'" I didn't know what he meant at first, but I eventually learned, especially when God took me through a l-o-n-g stripping away process. He kept pruning my life of things and places and jobs and people I'd always sworn I could not live without. I mean, nobody died and I didn't end up in a hospital, or anything--I want to make that clear. But in ways only God, Himself, could manage, He stripped away the props and crutches I'd clung to to help me through Life. And He tore down walls brick by brick, the very walls which had obscured my sight of Him--and I saw that He was Life, instead.

And something wild happens when you finally become content with God. You discover that He can trust you now... He can lavish you with your secondary desires because He knows they will not capture your heart and take you away from Him. It's as though this verse starts happening to you:

"And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, because you obey the voice of the Lord your God..." Deuternomy 28:2

... it's like you find yourself running down a street and being overtaken by a mob of blessings...and you are amazed! But the more amazing thing, now, is that God hangs-out at your house and keeps you company. And what more could you ever need?


***
"O satisfy us in the morning with Your lovingkindness, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days." ... Psalm 90:14

"For He has satisfied the thirsty soul, and the hungry soul He has filled with what is good." ... Psalm 107:9

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Living On One Income


Minutes ago I visited a certain message board (which shall remain nameless), one in which the current topic was: Is it possible to live on one income?

Basically there were two groups of women posting:

Group A listed all the problems of living on one income (it wasn't working for them).
Group B listed all the good points of living on one income (it was working for them).

And never the twain did meet. Well, not really. It seemed neither group was actually--gasp!--listening to the other and both were determined they were right. Which, ok, is the way of most Internet message boards. (Hey, you know it's true.)

Anyway, I didn't post anything there, myself--I thought I'd save it for my own blog (safer territory--things were turning scarey over there...). And basically, all I want to do in this post is share a skeleton list of ways I save money while living on just one income. But hey... this is just a blog post, not a book. There's so much more I'm skipping.

It requires a whole different way of thinking to live on one income. You have to be willing to learn new, odd-to-you things and become very good at what you do. You have to do research. To invest time and effort and energy into making it work. You have to be intelligent and willing to do the math... (and gee, is there a lot of math involved!).

And I guess it goes back to my post about viewing problems not just as problems, but as motivating challenges, instead. It's too easy to drown beneath problems...to spend hours at message boards complaining rather than, more wisely, using those hours to scour the Internet for helpful hints and solid, usable advice.

It takes a determined, bright, motivated person to step-up to a challenge, stare it straight in the eye and conquer it head-on... to keep hopeful and optimistic when the sailing for the first couple years is not real smooth.

So here are just a few ways I save money and enable myself to stay home (where I, personally, want to be):

1. I often cook from scratch and make my own mixes. Yet, some things are cheaper to buy ready-made--I love to research that sort of thing and take notes (calculate energy costs of using an oven, etc.) and then decide for myself which way is cheaper and healthier. Oh, and I usually make homemade lunches for Tom to take to work.

2. We do not own a clothes dryer (by choice). I hang our clothes to dry in our basement or outside on a line.

3. We buy our clothes second-hand. Now, don't scream! If you know where to go, what looks good on you, and what to look for in these places, well, you'll walk away with some incredible bargains and you'll be complimented on your appearance. Trust me. Again, this is something which takes research and educating yourself and after you've saved a few hundred dollars you start to think of yourself as pretty darn clever.

4. Speaking of education, I use both the Internet and the town library to teach myself not only how to save money, but just about anything-- history, cooking, economics, writing, decorating and health. Forming a love of learning and discovery alone--outside of a classroom-- will help you leap hundreds of hurdles and keep you inspired.

5. We saved tons of money this winter by keeping the thermostat at 62 degrees (lower at night) and just using a small electric heater in whichever room we occupied at the time. I use other major appliances during off-peak hours.

6. For exercise I walk around our neighborhoods and also work-out at home (way cheaper and more convenient than a public gym).

7. I paint our rooms myself and do all my own decorating. This is another thing which has required much research and self-education over the years. Deciding exactly which look you're aiming for saves a lot of money, too. It leads to far fewer money mistakes and clutter which you'd rather not acknowledge.

8. We currently do not pay for tv cable (though we have in the past). Instead, we bought an antenna (a one-time charge of $50 ), the kind you place in your attic. It pulls in 14 stations which is plenty for us.

9. Only occasionally do we drive to the theater to watch movies--and the tickets are only $3.50 anytime day or night because it's a 'second-run' theater (I love that place--so 1940's old-fashioned). Our splurge, though, is that, for $15 each month at our local video store, we can rent three movies at a time any or all days of the month. Everybody has their favorite hobby, currently ours is movies, so this works out great (cheaply) for us.

10. I try really hard to pay our bills on time (and then try not to kick myself when I occasionally pay one late). I use my credit card only for online purchases and usually pay it off each month.

11. We keep a list of things we'd like to buy and then when summer comes around, we shop at yard sales for those things. We also use our income tax return for some things on that list and for major home repairs and improvements.

12. I grow a garden each year (container gardens are easy and require little space). We do all our own yard work, wash our own car, shovel our own snow and make our own coffee (well, 98% of the time).

13. We've tithed for 27 years (highly controversial when you admit to that on the Internet, I know!). But hey, I truly believe in 'give and it shall be given unto you' and I've watched that concept work for us these many years. It's made a huge difference in our finances.

14. And a big one--we've always bought only houses we could afford.

Again, that's just a starter list. Mainly, Tom and I try to be careful of what I once heard called "leaky hose spending." You know... all those little ways that money drains away from our hands and our home, swirling down the drain foolishly. But we've noticed it takes a lot of honesty to face leaky hose spending and to plug it up. Sometimes it takes help from God, Himself, to acknowledge where we've been careless and foolish and to forgive ourselves afterward. But then, that's partly what He's there for.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

How To Avoid 800 Arguments (At Least)


Elizabeth's comments to my last post reminded me of certain, rehashed, pathetic arguments Tom and I have had.

There's the one where Tom asks to have some space, and I would get all wild-eyed offended, believing he didn't love me as much as I loved him--totally not realizing I get lots of space each day at home, but he gets almost none at work.

There's the one where I lecture Tom over and over because he forgets to lock the back door, when I simply could have just locked it myself. I could have simply closed the bedroom closet door,too--without squinty-eye-lecturing Tom--when he constantly left that door open, exposing the mess inside...

And, of course, there's the one where Tom thinks the guy in the old movie is Spencer Tracy, which triggers, yet again, this typical livingroom scene:

Debra: "Are you crazy? That's not Spencer Tracy. That's just some Grade B actor. I know Spencer Tracy when I see him and that's certainly not him."
Tom: "Yes it is."
Debra: "No it isn't!"
Tom: "Yes it is."
Debra: "No! It isn't! And when this movie is over, I'm going to run down to the computer and the IMDB website and I'll prove it isn't Spencer Tracy."
Tom: "Fine."
Debra: "Fine."

(Please tell me we are not the only couple who has done that...)

Of course, there are the times I would have rather died than let Tom have the last word, the last dollar or the last cookie... And sadly, there were the years I spent more time and effort putting 1 Corinthians 13 into practice with my friends and church people and those out on the highways and byways of Life than I did with my own husband.

But I think God finally got pretty tired of all that. And one year, there came a day, a time, when I realized it wasn't that I needed more teaching... I'd gone to thousands of church services and seminars and Sunday School classes and I'd been taught and taught and taught. I knew the right things to say and do and be.

I'd been taught, but I hadn't been changed. There is a huge difference.

And only God could change me. So beginning that one year, I finally let God catch up to me... it was like He caught the back of my collar and s-l-o-w-e-d m-e d-o-w-n. He shuffled all the cards in my Priority Box so that the Come Away With God card was always the one on top. And in those times... in those places... during those hundreds of hours (yes, literally hundreds because, boy, did I need help)... He changed me as only His presence could change me...and continues to do so.

Bricks are still crumbling, falling down from all the Pride Walls I'd built up... and when barriers come down, everything looks clearer and brighter...

...and the all the teachings you could barely hear through the huge, thick Pride Wall, well, they start to make sense...

.... not just to your head, though, but to your heart, because the Son is shining now and you're being taught by the Best...

...and changed by Him, as well.

And now, it's the old arguments which no longer make sense. They appear as jibberish and they can even make you laugh.


