Friday, December 31, 2010

If It Feels Like Springtime--Take It

So this morning after the sun rose I walked down the driveway to get the newspaper and wow! Forty-three luscious degrees caressed my face and the lawn had changed from white to green in the night.

"Spring!" I thought. "This feels like Springtime."

Then thud! went my heart as I remembered it's only December 31st and I live in Buffalo which means Winter, snow, ice, freezing rain and high temps only in the teens have just started.

But you know? Right away this little voice (uh-oh) whispered, "If it feels like Springtime--take it. Accept it as a spring-like gift in December. But! Be careful not to spoil it with dread of the long winter months ahead.

Wow. Don't you just love those simple revelations? A gift of a spring-like day on December 31st. A day when I, later, carried my poor ol' deflated pumpkins from the front steps over to the compost pile and picked up pine cones, too--all without a jacket, just my usual two layers of knitted long-sleeve tops. A day when I greeted our neighbors as they got into their car then took a little walk around our yard and all the puddles.

I'll take a spring time day in December anytime. Revel in it. Celebrate it and just accept it as the amazing gift it is--no dread to mar it allowed. Only straight gratitude.


************

Bidding A Fond Farewell ... to 2010

I'm always surprised at how many people online say they're so glad to bid good riddance to the last *&^%$ year.

Seldom have I ever felt that way.

I mean, when you put much concentration into adding wonder and creativity to each day--and if you wrap together all those 365 wonder-full, creative days in a bag--well, that's one special sack. A collection of awesome memories and lessons.

Now, you'd think that I would be singing praises that 2010 is over, wouldn't you? After all, this was the year Tom lost his job for the first time in all our 32 years of marriage. (Oh, the changes that single episode has brought!) And our 30-year-old daughter moved back in with us. And the summer was hot and humid and keeping up with the lawn was, well, nightmarish. And Tom's sister had breast cancer and two lung embolisms and our brother-in-law has Parkinson's. And my sister's young daughter-in-law came down with cancer. And --

But you know? Every year brings its own problems. You simply cannot experience a year without any--it's impossible.

So I say, why complain? Why wish a year away? That's too much like wishing all of Life away, because that is Life, you know. Life automatically comes with dire times.

But oh, Life comes with much joy, too, especially on the inside where God dwells with us.

I do not have to feel blown away during hard times just because that's how other people react. Nothing, no one, forces me to feel a certain way. My feelings are my choice--as long as I keep my head and my faith. As long as I allow God to grow me up during daily lessons in areas of discipline. Trust. Patience.

Oh, the lessons each day brings--what strength they leave with me to face others in 2011. My lessons of 2010 felt tougher, more like graduate school, maybe, and I was stretched to some shining, new places. To deeper levels of trust, certainly. God's lessons enable me to keep my joy, and thus, my strength, and oh, the immeasurable value of those.



************

On this New Year's Eve I hope you, too, are counting your blessings--and your valuable lessons. And just think... a new year! Lots more opportunities to do and be better. Love that.


************

Yesterday Tom and I finally watched the movie, Ramona and Beezus. We both loved it. Wasn't as great as the books, but close. :)


************

"The joy of the Lord is my strength." ... Neh. 8:10

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Message Boards: The Best of Times, The Worst of Times

"Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen." ... Ephesians 4:29
(Or as my mother used to always say, "If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all.)
*******
Online message boards. Oh, the potential! I mean, I'm the kind of person who loves reading the 'behind the scenes stuff', watching the special features on dvd's and discovering what happened next after a book ended. I love digging up the missing details.
But, only when those details lead to a good ending. Oh, it doesn't always have to be a happy ending, exactly, but a satisfying one.
And another thing? I love discovering how other folks feel about the books, movies and people I love. 'Reading their pulse,' so to speak. I'm thrilled when I compare notes and find like-minded souls who show me additional beautiful insights about what I love.
Which means, alas, it bugs me no end when mean-spirited people use message boards to rip the things I love to tiny, unfair, bloody shreds.
Gah! You just don't know how much I hate strife, and well, I guess I'm in great company because God seems to despise it, too. Out of the seven things He hates (listed in Proverbs 6), four of them happen in message boards all the time:
"God hates... a lying tongue ... a heart that devises wicked imaginations... a false witness that speaks lies, and he that sows discord among brethren."
Sigh. And yet, year after year, still I keep reading message boards. What am I, some kind of masochist? ...heh...
But yesterday the sweetest thought dropped into my head. Namely, that the message boards in Heaven are going to be awesome! They'll be full of uplifting messages about people, they'll list folks' greatest attributes, they'll point out what they did right, how they changed lives for the better and how they obeyed and reflected God and His goodness.
Ahhh.... I can hardly wait for those heavenly message boards! What a difference, what a rush to think about them.



****************


And all right..... We'll probably be able to read each other's minds in Heaven and won't need to read message boards, but just humor me, ok? :) I'm one of those people who believe Heaven will have what each of us, personally, loves best.





****************

"Do not speak unless you can improve the silence." ... Proverb

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Pulling Out The Ol' Tablet for New Resolutions

Hooray! A new year approaches us and so does the opportunity to create new goals, visions and dreams. Why so many people hate the idea of New Year's Resolutions, I'll never understand. Personally? I love anything which smells and feels like starting over with a clean, white sheet of paper in the book which is my life.

