Wednesday, August 30, 2006

And For Those Who Love Cottages...

... (as I do)... here are some which I walked past this morning. Generally, I prefer large Victorian or Craftsman homes, but oh... I look at these and think, "I could probably be very happy in such a cozy place..."





This pink cottage and its yard are my favorite... unfortunately, it was hard to take a good overall picture. I always consider it a treat just to walk past it...



Tuesday, August 29, 2006

I Guess I've Had It...


Warning: Miss Debra is throwing a rare fit... She apologizes if she offends anyone--but she cannot apologize for her message.

***
Sometimes dark, cloudy days make me think of dark, cloudy things.

And well, sometimes you just have to separate yourself from what feels like death in order to make room for what feels like Life.

And so I did a bit of blog house cleaning today... I deleted some of the blogs in my sidebar, blogs which are nearly always criticizing other people.

I mean, sometimes I wonder--have we all forgotten the ol', "they'll know we are Christians by our love?"

Good grief.

Basically, I've realized that I have no time for Christians who criticize other Christians, especially by name, especially the ones who are 'out there' helping people--and especially when those who are criticizing are only sitting at their computers using them as weapons and helping no one, but just 'spreading strife among the brethren,' (which, incidentally, is listed as one of the things God hates).

And I have no time for those who, with their words, crush and annihilate and condemn Christians in the spotlight who make mistakes. What ever happened to, "Let him who is without sin cast the first stone"? What happened to aiding, as Good Samaritans, those who have fallen in the road--instead of kicking them while they lie there?

And I have no time for Christians who condemn non-Christians who are out helping thousands and thousands of people but who do not yet know Jesus. I mean, just why would they want to even think about knowing Jesus if His own children are so critical, venomous and cruel?

...how foolish to expect non-Christians to act like they know God when half the time Christians don't even act like they know Him. And how sad to have criticized when we could have prayed--and perhaps witnessed a miracle--instead.

And so a few blogs in my sidebar are now gone. They too often brought these words to mind: "In the Last Days, the love of many will grow cold."

Give me those blogs which illustrate a red-hot love for God, His children and those who need Him so badly--any day. God is love--longsuffering, hoping all things and always believing the best--may I be like that, too.


***

... Oh Lord... If you loved me like people do, I would be in trouble... desperate... and most often, because I am so imperfect--unloved and lonely...

... but thank-you for your greater love... awesome, unconditional love coursing through my veins every day--and show me how to allow that greater love to flow to others.


***
"If anyone says, "I love God," yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen." ... I John 4:20

Come Take A Walk With Me...

... and this is a little of what you will see...










All pictures were taken this morning with my umbrella and keys in one hand and the camera in the other... It was as though all of you were walking alongside me...


***
As always, click on photos to enlarge...

Monday, August 28, 2006

Minding Our Own Business--Put To The Test


Ack! And what a test it has been....


We drove home from running errands today and --oh my-- our neighbors behind us and just to the left, were having their huge backyard tree chopped down. We have no wooden fences near us, so these yards feel all connected (in a way), so there they were chopping down this 100 year-old + tree which always felt like it was partly ours. Though, I know, I know--it wasn't.


But still...


We sat in the car a couple minutes and watched the men destroy that huge tree (I'm clueless about most tree names, but it looked like the one in the above picture), the one I always collected red,yellow, and orange leaves from every autumn... the tree which housed many of the backyard birds I feed each morning... the tree which blazed in glory outside our upstairs guest room windows beginning in September.


And right away we began muttering and complaining under our breath as we unlocked the side door and stepped into our house. "Tree murderers..... bird home wreckers... tree murderers...... shade destroyers..." and did I say "tree murderers?"


Sigh.... But of course, this is a major example of something which is none of our business. No matter how much we'd like it to be--it just isn't. No matter how much it hurts, after 13 years of living here and seeing that huge, huge tree, still, it's none of our business that our neighbors chose to kill it.


Drats.




***
P.S. I dug up a picture from a shoebox of the now-dead tree... This was just the bottom half of it, it was twice as tall and twice as colorful as this washed-out photo makes it look. ...sigh...

Weekend Pictures And Thoughts


This weekend we went to yard sales once again (imagine that!) and I bought this pillow for $1 and the footstool (with storage inside) for just $2.50. The footstool was a natural wood grain color with a worn-out tapestry fabric, so I quickly painted and covered it so it would feel it belonged in my dream room.


This ottoman is something we found on the curb weeks ago... it looked little-used so of course I tossed it into the back of our car...

