Saturday, July 31, 2010

Progress Report. Kinda.

Just checking-in to say all is well.

Mostly.

I mean, having Naomi here has been lovely. Perfect. She's even helping me with the yard work which is an answer to prayer, trust me. Just last week I was wishing we could afford a yard crew--and then God sent Naomi.

Two of her three cats are here. We have upstairs cats and downstairs cats again as we did when she lived with us. And hopefully, never the twain shall meet. :)

One of her cats, Ginger, is the only cat I've ever feared. I just wave at her and say her name and she hisses. Growls. Threatens to charge me. Good-grief. She's always been a one-woman cat and I've never been that one woman. heh. I can't believe she and her sister are nine years old now--I recall the day Naomi brought them home when their mother rejected them (and Naomi's friend's mom rejected them, too). Farrah, though, is the most adorable cat ever, standing upon her tip-toes, squinting her eyes and meowing sweetly to be petted. She can't get enough affection.

We all watched a movie together this week, one called Everybody's Fine. If you have grown children, I think you'd like it. But beware--it's part feel-good and part-tragedy. No sex, perhaps one minute of violence, and probably six naughty words. You might want to read about it first. But anyway, it's a slowish, pensive road trip movie which made me want to make some changes in myself.

Thursday was amazing for I just relaxed and let go and didn't nag anyone and pretended we didn't even have a too-big yard. And gave myself--and Tom-- a break.

But then Friday came along. I was back to nagging Tom and God was back to convicting me Big Time and oh, the discomfort! But I keep telling God not to let me get away with anything, for eventually, great problems will erupt down the road if not nipped in their bud form. Hold onto one smouldering fleck of resentment and eventually you'll have a huge resentment bonfire inside your soul. So let's hope I will die to what causes me to nag out of fear (for Tom's unhealthy future) and the need to control my circumstances. It's high time to lose the fear and give the complete control over to God. Past time, really.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Finishing My Course With Joy ... And Love

"...that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God." Acts 20: 24.

Want to know Debra's new theme verse? That's it, above.

Last week, though I hated to, I had to block the email address of an elderly friend. Why? Because he kept sending the most negative, critical email forwards on the planet. A few of us on his list even requested that he always check with Snopes before forwarding such (untrue) hype, but he'd reply, "I did check at Snopes. They are so liberal that I can't trust what they say."

Oh dear.

I'm afraid we've forgotten why we are here. Too many of us believe we're fighting godly battles when all we're doing is criticizing and condemning people who do not know Jesus, people who are acting out of clueless, dark hearts. Desperate hearts which are clinging to sand--and falling.

Eons ago, God told me, "Stop expecting the unsaved to act like they are saved."

We are here to love God. We are here to love people to God. And we are here to fight principalities and powers and unseen forces, but we're not here to wield our swords of the Spirit at movie stars and the paparazzi and wicked ones who are ignorant and struggling and who will go limping into fires of hell unless we pull them from the path, first.

Criticism, anger and condemnation never saved anyone.

If only we would trade-in each complaint, each criticism, for a heart-burdened prayer for salvation, instead. If only! What would we see? I believe we'd see a whole different world than the one we've created.

May I finish my course with joy. May I not become an old, Gollum-like woman posting at Facebook with bitterness toward people who just do not 'get it.' Faith and Hope are amazing, but may I come to the end of my days showing Love--the greatest thing--toward those who are floundering and gasping for that which is real.



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"And when his disciples James and John saw this, they said, Lord, will you have us command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them, even as Elias did?

But he turned, and rebuked them, and said, You don't know what manner of spirit you are of. For the Son of man has not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them."

... Luke 9:54-56


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Are you becoming bitter or better?

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Of Finding Inspiration




"Be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the full armour of God ..." Ephesians 6:10


So this weekend Tom and I saw (again) the first two Lord of the Ring movies. We watch those films and, if we were feeling low and weak--by the time the credits roll--we're back to feeling strong and inspired and ready for new Life Battles.


Well, we were nearing the end of The Two Towers when Naomi called and asked if she could move back in with us for awhile. Alas. Surely God must have nudged us to watch those movies, for the timing was perfect.


Now, understand--Naomi is great. Our one and only. Our sweetie-pie who we love dearly. We're anticipating when she and the cats will move in tomorrow. But where Naomi goes, drama goes, too. And complication. In fact, I used to believe in black-and-white situations, but that was before I met Naomi. :) And too, there's a quiet heart sadness, for Naomi's life is not going as I dreamed when I held her as a baby long ago.


No, it's never easy to live with another adult in your home, especially if that adult is your grown-up child. Yet because of what God has done in the three of us since Naomi left home five years ago and because of lessons learned through such movies as The Lord of the Rings trilogy, well, I believe we'll be ok.


I mean, I think of how, in those films, the good, courageous men kept fighting even though they had huge ol' spears sticking through their armor. They were hurt, but they kept fighting for truth. (Note to self: keep the gaps out of your armour. Don't walk around with your feelings hurt, either. Pull out those unintended spears.) And when the brave men (and women) on the right side complained, whined or lost hope, well, it wasn't pretty, but rather pathetic. Yet when they were bold and strong and ready for any battle, small or huge, they were glorious. Like people I'd love to know. People who could inspire me off the self-pity couch any ol' day.


You get my point. Inspiration to keep going, to never give-up, to stay strong, well, it's all around us and available for anyone with eyes to see it, anyone wise enough to keep searching for what they need, rather than just complain about what's missing. God provides exactly what we require just when we need it as long as we keep on asking, keep on receiving and keep on walking up the road.



