Saturday, March 31, 2007

Since I'll Be Painting Today...


... I thought I'd re-run this post. Judy mentioned 'invisible audiences' this week and she reminded me of these words from last year.

***
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 30, 2007

Away From The Shores of Mommy Land


I remember which year certain things happened by how old Naomi was at the time. I believe she was 19 when I found myself driving home from church one afternoon, thinking about the young moms I'd just watched. They'd all seemed a happy kind of tired and seemingly oblivious to everything except for their children and diapers and playgroups and laundry. I'd remembered my own days and years like those, though with only one child, I never seemed too lost and preoccupied in deep, foggy Mommy Land. Perhaps just the first two years and here and there afterward.

But mostly I've always been a thinker and a dreamer and a watcher of people peopling my little world. And being annoyingly organized, I've usually had much time to think. Usually too much time, so much so, that I'd sometimes purposely get up late, set aside my organized ways, and just do everything the hard way--simply to use up time so I wouldn't have to think so much around the house.

Anyway. Driving down the street that day while remembering those busy, happily-harried mothers, I recall thinking, "Just wait. Someday they'll all have time to think. Someday their days will not be all laid out ahead of time for them with feeding babies and driving children to school and hurriedly running errands so that they can put the babies down for naps, clean house and make dinner before their husbands arrive home.

Someday, like me, they would have days and hours on their hands to think about who they have become, or not become, where they have been, or not been, where they are going, or not going. And what it all means.

Except, I know how it often goes. Often the women left behind in empty nests look around them and panic. The Silence haunts them and so do the questions they never had the time or energy to ponder before. And so, instead of facing those echoless walls and growing into someone new--someone not defined by their children or motherhood--they go back to school. Or return to work. Or find other ways to surround themselves by crowds and noise so they can continue to evade the questions. And escape that Silence.

No, not every woman does that. But some do. I have watched them.

I guess my only point is there is something amazing waiting for those who face the questions and the Silence with courage. Those who will not back down, cower, on the days when God's voice seems less than a whisper, but instead, will just press-in a little closer to hear Him better.

It's there where answers to those nagging questions can be found. In Him. It's there where silence becomes a friend, a comrade-- not a feared enemy. It's there, in Him, where a woman finds who she really is outside of Mommy Land... and that there are all sorts of lands across the sea left to discover.


***
Note: I'm not saying jobs and schooling aren't good things. They are when they're given as direction during the Silence and not used as avoidance of it.

Just a clarification.

***
"...in quietness and in confidence shall be your strength..." ... Isaiah 30:15

A Question, A Delight and Stretching My Faith


Okay. So you may remember just where we found this stove and that it certainly did not come with directions. So, like, can anyone tell me how to advance the clock one hour? Since Daylight Savings began, we've been unable to move the hour ahead, we can only move the minutes ahead or backward. In other words, help! *** (Never mind. See below for a 'duh moment!')

See this amazing apron?


My new online friend, Anne, mailed it to me.

I love it.
Love it.
Love it.

I even feel cute it in--a feat in itself. Thanks again, Anne!

And speaking of the mail, weeks ago I peeked outside the window to see if the faded yellow flag on our mailbox had been pushed down by the mailman, signaling the mail had arrived. But no, the flag was still up. I thought, "Oh well. It's not like I'm expecting anything good anyway."

Immediately I heard the Holy Spirit ask, "Did you just say you're not expecting anything good? Where's the faith and expectancy in that attitude?"

Ouch! He was so right. He'd caught me again believing for nothing much and receiving just that. But since then--since I began believing for serendipitous things inside my mailbox--I've been amazed at what I've discovered in there. More sweet snail mail and tiny gifts and surprises than I've received in the past year, total.

And then last week I sat at the river in another gloomy cloud bank and told God, "Oh, I'd love it so much if the sun could come out for at least ten minutes today." Then right away I caught myself, remembered the mailbox incident, and stretched my faith a bit. "No, I mean a half-hour of sunlight would be great."

And then I heard the Holy Spirit say, "A half-hour? A half-hour? That's the most you can stretch your faith?"

Heh. He got me there again. Using piddly faith. And I so want more than just piddly faith! I desire to stretch my faith to believe for all the very best which God can provide. And personally, I feel if I can't believe God for the small things, I'm going to have a difficult time believing Him for the big, emergency stuff, too.

Now of course, I must write this, sadly, with disclaimers. I am not trying to get God to control the weather just for me, according to the way I happen to want it. Nor am I attempting to control how often people send me things in the mail just for the sake of getting stuff.

No. I'm simply saying that, lately, God has been reminding me He's a whole lot bigger than I give Him credit for. And my faith should be a reflection of that fact.

Again, that's all I'm saying...


***

*** Duh. Duh. Duh! I figured it out... I just kept advancing the minutes until the hour changed. Good grief. But honestly, we have other digital clocks where you cannot do that...honest!


***
"...you have not because you ask not..." ...James 4:2

"...According to your faith be it unto you..." ... Matthew 9:29

Thursday, March 29, 2007

The Journeys We Take


I can almost guarantee you've never read this book: My Little Journey by June Strong.

While we lived in Nevada, I found a once-sodden hardback copy of her other book, Journal of a Happy Woman, and read it, mostly summers, for the next ten years. It's a book describing a year from June's life of raising her 6 children (when her days were all laid out for her in advance), on a piece of countryside very near where I live now. (How serendipitous to move here from Nevada and find June almost next door! I have since seen her house from the road.) The book is cozy, farm-like, and details the joy in small things in June's Christian family.

And then, years later, there was My Little Journey.

At 49, most of June's children had by now either moved away or were finishing high school and June was experiencing the lovely time we women know as The Throes of Pre-menopause. You know, when your body is shaking you up and your mind feels like a ball of snapping rubber bands. And Life As You've Known It is shifting like sand at the ocean's edge. Also known as a Mid-Life Crisis.

So for one week, June took a journey alone, something very uncharacteristic for her. With her family's (confused) blessing, she flew to Portland, Maine and spent one week hiking down the coast along Highway 1. Alone. At 49. And she recorded how she was feeling, whom she met, her conversations with others and with God, and her insights gained while walking beside sea towns.

I love this book. In fact, I first read it while in my own little Throes of Pre-menopause, times when I'd feel Life was amazing on a Tuesday, but by Wednesday, I'd be sitting, huddled, in my bedroom with the curtains drawn shut, wanting all people everywhere to just Leave Me Alone. Some of you know exactly what I mean.

And after reading about June's journey, I toyed with traveling ideas of my own. Maybe I'd take a bus, not to a faraway place, but perhaps over to East Aurora, NY. Tom and I had visited there a couple times and it's such a cute old town, the place where Fisher Price Toys began and so they have the niftiest Fisher Price Toy Museum there. There's also a huge old-fashioned 5-and-Dime store with a maze of tiny shops upon hundred-year-old wooden floors. And much more to make you feel you've arrived by way of a time travel machine set for 1940.

And maybe someday I'll take a trip like that. But I think I've already, at 48, found what June discovered on her little journey. That, when your Life changes, you must change alongside it... you have to change your mind and attitude and some ways you've always done things. You have to walk that whole new path whose end--or even middle--you cannot see. But when you leave the old path and find the right new one, you'll know it, for it will bring a peace which no one can snatch away (though heaven knows, people and circumstances will try).

And most of all, June discovered, I believe, that you have to carve out time each day to seek God on this new journey. That you must come apart with Him or else you'll come apart at your seams. That we must pause to see how He feels about every step we take, so that we'll arrive exactly where He's planned for us to be when He's ready to walk us Home...

... And so that we'll get there by way of Joy and Peace in our heart's deepest places along each mile of this journey, even if the journey is just a daily stroll around the block.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Spring Lessons


"The time of the singing of birds is ..... here!"


******

For four days we've had gorgeous, Spring-like temperatures and Lennon, The Cat, and I have lounged on our front porch and watched our neighbors burst from the doors of their winter quarters and celebrate these 50 and 60 degree temperatures. Remember how I told you someone in our supermarket whistled the themes from old tv series one morning? Well, two days ago, our neighbor began whistling the song from Gilligan's Island. Honest. 

Must be something in our water.