So today I'll grab my notebook, the one where I record "Things to Remember" lists and begin jotting down new goals for a new year, asking God for His ideas, but of course! My own ideas would be only average, pretty small, dull and well, this year I hope to take more risks. To step out more often on the high wire of faith--and see what happens.

Life is so short and I am determined not to spend these few years letting satan push me into dark corners. Who wants to spend the majority of their allotted days on this planet dragging around the house, wearing thick cloaks of self-pity? Certainly not me.

I remember sitting in our church one night in Nevada, pondering what a huge plunge Tom and I had taken, moving from our (extremely predictable) hometown to a whole other state. And suddenly I realized that no prince on a white horse, no group of rescuers, either, would ride up to our door if we made wrong decisions there in Nevada.

No, we were truly adults now and on our own. Well, on our own with God, so it would behoove us, I mused, to listen and do things His way, for (ultimately), we could only count on Him to keep us out of trouble--or get us out.

And maybe that sounds simple, but it was a light bulb moment for me. One of those moments in Time when you feel you grew up a notch.

So lead away, dear Lord, is what I say. Please keep me on high roads and out of ditches. Out of darkness and in the Light. Out of fear and in Your confidence. Out of depression and into joy. Out of soul strife and into deepest, sweetest peace.

And may God through my New Year's Resolutions for 2011 lead me to all those good places as only He can. And may I glimpse each of you frolicking in those places, too.



************


~ A determined soul will do more with a rusty monkey wrench than a loafer will accomplish with all the tools in a machine shop. ~
... Robert Hughes


************



"Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life."
Proverbs 4:23 ... New Living Translation



************

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Longing For The Land of Normal

Okay. It's time for ol' Debra to stop flaking off. Goofing around. Wasting her days.

Whatever, however you want to put it, it's time to knock it off.

Finally Tom and I finished the whole 9 seasons and two movies of The X-Files (well, minus a handful of too-spooky episodes). Nine seasons in just a few weeks, for goodness sake!

And well, (I confess with my head hanging way low), I've actually missed watching The X-Files so yesterday we began Netflixing Heroes. We watched half the whole first season from the afternoon to 9:00 p.m.

Gah!

Well, kiddos.... today is gonna be different. I'll watch maybe one episode of Heroes during the afternoon (darn these ol' addictive shows, anyway), but that's all.

It's time to return to the Land of Normal. As you already know, I love that peaceful, productive place (they reward you for obedience there), but it's easy to forget how much I love it when the big distraction month (a.k.a. December) rolls around.

But if I wait for some prince to come along on a horse to whoosh me back to The Land of Normal, well, I'll wait in vain. A couple angel appearances won't take me there either. I know--past years, I've tried waiting for that and a mysterious hand to start finger-painting confirmations on the wall, too.

Whining, "It's too hard to say no," or, "I'm too weak to be consistent," never gets me even close to the borders. Veering-off on paths called Punishment or Condemnation only appear to take me close, but never do.

My own husband can't even take me to The Land of Normal because he only knows how to get to his acre of it, not mine. Our acres in that place appear and function quite differently. We're talking night and day differences.

No, only God can lead me back to The Land of Normal, but only if I walk beside Him every step. Because hey, I have choices. I mean, if I stay on the couch for more hours of Heroes or American Pickers or if I procrastinate mailing cards, letters and bills or cleaning the house or if I keep telling my head, "Everybody else is on vacation, so why not me?", well, I'll never return to the place where I'm happiest--The Land of Normal. And although vacation often appears more fun than The Land of Normal, the fun factor dissolves quite fast, turning into something too sticky-sweet.

You know, rather like The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe's Turkish Delight.

So today I must take steps. I'll stop waiting for princes or angels or just the right circumstances or a slant of light or until I feeeel more determined. No, I walked out of The Land of Normal one step at a time and--facing toward it now-- that's exactly how I'll get back in.




**********


I need The Land of Normal. It's there where I remember who I am--and who I want to become.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Fleeting Childhood: Welcome The Wonder

(A very special thanks to Laura who inspired this piece by one she wrote which you won't find at her blog, but in a special album she mails to us on her email list each Sunday.)


******

While my sister, brother and I grew-up, we were expected to act like short adults. And well, it's rough remembering to act with grace, maturity and genteel manners when you're six.


And so, while I was a teenager, I made promises inside my head that--when I had my own child--I would raise her differently.


And so I did.


When Naomi was young, she totally believed in Santa Claus. Totally. And the Tooth Fairy visited our house, even (though twice she forgot to come and I had to cover for her). The Easter Bunny hopped around our backyard, leaving pastel-colored baskets.


Always, we had room for Reality and Imagination. I felt God agreed, especially since He is huge.


Naomi invited friends over for our cats' birthday picnics. She planned all activities for her own birthday parties, even made her own invitations with markers and construction paper.


One year she created a jungle in her bedroom, complete with plastic trees from yard sales and crepe paper 'vines' hanging from the ceiling. She preferred stuffed animals over dolls so her jungle was ready-made with lions, tigers and bears (oh my!). That same year, at age 11, she wrote an entire 'Hey Dude' novel.