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The above (too dark, but the flash isn't right either) photo shows the desk I painted gold yesterday. It's about a million times better than the dark color it was stained before. I do love painted furniture, though Tom (like a typical man) isn't overly fond of it.


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Has anyone else ever thought that Orlando Bloom really should always wear his hair as he did while playing Legolas? I think of that every single time I watch these movies. :) (Honest, I'd love to know if you agree. Or am I the only one?)

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Oh! Lisa's comment reminded me of something. We've decided to keep Naomi's cats upstairs and Tom's and my cats, downstairs. I've spent the past couple days trying to make an apartment, of sorts, upstairs for Naomi and her cats.

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"For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God." ... Ephesians 6:12-17

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Of Moving Back Home

Oh dear.

Naomi is moving back home. She and her three cats, Ginger, Farrah and Sammy.

Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear.

When I agreed to this I looked over at Lennon and McCartney and thought, "You guys don't even know what you're facing. Poor kitties." They do know these other three cats, but they don't like them--and the feeling is mutual.

Well, it's just until Naomi finds an apartment, you understand. This is a hard time for her, a sad time, so we said, "Sure! Come and bring your stuff and your cats. We'll have a grand ol' time."

It's just until she finds an apartment.

Or did I already say that?

Let the new adventure begin.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

My Book

At least four of my blogging friends are currently writing books.

Four!

Now, Old Debra would have been, like, "Must. Write. Book. Also." You know, to keep up. To be as good as. To compete (though she wouldn't have admitted that.)

But New Debra, the one God has spent 16 long, interesting years remaking, will not be writing a book just because her friends are. No. She did, though, ask God, "Are you sure you still don't want me to write a book?"

And well, He said, "No. No book. Not yet."

Hmm. So much for that.

Life is so much simpler when I do only those things God gives me the strength and desire and courage to do. Otherwise, it's all uphill, and frankly, I prefer level paths. In all areas, actually.

Besides, I've already written my book, my 'letter to the world,' as Emily D. put it.

You're reading it. Eighteen hundred posts, and counting, about my life. And unless God whispers otherwise, this will be it. This will be all. And this will be more than enough.


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"Teach me your way, oh Lord. Lead me on a level path..." ... Psalm 27:11



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

Friday, July 23, 2010

Of Haunting Subway Rides

So yesterday Tom and I went to a Buffalo Bison's baseball game, our third one, I believe. Always, it's an adventure just getting your body to the stadium downtown. The most uncomplicated way (for us) is to park at the University and then take the subway.

The subway--wow, now there's a whole other world. Ride along those dark, underground tracks and you'll see nearly every sort of person ever created. Well, it feels like that, anyway, as you woosh along and gaze at your fellow wooshers.

And you know? It is so good for me to be reminded that not everyone is a young to middle-aged white farmer type, which is pretty much all we see out here in our Little Country Town In The Middle of Nowhere. It's important for me to remember that God so creatively made people different, gave them a variety of personality types and set them in varied parts of this world in cities, lake sides, suburbs, mountain tops and wide open spaces. You know, the Tower of Babel thing and all that. (A good reminder, that story, for me when I start feeling all Queen-of-the-World-like, all everyone-should-move-to-the-quiet-countryside.)

I love it when God reminds me that He doesn't call people to be hermits, living and dying alone, only unto themselves. But rather, that we are to serve one another in love, visit each other when we're sick or in prison and love others as we love ourselves. The hermit lifestyle is way less complicated (loving people can be messy), but it's also less fulfilling.

Reminders from God. That's what I always get when I ride that Buffalo subway, the one which is often called The Train to Nowhere. (You'd have to live here to understand that.) But oh my, the places that subway always takes me within my heart and head!





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Oh, and the baseball game was fun, even though the Bisons royally lost, nine runs to zero. Naomi was there with Dave and some of their friends, as well as two of our neighbors. Tom was given free suite tickets from work so we passed them around back in May.


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Downtown Buffalo has the most amazing architecture. Check out one of my favorite buildings here. City Hall is awesome, too.

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God invented different. God invented unique. And who am I to wish we were all alike?

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Where The Simple Life Is Not

"So I saw that there is nothing better for a man than to enjoy his work, because that is his lot." ... Ecclesiastes 3:22

Well, I think I figured-out a couple of the world's greatest mysteries.

Heh.

You know how people in Blogland (especially) tell you that if you move out to the country and buy an old farmhouse on a few acres with a few animals you'll be all set for The Simple Life?

Well, they lie.

According to the above verse, those people must surely be Workers. They discovered that, if you want to have a whole lot of enjoyment, move out to the country because you'll have a whole lot of work to do out there. Work, work, work, enjoy, enjoy, enjoy. That must be the motto within their heads.

And that's fine. Good and wonderful, even, especially if you're into living according to Bible verses such as the one, above.

But really, can we please stop calling it The Simple Life? Because oh my, it's not simple. It's hard. It's complicated. It's only for the very educated and education takes time and resources. And farming takes money (don't let anyone tell you it's cheap. It's not.) There's upkeep and digging and planting and fertilizing and gardening and weeding and mulching and repairing tractors and fences and repairing animals, too. And chopping and trimming and mowing and canning and freezing and traveling far to wherever you need to go. And--

It's so not simple.

But for some people, though, it is fulfilling. It's what keeps them happily busily. Occupied. In shape. Humming along. And on most days, that is me. Not all days (who enjoys their work every single day?), but most.

