Thursday, March 31, 2011

Just Dreaming...

So did you notice I changed my header? Just couldn't stand looking at all that snow even one more day. Let's all simply pretend our house and yard look like that photo, above, on this very day, ok? :)

Speaking of photos, I'll include two here, below, of houses for sale in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, the current place of Tom's and my house-hunting online. Why not Mount Airy as I've talked about here for weeks? Well, a friend (hi Wilma!) mentioned she would move to Mount Airy in a heartbeat if only they had the specialized medical facilities she and her husband require. Which reminded me--hey! I am married to Mr. In Need of Specialized Medical Facilities and there's no way we're going to travel 30 miles just to go to his doctor appointments. So, well, now we're considering Winston-Salem and you know? I'm fine with that. Must be good ol' Grace again.

Anyway, these two houses, below, are both only around $36,000(!) Aren't they just the cutest things ever? (Click to enlarge.)








There are lots of photos included with the top house, including the street it's on, which resembles a very friendly-looking country-ish road, lots of trees, the type of street probably on the outskirts of town since I don't believe I saw any sidewalks. (I'll go back and check.)

Winston-Salem has tons of houses in the 35,000 - 60,000 range in neighborhoods of all sorts, good-and-friendly and not-so-good-not-so-friendly. We are believing for a cheap house in the former.

Anyway, I'm sharing these solely for your viewing pleasure. As always, take any mentions of our moving to a whole other state with proverbial grains of salt. :)










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Lessons and Mercy and God's Goodness, Oh My!


I hope no one reading this blog spends their days in a low-key panic that you and/or your spouse will be laid-off from your job. Yet if you are one of those people, please let this post encourage you, ok?

On that fateful day last August when Tom was laid-off from his job (along with 3 other guys), we had only around $3,500 in savings. Now, for tons of years we'd heard that you (all of us) should have at least 8 months' worth of expenses saved-up, we'd heard that more than ever the previous year, what with everybody and his Aunt Sue getting fired. But did we take that seriously? Did we ever attempt to reach that 8-months of expenses mark? Did we believe Tom would ever be laid-off?

Uh, no. (Ding-bats, I know.)

So when Tom, out there in the car in the driveway, first told me he'd been laid-off, one of my first thoughts (besides, "Ack! Ack! Ack!") was "Oh dear. We've only got enough money to live on for maybe two months!" (Followed by additional, "Ack! Ack! Ack's!")

But then we came inside the house, sat at the dining room table (along with Naomi) and Tom said his company had given him a nice severance check, along with a couple other technical-sounding checks he was owed. Of course, being a list-maker, I grabbed an old envelope and began totaling all this extra money, breathed sighs of relief, even though Tom said we'd only see around half the severance check because taxes would eat it up.

They did. Eat it up, that is.

But still? Here we are seven months later and wow. We haven't yet touched those savings accounts. And how fun--yes actually fun--it's been to watch God take care of us. To watch Him s-t-r-e-t-c-h our finances and make them travel doubly far. In little ways like, just before Naomi's birthday I'd decided to give her a $20 gift card from amazon.com, but before I did that, wow! Living Social had a deal where you could buy a $20 gift card at amazon.com for just $10. And to me--that is fun. That is like watching God, with my very own eyes, help us undeserving ding-bats.

And all those free groceries He's enabled me to buy just by waiting for sales and using a coupon! And just last week I bought more of my oh-so-lovely krill oil gelcaps (which help me sleep) from VitaCost.com, along with two bottles of chewable acidolphulous, for just $28 rather than what would have been $58 without special sales and money I'd earned from online surveys.

And then as I mentioned earlier this week, our tax return will be three times larger than we'd budgeted. Wow, God truly is merciful. I mean, I feel Tom and I have had to make God work harder than He would have if only we'd had a decent savings account before Tom lost his job. And yes, we put the majority of our extra money into this house and barn and that, in itself, is a type of savings. I realize that. But you can't eat a new garage or barn siding or replacement vinyl windows, now can you? :)

And as I said, for lots of years I kept hearing everywhere (even inside my own head by way of conviction) that we should save money for a rainy day, at least 8 months' worth of rainy days, actually. And, well, I never did take that as seriously as I should have--and trust me, I've done a bit of head-hanging these past seven months. But that's where God's mercy comes in.

That's where learning from our mistakes comes in, too. Believe me, I've learned some awesome lessons these past seven months! And here's what keeps returning to me--do your part and God will do His. But sometimes? Sometimes (probably quite often, actually) God will do His part even if we mess-up ours. But as for me and my house, we desire to no longer be flakes, to not make God work harder than He should and to become better listeners. To learn all our lessons well. Very well, indeed.





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Of course, God provides for us and blesses us in other ways besides with money (I'm keeping a list of those ways, even). But this post, as you can tell by the photo at the top, is about, well, money matters. So there you go.



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A special thanks to those of you who commented upon my last post! By now my most faithful readers will know to take those mentions of moving away with a grain of salt. :) And thanks, Julie, for sharing your friends' story! That was awesome and that's the kind of testimony I was thinking of when I wrote about our phone call. Around 26 years ago we received a call from someone wanting to buy our mobile home--another person told them we might want to sell it. (They did end up purchasing it from us.)That kind of thing is rare for us, so that's partly why I shared it. It was a surprising thing just out of the blue.


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"Trust in the Lord with all your heart.... lean not unto your own understanding.... in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths."

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Anticipation!


