Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Of Christmas Tweaked



And so it begins.

Christmastime.

Bleh.

Ha! I'm probably one of the few Christian bah humbugs that you know, but if you've been reading here long, you know that what I object to is the Christmas frenzy. The trappings. The wild-eyed-must-have-and-see-and-do-it-all-ness of it all.

And those silly deflated, face-down Santas splattered all over everybody's lawns.

And Rudolph (who's on tv tonight). The whole terrible tragedy of the little guy.

I prefer a type of year-around Christmas. It's quite different and the fun lasts much longer.

But anyway, remember when Ma Ingalls told Laura: "There's no great loss without some gain"? Well, guess what's been swirling inside my head this week?

Why? Because for the last five Christmases (or more) we've been downscaling Christmas majorly around our house. Fewer decorations. No parties. Less gifts each year. No tree except for the gold grapevine one I pulled from the basement (perpetually decorated so I could just plop! it on the table).

But in our Big Move, we even gave that away.

And each year, I've enjoyed Christmas more. The fewer the trappings, the greater the room for Christmas joy, I say.

And then last year I kept repeating, "Next year let's scale back even more, ok?" Tom and Naomi nodded agreement, though not as excitedly as I did. So, well, guess what? The 'no great loss without some gain' thing is our wonderful excuse this year. Because Tom was downsized into Unemployment Land, we have our legit reason to cut way, way back and do Christmas ultra-sanely.

(Insert the Hallelujah Chorus here.)

I already had my lovely half-off Victoria Christmas cards (from last January) and the stamps I'd stocked up on. Scribbling messages on Christmas cards is lovely and Grace-filled so that tradition will remain.

And our old-fashioned kitchen radio dial is already set on the Constant Christmas station. There's nothing like carols in the kitchen while my fingers shape pie dough and I'm gazing out on a snowy field laced with trees. So I will bake treats and sing along with the radio.

At Thanksgiving, Tom, Naomi and I discussed a money limit for each other, a lower one than ever, citing also that creativity is good and if we can make things or find gifts for free, well, so much the better. So look-out online credit card--you will be on a diet this December.

There will be gifts for our parents. Offerings for the needy, too. Hopefully a morning visit around the table with two of my friends. Maybe a few Christmas lights wrapped around the furniture. I'll retrieve our one (and only) box of Christmas decor from the attic and watch a few Christmas dvd's (don't you just love the Charlie Brown one?). And we'll eat a pleasant Christmas dinner, of course.

And well, that will be about it.

But it will be lovely and peaceful and hopefully, Jesus-centered.

And definitely, mall-mob-free. :)



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What are your favorite Christmas movies? The ones I've watched a bazillion times are the aforementioned Charlie Brown's Christmas, A Christmas Carol (with Geoge C. Scott. Hard to believe I used to have a major crush on him at age 14 after I saw him in Jane Eyre), the first two Home Alone movies (I know, I know, but I love them), It's a Wonderful Life, Prancer, Miracle on 34th Street, Ebbie, Christmas in Connecticut and While You Were Sleeping which I consider a Christmas movie when others might not.



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Monday, November 29, 2010

Traveling Beyond Wishing



"If wishes were horses, beggars would ride." ... what my mother used to always tell me.


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So the other morning while I walked down our dirt driveway to get the newspaper from the mailbox, I gazed around at the sun and the lawns and bare orchard trees, breathed deeply of country air and thought, "Oh, how I wish that today was early spring. I wish that winter was over and soon the buds on our magnolia tree would open all pinky-purple glorious."

Of course, this little voice inside cleared its throat and said, "Uh, Debra. You do realize that winter hasn't even begun, right? And that wishing will never, ever make Spring follow Autumn? So why waste time and emotional energy and risk discontentment?"

Yeah, yeah, yeah. Sometimes Wisdom can be such a drag. :)

Yet of course, he's right.

Speaking of that, I'm thinking that sometime three nights ago, Grace, likely because of my ignorning her, crawled out the window and raced far away into the darkness. All these months since Tom was laid off I've been pretty darn patient having him constantly around the house. But lately! Oh dear, I've been all, nag, nag, nag and complain, complain, complain.

The wishing thing is also tripping me up with Tom's being home all the time.

How? Well, since The Day Our World Changed, poor ol' Debra has fashioned herself overwrought with all the extra work. She's had more dishes to wash, more meals to cook, more clutter to pick up and more laundry to wash (Tom's work uniforms used to be professionally cleaned). And since I'm trying to make and save money in hyper-drive so I can avoid the outside scary workplace, I'm on the computer more often while I complete my surveys, find and print coupons and brush-up on my something-from-nothing skills. Not to mention the extra writing I should be doing for possible income, something I'm mostly avoiding, so it's rather heavy on my mind.

And so, in the midst of all that, plus computer problems (hey, why not?), I've mega-wished that things were as they used to be--but more than that--I've wished I was as cheerfully adaptable as I believed I was.

So. Over and over, I grab myself by the collar and shake myself a bit. When I catch myself wishing, doing the ol, "Calgon, take me away," thing (yes, even escaping to the bathtub at times), I stop. Just stop in whichever room I happen to be and firmly tell myself, "Debra, get a grip. Get proactive. Get a plan."

And then I fix things. For example, rather than trying to write blog posts here while Tom's shoot 'em up tv shows blare three feet away (making me wear headphones with music playing, now hearing gunfire and music ) I, instead, write here while Tom is sleeping. Or away at doctor appointments and errands or while he's quietly reading the newspaper. I mean, why create frustration when I can avoid it?

