Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Unafraid--And Watching Miracles


Perhaps I'm writing so much about my past lately because of the hours I'm spending digging through it... all the sorting of drawers and cupboards of my past seasons in preparation for a new one. I don't know.

But there I was at 17 in the mainline church denomination I'd grown up in, the one which taught it's a million to one chance that God will supernaturally heal anyone today. And good luck if you ever see a miracle because they all died out after Acts chapter 2 days. And yet I believed with all my heart that God still healed people, still answered prayer and nothing was too hard for Him. That He could do anything He wanted.

And there I was in my 20's (in a different church) believing that the biblical gifts of the Spirit are still very much given and in use today. That God can speak through the gift of prophecy and tongues and the gifts of knowledge, wisdom and mercy and well, all the rest. And there I was watching Him do that and participating, too.

And there I was in my 30's believing that God is not like a boring church service. Nor does He resemble a dull sermon, songs which never change, routines which never vary, unteachable people or a yawning, sad, defeated Sunday School teacher.

Always, God is more. More creative, more inspiring, more incredible. More than our imaginations can fathom. And always more than we will allow Him to be.

And here I am in my 40's still unafraid of the supernatural parts of God, knowing full well that if there is nothing supernatural about God, well then, we are all sunk. And I am grateful that I didn't have to wait until strolling around Heaven's streets to see that supernatural side of a God who will not be stuffed inside a box.

And may I never be seen on some corner trying to shove Him inside one. May I never grieve Him that way.

Regarding American Idol


Okay, I'll confess... Tom and I are still watching American Idol. And from reading some of your blogs I know that certain bloggers have chosen to resume watching only when the Hollywood shows begin, especially after seeing that dreadful (I'll agree) Washington state episode. I get that and I respect it, too.

So why do I watch American Idol year after year? Truthfully? It's the human nature of everyone involved which fascinates me. Everyone from the judges to Ryan to the contestants and their parents and friends. And well, I love observing what Candid Camera used to call 'people caught in the act of being themselves.'

And ok, some of what happens is staged--I get that. But what I study and learn from and find utterly interesting is the stuff you couldn't stage in a hundred years. The real drama... the wild actions which come from insecurity... the deep, gut-level cries for appreciation... the wanting to be--not just known--but famous (and believing fame will fill up all the huge gaps inside ones soul... the way peoples' needs can cause such unbelievable delusion... how disappointment can bring out the worst in folks...

... oh, and the way the contestants act, too. (Heh... Just kidding, Simon, Paula and Randy...).

I don't know... I watch American Idol every week, fascinated like I said, and am reminded nearly every moment that even a huge, awesome, world-known singing career is still not big enough to totally fill the gap inside anyone... how only God, Himself can complete what He began--and created--in the first place.

And maybe, after I sort through all the other reasons--maybe that is why I watch American Idol each year. To be reminded that God is still God and only He will ever be enough.


***
So why do you like American Idol? (Like--not hate.)

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Quiet Morning Boat Rides


Winter is so not my favorite season. This scene was outside my Dream Room windows this morning. And yesterday morning. And the morning before that and before that and...

I love awaking at 5:00 and having whole free, bonus hours for my quiet time. I try not to peek out of the window before 7:30, but I do anyway, and I always groan at the darkness. And then when the sun finally does arise, well, to be greeted by such a frigid scene and to know our daytime high will be a measly 12 degrees F., well, like I said, winter is so not my favorite season.

In fact, I would go bonkers if not for the peaceful morning rowboat rides I take down a calm like-glass river.


Huh?

I mean, my morning quiet times feel like that... Like I'm lying comfortably in a small boat, with my arms upon the side and gazing down into the depths as the boat silently skims ahead. And it's like God is at the helm, guiding the boat, the one doing the rowing, the one keeping us so steady that no wind in the world would dare topple us over. But talking, too... telling me about Himself and asking me about who I am (although He already knows the answers, still He likes to hear me speak them).

And some mornings I recall the Bible parable about the ten virgins who were waiting for the Master at night, but only five had thought ahead to bring enough oil for their lamps. So when their lamps went dark, the unprepared five had to go shopping for more oil (at that time of night? Way back then? Good luck.). And they missed all the excitement, all they'd been waiting for, because they were shopping when the Master arrived home. They'd been caught unready for the big night.

And in a way, I see these morning boat rides as my own preparation time... Time to become so acquainted with God that-- when, on stormy days ahead when the waters churn, wave and spin--my prepared second nature will turn my eyes to God at the head of the boat.

But not in panic. Not grasping for wild ideas as to what I can do to stay afloat.

No, but in trust from daily practice of having watched Him all these calm, silent mornings before. From having become close to Him during these winter mornings--in reality, among pools of lamplight, not water, while lying, not in a boat, but upon my Dream Room bed...

...from having come to know so well that Voice, the one which can calm any heart in any storm and from taking many a boat ride in company of Him--in preparation--for whatever kind of water may be churning farther up ahead...

...not waiting until the storms are lashing and flailing their waves and finding it hard to trust someone I barely even know. But knowing Him now in times of calm water.


***
"But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut.
"Later the others also came. 'Sir! Sir!' they said. 'Open the door for us!'
"But he replied, 'I tell you the truth, I don't know you.'
"Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour." Matthew 25:10-13

"You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart." ... Jeremiah 29:13

Monday, January 29, 2007

When You Can't Make Your Bed Without God's Help...


...you're in a very good place.

Let me explain...

Years ago I started over. God was doing amazing things in my life, namely, He had restored the joy of my salvation. But in order for me to not lose that joy (having gone along without it for years), He asked me to begin all over again, this time doing things His way, not mine. Which sounded good to me, since I'd already seen where my ways led me--to some pretty depressing, sad and lonely places, indeed.

So when I agreed to the starting all over thing, something odd and downright strange happened. Suddenly, at 36, I felt like a helpless toddler, one whose parent must help her do nearly everything because everything appears too daunting to tackle alone.

Suddenly, it felt as though I couldn't even make my bed without God's help, otherwise known as Grace. It almost felt as though Grace would stand there and do the hardest part and she'd leave the easier part for me. And because I had help (and such pleasant help) I began to enjoy what I'd previously dreaded doing alone.

Ok, that probably sounds weird. But when God is truly in the picture, things don't exactly go according the boring ol' status quo.

And not only could I not make my bed without Grace anymore, I didn't want to. I no longer want to do anything without Grace and without God's presence and His strength (as opposed to mine). And because that became my heart's desire, over the next few months I really got into this feeling like a helpless kid thing and relying on God's help, Grace, and God's presence for every simple thing I did...

... for painting my walls--for the patience to do so and for choosing the best colors for this house...

... for grocery shopping--for the energy to get myself there, for making money-wise decisions and for not dreading the whole experience (as I had before)...

... for making dinner at the time of day when I was most tired and least inspired...

... for running errands and running the vacuum and walking around the block.

And guess what? (As if you can't already tell)... Life became incredibly sweet. After some months, because I was relying so heavily upon God and Grace for every tiny thing I did, I began to feel I always had a friend beside me. I felt like God was always near.

Because He was.
Because I relied upon Him like a helpless child.
Because I am a helpless child without Him.
And where He is, there is liberty (and creativity and joy and companionship and peace of mind and wisdom).

And I cannot imagine a more incredible way to live.


***
"A man of many companions may come to ruin,
but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother." ... Proverbs 18:24

"And he said: "I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven." ... Matthew 18:3

Saturday, January 27, 2007

The Second Weird Thing About Me


I told you in an earlier post that if I did that "Six Wierd Things About Me" post which everybody is doing, well, you'd not be able to handle it all at once. So here's the second wierd thing, though it's not one of the extreme ones, just one on my mind:

2. For most of my life, my favorite tv shows have been the ones none of my friends watch or like.

Prime example... Earlier this month Naomi mentioned that the old Nickleodeon show, The Adventures of Pete and Pete, had come out on dvd and she'd love to own it someday. So with her birthday coming up this month (it's today, in fact) I bought both seasons for her, and since I had fond memories of the two episodes she once had on video tape, I opened the boxes when they arrived and watched the episodes. Every single one.

I love The Adventures of Pete and Pete!!

Man, what a warm, funny, sentimental treasure. And after Naomi opened the gift bag with the dvd's (and expressed her pleasure) I told her I'll definitely be buying them for myself.