***

"You will show me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy, at Your right hand there are pleasures forevermore." ... Psalm 16:11

The Things I Hide From My Husband


(Intriguing title, huh?)

I have been married a real long time and well, I've learned there are, generally speaking, two kinds of arguments:

The ones you cannot avoid.
And the ones you can.

And that's what I wanted to mention today--the arguments I avoid by hiding things.

Like what, you ask? Like my very own toolbox. Around 20 years ago I bought a toolbox and began collecting tools for it (cheap ones... it's not like I use them everyday). I'd become extremely tired of needing hammers/screwdrivers/stud-finders/nails, etc., while Tom was away at work and having to wade through piles of Tom's tools to find them--or not find them. Which, of course, required that I nag (nag, nag, nag) Tom about his lack of organization and my frustration thereof.

A real marriage-saver, that one. My toolbox is my responsibility... I keep it hidden... and so if a tool is missing, it's my own fault. End of where's-the-silly-tools? arguments.

Something else I hide? A chunky black indelible marker which I find indispensable for my kitchen. After probably 25 years and 300 did-you-lose-my-chunky-black-marker-again? arguments, I finally got the idea to hide my marker in a little cupboard in my hoosier cabinet, a cupboard Tom never thinks to look inside. Oh my... Life feels so good when I know my chunky black marker is waiting for me in that little cupboard. Life also feels good minus those long, loud, needless chunky black marker arguments.

Know what else is inside that little cupboard? My very own flashlight. It only took me 27 years to finally start hiding my own flashlight (which, ok... the older I get, the more I need one around the house to read certain things...). No more why-can't-I-ever-find-a-flashlight-around-here? arguments feels oh-so-great, too.

I also hide my own scissors, stapler, glue and measuring tapes.

Get the idea? I'm not talking about keeping secrets from your spouse,(lest you thought I was going there. Heh.) No, it's more like this:

Lots and lots of arguments saved(avoided) = equals lots and lots of peace and harmony earned.

Well, at least, that's what I have found.


***
"The tendency to whining and complaining may be taken as the surest sign symptom of little souls and inferior intellects." ...Lord Jeffrey..........(Ouch!)

Monday, March 27, 2006

When Your Encouragers Are Out To Lunch


Well, now it's official... reruns are everywhere. My post today is a rerun from last year. I hope you don't mind...

The only bad thing about keeping a blog is that I get tested on just about everything I write.

Like today... awhile after I wrote that piece about emotions, Naomi came home to get more of her boxes to take over to her apartment. Things started out well, then they collapsed into the one thing Naomi does which pushes all my buttons and makes steam come from my ears. She once again insinuated that I know nothing about Real Life...that somehow, somewhere, my brains fell out...that although she is half my age, she has somehow had twice my experience.

And I'd been having such a lovely morning, too. Sigh...

Well, I partly passed the Naomi Test. I didn't sink to her level and say a bunch of stuff in retaliation. I only gently said a couple things to defend myself. For me, that's big. And then I went back into my dream room--my peaceful place of escape at the top of the stairs, and quietly closed the door. In the old days I would have shut it hard. Ok, I would have slammed it.

So far, so good. But then, as I sat back on my floor and continued sorting through my magazines in the sunlight, I came very close to crying. All right, all right... I cried a little. But then I remembered what I'd written this morning and how this was most likely a test to see if I really believed those words. I did. And then God was there sitting beside me--He even nudged my shoulder like a friend and said, "Come on. You're doing fine. You know she's young and still has so much to learn. Cheer up."

And that reminded me of Encouragement 101. The best thing I learned in that class?

"But David encouraged and strengthened himself in the Lord" ...I Sam. 30:6

Very often, you can't wait for a truckload of Christians to come along and peel you off the Highway of Life. Sometimes you just have to ask God to do it. You have to let Him be The Great Encourager when all your regular encouragers are out to lunch... When they've not picked up the signals--spoken or otherwise--relaying the fact that you need some kind, uplifting words.

Sometimes, in fact, God purposely scrambles those signals in hopes that we will come to Him for encouragement. In that case, it does no good to get upset with the people who failed to race to us when we needed them. So often it's more a matter of God wanting us to run to the Throne, instead of the phone in times of need. (I am stealing that statement, I'll confess.)

I am so thankful for Encouragement 101. Kind, healing words from other people--really, they're wonderful! But sometimes even the best encouragers fail us, for whatever reasons.

There is only one Encourager who never, ever fails.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

The Poor Old Days?


All of that "Suzy Homemakering" yesterday reminded me of those years when Tom and I were first married. Gee, were we ever poor back then! Money-wise, I mean.

Whenever I peek backward at our lean years, I see myself usually in my various kitchens of our little homes, happily creating something from nothing. I became a professional at that. I could make two casseroles from one pound of ground beef and two pies, not just one, from a little can of pumpkin. I baked all my own pie crusts, cookies and cakes--my wooden rolling pin was always coated in flour, it seemed.

I borrowed books from the library, almost never bought any unless they were nearly free. Half of these books were ones which taught me how to save money and time and money and energy and did I say money? A money-saving artist--that's what I became.

And you know? I smile when I remember those days. Heck, being poor was almost fun. Oh, not the kind of being poor which comes from spending money foolishly or making unwise, hurry-and-get-nice-stuff decisions. No, that feels too much like bondage. But the kind of being poor from starting-out with nothing and then, willingly, with hope and godly wisdom, working and s-l-o-w-l-y acquiring nice things, appreciating them more for the wait.

Yes, being poor was more fun than awful, but only those aproned afternoons when I chose to see it as a challenge and not a problem. A challenge is something you rise above and conquer. A problem, if seen and left only as a problem, is too easily turned into a big, ugly, hairy deal...something to complain and argue and whine about.

And I think it was way back around 1980, or so, that I learned that problems are better-handled and more bearable when they're--poof!-- turned into challenges, instead. Challenges are interesting... they lead you to libraries and learning and to people who know more than you do. They take you to places you never would have traveled to otherwise. They stretch you until you discover yourself becoming strong and optimistic and unafraid of experiences not yet yours.

They teach you that problems down new roads are guaranteed, but you also have learned, by now, that each challenge, conquered, will make you just a little bit richer. I'm not just talking money-wise, either.

Friday, March 24, 2006

The Incredible Day Ahead of Me


I am so excited about today. I can hardly wait to live it.

Here is a multiple choice test for you. Can you guess why I'm so excited about this day? Choose one:

A.) Tom and I are traveling to Disneyworld and we'll be there a whole week.
B.) I won $1,500 in the lottery and I'm going big-time shopping today.
C.) A dear old friend from Nevada is coming to visit.
D.) I'm going to a Victorian tea party.
E.) My first book is hitting the stands today!
F.) Tom and I are taking a romantic river boat ride.
G.) All of the above.
H.) None of the above.

Ok, so which answer did you choose? Are you ready for the correct answer? The correct answer is..... drum roll.... H.) None of the above.

Heh. Not that I wouldn't love any of those things (how do you think I came up with that list so fast?).

No, I am so excited about today because it is one of my altogether-rare Suzy Homemaker Days. Yep, that's all!

Tom drove away at 6:30 a.m. to work day shift so now I get twelve whole, golden hours to myself. And ok, so I am car-less, but who cares?

I can feed the backyard birds and drink coffee and read books upstairs in my dream room and spend time up there with God, Himself. I can catch-up on my email or write an old-fashioned letter (remember those?).

I can wash dishes during Regis and Kelly and laugh with my arms in suds. I can make my own mixes and tuck them away in little sandwich bags in secret places. I can wear an apron and iron clothes and watch a lovely movie or listen to Big Band era music and feel like I've traveled back in time.

I can take a walk past big old family houses built in 1910, houses where other homemakers are busy and happy inside (I live in such an old-fashioned town--you wouldn't believe it...). I can walk to a neighborhood convenience store and smile at everyone I see and then walk back home with a snack clenched in my hand.

I can create another collage in my art scrapbook, read decorating magazines for ideas, or paint a chair, a wall or a table.

I can sing while I'm dusting... dance while I'm exercising... and dream while I'm folding clothes...

You'll have to excuse me... After writing that list of possibilities, I am nearly excited out of my mind--and I can no longer wait to get started.

And yet, for you, I am wishing you a day twice as special as mine, in whatever you may be doing.