Ol' Debra gets out of the house today! Tom has a chiropractor appointment so he'll drop me off at a supermarket on the quiet edge of the Town of Niagara and I will use all those coupons from my computer and the Sunday newspaper and get cheap groceries. I heard that last month contained a huge rise in groceries nationwide, but I didn't even notice. All my coupons saved me all that cash.

Oh, and last night the strangest thing happened.

There Tom and I were, watching an old Rockford Files episode (via Netflix), when an old friend, who we visited with at his wife's yard sale last summer, called. He asked Tom if we were still considering selling our house. Well, Tom told him yes (even though technically we're thinking more like next year), and our friend went on to say a man in our immediate area has a large house on lots of acres, but he wants to downsize, like, right away. So he asked if we'd like him (our friend) to give the guy our phone number and Tom said, sure.

Wow. A surprising, out-of-the-blue phone call like that must mean something. Perhaps these three things:

1. Maybe God wants us to move to a warmer state this year instead. I've certainly felt crazy-anxious to get out of here lately, what with this winter that will not quit. But alas, I've learned not to trust those types of feelings. Yet God can and does use those types of feelings sometimes (remember when I felt claustrophobic in the suburbs toward the end?) so perhaps that was a sign that God is serious about our moving away. Now. Timing is always so vital with Him, I've noticed.

2. Maybe this is a test. Would we sell this house if we get an offer, even if we truly believe we're meant to move next year, instead? Or do we even really know whether we should move this year or next? Are we thinking next year only because it sounds easier to put off tomorrow what God wants us to do today, appealing to our extreme procrastination tendencies? Hmmm.....

3. Or maybe it's just a confirmation from God that--when the right time comes to sell this place--He can make it happen snap! Just like that. His plans do not have to be hard; generally, we as people make them all complicated and hard. Perhaps that phone call was simply to remind us God is bigger than all our own plans--so what matters--is to stay oh-so-tuned into Him. About everything.

Isn't Life amazing? Especially when you're standing at the very edge of Springtime after a long winter. We've had a string of oh-so-sunny days, though very cold ones, yet still I've put on my long black wool coat and walked around our soggy yard in great anticipation of the busy days to come in my gardens. Oh, how I feel all that dirt and those dried-up flowers whispering for my hands to pull and dig amongst them.

Oh my. I can hardly wait!




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Wow. Have you ever tried organic banana candy? Naomi bought us some and oh my! It's nearly as good as chocolate and just about as addictive. It even looked like a big chocolate bar when she brought it home, though each dark little piece is individually wrapped with clear plastic. I highly, highly recommend banana candy, though really, it doesn't take like bananas. It tastes more like fun and heaven and dark chewy comfort. Ahh.... :)

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Snail Mail Days Are Here Again

.....well, sorta. It's the anticipation of opening my old-fashioned mailbox that is actually here again.

Why? Because of the free stuff which arrives in there wrapped inside cute little packages. Free stuff They (whoever They are) send to me with no strings attached, including no request for my credit card number, either. Those "free" offers can be, well, trouble.

What I've found is that companies like WalMart(forgive me) and Target and the ones who package your favorite foods and products are just itching to send you free items and coupons for free stuff to your snail mail box. No postage required, just absolutely free. So I've been signing up for all this (truly) no-cost-to-me stuff (well, all the ones I can use) thanks, in great part, to the people I mentioned here who alert me to free offers by way of my Facebook homepage (though you can sign up for email alerts, instead, if you prefer).

So I thought I'd give you a sampling of the gifts which make me anticipate walking down our country driveway to our mailbox, items which make me smile when I open them at our dining room table and feel rather Christmas-like on normal ol' days:

Coupons for 2 free cups of coffee from Dunkin Donuts
A coupon for one full-size CoffeeMate Coffee Creamer (3.99)
A small box with a variety of Cheezit Crackers
A small package of Kleenex
3 pouches of Purina One cat food (and additional coupons)
A coupon for a free 99 cent package of Ruffles potato chips
5 samples of flavored Nescafe instant coffee
2 Atkins snack bars, 1 meal bar
A coupon for a free can of Chef Boyardee pasta
A coupon for a can of Chicken of the Sea tuna
A package of vanilla coffee (we made five cups from it)
A coupon for free Yoplait yogurt
And the best one-- From Target, a free zippered make-up bag with samples of shampoo, conditioner, lipstick and lotion. Also came with $25 worth of coupons. Fun, huh?

Most of these arrived over our long winter and probably helped save my sanity. :) Just thought I'd share these and possibly inspire some of you. It seems that, yes, there are some things in this modern-day life which still really are free.

Imagine that.




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Monday, March 28, 2011

In Case, Like Me, You Failed Winter 101


So! Winter is losing its grasp around here, albeit s-l-o-w-l-y (a mere 13 degrees when I awoke this morning). But we've had four days of bright sunshine and I've basked in it upon our enclosed front porch while otherwise surrounded by snow. As long as there's sun, though, I'm fine.


Which concerns me.


This winter showed me I wasn't the Miss Strong Christian I supposed myself to be. And yes, I faced a lot of challenges and often felt like the heads in that carnival game which rise whoosh! out of various holes, only to be pounded with a hammer by the guy playing the game. Raise my head, get pounded. Raise my head, get pounded.


But even so, oh the mistakes I made this winter! Gah. I stayed home too much, for one thing. In fact, last week I told Tom that our house was feelin' like Purgatory. Like we are stuck here, unable to get out, unlikely to ever move on.


Heh. Yes, I said that.