When she was sixteen she invited her friends over for a memorial service for John Lennon up in our attic. The Monkees were her favorite group (this was the late 90's, remember) so, using a black marker, she drew the Monkees emblem on the back of her jean jacket and adults my age exclaimed over it ("Oh! Where did you buy that?") wherever she went. Beatles and Monkees record music wafted down our stairs and brought me nostalgic smiles.


Because of Naomi, Tom and I experienced the 1970's all over again. The best parts, really, including nifty retro outfits Naomi wore to school, cooler than ones I ever wore.


The movies and tv commercials she filmed at our house with friends for school projects, the half-birthday sleepovers in a backyard tent, the fashion shows with girls in my collection of 1940's dresses. We had one child, but she brought us many others. Always, our house felt full in every way that mattered.


While Naomi grew up, we had fun. Rampant creativity in every Naomi-touched corner of our lives with lots of glimpses of childhood wonder in those big blue eyes.


Why? Because inside my heart I knew her childhood would flee like sand between my fingers--and it did. I tried so hard to grasp those years, slow them down, but I failed. A young Naomi kept flying past me and although I loved watching her sail by in boats of creativity, always there was that bittersweet ache because, wind blowing through her hair, she sailed too fast.


I loved watching God grow Naomi into her own timely grace.


And so for those few moments of our life and hers, we let Naomi be herself. When Creativity and Imagination knocked at our front door, always they were yanked inside, welcomed and celebrated. And our reward? Those two still visit Naomi, even at age 30, and because she's living with us, just for awhile they are visiting us again. And Life is Good.






************




Fear is a faulty guide. Wisdom does a better job.




************

Oh! If you are a fan of Facebook, you simply must watch this amazing video: What if Mary and Joseph Had Facebook? Absolutely loved it.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

My Christmas Wishes for You

It's a cold, dark morning and I'm sitting here in silence (well, Naomi's cats are racing around upstairs) and lamplight, wishing each of you a very merry Christmas.

Yesterday I hiked over frozen snow to our mailbox where no Christmas cards awaited me. None arrived the day before, either, and so yesterday I thought, Hmmm. We received so few cards this year and in previous years, that would have bummed me out. Royally. But you know? What matters most this year is that I mailed lots and lots of cards. I printed out a Christmas letter and slipped that into some cards--and God provided all the stamps, to boot. I did what God nudged me to do and, truly, that's all that matters.

And then I hummed "Angels We Have Heard On High" all the way down the driveway with only bills in my gloved hand. And smiled and smiled, feeling freed.

May your Christmas Day be sweet and may you be inspired to make every day of 2011 feel like Christmas within your heart, spreading that feeling, that gift, to everyone you know.

May you learn how to receive God's daily joy and then fling it out across the land to searching hearts.

May you be and live free as only those who love Him truly can.




*****************

Friday, December 24, 2010

Of Christmas Eve and Another Eve (Perhaps)

Christmas Eve. Can you believe it? Didn't the new year begin, like, just 6 weeks ago?

Lots of people remark about how each year spins past us faster and quicker than the previous one. I so agree! And lately, that thought brings this verse to my mind:

"And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect's sake those days shall be shortened." Matt. 24:22

And okay, okay... Jesus technically was talking about the Tribulation. But still, I wonder. I wonder if somehow He's shortening these Tribulation Eve Days for us. Maybe? I don't recall Time ever zooming by so noticeably before for all of us. Or many, many of us, anyway.

Maybe you think I'm stretching that thought a bit--and you're probably right. And yet? I still think something is up. Something has changed. Something is different and not as it was before. I can't shake that thought away.

Oh well, that's just an idea for you to mull over on this Christmas Eve. No matter what is going on, these are certainly exciting times in which to be alive, times which require that we become warriors, not whiners (so it would behoove me to stop oft whining in this blog!) :)

Merry Christmas to each of you, my treasured Readers.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

A New Day



Okay.

Tuesday was wonderful, what with our friends, John and Donna coming to visit, bearing gifts, even, and the sun shone, the pizza and wings were terrific and Donna's cranberry bread was to die for.

But on Wednesday ol' Debra morphed into a great big fat grouch. For unknown reasons, even--well--probably hormonal ones and eating too much sugar, also. Oy. And I can blame the return of dark clouds, but I can't blame Tom for my crankiness since he ran errands most of the day and wasn't even here (he should consider himself, blessed).

Bleh.

We all have days like those. But the important thing to remember is "this, too, shall pass," for it does, you know, especially when we take steps the day after. When we switch places with God and let Him do the driving and then just lean back, exhale, repent and start all over the next morning. And do things His way (of course, stopping the pretending that we don't know just what that means).

If we listen, He will speak. (Rather like, 'if you build it, they will come.') His sheep hear His voice, after all. As in, when I want (truly want) to hear where I went wrong, boy oh boy, He tells me. With compassion, of course, and so to save me from myself.

Oh! Speaking of sheep, I watched this video last night around midnight (couldn't even fall asleep lightning-quick as usual) and it sprinkled sweetness all over my dreams. How kind it is of Jenna to allow me to work her farm alongside her in my head. That's where I'm one terrific farmer with real-live animals--inside this ol' head of mine, thanks to people like Jenna (who's not even 30 yet(!)) and Mary Jane. (Watch the video--you'll love it.)


