Thursday, November 30, 2006

Don't Compare--Just Be Happy


"Each one should test his own actions. Then he can take pride in himself, without comparing himself to somebody else..." ... Galations 6:4

When you just have one child, people tend to tell you, in funny and not-so-funny ways, that you should have more kids.

Trust me, I know.

For lots of years, Tom and I had people--especially, but not exclusively, relatives--give us hints and advice and warnings and even prophecies about having more children. And basically, the only result became my frustration and confusion and misery, because, well, it just wasn't happening. Tom and I were only able to have one child 'the old-fashioned way' and when I wasn't being told we should adopt or try this and that, I was happy with the way things were, with our one little bird in the family nest.

But it was while I listened to all those other voices and opinions that I began to flounder. Those words (and the occasional maternal hormone whining inside me) caused me to compare my little family to those families who had two or more children and to let nagging, annoying doubts kick me around.

The whole story would take pages--many books have been written about this subject. But I'm using it only as an example.

What I'm really trying to say is that, believe it or not, God knows best (imagine that!). He knows me. He knows (and made) the plans He has for me. And He knew way back twenty years ago when I was floundering with all this, that having more children was not in His plan for me--and that today, I would be fine with that. Because really, I am.

The only time I'm not fine with it? They are the times I start comparing my life with the lives of friends or of people in books with large families or with the lives of strangers who appear to have one hilarious time after another with their quiver full of kids.

But no one's life is one hilarious time after another, no matter how many children they have. And thank-goodness I've grown enough to realize that.

And thank-goodness I've grown enough to realize that God gives me Grace for every single thing He gives me to do.... And it's only when I wander over to places my emotions or my comparisons take me that I eventually find myself flailing around and gasping for help. Help which, technically, God isn't obligated to give me since I did not follow Grace into those scary places. So many times, though, He has (probably while sighing) come along and yanked me out of messes I created myself...

I could, right now, adopt a whole houseful of children and work at the local orphanage and head-up committees on helping the homeless--but I would crumble in the middle of it all. Positively crumble in heaps of regret. I would fail, exhuasted, because God did not take me to those good and wonderful places. He takes other people there and gives them the Grace to stay, and I am nothing but unwise and just plain silly when I compare my bits of God-given Grace to theirs.

It's all good--but only when it's all from Him.


***

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

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

The Hospital Room


I'll bet you didn't know I have my own hospital room, one always on reserve for anytime I need it.

Well, in a way.

This Life, for any of us, comes with varied and many hurts and injuries and I remember the years when I tried to heal myself. I'd run to books or friends or movies or teaching tapes and after awhile, I'd find that I felt better... I felt a healing begin like stitches being taken in my heart.

And I believed it was the books or friends or movies or teaching tapes which had healed that heart. But now I realize they, instead, only helped me change my negative, offended mind and atiitude so that God, the Great Healer, could release His own warm, healing balm and fix what others, or I, had broken.

We nod our heads and repeat like parrots that nothing is too hard for God, but I think it's pretty hard for Him to heal my heart if what I believe is, "God doesn't heal people today." ...

... or, "God is mad at me and has left me."

... or, "This pain is too great for even God to handle."

... or, "I deserve to stay mad," or "I don't deserve forgiveness or healing."

... or, "This is just the pain I'll have to live with for the rest of my life."

No instead, this is the kind of stuff I take with me to my always-on-reserve hospital room (which is conveniently located upstairs in my house) and it's there that I let God take it all away--to where, I don't know, or care. And because I've walked upstairs in faith, because I've come to the Great Healer to fix what has been broken, because I realize how helpless I am to heal myself--God, in His mercy heals me.

Oh, not always right away. But always, I know the healing will come--eventually. There's one thing I've noticed about God--He's pretty big about this Faith thing. I've noticed it blesses His heart to watch me walk into that hospital room with all faith that only He can heal my broken, aching parts, restore me to wholeness and make Life look and feel good again.

But you've probably already noticed that, too.


***
"For this people's heart has become calloused;
they hardly hear with their ears,
and they have closed their eyes.
Otherwise they might see with their eyes,
hear with their ears,
understand with their hearts
and turn, and I would heal them.'" ... Acts 28:27

Monday, November 27, 2006

"I'll Show Them!"


Sometimes God gets on my nerves.

Ok, calm down. Let me explain.

As I told you, Saturday was our anniversary, and well, we absolutely loved watching Deja Vu. It was awesome. Cool. Denzel (Tom's favorite actor) was at his incredible best. We even watched another movie after going out for dessert and strolling through Home Depot, and when we got home, Naomi had left an amazing lemon jello cake for us. A perfect day.

Then came Sunday.

There we were, Tom and I, that cute couple who rarely fights anymore, standing in line at the supermarket, having an argument in heated whispers. One of those which goes a little like:

"You shut-up!"
"Hey! We don't say that in our family."
"Well, you shut-up anyway."
"No, you shut-up!"

(Blah, blah, blah.)

We continued the fight on the way home in the car, and when we pulled into the driveway and Tom said that I was like the woman who lives across the street, I gasped and saw red. "You take that back!" I said.

"No, I won't. She nags her husband every time they're out in their yard and you are nagging me to death."

Oooooo... I was fuming. I stomped upstairs and only when I calmed down (took awhile) did I realize something. Part of the problem (just part) had been that Tom is not yet ready to eat healthy foods on a constant basis. And it came to me that, even in that area, trying to change a person when God has not yet worked on their heart, well, it's pretty much impossible. For any of us to change, God has to prepare our hearts (like preparing soil) and then we have to cooperate with His ideas after that.

So I went downstairs and told Tom that I would no longer nag him about eating right and he could buy any unhealthy, salt-stuffed, heart-clogging food he wanted. In fact, I was going to another supermarket right that minute to get him the things he had wanted in the first supermarket, things I'd talked him out of.

Of course, he then said, "No, don't do that. I don't want anything. I won't eat it."