I complained way too much. Nagged poor ol' Tom (oh, all those times I freaked-out when he'd buy $10 worth of salsa, chilis and tortillas). And I got too obsessed about becoming a Coupon Queen and making money online, too. In fact, after Tom's former co-worker did our taxes for us last week, we discovered our return will be three times greater than what we'd assumed. Three times greater! So oh dear, I had to apologize to God--again--for acting like--if He didn't have my help--well, He'd have a hard time providing for us.


Good grief.


Yet most of all? Most of all I think I failed Winter 101 this year because I forgot to have fun. Yes, I really do believe that's what sunk me the most. Oh, how we need fun in our daily lives! Of course, hearing that unnerves super-ultra-religious folks, but let them be unnerved. I believe in fun and I believe God believes we should have lots of it. That fun should spring out of the joy He gives us, joy being quite important since it's from joy where we get our strength.


So there you go. I may have failed Winter, but rather than hang my head about it all condemned-wise (slowing down any further growth), I'm aiming to pass Springtime with bright, flying colors and lots and lots of fun thrown in, too. I have whole months' worth of fun to make up for!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Yearning For An Egg Separator



Yesterday I began feeling so much better! Reminded me of one of those "suddenly verses" from the Bible, though tweaked. Like, "And suddenly there was with Debra, a host of happy thoughts and sunny skies inside her head." Suddenly things felt different than they felt the day before. (Let that bring you hope, ok?) So here's another lighter side post, one I originally shared years ago here.



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Okay, so while I was in high school, my mom had one of those Tupperware egg separators like the one in the photo above. So by the time I was married at the ripe old age of 19, that's all I knew. I mean, how else did one separate eggs other than to use the Tupperware thing?

So fast-forward two years and there I was at a Tupperware party at our pastor's house, surrounded by ten, or so, giggling women, dressed in their red-and-yellow-plaid best (those were the days....). Immediately we played one of those famous Tupperware games, the rules which I probably forgot by the next week. But I do recall one part of the game--if you did something correctly, you could take a little Tupperware prize from the coffee table. But then if someone else did whatever-it-was correctly, they could step over to you and snatch away your little Tupperware prize from your hand if you'd chosen what their heart desired. This went on and on for some time.

Well. The thing I took from the coffee table was an egg separator. Weeks before this party, I'd been moaning in my little yellow kitchen because separating eggs without a handy-dandy Tupperware egg separator was becoming too, too complex (I'll spare you the details as to how I was attempting to separate eggs at that time).

So (back to the party), there I sat with the egg separator, only everyone kept walking over to me and grabbing it away! That separator appeared to be THE hot item at that party. They'd snatch it from me, and then I'd snatch it from them. And so forth, amid much laughter.

Then the game ended. But there was to be no egg separator for me, for we'd run out of time before I could win it back. But honest, even though those were the days when my feelings could get hurt over anything, I felt just a tad bummed-out, but by the next morning, I'd completely forgotten that little yellow thing which would have made my life complete.

Yet that following morning--that's when it began! One by one, a couple hours apart, three women from the party knocked on my front door, each one holding an egg separator. The first woman handed me the one she'd won at the party and told me she just liked to separate eggs the old-fashioned way, after all (and I, being too prideful to look stupid, avoided asking her just what the old-fashioned way was). But I accepted the separator, this yellow one you see in the photo, and thanked her for being so sweet.

Each of the other two ladies (appearing rather sheepishly repentant) brought me their own separators from their homes, and each woman and I laughed after I explained all this giving-of-the-separators which was going on!

What a fun day. A memorable one. And I enjoyed telling Tom about it when he later arrived home from work.

The lesson? Sometimes if we can simply keep a good attitude and trust God for the things we need (not clawing, impulsively purchasing or whining), we might just be surprised by one of His delightful little miracles... and observe that He can speak to others' hearts better than we can.

Oh, and now, 26 years later, every time I use my Tupperware egg separator (or separate an egg the old-fashioned way), I always remember this story and smile with the memory. And I'd rather have it no other way.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Today I Wished I Was Eighty-Years-Old


Really, I did. Wished I was 80, that is.

Why in the world?? Since you'd never, ever guess, I will tell you.

You know how, when folks reach 80 or 85 and especially 90 or 95, younger people say, "Oh, if he wants to eat salami sandwiches and soda pop every single day (or eat pizza or Frito's or smoke cigars), why, just let him! He's gotten himself to a ripe old age and he deserves to eat whatever he wants."?

Well, I wished I was 80-years-old so that I could eat a hamburger basket every single day of the week.

I love hamburger baskets. Tom and I get take-out from a local 'hole in the wall' place around every 8 or 9 days, or so, and always (always!) I tell Tom, "Order me a hamburger basket." (Though most times, he doesn't even ask me what I want anymore.)

A hamburger basket comes with a simple little hamburger and everything on it (no cheese though. Cheese makes my head explode--not a pleasant sight.) It also comes with French fries, bottled water (well, that's what I choose though I'm always tempted by the soda instead!), two tiny envelopes of salt and three small packages of ketchup. And this delightful meal costs only around $2.50. (Note: No! It went up to $3.25. Alas.)

Tom brings home my hamburger basket and his always-something-different food and we sit in the living room and watch something mindless from Netflix. Lately it's been the old tv series, Hunter, though recently we switched to the niftier Rockford Files.

Brain-sucking tv and a hamburger basket! If I was 80-years-old I could get away with that every day of the week. And I'd be deliriously happy.