Usually this time of year, I sit on our wicker chair and spy on our neighbors while they clear the winter debris and work hard--sweat-- in their yards, like, 4 to 8 hours in a single day. I go inside, occasionally peek out the windows, and yes, hour after hour, they're still there. Working hard.

That's not the way ol' Debra works, though. No, she's an "inch-by-inch-anything's-a-cinch" worker. She works a little, rests a little, reads a little, drinks a little lemonade. Works a little, rests a little, reads a little, drinks a little lemonade...

On Sunday evening, I wiped down our front porch and vacuumed the rug. Probably took me a half hour, or so. Yesterday, I sat on the lawn and began clearing away our yard's brown autumn leaves and twigs from the flower beds--in two half-hour shifts. And even though our front yard is the size of an average pick-up truck--still--it will probably take me a week to finish the clearing away. Then I'll move on to the side yards, then the back. 

My other favorite saying is, "Slow and steady wins the race." Emphasis on slow. And steady.

And you know? Probably while I peer across the street and think my neighbors do their yard work the difficult way, they're most likely peeking over here and thinking I do everything the lazy way.

And yet, both ways, it all gets done. Year after year and Spring after Spring.

And isn't that what matters most? That, and not forming critical opinions when people do things differently?

I believe so, anyway.



******

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

When You Walk In a Different Lane


It used to bother me that I appear to be walking on a different track than everybody I know in the Real World. The slow, out-of-it, what-planet-are-you-from? track--that's where I've strolled all my life.

I run into friends and acquaintances downtown and they'll list for me the books they're reading. You know, ones with titles like, "Understanding God From A-Z," or, "How To Pray in 250 Easy Steps," or, "Becoming the Ultra-Spiritual Person You've Always Longed To Be." (Okay, okay. I'm exaggerating. But just a little.)

Yet, usually I'm in the middle of books like, Rosamond du Jardin's, "Boy Trouble," or Betty MacDonald's, "Onions In The Stew," or Peter Mayle's, "Toujours Provence." So I switch the subject fast before being asked what I'm reading. I'm no fool. I know those kinds of books will bring only blank stares (Rosamond who?) or pity glances.

So then the other person describes the complete sets of teaching tapes they bought from three different Christian teachers (all names unknown to me) and the stuff, in detail, they're learning, while I stand there wondering if I should mention my current favorite teacher is still the one I began listening to 13 years ago. But knowing better, I switch subjects again.

We move onto how he/she is so excited because their children are all missionaries now and their church is growing out of its building and saving the world and holding meetings every night of the week.

And when they pause for a breath, that's when I say, "I have a blog." Usually, that kills the conversation.

Heh. I'm usually ready to go home anyway.

But you know? Anymore, I just don't care. Oh, I'm happy for those who lead exciting lives, but I no longer mind feeling awkward explaining what God does through me--or feeling that I should just keep quiet about it. Because what comes to me is that most of my average days aren't average at all. I'm happier and more at peace than I ever was during the years I tried to keep-up with everybody--those years when being a Christian felt like one endless, competitive race.

My days now, I just try to obey God and go where He leads me, even if that means I stay home a lot and send my messages to the world from a desk, either from a keyboard or a pen on little slips of paper in colored envelopes.

If that's what God has for me, then there is nothing greater or more noble that I could be doing. I could try a bunch of forced stuff to make myself feel more needed and useful, but I'd just be spinning my wheels, wasting energy and God's time. There is nothing greater, for me, than simple, everyday obedience to this lover of my soul.

And there's nothing more fulfilling, fun and joyful, either, even when it appears to others that I'm running the track alone.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Don't Have It? Make It!


At 13, I'd carry my mom's Good Housekeeping magazines into my bedroom, flip through the pages of highly-decorated, highly-priced living rooms, and then start rearranging my furniture. If a page showed a couch beneath a window, I'd shove my bed beneath my own window. If there was a bear skin rug at an angle in front of the couch, I'd place my own little rag rug in front of my bed and my rickety desk chair would go beside my door where the posh, gold tufted chair stood in the magazine room. And then I'd step back--and in my imagination--my bedroom now resembled those sumptuous rooms from the magazines.

I had one awesome imagination back then.

I'm thinking you have to cling to your imagination or else it seeps away by drops as you age. Because all these years since, I've heard tons of people put-off until tomorrow what they could have had or experienced today.

People by the carload have told me: "Someday, when we can afford it, we're going to have a nice house. This one we live in now is a dump and isn't worth fixing-up."

...or...

"They just don't play great music on the radio like they used to... and clothes today aren't as nice as they were when I was growing-up... and women don't wear aprons anymore... and house architecture isn't what it once was...and well, people just aren't what they used to be, either. The good old days are gone."

My whole life, ever since those junior high, rearranging-my-room-and-finding-it-good days, I've tried to keep from rolling my eyes and shaking my head (or shaking other people) when I hear others speaking like that.

Why? Because nearly always--with an imagination--you can create or find or discover or buy what you're missing or wanting or needing.

You can paint a room in a whole different color (or barter the job), rearrange your furniture in a whole other way and have what feels like a whole new space by next weekend.

You can order the music you love on cd's or listen to it on those new-fangled radio stations where they literally have a setting for everybody. If you think you can't afford satellite radio or tv (for all those old movies and tv series you miss, too), perhaps you can cut back in other areas which aren't nearly as pleasing to you... or borrow cd's and videos/dvd's from your town library or ask for subscriptions for your birthday or Christmas or trade music and dvd's with friends...

You can discover clothes you remember from days gone by in thrift shops or Ebay or put together old-fashioned styles from today's new clothes. If no one else is wearing aprons, wear them anyway--and look online for others who are wearing them, too (they're out there. I've seen them.)

If you like old houses, learn where they are in your area. You can walk or drive past them or even walk through them if tours are given or if estate sales are held in them. If you can't find friends, look in some new places--perhaps join some new clubs or classes or email groups where topics which interest you are pursued.

If all the bad news of today is making you a basket case, start searching for some good news, instead. It's out there--you just have to search a bit harder to find it.

If your kids have all moved away and left you without grandkids, become a Big Sister or Brother or befriend a neighborhood child. If you can't afford to take classes, do research at your town library or online... If can't afford a gym membership, start exercising in your home... If you want to become a writer, start writing or start taking pictures if you want to become a photographer...

Well, don't get me started.

We are not helpless. Usually what we are is overwhelmed by our paralyzing, it-must-be-done-one-certain-way thoughts. If God lives inside us, always there is something we can change because always He has a better way of doing and seeing and being. What an imagination He has! And what matters to me is that I listen, everyday, for the new, creative thing He has in mind for me to try or do or imagine.


***
Proverbs 29:18... "Where there is no vision, the people perish..."

***
"Better to light a candle than to curse the darkness."
Chinese Proverb

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Where Do You Go First?


"Seek ye first... Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy-laden and overburdened, and I will cause you to rest. [I will ease and relieve and refresh your souls.]

Where do you go first? When you're hurting or are stressed or confused or lonely, I mean.

For years I went first to Tom or to friends or the phone or stores or the movies and I've been seen walking down to this basement--first--to the computer, doing searches of all kinds to ease and relieve and refresh my soul (I haven't googled the website which does that yet).

The shocking truth? Going first to all those places only makes me feel worse. More restless or sad or just more whatever.

God's heart is blessed when I race to Him first, not just in bad times, either, but in giddy times, too, when I'm dancing in gratitude... He loves it when running to Him is the first thing popping into my mind. I love it, too.

And here's where I go all controversial on you, but hang in there...

I never tell this to my friends, nor do I write it in this blog: "If you need a friend, you can always count on me anytime." Why won't I say that? Because you can't. Count on me, that is. It's impossible for me to always be here for you with perfect, timely words and compassion enough to ease your pain or clear-up your confusion. Never can I be that 24/7-ish, nor all that comforting.

That's not even my goal(!) No, my goal is this: to inspire you to seek God first. To make you desire His friendship and yearn to walk around with Him--not just in terrible, stressful times, either--but in all the average moments of your ordinary days.

And yes, God speaks through people and touches us through our friends and loved ones and books and even, yes, blogs. And I agree that He can direct us to others for additional, specific help.

But always--always--He wants to be the first place we go to be touched and healed and cheered-up. The first friend we run to in bad times--and in terrific, memorable times, as well. He desires to be shared and shared with--but always first.