P.S. Would you like to go on an incredible snow trip right this very minute? Go here and start clicking on 'previous'. Do not stop clicking until you reach the horse-drawn sleigh (you can stop sooner, of course, but I'd hate for you to miss the horses and sleigh in the photo labeled, At The Tree Farm). This woman is one amazing photographer and you are in for an unforgettable snow vacation!


***
"When you have only two pennies left in the world, buy a loaf of bread with one, and a lily with the other." ... Chinese Proverb

"Any day is what you make of it..."

Thursday, March 23, 2006

The Two Radio Stations



Some days it feels like I have two radio stations inside me, one broadcasting from my head and one from my heart. They are very different. The radio station in my head has one setting--Loud-- and a typical hourly broadcast sounds like this:

I wish we had more money in our savings account.
Not many people commented at my blog today. Bummer.
I can't believe some of my best friends forget my birthday every year.
My tooth hurts.
I don't feel like grocery shopping today. Argh.
I can't believe that ____ removed me from her blogroll.
This computer is so slow sometimes and Blogger is messing-up again. Grr.
I wish Tom would quit asking me if I've paid our bills yet.
This winter is lasting f-o-r-e-v-e-r.

...like a scratchy old record playing over and over and 'round and 'round...

My head's radio station's call letters are WDCM... They stand for Wailing, Discontented, Complaining Mess. WDCM is always available. It's a 24-hour station.

But the radio station in my heart... Oh my, that one has a better, whole separate program schedule. Yet it plays softly. I have to pause a lot more often to listen... I have to still my steps and my pace and turn down that WDCM in my head. For what my heart's station plays is much more listen-worthy:

I'll feed the backyard birds today--they will reward me with their singing.
I'll play the classical radio station for my cats while they're up in my room, alone, to keep them company.
When my friends let slip a , "I wish I had...," I'll make a note of that and surprise them later.
I'll putter in my kitchen this afternoon and bake a pie for Tom.
We have enough money for all our real needs--I am grateful.
When I go to the supermarket, I'll smile at lots of people. It will be fun.
Today I'll believe that people reading my blog take away something to brighten their day, even though they didn't leave a comment.
I'll keep remembering my friends' birthdays whether they remember mine or not...what matters is that I keep giving.
Spring-like weather is just around the corner... I'll step outside the door and breathe and believe it's traveling toward my town.

My heart's radio station's call letters are WSGP... They stand for Walking Serenely, Gratefully, Peacefully. WSGP even has a slogan: "Thinking of how to bless others rather than how others can bless me."

I think I'll tape a note to my refrigerator to remind me to tune-in to WSGP more often. I am always blessed by what I hear there.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

King of Queens: Marriage Therapy?


Okay, I confess... Tom and I often watch the show, King of Queens. In fact, Tom has been known to smile at me from his recliner and say, "Doug is my hero."

A scarey thought, that one.

Probably my favorite scenes of King of Queens are the ones where Doug and Carrie argue. Why? Because lots of their fights sound awfully familiar. I watch them wildly argue about nonsensical, childish things and right there on the screen, the folly and utter stupidity of it all hits me. It makes me giggle. Their fights are like mirrors, reminding me of the hundreds of such loopy arguments Tom and I have had, ourselves.

Tom and I love Doug and Carrie because they show us what not to do and how not to be. They have helped us grow-up. They've illustrated to us that self-absorption requires a whole lot of energy which could've been used for the good stuff, like going for drives, eating-out, sitting at the edge of lakes and having what one might call a good time. Always trying to get one's own way at the other person's expense, well, it makes Life's Roads awfully rocky, indeed.

Basically, watching Doug and Carrie makes the folly of pride just so darn crystal clear.

Tom was 21 when we married and I was just 19. I always find it so sad when people who have been married 15 or 20 years divorce, sighting the reason as being, "We married too young." I always wonder, instead, truth be told, if it's more like, "We married young, and then we took too many years to grow-up afterward."

And maybe when Tom and I watch certain King of Queen reruns, laughing until we cry during Doug's and Carrie's fights, we are really laughing at our own arguments of long ago. The ones we never have (or nearly never have) now because, having grown in years and in wisdom, we find they are just not worth the trouble anymore. (Not that they ever were.)

We've found that peace between us, as a couple, is a whole lot more fun... and in little, silly, you-had-to-be-there ways, we have Doug and Carrie to thank for some of that.


***
"When you are older you will know that life is a long lesson in humility." ... James M. Barrie

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Madly Searching For a Prayer Request?


... well, here's one. Poor ol' Debra is having her last wisdom tooth pulled today.

Ugh.

It's hard for even me to Pollyanna my way out of dreading this one. But oh well, by tomorrow it will all be just a memory... not a horrible memory, I hope. And at least Tom has today off-- I told him since I pampered and served him during his five weeks after surgery, I'd appreciate at least a few hours of royal treatment today when I come home, less one tooth.

The big ordeal will take place at 11:00 this morning, eastern time. Any and all prayer would be appreciated.

I'll let you know if a good time was had by all.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Remembering Childlike Faith


I want to share another passage from Joyce Maynard's book, Domestic Affairs. When I first read this 20 years ago, tears stung my eyes. I was the mother of a 6-year-old and maybe that had something to do with it:

"I am a believer of rewarding children during the early stages of toilet training... This time around, Willy's prizes were tiny pink plastic figures currently much coveted by little boys across the nation, called Muscle Men. Every time he made it to the toilet on time, he got one, and though Muscle Men carry the fairly hefty price of around a quarter a piece, until one particular day when he was 2 years and a few months old, Willy's performance in the bathroom wasn't putting much of a strain on our budget. All day long I was mopping up puddles on the floor, while Willy smiled sorrowfully, commenting, "That's life."

" Then on a single day, everything changed. He woke up announcing that he wanted to go to the bathroom, and all morning long he kept his pants dry. That afternoon I took him shopping--wearing briefs, not diapers-- and there were no accidents. On the ride home, a trip of about thirty miles, Willy suddenly piped up, "I need to pee." So naturally, I slammed on the brakes and pulled over into the breakdown lane of Interstate 93. "I'm going to get another Muscle Man," Willy sang happily as I unbuckled his seat belt and led him down the embankment in some tall grass by the side of the highway. Any my heart sank, because I had left home without my supply of Muscle Men. I had no reward.

" He pulled down his pants. And just as he was finishing and we were both studying the ground, we spotted it. Nearly buried in the dirt, in the precise spot along Route 93 where my son had chosen to pee, was a pink plastic figure who looked as if he could give Arnold Schwarzeneggar a run for his money. "Oh, there's my Muscle Man," he said with total casualness, bending to pick it up. He put the figure in his pocket. I put my son back in the car. That was six months ago and he's been dry ever since."

I guess I love that story because, always, it reminds me that God does some amazing, sweet things for us. And it also reminds me of that anything-can-happen feeling I skipped around with as a child. That dreaminess which could make me spring out of bed in anticipation of the playful hours ahead... that hopefulness, that giddiness, of miracles-around-the-corner or surprises-yet-to-come.

I think that was called Childlike Faith.

I think there's a whole lot of Childlike Faith buried, not under our beds or the clothes in our closets, but beneath big piles of Adult-like Worry. And not until we let God clear away those piles of Worry do we glimpse the expectant type of faith we dropped years ago in the dust beside Life's Road.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

The Annoying Little Fact About How I Act At Home...



Years ago, I was taught that we are, each of us, only as spiritual--as loving, patient and like Jesus--as we are in our own homes...as we behave with the people who know us best.

Bummer.

At first, my mind rebelled against that thought. My brain reminded me of all the 'important work' I was doing... all the Bible classes I was teaching, people I was counseling, all the encouraging letters I snail-mailed every month and the long Bible passages I read each day. I longed, instead, to believe all that was proof of how spiritual I really, really had become.

But pretty fast, I knew that the teacher had been indeed, correct. I saw it, suddenly, rather like a lowest common denominator sort of thing. Remember those dreadful lowest common denominator exercises from elementary school? Well, once again I saw them as dreadful because I realized--gasping and moaning--that my often-pathetic behavior toward Tom and Naomi (and various other relatives) was the lowest common denominator which brought down, lowered, the bright, overly-rated picture I had of my own spiritual standing. It was an unavoidable, not-get-around-able fact. Every time.