But I drove there anyway, still, uh, fuming inside (I confess). In fact, I sat inside the car in the parking lot a few minutes and thought, "I'll show him. I'll become like that lady in our town who started walking years ago every single day, no matter how much snow and ice there is, and who now looks like a (scary), obsessed, walking skeleton. I'll start walking like that, too, and I'll get so skinny and then I'll show him!"

(Of course, a little voice in my head said I'd have better luck "showing Tom" by becoming as round as I am tall. That would be easier, knowing me as well as I do." Heh.)

But here's the part where God gets on my nerves. Nowadays, He never lets me get away with that 'I'll show them!' attitude. Even if what I'm aiming to do appears to be a good thing, whether it be losing weight or showing someone that I *am* a giving person when they accuse me of not being one... or determining to clean my house so spotlessly, that neither Tom or Naomi will ever be able to make another little critical remark about it, or... well, you get what I mean, I'm sure.

No, even though years ago I accomplished all sorts of things out of my 'I'll show them!' motivation (it was the way I lived, my fuel, practically), God no longer lets me get away with that. Immediately, He nails me on my wrong motives. Instantly. He tells me that why I'm doing something is just as important as what I am doing and that both matter--both are equally important. Both must stem from love, His 'fuel', and not retaliation or insecurity. Both my motives and what I am doing must come from simple obedience to Him or else my rotten, I'll-show-them motivation will nullify the whole thing.

And even though God is still getting on my nerves about all that, I know He is right.

He is always right.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Ack!

...Tom and I are having computer problems (don't ask...)

Today is our anniversary--28 years(!)--so I told him not to worry about fixing it today.

So I'll be back as soon as I can (I'm sending this from our town library)... but for now, we are off, in awhile, to have lunch and then to go see Deja Vu!

Keep checking back... I shall return!

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

How To Wreck Your Thanksgiving...


(...or any other holiday, for that matter...)

Your comments to my last post were just way too kind (but thanks!). Especially yours, Laura, when you wrote:

"I think it's wonderful (by the way) that you don't let what could be very hard on some get to your holiday spirit of creating a wonderful atmosphere - even if it's just for you."

I felt guilty reading that because for 20 years (20 years!) whenever Tom had to work on holidays, I, well, I would complain. Whine. Groan inwardly and outwardly. Fume. And I'd tell Tom that power plants were *&^%$ and why couldn't he have decided on a career where he'd get a simple thing like Thanksgiving or Christmas off like the rest of the world?

(There was more griping, glaring, and crying... twenty years, or so, worth of more, but I will spare you.)

The sad (obvious) thing? I only made those holidays worse for all of us by giving-in to that Supposed To Be Disease I told you about here. You know, that sickness which makes you go around like Scrooge any time of the year when you don't get your way. The disease where all of your sentences begin with "It's not supposed to be this way..." and you make certain everyone you live with knows exactly how unhappy you feel.

Okay, call me slow, but it took me over twenty years to get over the Supposed to Be Disease and move on to the Happy Anyway Attitude.

Part of it was a choice. I mean, I can choose to sit here moping, wilting on holidays alone, imagining that all the world is gathered with their relatives having a wild, marvelous time --or--

I can be happy anyway... Happy that I know God. Happy that I'm healthy. Happy that I have a family, a sweet home, two cats, birds in the backyard, food on the table, movies to watch, books to read, music to listen to, online friends, events to anticipate, Heaven to look forward to and so, so much more. And I can bask in all that and have an amazing holiday (of any kind)--even alone if I must.

But it's more than a choice because for years (and years) I tried to choose to be happy anyway when just Naomi and I were here waiting for Tom to get home in the evenings when special days were, well, pretty much over. But the problem was this--I tried to choose to be happy while simultaneously clinging to my it's-not-fair, complaining, resentful attitude. That is why mostly what I felt was just plain struggle. Struggle to look happy for Naomi's sake. Struggle not to dread the next, upcoming holiday which Tom would have to work. Struggle to not act like a baby when my holidays did not look like everyone else's.

Finally (finally!) I let go of the complaining, sour, It's Not Supposed To Be Like This attitude. That was the key--the letting go of my demands and expectations that holidays be one way. I have learned, since, that holidays can be whatever you make them to be--and even alone they can be amazing.

But whether alone or in a crowd, always what matters most is what's going on in the inside of us... the atmosphere in there will, always, always seep out, somehow, to everyone around us. And may that stuff which comes seeping out, be good and worth sharing.


***
"...for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks." Matthew 12:34

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

I'll Be At Your Home on Thanksgiving


Well, in a way.

Thanksgiving at my house is mostly a very quiet affair. Usually Tom has to work all day, 12 whole hours. And his company provides a special dinner for whoever gets stuck with working the holiday, so he nibbles at that all day and has pretty much had a Thanksgiving meal before he even drives home. And Naomi usually goes early in the day to her boyfriend's home for a Thanksgiving meal, so both she and Carl have eaten by the time they arrive here in the evening, too.

So what does Debra go ahead and spend all those hours doing anyway? Yes, she cooks. A huge Thanksgiving meal.

Of course, I don't have to. I could just whip up a tiny something which we could all share in the evening. But then there'd be no leftovers(!) And everyone except for me would have had a nice Thanksgiving dinner.

And besides, during all those hours at home alone, I would, truthfully, miss all that cooking and my messy kitchen and the spicy, baking scents and watching Miracle on 34th Street and other Christmas movies on the little tv on top of the refrigerator while I'm baking and chopping and standing at the stove.

And this is what I would miss, too (and here is the part where I'll be at your home for Thanksgiving...)... I would miss thinking of all you kindred spirits who I've been so blessed to meet online while I'm there in my kitchen on Thanksgiving Day... I'd miss making pumpkin pies while feeling so grateful that I did not go through my life feeling (as I did for many years) that I was the only person on Earth who still loved old-fashioned things best. I would have missed the friendship you have given me here in my blog and through emails, too, and through your Christmas cards and Valentines and little notes by way of my mailbox below our porch steps.