And that's all I'm saying.

Friday, March 23, 2007

For The Too Serious Amongst Us


"Be anxious for nothing..."

Back in the 90's I knew someone at church who was most usually, well, I'll say it--serious. Very serious. I remember him clearly because he was around my age, we had very similar giftings and we worked together on a couple projects. He was critical of himself, and thus, very critical of everyone else (that's usually how it goes). He even opposed great joy in church. Crying was ok, but not laughing. Oh my, no. And everything was a Great Big Deal... all mistakes--his and other peoples'--were, he felt, quite likely to end Life As We Know It.

I have known too many Christians like that. Worse--I have too often been a Christian like that. Fortunately, though, that lady mostly got left in the dust of some long ago path, though once in a blue moon she tries to resurrect herself out of said dust.

Anyway. I'd like to recommend a book which might be of help to any of you who, well, need to relax your white-knuckled grip on your days while trying to control your circumstances and everybody else's, as well--rearranging them so they obey you and appear and feel just right. You know, that impossible job.

Is it a thick, many-chaptered, theological, you'd-better-straighten-up book which you'll find down at your local Christian bookstore?

Uh, no. It's a humorous old book called Mrs. Appleyard's Year.

Mrs. Appleyard, an empty-nester, will tickle even the most serious of you until she makes you smile... or dare I say break out in a rusty laugh? She'll show you that admitting your faults can be fun, even freeing, and she'll help you find the lighter, more balanced side of your daily grind. She'll remind you of what's right about life and you'll find yourself remarking, "Oh! I'd forgotten about those good, simple, happy things, those delights which did not disappear with the 1950's. I'd only thought they had."

And you'll see that, often, it's what we serious folks have forgotten that makes us what we are today--so dreadfully serious that people avoid us, lest they catch our crankiness. Which, incidentally, is the exact opposite of this whole biblical idea of Christiandom.

To give you a taste of Mrs. Appleyard's Year, a for-goodness-sake-lighten-up! book, I'll include a few favorite lines to perhaps oil any rusty smiles...

"As such, she has certain virtues. Mrs. Appleyard uses the brakes on her car instead of the horn. She enjoys praise, but she knows that most praise implies surprise, so if she gets any she is grateful but calm..."

"'I like you as you are,'" Mr. Appleyard added staunchly. The nicest thing about Mrs. Appleyard is Mr. Appleyard."

And about family picnics with her husband and four children:

"...This is the most comfortable kind of picnic--if no one has forgotten the plates. There is something unappetizing about creamed chicken served on a shingle... ... The young Appleyards prefer a place where the easiest way to get into the pool is to be lowered from the falls on a rope.

How did Mrs. Appleyard get involved with these people anyway? Of course, as Sally once said: "Poor Mother, you're not an Appleyard--you're only related to us by marriage!"

A patch of shade is always provided where Mrs. Appleyard can read a good book and not know too much about what is going on... She is happy that she has reached an age when she does not have to pretend to like things she does not like. Mrs. Appleyard admires horses--in color prints. She likes skiing in movies and water in a glass... The voice of a brook running by night is good to sleep by. Mrs. Appleyard wishes no closer contact. She knows how she looks in a bathing suit, for one thing..."


***
"There is a time for everything....a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance..." from Ecclesiastes 3

***
For another explanation of what I'm trying to say, here's another post I wrote about it back in 2005.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Feeding the Hurt or the Healing?



Each month, Tom and I taste retirement life. He gets 7 or 8 days off from work in a row and we spend too much time together, accomplish little, eat sloppily (as in, nowhere vaguely close to healthy), watch scandalous hours of tv and generally make each other nuts.

This has been one of those weeks.

So yesterday morning I had to get away. I drove to Burger King, bought a small decaf and an order of hash browns (which surprise me always, when they arrive in little circles since my brain gets stuck in past eras when they were served in a rectangle)... and then drove over to the river. Really a bit nippy to be sitting in the car, but the sun glowing through the window beside me helped.

And while I listened a couple more minutes to Patty Griffin's song, Rain, (not wanting to zap the battery and get stuck there), something occurred to me for the first time.

Years ago, I used to travel to rivers or places in the desert (while in Nevada) in order to feed my hurts. I'd listen to songs which fed my sadness and dwelled on thoughts and memories which made me feel sadder, too.

But now I drive to the river (or Barnes & Noble or Starbucks) to feed my healing. I dwell on what is going right and I let God sit beside me and cheer me up.

What a difference! And it partly explains why I'm experiencing whole strings of better, more emotionally-steady, feet-on-level-ground days.

Who would have thought?


***
Psalm 143:10
"Teach me to do your will,
for you are my God;
may your good Spirit
lead me on level ground."

***

One good thing? We discovered that the first season of the old Perry Mason series is out on dvd. We borrowed it from our library--how clever and interesting these are... We love the sumptuous vintage stuff--the cars (oh, those roomy or sporty vehicles!), the home furnishings, the nightclubs and the lovely classic clothes. We pay almost as much attention to those as to the plot!

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Morning Song Confession


For ever so long--years and years--Tom and I listened only to Christian music. Our pastor preached it was the right--and only-- thing to do.

And so when we'd visit our Christian friends who listened to (gasp!) secular music, Tom and I would, later, go home to our bedroom and gossip about and tsk tsk and shake our heads and judge our poor, misguided, wayward friends.

Oh, the foolish things we do to others--and ourselves! How much better, how much more freeing, when our holiness is God-breathed and not law-formed.

And so my confession is this: In my Dream Room this morning, I listened to Ventura Highway five times in a row. With the volume high. Our cats rolled their eyes at me several times.

But sometimes nothing other than Ventura Highway will do. For me, anyway. Popular when I was a teenager, it still sounds oh-so-good to me now.

I smiled, sitting there on the floor, and felt happy to be living on this average Tuesday. The sun even peeked out from behind the clouds where it had hidden since Sunday.

So there is my morning confession. I hope you'll be able to handle it.

***

To hear a sample of Ventura Highway, go here. Scroll down.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Thinking In Pieces


Sometimes (ok, often) I'll look at my email box(es), see all the emails needing to be answered and then I'll sigh, get up from my chair and go wash the dishes. Or read a book.

Basically, I just run away.

We all have different reactions to feeling overwhelmed--most commonly I procrastinate so long that I start believing I actually finished what needed to be done. Which means, of course, that later I'll find myself even more overwhelmed and farther behind... and apologizing a lot.

How much better to think baby steps..... small bites.... to view things in pieces, rather than allowing the whole huge project/chore/task to spiral me into a zombie state, which still happens a lot around here. (See the woman in the above painting.) Too often that "all or nothing" mentality or believing there's only one certain way to do anything has messed me up bigtime.

Yet--slowly--I'm learning. Whenever I paint a room, I think only one wall at a time. I can handle one wall. I can paint one wall at a time--no big deal. And often after I've painted one wall, I find myself all primed and ready to paint one more. It's when I put pressure on myself to paint the whole darn room in one day that I get into trouble.... and procrastinate even buying the paint... and find two years have gone by since I first considered painting in the first place. (You think I'm kidding?)

Pieces of the pie--I need to see more of what needs to be done as pieces of a pie. I can handle one piece at a time--one email, one wall, one flower bed, one load of laundry.

No sweat.


***

Of course, we don't have this option on every single task in Life, but it's amazing how often we do. Trust me--I've noticed.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

A Sunday Night Smile

This birthday card, sent to me by an old friend from Jr. High, made me laugh and laugh, so I wanted to share it with you. (Perhaps you have to be our age to really appreciate it, though.)


When You're Comfortable With Nothingness


"Seek ye first... learn of Me... and I will give you rest..."

The timing of this will not be for everyone. But perhaps for you, it will confirm a whisper you've heard in your heart.

When, at 11, I 'got saved', They told me, "Ok, now go to work... (to the work, to the work). Go and tell everyone what has happened to you and bring them in (bring them in, bring them in, bring them in from the fields of sin)."

They did not say, "First, spend some time getting to know Jesus." Oh, They said, "Read your Bible," but they didn't say become acquainted with this person who's just moved into your heart. They didn't show me how to sustain a relationship with this new-found lover of my soul.