Of course, this is a little hard to explain, and I can only hope you're getting my overall meaning. I'm not talking about being good so I'll get into Heaven (heaven forbid), nor am I talking about 'works,'necessarily, or earning or deserving favor by my own good deeds.

No, I'm talking about letting Jesus speak and walk and live through through me. And well, I have only died to self and allowed Him to change me and take over to the extent of how I live that out around people who know me best. That's where it comes down to the lowest common denominator thing again... I cannot be more holy, more spiritual, more kind--in reality--than I am in my own home. It's impossible. I may believe I am a super-Christian because of the way I treat those who look up to me, but, always, it will come down to the way I treat those around whom I let my hair down. Right there is my true spiritual level.

I hope that makes sense... God used that one realization to humble me... or phrased another way-- to deflate me flat as a pancake.

It was, and still is, a Good Thing.


***

"But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves." James 1:22

Friday, March 17, 2006

Tap. Tap. "Is This Thing On?"



I'm back! (Knocking madly on wood...) Although, some of you probably didn't even know I was gone.

Because of technical difficulties with Blogger, my blog was unsee-able by anyone, including me. I kept getting the "You are not authorized to view this page" message and I was, like, I admit it, a tad indignant. "Not authorized to view my own blog?? I don't think so!!" ...heh...

My blog and many others were totally offline around 16 hours, or so, and for hours after that, we were unable to post anything new. (Even now, things are dicey.) When I clicked on the "Help" button, I saw many upset messages from others having the same problems. And ok... I was a tad upset, too, but hey! It was my birthday, after all. At least I didn't leave an irate message with poor ol' Blogger.

Many people, though, threatened to move their blogs elsewhere and leave Blogger in their dust. But one level-headed, kind person reminded everyone that Blogger is a free service, they rarely have enormous problems like these and they should be given some slack.

I read that and er, hung my head and whispered, "Amen."

This one little glitch in the pattern of my life reminded me of something bigger. We, as a society, are spoiled rotten. We fall apart when our stuff falls apart because we expect it to last forever. We expect the Road of Life to be smoooooth.... We get frustrated when the tiniest things don't go our way... like when we're late traveling somewhere and all the slowpokes suddenly crawl into their cars and drive in front of us.

My oh my... How will we act if something Big and Scarey happens in the future to us as a Country? I've been hearing lately that we really should be preparing for a possible pandemic to hit us... how we should be staying stocked up on groceries in our homes in case, heaven forbid, everyone will be told to stay home, away from stores, for fear of spreading disease...how we should be set-up to work from home.... have a few back-up plans for our families... etc., etc.

I think about all that and I shake my head that right now, many--most--of us get mad/frustrated/ballistic when our lightbulbs burn out, the cat throws up or our alarm clock doesn't go off.

Maybe we should just be grateful for Now and how good, relatively, Now is... Maybe we could slip back into Reality, calm down, and just enjoy what we have while we still have it.

And perhaps we could learn right now to grab onto the Rock that does not roll and get used to running to Him when Little Things Go Wrong (as they do, as they will, guaranteed). It's a given that things will go wrong. But then, it's a given, also, that God will strengthen us through it all--if we rely on Him and not on ourselves.


***

Ack! Talk about a test... Soon after writing this, Blogger once again, messed up and my blog became just a white screen for hours and hours and hours.... How much can one person take? ...heh... Just kidding...

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Birthday Reflections


Well, guess who is having another birthday today? Hmmm... didn't I just have a birthday around this same time last year?

Now, don't faint or throw-up or anything, but so far, I like this getting older stuff. I love being in my 40's. It's been my favorite decade so far in this journey. No, really.

Maybe that's because I've learned...

... throwing a tantrum or staying frustrated uses up a whole lot of energy I could have used in a better way...

... my days are more peaceful when I stop expecting people to be perfect or to make me happy...

... being kind is better than being right...

... fame is fleeting and so are lots of other things in Life, so why aim for things which will only disappear?

... the world will not break apart or explode if I take an afternoon nap...

... there's no place like home...

... winning an Ebay auction is only a temporary high... But God-given contentment lasts forever...

And right now it's not even 7:30 in the morning, but I already know this birthday is going to be a good one, simply because God is good.

So happy birthday to me.... happy birthday to me... happy birthday, dear Debra... happy birthday to me................................and many more.......



***
"No wise man ever wished to be younger."
Jonathan Swift

"And in the end, it's not the years in your life that count. It's the life in your years.”
Abraham Lincoln

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Motherhood Glances


When Naomi was five years old, someone gave her Shrinky Dinks for her birthday. Do you remember Shrinky Dinks? They were those annoying sheets of plastic-like-stuff which you would draw upon (good luck), then, frustratingly try to cut-up, and then bake in an oven. Well, one night Naomi and I did the Shrinky Dink thing and then ever afterward when Naomi asked to Shrinky Dink some more, I fibbed to her. I'd say, "Later, Sweetie. We'll Shrinky Dink later." But later, I hid the dreaded Shrinky Dink box, out-of-sight-out-of-mind style. And still, still Naomi would, occasionally, ask to haul out that mess once more. And of course, I would say, "Later... Later we will Shrinky Dink again."

Well, later never came. And it's funny, but some afternoons I'd tell myself, "I really should haul out that messy, awful Shrinky Dink stuff for Naomi again. After all, it was for her birthday. After all, she will someday be all grown-up and too old to even care about Shrinky Dinking. And someday, I will probably regret not spending more Shrinky Dink time with her."

Well, we never did Shrinky Dink again. And I did regret it, but obviously, not enough to ever pull out that box again, other than to years and years later, throw it away.

There are Motherhood Glances, and if you are a mother, you might know what I mean. There is a Forward Motherhood Glance and a Backward Motherhood Glance. Both are important and both can help balance-out this amazing thing called raising children.

I'm glad I most often used the Forward Motherhood Glance, the one which woke me up on days I took for granted having a little girl to mold and play and dream with. The one where I'd look ahead and ask myself, "Someday, will I regret not taking the time to ________ as a mother?" Very often, the answer was "Well, yessss..... I guess I will." And that simple thought would help get my tired, sleep-deprived self off of the couch so that I could go and make a Mom and Naomi Memory. Another one. One of thousands. And nearly always, afterward, I'd feel purest gratitude that the Forward Motherhood Glance nudged me out of the house or just away from my book or the tv or off the phone.

Now that Naomi is 26, most of my motherhood glances are of the Backward persuasion. Sometimes they bump into me, jar me, when I'm in toy aisles at Target--they whisper that Naomi's idea of a wonderful present is no longer a Barbie, a doll house or colored markers. Nor will it ever be again. Those days are gone. Yet, Naomi at 7 is not gone, not completely, because the Forward Glance used to tell me to look up from my crocheting and memorize Naomi, just as she was on the carpet with her scissors and her fabric and the dresses she scotch-taped for herself that year. Naomi at seven can never be completely gone from me now.

But years and miles later, with grey streaking my hair, the Great Shrinky Dink Debacle is one of the few regrets I find way back there in Naomi's childhood. It's right up there with the fact that we never took her to Disneyland, and well, a couple more such things.

I can live with those regrets. Now, in my Years of Middle-Age and Naomi's of All Grown-Up, I can live comfortably with the few things I let slide back then. They do not now knock me down and yell at me during my weakest moments. And my gratitude for the Forward Glance is pure and real because it kept my regret list short, and if I'd been listening more, the list would be even shorter.

The Motherhood Forward Glance nagged me to gaze ahead and then it took my hands to the refrigerator and gave me the patience to color and dye all those bowls of Easter eggs with Naomi... and the inspiration to take her on just one more walk and one more trip to the supermarket with her sitting in the cart, when it was easier to leave her home with Tom... and one more long car trip to visit her grandparents and her cousins. The Forward Glance reminded me that there would not always be a day when Naomi would sit across from me, swinging her legs beneath the chair, with a bowl of ice cream at the shop downtown, so we needed to go often after school. Just as there would not always be afternoons of buying a loaf of bread and feeding it to the seagulls swirling, calling around us at the park... nor would we always be snuggled into a tent, just the three of us, camping in forests far away on hot summer nights.