**************

P.S. Today I'm feeling terrific again--and it's not even sunny. Yesterday passed away and is forever gone and, thank-goodness, God's mercies are new today. After the 'train wreck' which was yesterday, I surely needed every new mercy available.






The photos: I hiked through the snow to the edge of our woods this grey morning. It's peaceful back there, yet a bit dreary, too.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Tweaking My Way Into Obedience

Conviction comes with much love and hope. Thank-goodness for that.

It's in the darkness of the night while lying upon my bed with no distractions that God convicts me of, well, sin and of righteousness. Like watching film, He takes me through the day, pointing to where I went right and where I went wrong. Again, with much love and ever so much patience.

And lately? He showed me I've not spent enough alone time. Now, I knew that, but I can muddle along while knowing something is wrong without making changes to correct it. I'm good at that, good at learning to live with the feeling that "something just ain't quite right."

He and I are working on that, too.

Hence, the tweaking. I'm no longer going all que sera sera because Tom is always home and I cannot have my eight (or more) hours alone as I once did. No, when God tells you to do a thing, He makes the way to do it. He is The Way, after all.

So rather than just going with the flow of my present life and watching tv at the drop of a proverbial hat or sitting here at the computer while Tom sits at his five feet away ... and rather than complaining that there are too many meals to make now and too many dishes and clothes to wash, I've hooked into God's ways and made changes.

I cook when He says cook--and oh! He knows the best time to do that. We have dinner now for lunch and Tom has leftovers for dinner while I have something simpler like cereal or toast. And that is so much better.

And I have "office time" more frequently, which means I sit at our hoosier cabinet when God tells me, sit. Oh, how I need hours alone! And God, having made me that way, knows how to get those hours for me. And then up and away from my office I go, at peace, throughout the day.

Go to the computer when He directs, He says, not when I'm bored and can't (won't) think of something better. Watch the X-Files when He gives permission, not every time Tom is watching them.

God keeps me out of ruts and inside variety, instead. When I follow His lead, I'm amazed that there's plenty of time for everything, the fun stuff and not-so-fun. But when I lead myself? Oh dear, the day turns all fruitless and pathetic. You know, where instead of seeing how much I can accomplish I, instead, see how little I can do and still keep up.

Hmm.... Maybe this only makes sense to me. Maybe I'm just thinking aloud. But if my tweaking my way into obedience helps anyone, well, that's all that matters.



**************

God calls us to follow Him to mission fields like Africa and India, yes. But He also calls us to follow Him around the house, the job, the neighborhood and even the Internet.

Monday, December 20, 2010

New Christmas Gifts For My Readers



Rather than just give you the same oldie moldy christmas gifts year after year, here are some new ones. Just for you. Just for reading here faithfully and for being the encouragers you are.

For Christian novels you can read online, go here.

And you can find Christian books of all sorts to read online here.

Here are lots of legit ways to make money from home.

Watch tons of free movies and tv shows here.

To take many fun home tours, go here.

To watch my favorite teacher anytime, any day, go here.

For freebies and great coupons, click here and here.

For lots of free chart printables to keep you and your home organized, go here.

To watch my current favorite tv show, go here.

To listen to old radio shows online for free, click here.

Here are some free Christmas gift tag printables.

To read hundreds of classic books online, go here.

To read thousands more books online, click here.

You'll find hundreds of fun vintage dress patterns here.

Learn how to decorate each room in your home in a retro style here.

My favorite nature photographer is here.

Watch free Christian movies online here.

And for some lovely music, silence and peace of mind, go and stand out here.




**************

More gifts will appear here throughout the day ... so have yourself a merry little Christmas now..... (my favorite Christmas song since age 14).

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Letting Go of Complaining and Christmas (Sorta)

In 1991, we experienced one nearly snow-less winter in Nevada and the whole rest of the year I felt, well, off. As though I'd missed something. As though the world, just a tad, was tilting wrong. And ever since, I've declared that never could I live where it does not snow, otherwise that 'something is wrong somewhere' cloud would remain over my head. Always.

I am so over that.

Gah! We keep hovering around 20 degrees. There's snow. Ice. Dark clouds most days. This isn't supposed to be happening! Not in December, anyway. This isn't January--that's usually when we have this stuff.

I want to go outside and play.

I want to move to a place where it snows only every 30 years, or so.

But oh well, that's, like, impossible at this moment. So I can either choose to complain the whole rest of the winter (how dreadful to think it isn't even officially winter yet!)--or--I can receive Grace. I can welcome her to spend the winter with me and listen while she reminds me of all that is good about being winter housebound. There is much good (even the challenge of it all)--but I'll only see that if I cast away my complaints.

That's how it works. For me, anyway.


***********

Warning: This will shake-up you rabid Christmas celebrators:

You won't believe this, but the only decorating I've done for Christmas is to tape our Christmas cards onto the side of our dining room hutch as they arrive. That's it. And you know? Any desire to do more than that is gone, for actually, I'm one of the growing crowd of people who just don't want to do Christmas the world's way anymore. Frankly, the more traditions I let go, the freer I feel. The weightlessness is heady. His burden is light.