They just said, "Go to work."

It's hard to work for a mystery person. Someone you've only heard about from others. Or read about. And after a few years of 'to the work, to the work', it all caught up with me, some of which I've already explained in this blog.

But then one year, God swooped in. He stopped me in my worker's tracks (no, I didn't get sick or anything) and He told me I was going to start all over. He said I'd done things my way and everyone else's way and look where that had led me. Now, this time, we were going to begin with love. Love for Him. And after that, love for others.

That's when He brought my life down to nothingness, though actually, it was 'up,' but just appeared like down. He began stripping things away from me. Oh, no one died, nor did my house burn down, or anything (calm down!).

No, He kept calling me away to Himself at times the people in my life called me away to them. I had to say no a lot... I had to let go of some old friends. TV shows I'd loved since childhood sounded boring, suddenly. He changed all my dreams around and some just disappeared.

I spent much time alone in my room...alone with Him. He gave me a desire to read the Bible and I barely wanted to read anything else (though when I did, He encouraged me to set the other books aside). He encouraged me to listen for hours to the woman who became my favorite teacher and through her, He showed me probably a hundred ways where I'd been messing-up for the past 20+ years.

That was a season of my life... it lasted for two years and some friends told me I'd gone overboard (my best friends, ones I'd thought would understand or at least be patient). But I so needed those two years. They were a God-led season--not something I chose, nor something I thought I should do because someone else tried that season and it worked for them. No, it was a time where God began rebuilding me to His specifications, not my own. And He had to tear down most of the foundation I'd built according to the way everyone had told me for years it should be built. That foundation had been on the verge of collapsing as all faulty foundations will in time.

And ever since, nothing has been the same. After you've spent some time with nothingness, anything you receive afterward feels like something extra--something nice, yes--but something you could have gotten along without if you'd had to. Because now you have the best thing... and no longer do you feel the stress to be the best or to grab and yank from others what was never meant for you. You drink from one fountain and that is--He is--enough.

And there is freedom, joy and peace in that beyond anything this world can offer.


***

Again, the timing of this is not for everyone who will read these words. But for some of you, I hope it will serve as simple confirmation.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Of Birthday Memories


Yesterday, my birthday, was one of those dark, mysterious days where the tall, bare trees remind you of forks piercing the sky and every house and building and lawn looks grey, grey, grey. But at least it didn't snow until we arrived home from our festivities--our snow had disappeared, finally, this week, so the roads loomed clear. But this morning, they're an awful, snowy mess.

Tom and I ate lunch at my favorite Chinese buffet, one surrounded with large windows (more grey, grey, greyness outside), but the music inside was lovely and stretched and continued the mood from the movie we had just watched at the theater down the street.

For we'd seen Sandra Bullock's new film, Premonition. Personally, I loved it... every slow minute of it. I mean, I wonder about these movie reviewers. Do they consume so much caffeine that their brains are always operating in fast-forward and so any normal-paced movie not an all-out thriller or one splashed with waves of car chases feels slow to them?

Premonition reminded me of the black-and-white movies of the old days, ones you didn't just watch for the plot, but for the scenery and clothing and handsome cars and faces. The interior of the house in Premonition charmed me, and having painted part of our kitchen this week, I found myself itching to tell Sandra I'd be happy to touch-up all the knicks and scratches on her family's door frames and the primed stair banister. The house was a rambling 1920's one like those I walk past on the street next to ours everyday, only larger. I loved its wallpaper and fireplace. And during other slower moments, I even enjoyed studying Sandra's face--what eyes and cheekbones that woman has! (Whatever happened to just savoring a film and its characters? Has that become a lost art to everyone except myself?)

Anyway, as my favorite reviewer said (in different words...skip the spoilers), Premonition is a great movie about family love, but it's not a movie for families. I agree. But if you are all grown up (and promise not to repeat the naughty words), and if you liked the movies, Deja Vu, Groundhog Day and Frequency, most likely, you'd enjoy this movie. In parts, yes, it's scarey, but for me, it never crossed over into becoming a horror film. At one point, though, I heard a husband behind us comforting his wife with, "It's just a movie." I smiled and thought, "Hey, that's my line." Often I've said that aloud while watching movies, either to calm my heart or to calm Tom down when he's sputtering loudly to the screen at home, "What an idiot! Why didn't she turn on the light first before she walked into that room?"

I wasn't crazy about the ending of Premonition and yet it made sense and tied most of the loose ends, suddenly, together. And if there's anything I hate, it's when you sit through a long movie and are confused or disgusted by the ending. But no, I walked out of Premonition feeling glad to be alive, appreciative and grateful for those people in my life. Oh, not in a Sound of Music sort of way, but in a deeper, quieter way as more and more levels of the film's message about relationships dawned upon me as we walked out to the car.

And then to top-off this grey, mysterious day, Naomi and her boyfriend came over in the evening with gifts and dessert and perhaps I appreciated all that I'd been given even more because of the places my thoughts had traveled earlier after seeing Premonition. Who knows?

And I do thank each of you so very much for your birthday wishes! How lovely to return home and find all of you here in some way... your comments and ecards and emails were appreciated far more than you know. Thanks for adding delight to my day!


***
This is what three days before Spring's official arrival looks like at my house.... sigh...

Friday, March 16, 2007

Another Birthday Already?


So, like, guess whose birthday is today? Yes, mine...

One thing is good--I only feel older on Naomi's birthdays, not mine, and hers was back in January, so today I'll be ok.

Tom actually gets this momentous day off! We'll probably go out for lunch and a movie and I'll try to pretend it's a warm, sunny day like the woman in this painting is having.


***

A birthday is just the first day of another 365-day journey around the sun. Enjoy the trip. ~Author Unknown

Thursday, March 15, 2007

First Impressions--Always Lasting?


For various and sundry reasons, I am re-running this post...


***************
Okay, so you might remember this post where I mentioned Tom's and my addiction to C.S.I.-type shows. But back then, the program, N.C.I.S., was my least favorite (Tom usually watched it alone). Never having been a huge fan of Mark Harmon, I found it annoying to the millionth-degree when he would slap the backs of the heads of his subordinates and talk down to them, like, throughout the whole hour.

Well. Out of all the C.S.I.-type shows we enjoyed when I wrote that post, there is only ONE which I now watch regularly. Guess which one? Yep, N.C.I.S. (Did you guess correctly?) With the others, I just grew bored with their predictability and gore factors and the characters seemed under-developed, as though they ceased to exist outside of their jobs. And although N.C.I.S. probably isn't more well-written than the other programs, the characters have grown on me. I can actually picture who's on N.C.I.S.--as opposed to guessing, "Now, is so-and-so on C.S.I. Miami or C.S.I. New York or is she on Without a Trace or Cold Case?" (Come on, you know you've done that, too.)

The characters on N.C.I.S. make me laugh, even Mark Harmon's character now (who no longer hits his team in the head every single week and has toned his sarcasm way down). Tom has always preferred N.C.I.S. over the others so now we're on the same page there--and that makes it fun.

Okay... I probably went on too long about that--but quickly--my other examples are of first impressions regarding friends. How they are not always the end-all factors we've been told they are.

I had an awful first impression of one of my current favorite friends when she got after me about not paying enough attention to her child during children's church--at a time when I was the only teacher down there in the church basement with 25 kids (wild, chair-hopping ones of every age) week after week. But now she and I are great buddies, the best friend I have nearby.

And one of my favorite online friends and I clashed about some important beliefs while we belonged to an email group, yet now I consider her one of the most interesting people I know--and one of my favorite online friends.

The lessons? Here's some hope if you've made a few bad first impressions, yourself. Not all bad first impressions are fatal (even if society tells you so).

And too, don't be quick to write-off people or tv shows or books or shops--or anything else. You may just be erasing something very special. Something (or someone) you would have treasured if you'd given them a second chance.


***

P.S. I'm loving the examples you've given me in my comment box about your similar first impressions. Anyone have anymore to share?

***

"Build bridges, not walls..."

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Depression? Or a New Season?


So there I was in our dark little house in a California mountain town in 1986 feeling something new. New, but not good. I awoke one morning and no longer felt like reading the books I'd always loved or thumbing through the magazines which had always inspired me (BORing)... and I didn't want to work on crafts, paint any rooms or take any walks--all things I'd previously loved.