But do not come out here if you want The Simple Life. There's no leisure to be found here. Although, yes, you will loll around in the evenings on your couch or out on the lawn when your eyes and body droop and ache from all the work you did during daylight hours. But it's a happy kind of droop and ache for those who are willing to--yes--work, work, work.

But if you prefer the true Simple Life, stay in town with your supermarket down the block and your automated appliances and packaged foods and small yards. And be happy in your work there. We are all different and we all should live where we're most suited. There's no one right place or way for everyone on the planet to live. There's only one right place for you at this current time in your life and I hope you're living there right at this moment.

And I hope you're enjoying it.



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Ecclesiastes 8:15
So I commend the enjoyment of life, because nothing is better for a man under the sun than to eat and drink and be glad. Then joy will accompany him in his work all the days of the life God has given him under the sun.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Of Self-Control In The Midst of It All

(Written with a slight apology for my male readers, although if this helps you understand your wife better, then the apology is rescinded.)

Truly, you should be grateful that you weren't at my house yesterday, in the morning and afternoon, that is, because I was a hormonal mess. Cranky, then laughing, then crying, then cranky again. Cranky about what? Well, I tried thinking of what, but could not think of one thing. Hence, the certainty of the hormonal thing. Eegads.

So I knew I'd better eat some of my personal (blood type O) 'highly beneficial foods' listed in Eating Right For Your Blood Type. And though the cupboards are getting rather bare (because I try only to shop when I must), I snacked on some walnuts and cooked a sweet potato, drank some orange juice and took an extra Vitamin B Complex. Ate fresh fish and brown rice for dinner. I also mowed the lawn (for exercise), took a calming bath and rested often with a very soothing, Southern book called Saving Cee Cee Honeycutt.

And felt much better.

In the ten years of my pre-menopausal-ness, these times have come and gone, mostly gone, but when they come, well, they s-q-u-e-e-z-e me until the Real Debra comes out. And oh wow, sometimes she's not as holy as she believes herself to be. Actually, she more closely resembles a snapping turtle or a dark-room-preferring recluse.

Of course, it's uncomfortable to go through these hot flashes and mood swings, so one might argue that the Real Me might be sweet if she wasn't being squeezed and broiled and shot-up with moods. So perhaps it becomes more of a test for my self-control. How much self-control have I gained over the years? How important has it become to me to always treat people kindly even if I'm feeling all snippy inside?

Maybe that's the real test in all this, to not use my discomfort as an excuse to rip off your head if you disagree with me, or even, to condemn myself for any apparent 'going backwards' in lessons learned. (With God, there are very few true "I can't help its" allowed.) That, and learning to decipher what is real and what certainly is not. Moods and feelings which go from gleeful to sad to I'd-like-slap-somebody-for-no-reason in just fifteen minutes are not real. And may I remember that. And may I remain kind and self-controlled even in the heat of the next hot flash.


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"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control." .. Galations 5:22,23


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I'm feeling much better today, thank-goodness.

Monday, July 19, 2010

'Doing' Rather Than Accumulating

In my last post I alluded to Tom's and my present (and future) plans to do more things rather than buy more things. So since perhaps you, too, would like some activity ideas, here are a few for inspiration.


1. Attend classic car shows.
2. Take public garden walks (being the nosey type, I find it great fun to wander around people's backyards).
3. Visit the zoo.
4. Take local boat cruises or jet boat rides.
5. Visit your public library and libraries of other nearby towns.
6. Go to museums and historical society homes/buildings.
7. Take a picnic lunch to a park you've never visited before.
8. Sit and read or talk beside a lake or river.
9. Go to the movies.
10.Go out to eat at a restaurant/diner you've never eaten at before.Arrange to meet another couple there and treat them to a meal.
11. Volunteer at a soup kitchen or school or at a charity event.
12. Invite friends, new and old, over for a barbecue or dinner or brunch.
13. Take a drive out in the countryside or to a neighborhood with homes you enjoy staring at for ideas.
14. Attend open houses for ideas/inspiration (homes for sale, opened on the weekends).
15. Go to county fairs (don't forget to visit the farm animals!)
16. Visit friends in their homes. Take them a little gift.
17. Take a walk around your neighborhood. Introduce yourselves to neighbors who are out in their yards.
18. Take a vacation, either far away or near (day trips). Travel a different way than you usually do (train, plane, boat, bicycle, automobile).
19. Discover which kinds of unique places/activities are within a 25 mile (or so) radius of your home. Any short, old-fashioned train rides? Farms which give tours? Unusual gardens? One-of-a-kind museums?
20. Go camping in a tent, cabin, motor home, etc. Do a lot of hiking or biking.
21. Go on a charity run/walk.
22. Volunteer to help clean-up the litter from your town's streets. No need to officially volunteer--just do it.
23. Stop at local children's/men's/women's baseball games and pick a team to cheer for.
24. Travel to visit old friends you've not seen in ten or twenty years.
25. Visit the elderly in hospitals or special caregiving homes.
26. Take night classes together. Learn a new skill--photography, bird watching, gardening, hospitality, etc.
27. Stop at animal shelters and spend time with some lonely dogs and cats. You can volunteer there, too.
28. Go to a rodeo.
29. Attend indoor or outdoor concerts.
30. Walk downtown and smile at everyone you meet.

I'd love to hear more suggestions in my comment box!


