Thursday, November 15, 2018

More Remolding, Please.



"And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart. Let all that you do be done in love."   ... Ezekiel 36:26, 1 Corinthians 16:14


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Yesterday while sitting at my usual coffee shop table, a woman shifted her belongings and coffee at the door. She looked at me and said, "I'll be needing extra caffeine today. I'm a teacher and we're going on a field trip this morning with eighty kids."

"Eighty kids?!", I repeated, my eyes widening. "Oh dear."

She described more details and rolled her eyes about her fellow 2 teachers who place no reins on childish chaos. I shook my head, commiserated with her good-naturedly, then the Holy Spirit nudged me to tell her, "Bless you," as she left. So I did. 

She paused and then smiled big and thanked me.

Afterward? I sipped my coffee and thought, "Wow. It's like this coffee shop has become my Village of Acquaintances. I get to let God use me in simple ways to bless strangers in my neighborhood."

Remember my post about how in The Long Winter someone--simply by opening their door twice--helped save the entire town of De Smet, SD? And how I want to be that sensitive to the Holy Spirit in my ordinary routine and thus encourage people, even unknowingly?

Well, I still want that. And now I have even crazier dreams, like, becoming a tiny fraction of this--


"As a result, people brought the sick into the streets and laid them on beds and mats so that at least Peter's shadow might fall on some of them as he passed by."   .... Acts 5:15


Can you imagine if your shadow--or just being present---was the simple way through which God healed someone?

Oh my. How humbling that would be.

It costs a lot, though. I've actually known people who, in ways, are like this. Folks spend time with them and walk away feeling lighter, healed of heart hurts. But first the healers had to give up much--


staying offended
saying whatever hurtful words they felt like speaking
arguing (when God was saying, hush)
not forgiving
viewing certain folks as a waste of time
being greedy 
letting fear keep them from obedience


Oh to let the Holy Spirit teach and change us to be like Him! And oh, how marvelous this softer heart rather than the previous one made of stone. 

It's that new heart with a different beat that keeps us marching now. Not the booming, worldly rhythm, no! But the selfless beat which leads us to a whole other track--

--with a peace so palpable, healing, that the lost ones look and consider walking there, too, for oh! They're not certain at first, but wasn't that perhaps Jesus they spied walking alongside us, too?








"Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, "This is the way; walk in it."   ... Isaiah 30:21


"But now, O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand."  ... Isaiah 64:8


"To love someone is to see him as God intended him."  ... Fyodor Dostoevsky



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So gorgeous, right? Found at Facebook--it's a bit of the Erie Canal in our previous Autumn Cottage town--







But guess what's coming our way this afternoon? --



Oy!


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Tuesday, November 13, 2018

If I'll Just Keep Fixing Instead of Complaining ...



"The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing, while the soul of the diligent is richly supplied."   ... Proverbs 13:4



So this Hobbit Cottage of ours was meant to be temporary. 

Our 'farm window' was hurtling down grace-wise (toward the end, I gazed out over our acre of lawn and uh-oh! Nearly had a panic attack when I imagined mowing it forever). So we needed something smaller, quick; a stop-over place on our way to grander digs with a sane yard.

Well. Seven years later here we still are and oh, that Debra! She's embarrassed by how much she's complained.





"Man, this house has no storage. No built-ins."
"Where are we supposed to put our shoes when we step inside? The back entryway has not one spare inch."
"If only we had a coat closet!"
"We need a fireplace. It could be a focal point, a place to burn candles as well as keep us warm in emergencies."
"I need a bedroom door. I just do. This open loft doesn't keep the cats out when I want to be alone."
"There's absolutely no wallpaper hanging in this entire house."

On and on I whined. 

And then? I noticed something: nothing improved (including my attitude) and I only felt more defeated by this house, by its lack of practical (and fun) stuff.