Nowadays, nearly everyone has heard that those can be signs of depression. And I agree. When I noticed myself no longer enjoying what had once almost defined me, that's right about the same time that my years of depression began.

For me, that depression didn't stem from a chemical imbalance, but rather, an attitude imbalance. All sorts of old ideas, expectations and disappointments spun,lopsided, inside my head. It was as though they all caught up to me in a cataclysmic tornado. Or something. I had no idea what was happening, being too stubborn to see most of it.

Anyway, this post isn't really about that... It's about this other thing--this thing of strangely no longer enjoying what you once could hardly wait to do. Like I said, I agree that it can be a sign of depression... or of finally spiraling because of your out-of-alignment thinking... or of eating the wrong foods for your particular body (trying to live off of processed sugar, caffeine and animal fat, for example, especially when you're as old as I am. Take my word for that one.)... or not getting enough sleep or exercise or good air or good friends, for that matter. It's amazing how much a bit of online research can help regarding depression symptoms (especially if you actually use the advice you find). And a trip to a good holistic doctor, of course.

So there is that.

But there's something else I'm noticing about my own self. There are times all these years later when, suddenly, I no longer feel like doing those things which I absolutely loved doing only last year. Or last month. Something--some hobby, some favorite movie genre, some specific part of my whole identity-- suddenly will feel like only a memory. A pleasant memory, but something very much removed from who I am and what I find pleasurable or fulfilling today. Whatever it may be, I find myself no longer even caring much about it at all.

But now in my late 40's I've learned not to panic when that happens (and it's happened a lot this past decade). For I've seen it's all rather like shedding of an old skin. A leaving behind of what I once was so to make room and time and energy for what I am becoming.

In other words, it's become, for me, a sign that I am growing-up.

It's rather like this: when I was ten-years-old, I loved to play Chinese jump rope and read Winnie The Pooh and climb and skate and run up and down hills. But through the years, I left those much loved things behind along the trail of becoming who I am now. And during my 40's, especially now that I am queen of this empty nest, I'm leaving more of what I loved, but no longer love, behind me, because I'm growing some more. I'm simply taking a few new steps in a forward direction.

And that is nothing to be afraid of. Actually, it's all pretty exciting and cause for celebration. A new season in Life usually is--that is, when looked upon by someone who wishes to grow beyond that which she has always known.


***
"When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me." ... 1 Corinthians 13:11

It Was What It Was



Oh, how I needed yesterday!

We had sun in wide, hazy blue skies and we were at nearly 60 degrees(!) Birds sang, calling neighbors to step out of their houses and freeing them from the spell of winter. Snow melted from our lawns and we saw green again after two long months of greyish-white. During my pretend coffee break from the painting of my kitchen, I sat outside on our winter-dirty, flowerless porch with Lennon and we smiled our most Cheshire smiles. During this first porch sitting of the year, we gazed out over our winter-weary neighborhood and called it good.

Spring was here. A taste, anyway. I didn't have to pretend it had arrived or make anything look Spring-like when what it wasn't. It just was what it was--and it was Spring.

I mean, I must force Springtime into our kitchen. It must be painted yellow, or another bright color, because the sun was snatched away from it when our carport went up. Even before that, it received only minutes of morning sunlight because sadly, it faces northeast. So I'm again painting our kitchen yellow so it'll appear full of sunlight--when, in reality, it certainly is not.

It's all rather like using the flash on your camera or switching on lamps in your rooms in the morning before the sun rises and beams yellow light through the windows. Or smiling when it would be so much easier to cry, but you smile anyway so to bring hope to others--and yourself.

But yesterday wasn't like that--there was no forcing anything or making something into something better.

No, it just was what it was. A bright day, a gift from God waiting only to be received by hearts so winter-weary. A gift of hope meant to flood my soul with memories of all the Springs which I have known until this year's Spring arrives to stay.


***
"Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow."
-- Melody Beattie

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Whose Fault Are My Ruts?


One of the greatest revelations I ever had? If I'm in a rut, it is always--always--my own fault. Not God's, not Tom's or my parents' or my friends' or from any unfairness in Life. No, just mine.

Even if Tom takes the car to work (like today) and I can't travel anywhere fun (also like today), that doesn't mean that my Today must run exactly like Yesterday.

Always, I can vary what I do. I can hold my quiet time in a different part of the house or extend it while taking a walk around the neighborhood (if you want to know how to ruin your quiet time, go here). I can cook something different for breakfast and eat it in a whole other part of the house or even invite a friend over for brunch. I can rearrange my living room or my whole daily schedule. I can write a letter to someone I've not written to in years or visit websites or blogs I've never visited before or read a new-to-me style of books or magazines or watch a new movie, try a new recipe...

...and think new and better thoughts... and not complain... and begin unique adventures of viewing Life as God wants me to.

And even on days when I have use of our car, I can travel a different route to the supermarket or take someone with me or shop at a whole different store. I can pick-up lunch at a new place and sit at a different park than where I usually go. Tom and I could eat at a restaurant we've never been to or visit a museum or a shop we've never tried before...

...and for a great challenge, I can try something new every day, though probably that will require I make a few changes. All of this does, actually--and that is good for me, too.

If I ever wake-up and find myself, groaning, in a rut, I always blame it on my own lack of imagination. Somewhere I wandered off the high road and took a lower one, a road which probably looked easier, even more efficient, but was in reality, so predictable I can travel it with my brain asleep.

And since it's my days which add-up to my life, I want to mix-up and shake-up these normal days so that, when I look back, I'll see no ruts dug deep in the road behind me. And I want to travel lightly, not with sacks of burdens God tried to pry from me--heaven forbid that I bog-down halfway through!

Monday, March 12, 2007

Of Painting Seasons and Grace


Last night at 7 p.m. I began repainting our kitchen. I was going to begin this morning, instead, after Tom left for work, but Grace nudged me... whispered, "Why sit around with nothing to do, waiting for tomorrow?" So I slipped my ancient Growing Pains video into the kitchen video player and painted, painted, painted until 10:30, long after Tom had gone to bed. It was just me and the Seavers in the kitchen--oh, and Grace, of course.

I mean, usually I'm up by 5:00 a.m. each morning, so if I'm awake past nine at night, it must mean there's something incredibly interesting on tv to watch (and well, you can guess how often that happens). Yet when I cooperate with Grace--do things when and how she says to do them--I have all the energy and strength and inspiration I need.

But I traveled a long road learning that.

Way, way back in college I remember sitting in my dorm room with a beat-up guitar trying to teach (force) myself to play music. But Grace certainly was not sitting on my bed beside me. No, she was off in some corner where I'd sent her when I insisted on learning to play the guitar--something I was so not meant to do--while both she and God were more interested in why I felt I must play the guitar. She wanted to talk about my insecurities which made me grasp for attention by doing what I was not called to do. But I so did not want to go there. No, I struggled with the guitar, instead. And struggled... until I gave-up.

And then after I met Tom--who could sing like the proverbial bird and touch peoples' very hearts--I walked around my house and sang and sang, even taped myself to see how I could improve. There was no improvement for me, just frustration for, once again, Grace was not there to help me sing better so to feed my ego--she and God wanted to work on my continuing search for approval and acclamation. But I persisted in what I wanted, ignored what they desired, and failed at singing, too.

Oh the other times! The times God scared me by wanting to work on my tactless mouth, but I thought perhaps, working on my tendency to leave dirty dishes in the sink overnight might be a more timely thing... or my forgetfulness... or shyness, even. So I'd check-out library books about homemaking or improving ones memory or becoming bolder and I'd read, memorize and struggle... read, memorize and struggle (and hit invisible brick walls)... all without Grace and God. All without their blessing and timing and strength.

I have changed and times have changed because cooperating with Grace and God changes everything. They have a perfect timing, perfect seasons--and when I cooperate with them--I have all I need to see a thing through to completion. No frustration required.