So in a way, while my fingers are dusty with flour and the turkey is roasting in the oven, I will be seated at your table, too. For you will all--new friends and old--be very much on my mind and in my prayers and on all my lists of gratitude.

Monday, November 20, 2006

The Backyard Mouse


It's cold here and so dark again... the sun has not come out once since before Tom left on Friday.

So anyway, into the freezing cold, I stepped outside our door this morning, as usual, to walk to our backyard to fill the birdfeeders. As I filled the first one, I saw something on the ground move so with the bag of birdseed in my hand, I stopped, still, and tried to spy whatever I'd glimpsed.

It was a mouse. A darling little brown mouse whose eyes looked straight up into mine. Then he stood up, shivering, with little hands clasped together as though he were begging me for the birdseed.

Oh my. That little guy warmed my heart and made it sad, too, while he stood there all adorable and shivering like that. We stared at each other a few seconds and then, although I knew it would scare him, I reached inside the bag and scattered bird seed all over the ground for him, rather than just inside the feeders. He scampered away.

And then oh dear.... I so wanted to keep pet mice again! It was his eyes... those trusting, pleading eyes that all my other mice used to have.

Though as I walked back through the icy air, I repeated under my breath, "Just say no to mice. Just say no to mice. Just say NO to MICE!"

But oh my.... that little guy scampered away with my heart today.

Grown-Up Dreams


I sat in church as a teenager and loved best the times we'd have foreign missionaries as guest speakers because their stories sounded so exciting and usually got me all teary-eyed. And nearly always I'd think, "When I grow-up, I want to be a missionary!"

And then on Monday I'd walk to school and I'd love every minute (it seemed) sitting in my English classes and I'd think my English teachers had the best job on Earth. I'd picture myself, older, standing up in their place and I'd dream about someday being a for-real English teacher, myself.

Then other days I'd walk up the hill to our city library and think that librarians were the luckiest people in the world to, everyday, stand and work and breathe amongst thousands and thousands of books-- and I'd long to be a librarian. And then I'd find a cozy corner there and read Emily Dickinson and dream about stuffing little stringed-together booklets of poems into my own bureaus to be found when I died, except well, I wanted to be appreciated for my poetry, like, right now. Not to mention all the other days I sat there dreaming of becoming a farmer or an author or a mother of twelve (courtesy of Cheaper By The Dozen) or a hermit.

And then I grew-up.

I became none of those things (though I did write thousands of poems, but they did not impress the world and they won't when I die, either. Trust me.) I had dreamed all those dreams, but I was young-- I had the wisdom of a cockroach.

Dreaming is good. Dreaming is wonderful. The Bible says without a vision God's people perish and well, amen to that.

But for me, the only dreams which have lived and breathed and survived their babyhood are those dreams God, Himself, placed in my heart. Not the ones I dreamed while my heart was childish and attention-hungry, more dreamy than practical, more all-about-me rather than all-about-God, and more changeable than steady.

The only time I've had problems with God's dreams for me are when I began letting my eyes rove over to what other people were doing... how glamorous their dreams appeared from the outside... or when they told me how I should tweak what God gave me to do--and I listened to them and wandered into lands of discontent and jealousy and boredom.

I could never, ever come up with a dream for myself which would be better than God's plans and ideas for me--and I'm believing a lie if I think God made a mistake with the dreams He put in my heart. If there's a mistake to be made, always, I will be the one to make it. Not Him.

The dreams God gives me happen-- when I keep pace with Him.
The dreams God gives me are exciting-- when I keep my attitude right.
The dreams God gives me are custom-made --because He knows me better than I know myself.
The dreams God gives me are do-able-- if they appear impossible, it's only because I'm looking in the wrong places for help. God would have to be pretty mean to give me a dream with NO way to see it through.

But always this will be true for me --if my passion for Him remains greater than my passion for any dreams He gives me, then the living going on inside me will always be good. Because He is good, whether I am standing with Him at the beginning or middle or at the finish line of a dream... it doesn't matter where. It will always matter most with Whom I am standing and that I love Him far, far better than any dream He gives me.


***
"When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child..." 1 Corinthians 13:11

"He has put a new song in my mouth..." Psalm 40:3

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Now That I'm Here


Way back when Naomi was around 12, I read something in a magazine. Probably it was just two paragraphs, or so, but it got me all teary-eyed, stuck with me for years, and I often repeated it to women who complained about the messes their children made around the house.

I'll sum up that paragraph (or two) like this: A woman said she used to complain that every time she cleaned a room, her children would mess it back up. But now she'd decided to stop complaining because someday her little girl and boy would grow-up and move far away and then her rooms would be, and stay, achingly clean.

Oh good grief. The things we do to ourselves. Especially that foolish thing we do, that jumping into future places inside our minds where we have no grace to be yet.

I mean, I can't believe I went around for years repeating that story, giving it almost biblical importance. What was I thinking?

Because now, to me, it's yet just one more of those things designed to make us feel that without someone else--in this case, children--Life is empty. Sad. The good times are over. No more. Finis.

Huh!

Here I sit all these years later over on that other side of which that woman wrote, a place where she had not yet been, but where, I assume, she is now. And in my heart I hope she has come to terms with Life and how it is always changing and becoming something new and different. And how it, then, becomes up to us to make it into something just as special--though it be very different--as what we once knew.

I love my life over on this other side. And I think this story came back to my mind today because I've been cleaning all day and my rooms look--not achingly clean--no! But rather, nicely, cozily, warmly clean. Happily clean. Life-Is-Good clean. And I love coming down the stairs and finding them still that way--unmussed and just the pretty way I left them.

And I'm grateful I've grown-up enough to realize that because Life is always moving, always changing, then I, in order to keep-up and keep sane and happy--I need to keep moving and changing along with Life. Otherwise I just may get left behind in a dark, morbid sort of place all alone.

But with God by my side in all the changes, Life is, instead, becoming quite the big adventure.

Yesterday


Yesterday was different. Tom got home from working all night, went to bed, then I got him up a bit after noon, he got ready, then drove us, by way of the New York State thruway, to the airport so he could fly to Richmond for the weekend.

