"Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." ---John 14:6
Tuesday, November 29, 2005
I took a walk in the rain this morning with my wooden-handled umbrella--it's harder to be whisked back in time with a plastic-handled one. I raised the umbrella a bit so I could see the houses in my favorite quiet neighborhoods, the ones where I gain so much creative inspiration. I saw the Blue Door House--the one which inspired me to paint my own back door blue. I also walked past the three houses which inspired me to use wicker furniture on my front porch because it looked much more friendly than our wrought-iron stuff.
There are five houses which stand high and alone upon one short street. There are no homes across from them, just a green field and the back of an ancient three-story brick school. Just five old houses all alone, quiet on this little half-block. There must be some sort of time warp wall at the corner there--always I feel transported to the 1930's when I step upon the sidewalk in front of those silent houses.
I take a lot of inspiration and dreams and wishes from all the early-1900's houses I pass on my walks. I often go home and dive into my old homemaking books and magazines to continue my feeling of backward time travel just a few moments longer. Usually, it works. It kind of reminds me of what Christopher Reed did in Somewhere in Time, and maybe that's why I'm always flinging away my new stuff and replacing it with old.
It's funny that all the people who live in those big old, sturdy homes have no idea how they inspire me and turn my normal days into something remarkable. Most will never know how much I carry away in my thoughts from their houses and yards or how, on winter days of blizzards when I'm caught inside, I still walk past their houses, only in my mind, instead.
And while out on my walk this morning I thought about this blog and how it, too, was in a sort of neighborhood. One in which people walk its sidewalks all day long, taking whatever inspiration they may need and using it in a myriad of different ways when they arrive back home. Some people stop by and knock and tell me what they are carrying away, and that always blesses me, of course. But even when they do, still I will never see the exact results from their using what I gave them.
That's not what is important. What matters is that my house, my blog, stands here, ready, to give away something of value for anyone passing by on rainy days or ones of full sun.
"From that house there has come so much life that it ought never to die or fall into ruin..." ... Pearl S. Buck
Monday, November 28, 2005
"But make up your mind not to worry beforehand how you will defend yourselves." Luke 21:14
I keep my old diaries in a little cupboard of an antique, peeling dresser. I got out a couple of those diaries yesterday and read entries, here and there, and frowned a bit, too. My main thought? "Man, I used to worry a lot! It's all over these pages."
And then I thought of the above verse, though with variations. These past few years I've had to make up my mind not to worry beforehand about tons of stuff. I finally realized I couldn't just wait for the worry to go away-- I had to stay determined not to worry.
And so now, that verse, for me, reads like this:
"...make up your mind not to worry beforehand about the crazy Christmas month (otherwise known as December)--"
"...make up your mind not to worry beforehand about Tom's arm which he hurt a week ago and again two days ago--"
"...make up your mind not to worry beforehand about how Naomi will continue to support herself out on her own in this big, expensive world--"
"...make up your mind not to worry beforehand about driving in snow, terrorists, my soldier nephew, bills, slipping on the ice, our aging parents, our diabetic cat, my weight, moving to a different state, other peoples' choices, my blog stats, politics, the end of the world--"
Life is too short for all that... Besides, how does it make God look if I say I know Him, yet I'm a trembling, card-carrying worrier?
I think we tend to wait for things to drop from the sky, like, a sudden ability to stop worrying, among other things. But not much comes that way. Freedom comes from making up our mind not to worry, but to trust, instead. It comes by getting to know God for ourselves--getting to know the joy which comes from hanging-out in His presence... getting to know His endless, passionate love for each of us, personally... and coming to know, for ourselves, that He never falls out of love with us...
...and as the love and joy grow, so does the trust, and the worry becomes just words in a long ago diary you pull out on a snowy Sunday afternoon.
"You have made known to me the paths of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence." ... Acts 2:28
"Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?" ... Matthew 6:17
Saturday, November 26, 2005
I awoke on Thanksgiving morning and looked up at my ceiling which lit up and became like a movie screen.
Upon this screen I could see an outline of the East Coast and thousands and thousands of lighted kitchens in thousands and thousands of homes. I could see women in aprons placing turkeys into ovens. And in each kitchen there was light and warmth and baking scents and a daring anticipation (one I wish we had daily).