(Please don't try talking me into decorating for Christmas, ok? I had 40+ years of decorating--'decorating light' the last ten-- and I think that's plenty of time to earn the right to give that up if I want to, especially since--with the way my house is decorated year-around--throw in two extra items and the entire scheme, the whole 'chi' goes out of whack (tilt-tilt-tilt). Plus, Tom and Naomi care even less about it than I do. We all prefer the simplicity which is Jesus.)

(And I am so sorry if those last two paragraphs made anyone hyperventilate. Really.)


*************


I'm not a bah humbug. I'm just a different drum marcher. :)

Friday, December 17, 2010

Things Will Change

Yesterday. Ah, yesterday.

My ironing board was set up in the dining room and that Charlie Brown Christmas song ("Christmas time is here, Happiness and cheer") wafted down from the vent in the ceiling while Naomi practiced with brushes on her drums. Tom arrived home with Oreo's (I know, the worst-for-you cookies) which cost just 50 cents after our Rite Aid sale and coupon and then he and I snuggled into our chairs in the living room where we watched yet another episode of The X-Files while snow blew around outside.

And Debra called it Good. So very, very good.

But last year at this time? I recall still feeling sad about the 'death' of Naomi's and Carl's relationship after seven years and the actual death of their cat, Oreo. That dark cloud of Death can take longer than we think to vanish, can't it? This is why (I tell myself) Tom and I do not have farm animals. They always eventually die, so this ultra-sensitivity within me would mean there would be that cloud, always or nearly so. And who needs that?

But lately? Oh, the peace! The indescribable peace as I step from room to room. Tom has no job, but still there's that peace. Naomi has no home of her own, yet her living here with us has increased the peace of our rooms. At least, it feels like that. The harmony is thick--you can almost slice it with a knife.

So what am I telling you? Your tomorrow may be totally different than your today. The way you're feeling today will someday be just a memory. You will change and grow and think differently. Hope will increase and Life will look and be better.

If you hang in there. If you keep seeking and finding and learning how to fling away the bad so to receive the good. But you must never, ever give-up.

You must always keep your tomorrows coming.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Where She Calls Everyone a Liar (Kinda)

One day when we lived in the burbs our elderly neighbor, Nancy, asked me if I'd ever worked outside the home. I told her not really, that I'd worked only as a dishwasher in a small cafe when Tom and I were first married.

Nancy shook her head and said, "That's too bad. I always like to see that wives are prepared to go out and work in case their husbands lose their jobs. I had to start teaching when George lost his job many years ago and it got us through some hard times."

I nodded and then asked her where she taught school, mostly just to get her off the subject of me being an unqualified dweeb. heh.

But what raced through my mind? "I don't have to worry about Tom losing his job. People always need power from power plants. Besides, God's always kept Tom working and by faith, I believe He always will."

Good grief. Ever needed a definition for presumption? I just gave you one.

Always I will be glad that Tom lost his job. Why would I say such a thing? Because of the new lessons, the new ways of being stretched in our faith and the new compassion I have for my fellow passengers in our same boat.

Usually, I get shivers down my spine when I hear people ask, "Lord, why did you let this happen to me? I did everything right."

Oh, the pride!

Now, do I believe it's wrong to question God? No. But when I question Him, it's to find out where I went wrong, not where He did. It's because I'm ready to hear an answer I probably won't like. At all.

It's like this verse says:

"Let God be true, but every man a liar." ... Romans 3:4

God is true, without blame and never made a mistake in His life. But I'm the one who takes wrong turns, the one who didn't take Nancy's words seriously. Oh, they did urge me to practice my writing in this blog more frequently and writing here is one thing I've done faithfully. But should I have done more?

Did my presumption clog my ears from hearing godly instructions about being better prepared for Tom's future lay-off? I mean, we're ok now and, all things considered, everything is fine. But should I have done more?

That's what I'm questioning. But never will you hear me question God about His part in any difficult time. For He is faithful. He is perfect. It is people who make mistakes and are unfaithful and foolish. People like me. People in the power plant business, doctors, FDA employees, government leaders, drivers of cars, and well, everyone else. And if something goes wrong, if a mistake is made, I might question God about it, but only to find out where I or other people went wrong--not Him. Not ever.




***************

Here's another post about my neighbor, Nancy.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Riled Up? Or Calm With Trust? (Or, What Kinds of Boat Rides Are You Taking In Your Head?)

I love to read blogs, mostly to read what bloggers are thinking even more than what they are doing.

But sometimes in waves, it seems, bloggers get all in a dither. Upset. Worried.

Upset that people are selfish.
Mad at our Country and its leaders.
Upset at mega-churches. Disappointed with tiny ones.
Worried about their children.
Mad at their relatives.
Worried about money, the economy and Life.

Some of them are masters at making the upset appear as holiness: "This is righteous anger." Or, "I'm upset, mad and worried because I love so deeply."

Hmmm. I wonder.

And oh my. Always I'm so tempted to leave just one comment in their boxes. Can you guess what it is? It's this:

"Martha, Martha. You are worried and upset about so many things."

I've yet to do that, though.