Unless it's a dire, can't-escape-it emergency, I never, ever, myself, drive behind-the-wheel over the New York State thruway. No way. Nope. Forget it.

No, when I drive people to the airport, I take my Secret Back Way. The Back Way is longer, gobbles-up lots more time, there are tons of traffic lights, and it's often much more crowded with cars, yes, but! Those cars are driving slower. Crowded traffic is one thing, but crowded, speeding-recklessly-past-you traffic is quite another. At least to me. Besides, my Secret Back Way does, eventually, have a lovely stretch of woods (though this time of year, they resemble the looming, scary woods of The Village) and a quiet road and old houses and I always feel my shoulders relax when I reach that part. It means I am nearly home.

So yesterday there I was in those heaps of traffic, at only 1:30 in the afternoon, yet it looked and felt like 5:00 because of the clouded, dark, dark skies and because I'd not gotten much sleep the night before. I pulled off from the slow madness, into the Target parking lot (packed with cars) and parked rather far away. Once inside, oh my, people scrambled everywhere and it felt like Christmas, but not the good part of Christmas, if you know what I mean. I went inside only to look for the dvd version of Miracle on 34th Street (the 1947 version, but of course) because I gave away my taped version, procrastinated all year ordering the dvd, and I always, always watch that movie while making Thanksgiving dinner in our kitchen. I will be alone for 12 hours, again, on Thanksgiving Day, so while I am cooking, I like to have movie friends in the kitchen with me.

Well, Target, like everywhere else I'd look, didn't have that dvd, most likely because a new version is set to be released next week. So in the midst of all the noise, lots of it happy noise, thankfully, I decided to stop searching store shelves for it and just order it online. Which is what I should have done in the first place. But I did find some plastic sleeves for those binders I'm always making and telling you about, binders which keep me organized, inspire me to decorate my house and keep me sane at Christmas (like I mentioned in Christmas For Dummies here).

Then I walked back out into the dark, dark afternoon and continued driving home, except that I didn't go home, I drove, instead, twenty minutes later, to our (also-crowded) town library (was there no school yesterday?) where hooray! I found a tape of Miracle on 34th Street, as well as another Christmas movie and various old tv series dvd's. While Tom is away, I will be major-ly, major-ly cleaning our house--tearing it all apart in that good, clean-it-deep-down way, and these movies and shows will help to pass the time pleasantly.

It's good for me to get out into the Real World like that. To be reminded of what it is like and who is all out there. I even, as I drove along, had a debate with myself as to what the Real World actually is. Is it my (or your) daily version of Life that makes up our own Real World? Or is the Real World a huge combination of everything, good, bad, and ugly which is taking place all over the planet? Or are they both the same? I never did decide.

So this weekend I will be cleaning my house in case Tom arrives back home all antsy to sell our house and move to Virginia. Or maybe just because it needs to be cleaned anyway or because I need a big project while Tom's away and this is all I can think of. But it's a good project... I may even paint a couple walls which need touching-up. Who knows? All I know is that I'm looking forward to cleaning this old place which I've called home for 13 mostly-wonderful years. It's the least I can do to show my thanks.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Let's Get Practical


Every once in a blue moon I like to throw in a practical post. We'll see if this post qualifies.

Here are a few ideas I use to stay organized and save time.

I love my Yahoo calendar! It's the easiest thing in the world to add to it so that it will send me email reminders when Tom or I have appointments or when I want to remember birthdays or certain tv programs, etc. I can program the emails to repeat every week or month or once a year, etc. I programmed my calendar to tell me to pay our bills every two weeks--what a money-saver that's been! I've also programmed it to tell me to snail mail birthday cards enough days ahead so they'll arrive on time. I love my Yahoo calendar, especially because it is free.

When possible, I tape tv shows and then fast-forward through the commercials and thus save time while watching them. Those of you who are blessed to have DVR's or TiVo can turn all that into an art form. (We used to have a DVR.... ahhh, those were the days).

Years ago I put together a master list of tasks I should do daily and each day of the week. Not a minute-by-minute list (those are guaranteed to fail because Life's not like that). But rather, a list with five or six daily tasks which, if I accomplish each day, my week will run more smoothly. If it's been a crazy week, I can then look at the list at week's end and catch up on what I missed. It took a few weeks to come up with a list which worked for me, but it was worth it.

I exercise while watching tv, thus "killing two birds with one stone." This goes for ironing and cooking and washing dishes, too.

I stock up on non-perishables in the autumn so to avoid later risking my life in a snowstorm all for a can of olives. This also saves me from shopping around the holidays while stores are crowded. Also, year-around I shop early in the mornings to beat the crowds and thus get out of the supermarket faster.

I do the majority of my Christmas shopping online from the quiet and comfort of my home. I also always buy my postage stamps online and it's online where I spend my monthly allowance, as well. How wonderful to save time and energy and gas money and my nerves, too!

I also renew my library books online if I'm not going to be able to drive down to the library that day or week. I almost never have to pay fines like I used to in the old days.

I don't just buy a little bit of gas for our car at a time--I buy a lot so that I'm not turning around and going back there in a few days.

I put together my own cookbook of easy recipes and lists of meals. Into that binder, I inserted the lists and recipes into plastic sleeves so they can be cleaned. Also in that notebook I keep information like helpful household hints, phone numbers for house repair people, and a list of holidays with notes about which ones mean no mail, no school, no trash pick-up or if the town library will be closed.

I keep all my stationery supplies together in a box so that everything--paper, cards, stickers, address book and stamps--is together and accessible. I also keep my stapler, scissors and scotch tape on my desk, all in one place.

On our refrigerator I keep a piece of paper where we write down any items we've run out of. I then take this paper to the supermarket with me to use as a list. (I keep markers in a little magnetized box on the side of the fridge--markers work better than regular pens when writing horizontally.)