Now all of it is far away, all those memories, yet they are still close, memorized, too. And my glances are mostly all backward ones because Naomi is on her own and finding her own way. But I do thank God, sincerely, that these Backward Glances do not hurt, but rather, they are oh, so sweet, with only an occasional regret to mar them. And Today is all the better for having been kept awake by the Forward Glances of long ago.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Some Childhood Magic Restored


Finally, Tom and I, the last of all the good people of Blogland, went to see The Chronicles of Narnia. Now, here in this great land I'd heard all sorts of comments about this movie (taken from a book I've curled up and read many a time), so I wasn't sure what to expect. Though most people liked it, overall, most picked at it, too, the way you pick at the turkey when you've sat too much and talked too long at the Thanksgiving table.

So what did I think of The Chronicles of Narnia? It was perfect. Just plain perfect.

Tom and I especially loved Lucy, and we especially, especially loved any of her scenes with Mr. Tumnus. Some of you (okay, most...) will find this comparison odd, but those delightful Lucy-Tumnus scenes made me feel just as down-to-my toes touched by the rapport between them, as did the Shirley Temple-Bill Robinson dance scenes in
Shirley's old movies. In both cases, you could tell these people enjoyed each other, in reality, as well as in the midst of the parts they played.

Stay with me... I am going somewhere with this...

The first movie I recall watching in a theater was Mary Poppins, way back when it first came out. I remember laughing hard, uncontrollably, when the soot-covered chimney sweeps danced through the children's house. And I also remember that the next day, out on the school playground, conversation about Mary Poppins was rampant. All my friends loved that movie, and you know... no one picked it apart. No one said, I thought this actor did a great job, but that other actor was lousy. No child said the movie lasted too long, didn't have enough special effects, could have had less dialogue, fewer songs or more action sequences.

No, out there on the playground, we were still coming off of the movie magic, rather like the way one comes off the dentist's novacaine. We were still even a little tipsy, perhaps, from having been drugged by the trip you take when you watch a good movie, you know, when you're sitting in a movie theater or in your recliner, and yet somehow, you're also transported onto the screen in the midst and neighborhood of what you are watching.

And you know... I think many of us, as adults, have lost that movie magic. And not just because we are all grown-up. No, but because it's become so popular now to absolutely tear movies apart at their weakest seams, scene-by-scene and actor-by-actor all in the name of having our opinions be made known and being known by our (too highly valued) opinions. Of keeping up with the big kids and showing them we are just as aware and intellectual, savvy and cool as they are.

And the playground where we all made the movie magic last just a little longer, well, it's been moved to the office or to Blogland, except, there's no magic soaring there, but it's more like the critiques and complaints are flying now. Instead of discussing the fun and the whisking away, we discuss where the movie, the writers, the director and the actors fell short... And the high no longer comes from the film, but from being the first enlightened one to cite where the film bombed.

And all the while, many people moan about having forever lost what was good about childhood, when maybe, just maybe, some of it has not been lost, but rather, squeezed out because of something else chosen in its place. Something which, even at this late date, can become unchosen and tossed away for the something better we once had.

Or maybe it's just me who sees it this way.

And well, I don't want to be like that... Becoming a critic can turn into a habit--trust me, I know. It starts with movies, then before you realize it (but everyone else sees it) you are criticizing your spouse, your children, your friends, your Country, your government, your church, your pastor, your neighbors and well, your whole darn life. The very life God, Himself, breathed into you and planned-out for you for good, not evil.

No, I want to stop critiquing movies around Blogland's water cooler, and instead, bask in the magic of sitting in a chair and yet being up on a screen simultaneously... Of watching characters I do not know, and yet feel like I know.

I want to watch movies, both new and old, and remember and discuss what I loved about them... what it was like to become caught-up in them.

And the same goes for my life, except that instead of watching, I want to participate--but not in all the complaining going on. No, but rather, in all the God-breathed magic out there on Life's big screen just waiting to be appreciated.


***

"You tear apart the baby's rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest man that ever lived, could tear apart. Only faith, fancy, poetry, love, romance can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond." ... Frank P. Church

"Do everything without complaining or arguing..." Philippians 2:14

Saturday, March 11, 2006

For Artists Who Are Sitting, Waiting...


I discovered Joyce Maynard's Domestic Affairs when it first sat upon bookstore shelves 19 years ago, and after checking it out from libraries in three states, I finally bought a copy for myself. And now that I own a copy I am crazily underlining in it, for instructional and inspirational reasons, all the sentences I love. (With some people, you start talking about underlining in books and they gasp and never look at you in the same, kind way afterward. As for me, I not only love underlining, but also scribbling little notes in the margins. So there. Deal with it.)

Anyway, this morning these are the lines I underlined:

"I asked Steve..., 'how many of your friends' mothers worked? At jobs outside the home...' He thought a moment. His own mother never held a job, until her four children were in high school and college. She is one of those women (that dying breed) who made running a home her art. More than once, over the years, I've heard my mother-in-law say, "I loved being a housewife. Those were the best years of my life."

Wow. Especially the "...she made running a home her art" part. I read lines like that and sometimes they are enough to make me slap the book shut, jump up and go play artist.

My home, and yours, too, has a menagerie of canvases. There are walls and floors and whole rooms waiting to be painted or decorated or rearranged...
...table tops screaming for an interesting still-life to be created upon them, kitchen shelving left wanting for dishes to be arranged in eye-pleasing ways and the great music of the centuries to be played like the soundtrack of my life...
...windows crying for just the right curtains, walls hinting for the perfect paintings and open shelving begging for better-placed books and knick-knacks...
...books about your particular house-style, and what look fits it best, waiting to be studied... pages to be ripped out of decorating magazines for ideas...
...pillowcases and dishtowels to be embroidered upon, pies to be baked and then cooled upon counter tops, soups to be simmered on back burners, releasing scents upon fabric and walls...

There are Real World homes with children inside, children with creative, pliable minds waiting to be molded, inspired and challenged... Children wanting to color and paste and fingerpaint... And there are homes with spouses asking for friendship, laughter and adventures or vacations still untaken... and wanting to co-create a home of dreams-come-true...

Actually, there are more canvases in the average home than an awake artist can ever fill in just one lifetime.

And yet, we pause, we wait to become home artists. We wait for permission or inspiration or just the perfect, distraction-free day. Most of all, I think we wait for the applause of unseen crowds cheering us on, shouting encouraging words about domestic, home-created art being important, vital art, even in 2006.

But that applause does not come and many people walk away because they cannot create in the silence.

Yet, for those who stay, there arrives a time when we must begin painting and molding and creating on our own, in that quiet place, because it suddenly hits us: the world is not saying what we have been waiting to hear. The world is not cheering for us and they are not in our corner.

The world is not applauding people who pick the Homemaker Card from the Career Box. Nor are they cheering most people who are out dancing to the beats of the most different Drummer of them all.

But something life-altering happens when we reach for the paint brush or instruction books or maps or take a child's hand--and go ahead and create in the silence, with not a soul in those empty, imaginary seats...We feel the artist in us breathing first breaths when we just step back (with paint on our fingers) and admire the work of our hands... and hear no cheering except our own... or maybe a child's ... or maybe God's.

The smile of perfect contentment appears and we discover it--all of it-- is more than enough.

Friday, March 10, 2006

But When It Comes to Books....


My last post, the one about letting go by T.D. Jakes, reminded me that all those words apply to my things, too--my stuff and junk and belongings--and my books. Oh dear, my books... Wow, to let go of my books is to experience a form of mental torture. And yet I regularly purge some of the books from my shelves yearly anyway. Why? Because:

1.) Hundreds of books take up a whole lot of shelf (and room) space,
2.) It's good discipline to release what you love,
3.) Just how many books does one person really need?
4.) Some people have never read even once the books I have reread 4 or more times so it's a good thing to pass books along to others by way of thrift shops and gifts to friends, and
5.) Books become a part of who we are and by giving books away, we don't lose that new part of ourselves. Rather, we still walk in what we have learned and we free the book to become a part of other people.

And well, I'm still learning that just because I own something like dishes or furniture or gifts of trinkets from friends today, it does not mean I must hold onto all that stuff until I drop dead. Our possessions, both given to us and bought by us, perform a service and then really, honest, it's ok to let them go once that service has been provided. Different things come to us during different seasons of our lives and often the test is not if we can forever hold onto them, but rather, can we release them to bless others if God nudges us to do so?

Again, I am still learning all that, which means, I am still learning that "this world is not my home, I'm just 'a passing through..."