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A special thanks to those of you who commented at my last blog post. It was rather hard to confess all that and your comments made me feel better about it.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

One of Those 'It Is What It Is' Posts



See the little shelf thingamajig? Another yard sale find yesterday. Cute, huh? The price was marked $10, but Tom offered $5 and they immediately took it. I guess he does come in handy.

But oh my... I wasn't thinking that earlier in the morning. His city boy ways were wildly evident again when he went ballistic about the tiny, nearly microscopic ants that formed a circle on the counter top. They don't bother me, but they surely bother him, though he has yet to buy ant traps. (People who complain but do nothing, well, you know what I think about them.)

Well, then (I must confess) I did some ballistic whining myself and told him I just can't take his city boy complaining anymore. "Life on a farm will never be bug-free," I told him, then I said, "We'll just have to put this place up for sale next spring. Either that, or I will get ulcers."

Sigh. Anyone else ever do things like that? I'm embarrassed to share that, but I just don't feel right not being truthful with you. He's so often complained about those summer nearly-invisible ants ... and inside gnats and outside mosquitoes... there's the tractor which is being fixed ... and the garage which is so full we can barely park in there and the five-foot-tall weeds and --. Plus, of course, there's our separate visions for this place and our totally different ways of handling all things farm-related.

Anyway, Tom left (in a huff), but he brought me back some coffee as a peace offering and things got better after that. Much better. And we both agreed that anyone who says Country Life is the Simple Life is, well, a big fat liar. We've never experienced so much complication in our lives.

Want the simple life? Move to the suburbs. You'll have a smaller yard to care for, the supermarket will be nearby, you'll use less gas going to where you need to go (so you'll save time and money). And that's just for starters. Yes, it's the suburbs where the simple life is located, so if you are there, you can stop searching for it. You've found it.

And once we got that all cleared up, we had an amazing time at a country-town-wide yard sale event. All those farmhouses with all those tables of stuff! Fun for now, but we also spoke of how--when we downsize-- we'll have to totally change our outings. Our activities will have to center more around doing than buying.

So the idea of downsizing and returning to the suburbs is now playing inside both our heads. It's there now. So consider yourselves forewarned. Nothing on this planet is forever, including Tom and Debra Out on The Farm, but in the meantime, I'll make the most of the days I have left here.





Anyway, see this shelf? I hung it yesterday, too, in the kitchen and it conjures up incredible old-fashioned-ness for me.




I also tweaked the items on these red shelves (which look a bazillion times nicer in person). Busy, busy in the kitchen yesterday. I try to tell myself it's to make Tom and myself more comfortable, but now the thoughts of making the house easier to sell are squeezing themselves past that. Again, I'm just saying...

I hope you're not terribly disappointed in us. I mean, we'll always be grateful we did this farm thing. That we were this bold. Always. Yet we all must know ourselves and how much we can take and how far we should go in pushing ourselves outside of the circle of Grace. And that's all I'm saying. For now.





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Of course, there's the chance Tom and I are just in a mood. Promise me you won't laugh if we live here another 10 years, ok?


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We find this kind of thing very inspiring.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

More Down On The Farm Pictures


Don't you just love sunflowers? They tickle my mind with thoughts of good memories and fun weekends.



These are my poor ol' farm shoes right before I threw them away. They served me well for probably six years, walked me over hundreds of miles during strolls in our former neighborhood, dark morning walks to our mailbox for the newspaper and miles behind our lawnmower here on the farm. I am not a 'shoe woman', I own probably just 5 pair of shoes, but I will miss these old faithfuls.




I bought this bowl at a yard sale because it reminded me of Peter Hunt and his young artists (a terrific website if you enjoy stories of searches for personal treasures). I first got to know Peter in Betty Cavanna's book, Paintbox Summer, a book I own and reread every single summer. Highly recommended if you can find it.



Found this dishtowel and one with a different embroidered design at a yard sale, too. As with sunflowers, these dishtowels also bring happy retro times to my mind.




Hot, sticky summer days. We're in the middle of those and I'm trying not to complain away their steaminess, lest winter arrive without my appreciating all the sunny months before it.

Happy hot summer days to you...



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Friday, July 16, 2010

Of Taking Me With Me Wherever I Go

Just thought I'd warn you: Some of you will hate this post.

Probably twenty years ago I sat thinking one day that no matter where Tom and I moved we always seemed to have the same type of neighbors. Stand-offish. No one even close to Lucy-and-Ethel-types who just dropped by. People who barely looked at us, waved or spoke to us. And we moved a lot so we're talking a lot of unfriendly neighbors.

Then I read something in a book which--at first--majorly bugged me. It was a little story of how Man #1 (let's call him) moved his family to a new town and the next day, Man #2 came and greeted him outside his home.

"So how do you like our town?" Man #2 asked.

"Well, so far we like it. We're hoping it will have friendlier people than in our last town. Our neighbors weren't very friendly, hardly spoke to us, and we spent years saving up to move away to someplace with friendlier people."

Man #2 replied, "Oh really? Well, I expect you'll find the very same type of unfriendly folks here."

"What?!" Man #1 exclaimed.

"Yes, people are generally the same wherever you go. What matters is how you treat them. That's what makes for good neighbors."

Ack! I so did not want to hear that, for of course, it's always easiest to blame other people for any unkindness. Yet you know? The more I thought about that little story, the more I realized that no matter which house Tom and I moved to, always we brought along our shy, stand-offish, wait-until-the-other-person-acts-kindly-first selves. We were always the same so, well, could that be why the neighbors always appeared to be the same sorts of people?