I typed-up a list of the items I buy in our supermarket in their aisle-order and I keep it in my purse. That way, I can refer to it (whether or not I've remembered to bring my refrigerator list) so that I won't forget anything.

I straighten the house each morning, that way it never gets out of control. That may sound like a lot, but really, it's not when it's done every day.

I get up at least an hour (or two) before Tom does so I can have my quiet time, drink coffee, read and wake up slowly and calmly and quietly. I can't even tell you what those extra quiet hours do for me!

The Peace Game


You probably have children's games in a closet or cupboard... ones which were designed to be educational for your children.

Well, these past few days, my own Father (God) has kept quite the educational game going for me. It's called The Peace Game.

In The Peace Game, you pick up a bag of peace on the first square. The object of the game then becomes to not drop or lose your bag of peace while stepping down the paths of the other squares. The object is to reach the end while still holding your little bag of peace, having dropped it as few times as possible.

I've been doing so-so.

Yesterday I worried about Tom taking this trip to Richmond on Friday and God said, "Uh-oh! You worried and dropped your peace. Take two steps backward."

Darn.

Earlier, I obeyed the little voice which said, "You should worry about Naomi driving through that crazy traffic to her new job." Of course, God saw that and responded, "Oops! For that you'll have to go all the way back to Start and pick up your bag of peace. I've told you for years not to worry about Naomi... to put her in My hands." (Not to mention the times I gave into temptations to feel offended, all over again, about old hurts, snubs and thoughtless words.)

A few times, though, I recognized the temptation to worry or to not forgive, but I just smiled and refused to walk off the path without peace.

And that's pretty much been the way it's gone. Stop. Start. Go back. Move forward. Step back. Move forward. A little worry about losing my readers, here, while God's got me in this peace game, a few steps backward, there, to retrieve my peace. A little worry about getting this house ready to sell and possibly having to pick up Tom at midnight at the airport and worrying when Tom still mentions that the best job still would be in California and having to deal with offences old and new, and well, there's been lots of stepping backward to retrieve my peace on the squares where I dropped it. Lots of stepping back. Sigh.

Except that The Peace Game isn't really a game at all. For me, it's Real Life. For me, it's part of this new season God has me in, a season where the goal is to get me to walk through Life with a greater awareness of His presence and protection... a greater sense of His peace every single minute of my days.

And you know, truth be told, I love this game. Personally, I don't want to spend my life upset, offended, worried and afraid. And I'm anticipating the day when I'll hold tightly to His peace wherever I may go... the day when my serenity remains on the inside, even if all bedlam is going on outside.


***

"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." John 16:33

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Small Steps


"Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin..." Zechariah 4:10

If only we could get this.

If only we could realize that, usually, it's the small steps we take which lead us to freedom and dreams-come-true.

I think it's that 'all or nothing' mentality which knocks us down flat. Oh, sometimes, in some situations, we need that... but for the everyday stuff? I wonder.

Have you ever tried to cheer-up a woman who is determined to stay miserable? I have. Lots of women, lots of times. I've tried advocating the power of small steps, only to be rebuffed by excuses. "No, that won't work--I have too many kids and I've put all my dreams on hold. No, this house is beyond help--I've given-up on decorating it. No, we could never save up enough money for _______. No, that idea would be just too hard. No, it's just too late."

No. No. No.

Sigh.

But how amazing Life becomes when we learn the miracle of small steps. Small steps will still, if taken regularly and faithfully, walk us out of where we've been, into where we'd rather like to be.

While I was growing-up I always wished my family had a home library of wonderful books. But alas, it was not to be--for a number of reasons--so instead, I regularly haunted every library in every town where we lived, and too, I treasured my few Scholastic paperbacks until they practically crumbled from my rereading them.

And then I grew-up and married and brought only those piddly, tattered Scholastic books to our marriage (hey, I was only 19). And for years, I still longed for that home library which I'd seen inside my head for eons, but we had so little money just starting out and after having a baby nearly right away.

But eventually, around 15 years ago, I stopped making excuses (technically, that's a HUGE step), and I began simply collecting one book at a time. One book--one little step--at a time. I began believing that in every Salvation Army-type store we visited, I'd find the exact, out-of-print books I'd wanted since I was a teenager.

Miracles can happen when you simply start believing for them. No, really--they can.

Do you know what happened in my case? Shortly after I stopped complaining and doubting and making excuses and whining about how hard it was to find these books I'd loved as a teenager, God moved us into a house only one block away from a tiny, ramshackle house with two rooms stuffed and crammed with library shelves flooded with out-of-print books like the ones I'd always wanted. And the long-haired, dreamy girl behind the counter sold her books cheap. And we finally had a little extra money each month.

Sometimes we are too easily overwhelmed. Sometimes we believe that because this world is into high-speed, microwave living, that God is, too. But from what I've seen, He's more into small steps--small steps where we learned lessons about obedience and walking His way, not ours. Lessons like, wishing is not the same as having faith and starting-out small is often a safer, less-expensive way to decide if our dream is a true dream of our heart--or not. Small, unforgettable steps where His steps matched ours--and left us hopeful and changed and ready to face any journey ahead, not with dread, but with anticipation.

News From My Home Front


I had an amazing week at Ebay... I won 6 vintage aprons for, postage included, just $8. One is even a Christmas apron, of which I had none in my collection, and well, for whatever reasons, I am actually feeling Christmas-y this year. Usually, well, I lean more toward being a humbug, though always, I love Christmas movies and books. But already I bought nice Christmas plates for Christmas dinner over at Dollar Tree and a vintage Christmas tablecloth at a junk shop I walked to down the street. Total for all? $6. Big spender, I know.

My other incredible Ebay auction win? A bunch of hard cover Anne Emery books, including two of the Dinny Gordon's I didn't have. Yes, a whole box of lovely old 1960's (mostly) Anne Emerys for only, postage included, $31. I drove around the Net this morning and priced what I would have paid had I bought them all separately and came up with a very conservative price of $133 after shipping.

Can you see me happy dancing?