Oh, if only I was 80! :)






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Of Waiting Well


I'm going to rerun this one from 2007. It's about waiting well, and ohh, I have not been waiting well for Spring. Uh, no. (She says, hanging her sorry head.)



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Just checking in... I'm still reeling because of what choosing contentment can do and feel like and change. These summery mornings are cool and exciting again and I have all these plans for our current house, projects galore (mainly painting furniture and knick-knacks an aged sort of white). And I'm anticipating more yard sales and estate sales with Tom (we visited tons last weekend and just enjoyed being together) and yesterday found me at Salvation Army's half-price day, fingering piles of white china and glass vases and fluted custard dishes.

My previous discontent was rather like that, "...a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump," verse and yes, I'd become one large lumpy complainer. But what a grand difference to choose to go there no longer... to leave the future alone and instead, brighten and make sweet my present. Bloom where I am planted and all that.

Anyway, I am actually already rereading Thoughts of Home after having bought and read the sequel, If These Walls Could Talk. Both books are perfect summer books, and well, there's a paragraph from the essay, The Love Nest, which I want to share with you. The author describes how she felt when she and her husband moved out of the home where they'd raised their family, this after a time of clearing away and cleaning out and asking their grown children to come and haul all their stored stuff away:

"By moving day, the feelings had spent themselves, and as Our Van was taking things away to storage and Their Van was bringing things in, I felt light of head and heart. I felt footloose and emancipated and about twenty-five years old, something in me had shifted into another gear. It has been this way from that hour. Miraculously for both of us the letting-go was swift and complete, accompanied by a huge surge of energy propelling us toward the new, the uncluttered, the small."

My eyes widened when I discovered that paragraph because it described how I've felt since Naomi, at 25, moved into her own place. And I guess I've been shocked ever since to have felt so free over something I'd dreaded, at times, over the years--the saying good-bye not just to our daughter, but to a whole era from my life. But like many things, this was one which could not have been foreseen until it was experienced, no matter how much I'd read or heard about others' experiences.

And just this whole thing of "waiting well" has reminded me of the years when a teen and young adult Naomi could not seem to appreciate my tendencies toward, and love of, all things domestic. She often hinted that Life's best things were ones you garnered outside of home... that because I didn't have a real job, I knew nothing about the real world... that washing dishes and gardening and sewing slipcovers were for those who had no life.

And of course, that hurt, especially when all along I'd hoped she'd come to appreciate, if not all things domestic, at least the fact I stayed home and did them to sweeten life for the three of us.

But I waited anyway, hoping she'd see the light--that so often the small domestic things are amongst the best things in life. Yet I did not always wait well, and that is my regret today... that I saw the present and feared the future would look the same. Oh, sometimes I trusted God to keep Naomi from crossing totally over to that side of humanity which sees us homemakers as wastes on society... but other times I waited in fear and discouragement and without a whole lot of hope.

If only I'd have waited well for Naomi these past ten years or so... She is becoming domestic around her home in her own creative ways, making me often smile. She visits Salvation Army on its half-off days and finds cute curtains and couch pillows and dishes and then arranges them when she gets home. And too, she loves to cook healthy meals inside the blue glass casserole dishes I gave her.

And you know? I've not even planted a vegetable garden this year, at least not yet. But this weekend Tom and I stopped by at the yard sale Naomi and her neighbor were holding together and what did we see in front of Naomi's half of her duplex?

A vegetable garden... with tomatoes and squash and the strawberries she'd asked me to let her bring home from our yard... and the lemon balm and purple basil from back there, too. She walked us around her garden's edge, told us about each plant and even asked for advice about how to make things grow...

... and I thought, if only I'd waited well while waiting for this.


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"Well done, thou good and faithful servant." ... Matthew 25:21

Friday, March 25, 2011

Giving Myself Time to Adjust


"Whenever they measure themselves by their own standards or compare themselves among themselves, they show how foolish they are." 1 Corinthians 10:12


I've been reading more of my old posts from our suburb house and the one where we lived for 6 months after that.

Good grief! I sounded like Pollyanna On Speed. Seriously.

And I have been concerned. "Where did all that daily happiness go?" I ask myself. "I'm just not feelin' that. No, lately it's more like I spend my days trying to pass tests and searching in corners for happy thoughts." And I'm, also lately, trying to keep conviction from straying into condemnation. Blech.


But then it comes to me: All these changes! All these changes I've gone through since August 31st when Tom lost his job. It takes time to adapt to changes like those. It requires time to learn how to live a whole other way, to live confidently depending upon God, not a paycheck. Especially when Mrs. Happy Loner now has two other people in her house almost constantly and she can't play her happy music loudly or run the vacuum whenever she wants or rearrange furniture on a whim or spend hours alone in blessed, sweet silence.

It requires much more time with Grace to adapt to all that.


What also doesn't help is that, in one month, her favorite kindred spirit cat died, she got sick, broke a tooth, two ribs slipped out of place, her one good ear is still clogged-up, the earthquake in Japan happened (on top of all those earlier earthquakes) and it's Springtime yet there's snow all around, 20 degree days and long winters have always made her nuts.


But then that verse at the top of this comes to me and you know what? I'm comparing my past self to my present self (and being foolish.) I'm comparing the Debra who so often had her own way, got to do her own thing, with this new Debra who hasn't yet found the imagination to get what she needs in this new life. She's still too often giving-in and giving-up easily. Going with the flow instead of fighting, swimming upstream against the current.