Sigh. Who likes to accept that sort of blame? Well, I've found that people who wish to grow-up and see good days (and a good life) do. So afterward, wherever we moved, I began to treat our neighbors differently. I waved more often, spoke more often, etc.-- and wow, poof! Instant friendly neighbors. Imagine that.

You take you with you wherever you go, you know. And people react accordingly. I mean, take Facebook, for instance. Lately, three or four dear old friends have told me that Facebook feels impersonal and they aren't into it. Facebook isn't personal? Oh my. You know how we can send one-on-one messages there? Well, I've received some of the kindest, most encouraging, most personal messages ever there at Facebook 'behind the scenes.' But then, I've also sent those kinds of messages, too.

And even on the more public home page I've read some of the most personal requests for prayer from dear old friends. And I've seen words of love and friendship exchanged between buddies who are so grateful to be reunited after whole decades, or even just sweet, thoughtful banter between young friends in their 20's or 30's. And I've received many encouraging responses to my silly and sometimes serious remarks and felt warmly connected to other living, breathing, loving souls. But only as I connect with them.

I take me with me wherever I go. I also reap what I sow--oh my, I so do, for good or for bad. And what I'm finding is that the way people treat me is not really because of who they are, but rather, because of who I am to them and how I make them feel, personally.



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"I don't know what your destiny will be, but one thing I do know: the only ones among you who will be really happy are those who have sought and found how to serve." ... Albert Schweitzer


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"Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." ... Luke 6:31

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Necessity of Your Own Life

Ages ago, I chatted with a widow (for some years) at church, probably 65-years-old, and sweet. We were speaking of mornings and I told her I usually am up before 6:00 a.m.. I asked if she, too, was an early riser and she nearly gasped, "Oh my, no. That would make my days feel ever so long. I try to stay in bed as long as I can."


Oh wow. I could only suck in my breath then change the subject for I felt surprised and so sad for her. Her words haunted me while I drove home that afternoon and they haunt me still.


Since then I have watched women lose their husbands either by death or divorce and here is what I've seen: The women who had created another life separate from their husbands, those are the women who survive. Thrive, even. After the initial shock, they do well, smile real smiles and discover other worlds and the people who people them.


But then there are the others. You know, those who clung to their husbands for all their support and encouragement and companionship. The ones who had outside acquaintances and activities, yes, but no close friendships or passionate interests. Mostly, their spouse was not just the center of their world, but their whole darn world, period.


No need to draw you pictures of what happened to those women after their losses. You can imagine how they fell down hard, splattered, crumbled and then needed whole truckloads of Christians to help peel them off the floor of despair.


So today? Today I would tell those of you who are married: Get A Life. You know, a life apart from your spouse, separate from him/her. A nice life, certainly--I mean, hey, I'm not hinting at a secret, tip-toeing-down-alleys-behind-his-back kind of life. Uh, of course not.


But I mean please discover something else you are passionate about. If you're still not sure of God's unique calling made especially for you, well, now is a marvelous time to discover what He designed you to do. It amazes me how many women don't know what their special talents are. How can we use those gifts to help other people if we don't know what they are?


Even something simple like learning to love your daily rituals is big. Teach yourself to find the joy and peace in drinking your morning coffee or washing your dishes or folding your laundry. Develop good habits like taking walks, deadheading your flowers, reading inspiring books and learning new hobbies and skills each year. 


And above all, discover who you are in God and who He is in you. With all your heart, seek to love Him best. Better than anyone else.


Discover and learn and do and be you today. Learn what you like (and what you don't) and what you do best. Step away from any fears which have held you back from a brand new life. But don't wait for your spouse to join you. No, this has nothing to do with him/her. This is for you, this is for now and this is for later, too.






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Sometimes your daily rituals are the only highlights of your day. But that's ok, even wonderful, if you've learned to love and treasure your rituals.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Going Nag-Free-- And Liking It

Gah.

Some lessons we learn at once, others we must learn over and over, perhaps because, well, who knows?

Anyway, this Do Not Nag Your Husband lesson is one I must re-learn, like, every year. Maybe it's because of personal insecurities which make me want to control as much of my world as I can. Maybe my self-worth still has too much of a strangle-hold on having to have things look perfect. (You know, all what will people think, say or do?--ish.) Perhaps I'm afraid I can't be contented living with what I perceive to be ugly.

I do know that this farm life of ours opened up a whole new world to Tom, got him out of the house (after 29 years when yard work was my thing), and we've been butting heads out in the yard ever since. Well, kinda. He just has such different outdoor ideas! Different indoor ones, too, for that matter.

So for two years now, whenever I forget my myriad Do Not Nag Your Husband lessons, I nag him about all the junk inside the garage and barn and whine and nag when he loads more garage things into the car from yard sales. And each time he suggests yard ideas which I think are, well, ghastly, I give him eight (panicky, high-pitched) reasons why they'd throw off the whole feng shui and chi-whatever of the farm yard. And let's not even mention all the nagging I do about the fatty, salty food he loves.

Hmm... (drawing a curtain over what could be a book...).

Anyway, around Friday, God sat back down at his teacher's desk, sat me down at the pupil's desk and reminded me that, 1.) Nagging does not work. Usually the exact opposite of your desired results take place. 2.) Nagging is naughty. Unbiblical. And makes me look and sound like a witch. 3.) Nagging carries over into other areas for both people involved. Tom's life will feel worse and so will mine, what with the low-key resentment I lug around in my heart. And 4.) Nagging shows God that I don't trust Him to work on Tom, hence my 'helping God out' with my cranky, screeching whining.