And so welcome to the Painting The Kitchen Season of my life. These are 'before pictures', but the after ones won't be extremely different, for I'm just using a more chiffon-type of yellow and am enjoying watching the knicks and chips go away.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Intelligence and Wisdom


You know how sometimes you can't put how you're feeling into words, but then you discover someone in a book voiced those words for you and made things clearer? Well, that happened, again, to me days ago when I reread this in Richard Carlson's, Don't Worry, Make Money. And since this encouraged me, perhaps there's someone out there it will also help. Here it is in part:

"All things being equal, intelligence is a wonderful quality to possess. However, if you had to choose between the two, I'd say that wisdom is even more important than intelligence in your quest for joy and abundance. There are many intelligent people who fail to use their intelligence to best advantage. There are also many extremely intelligent people who live very unhappy lives...

"While you could rank order people in terms of their IQ, the number you assigned to a person would say nothing about their degree of success or happiness. Despite this fact, however, as a society, we continue to revere intelligence, yet barely even stop to consider wisdom at all.

"...Wisdom is invisible... As you discover and begin to trust your wisdom, you'll free yourself from your fixed and habitual patterns of thinking and problem solving and will more easily be able to navigate yourself toward joy and prosperity. In a nutshell, wisdom is the ability to "see" an answer without having to "think" of an answer. It exists outside of the confines of your thinking mind. Often, wisdom is seeing the obvious. And unlike the thinking mind, wisdom contains no worry...

"The people who have made the most money, or who have been the most successful in their careers, are certainly not always the most intelligent or most highly educated... Usually the people who make the most money and who have the most fun doing so are highly creative, highly motivated, have great intuition, solid gut reactions and instincts and/or the ability to see opportunities. These qualities, and others, stem not so much from intelligence, but from wisdom. This is not an argument against formal education or against standard intelligence. Yet it's critical to be aware that you don't need to use any lack of formal education as ammunition against yourself. Education is important and helpful. But don't let anyone convince you that if you aren't formally educated you are doomed to failure--because you're not.

"Keep your mind as clear as possible, know that a deeper, more intelligent type of thinking--your wisdom-- is available. When you feel your thinking is too frenetic, overactive, or that you are trying too hard, experiment with backing-off. You will find that a softer focus and less effort, not more, will usually result in a better use of the mind. Relax and succeed."


***

Proverbs 4:6
Do not forsake wisdom, and she will protect you; love her, and she will watch over you.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Not Trading Your Place Away Too Soon...


So I took Lennon to the vet again this morning... he's been drinking lots of water the past two months and that's always a worry. I sat with him on the bench in the waiting room and when I'd peek inside his carrier, well, if looks could have killed, I'd be dead by now. Those cat eyes! But I peeked again later and--I'd never seen him do this--he hung his head, burrowed his face into the towel in his carrier. And he refused to raise his head even when I called him or Little Waiting Room Munchkin Girl (who looked adorable, like what's-her-name on How The Grinch Stole Christmas,) peeked-in and chatted jibberish to him.

I hate this. And I decided today I'm not taking him back until May for his bi-annual check-up, even though the vet is a tad concerned about Lennon (remember, he's diabetic) and is wondering if we should do the thing where Lennon stays there all day so they can regulate what his blood is doing at certain hours.

No, I can't do that to him. And since the vet isn't sure this is necessary, then I'm just going to say no.

Anyway.

Lennon (who acts like a happy-dog-in-a-car on the way home) got dropped off at home, was given a kitty snack for being good, and then I left for the river. Well, by way of Burger King where I bought a kid's meal and a decaf. (Which reminds me, did anyone try your local Burger King's coffee after I recommended it? Just wondering.) I drove into the parking lot at the river and nearly cried--too many weeks had passed since I'd been there and I'd forgotten how wonderful the water is when it's gleaming-grey with huge chunks of ice glittering and floating downstream and geese are paddling around and the fallen trees at the edges are like frozen white statues.

It was too much, too glorious, but I stayed anyway and read and ate lunch and drank decaf so incredible I wondered if they'd given me the real stuff, by mistake.

And I thought of all you moms of young children.... how you probably have days where you'd love to have my fancy-free, drive-to-the-river-and-eat-and-read-and-dream-on-a-sunny-day life.

And then I thought of myself, an older mom, an empty-nester... and how some days I miss what you have. Sometimes I miss having that little blond pony-tailed girl sitting beside me with her envelope of french fries, telling me about what Matt did at school that day and asking, "Can we feed the seagulls again like last time?" And taking our loaf of bread and tossing chunks in the sky for the gulls to snatch away.

Oh, childhood sails past like those huge sheets of ice in the river... until you are left only with the memory of what was yours for a moment.

And I guess I just wanted to hand you young moms that message, encourage you to just appreciate your children now, for someday they'll move on and you'll have hundreds of days alone at the river to reflect upon this one day you are living right now... and to wish all your days had not sailed down rivers of Time so fast.

Pollyanna's Dark Side Revealed


First, an enormous thanks to each of you who recommended new blogs to me. By and far they were amazing! See, I knew it shouldn't be so hard to find contemplative blogs and you proved me right. Already I've added some to my blogrolls and will list more soon. I'm especially enjoying Victorian Rhapsody and Dirty Dishes... I'm clicking down her archive pull-down menu like a reader possessed.

I think some of you were astounded Thursday that I, Mrs. Pollyanna, actually feel disappointed in people sometimes. (I'm thinking the people in the above painting are asking, "So, like, what was up with Debra yesterday?) I guess you reminded me that sometimes I am just too darn goody-goody in this blog and it simply must be stopped. My goody-goodyness, that is. :)

Anyway, I don't understand why, but sometimes my body craves a new, thought-provoking blog. I mean, with books, I read the same ol' ones over and over. That's why my shelves are crammed with dusty old books which fall, thump, to the floor when you open the glass doors. Books I cannot release because nowhere in the whole New York library system will I find them offered. (Although, I just completed an agonizing, soul-wrenching purging of any I-might-not-die-without-this-book books, since we may be moving).

And then there is my video and dvd collection. Mostly I've collected the same old movies and tv series I have loved since I was anywhere from 10-years-old to 30, back when I was a sweet young thing (or people thought I was, anyway). And to this day, I watch them over and over until I have them memorized. And then I watch them again.

But then there's this blog thing. Every three months (or so), this craving/yearning/wild desire for new blogs consumes me (well, kinda) and that's when I venture off on these hunts. And if I return from these journeys empty-handed, I come back cranky, disappointed and waxing poetically about the waywardness of all Christiandom.

That's all.

So to all of you who sent me links to your favorite blogs, I thank you. All of humanity thanks you (well, the humanity in my house and neighborhood). Now Debra is content again, meek, lowly. And now we can all go our merry, same ol' same ol' way.

For another three months, anyway.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Humble Pie Sundays


Eight years ago a man in our church shared a sermon and I still remember one sentence. The gist of it, anyway. He said, "The love of God is real in your life when you can pray for God to promote others instead of yourself--and mean it."

Okay, so when you first hear something like that you might think, "Oh, I'm there already." Then you're sitting on that hard bench, remembering how the week before your friend, Kris, was promoted at her tax preparation job and you were thrilled for her. Honestly, without one iota spot of jealousy, you were thrilled for her happy, happy soul.

Then it comes to you. "Of course, I, personally, would detest being a tax preparer (having to bribe myself twice a month to sit down and pay my own bills). I'd (seriously) rather have a job where I sat on a block of ice and poked pencils in my eyes for a living. You know, maybe even something like babysitting."

But alas! (And here's where you squirm on that hard bench.) It comes to you, "But what if Kris had a blog like I do and got 2,500 visits everyday and 325 comments after every post and what if she received a yummy book deal offer for her blog along with a nice, big fat advance? What then? Just how thrilled would I be for her then??"

And later in the day is when your friends from church sit at their dinner tables and wonder over their fried chicken why they saw you slink out of church after the service, with a deflated look on your face while you practically dragged it along the floor and out to your car.

... and I would guess that it might be best for us all to walk out of church weekly, deflated, empty of the pride we walked in with. Those have, afterward (long, long afterward, usually) turned out to be my favorite Sundays.

Returning From The Hunt Empty-Handed


Every once in awhile I go hunting. Blog hunting, that is. On Saturday I decided to click down the complete blogroll of a fellow blogger whose writing I enjoy, even though I think she tends to complicate, well, nearly everything. I love the way she writes even though I don't always love what she writes. But I can live with that and there are a few such bloggers on my blogroll(s) (I have two.). I appreciate learning from others how to write better by their example.