What a lovely vision to awaken to on Thanksgiving morning.
Yesterday was Tom's and my 27th anniversary, which still feels odd because half the time I feel I am only 27 years old. Well, in body, but in mind I feel older because I feel wiser than I did back then--wiser, happier and a million times more peaceful.
It's not popular to say this, but I love this getting older stuff.
So anyway, Tom and I did not exchange cards or gifts yesterday-- can you believe that? Instead,Tom was able to take 12 days off from work prior to our anniversary and we spent those days together in our new little room watching movies and tv series on DVDs. Ok, that probably sounds incredibly dull, but you know? For us, it was marvelous. There was a grace upon us to spend our vacation that way and grace always brings a serene kind of contentment.
I love having a marriage history. I love that we have ironed-out many things which used to make us scream like children. And I love that we finally got wise and learned to let each other be unique and have some space--
--and to stop with the pressure to do things like everyone else does. Like with anniversaries--who says we MUST travel to Europe or take a cruise? Who says we MUST buy cards and gifts? Who says we MUST put that pressure upon ourselves? As long as both of us are fine with no cards and gifts and no Europe, then it's perfectly ok for us to skip them.
A marriage history--it's like writing a book each year of what you have learned both to do and not to do. Memorizing its pages and gleaning wisdom from them--
--and gleaning peace, too. Blessed, blessed peace.
Friday, November 25, 2005
"Excess is the devil's playground." ... copied
For some years, I hated the thought of having balance in life. I believed one should have passion in all areas and any talk about balance was an excuse for wimpy, mediocre people who didn't care if they were forgotten after they died.
Now, years later, I love balance. I seek it, crave it and try to walk with it on that great tightrope called Life.
I could give some lengthy explanation of just why that's so, but I'll give examples of what I mean, instead.
Eating healthy food is a wonderful idea, but eating too much healthy food will still make me fat.
Getting enough rest is vital to my well-being, but laying around like a slug 24/7 could eventually kill me.
Exercise is necessary to stay healthy, but too much exercise could not only lead to injuries, but to an unhealthy obsession and a whole list of physical/mental/emotional dangers.
Caring for others--as a doctor or pastor or missionary or volunteer--is terrific, but a frenzied, always-on-call lifestyle can lead to breakdowns, illness or even early death (and how many people can you help when you're dead?).
Caring for one's own children is holy and right, but when done to the point of neglecting one's spouse, can lead to discord, divorce and myriad emotional problems in the children and all involved.
There is cleaning a house all the time and there'a letting it go and living in clutter and frustration. There's being obsessed with working and making money or hating to work and making no money. And there is balance.
Putting God first is a holy thing, but when taken to extremes (and not led by God's own wisdom) can lead to destruction of families with far-reaching emotional damages and basically, can crank out yet more 'Christian flakes' of whom it can be said, "They were too heavenly-minded to be any earthly good."
And well, the list goes on.
Passion is marvelous, but only when led by wisdom,balance and God's ways. His ideas lead us to our best life, the one He meant us to have and even if we had 7 or 8 lifetimes we could never come up with a better plan. Never. It's only pride which ever tries.
"Be well balanced for that enemy of yours, the devil, roams around like a lion seeking someone to seize upon and devour." ... I Peter 5:7
Letting go helps us to to live in a more peaceful state of mind and helps restore our balance. It allows others to be responsible for themselves and for us to take our hands off situations that do not belong to us. This frees us from unnecessary stress.
Too much of a good thing is a good thing no longer.
Wednesday, November 23, 2005
This Thanksgiving I am thankful that Tom does not have to work on Thanksgiving Day (as he's had to many, many years past).
--I am thankful for my husband and daughter and all our friends and family.
-- I'm thankful that I can afford to feed the sparrows, cardinals and finches in our backyard every day and that our town is not buried in snow right now, just powdered with it.
-- I am thankful for this blog which allows me to share how I feel with so many of you. I am thankful for you who read my feelings.
-- I'm thankful for the way the sun shines through my windows and makes our furniture and knick-knacks look nicer than they really are. I'm thankful for the geese which fly, honking, over my rooftop.
-- I am thankful for email which enables me to keep in contact with friends whose houses I used to live near.