Blah.... blah.... blah..... :)

Well. After returning to the classroom with God and after confessing I'd forgotten all my previous Thou Shalt Not Nag lessons, I admitted my transgressions to both Tom and God and determined to change.

And guess what? We had an amazing weekend! (Shocker, that.) We went and saw Toy Story 3 and both adored it (my second time to see it, even.) We drove to yard sales (I'd been on yard sale strike for two weeks, then realized I was the only one suffering here) and had great times and I found cool books, too. We ate fatty, salty food together (man, it was tasty). And we even attended an annual town fair, complete with a petting zoo and wild birds, pony rides, a classic car show and chain saw sculptures.

It wasn't even that the activities were so wild and unusual, but rather, the sweet fellowship was back. Tom wasn't just waiting to make one wrong move and then hear me go off, boom! with complaining. No, I not only held my tongue (stuffing things down inside only leads to eventual physical problems), but I went one better. I just let go of what I wanted, what I thought was best, what I believed was wisest. And had one amazingly fun weekend.

Imagine that. Imagine God knowing best.

Now, if I can only remember these lessons for more than 3 months...



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"Guard your heart with all diligence; for out of it flow the issues of life." ...
Proverbs 4:23



"A quarrelsome wife is like
a constant dripping on a rainy day..." ... Proverbs 27:15

Friday, July 09, 2010

Of Provision and Irons And Dark, Boring Boxes




Tom's sister and her husband gave us an iron and an ironing board as wedding gifts over thirty years ago (far away in California) and I still have the ironing board. But wow, that iron! The best iron I ever had, it lasted around 22 years and I'd probably still have it if I hadn't dropped it a ton of times (oh, those wiggly ironing boards...heh...). I've owned three (modern, wimpy) irons since replacing that faithful old original just nine years ago.

I iron Tom's clothes and the occasional curtain or damask dinner napkin around twice monthly and earlier this year I wished I had an iron as efficient and downright smooth as the wedding gift one. I may have prayed to find such an iron, I can't recall, but I certainly do remember pining for the old, faithful baby and wondering if I'd have to settle for another flaky new one (you realize, don't you, that nowadays they make stuff to purposely fall apart so you'll have to replace it, right?).

Well. This past June while I wandered around a multi-family yard sale in the hot sun, guess what I found? Not just a heavy-duty, lovely iron, no. But my exact wedding iron's twin sister! New and still inside her (opened) 31-year-old box, even. And just $3.

Can you believe it? Even in the sunshine, I shivered to hold it and I was so reminded that God "can do exceedingly, abundantly above all we can dare ask, hope or think." Really He can and He does.

All the decades that I've been a simple homemaker, people have told me that--nowadays--families cannot survive on one income. And you know? It's a weird feeling to be told you are doing something that cannot be done. But for over 30 years I've watched God provide for us outside of the box labeled "You Must Do And Believe Like Everyone Else Does." He's cared for us in wild, mind-boggling ways because we expected Him to keep His word and to make up the difference in areas where we fell short, even after doing our best. (And of course, He's been awfully merciful when we just foolishly used money sometimes.)

And that's the way I like to live--trying to use wisdom and depending on God, not on myself, or Tom's job, nor our Country's economy. It's like when one Christian blogger wrote that she and her family would not be participating in America's recession. I loved that, for it's amazing when people reach-out beyond believing what they've been told they believe. And I love reading stories of other families who escaped the box, who now live so far outside of it that they don't even remember marching single-file in the dark bottom, surrounded by all those stifling walls and corners.



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"I have been young, and now I am old, but I have never seen a righteous person abandoned or his descendants begging for food." ... Psalm 37:25


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Oh, how I love my new iron! Perfectly pressured and all hot and steamy and I'll say it--dreamy. (Happy sigh.)

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Of Hutches and Expectancy


Our town is so tiny (how tiny is it?) that we don't even have a supermarket, but rather, just a convenience store. (Though, after going 6 months without even that, trust me, I'm grateful for it.)

Yet we do have an antique co-op inside of an old 1800's church. Very spiffy indeed. So when we moved here two years ago we visited that antique store and immediately, I fell in love with the hutch you see, above. We sorely needed a hutch like that, what with our drawer-less, upper-cabinets-less kitchen. But the hutch was $600 and we were pouring money into necessary (but kinda boring) things like windows from this century and insulation, having the floors refinished, a whole new garage, concrete, etc.

But for two years that hutch stayed on my mind and we'd visit it, even, sometimes, there at the antique shop.

Then finally we (especially me) felt the time was right to bring our hutch, home. So last Saturday Tom went down to make an offer on it after we both agreed I'd stay home because he loves to make wild low offers on everything and I prefer that both parties get a good deal, causing whispered friction. (Eons ago we owned a little music store and I practically gave away our inventory. My heart is too soft to be a salesman).

Well. They'd already lowered the price on the hutch to $485 and Tom made one of his ridiculous offers to the woman behind the counter. Three-hundred dollars. Good grief. And so the woman picked up the phone to call the owner of that particular hutch to see if he'd accept the offer, but oh my, Tom later told me that she was highly doubtful that this deal would go through.

The owner didn't even make a counter-offer. Instead, he accepted Tom's offer and the woman at the co-op was astounded! She shook her head and repeated over and over while Tom wrote his check, "He just never does that. I can't believe he came down that much. He just never does that."