Somewhere I read that 90% of our worries never come to pass. If that's true, then that means 90% of the 'worry time' we put our bodies and minds through a type of needless torture. And worse, 90% of that 'worry time' we hurt God's feelings because we didn't trust Him to work things out. To care for those for whom we worried. To fix what was wrong in the areas which upset us.

That's what bothers me the most when I get all hot and bothered, when I allow my head and heart to get so riled up that I can't think clearly, can't remember to pray, can't recall the calm of trust. When my mind is so occupied with all that's going wrong, I can't hear God remind me of all that's going right. All the noise in my head drowns out--not only His instructions of what to do next--but His whispers of "Peace be still" in the midst of the storm.

A quiet heart--that's what I want. And a head without the swirling storms of my own making, but rather, one always at peace, always calm enough to hear His still, small voice. Always calm enough to step out of the boat in obedience, in wisdom, ignoring any fear.




************



John 14:27
Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world gives, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.



************

Mark 4:19
And the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in, choke the Word, and it becomes unfruitful.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Say Good-Bye to Insecurity

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

***

I've noticed something. When I accepted the simple talents God gave me--and stopped wishing for flashier ones--my days all turned more peaceful.

So here's a hint: Never let yourself feel insecure when your church friends are called to go on missions trips. Or when they get promoted to Church Committee Queen. Or when they feed 1,000,000 homeless people or mail 3 bazillion shoe boxes full of toys to Ochoocoochoo or sing the big solo at the Christmas Eve service.

Even if you were to do those things, it wouldn't count with God. It wouldn't matter at all because He never called you to do them and so He wouldn't be doing those things through you, anyway.

He is so not all about numbers or being flashy or envied by crowds. Uh, no. He's all about love and obedience.

So just love and obey and be thrilled with your simple talents because it's through those gifts that God will weave Himself through you and reach out His hands to touch others. He'll do that through you.

And it doesn't get any better than that.



****************

To be sung to the tune of Let It Snow:

"Let it go, let it go, let it go...."


(Sing over and over until the words become reality.)


*****************


"... and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags..." ... from Isaiah 62:6

Monday, December 13, 2010

Obeying The Shoulds or God?

Of course, I probably should change the header photo on this blog. Christmas is less than two weeks away(!) and yet I've still got those autumn trees up there.

But I don't wanna. Change the photo, that is.

I've never been big about doing what other people think I should do. The few times I've given-in and done--not what God was asking me--but what others were, well, I felt like the witch in The Wizard of Oz: "I'm melting! Melting!"

You know, melting into something not my true self, but rather, being melted and poured into one of those plastic soap molds where the soap cools and comes out in the shape of an angel or a seashell or half a pineapple.

And then feeling all wrong because I was a different molded shape than what God planned all along. Or something like that.

I want to do and believe and act the way God tells me to do and believe and act. To hear those instructions within my heart and within the words other people share--but also--to know the difference between being led and being pushed. Between being told the truth (by others) and being lied to, even if the lie came out of a type of innocent ignorance.

And well, I think that autumn photo is the most thought-provoking one I've ever taken. I stare at it and glean something different from it sometimes. Good photos or paintings do that to us and for as long as it continues to do so, I'll keep it up there and switch it only when God whispers, "Ok. Time for a change."

I prefer to live that way. To leave the "shoulds" alone and walk that sort of scary tightrope of faith. And then see what happens.



************


Here's a great article by Rob Price regarding the tyranny of the oughts and shoulds.


************

Saturday, December 11, 2010

The Adventure and Peace of It All

Sometimes you just need to take a couple days off.

So that's what I did. :)

But I'm back and feeling incredibly peaceful. I'm finding that when I tell my emotions how to behave--rather than the other way around--the adventure of it all becomes more in focus. You don't miss seeing any of Life's blessings when you keep the fog of worry out of your head.

So yesterday I got away from the house for the first time in nearly two weeks and while standing in one of many long check-out lines at the supermarket with my fist full of coupons, a young woman came and tapped me on the shoulder. She said, "Ma'am, I can help you over here," so I followed her to her empty check-out lane which she opened for me.

And right there while I unloaded my groceries I thanked God for His favor, for ushering me quickly to the best line in the whole store. And then when I saved $37 dollars (out of what would have been $89) with sales and coupons, well, I thanked Him again, this time for coupons and the Internet from which I almost feel like I'm printing-out money lately, what with all these Internet coupons, some which even made my groceries free because coupons are doubled at our stores, those up to 99 cents.

And then there's the possibility that Tom will get a certain job, a nifty one, but we won't find out for a month, or so. But you know? In the meantime, no matter what happens, all will be well. These months of unemployment feel like a combination of exam time and vacation, too, like June exams testing us over decades of lessons, and then summer vacation follows. Take an exam, enjoy a vacation. Over and over.

And although our November days have been extra-chilly, the house is warm while I cook from scratch and dance in the kitchen with Christmas Carols and earn a few dollars from online surveys. And there's all those hours of X-Files and American Pickers (odd combination, I know) with Tom and I sitting near each other, unworried, resting at heart.