This last picture is what you will see when you reach the top of our stairs... the landing just outside my dream room and our guest room. I'll be adding this photo to my other blog, My Old House.

And now for the 'thoughts' part...

For two years, or so, Tom and I have enjoyed reading the big Sunday newspaper together on his Sundays off from work. I make a nice breakfast, coffee, and then we read together either at the dining room table or back in our cozy room or out on our front porch (for variety's sake).

Well, yesterday was the last Sunday you'll find me reading the newspaper.

I mean, I don't even read the front page section (I save that for skimming online each day)... no, I just always grab the light-hearted sections. And well, if you've not already noticed--the newspaper no longer has any light-hearted sections.

And I think it's because it's rare to even find one light-hearted person anymore, especially one writing for a newspaper. People today appear so burdened, so angry, and it seems most people I know (and those I don't know) have anything but light hearts nowadays.

And rather than catch the 'heavy heart disease'... rather than read bitter, unforgiving, unmerciful words about people in the spotlight (a.k.a. Easy Targets)... rather than read that what I hold dear is now considered bad/evil/wrong and what I see as bad is now considered right/wise/and just plain good... I will, instead, choose to read favorite books while I sit with Tom as he reads the newspaper (the sports section, classifieds and store ads being his favorite parts).

So good-bye Sunday morning newspaper... It was pleasant while it lasted. But sometimes a person just has to do what she has to do to avoid disease...

And for the record, I am not in any way recommending that anyone else stop reading the newspaper... I'm just sharing with you the choice I have made.


***
"But take heed to yourselves and be on your guard, lest your hearts be overburdened and depressed (weighed down) with the giddiness and headache and nausea of self-indulgence, drunkenness, and worldly worries and cares pertaining to [the business of] this life, and [lest] that day come upon you suddenly like a trap or a noose..." ... Luke 21:34

Saturday, August 26, 2006

In The Fullness of Time...


"And in process of time it came to pass..." Genesis 4:3

The natural way (i.e. my way) is to want everything now... to be able to do everything now... to have and see and experience everything now.

When I learned that God's ways certainly weren't my ways, well, I began to relax (after the initial shock, of course).

And I began to watch my life, almost like standing back away from it, and I watched what took place...

... how, when I wanted something so badly that I was consumed by thoughts of it, generally, I never got it.

... and how, when I thought I was way more than ready for more responsibility/ministry/money, I wasn't even close. I was, instead, illustrating that I didn't believe in process... in waiting... in learning...

And so it went. I learned a lot by standing back and watching myself, so to speak.

But I learned more from stepping back and watching God.

... how He only gave me things when I was truly ready to receive them... when they wouldn't steal my heart away from Him.

... how He only gave me a ministry after He'd worked on my mouth and could now trust me not to blow people away by an extreme lack of tact.

... how He could only reward me with more when I'd properly handled less... when I'd learned about process, first.

And so it went.

"in the process of time, it came to pass...
in the fullness of time, it came to pass..."

I can handle that now.

Everyone else may have everything already, but I'm not going to miss out on anything if I have to wait awhile to have it. Quite the contrary. The less I kick and yell and want anything more than I want God, the quicker He'll be able to give me what He's wanted to give me all along--but couldn't, because I would have ruined it...

... and the more appreciated it will be... and the more responsibly I'll be able to handle whatever it is.

And so it goes.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

The Joys of Minding My Own Business


This verse completely changed my life:

"Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you..." ... I Thessalonians 4:11

How could a verse like that change everything? It was the "mind your own business" part, mostly.

I became happier when I minded my own business...

...when I stopped having an opinion about what everyone else was doing...
...when I stopped expecting everyone to make the same choices I made. I used to think everyone should paint their walls certain colors or install certain types of carpet or buy certain makes of cars or vacation in certain places. I thought single people shouldn't live in big houses or people shouldn't eat at certain expensive restaurants or vote a certain way or grow certain fluorescent-colored flowers or start their kids too early in daycare... or that pastors should have shared a different way or writers should have written about different subjects...

... and on and on... (and maybe you have your own list, too...)

But being full of opinions, as well as worrying and fretting about peoples' choices, after awhile, starts weighing on you. Voicing opinions about every little thing and worrying about others, makes my head tired, my voice tired, and well, I know it tires peoples' ears to hear me all day long, too...

It is exhausting trying to make the world do what you think it should do.

(Not to mention useless, a huge waste of Life and, according to the above verse, it flies against scripture.)

Of course, there are times when God wants me to speak up or out about a thing--but therein lies the key: discovering if He is wanting to speak through me or if it's just me aching and itching to share my you've-just-gotta-hear-this opinions. After all, it only matters what God thinks.