Anyway, I clicked down her whole list, visited probably 35 blogs over a couple days' time and found nothing. Zippo. Nada. Well, no blog which spoke to my heart or not even one whose writing style was great even though what they said wasn't. I was open! I dearly wanted to add even one more blog to my sidebar. But I clicked-clicked-clicked for hours like a mad woman and felt no real kinship with anyone.

Sigh... Sometimes I ask myself where are all the good blogs? I mean, you hear that there are now thousands and thousands of blogs on the Net, but where are the blogs of the ponderers, the dreamers, the contemplative souls, the joyful and those who love life as God gives it?

Instead I keep finding the blogs of Christians who hate other Christians. Oh, not in a literal brick-throwing way (though I wouldn't put that past some), but in critical, sarcasm-disguised-as-humor sorts of ways...Blogs which condemn any church who does things differently than their own...against any church who tries something new. I keep tripping across bloggers who write whole tirades against tv shows they've never even watched or books they've never read..... Bloggers which, by the way, ask every few days why they are not as happy as they once were.... (duh?)...

And ok, I'm complaining about bloggers who complain, and I know that's bad form. But I guess I'm speaking out of my disappointment, for the potential for blogging is enormous! Not only can anyone share their life through their words for all the world to read, but they can share Life. The kind of joy-unspeakable Life which only God can live and breathe through a person. The potential is there, but it makes me sad to see it wasted on arguments over doctrine and tirades over how someone tweaked a Christian phrase for a little added humor. And I guess I want to read bloggers who can reach down deeper than describing what they ate for lunch.

Whatever happened to 'they'll know we are Christians by our love'? Or 'love seeks not her own' and 'deep calls unto deep' and ? Well, you get the idea.

But let me be quick to add that there are amazing Christian blogs out there spreading Hope and Love and Light and Freedom! And I am beyond grateful for the ones in my blogroll.

I guess this morning I'm just wishing I could find more like them.


***
Anyone have any redeeming, interesting blogs to recommend to me today?

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Whisked Away To Gone-Away


Yesterday our high, for most of the day, was a measly 3 degrees F. Three degrees! I cancelled all my intended errands and stayed home, appreciated the sun, but still complained in my heart far too much about this long winter.

It's as though I feel the grace to live here seeping away. Oh, not that God would take it all away as long as I've no choice but to live here now. No, but He's snatched just enough to get me dreaming about living someplace else. A necessity, really, that removing of some grace (so I'll want to leave), because otherwise, the whole thought of moving would be too daunting, moving being right up there with the death of a loved one where stress is concerned.

Today is better. Today had to be better and yesterday that's what I kept reminding myself (I'll spare you further details, including how the cold water pipe for our bathtub froze...). Yes, today we're at a balmy 15 degrees, and the sun was shining so brightly that when I lugged some furniture down our front ice-crusted steps for the curb, I wasn't even wearing a jacket and for the first time, I could remember Spring. What it feels like. At least a little.

Anyway, have you ever read Gone-Away Lake or its sequel, Return to Gone-Away, both by Elizabeth Enright? No? Oh my, I do feel bad for you (or excited if you plan to read it later). I don't care that these were written for 12-year-olds, they are much too amazing for kids only. Anyway, I've been rereading them both, as I do every year, so that's why I'm mentioning them.

On the one hand, they make me crazy with desire, especially during this winter which will not go away. No, really! They tell the story of a boy and girl, cousins, both 12-ish,who discover a nearly-abandoned, crumbling group of Victorian summer homes, built in the 1890's, on the edge of what was a lake at the time. Now, 60 years later, only two are inhabited--one by an elderly sister and the other by her brother, both who had such fond memories of this resort neighborhood as children, that they returned in their 60's to live out the rest of their lives in this secluded, forgotten spot. The two cousins befriend this sister and brother and are given the attic of one of the Victorian houses to use for a clubhouse, they invite their friends, and have great fun exploring and hearing the tales of the early days of Gone-Away Lake.

In Return To Gone-Away, the largest, most ornate of the houses is purchased by the family of one of the cousins and the book is full of specific details of all it took to make the house livable again (I love homey details like those). Treasures are discovered inside, and too, more adventures take place for the cousins and their friends as they explore more of Gone-Away Lake and become even closer to the elderly sister and brother who live there.

I love these books. I discovered them only 5 years ago (or so) and have probably reread them each 10 times. If these sound interesting to you, most likely your library will have them.

It takes something pretty amazing to make me desire to be 12 again--but these books can do that. I read them and I want to walk through a field and forest and come upon a forgotten neighborhood of Victorian houses. I want to meet an elderly sister and brother who can tell me all about the neighborhood's secrets of people long dead. And I want to buy a huge old Victorian with a statue lamp on the stair post and a Waterford chandelier and an attic full of antiques and a treasure in the--well, I won't spoil it for you.

But since I can't exactly do all that--at least not right this minute--I'll just be happy rereading these books and letting them carry me away, back to the 1950's, to a peaceful, forgotten place called Gone-Away.

Loved, I Am Loved, I Am Loved


I think we fail and struggle and make ourselves sad and sick because of one simple thing:

We don't really believe God loves us.

No, instead, our aim is to earn God's love... to earn those gold stars so that God can look at our Life's Chore Chart and smile. And love us again the way He did the last time we were good.

And then when we are bad, we feel bad. All day long. As though paying for our sins with our rotten feelings, forgetting that Jesus already paid. And He wants us to move on, to mature... and to love being loved by Him. But how sad when our guilt makes us run, embarrassed, from our only Source of true help.

But if we don't understand that--know that at our very heart level--we put ourselves under the law of the Life's Chore Chart and we put everyone else there, too. We make ourselves try harder, we make our relatives and church friends try harder, too, and only if we're all following the rules and being good and acting just right, well, only then can we be happy and feel good about ourselves and God.

Except that oh so very seldom does Life line-up like that. Out of thousands of days and one long life, so rare is the day when everyone is good. But still we struggle anyway.

And if all that struggle doesn't make us quit this 'Christian' life altogether, we, instead, just try harder to earn God's love. We go to school or conventions or extra hours at church or read more books or listen to more preachers--to learn more ways of trying to make God pleased with us...so that He will love us more.

And we give, give, give to more and more needy people until we have absolutely nothing left to give. We're not empty of self, but empty of things which come only from Love.

And in those black moments where we fear we've failed God and everyone else for years, we feel like dying. Like skipping all this misery which has become Life and moving, instead, straight into Heaven. And all happiness becomes pushed into that future place.

All because we could not simply accept that God loved us right now, right in this one imperfect moment. And in the next one, too. And the one next Tuesday.

I guess that's all on my mind because I've seen this happen to many people on the long path behind me. I am watching it happen now to two sweet old friends, Christians for 30 years,, but I am praying. You cannot force anyone to bask in God's unconditional, daily love, but I so wish you could.

I hope you will not let this happen to you. I hope you awaken every morning knowing, with no doubts, that God loves you right now. That He is Love.

But if you don't know that kind of love, may you accept it beginning today. Deal with it beginning today. And celebrate it... always.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Ponderers


"But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart." Luke 2:19

Ponderers are my favorite people.

They pause and think before they speak. They rarely must apologize for their words because they're not rash with them... they do not display their ignorance and inexperience for all to behold. Ponderers never write scathing reviews of books they have never read or of people to whom they've never listened to with compassion and openness.

Ponderers, those who listen to others and not just themselves, anyway, tend to be wise. They don't make as many ridiculous statements... They realize there is truth still to be learned and they do not yet know everything. They meditate much about God, but never do they assume to have Him (or His ways) all figured-out.

Ponderers resemble Dreamers, except usually, after the fullness of time, they do something to bring their dreams into reality, something they've gleaned from their pondering.

Ponderers fish in the deeper rivers of Life.

Ponderers are not the same as Sulkers. Sulkers ponder a lot, too, but usually they concentrate on what is going wrong, especially where it concerns themselves. Sulkers cheat Ponderers and other crowds out of help and encouragement because Sulkers usually burrow away in some room licking their wounds.

But Ponderers stir together the good and bad and usually the good rises to the top. Then Ponderers ladle-up that good and take it to Sulkers and others who need the warmth and wisdom and love which Ponderers have taken the time to steep over a back burner... while everyone else leaked-out like sieves what they'd been given out of yearning to be first to speak, sprinkling everywhere their words which just popped into their heads... untried, untested, unpondered.