See, that's what I'm talking about. I mean, this show was probably aimed at 8-year-olds, but I think it's amazing. And personally, I think there's much in each episode which would go way over the head of a kid and go, instead, straight to the heart and memories of their parents. But still, how many of my friends are gonna want to discuss with me the delight of The Adventures of Pete and Pete?

Here are some other examples of shows which I LOVED, was passionate about, but if I brought them up around a table with friends in a coffee shop, I'd get only blank stares (then smiles before they'd return to chatter about other shows which, most likely, I hated):

1. Fantasy (give yourself 100 points if you've even heard of this one.)
2. Early Edition
3. This Is Your Life
4. Truth or Consequences
5. The Waltons (tho' I've found lots of people online who loved this, too. But for 20 years I thought I was the only one.)
6. The Dick van Dyke Show (same as above.)
7. Starman
8. Fame
9. Boy Meets World

Oh well, not a big deal... not anything cataclysmic, just one of those wierd things I've learned simply to accept.

***
Now, I know many of you enjoyed The Waltons and The Dick van Dyke Show, but I'd love to hear if anyone loved any of the other shows I listed.

One of Those Days


Sigh... Poor ol' Tom drove home yesterday morning from having worked since midnight and said he'd felt horrible the last three hours. So I gave him a bowl of cereal, he collapsed into bed, and then two hours later I heard him calling my name from the bedroom.

Not a good sign.

Poor guy had all the classic symptoms of a horrible, awful sinus infection. So I went into high gear, you know, that gear where you do three things at once, and got him transferred to the Cozy Room, sitting up in the recliner and then grabbed my handy-dandy Sinus Survival book, flew upstairs for some going-out clothes and back downstairs for some make-up in case we needed to go to the emergency room (he was really, really in pain)... called his boss to say he couldn't come in to work the night shift, and then proceeded to check all the lists in Sinus Survival for which natural remedies one should take when one has a sinus infection.

After handing him vitamins and hot packs for his face and cleaning out the humidifier (after boiling water for the filter) and getting it going (and flinging Tom's decluttering boxes out of the cozy room so that I could actually walk around in there), well, I ran to the store (a brisk 12 degrees outside) for some flavored seltzer water for his stomach and some papaya enzyme for his head pain and while I was there, insulin for Lennon The Cat...

The things we do for each other... And isn't it wild how these things happen while we are most unprepared for them?

Anyway, he's feeling much, much better this morning and it's looking like he won't require antibiotics, either. He even did more decluttering of some piles of papers and notebooks I lugged up to him from the basement. A definite sign of improvement--yesterday you'd have believed he was at death's door. Being a typical man, he always acts like he's dying when he's sick, but after 28 years I've learned, finally, to take that with a grain of salt instead of panicking and planning his funeral in my head like I did while a young bride.

And we are at an incredible, balmy 30 degrees today(!)

God is good.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Choosing A Or B... But Choosing


The short version: Saturday is Naomi's birthday, and well, we were going to have her come over tomorrow to celebrate, but something came up with Tom's job, so we asked Naomi to drive over today, like, in an hour, instead.

So I zipped around the house and cleaned, not that it was in bad shape, (aside from the boxes and bags for decluttering which are here and there), but well, Naomi has been known to comment upon any one tiny thing which I've appeared to let go beyond a normal amount of time. And ok, that's probably sad that I feel a little threatened by that, but it's one of those things I just live with. It's not a big deal.

So anyway, there I was straightening a few rooms, cleaning the bathroom sink and mopping the back entryway and then I placed her gift into a gift bag and wrapped the one Tom had given her. You know, things like that. And then Tom and I sat together in the cozy room and watched tv for five minutes before she arrived.

You won't remember this, but last year on her birthday, things ended on a sour note. This year, they began on a sour note. She came into the kitchen all stressed-out and as soon as we all sat at the dining room table she said, " It would be nice if SOMEONE," (meaning me), "would leave the back door unlocked even once when you know I'm coming over,"(her hands had been full with the baking pan she was returning and she had to use her keys with cold hands... it was 12 degrees outside, etc.).

To which I replied that yes, I had forgotten this time, but I've often remembered before to unlock the door. Lots of times. To which she replied that I had NEVER left it unlocked for her. Not one time in nearly 2 years.

Good grief. For, like, the last twelve years this has been my test. This thing of Naomi's memory being so negative that--out of 100 positive, fun things--she will remember only the one thing which went wrong. (No easy pill for this mother who wanted her daughter's childhood to be one endless string of happy memories.)

Some people are, simply, just that way. At least until they allow God to change them and release them from such negativity. And I have seen God make those kinds of changes in people so I know He's certainly able.

But until that day arrives for Naomi, my test becomes this:

How will I react to her negative frame of mind when it involves her remembering my part of the situation incorrectly?

A.) Will I become all defensive? Will I sit there for an hour insisting I am right and she is wrong? Will I sputter and pop while trying to convince her that things weren't the way she remembers them? Will I stalk off into my room like a five-year-old? Will I, after she leaves, spend the next few hours illustrating my insecurity by cleaning the house until it shines and making all sorts of plans to, not only be perfect in areas of my weaknesses, but to never, ever be caught again by Naomi at any oversight? (All of which I've been known to do...)

--Or--

...B.) Will I remain calm... rest in what I know to be true... spend extra time with God... and then pray He will do for both Naomi and me what I could never do in twenty years? Will I help someone else who's hurting even while I'm in pain, instead of crawling into a corner to nurse my own wounds?

Over and over I have to consciously choose B., because (over and over) my natural inclination is to go with A. Nearly always A. is my knee-jerk response.

But thank goodness---thank God--He gives me power to override those pesky natural inclinations, though usually only after I give up my right to obey them.

I can't have it both ways. I cannot act like a sulking, insecure child and be at peace with my heart and with God at the same time.

Trust me. I've tried.

Go with God and go with B.


***
The rest of the visit went fine. I tried very hard to choose B. and I kept making notes of all the kind things Naomi does for us (which are many). For it is true--actions speak louder than words.

That Was Then, This Is Now...


While I am opening every drawer, cupboard, box, nook and the proverbial cranny of my house and flinging to the winds (and Salvation Army) scraps and pieces of my past, this is what I am thinking:

The Kind Of House I Wanted Back Then:

I wanted Naomi to grow-up extremely creative, so at her fingertips, I kept boxes and drawers of paper scraps, fabric, cardboard rolls, white glue, glitter, cereal boxes, felt, popsicle sticks and blank books so that--should an imaginative idea swoop down upon her--she'd be prepared to deal with it. In half of our attic, Naomi (at 13) created a whole town of dollhouses, some purchased, most created by her from boxes, and I loved the expanse and depth and ingenuity of her city all over the attic floor, this project #243 (at the very least).

And at the base of the stairs was our trunk of dress-up clothes, with old 1950's formals and furry stoles, shiny glass necklaces, high heeled slippers and grey wigs. Up on top of bookcases I placed retro piles of colorful Sunday or going-to-town hats... I wanted our house to be the one people in charge of church plays or ladies' teas came to when they needed props. And it was.

Ours was the house where, when Naomi's teachers required small groups to make video movies, Naomi's groups always came here and dressed up and created clever, messy props and had full-run of the house, all three floors, to film in any room they wanted. And where, ten years later, we still have props in our basement, like jars with color-markered labels reading, "Super Juice! Buy Me Today."

I wanted our house to be the one with any book worth reading so Naomi could grab one anytime she had a book report to do... and so we had books in every room from up in the attic to down to the basement. I counted 700 one time, not even counting the books belonging solely to Naomi or Tom.

I never wanted a house stuffed with expensive stuff, no, just imaginative, fun, old stuff which someday, Naomi would think back on as being treasures of a different kind. And those memories would bring smiles.

The Kind of House I Want Now:

Today, I want a house which reflects me as I am now, an older, different woman--a woman who went on a journey, yes, but who did not have to carry back every single souvenir she saw along the way. I want to furnish my house with only those things I find useful and beautiful and trust that I'll--always--be able to recall the trinkets which fit and made sweeter the bygone years... things which, if held onto too long, only slow down the moving forward which is required at this new turn in the journey.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Remembering Nine


I keep this picture on the window sill in front of my desk... I see me at nine-years-old (second row seated, 4th from the right) and remember the rampant creativity and daydreams and hopes I had back then.

I sit at my desk and tell myself I need to wander back a little... back to all that creativity... Days when I looked ahead and glimpsed only bright, big things down the road... When I saw starfish and imagined a black sky crowded with glowing ones.... Afternoons when there'd be a refrigerator box on someone's driveway and I'd envision a play house complete with curtains at the cut-out windows. Days when anything and everything held possiblities for something grander and more colorful.