For awhile God let me get away with having an opinion about every little thing every person was doing, but then it all seemed to crash one day. For months He'd taught me to do only those things He gave me Grace to do and I began accomplishing twice as much with only half the effort I'd expended for years and years.

But then suddenly, it hit me--God was giving me no Grace to mind other peoples' business. Now it tired me to spend time thinking how my friends and acquaintances and strangers should be making different choices. There was no strength given to me, no Grace, to make those kinds of judgments. No strength--and definitely--no joy, either. And there I was not understanding, at first, just what was going on.

And as Martha would say--it was a Good Thing. After all, God doesn't give me Grace to worry... or to try controlling the whole world--He gives only Grace enough to handle my own tiny part of the world.

And eventually I got that. And how good to get weaned off of putting my nose where it did not belong. How good to let people be who they are. How good to trust God to make any necessary changes in peoples' lives--and to watch Him make much better changes than the ones I'd had in mind!

How good to know peace... to move out of God's way and let Him do what I could never do in a million years...

... And how very good it is to 'lead a quiet life, mind my own business and to work with my hands...'

There's always plenty of Grace available for me to do that.

My New Favorite Radio Station


Around three weeks ago I turned the dial on my old-fashioned radio and discovered Reach FM. I love it! I've listened to lots of Christian radio stations over the last you-don't-want-to-know-how-many years, but this is my favorite... I love the music, the daily devotional thing and even the commercials which are often creatively-done--and you know I love creativity! I've always believed that Christians should be the most creative people on Earth since we serve the God who invented creativity in the first place.

Now, of course, I still like Rodney's radio station (hi Rodney!), but my little old-fashioned radio cannot pick up stations from way over in Australia. Only my computer down here in this dark basement can.

Reach FM can be heard on the radio all along this East Coast and into Eastern Canada ... But alas! If you live out West (or anywhere else) you can listen online here.

Just thought I'd mention this great radio station. My home has enjoyed being filled lately with great contemporary Christian music... I even play it for our cats while I drive away on errands and even throughout the night so to keep them company in our living room. They seem to like Reach FM, too.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Choosing Joy Over Worry


"May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit." ... Romans 15:13

I am finding that the more time I spend with God... the more I get to know Jesus and what He is all about, well, I worry less. Oh, the temptation to worry is always there, but Jesus and I have a history and now I feel I'm hurting His feelings every time I worry. It's like I'm saying, "You've helped me in the past, but this time, well, I don't think You're quite big enough to handle this. This situation deserves my worry."

There's such conviction now when I worry--as though a grand piano is slowly being lowered onto the top of my head... squishing me, reminding me of how, really, I am hurting Jesus' feelings by all these fearful doubts--tiny ones, huge ones--they all matter equally.

I think part of it is that the older I become, the less energy I have to worry. (One good thing about aging--you more wisely choose how to expend your energy because you have less of it.) And too, it's like, now, I have hundreds of past examples, memories, of all the times my worries never even happened. All I did was waste time, add some facial worry lines, subtract a few years from my life and insult a huge God by my petty fears.

Or maybe, in large part, it's because I have become, well, dare I say it--addicted--to the joy and peace which God gives when I choose trust instead of the automatic worry switch. Joy and peace arrive rather like a reward for refusing to meditate upon what can go wrong, what will get worse, what will never change-- which is so very far away from:

"...You will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on You because he trusts in You."

Trust shows...

...not in worry-marks on a forehead or in an ulcer or a panic attack--not in faithful-sounding words spoken out of a stressed-out, frenzied, panicked head--but in joy and peace and a calmness which cannot be shaken. And I am in and out of that, I admit, but I want, someday, to always be 'in,'-- not whining, "I'll be happy when...", but instead, to just be happy now, in this one, present moment, simply because of Him.

And I am aiming for just one thing, the same thing Paul aimed for--to know Him...to know Jesus so well, that worrying feels like a slap in His dear face--and to be horrified by such a thing.... to be horrified at even the thought of worrying.

I want to know Him so well, that He completes me and makes everything else look so tiny, meaningless and dull... that although all my friends may be taking vacations to exciting places or buying lovely houses, clothes and cars or getting terrific jobs or ministries--all of that will look small compared to simply spending every oh-so-normal day filled with the joy and peace which come only from knowing Him--not just by reading about Him--but by walking beside Him, listening to Him, being corrected by Him and realizing He has become more real than the very people walking all around me... to not feel silly giving Him the extra chair at the table or even clearing off the passenger seat of my car while I drive, making room, making Him comfortable...

