Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Worry: The Misuse of Imagination

I thought of this old post this morning so I thought I'd repost it here...

For years our back door had been its original, boring grey metal color. Not only that, but rust was growing along its panel edges, even though we have a clear glass storm door, too. And to top it off, there were a handful of little tar splatters from the time we had our driveway resurfaced.

It's weird how we learn to live with things like that, especially important things like doors where people get the first impressions of our homes. And it's especially bad when you consider that where I live, all our neighbors, delivery people, friends and relatives use the back door. You could nail your front door shut and no one outside your family would even care.

Well, finally last week I painted our back door a terrific medium-dark country-blue. Not only that, but I stenciled a white bow with a little heart in its center, then beneath that, I stenciled the word, 'Imagine.'

What an improvement!

With the whirlwind of activity around here I got to thinking about how worry is a misuse of my imagination. If I am worrying, then I'm imagining that something negative will happen. I am using my imagination to picture a bad outcome and then dwelling on what I see happening in my mind.

I'd much rather use my imagination for purposes God intended, like, picturing ways I can help others or ways I can decorate my home. Or ways I can stretch our money and live on less or how I can lose weight, arrange my garden or get more done in my day.

But I do not want to use my imagination as a canvas for worry. When I look at that word, 'Imagine,' on my back door, I want to use it as a signal to ponder the good which is ahead of me. I want our visitors to ponder that, too.


Worry ruins what could have been a perfectly marvelous day.

Monday, February 25, 2008

I live in four rooms. Well, there's a laundry closet, too, so technically that may mean four-and-a-half. But either way, this is one tiny place.

And yet, you know? Most days this apartment feels like oodles of enough space for Tom and me. When he's in the living room watching tv or he's on the computer (or both. A mirror hangs over the computer table so he can view the tv in its reflection. Silly, I know.), well, I can sit out at my spiffy desk in the dining room and pretend I have a whole office. Or I can watch the small tv in our bedroom while sitting in bed, gazing at magazines or playing with our cats (who believe this room, actually, belongs to them). Or I can even carry the tv into the kitchen and cook for hours while enjoying the company of favorite tv people. Or I could also exercise in the dining room (or the bedroom in between our beds) or take a long bubble bath in the bathroom.

And when Tom's not home, well, wow! Then I get the whole living room to myself where I can do nearly all of the above, (except for taking the aforementioned bubble bath. heh.). I can even sit in front of the windows and soak up the sun, reading while drinking coffee or just loll upon the couch and watch our new flat screen tv, the only tv which picks up our basic (basic!) cable channels.

And I've not even mentioned my current projects. I'm creating a notebook with homemaking and health ideas which I'm clipping from magazines... I'm reading about how to use our complicated-appearing juicer which I got at a yard sale last summer (talk about procrastinating...)... I'm planning the decor of our next house out on paper--the color of the rooms and what I will need to buy. You know, trying to plan all the whimsy without making it look planned... And I'm adding to my menu list for our meals for more variety and learning more about eating well... and I'm writing snail mail letters, planning my Spring/Summer wardrobe and learning to store things in small spaces...

... and I'm trying to take walks each day that it's at least 25 degrees outside, often walking the five blocks to the convenience store for Woman's World magazine (to add to my health notebook) and usually cherry yogurt and peanuts (the height of their health food selection there. heh). And too, I like to visit the Deli down the street to encourage them as well as other businesses (chicken fingers, anyone?). The other day it hit me--in a way, the street at the end of ours is well, my own little Mayberry. Small businesses everywhere, most of them probably struggling since that street mostly caters to those of us who live nearby. And well, how fun to think of it as Debra's Mayberry!

I guess what this (rambling, long, boring) post is attempting to say is this: If my world feels tiny it's only because my imagination is tiny. If I keep my imagination huge and polished and growing, well, these four rooms will keep expanding and expanding until all the walls appear open, like window glass, welcoming anything and anyone I wish to let inside.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

So could you tell from my last post that I've contracted a bit of cabin fever? I've lived in snow country for 32 years and always the end of February is rough. And before you say, "Oh! But March is coming and that means Spring!", let me add that March in Buffalo just means more winter. More snow and cold and no green leaves.

But alas! The sun rises earlier now and I fling open the curtains and absorb every extra ray. What a difference an added half-hour of early light makes.

I'm thinking it's another case of divine discontentment regarding my tiredness of snow and ice and long, long winters. Remember how that was what pushed me out of the house which I'd lived in longer than any other ever? The one I loved for 14 years? Well, divine discontentment is responsible for me not missing that house one iota--I've cried not one tear nor whispered one wish to move back.