-- I'm also thankful for my job, that of being a homemaker. I'm thankful I live in the United States...
-- I am thankful for shelves and shelves of old-fashioned books behind glass.
-- I'm thankful that God did not give up on me during my Incredibly Stubborn Years. I'm thankful I'm no longer in my 20's or 30's and basically. I'm just plain thankful for every new day which God gives me to walk beside Him.
Monday, November 21, 2005
Oh my. You'll never hear me say the words, "That's just the way I am." Yet I used to say them all the time, was even a little proud of them.
God would come along and say (through the Bible, people, books, songs, Life situations and my heart), "I can free you from that depression, you know."
And I would reply, "Oh, that's just the way I am."
Other times He'd say, "If you'll listen to Me, I can free you from the way you tend to nag Tom and worry about Naomi."
I'd reply, "But that's the way I've always been. You can't change that, can you?"
He'd try over and over. "I can help you not complain so much or be offended at church people or believe Life must always go your way."
Yeah, again, "But Lord, that's just the way I am."
But now, uh, no. I'd almost rather die than say those words.
It took me 30 years (I am so slow!) to discover that "That's just the way I am," is like smacking a helping hand--
-- it's like slamming a door, not believing in miracles or truth.
-- labeling myself as unchangeable, pressing my fingers, hard, against God's mouth. Hushing Him.
-- telling Him, "You can't help me!"
-- and giving-up and going back home to darkness.
It's like burning this Bible promise, "He whom the Son has set free is free, indeed."
Free indeed. The inside, outside, upside-down kind of freedom.
Free indeed. It exists. It's real.!
And for me, it began when I stopped saying and stopped believing, "That's just the way I am." Never again will I close the door to my freedom that way.
"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!" ... II Corinthians 5:17
Sunday, November 20, 2005
Okay... so these aren't real laws, BUT to hear many people talk, you'd think they were real laws...
Tom and I do not have a couch in our living room.
In fact, our living room is our home library and our sunroom is our living room.
I have a dishwasher, but I never, ever use it.
I use a natural, liquid laundry detergent (Sun and Earth) instead of dishwashing liquid when washing my dishes.
I am 46 years old, but most often I read kids' lit. books (see my list of favorites here).
I love to go to the movie theater alone.
I use baking soda instead of Comet to scour sinks.
I have never used the cruise control on our car.
I do not carefully replace my clean silverware in their proper slots in the drawer. I just toss them inside and hope for the best.
I refuse to own a clothes dryer (electric or gas, doesn't matter).
I often sleep upstairs alone in my dream room. It feels like camping to me.
My current favorite tv show is Super Nanny, yet I have no small children in my life at this time.
I almost never, ever drive freeways or thruways. (There is one expressway, though, which I occasionally take, but it is nearly always deserted. Long story.)
I am trying to replace all the new things in my house with old things, instead.
I'm a regular, crusty old trouble-making law-breaker, I know. ツ
I guess I'm sharing those things for two reasons:
1.) It's a good thing to realize there are many unwritten rules we do not have to follow just because everyone else does. It's possible to live outside the box, if even just a little.
2.) It's a waste of time to expect other people to give us freedom to be different if we first do not do the same for them. No one wants to live according to silly, imaginary laws we, ourselves, make up for them.
We were all made for freedom, after all.
I looked out our front sunroom windows on Friday afternoon at all the snow and thought, "Man, it looks like Christmas out there and it's not even Thanksgiving yet!"
To everything there is a season. It's a sad thing to skip a season. I used to do it all the time. I watch people skip seasons now, too. Or try to, anyway.
I used to want to be published before I even took the time to learn how to write.
I wanted to teach others before I, myself, had been taught.
I wanted to be thought of as being wise when I was 18, way before I had experienced life or grown in grace or learned anything even close to wisdom.
I was in a hurry to form deep friendships without waiting for them to grow.
I wanted to skip learning to like myself and go right to fame which I thought was a sign that others liked me.
I wanted to get appreciation from other people instead of getting it from God, foremost.
And on and on.
Skipping seasons. I've tried that--it's like trying to cheat, and we all know how God feels about that. But always I have found that eventually, I have to go back and pick up those missed seasons and live through them the right way, God's way, thus righting the mixed-up calendar life I, myself, created.