And when I stopped wishing for my own room downstairs (and stopped complaining that the formica table in the bay window just was. not. working.), a terrific idea popped into my head. Why not create a desk area at our hoosier cabinet, instead? When I need time alone and some quiet, I can pull the pocket doors closed between the dining room and living room, sit at the hoosier and softly play my record albums at my feet. And now I love that area.

Moving some of my workload to 6:30 a.m. Cooking a few meals ahead. Picking-up all day with no words, just (glad) acceptance. Changes, changes. Is the list endless, I wonder?

And yet plugging away at what is bugging me, discovering one solution at a time and creatively fixing what's making me bonkers instead of zapping my mental strength with wishing and nagging (causing more problems)--that's the way to go, I'm finding. For me, anyway.

After all, where there's a will there is a way. My mother used to tell me that, too.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Of Secret Egg and Film Messages

Odd title, I know.

The afternoon before Thanksgiving I stepped to the refrigerator for some eggs so to whip-up two pumpkin pies. Yet when I opened the styrofoam egg carton, all that greeted me were empty egg shells.

Funny, Tom. Thanks for that. (heh)

But then I glanced at the inside of the lid and in swirly letters was stamped this phrase: "Good morning, Beautiful!" Awww... I whispered, "Good morning to you, too," and then thanked the egg company for thoughtfully including such a sweet message.

Well, fortunately we'd picked up some eggs at Aldi's so I retrieved them from the fridge, opened the lid and alas! Twelve lovely whole eggs and in small script along the lid's bottom were these words, "This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it. Psalm 118:24"

Wow. The sun shining through the window became even brighter. A real-live Bible verse inside a carton of eggs, from Aldi's of all places! And there within my kitchen God reminded me He really is everywhere and, if I keep my eyes open, I will catch every glimpse.

And while I cracked open three eggs, I remembered that, 29 years ago just before I mailed away some film to be developed (anyone else recall those days?), I slipped a piece of paper inside with a Bible verse. Can't recall which verse, but I'd recently heard a sermon which encouraged us to fling God's Word out everywhere to a hurting world.

Well, two weeks later when the photos arrived inside our post office box, I opened the company's envelope and there, in tiny script stamped just below the flap were two Bible verses. I think my heart skipped one beat for hey, this was a secular photo company, yet an employee had taken the time to pass along divine words of encouragement just for me, almost like a secret correspondence between Christians, a reminder that Christians are everywhere, too.

We are not out there by ourselves, alone.

Twenty-nine years later I've never forgotten. That's the sort of thing which stays with you for always, for God's Word is like that and obedience and kindness can go deep into areas of the heart, making changes, some which last forever.



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Never, ever believe that your God-given gifts and ministry must reach and touch huge numbers of people. What is huge to God is simple, unquestioning obedience to His most simple requests.


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Looks like other people appreciate Goldhen eggs' Bible verse, also. Go here to read some comments.


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Thanks so much for your anniversary good wishes here and at Facebook! What a treat they were to Tom and myself.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

If Forever Was Like Today

Today was one of those days that makes me think, "If suddenly! Tom, Naomi, our collective cats and I were sucked into a sort of Twilight Zone vortex where, for the rest of our lives, we must remain inside this old farmhouse, living just as we lived today, just us three, ourselves, well, I could do that. Contentedly and with a heart full of gratitude. For the remainder of my days upon Earth."

That's how great was our Thanksgiving. And Tom's and my anniversary.

I hope your day was even nicer.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Pumpkins and Coupons and Anniversaries, Oh My!



So we are at 38 sunny, though chilly degrees this afternoon, but a dear old friend from the hometown we visited on vacation stated on Facebook that they are at a mere 5 degrees. Oy! So you'll hear no complaints about our nippiness (which suddenly feels not so nippy).

Speaking of Facebook, did you know you can sign- up with people like Coupon Dad or Money Saving Mom (etc.) and they'll give you links on your home page for coupons and such? Already I've received my free Purina One (good sized) pouch from Walmart and next they will send me a free serving of vanilla -flavored coffee. Thanks to Money Saving Mom for those. And just moments ago, because of Coupon Dad, I downloaded two coupons which will each get me $1 off of a cute little box of Birds Eye vegetables.

Just thought I'd mention yet one more great thing about Facebook. :)

Oh! And regarding all the leftover printed paper below the coupons I print ... I've been cutting that into semi-uniform pieces (approximately 3 x 8 inches), stacking them, then stapling them together at the top so to make tablets for scribbling notes. That's an old idea I've used off and on for the past 25 years or so. Great for shopping lists, bookmarks, notes for family members, etc.

I just got in from my petrified garden where I wrestled a pumpkin from its vine so I could slice it, then bake it for pumpkin puree for pies. I followed Mary Jane Butter's 'recipe' from the latest issue of her magazine--I've not made my own pumpkin puree in probably 21 years. (Whenever I need to recall how long ago something was, I always ask myself, "How old was Naomi at that time?" and then figure the difference between her age then and now. Does anyone else measure time by the ages of your children?)

And lastly, tomorrow is not only Thanksgiving, of course, but it's also Tom's and my 32nd anniversary. Wow. Thirty-two long, hard years as we are known to joke to each other. :)



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Happy Thanksgiving to you, my Readers! On this Thanksgiving Eve, I am thankful for you.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Of Entering From a Peaceful Place

So. Remember when I told you how I'd earned $6.80 from Opinion Outpost and I showed you the photos of items I'd bought for such a tiny amount? Well, on Saturday I sent away for my first check from Opinion Outpost for a whole $22.80.