There's much quiet and staring out of windows, too, giving myself time to remember what I've learned so I can put it into practice and thus keep this peace, this amazing, almost visible peace which follows me around the house and to the market and down the driveway to snatch Christmas cards from the box. Everywhere there is peace as long as I shut out the worry, dread and fear which would love to waltz through an open door--if I let them.

But of course, I'm not allowing that stuff inside. I have--we all have--that power to keep the door shut, opening it only for that which is from God.

And as Mary discovered, nothing from God can be taken away from us:

"But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her." ... Luke 10:42

That's still true today, you know.





****************


Wednesday, December 08, 2010

What's It Like For God to Watch Me?


Brace yourself.

During these past three weeks of snow and freezing and job searches and mulling over decisions which need to be made, Tom and I have been Netflixing The X-Files.

No, really.

But relax. Our blu-ray player enables us to read the blurbs about each episode beforehand so we skip any which mention ghosts or demons or cults, etc., and instead, we choose only the episodes with weird bugs, strange people or little green martians.

We have our morals, you know. :)

Anyway, we are, like, totally addicted. X-Files is like a combination of 24, Stargate Atlantis and Stargate SG-1, all favorites of ours, and oh, the suspense!

But the X-Files also makes me think. Like, this morning I thought about how Fox Mulder--at first--was open to anything out of the ordinary. He was willing to believe what others instantly dismissed because their minds were closed to anything unfamiliar to their past experience (sound familar to any of you other church folk out there?).

Dana Scully--at first--was close-minded, but slowly her mind became more open, that is, as long as what she saw could be explained by science. Which, alas, limited her ability to see many unusual things for what they really were. For after all, some things are real but simply cannot be explained by science or anyone else, so Scully's case reports always contained more questions than answers.

Without sharing any spoilers, I'll just say that by season five, Mulder changed. Suddenly he doubted everything he saw, rejected all explanations, which in comparison, practically made Scully appear like a true believer of anything out of the ordinary.

And oh my, it felt so wrong to see Mulder like that! Suddenly he became a depressed, defeated doubter of all things he once believed. Suddenly he lost his hope and became a sad, disillusioned, pathetic shell of his former self.

It was so hard watching those episodes. 

Whereas I'd spent four seasons admiring this guy's openness and search for the truth, now, in season five, I couldn't stand him. It was like watching a sad, sad train wreck. Or something.

And here's what came to me this morning: Most likely when God is watching me, I look like a sad, sad train wreck to Him when I allow myself to grow discouraged and mopey. When I turn all doubtful and sarcastic, forgetting what God did for me in the past, choosing only to concentrate on The Current Event-Gone-Wrong of The Day.

What must He think when I forget just how darn huge and supernatural He really is and start believing my doubts, instead?

Tom and I are watching The X-Files everyday, but God is watching us every single second. May we not make Him groan, roll His eyes and wish He could change the channel.





*********


John 14:27
Peace I leave with you; My [own] peace I now give and bequeath to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. 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)


*********

We're currently watching Season Six of The X-Files and these are the episodes we've found to be exceptionally excellent so far:

Monday
Tithonus
Drive
Field Trip
Dreamland 1
Dreamland 2
S.R. 819
The Rain King


These can be found at the Netflix instant view thingamajig and most stand alone, as in, you don't have to have watched from season one to know what's going on.

If you are a huge fan of The Hallmark Channel, well, you probably won't like these. :)



****************

The photo: I moved the little red table to the bay window recently. Because of the three big windows, it's a nice place to sit with coffee and a book when, on snowy days, I want to feel as though I'm outside.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

BalanceBalanceBalance. TrustTrustTrust.

So whole decades ago (has it really been that long?), Tom, Naomi and I watched A Chipmunk Christmas. (You remember Alvin and the Chipmunks, right? "ALVINNN!") Well, Alvin secretly gives away his harmonica (a gift from Dave, his caretaker/agent) to an ill little boy. But then Dave announces that, at their next concert, he'd like Alvin to play his new harmonica.

Uh-oh! So Alvin, unable to tell Dave that he no longer has the harmonica lest he hurt his feelings, begins a campaign to earn money for a new one. For days Alvin hunts for money and asks for money and tries to find ways to earn money, making Dave crazy and worried about Alvin's apparent mercenary selfishness.

Dave is pushed over the proverbial edge when he checks on a sleeping Alvin. He quietly opens the door, looks down at Alvin in bed who then, speaking in his sleep, repeats over and over, "MoneyMoneyMoney. MoneyMoneyMoney."

Heh. Of course, the truth comes out eventually and Dave tells Alvin he's proud of him for giving away the harmonica.

One thing never left me after watching that cartoon--the MoneyMoneyMoney thing. For over 20 years I've found perfect situations in which to repeat to Tom, "MoneyMoneyMoney," in a joking fashion. And always we chuckle.

Well lately, MoneyMoneyMoney has been on my mind. How to make it. How to save it, even though--right now--we have enough. But still each week I can get a bit bonkers while keeping-up with my online surveys (must. complete. this. boring. survey) and I keep fine-tuning my penny-pinching skills, scouring coupon websites (becoming all CouponsCouponsCoupons and wild-eyed), turning off extra lights and even pawing weekly through certain drawers for change for our big plastic pickle jar which is labeled Vacation Fund, but which, someday, may be redeemed for more practical things.