Eventually, after detesting my lousy attitude, I made decisions: 

I'd try to stop whining about what I didn't have.
I'd ask God for determination. And creative ideas.
I'd begin fixing things.
I'd do only what I could manage, myself (weirdly, hiring professionals to help wasn't working)
I'd make this my Happy Place. 

So I began. And that's the hardest part: it's like you must first bust through a concrete wall.

But online I bought a 'gel fireplace', had it delivered and put half of it together myself (Tom helped. He didn't mind.) Loaded the mantle with antique white dishes and now burn candles in it each winter.




For our coats I bought two decorative cast-iron wall hooks/hangers.





After emptying a large kitchen drawer, we began placing our just-came-from-outside shoes in there.




I'd longed for small half-shelves for beside our kitchen sink to display knick-knacks so I bought some online and hung them up (see photo, above). For our office I bought similar, though larger ones for the wall above my computer.

I bought lots of white bookshelves cheaply from Walmart(Gee, I've learned much about assembling furniture here) then inserted them beneath our sloping walls upstairs to resemble built-ins.





Upstairs I created a tiny sleeping room from the closet which has one of our only 3 interior doors. (And it became my most-loved room decor-wise that I've tackled in 40 years.)





I hung bits of wallpaper in 4 rooms. 





I painted 4 walls. Hung lots of curtains, created beds and slipped shallow pull-out storage bins beneath the guest beds.

And more.

Now, has this taken money? Yes, it has--but less than you'd think. Also:

It's been spread out over 7 years. 
I've asked for gift cards for birthdays and Christmas and used those often.
Sometimes I've used my 'monthly allowance.' 
I use credit card rewards, also, especially to purchase hundreds of votive candles each winter.

Today's point? Complaining and self-pity, both, dry up our creative juices. With knots they tie us up and nothing changes. Nothing improves or gets completed or makes us more content in the doing and the beholding afterward.

Complaining (and please know I'm not just speaking of fixing a house here) isn't pleasing to the God who designed us to be oh-so-creative and always moving forward in a hope-infused, joyful obedience.

And that joy is available, but only if we refuse to whine--and instead--accept the creative challenge, first. And then start fixing what can be fixed...

... which isn't everything, of course. But which can still be much.









"I can do all things [which He has called me to do] through Him who strengthens and empowers me [to fulfill His purpose—I am self-sufficient in Christ’s sufficiency; I am ready for anything and equal to anything through Him who infuses me with inner strength and confident peace.]"   ... Philippians 4:13




“Start today creating a vision for yourself, your life, and your career. Bounce back from adversity and create what you want, rebuild and rebrand. Tell yourself it's possible along the way, have patience, and maintain peace with yourself during the process.” 
― Germany Kent




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I step beneath this tree on my way to the coffee shop and you know? Daily it has glowed, even on our many (many!) dark, cloudy mornings here lately.

And that's become my new goal. To glow even throughout the dark times.



"Do all things without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life..."   ... Philippians 2:14,15



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"Walk ... with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love." ... Ephesians 4:2


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Sunday, November 11, 2018

Your Custom-Made Trials. And Guarding That Heart of Yours.



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Last week something like a personal torpedo hit me.

No details now, but because I know how my own mind leaps around, guessing, when someone says that--I'll add this: it had nothing to do with Tom, Naomi, my health or anything local.

So breathe, ok?  😉

Then right as I felt God's wonderful healing, the tragic Paradise, CA fire happened and oh dear. I'm very familiar with that northern California area and too, a handful of friends from the 1970's live in Paradise. Even Tom's and my first pastor and wife (as a couple), their son said, escaped with only the shirts on their backs. 

A dear high school friend shared (on Facebook) her in-laws decided to stay and fight for their home with 2 water hoses. Emotionally this upset her and me, as well, though I don't even know them. The next night the concern awoke me so I checked her Facebook status: her in-laws survived.

Even more old friends have relatives, friends with homes in Paradise--they lost everything. The Go Fund Me pages are popping up everywhere (personally, I view Go Fund Me as an awesome invention).