... to not be childish, but rather, child-like, especially in wonder... faith... and trust.

And I keep that picture near me so I'll remember to pray for those other children-now-all-grown-up, wherever they may be. I wonder what kinds of years they have lived and whether they, too, try never to wander too far from what was best in the 4th grade. There's a lot of good right now while we are in our 40's... But I'm finding this decade an even better one when I stir a little nine-year-old creativity into the mix.


***
Do you know where your class pictures are?

Monday, January 22, 2007

Shyness Part 2


"...and put no confidence or dependence [on what we are] in the flesh..." Philippians 3:3

There was (and is) a whole other side to my shyness (see my last post for the first side...).

There I was in Junior High, one of the most shy kids in all the halls. And yet... and yet... when teachers called upon me to read my essays or reports while standing in front of a classroom of my giggling peers, I became only a tad nervous. Part of me loved being up there, reading my words on notepaper.

(I know... You're asking, "For heaven's sake, why?")

Because, though I lacked confidence in my short, cowering, so-blah self, I had great confidence in my ability to write. I loved sharing-- with any soul who'd listen--my written words which seemed to drop from the sky down into my head and on down through my usually ink-smudged fingers.

Don't laugh, but I remember at 14 feeling that writing was to me what Samantha's powers (from Bewitched) were to her. I even felt like, just give me a subject--any subject--and I could write about it well enough to fool any teacher into thinking I actually knew what the heck I was talking about (sometimes I even succeeded). And since I knew darn well what I was capable of (not much) I could only conclude that writing was my talent from God. It certainly wasn't a talent from me.

And somewhere in all that, there's a good lesson (you knew one was coming, didn't you?).

These past 12 years shyness has been falling away from me like the skin from a snake because I'm learning where to place my confidence. Not in myself--heavens, no! But as I learned early to place my confidence in the talent God gave me, I finally got a clue and realized I could place that kind of trust in God for all things I face. The speaking to neighbors and people at supermarkets. The phone calls I must make to repairmen, business offices and friends. The instances I must make confrontations (when I'd rather do just about anything else). The sharing before crowds of people and the boldness I need to share here in my blog in a vulnerable way (it isn't always easy).

For you see, I have all confidence in what God can do. I've watched Him do things through me which would have terrified me to even picture myself doing 20 years ago. And now He and I have a history together... whole long strings of memories when He did through me what I could never have done with just confidence in my faulty, weak, shyness-personified self.

And through time, experience and lots of walking on water (so to speak), it's gotten easier and easier to boldly go where I'd have floundered and sunk with just confidence in what I, alone, can do.

Like I said, God and I--we have a history now. He's never failed me yet and I don't imagine that He ever will.


***

Another reason I liked reading my essays in front of the classroom? No one was allowed to interrupt me. I hated being interrupted while standing around with friends outside--it always made me feel that what I was saying was unimportant. Still does.

The Torture of Shyness



I was a shy child. It was torture.

Especially each time I had to--because we moved all the time--start over in a new school (the greatest torture of them all). All those new kids who knew each other and all my new possibilities for looking foolish in front of them while searching through strange halls to find my way to strange classrooms... and dreading the unstructured lunchtimes most because of never knowing where to sit, lest I sit at a table the entire school knew was reserved for a certain clique or just sitting alone and advertising my loneliness. And gym class, well, let's not even go there.

I was shy about talking on the phone and shy about just talking, period, for fear of tripping over my words and being interrupted (therefore feeling as though what I'd been saying was boring). I feared new experiences, not knowing what to do, making mistakes. I felt awkward and afraid of nearly everything and like I said, mostly it was a pure, constant pain.

And I remember vowing, especially during my uncomfortable high school years, that if I had a daughter, things would be different for her. Well, I did and they were.

When Tom and I would sit with our six-year-old Naomi at McDonalds and she'd want extra ketchup, we'd tell her she needed to walk up to the counter workers and ask for some. And she would, no big deal. And I, her scaredy-cat mother who'd rather forego the ketchup altogether than ask for any, would sit and stare at Naomi in awe... and realize I was on the right track.

If she wanted her friends to come over to play, rather than me calling the girls' parents to ask for her, I'd hand the phone to Naomi. I did not want my daughter to fear speaking over the phone as her mousy mother had.

If she wished to buy something with her allowance, I had her go through the check-out lane by herself. I'd stand near the doors as she reach up on her tip-toes to hand over her money and I felt more awe, more gratitude, because my daughter could, quite easily, do what had always shaken me.

Now, lest you think we shoved and cajoled and forced her in the midst of tears to do any of this, let me add something vitally important. There was none of that because, from her toddler days, we'd given her a foundation, one neither Tom nor I had been given. We encouraged Naomi that she was as brave and intelligent as anyone else... that she was special because she was our daughter and we were grateful that God had chosen to send her to us... that with God beside her, she could do anything she needed to.

Naomi grew-up feeling loved and appreciated and capable. And while I watched her doing, with confidence, the things I still tried like crazy to avoid, I recalled the high school vows I'd made at 15... and smiled smiles of gratitude.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Creating Memorable Meantime Days


Meantime Days.

You know what those are, don't you? They're the in between days... the days between wanting something and receiving it. Days in the middle of craving and actually getting what you craved....

...days (usually stretching into years) which usually crawl because they're so fat with complaints and impatience.

And so for me, the trick will always--always--be creating remarkable Meantime Days so that, at the end of my journey's lane, I can gaze back and see one long string of days like gleaming-white pearls, with only a few tiny gaps along the string.

Right now I am living in major, major Meantime Days.

Right now there's a chance I'll be packing up all our junk, er, possessions... selling this house I've loved for almost 14 years... and moving three states away from our daughter who we'll be leaving behind for the first time--ever.

Or not.

I mean, who really knows for sure? By the end of this month we'll know a little more, but what about in the meantime? Do I just sit here waiting and complaining? Complaining that finally, I've grown tired of seeing all the same houses, the same trees, the same stores thousands of times already? Do I just whine about having no new places to go and nothing new to see? Do I moan about this growing claustrophobic feeling I have--like a piece of American cheese squished between two slices of bread--the one which comes when I think about how closely our house is squeezed in between two other houses?

Do I just complain about how long it's taking to find out for certain whether Tom will take this new job?

No, that's the easy way out. Complaining is as simple as floating downstream in a big boat with a bunch of other Whiners and Moaners. Floating with a current is easy. Anyone can do that. I want to swim upstream. The good stuff is ahead for people willing to swim upstream... hard, consistently... even when no one else is watching.

Instead, I'll continue to create memorable Meantime Days. I'll choose to thumb through my favorite memories of having lived in one house so long--all the decorating and sprucing-up and entertaining and just plain living I have done in here and outside in our tiny yard and upon our tinier porch...

... and while I am flinging away my collections of another season, I'll picture in my mind the kind of house I'd rather have next and its larger, sunnier yard (where, I'm planning gardens in my head already)...

...I'll repaint some of these walls here, mixing gratitude with the paint and recalling the joy-filled times they've watched us have. And simultaneously, I'll choose the colors for the walls of my next house... and how I'll arrange the furniture differently there... and the new friends I'll entertain...

... and I'll keep going like that...I'll do what needs to be done here with joy by following Grace around during these Meantime Days because Grace always knows the right thing to do, at the right time along with the right amount of energy... and she makes any day a good one...

...and I can't help but believe that--when I get to Heaven--the way I lived all my Meantime Days between birth and death, well, I believe it will matter. I believe it matters that I not just lay on couches waiting, twiddling my thumbs, dreaming and speaking only of A Better Day in the sweet by and by...

...but instead, that I create some pretty awesome, amazing Meantime Days--in the meantime.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Trading Good For Better


I came across this quote this morning:

"We must be willing to get rid of the life we've planned, so as to
have the life that is waiting for us."... Joseph Campbell

Ain't that the truth? And that's exactly what's on my mind as Tom and I spend all these hours tossing and flinging and giving away the stuff/junk/pieces of our lives from around this house.

Walking through Life with an open hand--that's what I want.... The always being open to new experiences, new people, new thoughts. The always learning something new... the changing... the growing.

Because let's face it: Stagnation kills... And who wants that?


***

Philippians 3:13
"... but one thing I do [it is my one aspiration]: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead..."