I am thrilled. In fact, that day I also signed-up with Survey Mastermind where you can join lots of other survey websites and earn more money and things like gift cards from Amazon.com.

And the day before that? Well, for years, two of our credit card companies had been sending little catalogs showing us what we could buy with our reward credits. I peeked at a catalog and saw that for, like, 3,000,000 reward credits you, too!, could be the proud owner of two wine glasses. Of course, I shook my head and muttered, "Big deal. I could find those at a yard sale for 50 cents each. Besides, we don't even drink wine." heh.

Then I tossed the catalog and laughed at our thousands of reward credits. "What a scam," I mused.

Well. Being part of a jobless twosome makes you lots more sensitive to give-aways and such. So on Friday I actually read through one of those catalogs and saw that, aha! I could use our years' worth of rewards for cash. Good ol' American currency, not just silly, overpriced wine glasses.

So I went online, signed up there with our two credit cards and soon two checks for $85, total, will grace our mailbox. And when you add that to my Opinion Outpost check, well, hey! That's a whole $107.80 in one weekend. Kinda. Plus, there was the nearly $40 I saved at the supermarket with specials and coupons (paying $70, not $110).

I so get workaholics now. This money-making thing really can become addictive once you start making it, huh? :)

But you know? Someday, oh dear, I just may have to go out and get a real job and part of me says to that, "Eww! Sputter, cough, gag, don't-wanna-and-what-am-I-qualified-for-anyway-sputter-sputter."

Yet here's what I'm thinking today, perhaps just to prepare my head for that possibility: If I must work outside our home, may I enter the workforce from a peaceful place. May I go out singing, not writhing. May I expect to be joyfully surprised rather than walk in with a heart spilling dread.

May I expect God's amazing help, rather than my own failure.

Whatever I do, today or whenever--be it shopping in crowded places or going to the dentist or spending time with difficult people--may I enter each open door from a peaceful place within me. And may God keep emptying my inner places of wrong thinking and poison and discontent so that whole rooms will be left empty so to fill-up with peace galore. Peace which can then spill and spread wherever He may take me, even to distasteful places, making them distasteful no more.



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Oh! And I forgot to mention this money-saving hint which our friend, Darcy from Nevada told us about during her October visit. She said a friend of hers, in her checkbook, always rounds her checks up, not up or down accordingly. And each year, she uses the few hundred dollars extra to go on vacation(!) Now, if I could just remember to do that...

Monday, November 22, 2010

It Was The Control Issue Thing After All

I used to complain majorly when stores pinned-up their Christmas decorations in August and displayed their It's a Wonderful Life dvd's and holiday project supplies and green and red foiled candy bags with reckless abandon during Labor Day week.

I'd write essays about the folly of all that and determine not to shop at those stores (or I'd go and then sail down the aisles with my cart and righteous indignation). I'd pretend all the green and red was gone and I'd complain in my heart (and to any live person who paused to listen) about rushing Christmas rather than appreciating Autumn yet unspent.

What a big, fat, huge waste of Time. And energy, daylight, health and breath.

It was all about control--or the lack thereof. Here was yet one more part of my life where I could not make people do what I believed they should. Just one more area where ol' Debra couldn't force folks to view Life as she does and then do what she thought best.

When I got married I experienced Control Freak Frustration big time. I mean, I'd waited all those 18 years to become an adult, all the while believing this annoying lie, "When you grow-up, you can do whatever you want." (Huh. As if!) Then I married at 19 and discovered the ol' marriage-is-all-about-compromise thing and God says women aren't supposed to boss their husbands around and you have to wait for having Enough Money and a baby changes everything and if, after you've worked all day you have any time or money or strength left, well, then you can do what you want.

But still I tried and tried to control all of my pieces of Life and all of yours, too, and all of the whole world's, including the Christmas in August thing.

And finally--finally!-- I just got tired. Tired of the frustration neck aches. Tired of bossing around the whole wide world like an orchestra leader standing in the center of a wild mob with instruments, each playing his own song, yet with me twirling around and around, trying to force all band members to play the same song

Oh the dizziness! And do you know why it didn't work? Because from In The Beginning, it was never supposed to work.

We're all meant to play our own songs--and to God, above--the songs rise and make perfect harmonies for Him. And that's how it was supposed to be.

And since I got that? Oh, the peace of choosing to pray. The weightless calm of leaving my limited understandings in God's palms instead of dragging them with me, scraping upon sidewalks.

So let there be Christmas in August or September or even February. The whole 12 months of the year is ok, for every day is a perfect one for me to remember the birth of the lover of my soul. Doesn't matter if other folks recall something altogether different when they see the red and green wrapped candy. Nope! What matters is that I leave the bossing to God, that I love Him and that I love others who make extremely different choices than mine. And that I keep--and spread-- Peace on Earth.



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Technically, one long, lazy battle still drags on--the one where I try making Tom do what I believe he should. You'd think after 32 years that war would have ended, but rather, it's just toned way down. :)



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1 Thessalonians 4:11
"... and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you... "

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Sad Town Cafe

I had to smile when Donetta commented three blog posts ago, "It ain't no sin to get the blues."

Oh yes, mostly I agree. In certain situations. But here's how I do it.

In my world, there is a place called Sad Town. And yes, sometimes I do walk to that place (which, in my head, resembles a 1920's Main Street movie set). But. I go no further than Sad Town Cafe, you know, the one on the very, very edge of town, just as you enter. I step inside, sit at a formica-topped table and order coffee and scrambled eggs and an extra plate for Self Pity who followed me there and now sits across the table with a sickly, fake-compassionate look upon his pathetic face.