I love it when that happens. And I also love it when I keep believing for good things, rather than bad. For you know, sometimes my 'expector' gets broken, becomes all negative, doubt-stuffed and pathetic. But more and more, Grace is there to nudge me and whisper, "Hey, Sweetie! Surely goodness and mercy shall follow you all the days of your life, remember? Whatever happened to believing for godly favor, blessings and miracles?"

Yes, Grace. You're so right and I so need those reminders.





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So what are you expecting? Lots of good things or bad?

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Complain, Complain, Complain

"And when the people complained, it displeased the Lord: and the Lord heard it... " ... Numbers 11:1



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Never fails. Every summer the Holy Spirit goes into overtime convicting me about my complaining.

Why every summer? Because it begins with my oft complaints about the heat. "Man, it's so hot. I think I'm gonna die. All these fans in here are so loud that we have to shout at each other. This computer is making me even sweatier. So I get out to mow the yard early in the morning, but it's still so blooming hot and wipes me out the whole rest of the day."

But you know where all that leads don't you? Those it's-too-hot complaints come flowing over my tongue so free and easy and then that new complaining habit spreads like a prairie fire.

"I barely slept last night. The garage is a big, fat mess so I'm not going out there until you clean it up, Tom. People are so grouchy lately. It's time to feed the birds again? Man, they're like teensy pigs with wings. My head hurts. I'm sick of reading books--that's all I've been doing because it's too hot to do anything else."

And on and on to infinity.

You'd think I'd learn, but every summer I have to relearn this lesson: Become free and easy with complaining about summer heat and eventually you'll wake up deep inside Sad, Sorry Complaining World.

And that's one dark planet where it's not a cinch to escape.

No, it takes lots of help from God, tons of reminders (dare I say nagging?) from the Holy Spirit to yank you back out to the fresh air of gratitude and acceptance and making the most out of what you have.

I know this. I've been through this. And I'm in the middle of that Holy Spirit Yanking Process once again. Thank-goodness.



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Form a complaining habit and it will carry you to places you do not wish to go.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Summer Morning Magic

On these soft, humid mornings when 6:30 comes around, I switch on the old-fashioned kitchen radio and listen to The Writer's Almanac. Oh, that buttery, soothing voice of Garrison Keillor! I pour kibble into the cats' dishes and ready Lennon's syringe and Garrison tells me about the writers born on this day and that voice, that voice! transports me back to years I never knew, years before I was born and to country places and homes I never visited before where women wore aprons and hummed about the kitchen while pouring tiny glasses of orange juice.


Every weekday morning this is my treat.


And then Garrison reads a poem and oh, those poems carry me even further away until I am not even me, but someone else swooping into windows of houses no longer standing, a fly on the wall watching people no longer there, but in Heaven.


Then at the end of just those five moments Garrison stops speaking, his program's music ends and I'm back in my kitchen, awaking with a can of cat food in my hand at the refrigerator door. And smiling all dreamy-eyed.


Here was the poem Garrison's read just moments ago, but without that voice of his, ah! The voice of someone doing exactly what he was called to do in this world, well, it's a nice poem, yes, but you'll have to do the best you can to find the extra magic.



Letter to My Mother
by Robert PhillipsSpinach Days)

You helped me pack for that milestone event, first time away from home alone.It didn't matter the summer camp was poor—long on Jesus, short on funds—bordering a tea-colored lake. No matter we could afford only two weeks. To help get there I hoarded months of allowances. I was ten, felt grown,I finally was going somewhere on my own.You folded the ironed tee-shirts and skivvies—you even ironed and creased my dungarees.In Southern drawl: "And of course you'll dress for dinner!" you said, packing with the rest my one blazer, dress shirts, and red tie.I didn't protest, I was an innocent stander-by.(The suitcase was a new brown Samsonite.Even empty that thing never was light.)First exhilarating day—after softball, archery, diving instruction (which I took to swimmingly)—came rest hour. While others took a shower or wrote postcards home, I dressed for dinner:the white shirt, the pre-tied striped tie,the navy jacket. In process I received a wry glance from my counselor. The dinner bell tolled,I felt every bit the gentleman as I strolled toward the rustic dining room. I entered,the room exploded with boyish hoots and laughter,pointing at me, the funniest thing they'd seen. They still had on their shorts or jeans.The rest of the two weeks were impossible.Not chosen for any teams, called a fool,Mother, I was miserable through and through.But when I came home I never told you.
"Letter to My Mother" by Robert Phillips, from Spinach Days. © JHU Press, 2000.


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What? You've never listened to The Writer's Almanac? Oh dear. Well, now you can go here and listen for yourself.(Click on 'Listen.') Perhaps some of you will understand my early morning enchantment. Perhaps.


(Any other faithful listeners of The Writer's Almanac out there in Blogland?)


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"Be well, do good work and keep in touch." ... Garrison Keillor

Monday, July 05, 2010

Compassion? Or A Savior Complex?





A Christian man I know said he had so much compassion for the poor, hopeless people of this world that it made him sad, like, all the time. He cried for poor, lonely people, prayed for them, of course, too. And over time I watched him become, well, paralyzed. He felt so sad, so much 'compassion,' that he became overwhelmed and could think of little else besides how vast numbers of people are being mistreated and having hard lives. He became mad at Christians who didn't do enough and at his own limitations and ended up helping no one.

Another Christian, a woman author, says she feels great compassion for single mothers having rough times and teens, too, who are wandering so far from God. She often comes across these people, and unlike the man above, at least she gives to them what God nudges her to give, be it money or gifts or just the right words they need to hear. So that's wonderful, but she always feels it's never enough. And the majority of her years she's spent in sadness--if she's not grieving emotionally for herself, she's grieving for/with others in trouble. Usually both.