Thursday, January 18, 2007

January Morning Lights


There I was in my dream room eating breakfast on the little bed table and reading, when I glanced out of the windows and saw--amazingly--that the huge trees looked as though they'd been strung with glowing peach lights.

So I gasped and grabbed my plate of eggs (so the cats wouldn't eat them) and at breakneck speed raced down the stairs (in my long nightgown and robe which I don't recommend), swirled through the kitchen, into the back porch, then down the other stairs to the basement (where we keep the camera because it would be too convenient to keep it where we'd actually use it)... where I shoved the camera card into the camera then swung the strap around my neck.... ran back up the stairs to the kitchen where Tom stood in the doorway so I had to say, "Outta the way! Outta the way!"... and raced to the front door which I pulled hard to open (long story) and stood on the porch and snapped pictures.

But alas, the light had changed (doesn't it always?) and half of the lights had gone out on the trees.

I hate it when that happens.

So oh well.... I did want to share at least one picture with you and as with all my pictures, please try to see everything in your mind twice as nice as it appears.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Opening The Door On Imperfect Days


Years ago, Tom and I went to our friends' house to give them something they'd said some mutual friends needed. Now, my friend was a neat-freak (like I was) who prided herself in her always-presentable house (like I did) and well, on this day, she was baking and every inch of her countertop and kitchen table was covered with mixing bowls, bags of flour and sugar (and bits on the floor), measuring cups, bottles of oil, pot holders, cartons of eggs, cannisters, baking pans, cookbooks and a sink crammed with dishes. Never, ever had I seen her kitchen like that. Never, ever would I have guessed that it could.

My poor friend. When her husband opened the door and let us into the kitchen, I could tell she wanted to die. Just die. How could I tell? Besides the fact that she said nothing and let her husband do all the talking, she and I were so much alike and I would have felt the very same way. I would have welcomed the kitchen floor opening and the basement swallowing me had anyone seen my kitchen like that, too.

Well, times have changed. And thank-goodness, I have changed. And just to prove it to you, remember our cozy room, the one in the picture above? Well, this is how it looks today:



And this:



Now, before you faint, let me explain... Both Tom and I are still (does it ever end?) decluttering our house in case we move, and well, guess where Tom is doing the majority of his decluttering while he watches tv? Yes, in our used-to-be-cute cozy room. And mostly I am trying not to trip over those boxes when I step in and out of there while the commercials for 24 and American Idol (etc.) are airing.

Why share this? Why come clean? Because it wouldn't be honest of me to only share with you the pictures of my house when it's at its best. Today I'm letting it all hang out (well, sort-of) so that you'll know that I, too, have messes around my house.

And the best part? I don't even want to die. I don't even want the cozy room floor to open and swallow me, either. After a whole bunch of years I've realized it's okay to relax and enjoy my home, even when it's not under control... that I will survive if anyone drops by because--although my house is a reflection of me--we are not the same thing.

And remembering that keeps me from biting off Tom's head (so often anyway) when he leaves things here, there, everywhere.... which leads to much more peace around the house.

Fine In The Ice


Just wanted to check-in and let you know we are fine (thanks for asking, Jaynet!).

Yesterday the roads were perfectly clear so I drove to the supermarket four miles away and oh my.... Talk about an Icy Fairyland! Every tree looked like it had strings of glass for branches and when the sun hit all that crystal from behind the clouds, the glow was indescribable. I passed whole forests of glass and twice felt tears sting my eyes--it was too overwhelming! I felt like we'd all been given this glorious, shining present from God, Himself, who was reminding us of His creativity and just what He could do.

And yes, that's easy to say because we lost our electricity for only one minute and are otherwise safe and warm. But still... I'm living in a crystal city full of sun today and finding it hard tearing myself away from our windows.

Really use your imaginations with these photos... the gleaming and glinting just doesn't come through...sigh...

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Ice and Uh-Oh!


I took pictures this morning of our ice outside... though I couldn't capture the splendor.

But when I saw this picture I laughed and thought, "Uh-oh! Looks like the nuclear mushroom cloud from last night's episode of 24!"

Raising a City While Raising a Teen


I've belonged to wonderful listservs online, full of women of joy and, well, women of misery, too. Nearly always, the joyful women are the ones who've created a life outside, and apart from, their adult children. The women of misery? They're the ones who cannot let themselves believe that raising children was only a portion of their life--not the whole thing.

Long ago, I sat on our couch in our yellow California house while watching a 6-year-old Naomi singing softly to ten or more stuffed lions and cats and dogs spread all over the living room carpet. I remember hearing a voice inside my head whisper, "Look up from your book... see Naomi as she is and memorize her... for she will not always be six. Someday she'll be far away, grown-up... so memorize her just as she is in this moment so you will have something to keep."

Always, there was that knowing inside me. A knowing that mothering a child is a transient thing... fleeting... and so very hard to hold still for more than two minutes. I consciously attempted to slow Naomi's childhood down--tried to savor moments around the house and while I sunned myself outside on the porch and as we sat across tables in the ice cream parlor we loved in Nevada and--...

But as I sit here, the mother of a daughter who will be 27 this month, more than ever, I'm amazed how quickly it all flew--no matter how much I tried to slow it... no matter that I was a stay-at-home mom and nearly always here when she was. No matter what--it was like one tall hour-glass which would not be turned to start over--and I could not stop the sand from gushing through. Though, oh, how I tried.

But that voice--that knowing--it also told me, while Naomi was in high school, to start building something of my own, something which now --with my imaginative eyes--I see rather like a city. Block by block, during Naomi's high school years, I built a sort of city. A room of my own, but more-- a life apart from mothering. A place where I could go and be my creative best... a place to meet and make friends and feed this relationship with my husband... a land where I could be what I could not be as a young mom because my energy went other places while I mothered a tiny child.

So, like I said, the city began block by block while Naomi attended her classes first at the high school and then over at the college. And when the time came for her to make the long journey, the permanent one to her own home, well, there was my city all built, block by block, ready for me to move into permanently, too.

And if not for following the great Builder's orders block by block... if not for obeying His timing... there would have been no city-- only a prairie-like silence -- instead of the fun and celebrations I'm having in that city now.


***
The happiest parents I know? The ones who allow their adult children to live their own lives and breathe and act and make decisions as adults.

The most miserable parents I know? The ones who grasp and pull and treat their adult kids like old children in a sort of time-warp.

Monday, January 15, 2007

New Things--They're Out There


"...old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new." 2 Corinthians 5:17

I am rereading Joyce Maynard's book, Domestic Affairs, probably for the 30th time. While in my 20's I used to buy the Sunday newspaper for mainly one reason--for Joyce's delightful essays about the ambivalent feelings of being a young mother nowadays. I've mentioned her book here and here before...

You learn a lot of what not to do while reading Joyce's book (Joyce and her husband later divorced... reading the book is rather like watching the proverbial train wreck approaching). But it's so much more--it's a trip for me back to those days of mothering a tiny Naomi and all those lessons learned--my own lessons, more than the ones I taught her.

Like this morning.... I read the part where Joyce and other moms sat at the beach chatting and laughing, but always--always--watching and watching and counting tiny heads out in the water. Afterward I thought, "I miss those days. Those days of sitting in the sun at the beach talking with friends in this 'mothering club'... belonging like that... watching our little ones playing with sunlight upon their hair.. Etc...etc...

But only for a moment.

I mean, of course I miss the sun. Hey, it was black outside with freezing rain tapping and coating my windows and turning our driveway into a skating rink. Who wouldn't miss the sun-warmed sandy beach in January?

And as for belonging to a group--I still belong to groups... just different ones. Groups of moms who are, like me, empty-nesters... women who are approaching 50 (or beyond it), pre-menopausal-tired, yes, but discovering new freedoms,too. Almost like a second 'teenagerhood'--a wiser, wealthier, more sensible one. And though I'm not yet a grandmother, myself, many of my friends are, and I'm learning from them and anticipating those days because of what my friends experience.

...and every time I wander the aisles of the supermarket I smile at babies in shopping carts and wave at them from behind their mother's back.... and remember... and rejoice at where I am now. That I can smile at babies and hold them without feeling like I must have one of my own.

What am I saying? I guess I've discovered that usually what I'm missing is not certain times and people of my past, but rather, certain feelings. Feelings of instant-belonging to the mommy group wherever I went.... or the feelings which came from playing June Cleaver around the house and creating something from nothing out of necessity..... or being needed by a child or reading her bedtime stories after she's had a bath and is all comfy in her little flannel nightgown.