In a Yahoo news article, a fire Marshall said his fire fighters were battling not just the fires, but emotional exhaustion. Here's one definition--


When you are emotionally exhausted, you have probably depleted most of your emotional reserves and you have exceeded your capacity to handle emotional stress. It is almost analogous to physical exhaustion. When you work too hard and exceed your physical strength limits, you experience exhaustion and will need to take a rest in order to replenish those energy reserves. The same applies when you tax your emotional reserves with too much stress – you’ll be no longer capable of managing it.
I'm not even remotely physically near the fires, but emotionally? Today I'm needing rest. An emotional reprieve--and healing. Distance.

Quiet time with God. Books. Comfort food and tv. Coffee. A walk. Time with my husband. Or perhaps a visit with a neighbor. The coffee shop. Cleaning my house. Crafts. A nap. Raking some leaves, packing up my yard toys for winter.

And then, after being restored? I can jump back in and start helping as guided by an all-seeing God who knows exactly what individuals need. Down-time will clear my mind from the emotional swirling so I can think clearly again and then help others from a place of love.

In our 2018 world with a new tragedy every week and strife around many  corners? Oh, we must remember this verse:


"Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it."   ... Proverbs 4:23


It's vital--and to be done without an ounce of a phony guilt which tries to run us into the grave, early, in the name of I Was Just Trying To Help.

And this: Never let anyone tell you that your recovery time is ridiculous. Nor let them convince you that they have the real trials, but all your decades? You've had it easy.

None of us leave here unscarred and without being pulled to places where God waits to be clung to--if we so choose.

In this world? Our trials arrive custom-made. What is easy for you to handle, may be crazy-hard for me. What's a cinch for me to face, may be knocking you into a ditch. Our trials are meant to stretch us and expand our hearts, so as we come in different sizes, with unique histories and personalities, so do our tragedies.

What matters is that we seek God. That we grab His hand, then walk upon our individual path, beside Him, until He's led us through.

Well, even after then, actually.

And He will not lead us to places where becoming bitter is fine with Him. No, but to Grace and Love and Strength. He so wants this to be our road, our mission--


“God, who comforts us in our time of trouble so we can comfort those in need with the comfort we have received.”  ... 2 Corinthians 1:4

He desires that wonderful comes from bad. That healing comes from the softened places where we've been healed. You know, so we can fling that healing, that amazing grace, to those in our lives who most need it this time.











"Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God."   ... Hebrews 13:16


"For He knows our frame: He remembers that we are dust. He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds."   ... Psalm 103:14, Psalm 147:3


"Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy-laden and overburdened, and I will cause you to rest. [I will [a]ease and relieve and [b]refresh [c]your souls.]"   ... Matthew 11:28




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The best book I've read about what's going on inside our heads and how to handle it God's way? This --





A remarkable book, really. Oh, the confusion it clears up.

Super-inexpensive copies can be found hereIt's also available via Kindle.


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Even though God gives us awesome Grace to do what's difficult, we still need rest. Sleep. Restoration time.


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Wednesday, November 07, 2018

Perhaps The Problem With Early Christmas Is Ours, Not The Stores'?



My neighbor is a huge Christmas-lover. She cracks me up, especially when she posted this on Facebook---


Haaa! 

And you know? While some folks' Christmas tradition is to complain--

"Oh! Those Christmas tv ads began the day after Halloween!"
"Man, does the Hallmark channel have to start airing Christmas movies so soon?"
"Did you see how the supermarket already has snowflakes and Santas  and carols blaring? Good grief."
"I haven't even made Thanksgiving plans yet!"







--I'm thinking, this year? Maybe we all need Early Christmas. 

Wait. Seriously. I mean, oh, what we've all watched happen even in our streets these months. 

The political arguing. 
The revenge-seeking.
The abandoning of years-long friendships.
The division of a Country gone extreme.