And then I (we) sit there for one, maybe two--or at the very most--three days. Just me and Self Pity.

But I keep eyeing God over there at the table in the corner. Never do I take my eyes away from him. And so often he lifts his eyes from his newspaper to stare at me.

And then, when the time feels right (usually a bit late, even) I arise, gather my purse and book and then notice Self Pity must have walked away sometime in the neon-lit night.

I turn to go, walk through the door with the jingle bell, and because Sad Town Cafe lies on the very edge of town, it takes me almost no time to step right outside of the city limits. And I race back home.

But what I never, ever do anymore--but oh, how I used to-- I never, ever, upon my arrival at Sad Town, walk past the cafe to the middle of town or beyond and beyond to the end. Oh my, no. For it's dark down there and I may get lost. I may have to call out for help to whole truckloads of Christians to come find me and haul my sorry self back into the light. Or even, if I stayed in the blackness end of town long enough, I might forget there even was light at the other end... and decide to settle there in Sad Town for years. Just settle.

That one thought scares me.

So I will remain in the Light as God is and just make those occasional trips into Sad Town Cafe, in the light end, for just a day or two. But I'll not go deep into town. Not again. Not ever.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

That I May Know Him

Back in 1994, God began a huge work in me. A re-working to undo and unravel the Christian Debra I proudly created for 24 years after 'getting saved' at 11.

For two years of Sunday afternoons (nearly every one) God asked me drive back to our church auditorium (I had a key), after our Sunday meal at home, and just sit with Him for hours. We'd sit together in silence there upon the chairs or lie on the carpet and just be. Together.

And during the weekdays of those years I spent hundreds of hours alone with Him at home. He 'performed surgery' on me, pulled the junk and wrong teachings and misconceptions out of my heart. Then, while lying back on my little love seat in my room, He'd heal those incisions.

For two years this went on, this and lots more just between Him and myself. Testings, corrections, hugs after failures, smiles after successes and love. He slowly became my Audience of One and always the love was thick, surrounding me like tangible light, keeping me returning to the room for more, then later, noticing I could walk in it now, everywhere.

And since 1994, because of Him, because of the work He's done on me and continues to do, I've never been the same. Everything changed and I've never wandered back to my old haunts of depression, hopelessness and from-the-soul loneliness.

Never, in all these 16 years.

Now. Some of you are wondering, "What... Is she saying I must spend all those hundreds of hours locked away with God like that? Well, wouldn't that be nice, but I certainly don't have that kind of time!"

And well, no. I'm not saying that and frankly, I don't think God is saying that to you, either.

But most likely, He is saying something.

I didn't know permanent healing until I did what the Permanent Healer asked me to do. I didn't know daily joy existed for us normal, not-saintly folks until I obeyed God's directions for me, personally.

But obedience brought about miracles. And Presence brought the type of healing which never goes away, but keeps me strong, out of dark, scary ditches and healthy enough to help others.

We get so distracted and think, "Oh! But I must help this other person right now and visit that other lady and pray for all my friends and their friends and race over there and put out that fire and lecture that neighbor about God's goodness and memorize those Bible verses and read all those New Testament chapters and stop talking so much and--

--and we end up all folded in pieces upon the floor because we never stopped long enough to obey. To be healed in Presence. And never realizing, we spend years trying to give away what we never really had, ourselves.

Oh to stop long enough to know Him for ourselves. Oh, the miracles of change awaiting.





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There is a slowing of the heart, a turning of the ear to listen, a pause accepted which can change the future.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Mornings 'Round Here

"His mercies are new every morning..."

I adore mornings so much that, often, I awake during the night to check the alarm clock. "Is it time to get up yet?" I ask myself in anticipation.

And sometimes it's only 4:30 but I'll arise anyway because I can no longer wait to begin. In the darkness, I slip into my slipper-shoes and then silently lift my robe from the hook behind the door.

I step into the lamp light of the kitchen and think, "It's morning!" And into my head pops all that that means:

Making and drinking my hot chocolate while I watch the dear people on our local news, the ones who make me laugh in between the bad and good news. Sitting with Lennon on my blanket-layered lap, scratching his ears and drinking my chocolate and then leaning back in the recliner.

Then I'll check my email, my blog and my Facebook for comments and concerns from others and I'll click upon my blogroll for your new thoughts (and be inspired). Maybe the news will still be playing or maybe by now I've got headphones over my head while listening to Joyce Meyer and learning from her on stage, even after 16 years. Usually I'm munching a bowl of Mom's Best cereal in all the anointing.

Darkness still reigns outside, but I grab my coat from our living room closet and tiptoe past the bedroom, through the kitchen then out to the back porch and down the driveway (breathing deeply of country air) and to the mailbox where Tom's newspaper waits. Then back to the house, the tiptoeing, the putting away of my coat and the paper.

Maybe I'll write here, in my blog. By now, Time is growing short so I hurry through my words (sorry). But the inspiration usually does arrive right before the cats must be fed, which I do quietly, and then straighten some rooms in more silence and then prepare Tom's before-breakfast snack, always the same; two prunes, five almonds and 1/2 cup orange juice. Good for him and he likes it, year following year.

By now Time is pouring from between my fingers and I stand at the bay windows in morning light to see if all is right with my side yard world and squeeze some grateful thoughts from my brain. Lennon sits upon my table in the windows and we both watch the early birds. "Hurry and enjoy this," I think to myself.

And then it's time to awaken Tom.