... to say--and mean it--"As long as I have Jesus, I'll be ok." ...to know Him until He becomes much more real to me than any of my worries--real or imagined... and to know all will be well. Somehow, someday--He will make all things well...

...and in the meantime, knowing that marvelous joy, even while I am yet in this body... even while I am yet upon this Earth.

What I Did On My Blogging Vacation

Though technically, I did some of this yesterday after I technically came back from vacation...
......I rearranged my dream room after seeing a similar room in an old issue of Mary Engelbret's Home Companion. Magazines are great for seeing your old things in new ways!

...I painted this bookshelf (as well as the floor lamp in the first photo.)
I framed these old advertising fans which I found cheaply on Ebay in a frame which I found cheaply at Salvation Army. I make my coffee and greet these ladies. "Good morning, Ladies," I say.

...........I hung these plates on a rack I found for $1 at a yard sale. (Does anyone know the official name of these 'lady plates' so I can look them up on Ebay? I'd like to find another yellow one.)

..........I bought this musty, old book at a junk shop for 75 cents.
I finally started painting this dollhouse which we found three years ago at a yard sale for only $5(!). Key word: started. I'll be working on this for years...







The End.

(Click on photos to enlarge.)

Monday, August 21, 2006

Prayers Like Kites


Early this morning while the summer sun glowed through green leaves, I got into our car to drive down the street to the supermarket. I turned the key and this song by Patty Griffin, below, began playing. My sweet husband had set it for me so I could hear the song for the first time--he knew I would love it.

He was right.

I wish I could play the music for you here, but I can only lead you here, instead, to listen to simply part (scroll down to the sampler, click "listen" next to Kite)...

As I drove and listened to the beautiful music and words, I found myself thinking that church is best when it is this way---people standing in fields flying kites and sending up prayers with them on a Sunday morning... and then going home with the field memories and prayers covering them like cloaks, remaining covered even on into their dreams that night... with prayers still rising, no matter how unchanged things may appear to still be... prayers still rising as kites set free and and flying upward through blue, blue skies toward Heaven...



Kite Song
By Patty Griffin

The Sunday after there was laughter in the air
Everybody had a kite
They were flying everywhere
And all the trouble went away
And it wasn't just a dream
All the trouble went away
And it wasn't just a dream

In the middle of the night
We try and try with all our might
To light a little light down here
In the middle of the night
We dream of a million kites
Flying high above
The sadness and the fear

Little sister just remember
As you wander through the blue
The little kite that you sent flying
On a sunny afternoon
Made of something light as nothing
Made of joy that matters too
How the little dreams we dream
Are all we can really do

In the middle of the night
The world turns with all of it's might
A little diamond colored blue
In the middle of the night
We keep sending little kites
Until a little light gets through

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Down-Home Folks


Well, I am almost back from my blogging vacation.

But I thought I'd run this post again since I was thinking about it yesterday... thinking how true this still is for me.

I hope to see you again soon!

***
My grandparents were my favorite down-home folks.

Down-home folks are amazing.

They don't spend hours complaining about the government or high prices. Oh, they may get a little feisty sometimes, but never bitter. Mostly they are content and talk about the good things in life.

They are thankful for the few possessions they do have and barely notice that others have much more. If you give them a small gift, they go on and on about how marvelous both you and the gift are.

Down-home folks prefer going to cozy family-owned diners, ones with bottomless cups of coffee. Given a choice between an expensive, fancy-named restaurant and a picnic, they'd choose the picnic.

For entertainment, they like to gather in homes or backyards and sings songs like You Are My Sunshine until the moon stands overhead.

Down-home folks use appliances and linens until they are worn-out. They would consider it a great waste to dispose of something which could be repaired, instead.

They usually have a dog or two. Ones they feed scraps to beneath the kitchen table. They usually plant a garden and grow a few flowers in coffee cans, too.

Down-home folks go to country auctions mostly to visit with old friends. While waiting in long lines at old-fashioned fairs and amusement parks, they never complain. Instead, they turn around and talk with strangers who walk away as new friends. And down-home folks go to church nearly every Sunday.

They have screen doors that creeeeeak and a TV with an old rabbit-ear antenna.

I like to imagine rows and rows of front porches in Heaven filled with rocking chairs and happy down-home folks continuing the great times they had here in this world.

I love down-home folks. To me, they are the salt of the Earth.

I wish I knew more of them.

Monday, August 14, 2006

A Mini-Vacation... Well, Maybe...