Being the old happy Debra was, in reality, pretty easy. Walking in happiness for this new Debra is more challenging, so when satan is hissing that I'm growing weaker, how good of God to remind me that--in reality--I'll actually come out of this a stronger person who can find happiness anywhere and whether she gets her own way--or not. (So take that, satan, you ol' liar!)


It takes Time to learn all that. And it takes Time and Grace (oh Grace!) to adjust to new Life Situations when they are thrust upon you. And I realized this morning I've been in a hurry to get it all right, to receive all A +'s--and then when I've gotten it wrong--I've been too hard on myself. And slipped from God's conviction into satan's (and my own) condemnation.


So. Rather than aiming for the old Pollyanna on Speed, instead, my goal is to become Debra on Grace. That sounds saner, with extra space for patience with myself, even. And much, much more do-able, for Grace is one awesome helper, indeed.





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Often we expect way more from ourselves than even God, Himself, does!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

For Your Listening Pleasure


Years ago I shared these Patty Griffin songs with you, and well, here they are again. I am listening to them these past two days while I wait, wait for Spring, wait to burst out of my back door to play in my yard and feel ten-years-old all over again.

So if you are also waiting, here are three songs to wait by...


Kite Song

Making Pies


Rain




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Good news! For two days my wayward ribs have been wandering back home. Oh, how amazing to have them back in place!



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Last week I made a little window garden. Brought a little Springtime to our dining room and to my heart.







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My new friend, Judy, recommended the kids' novel, Tophill Road by Helen Garrett. What a delight I'm finding it to be! If you, too, enjoy old-fashioned kids' lit. from the 1950's, you may enjoy this book.




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Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Looking Back--Sometimes It's a Good Thing

Oh, for three afternoons I sat upon our sunny patio at a bistro table with my books and looked all around, with warm sunshine upon my back, at the clear blue skies and lawn and bare trees and listened to the echo-y creak-cur-eak of the frogs in the winter lake piercing the country springtime silence. Glorious. Purely glorious.

This morning we are back to this:



Blech. Just blech.

But you know? During those glory days, Springtime swooped into my head--and heart. And now, like the old Ragu commercials said, "It's in there!" And it cannot be taken away. Okay, so it's a frozen, cold world out there again, but inside me, Spring's promise still burns like a golden lantern.

And that reminds me... I have a cool new friend! Her name is Judy, and well, she's spiffy because she's just like me. :) She tells me about herself in emails and I think, "Hmm, haven't I read this before? Nah, I lived it!"

Well, Judy has been reading, since last week, my whole blog from the beginning. I can't even imagine such a thing, but that's what she's doing, bless her heart. She's back in 2006, so sometimes I go there to see what I was doing back then.

And at first, I noticed something. Namely, back in 2006 I seemed to be more creative, took way more walks (even in winter), re-decorated lots more often, had cuter vignettes around my house, had more fun and appeared, well, happier.

Uh-oh! And at first that concerned me because it appeared like I'd lost some ground and growth and teachings. But wonderful God reminded me of a few things, namely, I'm just now coming out of one of the hardest months of my life and these dark times have tended to (sadly) make me forget that until the middle of February, I felt pretty chipper. Dark, sad times can tend to do that--make us forget the good stuff.

And just as I thought, "Well, ok but my vignettes around this house are BOR-ing," God told me to walk around these rooms and look at what I'd created here. And you know? My corners and vignettes and displays here at this farmhouse are kinda cute, after all. They're just different than they were in our last house. But different isn't bad--it's just, well, different. And different can often be even nicer.

And of course, God had already been nag--, uh, telling me that if I exercised more I wouldn't be so darn snippy to Tom out of general stress within me. So yes, because I did walk all the time back in 2006, I was less stressed-out and generally happier. But rather than just gaze back longingly, hopelessly, I'll simply tweak some things, as in, actually start exercising again instead of adopting this slug-like lifestyle. And I can always begin being more creative--only I can stop myself from living creatively (and only I can rev it back up again).

So what am I saying? Sometimes I need to look back--to return to happier times-- and then discover where I took the wrong turn that led me to sadder days. And today, with all this new snow, I'll let my mind wander backward to those glorious sunny days last week on our patio and stay there, maybe--drifting, sitting in the quiet sunlight at a bistro table in my head until the real thing, Real Spring, returns to stay.



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Need some humor on this day? Check out my post, below.

Sometimes You Just Need To Laugh...

I reread this post from 2006 and just had to share my laughter with you....


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These are from a local newspaper's Police Blotter section, a sort of collection of the lighter side of crime in our area. We had to laugh, and yet we both wished this was the only side of crime around here...

A _____ Blvd. resident complained that there were 10 teenagers hanging from tree branches near the playground and wanted them removed before the trees were damaged.

Suspicious people with a vehicle were reported on ____ Road. A man and a woman were in the vehicle taking videos of passing cars with a video recorder. They then removed items from the trunk and went into the park, the complainant sad. Police learned they were aspiring artists making a home video.

A ____Lane resident was suspicious of a man wearing a hard hat and walking around in the backyard with a ladder. Police reported that he was a Time Warner Cable repairman.

A _____ Drive resident complained that his son's ex-girlfriend took out a lot of library books under his daughter's name and was refusing to take them back.

A person reported missing from a facility on ____ Road was never missing but in a different bed.

A _____ Ct. resident reported an unknown man was on the side of the house. It was her neighbor who was inspecting his siding.

Four adults on bikes collided on _____ Road. Minor injuries to all were reported.

On _____ Drive, a resident reported someone took the hose from his pool and replaced it with another one that wasn't as long.