Yet, even then, my mind skips ahead to when I'll have Second Breakfast (remember that from Lord of the Rings?), which is just coffee and toast at 10:30, but so much more. That will be my coffee break, after having made Tom's oatmeal and zipping through some housework, but it's my time there in the windows. Or rather, His and mine, our time for books and scribbling notes and staring at the trees and yard and the late birds.

Morning after new morning after new morning.

No wonder I so often check that alarm clock in the night.




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Though I should be honest and add that, on the occasions when my routine gets messed with (as in, when Tom gets up way too early), I've been known to become quite the cranky little lady.

Yes, me. :)

And on yard sale mornings, Second Breakfast gets moved to afternoon. But I'm ok with that.


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Oh, and because I wrote three posts that day, you may have missed my mention about the artistically-minded documentary, Amargosa. Positively inspiring stuff (I still can't shake it. Not certain I want to.)Here's a youtube video for a peek, but the film (at Netflix instant watch) is way more dreamy.

Let me know if you watch the documentary, ok? I'd love to hear your thoughts.


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"My voice will come to you in the morning, O Lord; in the morning will I send my prayer to you, and keep watch." ... Psalm 5:3


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Thursday, November 18, 2010

So Everything Was Going Great Until....

As a young woman of 19 I had to settle within my heart that, if I married Tom, some year in the future we'd have to deal with something hard concerning his polio. A whisper from God, I think that was.

Thirty-two years later--yesterday--that day arrived. And even after smaller polio problems along our path, still, it was and is a shock. Another one from which to recover, another one so soon following Tom's being laid-off.

Yesterday Tom saw a specialist who--sad story very, very shortly stated--said, if he doesn't have a major surgery to replace the titanium disc in his neck with a whole other thing, well, Tom will eventually lose the use of his left arm.

Gah. He's been losing the feeling in all those fingers, feeling a tingling pain and there are more details about how the titanium disc is slipping and should have been replaced by a 'cage' 8 years ago, instead, but I'll spare you.

Oh, and Tom is left-handed, too. And our medical insurance premiums, if we don't get a different kind, will multiply by five in the middle of December (another long story there). And what kind of a job can Tom get if he has to tell them, "Oh,by the way, I'll need to take 4 to 6 months off to recover from surgery." ?

Though actually, Tom was leaning more toward finishing his business courses (online) to get a bachelor's degree, first. He's more than halfway there, but what about the timing of all this? Could he continue the courses while recuperating from surgery? (And yes, he'll be getting a second opinion.)

Or should we just go ahead with his seeking to go out on disability, which has been an option, too? A more viable option than ever after yesterday's news. Doctors and physical therapists told Tom for years they'd do all they could to help with that, for he deserves it.

Gah. We'll need a disability advocate and a few other professionals to walk us through this field of land mines. But even there, we'll still need most to hear from God--darn closely, dare I say? For really, this does all feel like, "One wrong move and you'll wreck the course of the whole rest of your lives." Always there's that money-enough-for-the-future factor. You know, that annoying thing. That, and the trusting-God-for-money factor, also.

Maybe I should get a job, something more in the self-employment field though, for who would give me whole days off to sit in hospitals waiting for Tom during appointments or surgeries or who would care for him at recovery times? Or I guess I should start writing essays and devotions for checks in the mail. Maybe it's time for all that, though (I hate to say this) writing for money makes me sigh. I just don't wanna. (But we can't always do what we want, I realize that.) Even babysitting sounds better to me than writing for income. (I know, I know, I know... no lectures please.)

I knew there was too much Grace floating around our house lately. Just knew it.

But of course, I'm grateful she's still here in the midst of what feels like a field of land mines. We need her, we need God and His ultimate wisdom more than ever. And we also need your prayers. We so don't want to mess this all up, not only for ourselves, but for you who watch us through this blog. More than ever, we want to face this with godly courage, not fearful whining.

We'll get through this, of course. But it does get tiring waiting for the shock to wear off so we can smile again and think and listen more clearly.




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Forgive me, please, if you start seeing holes in this blog. If I disappear now and again. For if I must start writing essays, etc. for money (sigh) I'll need some time off even though I'd much, much rather be here with you.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Desert Life Reminders

I remember when I lived in the Nevada desert and was one depressed cookie.

Some days I drove to the supermarket--not because I needed to buy anything--but with the single hope that someone would smile at me. I dared to dream they might even say, "Hello."

And so I'd drive to the store, pull out a shopping cart and wander the aisles trying to collect smiles and hellos. Then, after some smiles, I'd drive through the streets back home, thinking, "Hmm... the sun seems to be shining brighter now! And I feel better."

Of course, it wasn't ideal that I relied upon people to fix me, to zap away my loneliness but, at that time, that's all I could think of.

Hence, that's why you won't read in my blog that Facebook is shallow.

Huh?

I mean, when I read my friends' status reports, whether they are glad or sad ones, or prayer requests or photos (etc.), I recall my depression years and how I yearned for something like Facebook out there in the desert. Oh, the way I would have appreciated the simple clicks of 'like'! The kind comments about my ideas or photos and all the folks who would have written that they were praying for me after I shared a request would have thrilled my brain.

I sooo needed to be listened to back then, even from within a computer screen. Just some tiny nods at Facebook (had there been a Facebook), would have brought light to my clouds-like-ink afternoons.

Again, God had something much higher for me ahead than such a desperate reliance upon people. But until I got there, I needed what I needed. And I needed to survive until I found that deeper place in God.

And now, in 2010, I feel that some of my Facebook friends are standing upon my long ago footprints in the sand where I stood in 1989. And only a few feet ahead is the bridge which will carry them over to where God makes Himself so darn obvious (when we become less so), there in the midst of delight. On the other side.