More news from my home front...Remember how I told you I've always loved the show, The Waltons, since it first aired while I was in Jr. High? And remember how I told you that Tom is always looking at power plant jobs in other states? Well, this week he was offered a job in Richmond, Virginia.

Oh my. Now there is a state I would move to! And just think... I could finally visit the mecca for all us Waltonites-- Schuyler, the homeland of the real Walton family-- the Hamners.

Tom and I sat together at the computer and looked at real estate in Richmond's suburbs and it was actually sane price-wise, especially considering that their taxes, compared to ours here, are well, practically non-existent. And there were many, many houses I liked. Tom is considering flying down there next week to check everything out. Absolutely nothing is written in concrete yet, so please don't start picturing us living there. As I mentioned before, we go through this sort of thing often--Tom's veins having been infused with gypsy blood somewhere along the way.

So now I just need to get it out of my head that the areas around Richmond will look exactly as they were portrayed in The Waltons, because of course, a lot changes in 70 years.

But then, as in my area here, a lot can stay the same, too.


***
P.S. Linda K.... Could you please email me at GladOne4@yahoo.com? Thanks.

And Elizabeth--I had been a bit worried about you and I was so glad to see your comment and to hear it had been your computer with the problem, and not you. :)

Friday, November 10, 2006

re:Politics


(Because I know you are just dying to know where I stand...)

"Happy is he whose help is the God of Jacob,
whose hope is in the Lord his God..." Psalm 146:5

I have been smiling a lot since Tuesday, Election Day.

"Because your favorite political party did well?", you ask?

Uh, no.

No, I've been smiling because I've heard many people say that now they have hope that things will change. Our Country will change. For the better. "Happy days are here again" appears to be the song sung across our land.

And that's what makes me not only smile, but laugh, as well.

Because, as for me and my house, we will not put our hope in any political party.

We will put our hope in God.

And according to His Word, things are right on schedule. Things are going just as He said they would long, long ago. The plan, His plan, is being carried out right before our eyes.

My hope is in God. And that is why I am happy and am singing songs of my own. God is not, while sitting up in Heaven, worried out of His skull about how things are going on Earth. And well, I refuse to sit down here and worry about that, too.

And it is well with my soul, even though it is far from well out there in this big old, tired world.


***
"Why do the nations assemble with commotion, and why do the people imagine an empty scheme?
The kings of the earth take their places; the rulers take counsel together against the Lord and His Anointed One. They say, Let us break their bands asunder and cast Their cords from us.
He Who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord has them in derision [and in supreme contempt He mocks them]." Psalm 2:1-4

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

It Blows My Mind


It saddens me when people become discouraged because they can't help tons of people... as though with God it's all about a numbers game.

The way I see it, He's more into obedience.

He knows what I am able to do with His help and what I, as well, cannot do, given my circumstances, talents, abilities, disabilities or callings. In fact, He's had a plan for me since even before I was born.

And it blows my mind that any day of any week I can, just from my own home, use my online credit card and spend part of my allowance on a gift for a friend, even someone I've never met before. It amazes me that it's only in giving that I receive... and that I can have Christmas all year 'round!

It amazes me that I can listen while people speak to me (or read what they write in their blog) and then buy or make them something they mentioned, in passing, that they would like. Even if it's something I already own, but I know they would enjoy it, too.... it amazes me I can share my stuff with anyone.

And it blows my mind when God tells me to walk down to the crowded, dilapidated junk shop nearby and buy a little something from the guy who runs it, just to help keep him in business. What a fun errand!

It delights me that 6 days of the week I can mail a paper greeting card to anyone nearly anywhere... a card to encourage them, wish them healing or birthday blessings or just remind them that they are loved by me, but more importantly, by God, Himself.

It amazes me that any hour of the day I can leave comments with encouraging words on peoples' blogs or send email which might lend a little comfort... It boggles my mind that I can contact people so very, very far away.

It blows my mind that while shopping at the supermarket I can smile at people and say hello and perhaps make their day--the way people made mine during my depression-filled Nevada Years when I walked around desperate for even a smile from anyone.

It amazes me that giving to others makes me so darn happy!

And it delights and amazes me that all of these things please God and bless and delight His heart, too.... and that He can let me know when and where and how to bless others so clearly, that He ends up getting the credit because the timing was simply too perfect for just me to have figured it out on my own.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Of Being Opposite


I've told you before that I've always felt different than most people. One might even say Opposite Everything Considered Normal.

For instance, I love Mondays.

Mondays feel like a new beginning, almost like January 1st. New Year's Day. And how marvelous to get a January 1st every week! Mondays give me a second chance to get the week right this time... to make new promises... to fulfill new goals. To drive to the supermarket on Monday mornings and get the wide, gleaming aisles all to myself. (Love that.)

But Saturdays... Oh my. When I was 17, I decided I did not like Saturdays (I could take you to the very spot I decided that, but we'd have to fly to California).

("What? You don't like Saturdays?", you are asking. I hear you.) No, Saturdays are too unstructured for me. There is no pattern to Saturdays. Yes, I should create a pattern if it makes me more comfortable, and well, you'd think after 30 years I could do that.

Yet I have done one thing about Saturdays. I've made them my day of rest (gasp!). And yes, there again, that makes me opposite of nearly everyone I know-- all those people who passionately believe only Sunday should be a day of rest.

What are you gonna do with a person like me?

I mean, last night I thought about how much I am loving this empty nest phase of my life. Tom was away working graveyard shift and well, I confess, I was up in my tower room having another slumber party with my cats. Yes, Lennon, McCartney and I played snatch-the-string. We ate snacks and drank water. We watched Jack Benny and giggled and we watched The Waltons and cried. I'd tell you we curled each other's hair--except I'd be lying. (Though, come to think of it, McCartney has long hair and she'd look adorable in pin curls.)

Secretly, deep down inside, I've always loved being opposite, I guess, even though it has never won me many friends. Just the opposite. But it's kept me out of trouble and often walking down quiet, uncrowded roads. But the older I become, the more I feel and experience the friendship of the best Friend upon this Earth. The One who makes ordinary days special, the One for whom I get out of bed, the One who can make any day an extraordinary one.