Monday, March 21, 2011

When My Faith Looks Different Than Yours

Like I mentioned in my last (whiny) post, our dear old friends from Nevada, Galen and Donna, will arrive here in middle May. (Years ago I wrote a post about them here.)

The strange thing? Just weeks ago I thought, "Hmm... Galen and Donna have never visited us here in all our 18 New York years, so probably I should just give-up believing they'll come." So I officially gave-up and felt at peace. Really.

Then just weeks later what happens? I get an email from Donna saying they'd love to come see us and our farm. Wow. After 18 years they're coming! And right after I gave-up believing they would.

I can't even count how often that sort of thing has happened.

People have poof! Traveled across Country to visit Tom and me right after I laid down my faith that they would. And just days after I concluded that I'd never get to visit Washington D.C. before I died (and felt fine with that), shwoop! Tom and I found ourselves on a tour bus having the best vacation, ever, in D.C., having traveled over from Gettysburg, our true destination.

I gave-up having a farm in my lifetime--and then got one. I assumed many friends were gone forever through distance and Time--and then found them (yay!) over at Facebook. I set aside the dream of writing a book--then 'magically' wrote one, post by post, by way of this blog.

But what about faith? Doesn't faith mean always believing, always standing, never giving-up?

Actually, I believe we make a mistake when we assume that faith always looks and feels just one way. That it strictly resembles other peoples' form of it, that it always comes out of a factory-sealed box, identical to what our neighbor got.

Sometimes? Sometimes I think the greatest faith on Earth is when we quietly lay our dreams down into the palm of God's big hand. When we just leave them there and let Him set them on a shelf, or roll them around into a whole other thing or just crumple them up and toss them away, even, we display enormous trust.

I, frankly, find that kind of faith to be pretty awesome. In fact, I'm planning to give-up more often, especially considering God's ways are much better, more creative and way more mind-blowing than mine.





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I've discovered that wanting God, Himself, more than anything else, simplifies, enlarges and enchants my life.

"Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this." Psalm 37:4-5





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"Not my will, but yours be done..."

Sunday, March 20, 2011

On The Couch--Again

No, not the psychiatrist's couch. heh. But, if things don't shape up around here soon, maybe.......!

Nah, it's this pulled rib muscle that I got from two weeks' worth of coughing. I tried to ignore it, rearranged some furniture, picked up downed branches outside, pruned the rose bush, but the pain is not going away.

So. Today I gave in. All annoyed, I went to the cabinet and yanked out our back brace, wrapped it around me, grabbed my warm red blanket, plopped down (gingerly) on the couch and told Tom I give-up. Even though I've so anticipated Springtime and even though Galen and Donna from Fallon are coming to visit (after all these 18 years--woo hoo!) in the middle of May, I'm just going to have to take this week off. On the couch. Doing very, very little.

Blech. Of all the advice I read online, one word popped up on each website--rest. Rest, rest, rest.

Phooey. Rest, schmest. But it's necessary. Wise. And besides, I'm tired of walking around here all bent over like an old lady, inching along, hand over my rib.

We all have hard times in our lives and this past month has been one of the hardest for me that I ever remember. One thing after another---blow, blow, blow after blow. But with each blow, God has been faithful, here at my side, never stepping out of the room even for a bite of lunch. No, always here, always encouraging--and trust me, He's had to do overtime encouraging this month. Rarely have I been so tempted to just sink beneath it all, to chuck all I've learned and complain my tired head off.

But! This, too, shall pass and all will be well--in time. But only if I slow down, breathe and remember that the world will still spin without my help.





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The good news is that 98% of my coughing is gone. Thank God. Literally.


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P.S. In my comments, Tracy said I may have knocked my rib out of place--and she may be right! After a few hours in the back brace, I've felt the majority of the pain now moving to my back, instead, and hey! I'm actually quite happy about that. I can handle back pain. I'm familiar with back pain. Back pain goes away once I get my ol' bones in line again. Whew. So now I'm seeing some lovely light at the end of the tunnel.... hallelujah!

Compassion? Or a Savior Complex?

In light of all that's happening in Japan, I'm going to run this post again. After reading certain blog posts by mega-compassionate people, I needed this reminder for myself.


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I hope I can explain things clearly in this post. Hmm. We shall see.

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

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

If you've read here very long you know I'm a big proponent of balance. And in everything there is balance. And there are seasons for everything, too. A time to weep with those who weep--yes! But that season is not 24/7 all the days of our lives, for the Bible also adds there's a time to rejoice and dance and praise God with joyful songs and to see good days. It also says His joy is our strength.

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

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

No, I cannot help every single poor, downcast person in this world, but then, God would never ask one person to do so! (Personally, I don't believe He'd put the burden of the whole world upon one single heart, either.) We all have callings, giftings. We each have a necessary piece in this huge puzzle and what remains is for each of us to do his/her own small part in meeting those needs, so that in turn, all needs will be met.

And if God asks us to do a thing, He will enable us to complete it. It will get done--and it will not send us to lying prostrate on a couch, hopeless, overwhelmed. God isn't mean like that. He doesn't ask us to do something, but then skip town when we begin the task. Always, He sends Grace along to help us, always God, Himself, never leaves our side.

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

If we obey God's (usually simple) requests, He'll give us the joy of obedience which then becomes additional strength to do and complete more and more of His will, as well as great anticipation of all the prayers He'll be answering on our way further down the road.


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"Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls." ... Matthew 11:29


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


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

Friday, March 18, 2011

My Mother's Adventures

Forgot to tell you something.