But they have a few more hours, a few more yards left to walk until they reach that bridge. So if by clicking 'like' or writing, "I will pray" or just telling them I spent time reading their words, maybe my listening will nudge them closer to the bridge. Will keep them on the road, out of dark ditches, until they find The Answer for themselves.

That's huge. And not shallow at all.





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Remembering this also slows me down when I'm zooming my cart through grocery aisles. Someone there just may need me to smile at them.


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"He must increase, I must decrease."

I'm Thinking My Todays Matter

I'm trying to live Life so that I won't be embarrassed when I reach Heaven.

You know those tv commercials where, after settling for a lesser choice, people say, "Oh! I could have had a V8!"?

Well, in Heaven, when God walks over to me all huge and bright and glorious, I so don't want to whimper, "Oh! I could have had a remarkable life!"

"Oh! I could have known your peace rather than my misery!"

"Oh! I could have had a running conversation with you. You could have been my best friend!"

"I could have lived wrapped in your joy rather than my problems."

"I could have known you better and worried less. Much less."

"I could have learned from you how to love people."

"I could have let you heal me from Life's hurts."

"I could have listened for your answers or quietly trusted you (and moved on) when the answers just weren't there."

Well, you get it.

I'm glad of something today: I'm still here. And God is still giving me chances to know Him--and be changed. And that those, "I could have regrets" are fading as the years do.

I so desire that the move from the heaven within me to the Heaven above won't be such a jarring, oh-the-regrets transition, but rather, more like walking from a lamp-lit room to one which gleams like the sun.



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"The kingdom of God is within you." ... Luke 17:21

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Inspiration For Others Of You Artist Types

Oh, the inspiration!

Tom and I just now finished watching the documentary, Amargosa.

Wow. You've got to love a 1960's ballet dancer who moves to a desert town (pop. 10, at least as of 1999) from NYC, leases the abandoned theater and soon paints her own audience upon the walls. And then dances upon the stage for the next forty years and inspires all who visit her theater in literally the middle of nowhere, also known as Death Valley Junction.

To get just a taste of what we saw, here's a youtube video.

We watched Amargosa on the instant view thingamajig at Netflix. My only quibble was with the part about the residing ghosts, but it was easy to skip that chapter.

No bad language, no s-e-x, just lots and lots of artistic inspiration to do whatever God has called you to do. To do it faithfully, with joy, year after year, with or without an audience.

At least, I came away with all that.



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"Just do it."

Couponing Grace Returns

Living in Opposite World is amazing. So is Grace, of course, but you already knew that.

Since I recovered from the shock of Tom's losing his job, these have been the Best of Times. See? Opposite World stuff. I think you're supposed to be miserable when your main income source disappears, right?

Back in 1995, I led two Saturday homemaking seminars at our church. A couple other women and I shared how to organize your home and we gave ideas for decorating, letter-writing and how to save money with coupons and refunding, etc.

The oddest thing, ever, happened while I spoke about the coupons. There I was, standing beside my display of items I'd bought cheaply at CVS, using coupons, and explaining how refunding worked, when mysteriously! All my years of coupon anointing, all the excitement of saving money this way, drained down, down into my shoes.

It felt like a balloon deflated within me. In one moment, after fifteen years of saving money with this method, coupons became BOR-ing. Yet I had to finish my rehearsed little speech anyway. Rough and, again, odd.

And afterward? Well, in the fifteen years since, I mailed maybe only five (ten?) refund offers and used coupons at the market just sort-of willy-nilly, when I felt like it or could remember to bring some along.

Mostly, Couponing Grace drained away into an abyss back there in 1995.

But guess what? She's BAAAaack.

You are now reading the blog of a Coupon Queen returned. Coupon Grace lives inside my head again because, well, she knows I need her. Now's the time for ol' Debra to do her part so to stretch the family finances.

The coupon anointing returned three weeks ago, making the whole deal a pleasure, as when I was a young Mrs. in my 20's and 30's. And now, wow! We coupon grannies have it way easier than we did in the 1980's. If we need a coupon for Yogi's Yummy Yogurt, we can just Google that, adding the word 'coupons' and voila! Sometimes there will appear a coupon just asking to be printed and whisked away to the supermarket. Even coupons for healthy food. Organic stuff, also.

Love that. Lots easier than in the Wild West Days of couponing. Trust me.

Don't you just love Grace? You can rely on her. She knows when to stay, when to leave and gives the clearest of directions just by being there--or by being gone.

She should design road maps on the side. :)




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Want to share your favorite coupon website?

Monday, November 15, 2010

The (Not So) Great Weekend Blog Search

So this weekend I discovered an online list of perhaps one-hundred Christian women's blogs. I was excited--oh, the potential! Some new blogs for my blogroll.

Friday, Saturday, Sunday, hours and hours later, I did not add one single blog to my sidebar. Honest, I tried to give each blog a chance. I read five or more posts from 70 blogs, often staying longer than that.

And ok. I confess I'm probably a blog snob.

But oh dear... all the sad Christian women out there! Sad because their own plans had died along the road since their teenage-dreamy days or their weddings or the births of their children. Oh, the disappointment which now colors their days with brown or grey hopelessness.

In other blogs, posts never dived beneath the surface. Instead, whole paragraphs said: "Today I did the laundry. After that I went grocery shopping. I came home and folded towels. Made dinner. Went to bed." Miles and miles of that.