Even Saturdays.


***
P.S. Something else which always made me opposite from friends... As a teenager I began reading old teen romance books from the 1940's - 1960's when everyone else laughed at how old-fashioned they were (I was a teen in the 70's). One of my favorite authors from that genre was Rosamond du Jardin and for years I have enjoyed this website dedicated to her. For those of you who like old-fashioned things, you may especially enjoy the descriptions of clothes and food from the books. (Check the left-hand column.)

Sunday, November 05, 2006

The Dessert We Have Every Day


... or almost every day.

In over two years I don't believe I've ever shared a recipe here in my blog, so I guess it's about time I did.

This is a fruit dessert I make for Tom and myself and it's pretty low in everything (as in stuff which is bad for you). And too, it's one of those recipes which doesn't have any exact measurements--you just make it up as you go along.

So bear with me.

This is what I do... it will make two large servings or four small ones.

Ingredients:

1/2 bag frozen fruit (app. 1 1/2 c.)... or 4 or 5 apples, peeled and sliced
2 or 3 tbl. lemon juice

Topping:
1/4 c. flour
1/2 c. uncooked oatmeal
1 tbl. brown sugar
cinnamon, ginger... about 1/2 tsp. each
powdered cloves... about 1/8 tsp.
1 or 2 tbl. lemon juice
1 tbl. oil

Place the frozen fruit in a microwave-safe bowl and add 2 or 3 tbl. of lemon juice (if using apples, add a little cinnamon, too)

Place uncovered in microwave for three minutes on high (2 minutes if using apples)

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mix flour, oatmeal, spices, lemon juice and oil. Topping shouldn't be too moist and it's ok if parts are still pretty dry.

Remove fruit from microwave and add topping, pressing gently into the fruit with a fork, so any dry pieces of topping will moisten while cooking.

Microwave on high for three minutes. Let cool.

That's about it... Not everyone will like this, but we do. And besides, it's super fast, super easy, is a good way to eat fruit, and it won't kill you.

Which reminds me, I just finished one of the most delightful books I'd read in a long time. It's called The Country Kitchen by Della T. Lutes, published in 1936. It's an old book full of kitchen essays and stories about the author's life when she was a child in the 1880's. Such a funny and warm-hearted book--I hated to finish it this morning. Fortunately, there was a sequel which I ordered yesterday.

You can read about The Country Kitchen here. Be sure to scroll down to the raving reviews.

You'll find some copies there at Amazon beginning at around $5, or here for even less.

I read this book during my quiet times this past week and each early morning I could barely wait to make my coffee and rush upstairs to read, yet again, another fun chapter. Her father, though, was often fiesty and selfish (though he could be funny at times, too). I just chalked it all up to lessons of how not to be and how not to treat others...

Those are important lessons, too.

***
And speaking of kitchens, Sabine challenged some of us to share the front of our refrigerator, so, well, here is mine (such as it is) ....

And here is a close-up of the collage thing I have going on:

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Window Lessons


"I tried to help you, Ruthie. The problem is, you spend too much time looking out of windows."
.... from the film, Housekeeping

Oh, but I prefer window lessons. They have changed me.

My windows are like classroom blackboards and it's God's fingers that write my lessons across them on mornings while the sun rises or afternoons when people and their dogs walk past. It's during the window silences when He whispers how much I am loved... and the ways I should go... and where I followed Him and where I strayed... All things I never heard in earlier years when I was always the one doing the talking, talking, talking...

... it's in the window silences there with my coffee and books that He teaches me ... gives me my flight plan for the journeys we will take this day... whether I should go out or stay in, for only He knows when and where I--where He-- will be needed most. My brain could strain and try and grasp, but never will it see my exact future and plan accordingly. My mind can only guess.

But God knows...as in one Tuesday morning years ago when I'd planned to go shopping, but He told me to stay home instead, so I did. And then a woman from church called me from the bathroom where she worked, saying she was being so tempted to commit suicide and didn't know how to handle that temptation...

...had I skipped my window lesson or ignored what I'd heard, I would have been gone when she called.

I so need window lessons...

Our hearts break in different places and mine breaks for people who are afraid of silence, those who fear that God will only lecture them, frown at them and tell them of His extreme disappointment. I feel horrible for people who believe those voices are God's when really, they are voices of their own past, condemning voices from themselves and their memories of others' hurtful words, as well as Satan's shove-you-down mockings.

It was during window lessons where I first heard God's whispers, thoughts of one who loves me more than anyone else ever had. The One who convicts, but doesn't condemn. The One who , with His finger, scribbles Hope!, Hope! all over my windows in huge, brilliant letters...

... the One who loves simply to sit with me there at the window, sharing Himself with me... both of us wrapped in joy which clings to us, even later, when we step out the door to walk amongst a world of broken hearts.


***
"...in your presence is fulness of joy; at your right hand there are pleasures for evermore." Psalm 16:11

Friday, November 03, 2006

Wasting Time With God


There are reasons why I am running this post again after nearly two years...

***

Already, it's an amazing morning because of Kelly's amazing post, simply called rest. I so wish I could have attended her silent prayer retreat this weekend. Probably, though, I would have disappeared after meeting everyone, sneaking away to hike around the pastures with God. I love open spaces and there are none in my town, well, except for baseball fields.

You see, I became a Christian in a church where immediately afterward, you are told to go out and tell everyone all about Jesus. I laugh about that now because it's like instructing a newborn baby to return to the nursery and tell the other babies everything about her parents. What is there to tell? She only just met them.

So I became a Christian and spent years feeling guilty because I wasn't going "to the work, to the work," (as the song says). I didn't know what to say to people because I didn't know Jesus--not really. I had never taken the time to become friends with Him. So I felt guilty. And because I felt guilty, I wasn't happy. And because I wasn't happy, I thought I was a defective Christian. Life felt bleak at times and still, I didn't understand why.