And I believe that's how God would want it. I hardly think He'd prefer that I be another Lot's wife, you know, the gal who turned to stone when she gazed back to her hometown. Most likely, the quota is already filled on those statues of stones scattered across hillsides--people with stones for hearts because they wanted certain things more than they longed for God and His ways, ideas and plans for them. Christians who are mad at God because they never peeked from behind curtains of disappointment to the better thing God had in store--and is still waiting to give if only their hearts would become pliable again.

Anyway, I've found that when I respond God's way to divine discontentment there's not only no facing backward, but there's an almost-giddy sense of anticipation. And adventure. And wonder regarding journeys to come (as in, moving to a state with no long winters!). :)

But all in good time, for of course, there's a time for everything. And now I have more lessons to learn during this eternal winter (or what appears to be eternal winter, anyway). Every day I feel as though I'm in college...all these lessons and all this relearning of forgotten things! But I'm careful not to hop down into pits of guilt and condemnation when I forget and flounder and sin. If I'm there, it's not because God threw me there. No, it's because I jumped in all that muck and mire myself, slowing down the whole process of growth.

It's hard to grow when you're ashamed to look God in the face. It's impossible to grow when you're avoiding Him, downright hiding, because of embarrassment.

God's ways are different and He leads by conviction and encouragement and Love (big L, always), making the whole journey a quicker one. In my house there are no 11-day journeys lasting for 40 years, such as the one Moses' Israelites took eons ago. No, right now in my tiny cottage there's early morning light bringing new days, albeit often snowy ones... days for learning and for growing passionately in love with God... and for guarding this pliable heart.


"Guard your heart with all diligence..."

Friday, February 22, 2008

Kinda-Sorta Back

I'm back! Well mostly. Good ol' Tom 'caved' and signed up for DSL here at our Grace Place. He got a terrific deal and his boss is even chipping in five dollars per month since Tom often must bring his work home (work which really doesn't even require the Internet. hmm.). Plus, his company has given him their own laptop computer, so hey... add all that up and what choice did he have? I guess.

Part of me was enjoying being computer-free a lot. A whole lot. No more addiction--no more having to check-in all the time to Computer Land in case I was missing something important. No more looking-up every tiny curiosity inside my head. No more feeling pressured to keep up with my email. I mean after all--with no computer here and with Tom's having the car at work and with our living in what looks like Alaska right now, well,I couldn't just stroll to the library any ol' time. What could I do but just let it all wait?

But there's a best of both worlds thing here with this new DSL thing. Tom will have this laptop with him at the plant 40 hours a week so I'll still be mostly computer-free except on the weekends. Sounds sane and good to me, at least in this season of my life.

Anyway. Remember when I was dreaming about moving to Mt. Airy, NC? You know, the place very much like Andy Griffith's Mayberry? Well, yesterday some photos arrived from my friend, Wilma, who visited Mayber--, er, Mt. Airy last week on vacation with her husband.

The photos made me insane.

Oh, I immediately wanted to pack up and move there this weekend. The town was everything I'd imagined--old-fashioned, cozy and fun. But what really made me bonkers and brought tears to my eyes? The trees in Mt. Airy have green leaves on them. In February! Oh my goodness... Here I am living in the North Pole (well, might as well be) with white snow and ice and gloomy grey skies and brown, bare trees and where it's a great day if I can make it back from the convenience store without my face freezing to numbness. And then there are people living in NC (and other places) where trees have green leaves and they can walk and walk without risking losing their face and assorted limbs.

Sigh. Tom and I have gotta get out of here. I still love this tiny cottage, but it's the outside of it which is making me crazy.

Oh well... I guess this all shows me I'm not sticking close enough to Grace... not listening and not receiving what she has to give. Too often we struggle and struggle to get what God is standing there handing us. So today will be another of my Receiving Days, a day where I stop complaining or trying to make myself happy when I peer out the window to all the ice and dirty snow.

I'll just, instead, receive His joy and strength and contentment. They're always a million times better than anything I try whipping up, myself.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Valentine's Day! One of my favorite days of the year.

My friend, Laura, hadn't yet visited our tiny cottage so I called her yesterday morning and it just worked out (does anything really 'just work out'?) that she was available for lunch (she, who has a real job. Two, actually.) So I cleaned a bit then decorated a bit, which took a huge amount of imagination since I brought only our bare essentials with us.