In everything, there is balance, as well as seasons. A time to weep with those who weep--yes! But that season is not 24/7 all the days of our lives, for the Bible also adds there's a time to rejoice and dance and praise God with joyful songs and to see good days.

True, godly hope--I think that's what may be missing in the hearts of those sad, 24/7 weepy Christians who say they're just extra compassionate. I mean, godly hope is full of anticipation! Pray some prayers with godly hope and you'll look forward to their being answered. To you, it's just a matter of time and--in the meantime--you can hold onto that anticipation that God will come through.

And that is what matters most--that I believe God will come through and save the day, heal the hurt, become the friend who sticks closer than a brother. Not that I rush around, by myself, trying to save the day and be the all in all for the whole silly Planet. Uh, no. (That may sound funny, but I've known people who believe they are called to do that.)

No, I cannot help every single poor, downcast person in this world, but then, God would never ask one person to do so! (Personally, I don't believe He'd put the burden of the whole world upon one single heart, either.) We all have different callings, we  are each a necessary piece in this huge puzzle. 

What remains is for each of us to do his/her own small part in meeting those needs, so that in turn, all needs will be met.

And if God asks us to do a thing? He'll enable us to complete it. It will get done without leaving us prostrate, exhausted upon a couch, helpless. God isn't mean like that. Always, God sends Grace along to help lift and encourage us.

If He's asking us to help three people, then He'll equip us to help three people. But we're being foolish if we allow ourselves to throw up our hands, to become paralyzed because we're unable to help three million souls, instead. Or the whole neighborhood, the entire town or the complete county.

With obedience, comes joy, which then becomes our strength to complete any task in season or out. And always, God is enough. 




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The goal is never that we become anyone's everything. That goal is God's, alone.


"And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who seek Him." ... Habrews 11:6

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Real 4th of July Freedom

The Fourth of July!

When I was 14, our church gathered to celebrate the 4th on the patch of lawn very near the parsonage where my family and I lived (my dad being the pastor). On that early evening we girls dished up our potluck plates inside the church kitchen then carried them outside where we sat upon caramel wood-slatted fold-up chairs, laughing and chatting about the church boys in attendance and those who were not.

When the skies darkened, the ladies served homemade strawberry ice cream and I still remember that sweetness and all the love which surrounded me, those good people upon those chairs around me, accepting and loving me just as I was. Until we attended that church, I'd never felt that kind of love, and on that night, it was magnified.

Then the fireworks in the park across the street began. Booms! And sparkles and colors and the emotion I felt choked me, but nicely, and I knew I'd never forget that night--and I never have. Each 4th of July I polish that memory, and other similar ones, and keep them shining.

I know some people today who feel that, ok, it's all right to spend Independence Day with friends and family, but you'd better also spend some time thanking God for our freedoms as a Nation (or else!). And you'd sure better fly a flag or you're positively un-American. And on Memorial Day and Veteran's Day you'd better fly that flag, too, and thank a veteran and spend the whole day feeling somber, though grateful, for all those who have gone on before us.

And if you don't pass their thoroughly Thankful, Somber Patriotic American Test? Oh my. You are in trouble, Sister. Instant silent, seething displeasure (or not so silent.)

I feel bad for those stressed-out mama's trying to make this huge, huge world obey them. All those Holy Ghost Wannabes racing around telling us how to feel, how to think right thoughts. Their thoughts. The only proper thoughts (according to them).

But oh, the peace of personal obedience, of policing our own selves, our own thoughts and daily asking God, "What would you like to change in me today?" For the only person we can change, can make obey, is ourselves (God making those changes. And good luck getting it right 100% of the time.)

We can live lives which inspire others to change and we can share our own stories and think our own thoughts. But to use hammers of "you shoulds" and "you oughts" to beat people over the head? Well, we can try, but hammers create opposite effects when we force good behavior, when we rip away peoples' freedoms to think and do for themselves. Not even God does that, you know. Nor should we wonder why our own heads ache when we do use that hammer on others' heads.

So celebrate the 4th as you will today, or don't celebrate. Have a picnic or recline inside, watch fireworks or slip into bed early. Think or don't think grateful thoughts. But as for me, I'll recall that summer night of my 14th year and I'll think gratefully of the freedoms I still have and for the God who has given me this wonderful Life and His amazing, freedom-inventing self.


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Happy 4th of July to all my faithful readers!

Saturday, July 03, 2010

The Secret Love Place

The best thing I ever, ever did in my whole life?

In 1994 I fell passionately in love with Jesus.

That's it. Oh, and I stayed in love with Him. That's important. No, vital.

It's the staying in love that gets you through all the painful pruning He does. Snip. Snip. Ouch! Snip.

It's the staying in love that takes you through the agonizing dying to self over to the Real Life, the New Life, on the other side.

It's the staying in love which helps you forgive people and circumstances and yes, God Himself, when He uses everything to test you. To see if what He spent weeks teaching you sunk in this time and became a solid, permanent part of you.

It's the discovering that Love Place where you go when you ache to give-up that keeps you growing and even going out for more death, more growth. It's the Love Place which eventually expands, spreading to give you a peace which travels with you, even to the deadliest battle lines. And it's that Love Place, the God sitting there waiting for you, that brings a sweetness, a we'll-get-through-this, which wraps around your heart, buffering the hardest blows and reminding you of the love that is behind all the death, all the growth, all the becoming.




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"He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty." ... Psalm 91:1