But the good news is that there are a myriad of feelings out there and many can be recaptured--only tweaked a bit. I can still, at whatever age I may be, find ways to feel needed. And if I really want to spend time around little children, there are tons of ways I could do that. And even if I truly wanted to lay out beneath the sun, well, I could do that right now--if I wanted it badly enough.

Personally, I'm happy-out-of-my-mind right where I am at this moment, but I'm trying to make a point here. And that point is this: if we only sit around and grieve over the fun and feelings and times of the Past, we will miss out on the fun and feelings and times of the Present. And they're there, always waiting. Always there's something good for us in Today. But in these later years (I have found, anyway) often we just have to go after what we want a little harder than we did when we were young.

Or maybe it just feels that way because these bodies aren't quite what they once were. But again always... always... there are still good times, good feelings, good friends out there for anyone who is willing to spend some time looking.


***

"Behold, I will do a new thing; now it will spring forth; will you not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert." ... Isaiah 43:19

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Of Valentines and Thinking of Others


Only one month from today is Valentine's Day... hooray!

Okay, okay.... stop throwing things. I know how some of you feel about February 14th. That it's become commercial like all other holidays. That it sets single people up to feel more lonely. That it's too hard, too unfair a test for men, especially... men with wives or girfriends with the, "You'd better pass this Valentine's Day test with flying colors--or else!" sort of demands.

But dare I say how I really feel? Well, since it's my blog, I'll dare it:

It's not Valentines' Day which is flawed--it's our thoughts about it.

(You may quote me.)

Frankly, I believe we're being selfish when Valentine's Day rolls around on February 14th and all we're thinking is, "I hate this day... for my sake and everyone else's. Why create a day to remind people how lonely and unloved they are? Or why have a holiday meant only to test people who are already over-stressed and pressured?"

Well, so don't look at it that way!

For me, Valentine's Day is the perfect opportunity to send smiles in the mail... cute little reminders to my friends of how much they mean to me. And it's the perfect chance to mail hearts and glitter and love to widows and single moms, women who spend the rest of the year mostly remembering days of love gone by. (Why limit it to women? Men who are alone would appreciate kind thoughts sent through the mail, too.)

What an opportunity... A day to fling far and wide good and loving and appreciative thoughts. A day to send emails with cute little heart pictures to everyone in your address book. A day to wish everyone you meet in shops a happy Valentine's Day with a kind word, deed or a simple bright smile.

... a day when we can, for one whole string of 16 hours, think about others much more than ourselves.

What a day! And it's only one month away. And what's better--I can begin today addressing all my pink and red cards I have waiting in my 1950's strawberry-painted metal bread box... and feel happy and ten-years-old all over again.


***
P.S. The Valentine issue of Romantic Homes is pretty special and filled with lots of old-fashioned, vintage Valentines and ideas for those who revel in this day or those who need some ideas as to how to bless others.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

One Weird Thing About Me


Yesterday I read Judy's delightful post which listed six weird things about her... what a treat! And afterward I thought, "I should write a post about my own weird ways." But this morning it came to me, "Nah... I'd better just list one weird thing at a time. My readers' shocked heads would pop all over their computers, and well, I wouldn't want that."

So here's just one weird thing about me:

1. For ten years--from the time my daughter was 4 until she was 14--I did not hold one single baby in my arms.

Not one. Not for ten years. Not even while attending church all those years more faithfully than even the pastor and being surrounded by women having babies what seemed liked every month.

Why not? Because by the time Naomi turned 4, I'd pretty much realized I was unable to have another baby, at least, the old-fashioned way. It just wasn't happening and it appeared to be a clear case of secondary infertility. And not being ok with that at only 25 years old, it would shake me apart for days each time I held someone's baby at church.

So I stopped. I simply ceased holding babies for ten whole years. Though, I shouldn't say 'simply'... it became pretty tricky wheedling out of it. If I was asked if I wanted to hold a baby, I became great at saying, "Oh! Let Tom hold him/her please? He absolutely loves to hold tiny babies. He'd considered it a real treat." (Fortunately that was absolutely true. He could hold babies from morning till midnight and not even become the least bit wild inside about wanting another one.)

Well, anyway... Fast-forward ten years and there I was at a Christmas party at our pastor's house. Late in the evening, one of the women of our church stepped up to me with her baby girl and asked if I'd hold her while she went and got her coat. Well, the fear and great hesitation must have shown in my eyes because the mom said, "Don't worry! I'll hurry and get it."

Finally, there was no way out. I mean, what was I going to say? "No, I can't hold your baby! I haven't held one for ten years because I'm afraid of the yearning which will come with it."? (I did consider saying that, though... heh...).

No, she handed me little Chrissy. I held her. And I felt fine. Fine! No yearnings, no anything. And actually, I smiled hugely because all that came to me were the memories of how much work new babies require... and the exhaustion... the constant laundry and sleepless nights, etc. And I stood there looking into Chrissy's face pretty much rejoicing that now--finally--I'd be able to hold any baby which came my way without fearing tears and longings for one of my own.

And ever since that day, that's just exactly how it's been. And it reminds me that I should never try forcing someone to do what they're not ready to do (and to not form ignorant opinions about their inability to do it, either). The time for me to finally hold babies was right and God saw to it there was no way out.

And only He can see when the people in our lives are ready for their breakthroughs, too. Only He can make those kinds of changes.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Our Post Office, Our Newspaper


I've never before shown you our post office, so here it is. Built in 1913, imo, all post offices should look just like this. Inside, there's honey-colored oak, some of it rounded over glass in front of the doors, marble slabs and stairs, incredible, intricate moldings and crown moldings, glass cases with 'Bulletins' etched in the oak above them and old sepia photos of the original construction in its phases. You don't even mind standing in line forever because of what surrounds you. Well, I don't mind (uh, too much, that is).

Anyway, speaking of my town... I thought I'd share with you some of the often-a-hoot items in our newspaper's Sound Off column in case you need something to smile about today. Sound Off is where you can call in/email your feelings about what's going on locally and nationally and it's my favorite part of our paper. Lately, it's just about the only part I read anymore. Maybe you'll see why by these few examples:


I was driving by the high school the other day and I saw these girls running around in skirts and what not. I hope they were 18.

•••

I’m sure everybody knows what the next endangered species is going to be and that’s snowmen. As in, Frosty the Snowman. With this global warming every snowman on the planet is endangered. Can’t get in trouble for that.

•••

The _______ High School recently performed its Christmas Candlelight Concert at the OLC church. The program was excellent, the church was beautiful and the family and friends of the performers enjoyed the program. But why did the one _______ High School student keep his hat on in the house of worship throughout the performance?

***

I hope the politicians in the next Congress can actually get around to addressing the surveillance mind control chip, which right now is a national, not global, problem. Who is going to expose these monsters who want to control the whole world? I was really hoping they would have the foresight for future generations to come and see the suffering these monsters are allowed to succeed. It’s common knowledge in New York there are 220,000 people, without their consent or knowledge, operating under the auspice of medical study.

***

I wanted to say, so what if I am on food stamps and have other people pay for things for me? Since when is it such a bad thing to be a freeloader? I just don’t really like working and I don’t see the point when other people can pay for me. I am still a human being and I deserve respect.

***

The Discomfort of Past Seasons


"No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God." Luke 9:62

This decluttering of our house feels freeing. And each day (or night) while I empty drawers and cupboards, the seasons of my life keep returning to me... and how there is a season for everything and a time to hold on and a time to let go.

The papers in dusty old files, well, they're simple to cast away, as well as the books I never loved enough to read over again (or ones I'll be able to find in most libraries) and the broken stuff, the ugly stuff, the so-so stuff, the junk (or clothes) I've outgrown or never loved in the first place (and should never have bought).

But it's the sentimental 'treasures' I'm finding hard to fling away--no shocking news to you who have ever tried to overhaul your possessions in search of a simpler life or in preparation to move. The board games you played with your children... the gifts from them and other relatives... the clothes or pillows you spent hours sewing... your fabric collection... the video tapes of tv shows you watched as a young family. You know, the sentimental flotsam and jetsam of a good life lived in one house for years. That's the kind of stuff you don't just drop into the Salvation Army box without a pensive pause.

But I've discovered something since December. This whole purging thing going on at my house, well, it's God's idea and His timing and so His grace is all over it.

I am not doing this alone.