Some of the blogs had shut down, like ghost towns. Each final post usually stated forms of this depressing sentence: "I just don't have anything to write about anymore."

Other bloggers wrote the same ol' 'churchese' I've heard since the 1960's. I mean, yes! Tell me the old, old story, but please, can you share it a new way? And share what God told you, rather than always sharing what He told others?

I mean, look at Ann Voskamp. Nearly everyone adores her blog and probably for myriad reasons. I'm certain of one of those: You never know ahead what will greet you there. Her words won't parrot her pastor's, her women's small group leader or what she heard in Sunday School whole decades ago as a child. God gives it to her fresh.

Ann V. is plugged-in. You can tell.

(And yes, Ann also has a writing gift, but even without that, you know she would never go all surface talk on us week after week.)

Oh my, God's mercies and truths really are new every morning! And if only each of us Christian women would lean our ears so close to His heart, well, maybe we'd start believing His thoughts rather than our own negative, whiny, discouraged ones. Maybe we'd have fresh hope and new words to blog every new morning ... or afternoon or night.

And perhaps we'd be excited to live in these oh-so-challenging days, rather than wish they were over so we could escape to Heaven.

God needs warriors with fresh vision and tons of hope and courage to spread across this world. And I feel He's aching to use us, Christian women bloggers, to spread all that, everywhere. With newness.

Oh, that we all would stay plugged-in.




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I think she says it better: Six Things Every Christian Blogger Needs to Know


"Sing unto God a new song, for He has done marvelous things. His right hand and His holy arm have gotten Him the victory." ... Psalm 98:1


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John 14:27
"... Do not let your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. [Stop allowing yourselves to be agitated and disturbed; and do not permit yourselves to be fearful and intimidated and cowardly and unsettled.]" ... Amplified

Saturday, November 13, 2010

My Nighttime Dreams

Okay, my last few posts have been a bit heavy, though with issues which I had to face and deal with before I found such daily joy. But still, they've been a tad heavy.

So here's lightness, a sort of respite for you:

There are people living inside my head.

No, really.

When I began this blog six long years ago, my nightly dreams changed to, basically, only one kind. And all these years later? They're still the same ol,' same ol' kind. Not boring, but nice, actually. Just, well, predictable.

I can tell you what I will dream about tonight. Crowds of people will be walking around. Some of them I met as a child, a teen or as a young wife, mother or middle-aged whatever-I-am-at-this-moment. Others I've never, ever met--my head makes them up, but they feel quite real (which is either clever of my head or kinda odd).

Always, these crowds and I wander through churches, schools, malls, my house or someone else's really, really large home. And what do we all do? Well, nothing, exactly. We stand around, sometimes with snack plates, and talk to one another a bit. I like it best when those people let me chatter about Jesus, but that only happens sometimes.

Or we stand around and watch everybody else chatting.

Or sometimes the big drama of the night will be that so-and-so is trying to find his mother in the crowd and have we seen her? So we point to where mother is standing and then so-and-so walks over and stands by her. And he becomes part of another conversing circle.

And that's about as exciting as it gets.

But always, it's the myriad people, people everywhere that never varies. And usually it's nighttime there with lots of artificial light from overhead lamps. And the rooms are, well, large.

Thousands and thousands of dreams where nothing much happens, just pleasantness. Fellowship. Just whole crowds calmly standing or sitting around, together. Smiling, laughing, sharing, hugging.

And in a way, those dreams of mine feel like tiny pre-Heaven glimpses, though without the extreme joy. But there's that light and that comradeship and the reunions! All those reunions night after night upon my pillow.

A little like Heaven might someday be, I think. Heaven in calm mode,ok. And without Jesus standing in the middle of the room, making everything extremely glorious, making our conversations about Him remarkable. But still, these glimples feel quite nice in the meantime. While I'm waiting for the Real Thing.

Of Needing to Leave the Parade

It's scary (and kinda funny-sad, too) when our control issues try dressing-up as Holiness for a big parade, or something.

Examples?

Some people feel God, in their quiet time, whispered, "Always pray on your knees." And well, suddenly, poof! A goal got birthed. A fiery, life-consuming campaign to get every Christian in their church, family and online neighborhood to knee-pray began.

But these campaigners forget that God simply asked them, personally, to pray on their knees. For a time, a season and with a purpose--as an act of obedience unto Him.

But oh dear. It became huge, complicated, vocal and very, very public.

This type of thing happens a lot.

In quietness God asks us to take up our cross and follow Him. In meekness. But oh dear, we turn it into a cross-bearing parade, complete with confetti, signs and enough crowds to view the grimacing pain upon our face.

God asks us to use a pen instead of a keyboard, meet in a coffee shop instead of a chat room, adopt needy children, give offerings to local missions, not foreign ones. So we do. We obey. But only after we gather an audience and preach that God is telling them the exact same details.

Suddenly there becomes only one way to obey God. Guess whose?

And we crazily believe it all to be holy, when really, it's kinda pathetic and all about dress-up. Dressing-up our control issues to appear like holiness.

We've all done it. At least once (but probably way, way more). For we're all humans in this parade of Life.

Hence the need to police ourselves, as officers on horses removing anything, anyone, unruly and unwelcome from the parade. And to ask God to police us, to place a watch upon our lips and our hearts, as well. To change our heart into one which loves most to serve that adored audience of One.



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And yes, God does ask us sometimes to publicly preach and teach and lead others in a specific cause, a specific way (the walls of Jericho, anyone?). This post is not about those times.

Just thought I'd mention that. :)

Friday, November 12, 2010

Of Relevancy

"Relevant: having direct bearing on the matter in hand; pertinent."