Namely, my mom has a boyfriend.

No, really.

Now, don't get all wild-eyed--if you've not been reading here long you may not realize that my dad passed away in 2007. So, well, it's ok. I mean, about my mother having a boyfriend.

Even though she's practically a cradle robber. She's 72 and he's something like 64. heh.

She says he's totally different than my dad, but then, she didn't need to tell me that. I guessed it from her previous stories of how, each week, they walk miles together and lately they've been going out target shooting--with real live guns, even. And well, I don't recall my dad ever walking for exercise nor shooting a gun. Alas.

I'm happy for my mom, as are my sister and brother. We're not the type to discourage our mother from a new relationship--I've never understood all those movies and tv shows which center around selfish adult children who absolutely refuse to accept a parent's new love. How many times have I grumbled at those kinds of shows, murmuring, "Aw, just grow up! Sheesh."

:)

My mom was always dependent upon my dad (never even had a driver's licence), you know, one of those women who say, "Phooey to independence! I just want to be an old-fashioned wife who centers her life around keeping her man happy."

And well, I'm all for having a happy husband, but give me my independence, too. And give me some things which are just mine. A separate life on the outside and on the inside, too, places where I can be busy and happy and vital apart from my marriage. Me and God, together, passionate, changing this big old world type of stuff. And contented, peaceful, whether I've got a man in the next room--or not. Just always finding my greatest joy in Jesus.

Aw heck, you certainly know by now how I feel about that.

But again, I'm very happy for my mom as she's out discovering a whole new life. She's found a man who enjoys thinking up new adventures for her, and at this stage in the game, that's a pretty special thing, indeed. It sounds like she's discovered exactly what she needed--and because I love her--I am thrilled for her.

Welcoming Spring Days Earlier Than Its Official Arrival

Oh wow.

Tom and I survived our 17th Buffalo winter! And technically, since we've always lived in snow country together--we survived our 32nd long, snowy, cold, icy winter.

But just barely this time. :)

Yesterday I sat outside on our sunny patio, glanced at my Mary Jane's Outdoor Book, but with eyes that kept wandering to gleaming bare trees and meadows and our winter lake with the marsh beyond it. Two frogs occasionally serenaded me with loud creak-creaks! that echoed in the afternoon country silence and oh, as the song says, "Heaven came down and glory filled my soul," even later while I bent down (painfully, because of my injured rib) to pick up downed branches, tossing them into the wheelbarrow.

I so need Spring this year. Need it like vitamins, exercise and good food, even though just a single month of winter wracked my head and heart and threatened to sink me. But what a month! Yet God, with His fingers, held my face above the swirling waters and swam me to higher ground. How does anyone swim through Life without Him?

And now Spring! Oh, I'm thinking I'll spend this Springtime outside. I'll bask my face in the country breezes, openness and greenery and the space! Ah, space and time alone. I must spend hours alone each day--no more attempting to reinvent myself. I will no longer apologize for needing oodles of hours alone, nor will I feel guilty about that.

So fling wide the doors and windows and bring on the freedom of Springtime! I am so very ready to forget yesterday, (remembering only its lessons), and to skip into newness of Life, that of Nature and of my own.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Back--And Thinking

Thank-you so much for welcoming me back and for the sweet birthday wishes, too! They, you, are so very appreciated. My birthday was sweet, peaceful. Happy sigh.

And now I'll throw a kinda controversial post at you just to liven things up around here, ok? :)

I have known widows who, after losing their husbands, just wanted to lay down and die. To just 'give up the ghost' (as they say) and zoom off to Heaven right this very minute because the pain of living alone was too huge. Too much loneliness, too much quiet, too much picturing a bleak, black string of future years.

Personally? I've already told Tom that I refuse to hand over that kind of power to any person on Earth--even to him. I will not, cannot, present to any human-being my whole will to live. For me, that's way, way too much power to give to anyone but God.

And yes, it is natural to feel a dire-ness when a spouse dies, especially at first. But! Each day I wish to aim for something beyond just natural. I want something higher, something more. I want to be more, especially.

And truthfully? I believe God's been building this whole other life inside me for decades, a sort of other universe where He and I take walks 'in the cool of the evening' and where it's nearly always springtime and kinda Garden of Eden-ish. You know, rather like this:



"But let it be the hidden (wo)man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price." 1 Peter 3:4



I believe there's a type of Quiet Land inside me which God and I (but mostly God) are building together, a place I can slip over to when things turn all impossible in the outside world. A quiet park-like setting to escape to when everyone else is losing his or her respective head. And what matters is that I, now, allow God to build whatever He wants in that lovely green place and that I form the habit of meeting Him there whenever He calls. Before the really hairy times of my own future arrive.

It's like Jesus' story of the ten virgins who waited hours and hours into the night for the bridegroom, so long that five of them ran out of oil for their lamps. Then while those five ran to the store for more oil, the bridegroom arrived and they missed out. Majorly.

Five prepared ahead of time, thought ahead, learned from experience, brought extra oil. The other five didn't.

So what I'm saying here today is simply that I want to prepare now for the journey which is ahead. Transitions are up the road for each of us (Life is always changing!) and I just want my transitions to be less painful if there's any way to make them so.





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Here was another similar post of mine with some added practicality.




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"He leads me beside the still waters..." ...from Psalm 23

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Wandering Back In On Her Birthday

I'm back! And on my birthday, of all days.