At the bistro table below the two windows in our livingroom (where I sit when I need some winter light) I brought in the two diningroom chairs then draped each with a white sheer curtain which I keep in our (unplugged)chest freezer along with some heavy curtains, placemats, damask dinner napkins and a box of extra tape. (In a tiny house you must do with you must do.) The old chipped-up 1940's kitchen chairs suddenly looked magical beneath the sheers. The table is always draped with an olive-ish tablecloth and the windows have white sheers and olive-ish damask curtains.

Anyway, after a bit more decorating I walked through the snow down to the deli I've mentioned before and bought sandwiches, potato salad and chips. And ok, a new dark chocolate mint Three Muskateers bar which I'd not yet seen in-person, only on tv. (Tasty, but not amazingly-great.) Hiked back home, waited for Laura, then when she arrived, gave her the grand three-minute tour of my house. She liked it, said it was cozy. And it is. She also said the trains across the street probably make the house shake like crazy, but I told her, no. They don't. I love the trains and the Amtrak ones are never long enough for all my dreaming.

We had a nice Valentine time. It had been weeks since we'd shared lunch. I told her that actually, I'd so needed these weeks of time alone for, although some people heal best among crowds of friends or family, always I have healed best alone.

Always I'm grateful for the privilege of being a homemaker, but lately, more than ever. For when I needed some time off, whole weeks and weeks of it, I simply took the time off. And rested. I had to ask no person's permission for that time. I took no cut in pay. Did not lose my job. I just took the time off... and it came to me --I wish everyone could do that because--so often--we all need time off to heal... to slow down... to think... to plan... and most of all, to listen to that still, small voice of the One who knows how fragile our minds can be when faced with hardship or when driven much too hard and fast, in ways He never meant them to be used.

So I guess what I'm saying is that if you need time off, don't think of yourself as weak, but rather, human like the rest of us. And if you cannot take long stretches of time off to heal or recharge, do try to find small stretches in your day whenever you can. Or at the very, very least--try to give your brain a vacation as you go about your day... give reasoning a rest. Let go of questioning for awhile as well as doubt, worry and dread. Replace those with a few weeks of trust and love and joy--and that will be a vacation you well deserve, one which God would love to give you, I'm sure... and one your brain will appreciate, whether it ever makes it to a sunny day at the beach--or not.

... Happy Valentine's Day to each of you! And for those of you who graced my mailbox with Valentines, I do thank you so much for sweetening my snowy winter days... and my life.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Eeks! Long time between posts, I know... You can blame it on our weather, mostly. I mean, Tom was home, sick, two days this week so I could have driven here to the library, but alas! Freezing rain coated all sidewalks, roads and our car almost like some kind of a horror movie (well, in my mind, anyway).


Anyway, the weather is now more sane and yesterday I walked down to the convenience store by way of one of my favorite streets--the street running parallel to the window over our kitchen sink. I stroll that avenue and always--always--I'm reminded of Anne of Green Gables, for there are at least two Victorian houses with huge yards and since our town began in this section, the trees stand like enormous towers. Also, we're at the edge of town, (sorta) and the train tracks run behind the few houses on that side of the street and there are huge piles of brush behind them in places, which doesn't sound all that wonderful, I know, but it's something more natural than just more houses, houses, houses standing three feet apart (which is what you get a lot of here).

I feel as though I'm strolling through old, open countryside when I walk that street, though if you were to walk along with me you'd say, "Wow, Debra. You certainly have one great imagination. I'm just not seein' any countryside, myself."

But that's okay. I've spoken much about Grace here and I think sometimes she messes with my eyes as well as helps me do what I must do. Not only do I see countryside at uncountryish places, I also do not see (or am not bothered by) certain 'Tom areas' of our house, small areas where I let him be him. In our old house, it was the tabletop in the corner of our diningroom where, nearly always, piles and stacks of magazines, papers and tools leaned upon it. Yet I could ignore it. Tom needs places just as I need places, but the old Debra who used to be house-insecure, never could allow him those areas the first years we were married. But now--now--I know they are vital... they are only fair and--unless they scream Fire Hazard, I can walk past them and smile. Or even not see them, literally.

Anyway, needing eggs and onions on Thursday, I walked down our street (not the countryside one) to the new deli on the corner and that was a treat. Two women practically tripped over each other to serve me and I felt a little sad. Small businesses struggle in our area so I try to do what I can to help. They had no eggs, but they did have onions, so I bought one and a bit of potato salad. On my way to the deli an older woman stood out in the snow and asked if I'd seen her black and white cat. He'd escaped last night and she'd been searching for him at 1 in the morning and a policeman asked what she was doing. She pointed to her windows three stories up in case I found him and I hoped he'd only meandered into another apartment and not outside. Way too cold for cats, it is.