Maybe you noticed I've not been blogging much the past few days... I guess I've been trying to separate myself from this blogging thing a bit. I mean, I still love it, but sometimes it gets too close... too clingy.

Let me explain... When, during every tiny thing I do, I start stringing words together inside my head for a future blog post, well, blogging begins feeling too close. When I can't even rearrange my living room or feed the birds or sit on our front porch without my brain automatically phrasing a blog post about it--then I know I'm in this too deep. Suddenly my life has become too public... and well... I don't like that.

So I don't know... Over the next few days I probably won't be posting too much--or maybe I'll just rerun some earlier stuff or link to other blogs. But I just need to get back to where I can set the table or take a walk without feeling I must tell all you wonderful people about it.... back to where it's His voice I'm hearing, not that annoying writer's voice inside me.

Does anyone know what I mean?

So keep checking back ( I would so hate to lose any of you!) ... I'll return to my old self, my old blogging ways--though maybe a bit revised--soon.

And a very special thanks to each of you who read here and encourage me so faithfully!

Sunday, August 13, 2006

As Simple As a 'Thank-You'


I first posted this experience a couple years ago... I thought about it this morning when I ran to the supermarket. Some people make Christianity so complicated, hard, boring and all about rules and memorizing stuff and not feeling blessed or having fun. But sometimes I think Christianity can be as simple as this:

***
When I was first-married, (long ago and far away) I attended a Women's Bible Study each Sunday night. Once while we shared prayer requests, "Jackie" told us about her job at our small town market.

She said that what happened to her the day before was typical. A woman with a full grocery cart had basically ordered Jackie to wheel it out to her car. While the sun blazed, Jackie unloaded the bags into the trunk in a neat row. The woman got into her car, slammed the door and barely missed hitting Jackie and the cart as she left the parking lot.

At that point of the story, Jackie looked up at us with tear-filled eyes and said, "Couldn't she have at least said, 'Thank-you for unloading my groceries'? Is that asking too much?"

I never forgot Jackie's story or her question. Twenty-six years later, I've nearly always looked into the eyes of those who bag my groceries and told them, "Thank-you." And with every single thanks, I've remembered Jackie's tears on that Sunday summer evening.

I guess this story brings up at least two points. One, that we never know what a lasting impact our words have on each other. Words are powerful, convicting things and can spur us into action. I'm glad Jackie shared those words that night. Thanking people who go out of their way for me has become a habit and a part of who I am.

One more point: The ungrateful woman from so long ago, if she is still alive, doesn't even realize that she also helped me. Because of her bad example, I vowed never to be like her.

But oh, how much better it is to inspire others by our good deeds!


***

Friday, August 11, 2006

Presents For Pennies


Tom and I went to yard sales this morning... All over this post you will see a sampling of little treasures we found. The little hat rack was bright, glowing-yellow and $1... so I painted it this afternoon and added flowers from gift wrap (see close-up.)
The hats are from previous yard sales and from the curb... The framed print was $1.50 from an earlier yard sale ... and I found the little statue and small jug today for just 50 cents each.


And here is my 'busy corner,' below, ... I call it that because I know it looks crowded... But I've always wanted to have a crowded corner (not a crowded house, though)... like something you'd see at an antique store. I am always working on this corner to get it right... still working on it.

Anyway, one reason I like to share my yard sale finds is to encourage those of you out there who have small incomes and have given-up on surprises in Life. Surprises are out there--you just have to be willing to search for them. Tom and I go to many dud yard sales. Many. dud. yard sales. But we are willing to search through the duds in order to find the rare treasure at the rare great yard sale.

There are all sorts of little secrets to getting by on one income. Trust me, I know. We've been doing that for nearly 28 years (and all those years ago, people told us it couldn't be done. We did it anyway.). The best way to get by? View it as a challenge--not as a hopeless burden. Use the Internet or the library to learn all you can about making your own way.... about making your own household cleaners... natural health remedies... and finding your own low-cost entertainment... low-cost recipes ... and discovering how to find furniture, groceries and clothing for pennies, too (relatively speaking...).

And speaking of pennies, I forgot to tell you that I found 6 current (August 2006) issues of magazines today for just 4 cents each at a yard sale. They included Mary Engelbreit's Home Companion, Woman's Day, Country Living and Better Homes and Gardens. Yes-- all current and all for just 4 cents each! And too, I bought four old (1992-96) issues of Victoria magazine which I'd never seen before, for just 25 cents each.

Little surprises--big ones, too--are out there. You just have to be willing to search... to have some faith that God will provide... and to believe He wants you to see the challenge through His eyes... and to enjoy the journey all the while.