I majorly missed you, especially after your kind comments and the sweetest emails, ever. Really, I kept writing blog posts to you inside my head, so well, after getting God's ok, I came back.

Know what my problem was? I'd stepped right over many of my own personal boundaries, just casually allowed myself to barrel through Grace's lovely, keep-you-out-of-trouble voice, in fact.

Tsk. Tsk. Rather than just appreciating coupons and my online surveys, it became more like Must. Find. More. Coupons. And. Surveys. Rather than trusting God, I stepped over into worry. Rather than staying on this side of balance, joy and saying no to distractions, I crossed over into a land ripe with so-so, average places for my head. And it all led to an oh-hum, average, fretful sort of life.

Not good. Don't ever blast right through your personal boundaries, ok?

And the remarkable thing? Just realizing my mistake with boundaries was enough to restore some joy and hope and gladness. Just the thinking about it! Wow. God is neat that way.

So with my boundaries back in place (most of them), I've returned to Blogland and with you. And I do thank you--your notes reminded me that there is a purpose to all this and I should stay here until God moves me to another land.

Know what I did yesterday? I, alone, drove back to our hometown and went to the dentist and finally got that chipped tooth problem filled (four weeks later). Then I bought groceries (coupons in my hot little hands), then I drove to the DMV to get my licence renewed--needed an eye test this time. Good gracious, they got me in and out of there in three minutes--yes, at the DMV. And gah, they took my picture, me all totally unprepared and with a crooked smile from the Novocaine. Oh well.

And as I drove through the sunny streets of that town where we lived 15 years I recalled all my nearly-enchanted years there. Oh the good times! I told myself I'm ready to return to those giddy times of the heart, for that's where the best times happen--on the inside. It's in the head and heart where we decide to be happy and keep calm. Those are the places where joy springs up and blossoms all pink and yellow--even in winter. Nothing can take that joy away. Nothing.

So happy birthday to me on a day when I can absolutely smell Springtime and Hope on the air. And even though Tom is still without a job and Lennon is forever gone and I injured a rib with all my coughing from that dreadful virus and, oh, the tragedies in Japan! Yet God is still God, He is still good, has everything under control, and our robin pair arrived last week to tell me that all will be well. And I believed them.




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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 version

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Farewell--For Awhile

Now, nobody panic, but--for awhile--I'm bailing out of blogging.

Out of all of Computer Land, actually. Facebook, email, etc.

The reasons? Too many to mention. Mostly, I just need to visit with the woman I used to be pre-2000, the year I first went online. I need to reconnect with her, make sure she's ok and well, become reaquainted.

Frankly, I've missed her, this loner lady who was simply happy amongst her books, magazines, cats, music, aprons, home and her yard.

It's time to go back, yet in going back, I feel I'm moving forward. Obviously, this is hard to explain.

But alas, it is what it is and so is the fact that I will miss blogging. And I will miss you.

So for now--but not forever--I am stepping away from my computer and stepping into the rest of my life. And oh, how I do wish you well in all your endeavors! And I thank each of you who have encouraged me with your kind comments and emails. I'll leave this blog up, of course, so feel free to read my 2,000 old posts. After a couple days, I'll close the comments, though.

Again, someday I'll return, but I have no idea when that day will be. In the meantime, be well and keep ever so close to God, our only hope.

Blessings, Debra

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Recognizing When A Thing Isn't Working

Gah. Time to make changes in my world--again. Though these changes feel more like slipping backward, yet backward to a place where things were good.

Things have not been good 'round these parts lately. No, too often I've succumbed and watched tv all day with Tom, and ok, we've been sick and the weather's been lousy (my excuses). But even before all that, tv--even nice, interesting tv--snatched too many of my hours and too much of, well, me. Sucked me out of, well, me.

I began to forget who I am--again. (Why's that so simple to forget?) I kept losing me in all the noise of the living room and having Tom constantly here and trying to, well, micro-manage him into exercising (even just moving around, for heaven's sake), eating decently, taking his vitamins and discovering just who he is outside of the power plant and what and who he should be now.

It. Just. Hasn't. Worked. I've only become a sorry, pathetic nag (I confess).

So I'm giving-up. Yes, giving-up because sometimes that's exactly what God wants. I mean, people become so hypnotized by the ol' "never, ever give-up!" thing that they (we) forget to consider if you never give-up the wrong thing, you'll only dig yourself a much, much deeper pit. Alas.

So there arrives a day to put away foolishness, and well, this morning I told Tom, "Please don't take it personally, but for my own sanity, I'll just have to pretend you're not here during the day. I'll have to imagine you've driven away to your job because I need my life back. My real life--my real me, the loner me who needs silence to think."

Tom--being so understanding of me (and quite tired of my nagging) smiled and said he totally gets that. (He's probably anticipating being left alone to some blessed silence of his own.)

Truly, we can't force another person into finding themselves, we can only lead by following our own path, hence creating a path of inspiration. And we can give others the space, the freedom in which to discover who they are. We can't push or shove, for they must stumble into themselves, their real selves, well, all by themselves. Alone--with God.

Whew.

So hooray for Blessed Normal (if only in my head)! I'm nearly happy out of my head--no more being untrue to who God's made me just because various, weighty circumstances got tweaked six months ago. I'm stronger than that He reminded me, but only when I paused from nagging and complaining long enough to hear Him.




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Had a great idea yesterday. I'm using our crockpot to humidify our house rather than steaming water in a small stainless steel pan on the stove. The crockpot way is a million times easier and more efficient--only took me 30 years to think of it.