No, this is a God-given goal, a season of its own, and there's such purpose in it, namely, the more I let go of, the more I am filled with a new sense of adventure. Of something undiscovered shining brightly up ahead, even though I can only see a glow up there and not anything specific. And I'll get there with a lighter heart if I lighten the load for the moving van--and my heart, too.

It's like our home movies of Naomi and a young Tom and Debra. Well, we seldom watch those. Why? It's simple to wander back to those years but it can feel downright difficult to leave them again. Perhaps because, when you go back, you find yourself in the old days, yes, but in an out of perspective way. The happy times can glow brighter than the bad times (or vice versa)... and the wisdom you have now (but lacked then) can color all you did --or could have done--had you known better. And you forget that you belonged in that past season so things felt one way--but here you are seasons and seasons later--and if you went back to live, nothing would feel or fit as well as it once did...

... to everything there is a season...

The most important days and parts and moments of my being a young wife and mother of a little child in years which now appear golden--they'll never be farther away than my own heart. I'll never forget those.

And I am finding that thought is helping me release the sentimental decor of the past seasons of my life so that I can, with a lighter load, move into the future and golden seasons yet to come.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Long Ago Lesson


So there I was... age 16, pathetically shy, and still the new kid in my girls' p.e. class at school and what does our teacher say? She says, "When we get back on Monday we'll start folk dancing for the next three weeks."

There, sitting on the gym floor, I told myself, "Oh no... not folk dancing! I am so uncoordinated when it comes to dancing. I'll have to practice every night at home alone so that I won't look like an idiot here with all these (graceful, got-it-all-together) girls. Darn, darn, darn."

And that's when I had an epiphany. Well, of sorts. Suddenly, while still there on the floor as the teacher droned on, I heard these words inside my head. "How do you know you won't be any good at folk dancing? Have you ever tried it before? You might even be great at it. Maybe you'll even love it!"

Wow. It was as though someone had taken me aside, shaken me a little and told me to wake-up. To stop always telling myself I'd fail at something new before I'd even tried it. And it made me smile. I remember asking myself, "Why do I, when given a new challenge, automatically tell myself I'll be horrible at it?"

And guess what? Whereas I'd especially dreaded p.e. that year because I'd enrolled late to this school (my second of what would be three high schools because we moved all the time) and had had a hard time fitting in, well, I loved folk-dancing. Finally, gym class wasn't the major torture of the day.

And when it came time to be tested and we were each placed into groups of three girls in the middle of everyone sitting uncircled around us, I kept up my dance steps till the music's end, even though the other two girls lost their places in the dance and so just stood beside me. And I remember afterward my friend, Tara, told me she'd been proud of me for having kept dancing, even though it must have felt awkward to dance alone (it did).

And that is a lesson which has never left me... It returns each time I automatically say things like, "No, I could never learn to do that on the computer," or, "This digital camera is too difficult to use for a brain like mine," or, "You can't teach this old dog those new tricks...."... and on and on and on...

If I believe I cannot do something, most likely I'll never be able to do it.

Sometimes you just have to give yourself a break. And sometimes you just have to blast through that wall which would keep you mired inside your boring, fearful rut. And all the time you just have to rely more on God's ability than your own.


***

"I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me." ... Philippians 4:13

"...fear has torment..." 1 John 4:18

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Finally!


The view outside my dream room windows this morning. Finally we got some January weather... it was beginning to feel like Spring! (Click to enlarge photo.)


***
This just in! Victorian Trading Co. is having their annual half-off holiday cards sale a bit earlier this year. You can find their beautiful cards here. I just finished my annual shopping foray into the world of Victorian Trading Co. and am still coming out of that dreamy state this day always pulls me into.

Sometimes That's Just Life


I'd gone to my best friend's house after school one afternoon and we decided to make brownies (I think), so she began pulling measuring cups and spoons out of a kitchen drawer. I saw that the assorted metal and plastic cups, some of them anyway, still had dustings of flour and sugar upon them from previous uses. I asked Tara about that and she smiled and said, "Oh, my mom only sometimes washes the ones we've used with dry ingredients. I mean, you're just going to use them for the same thing, so why wash them every single time?"

Why indeed? That made perfect sense to me, and for reasons which cannot be explained, I told myself on that afternoon, at age 16, that when I grew-up I, too, would have a drawer with floury and sugary measuring cups and spoons inside. I guess it sounded cozy. Romantic. Domestically sensual. (Who understands these things really?) And I believed that my future daughter, like Tara, would think it was a cozy thing to do, too, and she'd smile, as Tara had, because her mother kept her measuring cups in this way.

So I did. But my daughter didn't. Smile about the floury measuring cups, that is. No, instead, she'd wrinkle her nose and lecture me about washing things before putting them away.

Sometimes that's just Life.

And sometimes it's just Life when you collect a ton of your favorite, much-loved books to share with your daughter, but she's not a big fan of reading (saying she burned-out in the 1st grade when, for a class contest, she read 300 books. Out loud. To me.)...

... or you're careful to latch your storm door every single time (when others in your family forget frequently), but the ONE time you do forget, a strong wind blows, pulls the screws from the door frame, and your husband lectures you about the necessity of closing the storm door securely Every Time...

... or you get serious, really serious, about losing weight--and then it hits you--Thanksgiving is just one week away...

... or your appliances never break down one at a time, but always in rebellious groups...

... or when you think your husband will be mad at you, he isn't... But when you have no clue he'll be mad, he is.

Need I go on? Nah, I didn't think so.

There are many things which are, well, Just Life. And I am learning not to waste my good energy with bad thoughts and frustrations and prayers and campaigns to try to change those Just Life things. I'm learning to ask God what needs to be changed because only those are the things I'll receive His help in changing. With all the rest I'm on my own. And there is no scarier, more wasteful, more futile place to be than on my own.

That's just Life.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Lake Thoughts


Sometimes I take adventures alone. Like the one I took this morning when I drove to the huge blue-grey river down the street. Tom didn't feel like coming along and that was fine... I try to sit beside the river by myself at least once a week, great weather or terrible. Not that I was there in the car this morning alone-alone. No, it felt like Jesus sat in the front seat beside me and all the rest of you were crammed in the back seat. Again, it just felt that way, and I kept writing this post inside my head for you, almost by way of conversation.

When I drove into the park, guess who greeted me from above? At least 80 geese in a V formation floating in the grey, wispy sky. I parked the car and finished listening to Patty Griffin's song about making pies (have you heard that one?) while I watched the geese until the last one vanished in the wisps. Then I sipped my Burger King coffee (you do know that Burger King makes the best coffee for the cheapest price, don't you?) and dreamed a little before I read my book and nibbled my breakfast.

There are women (I know some) who never have adventures... ones who never sit in a movie theater alone (or with anybody else), eat in a restaurant, drive out in the country or do much of anything else out-and-about (except run errands and chauffeur kids). And these same women seldom go out for coffee with friends or shop with them or do anything more than make an occasional phone call to sustain a friendship... and then, over years, lose friends from neglect, sometimes not even realizing those friends walked away until they're lying in bed having been told by a doctor to stay there awhile... and no one comes to visit, no one except maybe a husband or a child.

I try to pay attention to what's happening in my Life, but sometimes I get distracted (who doesn't?) and God has to yank me (albeit nicely--usually, that is) back to the spot in the road where I careened into a ditch. Sometimes it seems like it's not my fault I'm mired in that ditch but nearly always, God tells me it certainly is my fault. If I flew or stumbled into a ditch then I had my eyes on something other than Him. Most likely, my eyes were on problems, frustrations, or fears or quite possibly, on decorating, movies or books.

But so very long ago He had Paul write.."For we walk by faith, not by sight..." You'd think I could remember that and never forget.

Maybe that's why I take those drives down to the river (or take so many walks), even on cloudy, cold days. To remember ... to recall what gets so easily forgotten in busyness or hard times or even good times (sadly), too. To pull myself up, with His help, from any ditches or even smaller (boring) ruts I've toddled into.

And to sing along with Barlow Girl the words to their Never Alone :

I cried out with no reply
And I can't feel You by my side
So I'll hold tight to what I know
You're here and I'm never alone

And though I cannot see You
And I can't explain why
Such a deep, deep reassurance
You've placed in my life

We cannot separate
'Cause You're part of me
And though You're invisible
I'll trust the unseen


The knowing He's always there... the never having to doubt anymore just because my feelings are sobbing something contrary. That has made all the difference. That keeps my feet on solid ground.