It's one thing to sing mighty hymns in a church pew--it's quite another to drive back home and spend hours discovering the words are actually true.

Imagine that.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Let It Go


To some of you, these words by T.D. Jakes will sound harsh. I realize that. And yet I'm including them here because this is the kind of stuff which has set me free the past 12 years. I have found, and am still finding, great freedom when I apply truths such as these... And no, it's not easy, yet no one ever said it would be. But Jesus did promise to help us through it all... And I have found, too, that when I truly place something in God's hands, it often returns to me later in a brand new, better-than-ever way after having been touched, re-molded and changed by His fingers.



Let It Go In 2006
By T. D. Jakes


There are people who can walk away from you.

And hear me when I tell you this! When people can walk away from
you: let them walk.
I don't want you to try to talk another person into staying with
you, loving you, calling you, caring about you, coming to see you,
staying attached to you. I mean hang up the phone.

When people can walk away from you let them walk. Your destiny is
never tied to anybody that left.

The Bible said that, they came out from us that it might be made
manifest that they were not for us. For had they been of us,
no doubt they would have continued with us. [1 John 2:19]

People leave you because they are not joined to you.
And if they are not joined to you, you can't make them stay.

Let them go.

And it doesn't mean that they are a bad person it just means that
their part in the story is over. And you've got
to know when people's part in your story is over so that you don't
keep trying to raise the dead. You've got to know when
it's dead.

You've got to know when it's over. Let me tell you something. I've
got the gift of good-bye. It's the tenth spiritual gift, I believe in
good-bye.
It's not that I'm hateful, it's that I'm faithful, and I know
whatever God means for me to have He'll give it to me.
And if it takes too much sweat I don't need it. Stop begging people
to stay.

Let them go!!

If you are holding on to something
that doesn't belong to you and was never intended for your life,
then you need to......

LET IT GO!!!

If you are holding on to past hurts and pains ......

LET IT GO!!!

If someone can't treat you right, love you back, and
see your worth.....

LET IT GO!!!

If someone has angered you ........

LET IT GO!!!

If you are holding on to some thoughts of evil and revenge......

LET IT GO!!!

If you are involved in a wrong relationship or addiction......

LET IT GO!!!

If you are holding on to a job that no longer meets your needs or
talents

LET IT GO!!!

If you have a bad attitude.......

LET IT GO!!!

If you keep judging others to make yourself feel better......

LET IT GO!!!

If you're stuck in the past and God is trying to take you to a new
level in Him......

LET IT GO!!!

If you are struggling with the healing of a broken
relationship.......

LET IT GO!!!

If you keep trying to help someone who won't even try to help
themselves......

LET IT GO!!!

If you're feeling depressed and stressed ........

LET IT GO!!!

If there is a particular situation that you are so used to handling
yourself and God is saying "take your hands off of it," then you
need to......

LET IT GO!!!

Let the past be the past. Forget the former things. GOD is doing a
new thing for 2006!!

LET IT GO!!!

"The Battle is the Lord's!"

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

A Secret In The Kitchen


About a hundred years ago when I was first married (okay... more like 25 or so) I was given the book, Make-A-Mix Cookery.

Talk about a fun cookbook!

Make-a-Mix gave me recipes to make my own mixes so to save $$'s and time in the kitchen and to keep me from racing out to the supermarket in rainstorms or when I just plain didn't have time (or a vehicle) in which to do so. By making my own mixes, I also skipped the nasty old preservatives which people threaten will all catch up with us one day.

I remember spending whole afternoons blithely making my own mixes while Naomi sat gurgling in her high chair and our portable tv played game shows and cooking shows on the kitchen counter.

Those were the days... and these are the days, too.

This afternoon for old time's sake I again (wearing my 1950's apron) made my own mixes so that when Tom and I get cravings for baked this-and-that, I can whip something up before even one set of commercials during 24 have ended.

But technically, long, long ago I stopped using the original Make-A-Mix recipes -- I just kept using their basic idea. I mean, I haven't used that canned white shortening stuff since I can't remember when, and I always halve the sugar amounts (or go even lower than that) and I can't use powdered milk anymore or else my head explodes (only on the inside, lest you got a different picture in your mind).

No, for years now I've simply consulted my own tried-and-true, semi-healthy recipes for muffins, pancakes and brownies, etc., and then I sift and stir together all the dry ingredients into individual zip-lock bags and then label them. Man, I can't even tell you how good it feels to do that.... or how lovely all those little labeled bags look inside my 1940's metal bread box.

Even after 27 years, I still love playing June Cleaver. I apologize. Or maybe I don't.

But that's just the beginning.... I make little envelopes out of foil, label them, and then add my own special spice mixture for meats or spaghetti. Those shiny foil packages are too cute for words. And when I go Suzy-Homemaker ballistic, I even cook ground turkey and add spices from my foil envelopes and tomatoes and onions and then freeze it all into containers which I slip into our freezer in one-meal portions. Those are then ready for everything from lasagna to enchiladas to tacos.

Well, anyway, I just thought I'd share one of my little kitchen secrets with you. Tom has some days-off approaching and rather than me spending an inordinate amount of those vacation days in the kitchen while he has fun elsewhere, I've got my little mixes just waiting to be tossed into a bowl or a pan in record time.

Suzy Homemaker (a.k.a. June Cleaver) is alive and well, lest you thought she died a long, long time ago.


***
Here is a website with tons of make-it-yourself mixes. It's one of many on the Net.

The Problem With Comparisons


"When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise." 2 Corinthians 10:12

Anymore, I try not to make comparisons.

Why? Because the older I get, the more wary and leary I become of nearly all comparisons, because too many of them can make people sad, even when that's not what I wanted one bit.

Did you watch American Idol last night? Simon made a comparison comment about Kelly and last year's winner, Carrie, which, I believe was hurtful. (Simon said something hurtful? Nah...he'd never do that!) To compare their voices is one thing, but what it sounded like, (I could be wrong), was more a comparison of their personalities, Kelly's being better than Carrie's.

Argh... Tom and I groaned and lectured Simon through our tv screen. Yet again.

Comparing people to one another is like comparing the proverbial apples and oranges. People just plain are not alike, nor were they ever meant to be. God had some amazing, countless reasons for creating each of us uniquely, and yes, like the above verse says, we show our lack of wisdom when we compare one person to another or when we compare ourselves to anyone else.

Hopefully you will not read in my blog something like, "Spring is a wonderful season, but there's not one good thing about Winter." Why not? Because each season has a different, necessary purpose and there is something vital and beautiful about each one.

Or another silly comparison would be to say the tv show, C.S.I., is a much better show than Ty Pennington's Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. They are two totally separate beings, each one having its own highlights and special qualities and appeal.

And the same can be said for people. God, on purpose, gave each of us separate, custom-made combinations of gifts and callings and talents and appearances and dreams and desires. (We constantly hear that, but do we believe it?)

Oh, I still tend to compare houses sometimes... drive by and label some as lovely and some as awful. But even there, I remind myself that the houses I speed past and declare "boring or ugly," well, each one belongs to a family of real people and who am I to fling out such disparaging labels like frisbees? Besides, perhaps the house's insides are gorgeous... my quick judgment of the outside of things could blindfold my eyes to such a possibility.

And again, the same thing goes for the way I perceive people.

Yes, we can have opinions, but I'm finding, a lot, that my opinions, in the grand scheme of Things and Life, are basically, downright close to meaningless. And if my opinions are unjustly hurting people's feelings then I'm falling short of what you'll read in 1 Corinthians 13. Real love, God's love, doesn't storm around wielding opinions like sharpened knives.

More than ever in 2006 it's popular to stand up for your right to have and express opinions, and to a point, that's fine. But to go overboard and wildly swing those opinions around like they are Truth and not even care who they cut and slice, well, that is something different altogether.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Home, Sweet, Wanna-Be-There Home



After visiting Homeliving Helper this morning, I had to smile my Pity Smile. Again. After being a happy homemaker for 27 years, I've been asked nearly all the questions Cinderella and her commenters had been asked.

You know, real dandy, polite inquiries like, "As a housewife, don't you get bored just sitting around the house all day? Don't you feel trapped? What do you do without a car? Wouldn't you rather have a real job? How can you afford to stay home?"

All these years later I've reached a conclusion: some people just have no imagination.

Some people would never imagine that I, a mid-life homemaker, have the best job on Earth. Especially at this phase of my life.