Then ten years ago I began doing what Kelly tells about in her blog (this post, also). She tells it all better than I ever could, so please, go there and read, too.

Basically, around 1994 I said phooey on all this guilt and brittle,conditional happiness. And I started "wasting time" with God.

I sat with Him every spare moment I could find (or make). I stopped doing all the talking and I let God talk to me. And that has made all the difference. I'd get out my Bible and let God explain things to me, instead of trying to figure them out myself. I'd sit and look out the window and dream, and slowly, I began to feel new life, new creativity flowing into what had been dry, parched places.

After days and weeks and months, guilt was replaced with peace. And joy. And somewhere along the way I noticed while on my neighborhood walks, Jesus' steps were matching mine. He had come along with me. I would come home and watch TV and feel Him sitting beside me. (I would tell you about the times in 1995 when I'd get into my car and clear junk off the passenger seat so Jesus could sit there, except that you'd think I was crazy.)

But at least I am happy now. At least I have a friend who never disappoints me. One who's always here, too.

Knowing about God and knowing God for yourself--they are different. There is a time when the Bridegroom gets tired of sitting and watching the Bride run around working, working, working. There comes a time when He wants her to sit down and just be with Him. To know Him intimately.

Thanks, Kelly, for reminding us.


Be still, and know that I am God... Psalm 46:10

Thursday, November 02, 2006

If I Am Tempted to Criticize...


... I hope I will remember this:

"A man never discloses his own character so clearly as when he describes another's." ... Jean Paul Richter

... and keep my mouth shut... or my fingers upon the computer keyboard, still, instead.

Dental Thoughts


Went and had my teeth cleaned this morning.

Two words come to mind: Horrible Nightmare.

Argh.

Sadly, I inherited problem teeth. When the hygienist, during my last cleaning 6 months ago, told me my teeth and gums looked great, well, I nearly fainted. No one in the dental profession had ever said such words to me. Must have been the fact that I've faithfully, daily been taking 2,000 mg.'s of vitamin C, I thought.

Well, Vitamin C performed no miracles for me these past 6 months... three of my teeth had chipped and I knew I'd be in for trouble my next dental 'visit' (a word with way too much of a positive spin on it, if you ask me). As fate would have it, I drove into the parking lot and saw not a single other car there this morning and alas! I wished with all my heart there'd be a note on the door saying, "Doctor ____ had an emergency. Call us later for an appointment."

No such luck. There was no such note.

My so-called 'visit' was bad. Really bad.

But it was funny, too. I mean, yesterday I received an email from a friend, a 'forward' where you answer questions about yourself so your friends will know you better. One of the questions was, "Name four places you would rather be right now."

And well, yesterday I could not think of one single place. I thought only how much I love living where I do inside this house which always needs work of some kind.

But today in that dentist's chair, while the hygienist filed and sawed and poked and jammed her fingers around in my mouth, well, suddenly I could think of 400,000 places I'd rather be!

Places like Hawaii, Prince Edward Island, and New England... endless places like those.

But as more of the sawing and filing and jamming (and lecturing) went on, other places came to mind. Suddenly I thought, hey! This is so bad that I'd rather even be in a blessed traffic jam right now.... or in a supermarket line so long I'd question whether I'd ever get home..... or in a nice, sweltering heat wave with no air-conditioning for miles around.

But oh well, I made it out alive (just barely), even after the extra x-rays she forced me to have so she could show them to the dentist (who was on vacation. Probably in Hawaii.) He's going to call me if there's a problem. (I could tell the hygienist thinks he'll be calling me the minute he gets back.)

But now it's later.... and I've had some nice coffee and tater tots (the ultimate comfort food) and I can think straight. In fact, I can remind myself there are people who would give anything if their only medical problem was annoying, chipping teeth. There are people in doctor's offices and even on operating tables right this moment who probably think I am the most blessed person alive.

I would have to agree with them.

And may I be wise enough to keep all these things in their right perspective.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Gifts On Ordinary Days



I take walks around our neighborhood ... for my health, yes, but for inspiration, too. I give names to some houses, names like The Writer's House--not that I know who actually lives there, but because it's a house which looks as though a writer should live inside.

Near The Writer's House there is a house which I have always called The Grandparents' House, because well, it is small and tannish gold, with a big window in the front and a small sidewalk at the side weaving in and out amongst overgrown bushes. And always I have pictured an elderly couple living there, though, in thirteen years I never saw them.

I believe those grandparents in The Grandparents' House have passed away... there were bags of old (1960's?) Avon products near their curb today and the door was open, music played and I heard people painting walls inside. Not until today had I ever seen any sign of life there.

I shared all that to share this... Beside the bags of aqua boxes of Avon, this painting (above) laid upon its back, waiting for me. It hadn't been there when I walked past earlier... It was as though someone placed it there just for me. Not a knick, not a scratch, and with all the perfect colors for my tower room... I thought the frame was pretty, too--here's a closer peek:



So I carried it home by the hanging wire and yes I looked silly (it is huge), but I didn't care. Years ago, I would have been too shy to do such a thing, but God has helped me get over that. He showed me how much I missed holding onto the curse of shyness, and well, that is a whole other post.

Besides, I was simply carrying home a present.

My second present of the day! Early this morning before the sun even rose, I thought, "I should begin searching for a diary for next year. Something different perhaps. Something rather like my favorite Susan Branch diary, only, well, different."

Later I went to Salvation Army and as always, I pushed my cart over to the books first. Upon the middle shelf is where I found it. My new diary... with lovely Beatrix Potter paintings throughout ...and for just 29 cents. My first present of the day:

(Doesn't matter that it's from 1990... I can tweak it easily...)

Some people believe in seeking things... seeking presents instead of Presence. But I have seen when I seek God first--to know Him better-- He gives me the things I need--and little presents, too. Over and over this happens... over and over I anticipate His kindnesses... but, over and over, seeking Him is still the best thing ever in this Life.

And that is all He asks--that I keep it that way.


***

"But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well." Matthew 6:33