Monday, March 05, 2007

The Soundtrack of My Depression Years


What fun. Today I found, online in its entirety, the song I played over and over during the years of my depression in Nevada (do not try this at home)... the song I played in the tape deck of our little white 1986 Acura while driving alone through the desert roads, wiping away tears born of a horrible, pathetic attitude... the song which became the soundtrack of my days and fed my depression, making it just plain fat with self-pity.

I simply must share it with you. I mean, Bob Bennett has the most amazing voice, and the tune of this song is, well, mesmerizing. But the words... oh my, the words! They were like little sticks fed into the flames of my great despondency. (Be sure to scroll down and read them on the right half of your screen, above the little gif. figure crashing his head against the wall.)

So here it is (turn up your speakers.)... And I share it only so you can celebrate that God rescued me from the dire place I sank down into back in 1991.... And if you, yourself, are in your own depression years, I'm here to remind you your freedom may come suddenly... always, it may be as close as your next breath.


***
Psalm 40:2
"He brought me up also out of a horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings."


The above photo is of Highway 50, The Loneliest Road in America... The main drag of the Nevada town where we used to live. Oh dear.

Still Learning to Keep Peace Around


I totally understand the term 'the bird of peace' (or dove) because it's easy to glimpse a bird, but much harder to keep it from flying away.

Back in 1994 God gave me a glimpse of peace (such a long, long story), and He's spent all these years since then showing me how to hold onto such a flighty bird.

He began tapping my shoulder and saying, "Look--quick! Peace just flew out the window again." Over and over... and big surprise! Peace fluttered away when I stayed upset with Tom for hours. Oh, not mad in a screaming sort of way (too obvious), but in a simmering-on-the-back-burner kind of way.

And Peace positively zoomed away--with a desperate look in his eyes-- when I'd stand at the windows worrying about Naomi because she was out driving her car who-knew-where on the way to meet who-knew-whom.

And whether at home or church or inside a car with a friend, I'd watch Peace flutter madly out windows when I'd insist--aloud or silently--that I was (always) right, discussing pointless points ... when I formed and polished opinions about absolutely everything... when I could not extend a patient mercy toward those who believed differently than I do...

... or when I was tolerant (and silent) of and about my own mistakes, but vocal about other people's... or when I worried about money and God's provision... and prayed, not for God's truth to be seen by others, but my own understanding of truth to light their poor blind eyes.

You watch Peace blast through a whole lot of windows when you live like that. It's always sad to watch him go--but it's even sadder when he leaves, but you have no clue as to why... never realizing it's Pride and Fear who fling him away...

... and it's Humility who keeps Peace near.


***
"Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid." ...John 14:27

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Here We Go Again


Every year around this week in March, the same thing happens. Today it happened again.

Today, March 4th, I became officially Sick Of Winter. Yes, it became official this afternoon.

And so it was a day where I had to force myself to do constructive things around the house, and well, one of those things involved moving my Dream Room desk away from the windows, and instead, setting-up what you see in the photo.

I like it better. A lot better.



But I am still Sick of Winter. I still have Cabin Fever. Only it's official now.


***
But here's something by Dallas Lore Sharp which helps a little:

"If you want springtime ahead of time, then you must have it in your heart, out of reach of the weather, just as you must grow cucumbers in a hothouse if you want them ahead of time." ... From The Spring of the Year

Show Or Tell?



If you've been around writing for awhile, you've most likely cast your eyes upon this phrase: "Show, don't just tell."

Sometimes I forget to remind myself of that here in this blog. But it comes to me that the blogs I love best are those which show me how to live a peaceful life, not the ones which tell (lecture, preach, nag) --without stories and examples from personal experience.

You can tell when someone has personal Life experience. It shows.

Of course, some people prefer blogs which lecture, preach and nag and well, there's a plethora of those in Blogland. Something for every sermon-searching soul out there.

And some people love to throw around labels like volleyballs-- words like these in both posts and comment boxes: Dispensationalist, Calvinistic, Armenian, Emergent, Missional, Libertarian, Existential and a hundred more. Almost like a secret language from a secret clubhouse.

But I am hoping this will be the only--only!--post in my blog where you will ever read those words. Sometimes when I'm blog-hopping and stumble across such words, usually I form my index fingers into a cross, then I go leaping away.

Of course, if cubbyholing yourself and others into boxes with those labels sets you free and makes each new day marvelous, God-led and adventurous for you and your family, well, go for it. I wish you well. To each his own. So far, Label Talk has never done much for me... it's certainly never set me free from anything. Not yet, anyway.

No, as for me and my blog, we will try to avoid all labels except, perhaps, this one: Christian.

And we will remind ourselves to show, not just tell... show, not just tell... show, not just tell...

Saturday, March 03, 2007

The Morning After The Tupperware Party


Okay, so while I was in high school, my mom had one of those Tupperware egg separators like the one in the photo above. So by the time I was married at the ripe old age of 19, that's all I knew. I mean, how else did one separate eggs other than to use the Tupperware thing?

So fast-forward two years and there I was at a Tupperware party at our pastor's house, surrounded by ten, or so, giggling women, dressed in their red-and-yellow-plaid best (those were the days....). Immediately we played one of those famous Tupperware games, the rules which I probably forgot by the next week. But I do recall one part of the game--if you did something correctly, you could take a little Tupperware-like-prize from the coffee table. And then if someone else did whatever-it-was correctly, they could step over to you and snatch your little Tupperware prize out of your hand if you'd chosen what their heart desired. This went on and on for some time.

Well. The thing I took from the coffee table was an egg separator. Weeks before this party, I'd been moaning in my little yellow kitchen because separating eggs without a handy-dandy Tupperware egg separator was becoming too, too complex (I'll spare you the details as to how I was attempting to separate eggs at that time).

So (back to the party), there I sat with the egg separator, only everyone kept walking over to me and snatching it away. That separator appeared to be THE hot item at that party. They'd take it from me, and then I'd take it from them. And so forth, amid much laughter.

Then the game ended. But there was to be no egg separator for me, for we'd run out of time before I could win it back. But honest, even though those were the days when my feelings would get hurt over everything, I felt just a tad bummed-out, but by the next morning, I'd completely forgotten that little yellow thing which would have made my life complete.

But that following morning--that's when it began. One by one, a couple hours apart, three women from the party knocked on my front door, each one holding an egg separator. The first woman handed me the one she'd won at the party and told me she just liked to separate eggs the old-fashioned way, after all (and I, being too prideful to look stupid, avoided asking her just what the old-fashioned way was). But I accepted the separator, this yellow one you see in the photo, and thanked her for being so sweet.

The other two ladies (appearing rather sheepishly repentant) brought me their own separators from their homes, and with each I had a good laugh after I explained all this giving-of-the-separators which was going on. What a fun day. A memorable day. And I enjoyed telling Tom about it when he later arrived home from work.

The lesson? Sometimes if we can simply keep a good attitude and trust God for the things we need (not clawing or complaining), we might just be surprised by one of His delightful little miracles... and observe that He can speak to hearts better than we can.

Oh, and now, 26 years later, every time I use my Tupperware egg separator (or separate an egg the old-fashioned way), I always remember this story and smile with the memory. And I'd rather have it no other way.

Friday, March 02, 2007

And Now A Word From Our Sponsor




Just kidding.

But this is a commercial of sorts... Just thought I'd show you my three favorite jackets (which look better in-person, sigh... when will I take time to learn how to use this camera?).

And here's the commercial part-- I found each of these at the same thrift shop, on different days, for only around $3 each. I love wearing them and each feels like they were fitted by a tailor for me.... perhaps, in a way, they were... by an Unseen Tailor, the one who places items around thrift shops for me to find (if I go expectantly)... so much so, that mostly I feel like a child at an Easter Egg Hunt, yes, there in a plain old thrift shop on the most normal of normal days.

Oh and the red jacket is actually more a deep wine color--no matter what I did with the camera and lighting it still came out looking reddish-orange. Oh well, it's nothing to get frustrated about... it's nothing to get frustrated about... it's noth-(don't mind me while I get over this...heh...)