Hey, I can read books or magazines or recipes whenever I want... Sit in my backyard with coffee or go online whenever I want... Clean the house at my convenience... Work-out, take a walk, watch tv, paint walls, eat a snack or drink lemonade on the front porch whenever I want (and preen in the sun like a Cheshire cat).

Trapped inside my house? You've got to be kidding! I can open a book and go anywhere in the world. I can turn on my radio or tv and visit other countries and cultures with my eyes and my imagination. I can even travel back in time by watching my black-and-white tv series dvd's (and be inspired to keep my house nicely the way June Cleaver did).

I can go online and talk with people from across the United States or across the world. I can write in this blog and immediately, fine people from the world-over will read what I wrote. I can join email groups with people who love all the same things I do and discuss our hobbies, our families, and share pictures.

I can learn new skills, ones like decorating, gardening, knitting, saving money or read-up on history or health and wellness.

And on days when I feel like going out and about, I can take my husband to work in the mornings and have the car for the next shining 12 hours, and go anywhere and do anything (well, within reason and within a 30 mile radius). I can drive to the town library and spend hours browsing and reading and dreaming or I can have coffee at any of our local supermarkets while sitting at a bistro table with a magazine. Afterward, I can pick-up lunch at a drive-through window and then drive over to the park and sit beside the river with my lunch and a good book. I can even go treasure hunting at second-hand shops, have my hair done or visit with a friend either in her home or at a coffee shop.

Trapped at home, indeed! People spend years and years and thousands of dollars trying to find their dream home, and when they do find it, well, I simply cannot imagine feeling trapped inside the dream home for which you've nearly sweated blood.

Never has it ever been what you do for a living which makes you free. It's always been who you are, Who you know (Jesus), and how you look at what you do--that's what makes you free.

And I can't help but give a Pity Smile to those who don't have the imagination to realize that.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Turning Toward Home Early


Today, finally, was the perfect day I'd been waiting for in which to take a walk. (Not that I should be waiting for perfect days to do anything--they are altogether far too rare.) But anyway, I headed out for the little half-block I told you about before, the tiny block where just five houses stand alone and face a field behind an old brick school.

It's only 3 1/2 blocks away and last autumn I walked there nearly everyday and even added a stroll through my favorite old-timey street, the tree-lined one next to ours. But today... oh my... I had to turn around for home before I even reached those five quaint houses because my lower back started hurting. For each step forward, that would mean just one more painful step I'd have to retrace back home.

My winter weight had gotten the best of me. Gah!

Well, I deserved that... After spending the whole winter hibernating in our cozy room with Tom and watching movies and eating innumerable meals and snacks, well, what else did I expect? Especially considering I could feel the extra weight creeping upon me like a huge slug while I lolled there in my comfy pink floral chair all those weeks Tom was on medical leave.

So now I have a choice. I can kick myself, curse myself, bog down in the mire of guilt and imagine that the whole town is chatting about what a heavy pig I have become and feel rushed to lose every ugly extra pound before April...

....or...

I can accept this as a challenge to straighten-up and fly right and lose the weight slowly.

Years past, I used to live in the Land of Guilt. What a horrible place, because in that land it is always cloudy and everything you do is done because of imagined voices you are hearing. You wait until you feel absolutely horrible about yourself and you let that 'inspire' (yank, shove) you to make changes. You do what you do because you ought to and you should, and because you'll feel guilty if you do or guilty if you don't, instead of simply, because God thinks/doesn't think it's a good idea.

The challenge remains just that--a challenge--and not a Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Problem.

And well, this time, I'll be losing this winter weight, slowly, simply because God thinks it's a good idea and I agree with Him. In fact, all-around, life on this side of The Land of Guilt is usually that simple.

Unless, of course, I choose to complicate it.

Writing Your Own Newspaper


Last Friday I drove beneath the sun over to the supermarket and video store, just feeling thankful for my life and where I live and the memories I have in this place.

And then, for a moment, I thought of all the bad news on the front pages of newspapers and blogs and that depressing little Yahoo News box which is the first thing that pops up on my computer in the mornings. You know, that box which makes certain you stay all caught-up with all things tragic. I thought of many people I know who base how they feel, act and believe according to what newscasters, columnists or bloggers choose to type or talk about, those who, I think, hope the rest of us will concentrate on, or sink below, their sad reports.

And a thought came to me, not for the first time... Just as Jesus said, "The poor you will always have with you," there is also this truth, "Bad news you will always have with you." There will always be all-day sad thoughts just like there are all-day suckers.

But then these words followed those, "Sometimes, you just have to write your own newspaper."

How true... Not so to ignore the bad news emblazoned all around us and then do nothing about it. No, instead, to not allow it to grip and hold you with that negativity which can paralyze even the strongest amongst us. Like when a huge, tragic story takes over all the tv stations and you cannot bounce yourself up off your couch (or unfold yourself from your recliner) and do something helpful, instead.

It's hard to think straight, move forward and be useful when one is tangled in the vines and briars of bad news.

Immediately I pasted a sort of front page together in my mind and read it as I stopped my car at a red light. And here were some of my headlines:

The Weather Man Promised Clouds, But We're Having Sun, Instead

For Every One of My Husband's Weaknesses, I Can Think of Twenty of His Strengths

I May Not Be Living In My Dream House, But I Am Making It Into My Dream House

This Month We Have Money In The Bank For Ourselves and For Others

My Three-Week-Long Flu Has Finally Disappeared!

God Has Given Me a Blog In Which To Share His Goodness

Even If The World Falls All To Pieces, God is Still God And His Word Is Still True


And that was just the front page.

During my Nevada Years, it would have taken me an afternoon to come up with a few positive headlines. That day last week, they came to my mind in a flash.

And that says a lot.

What does your front page say?

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Major Potpourri-age


I forgot to mention this week that I'd also been saddened by the death of the actor, Dennis Weaver. Actually, Dennis was in one of my top-ten all-time favorite movies, one called Duel. Have you seen it? Duel is one of those perfect examples of a movie which I can't explain just exactly why I love it--I just plain do. It's a great suspense flick which I get cravings to watch sometimes (weird, I know). Tom and I also liked Dennis' tv series, McCloud, the reruns, that is, back when we were newlyweds (yes, tv was invented back then....heh...), but Duel tops it. A real classic and the first major movie for director, Stephen Spielberg.

(For more of my all-time favorite movies, check out my complete profile.)

Oh, and did you see Carrie Underwood sing Jesus, Take The Wheel this week on American Idol? My, oh my... Tom and I were blessed to tears. Always, I am on the look-out for the instances the name of Jesus is proclaimed to millions of people in unconventional (read:non-churchy) ways. Months later, I am still getting hits because I posted about Faith Hill singing I Surrender all on Oprah. Never before have I gotten so many hits concerning the content of a post--what a good thing. What a blessing that so many people searched the net for Faith Hill's song from that day.

Tom and I watched the movie, The Gospel, this morning and we loved it. We highly recommend it, though if you are of the there's-only-one-way-to-worship-and-have-church persuasion, you'll probably want to pass this one by. But again, Tom and I enjoyed this movie, along with its tons of terrific gospel music throughout.

And just one more movie recommendation... A few weeks ago Tom and I watched Mobsters and Mormons--funny, funny movie. I've mentioned Mormon movies here before--we've thoroughly enjoyed each and every one we've viewed this past year. Great family entertainment, not just for Mormons, by any means. We've laughed till we cried during 3 or 4 of them. (Note: again, Tom and I are easily-amused, so that might tell you something.) :)

Speaking of singing, if you would like to see one of the cutest things on Earth, check this out at Lauren's Created For His Glory blog. (Scroll down to the adorable little Asian girl and click on her picture.) Oh my.... Exponential cute factor going on there!

Just catching up on a few observations... I hope you are having a great weekend!

That Careless Word Thing


"But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken." Matthew 12:36

Some Bible verses downright holy scare me. That verse is one of them.

When I stand before God someday, I already know what I will say and do when it comes time for this "careless word" part.