And then later a friend of our neighbor-behind-us was barbequing steaks outside on our sidewalk and I had to smile at seeing the barbeque smoking with snow all around. He even shoveled the sidewalk out to the front for me--I told him our daughter was coming by soon and I thanked him. And later I taped Valentines and red heart doilies to Tom's and my white door to make the neighbors smile when they enter the always-smokey vestibule with the peeling grey paint and missing slats.

What a difference a house makes! I am surrounded by people in our new neighborhood, people rather different than the ones only blocks away where we lived so long. I am in the same town, but a whole other world. And I love it.


P.S. On two nights now I've seen Amtrak trains fly by outside our kitchen with their lighted windows. Oh my. How Orient Express. How dreamy. How delightful for my imagination.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Gee, I miss the sun. We've not seen it since last Thursday. I even walked around our new neighborhood on one of those murky, grey (oh so very grey) days and every house, even the few special ones, appeared bleak and woeful. And I didn't even feel safe--the occasional men I glimpsed all reminded me of leary-eyed guys from scary scenes in the CSI shows. I even decided that from now on I'll cross the road and take the sidewalk which leads me back to my old neighborhoods where I walked for 14 years. You know, the normal single-family houses, no-apartments-anywhere streets. That's how dark and grey and foreboding it was on my walk that day.

What a difference the sun makes!

And just arriving here at the library this morning and finding all your cheery comments to my last post made it seem as though the sun finally sprang out from behind the clouds. Even though it didn't in reality. So thank-you! It's great to travel here and feel as though a whole group of friends is awaiting me.

Speaking of that, I'm loving not having computer access at our house. Well, maybe not loving it, exactly, but appreciating how it is stretching me... making me more patient regarding my peeks into Computer Land... and happy to return to a more balanced way of handling all this. I'm already praying that, when we do have computer access again, I'll remain set free from checking-in all the time or having this online world on my mind way too often.

Sometimes you have to do extreme things to keep yourself balanced and exactly where--and how--God wants you to be. So that you can hear Him more clearly and live free enough to always be in the right places at the right time and in your right mind... as in, not distracted, but rather, aware of that still, small voice. And not sitting in a computer chair when He wanted you at the supermarket when that elderly lady needed your help.

And you may have to think about that paragraph awhile because, mostly, it was a reminder for myself. (The older I become, the more I must write everything down...sigh...) It's never easy to die to self--to stop feeding, to actually starve, our weaknesses-- but it's always worth it afterward. Always, the freedom afterward makes any little aches and ripping-away pains so very worth it.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Ok. I just know that some of y'all are wondering if I miss my old house, the one I lived in nearly 15 years... the one whose each and every wall I lovingly painted.

Truthfully? I don't miss it. Oh, perhaps the sunroom, especially on these dark winter days. That room was nearly half-made of windows so always there was a 'certain slant of light' in there, dark days or sunny. But no, I was so ready to move out. To move on to something new, even something tiny and temporary. The divine discontent within me was maddening (well, almost) and I so needed a change.

When God wants to change either our circumstances or something inside us, we need to cooperate or else very little will feel right ever after. I could have clung to (and refused to leave) that much larger, more comfortable house, but I'd not have been as happy and contented as I am in our tiny (tiny!) cottage apartment. (And frankly, we do call it a cottage, but it doesn't actually resemble one. Only to us--only in our hearts.)

I mean, the single mom behind us comes homes drunk on weekend mornings around 4:30 with at least three noisy friends, but you know? She's someone to pray for--someone for whom to do kind anonymous deeds. That's how I see her and her family, the one which tends to sound like a preschool is going on after school right outside our doorway.

And there's another single mom upstairs, with three teens, but they are nearly always surprisingly quiet up there. And when I see her outside, I always must be the first to say hello--I think she's shy and oh my! I understand shy people after having been one for so very long. So I say hello first and usually make a little remark if she's not in a hurry rushing past me. Which usually she is.

Do I miss my old, quiet, retro, sweet house, the one with 14 years of amazing memories? Nope. I'm too busy enjoying this new phase God led us to by way of divine discontent. It's an interesting place, another place of learning and I'm in no hurry to move away.

And trust me, I am so not looking back, either. Only ahead to new adventures.


P.S. Did anyone else love LOST as much as I did? Too many commercial breaks....argh... but I loved every minute of the long-waited-for episode--even the states of confusion this show puts me in. :)