MoneyMoneyMoney. Wondering if we'll have enough too far into the future.

But then God comes along and tells me to, well, knock it off. :) And this:

"Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes." ... James 4:14


He reminds me of balance--sweet, wise balance. And he reminds me of how, in earlier centuries, many people worked too hard and died young, but how--nowadays--many people aren't working (moving around) enough and are dying young, too. So balance! Always remember the amazing value of balance, He whispers.

And Trust--remember that, too, He says. Trust that, if I do my part, He will do His. True trust coats my heart with calmness and peace and a type of faith that all will be well, all manner of things shall be well. And when I'm headed in that direction, that faith direction, it's amazing how often 'all' becomes very well, indeed.




***************


'And All Shall Be Well, And All Shall Be Well, And All Manner Of Things Shall Be Well.' ~ St. Julian of Norwich


****************





****************

"Sitting is the new smoking." ... Dr. Mehmet Oz




***************

Monday, December 06, 2010

Living Inside The Difference

Here, thanks to Aunt Amelia (who led me to where I found this), is something I've been discovering for myself to be true:

"I have come to the frightening conclusion that I am the decisive element. It is my personal approach that creates the climate. It is my daily mood that makes the weather. I possess tremendous power to make life miserable or joyous. I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration, I can humiliate or humor, hurt or heal. In all situations, it is my response that decides whether a crisis is escalated or de-escalated, and a person is humanized or de-humanized. If we treat people as they are, we make them worse. If we treat people as they ought to be, we help them become what they are capable of becoming.” ... Goethe

Amazing, huh?

Probably I was in my 20's when I first noticed such a difference in widow ladies. Some of them lived lives of sadness or even bitterness while waiting, just waiting, to die. They wished only to step into Heaven to be reunited with their husbands, and oh yeah, to see Jesus, too (that always sounded rather like an after-thought to me).

But the other widows? They got out of bed happy and spent their days spreading contentment to the rest of us. And although they, also, anticipated a heavenly reunion with their husband, they longed most to see Jesus. And in the meantime? All was well. The air we breathed surrounding them felt like Peace--and perhaps it was.

These women, over the decades, have traveled to their reunions, but still I thank them for showing me the difference, for opening my eyes to what can be.



*************

Here is a simple way to make gift tags.

Here is a make-it-yourself Christmas star.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Giving. And Then Giving Some More.

"Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” ... Luke 6:38


So this Thanksgiving we mailed a card and a check to certain RelativesWhoShallRemainNameless and when Tom phoned them on Thanksgiving Day, one of them told him, "We appreciated it but, oh! You shouldn't have done that. You can't afford to give away money now that you are without a job."

Good grief.

It is in giving that we receive. Remember all those sermons from all those church pulpits? Give away nothing and what does that leave God to work with? Nothing. For nothing given = nothing received in return.

Of course, some people get all bug-eyed-hyper and insist, "Oh, but you should never give things away while expecting something in return!" (followed by much tongue-clucking and squinting of eyes).

Oh really? Although I agree it shouldn't be our main motive, (and we shouldn't expect to receive back from that person) I, for one, find nothing wrong in expecting God's principles to work if I put them into practice. As in, be it unto me, even as I have believed. Be it unto me even as I expected God to move on my behalf.

So as for me and my house in these days of unemployment, we will search for ways to give to others rather than horde out of a fear of lack.

And we will be blessed. Even in 2010. Even in our unemployment.

It's a joy to live supernaturally, as in, spending our days, our few years upon Earth, differently than the majority of the planet. Thinking and acting in an opposite manner brings us some stares, but it also brings us some exciting experiences with a few miracles tossed into the swirling mix.




**********

Psalm 5:3
In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

A Magical Recipe

It's a rare day when I share a recipe in my blog, but this one is just so darn magical. As in, it always comes out perfect. You cannot wreck it.

When I found a variation of it online ('variation' because I've tweaked it) it was called Zucchini Bread. But I've never used zucchini. Instead I've substituted pumpkin puree or bananas or yellow squash. And each time, well, the end product was heavenly. And extremely low in fat and sugar, too, and well, you can't mess this one up. Honest.

So I thought I'd share it here so that you, too, could bake magical dessert bread at your house. :)


Magical Dessert Bread

1 1/2 c. flour (I use whole wheat flour)
1 tsp. cinnamon (or more)
1/2 tsp. ginger
1/2 tsp. allspice (or more)
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. baking powder

1 c. mashed bananas or pumpkin puree or zucchini or yellow squash
2 tsp. sugar (you can add more)
2 tsp. brown sugar
1 egg
1/2 c. applesauce (unsweetened or any)
1 tbs. flax seed or wheat bran

1.) Preheat oven to 350. Lightly grease a glass pie dish or square glass baking dish.
2.) Cream together sugar, egg, applesauce and whichever vegetable/fruit you are using. Set aside.
3.) Sift together flour, spices, salt, baking soda, baking powder, flax seed or bran.
4.) Slowly add sifted ingredients to creamed mixture, mixing just until moistened.
5. ) Pour into prepared pan and bake for 35 minutes or until done.
6.) Enjoy! (Makes four good-sized servings.)