***
"I will never leave you, nor forsake you." ... Hebrews 13:5

Monday, January 08, 2007

No More Excuses (Pretty Please?)


All right, I confess... It gets me all hot and bothered when I try to help certain ailing people and immediately they recite from their Excuse List. Those lists usually sound like this:

"Oh no, I could never do that (helpful, freeing, life-changing) thing! I don't have enough money or time or energy or education. I don't live in the right house or neighborhood or town or Country. I'm too shy, too timid, too afraid. My husband/wife wouldn't like it, nor my friends, my children, my parents, my neighbors or anybody else. It would never work, never fly because, let's face it, I'm not that kind of person."

Blah blah blah....blah blah blah....blah blah blah.

One thing I've seen: People who have many excuses seldom have much of anything else.

Actually, Tom and I have fun catching one another at excuse-making. It's a Good Thing. We'll ask, "Is that your confession? That you'll never be able to _______?" Or we might say, "Well, if that's what you want to believe for, that you'll never become ____, I'll agree with you in prayer." Heh.

The times I've had the most trouble in my life were also the times I allowed my brain to become overwhelmed. I remember sitting on couches or porches or in cars thinking, "Things are just too out-of-control, too hard to change, so why try?" And the longer I allowed myself to think that way, the deeper the early grave I dug... a deep, dark place of paralyzed helplessness.

I was reminded of those years because a couple weeks ago Tom and I got the documentary, Grey Gardens, from Netflix. Oh my. What a sad (albeit fascinating) example of what happens when you do nothing about something you could have done something about. Grey Gardens isn't for everyone, but if you need a huge push out of Apathy Land, well, Big Edie and Little Edie just may be the ones to do the pushing.

I love starting small. I advocate starting small. An article from the book, Wishcraft, eons ago greatly helped me walk out of messes and into what I wanted, instead, all with little steps. You can even read this book online here.

Forget that 'all or nothing' stuff. If you want to become a painter, pick up a brush. Buy some paints. If you owe fifty emails, send one or two of them today, then try again tomorrow. If you want an awesome home library, buy one book at a time (they'll add up). If you want more friends, reach out to someone, even if he/she appears to have enough friends already.

If you want to become a writer, pick up a pen or sit at your computer--just start writing. Or get some books on writing from the library, but still, write. But the worst thing you can do is say, "Oh, I can't start writing until I take those college writing classes... and I can't take those classes until I make some money.... and I can't make some money until I find a job.... and I can't find a job until my kids are grown-up... and ..." Eeks! Now that's the kind of stuff that gets me all hot and bothered.

No, just do it. Just start small.

Today just start clearing one corner of that messy room or your office which is making you the most crazy. Just one corner. Or today just take a walk for exercise (instead of waiting till you can get down to the gym or till you can afford a gym membership or until you can find an exercise partner). If it's snowing outside, walk up and down your stairs. If you don't have stairs, step up and down a phone book or just walk in place or up and down your hall.

There comes a time to bury our excuses. Burn them. Blow them up and never voice them again. That is, if we ever want to fulfill some dreams or our purpose or if we just want to become healthy or help someone. We can have excuses or we can have a better life--but we can't have both.

I don't know about you, but it blows me away that Today I can begin walking to a whole better life just one step at a time.

But only if I destroy those excuses, leaving their shattered remains behind forever.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

And Now In Other News....


Always, I'm amazed when whole flocks of sparrows are chirping away in our backyard while eating the seed I provide, but just let them hear one strange sound and instant silence! They stop chirping as if on cue. Does that blow anyone else away?

Something else amazing? Tom and I are living in a type of Limbo Land Season, yet neither of us is going bonkers. I mean, we won't hear more about that Virginia job until the 31st... he may not even take the job.... or he may... but in the meantime we are at peace. We're sorting through our junk calmly and looking at houses online... and dreaming about not being squeezed between two other houses like we are here, like cheese in a sandwich. Space-- I need space! But repeating what I said, in the meantime, all is well. So far.

Grace is incredible. I cleaned out some kitchen cupboards today and it was hardly painful to throw out (or set aside to give away) the stuff I'd sentimentally burrowed away for years... the glass vases, votive holders, the Tazmanian Devil plastic mugs and happy meal toy collection from Naomi Days gone by...things I've kept 'just in case', things I've kept for memories' sake. Finally, (again, with Grace) I'm letting go of the New York season and the young mother, child-raising season of my life--and making room--anticipating--the new season just ahead. Incredible what Grace will enable you to do when the time is right, isn't it?

Tom and I watched an inspiring movie last week on dvd, one called The Reading Room. If you've come close to giving-up on those people you've been called to help, this movie just might zip you past those feelings. Or perhaps it will nudge you to begin the ministry which God's been nudging (and nudging) you to start for ever so long.

Thanks so much for your many comments to my last post! I found them blog educational (blogucational?) and will try to use them to improve upon this blog of which you are now reading.

And last, but most importantly, congratulations to my sister, Corrine, on her recent engagement to be married! Talk about new seasons... all her chickadees have grown-up and flown from her nest and now she has new romance in her life and an upcoming marriage. God is good and Tom and I are thrilled for her. Congrats, Corrine!

Oh The Changes...


"Examine and test and evaluate your own selves to see whether you are holding to your faith and showing the proper fruits of it." ... 2 Corinthians 13:5

Today I feel giddy... It's a rare jewel of a day in my life.

Am I going on vacation? Traveling somewhere exciting? Going to a party? A concert? On a picnic? To a family reunion?

None of the above.

No, today is what I call a Suzy Homemaker Day, a day I get to stay home alone and putter and clean while wrapped in an apron while Tom works dayshift. Yesterday was supposed to be a Suzy Homemaker Day, but Tom called-in sick to his job. Poor guy had one of those 24-hour bugs and all day he wilted in our Cozy Room watching nearly the entire 3rd season of Boy Meets World (don't tease us or laugh or anything, but we both love that show. The dvd's were my favorite Christmas present.). But anyway, before he left for work this morning at 6:00 a.m. he told me he felt 100% better and now I can, guilt-free, revel in playing house for nearly 13 hours.

Ah, but I've not always felt this way. Uh, no. There were whole strings of days when I complained about being stuck in this house. Trapped. Days when Tom would take one car to work and Naomi would take the other to school, leaving poor car-less Debra at home to sulk about being left with all the housework... all the washing, cooking, organizing, as usual, for all those endless hours alone, especially during winter months when it was too frigid outside, too slippery, too dangerous to walk anyplace.

Those were the days where vestiges of the world's influence still draped heavily upon me in this homemaking arena. You know, those lies swirling around, the ones which declare (subtly and sometimes not so) that you are a mindless old nobody if you don't have a Real Job. Boy, is that one hard for an insecure woman to completely shake--took me years. Me! The gal who has always (always!) defended my right to be a homemaker and declared that I'm just as intelligent as anyone else.

But most likely, that was the problem (or a result of it). Anytime you feel you must go around defending what you do, yelling about your rights to do it, there's a chance--a chance--that deep insecurity is actually the one creating all the noise. And Heaven knows, I've experienced my share of insecurity walking around my house in my aproned skirts while it seemed every other woman was apronless and being fulfilled out in the workforce or on a college campus. That is, if you believe everything you read in glossy magazines, and for seasons in my life, well, I did. Even though I tried not to.

Why did I open this with that Bible verse about examining yourself? Because these past ten years (or so) I've done just that, one area at a time. It's been like God has sat me down and together (most important, that 'together' part), we've examined one area at a time inside me, whichever area He happens to choose, any in which I've felt frustrated, discouraged, walked-upon, insecure, needy, etc. And area by area, day by day, God has taken me apart (in ways only He can) and shown me the Whys... why I felt the need to keep-up with women who appeared to be getting ahead... why I would fall to pieces if Tom didn't like the meatloaf I cooked for dinner... why I felt everything had to be Just So or else I couldn't feel happy... and well, you can add about 200 things to that list.

It's like Dr. Phil quips: "You cannot change what you will not acknowledge." Unfortunately, that's been oh-so-true for me. Talk about humbling. Talk about humiliating (pride being what it is...).

But the best part? (Besides noticing that, after some months, I began feeling better, not bitter...and feeling downright great in places I once felt downright lousy...) I also begin noticing that God was still there. He never bailed. And He still loved me passionately(!), has always loved me, always will love me, even on the days of pathetic relapses and ugly tantrums.

And always, He will be the best part. Of anything.