I will not say things like these... (trust me):

"I couldn't help it."
"Well, if Tom wouldn't have made me mad, then I wouldn't have yelled at him like that."
"I was just kidding."
"Well, if there weren't so many stupid, maniac drivers out on the road I wouldn't have used those names!"
"Hey, it was just my opinion."
"I was brought-up to say those things."
"Making promises and keeping them? Was that in the Bible?"
"I wasn't judging. I was telling it like it was."
"But she deserved it."
"Gossip? Who, me?"
"But they said it first! And sheesh... I had to defend myself, didn't I?"
"How was I to know I shouldn't have said that?"
"I didn't think you were serious about that "every careless word" stuff.

Uh, no.

Instead, I will fall on my face, flat, before Him.
And I will say (if I am even able to use my voice):

"You are right."
"I should never have said those things."
"You are right."
"I am sorry."
"You are right."

And in the meantime, I find myself becoming more quiet. Already often telling God, "You are right." Biting my tongue. Already making fewer (useless) excuses. And letting God change my heart so that cruel and careless words come less to my mind in the first place.

Because, already, my Careless Word List is miles and miles long. And that's enough to holy scare me into changing.

Friday, March 03, 2006

As Long As The Son Shines


I can't remember ever living through such a sunny winter as this one. Usually we have months of dark afternoons and tons of deep, wet snow, even in April, and only occasional peeks of sun from behind clouds as curtains. Not this year. Not this Winter.

This Winter we have had Sun.

Oh, the temperatures have been cold, highs in the teens and twenties, but when the sun gleams upon my back while I am shoveling snow in the driveway I think, surely, it must be 30 degrees out here, when in reality, it is only 10.

When it was only early February and sunlight pulsated through my windows, I thought, "This is like Spring in deadest Winter. I can handle this."

When I walked outside over ice to my mailbox and stuffed bills inside, I saw all the sunlight and then smelled the tiniest wisps of Spring float by. In deepest Winter, that is called Hope and it was there for everyone who paused long enough to smell it and see it.

The sun makes all the difference.

Since December we have had snow, then sun to melt it from sidewalks. Winds, then sun. Freezing, bone-chilling nights, then sun. Sun, then some more sun.

As long as the sun shines, Winter is a breeze.

And as long as the Son shines within me, any day is one to anticipate. Any day has potential for hope and joy and smiles and contentment and surprises.

But only when I pause long enough to know it... when I gage my days according to how good Jesus is, not upon the fickleness of anything or anyone else... only when I stare at the Son no matter what else is swirling all around me.

As long as the Son shines, I will be ok. As long as the Son shines, I will always have the promise of Spring... and the promise of Heaven.

The Son does make all the difference in the world, but only when He stops being just a theory, a name, a book, a word, a legend, a thought, a song, a story, a doubt... but Real, instead.

And as long as the Son shines, there will always be bits of Spring, even in deepest, darkest Winter. Always.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

re: Pat Robertson And Others


I don't know.

Maybe it's because my comment boxes lately have been, well, dead. Maybe I'm ready for comment fireworks, or at least willing to face their possibility.

But I'm going to write something controversial here.

You will never, in this blog, read any caustic remarks about Pat Robertson. You will never hear me make negative reports about other various tv evangelists, either.

No. And here is why I'll not speak ill of Pat Robertson: his program, The 700 Club, daily, brings hundreds, if not thousands of people to Jesus Christ. And daily The 700 Club shares stories of healings and miracles and hands-out hope to whole masses of people who have absolutely lost theirs.

I don't do that. And even if I did, still, I wouldn't have the right to criticize a group who I may not agree with 100%, but who is doing so much to help so many.

And here's the scariest part: if I were to blast Pat Robertson in this blog, then the possibility is very great that perhaps two or ten or twenty people may decide that The 700 Club was not worth their time, and therefore, never tune-in.... never watch when, perhaps, just perhaps, God had a special episode just for them. Perhaps an invitation to come to know Jesus, a challenge to work on their marriage, or the courage to live another day, instead of taking their own life. All invitations that those two or ten or twenty people might have accepted, had it not been for my blasting of Pat Robertson and what he stands for.

I will not risk that. I will not stand before God someday and try to explain my way out of that one.

God uses all sorts of imperfect people, churches and ministries to accomplish His perfect purposes. Heck, we are, each of us, imperfect. And I refuse to be guilty of steering people away from the help, the hope, the freedom they so needed, and would have found, if not for my know-it-all, judgmental attitude.

"For Goodness' Sake, Just Pray!"


I confess. At times in my life, I have royally annoyed God. Especially in this area called Prayer.

I was in my twenties when it all started. Somewhere deep inside me I'd hear, "Pray for so-and-so. Pray as I lead you."

And always, that was the trigger for my head to start reasoning, to begin rattling-off questions:

"Pray for ____ to feel better? Why? I just saw her yesterday and she looked fine to me. I wonder if she is sick? I wonder what she has?"

"Pray for ____ to be comforted? Why? What happened? I haven't heard that anything happened to her or her family. Nobody has mentioned anything to me. I haven't heard a word from the church's telephone prayer chain, either. Hmm... I wonder what's wrong? Or maybe I am just hearing things..."

And over and over, always eventually inside of me I'd hear, "FOR GOODNESS' SAKE, JUST PRAY!!" And that's usually what it took before I'd be like, "Oh, yeah... I guess I should just go ahead and pray."

Poor God. And sometimes we wonder why He has to hit us over the head about some things...

Once Tom and I met a man who was selling something down at his storage shed and while Tom and the man spoke, I stepped away to look at something and inside me I heard, "Pray for this man's salvation because he'll soon die."

Of course, immediately, my brain flipped on the reasoning switch. I looked at the man and thought, "Him? He only looks around 60. He doesn't look too unhealthy to me. And besides, we're all going to die sometime. I'm probably just imagining things. I mean, he probably has a few years left."

And then I heard the ol', "For goodness' sake, just pray!" And I was, like, "Oh yeah... sorry about that. I did it again. Argh." And I prayed under my breath for him there and again the next day, and perhaps the next.

A year later we heard that the man passed away just a couple weeks after we saw him that day.

There have been other times when I have truly tried God's patience. Soon after that experience, God asked me to pray for Ken Osmond, otherwise known as Eddie Haskell of Leave It To Beaver fame. He asked me to pray for his safety.

"Pray for Ken Osmond? Why? What's happening to him? I haven't read anything about him lately or seen anything on the news. Hmm... I wonder why I should pray for his safety? I wonder what the problem could be...?"

"For goodness' sake, just pray!" There was an intensity about that request and I did eventually stop with the questions and pray. Years and years later I discovered that Ken Osmond was with the Los Angeles Police Department at that time, something I did not know, and was involved in a shooting that same year. Who knows what other dangers he and his fellow officers faced that year?

The list goes on. God has asked me to 'blindly' pray for other actors and pastors and friends and people I will never know. I'd like to say that all these years later God never has to tell me, "For goodness' sake, just pray!", but I would be lying. I can say, though, that He has to say it less now.

(Maybe now you can understand a bit better why I've sometimes blogged that I dislike reasoning.)

Who knows how much good would happen if only we would pray each and every time the Spirit of God asks us to?

If only we didn't always have to know the 'why' of everything.
If only we could obey without asking a bunch of questions first.
If only we could obey God at the drop of a hat and just say a simple, believing prayer.

Who knows what would happen if only we instantly obeyed God's quietest whisper and trusted Him with all the details which are none of our business?

Who knows?


***
"To clasp the hands in prayer is the beginning of an uprising against the disorder of the world." ~ Charles J. Chaput,

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

For The Retro TV Viewers Amongst Us


... You will only find the following link fun ....

...if you watch the Brady Bunch and you can't understand why people joke about their clothes because they look fine and normal to you. You grew-up looking just like that.

... if you are very, very easily amused...

...if any show in black and white is a guaranteed winner with you...

...if your idea of a perfect evening at home is watching TV Land, Nick At Night or your extensive collection of 1960's sitcoms dvd's...

If this sounds like you, then go here for a really great time. (Try again later if the traffic appears to be heavy there.)

Click on one of the three little tv's. My favorite was the Leave It To Beaver episode but the others were good, too-- The Munsters and The Brady Bunch.

You'll see what I mean... Takes about 8-10 minutes to watch all of them one after the other.

I had fun there. I even laughed aloud. But then, I am beyond easily amused and I have a great weakness for retro tv shows. Hey, I watched most of them back when everyone had just three tv stations and My Three Sons was current fair. Back when Gilligan's Island, The Brady Bunch and The Partridge Family were the hot topics on the school playground.

Yeah, I'm that old.