Early Christmas? Perhaps this year it could help heal what we experienced in our troubled 2018 world.


 "To cherish peace and goodwill, to be plenteous in mercy, is to have the real spirit of Christmas." – Calvin Coolidge

"Christmas, my child, is love in action." – Dale Evans

“Peace on earth will come to stay, When we live Christmas every day.” – Helen Steiner Rice

"My idea of Christmas, whether old-fashioned or modern, is very simple: loving others. Come to think of it, why do we have to wait for Christmas to do that?" – Bob Hope


Real Christmas. It's not the screaming babies with their weary-eyed mothers in shops with Christmas tunes blaring. Nor worrying about money to pay for perfect gifts or decorating like our home is a NYC magical store window. Nor is it the too many parties or performances or big dinners eaten late at night and the non-sleeping and the rushing, rushing to get everywhere.

Uh, no.

Instead, it's the remembering that God sent Jesus to heal our hurts and give us an un-shatterable joy in all ages throughout Time, even this one enveloped by strife.

And may we remember The Real. And do. And be. And live it. And may we welcome, not resent, Early Christmas with its reminders (trees, carols, decor, parties, etc.) of what matters most.

And as Charles Dickens said, may we honor Christmas in our hearts and try to keep it all the year. Even now, all these weeks before Thanksgiving.









Christmas is the season for kindling the fire of hospitality." — Washington Irving

"A good conscience is a continual Christmas." – Benjamin Franklin


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"Walk ... with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love." ... Ephesians 4:2

Monday, November 05, 2018

"I Have No Patience For..."


"With all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace."   ... Ephesians 4:2,3


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So in response to my social media post, a friend said they had zero patience for people who _____ and _____ and _____. In just a couple sentences they managed to insult my friends who'd commented and me and even Tom, as well.

And hey. Ol' Debra gets miffed when her friends--and especially her husband--get put down. You know, dismissed as stupid and unworthy of one's time.

Next morning, (I'll confess) this was me:





(Except, insert a little grey cat beside me.)  😉


Heh. But of course, I did get up because, oh Honey! I'm determined that nothing will stop me from moving forward. Nothing will hold me down, not even my own hurts. You know, like that verse in Romans 8--

" neither trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword can separate us from the love (and help) of Christ."



Well, I went about my day, but uh-oh! Soon, inside, I heard, "Uhm, Debra? How many times have you spoken sentences which begin with, "I have no patience for...?"  


"I have no patience for harsh Christians who're shocked when they're treated poorly."
"I have no patience for Christians who believe women should keep silent in church."
"I have no patience for Christians who never give, yet expect to receive all the good stuff."


So what's the problem? I mean, it's not like I expect non-Christians to behave. Doesn't that count?

The problem is this: God has patience with them all. All the folks for whom I have no patience. 

Oh! I'd sort-of forgotten. 

God is love and love, first on the list, is patient. So if I tell you I have no patience for you, I'm also saying I have no love for you.

Gulp. Talk about your Conviction City. I'm still living there, actually.

But it's all good! That's because I long to grow, especially in love. When I'm growing in love, I'm growing in God. And that's vital to me.

Anyway, now this beats within my heart: may I never again say (or think), "I have no patience for ....". May God help me shed that bit of pride so that I'll not hurt people with my I-don't-have-time-for-you words. 

And may this lesson enable me to love others, better. Unconditionally, even.

And what still blows me away after tons of years? Truly--all things do work together for good for them who love God and are called according to His purpose. Truly.

If I'll allow them. If I don't become all offended, instead.







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"Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant."   ... 1 Corinthians 13:4




If we truly love God with all our heart, it's not nearly as difficult to love people. He 'sheds abroad His love within our hearts' for others.



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Oh! This looks like something fun to watch next year.  (When the Brady Bunch first came around I was at the perfect age: ten-years-old. For years I was a rabid fan. heh.)



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"Walk ... with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love." ... Ephesians 4:2