Friday, January 05, 2007

If They Keep You Coming Back For More...


Here's a question I find interesting... What keeps you coming back to your favorite blogs? I'd love to see your answers in my comment box... Anything and everything which constitutes a good blog in your opinion. I'll add my comments after I see a few of yours.

Oh, and by the way... There are no right or wrong answers so please don't be afraid to share!

If You're Going To Assume Anything...


There are more ways to simplify my life than just decluttering my house, my schedule and my purchases.

I can declutter my head, my thoughts.

One way? I can let go of assumptions. Of assuming that, just because certain people don't have my problems, they don't have any problems (or any worth complaining about aloud).

In fact, usually I'm on the other end of that... Recently a friend of mine let it slip that she thought my life was enchanted and I had it made, not a problem (a big one) to be detected anywhere. And comparing her problems to mine, yes, that might appear to be true.

But things are not always as they appear... and God said some enlightening things about making comparisons, such as:

"...but they, measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise." 2 Corinthians 10:12

The fact, though? We all have problems... hard times to walk through, deal with and learn from. Each of us. And usually these problems arrive custom-made. What may be hard for me, may be easy for you... and the other way around.

No one gets out of this life without experiencing hard times. No one. So there comes a time to stop assuming that some people are having just one long, la-de-da life filled with balloons, cotton candy and song.

But if you've grown accustomed to assuming things about people just by watching them (usually only from afar and without understanding), here are some things to start assuming if the habit has become too deeply ingrained:

Assume everyone you meet has at least one difficult thing going on right now, something which they may be hiding.

Assume everybody you know (or have only heard about) would appreciate a kind, encouraging word or thoughtful deed from you (even if they appear to be just dandy).

Assume everyone needs at least one friend in this life.

Assume everyone needs God and your prayers (even if certain folks would scream at the thought of you praying for them).

When it comes to those assumptions, I can assume away--to infinity and beyond! And the reflected results are much sweeter, richer and fulfilling than assumptions of the bitter type.

I know... I've done it both ways.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Letting Go, Moving On


I've already told you I'd never before lived in one house for more than 2 3/4 years until we moved into this house 13 years ago, and well, now I've become acquainted with all the trappings of burrowing into one place for so long.

Namely, when you're not moving every three years, or so, the temptation becomes to tuck away into odd places those papers, trinkets and well, junk, you'd have otherwise never have loaded into the moving van.

No, too often I've gazed thoughtfully at certain items... gifts, gadgets, files... and thought, "Well, since there's room in this house to put these things, since they have a place, I'll keep them... just in case... just because. But they'll be the first things to go when we finally move away some far-off, I'll-think-about-it-later day.

Trust me, I know now what that's like. But to be fair to myself, every four or five years I've dived into drawers and cupboards and slung away stuff, mainly paper clutter and those vague no-longer-beautiful-or-useful trinkets.

Maybe I've tried decluttering our house every few years because I reread Anne Morrow Lindbergh's book, Gift From The Sea, every few years. How can you not declutter your house when you read lines like these?

"To ask how little, not how much, can I get along with. To say--is it necessary--when I am tempted to add one more accumulation to my life, when I am pulled toward one more centrifugal activity."

Ah... that part about asking how little, not how much, can I get along with... How freeing when I allow those words to haunt me, to guide me. But oh, how often I fight them... and pay a price. After all, I never just simply buy something. No, with each purchase I acquire something else to care for, clean, move around, and something which also takes up more space, and generally, more of my time for, well, something meaningful.

So, while Tom is seriously considering taking that job in Virginia, I find myself seriously, already, saying good-bye to this almost magical life we have lived here inside this house. And always--always--good-byes of any type require letting go of some of what you've known so to make room for new things for your new phase, your new life. (Sometimes we don't get a new life because we never made room for one.)

How to let go? Like many of you, I find it hard to get rid of gifts, especially ones from relatives, but there is a solution I've heard of... I can take pictures of those gifts and place them into a photo album marked, "Special Gifts From Special People," (perhaps silencing any hurt feelings from sensitive relatives should they notice the absence of their gifts in your rooms). And too, I enjoy picturing the happy faces of people who find, in thrift shops, the items I once treasured, and how those folks might drive away--exhilarated--because they 'stole' such a low-priced treasure.

And I can take pictures of the large wardrobe closet we cannot take with us, and other large furniture or knick-knacks... and then look at them on a future rainy day, far away, and remember.

I can give away some things I even still love to those friends and relatives I love even more... I can keep foremost in my mind how good it feels to keep a flow of giving... and how peaceful it feels to live simply.

And (cutting this short because I could ramble on all day with this pep talk), I can also do all this decluttering for our daughter's sake. I want so much to spare her from the nightmare I've seen other adult children trapped in--the nightmare of having to wade through room after cluttered, dusty room of junk which their parents should have weeded through, themselves, decades before. I have heard the exhaustion in the voices of those adult children, and the frustration, and oh my... I do not want that for my daughter. I do not want to add to her sad feelings of our passing, an even sadder feeling that we left such a horrible mess for her while we're in Heaven enjoying Peace and a simplicity we should have cultivated here upon Earth.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

The Island Trip Game


Years ago while Naomi was still in high school, her friend, Kelly, drove by our house with her mom while I was sitting on the front porch, my hair at its very longest. Kelly told her mom, "There's Naomi's house."

Her mom asked, "Was that Naomi on the porch?" Kelly laughed and said, "No, that was her mom."

Kelly's mom asked, "What is she, twelve?"

Heh... You'll probably be asking that same question at the end of this post.

***

I've been rereading Anne Morrow Lindbergh's, Gift From The Sea... It's helping me declutter this house (with less pain) in case we move this year. Or even if we don't move, still, our possessions need to be simplified. Tom's and my life, together, needs to be simplified--we know that now.

So I played a game this morning, you know, the "If You Had To Move To a Tiny Hut on a Deserted Island For The Rest of Your Life What Would You Take?" game.

In my robe I stood (with a flashlight) before each of my bookshelves and pretended I could pack just ten books from the hundreds I've collected the past 20 years. Here are those ten which I'd carry inside my suitcase to my island:

1. The Bible
2. Stand In The Wind by Jean Little
3. Practically Seventeen by Rosamond du Jardin
4. The Four-Story Mistake by Elizabeth Enright
5. Gone Away Lake by Elizabeth Enright
6. The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder
7. Mary Emma & Company by Ralph Moody
8. Cousin William by Della T. Lutes
9. Onions in the Stew by Betty MacDonald
10. Adventures in Understanding by David Grayson

If you've recovered from that odd list, I'll move on...

My hut on my island would have electricity, a tv (no cable or antenna, though) and a dvd player. (Hey, it's my game, my island. I can make up my own rules.) And since I can only take ten movies with me, here are the ten:

1. The Railway Children (Jemima Rooper)
2. His Girl Friday (Cary Grant)
3. The Bachelor and the Bobby Soxer (Cary Grant)
4. Disney's America's Heart & Soul
5. Rear Window (James Stewart)
6. Harvey (James Stewart)
7. The Lost Weekend (Ray Milland)
8. Suspicion (Cary Grant)
9. Father's Little Dividend (Spencer Tracy)
10. While You Were Sleeping (Sandra Bullock)

(Warning: Don't try to understand me or my choices. No one in 47 years has ever succeeded, and even I quit trying a few years ago.)

But anyway, I discovered something amazing this morning. Before playing this game, I'd believed this choosing of books and movies would be extremely difficult... that I would sweat and squirm and keep crossing titles out on my lists and penciling in others, since I'd planned to play with a seriousness of having to really live (and die) by these choices.

It wasn't hard at all.

No, not really. Because inside my heart I recalled what I'd forgotten-- that books and movies are fine in moderation, but I could let go of my large collection of both and be happy with just a few. When I was first married I had only a handful of books and I owned no movies at all.... but still (alas!) I was pretty happy.

(I highly recommend playing this game, yourself, if one of your new year resolutions is to declutter your home. It's liberating and makes the tossing less painful.)

That is, I was happy and contented on the days when I let God be God and when I kept Him first. Speaking of which, (and as the final move of this game I'm playing)... If, before leaving for this deserted island, I could leave just one more blog post, I know exactly what I'd write about:

Seek, more than anything else, to get to know God for yourself. For that is one adventure which will totally change everything. Absolutely everything, whether you're living on that deserted island or upon a mountain or in the center of town.

...or right where you are at this very moment... wherever that may be... Getting to know God changes everything.