Years ago, a Sunday School teacher in our church took up a new cause: he declared we should all use only the King James version of the Bible. Just the original version, not any updated KJ Bibles, either. Everybody, all the time.

He got pretty obnoxious about it and after some weeks I asked him, "You're expecting even teenagers to read only the King James, at home, during their quiet time, alone?"

"Yes."

"But there are many difficult passages! They'd have to read it with a dictionary beside them."

"So where's the problem? Let them use a dictionary then."

Sigh.

And now often I see people online saying they've decided paper-and-pen letter writing, phone calls and actual same-room contact are the only forms of real communication. And how online technology has killed true, personal intimacy.

("Danger, danger, Will Robinson! In-the-box thinking!") :)

Actually, I'm writing more "letters" than ever. You should see the thousands of emails in my 'sent folder.' You probably have thousands in yours, too.

I grew-up in churches and around folks who always wished to move backward. New ideas and modern ways of doing things were never as good as the old ways and old days. So they just ignored anything unfamiliar and held onto their ancient methods.

That's how churches die, you know.

From the time I was 16 until I was 36 (or so) I wrote hundreds of pen-and-paper letters each year (sometimes more than 1,000). Honey, I was one passionate snail-mail correspondent. But at age 40 I went online, wrote hundreds of emails yearly, instead--and never glanced back.

Often I pray for relevancy.

Nobody will ever convince this modern world to return to old-fashioned letter writing (barring a historical-sized sabotage of all things computer-related). We're in this technological world too deep. Facebook and Twitter-style communication will thrive, probably evolving to something else in the future.

I've faced that. So what remains is for me to discover ways to stay relevant in other peoples' lives. To use email and Facebook (etc.) as the amazing tools of communication which they can be. God certainly isn't telling me to evolve backward in my communication, but rather, He asks me to move forward as He does. In Love. Real love is all about relevancy--it reaches and stretches so to care best for others. To 'when in Rome, do as the Romans do' if only to win a few of those Romans.

Relevancy always flows, always moves, always discovers new ways to adapt to others rather than making others adapt to it. And Love finds the most relevant way to share this one most vital message: Jesus loves me this I know.

What remains is for me to follow that Love. With relevance.



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If you enjoy old-fashioned pen and paper correspondence, more power to you! I do still mail the occasional letter, though I most often type them. Of course, letter-writing purists would cry foul about that, but then, those purists don't have to decipher my handwriting. :)



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"Anything is what I make of it."

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Of Validation

Hmmm... I so hope I strike the right balance with this one.

A friend at Facebook shared this youtube video. You've probably seen it. It's the one where people in the parking garage go to get their ticket validated, but the guy behind the desk validates the people, instead. He tells them they look marvelous. They're under-appreciated by other folks. They wear stylish clothes, are often misunderstood and are a terrific help to society. Soon a line forms all the way out to the street, a line of people desperate for validation. The video proceeds from there.

A cute idea, an uplifting one. Made me smile.

But. It makes me sad, too. Putting such power into the hands of other people! The power of how I feel about myself. Brrr..

It reminds me of, oh, around 24 years ago when I felt I was just a mom of a six-year-old, nothing else, starving for validation from other people. In fact, one morning I sat slumped on the couch watching Mr. Rogers and when he looked into the camera and said, "You are special. I like you just the way you are," well, I cried.

Such was my desperation.

Thank-goodness, thank God, all that drama feels like a million years ago and a whole other person ago, too. Why? Because now I get my validation from God. Now He tells me I did a great job and that He appreciates my obedience. My affection. He tells me I'm special.

It's rather like this Bible verse:

"But David encouraged himself in the Lord." I Samuel 30:6

I blogged about that verse before, but really, my world changed when I learned to encourage myself in God. When I responded to hard times by running to the Throne rather than to the phone (as my favorite teacher says). Now, everything looks and feels brighter--and again--thank God that the desperate neediness is gone.

Yet of course there's this: We all do still need to encourage one another. God tells us to be kind, encouraging folks and to put others before ourselves. In fact, our words can sometimes form a bridge between a person's self-hatred and self-acceptance until they're able to call to God for help, themselves. I get that. And I like to think He encourages others through me, through this blog, even.

But what do I value even more? I love to teach others how to encourage themselves in God, how to unearth their worth and value in Him, not through pats on the backs from mere (highly changeable) mortals. Mortals who can just as easily, if we allow them, destroy what they built days or months before.

And as for me and my mental health? I will go to God for my major source of validation. He's always there, rather like that guy behind the desk in that youtube video, but 24/7. Daytime, nighttime, doesn't matter. And He'll tell me the truth, which is more vital than made-up-stuff just to make me feel better. He'll be kind, though.

I don't wish to hand over that type of power to other fallible, often-too-busy-for-me people, but rather, only to God. I need His kind of validation most.



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"In Christ alone
I place my trust
And find my glory in the power of the cross
In every victory
Let it be said of me
My source of strength
My source of hope
Is Christ alone." ... Lyrics by Stuart Townend and Keith Getty

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

A Link While I'm Un-Procrastinating

Busy, busy this morning doing what I've procrastinated, whispering my mantra, "Just do it. Just do it." I must take the occasional day like this so to lighten the burden inside my head. You know, to make all the nagging voices go away ("You really should have _____ today." " You've put off writing that email for two weeks!" "Have you seen that ring around the bathtub?")

I may be back here later today, but in the meantime, here is a sweet link for you: Ideas For Reusing Canning Jars. I think you'll enjoy the ideas and the photos.

I'll be back.