How much better and how much time is saved when I go step by step, season to season, in the order God planned all along.
Saturday, November 19, 2005
In literature, there are good lions and bad ones. For years (lots of them) it was as though I lived with a bad lion inside of me. That lion would stand and roar when anything threatened its pride or comfort.
If someone spoke offending words to me, even without meaning to, the lion roared.
If people paid more attention to my husband or daughter,making me feel slighted, the lion roared.
If others criticized me or my family or gave me unwanted advice or tried to coax me out of my shell, that huge, hairy lion roared and roared and roared.
Oh, only sometimes loud enough for others to hear, but always I heard him yelling within me.
And for too many years the goal became to keep that lion happy. Soothe him. I gave him what he wanted so to keep him silent.
Like the old saying says, I'd use music to soothe that savage beast. And I'd avoid the people who were likely to rouse him from his sleep and make him mad all over again. I'd give him what he wanted when he wanted it, things such as food, drink, entertainment and justification of his rights to always be in a bad, volatile mood.
That's one way to deal with a lion--always give him what he wants.
And that's what I did for so long. No wonder he liked living there inside my emotions--he got everything he asked for.
And only after years of doing that, did I hear a voice say, " Hey you! Get rid of that lion!"
Huh? Can a person actually do that? Isn't the goal to keep the lion laying down and quiet?
So I continued to feed him, cuddle him, play music for him, take him for walks and even bring him with me on vacation.
And even louder I'd hear, "For goodness sake, Debra. What are you doing? Get rid of that lion!"
Hmmm. What a novel idea.
And finally I was ready. Finally after I was exhausted from pampering that beast, I began listening to God tell me just how to get rid of that lion.
He said He'd get rid of it for me, piece by piece. It would take time. It would take my cooperation--not my bright ideas. But God assured me He could do it. He could get rid of that lion.
And years later, piece by piece, He is still carrying him away.
Friday, November 18, 2005
I opened the curtains to a winter wonderland this morning. And it was the good kind of snow--the kind that looks like God just shook out enough to give us a light coating, one which will melt by ten if the sun stays out.
If only our summer hadn't been so record-breaking hot and humid. This morning I'm trying not to resent a summer which kept me inside away from light, trees and my walks which are more like backward time travel trips.
And now? My winter days will be spent inside, also.
Oh well. Attitude, attitude, attitude. You'll not find me in the throes of I Can't Help It Disease (i.e. I can't help it if I hate winter.I can't help it if I'm cold all the time. I can't help it if the darkness gets to me.). Because I can help it. I can help just about anything with God's help.
Including my attitude.
With God's help. If only we could always remember that God is the one who wants to change us. He doesn't expect us to change ourselves--He knows we are but dust. He does expect something though--He expects us to cooperate with Him while He is working on us.
We try so hard to change, but if we succeeded on our own, we would take the credit for those changes. We'd bow to applause (if just in our hearts) and smile, feel proud of ourselves.
But God wants more. He wants to change us because it gives credit and glory to Him. His changes reflect Him so that others can see Him and His changes are better than what we dream up.
His changes are lasting.
Thursday, November 17, 2005
"Depart from evil and do good; seek, inquire for, and crave peace and pursue (go after) it!" ... Psalm 34:14
After my last post, Beth asked about hearing from God, about knowing which way to go and which choices to make.
For me, I am learning when there's a choice to be made, I must choose peace.
But it takes a lot of dying first before one can always choose the way of peace. Dying to what I want, what I think, and what I feel and instead, wanting with all my heart what God wants, thinks and feels.
It takes admitting--and believing--that I know nothing and He knows everything. It takes letting Him change my mind and unlearn what I was taught.
It takes pressing past fearing what I will hear Him tell me to do. It takes courage to do what looks impossible or unpopular.
It takes many years to die.
And it requires a whole lot of listening in order to hear what God is saying and where He's leading.
Jesus said, "My sheep hear my voice." And it should be that simple, even though the world will tell you you are insane/unstable/bubble-headed if you're hearing His voice. That's when many people bail out, you know, when others criticize.
Jesus' voice is soft and you know? It sounds an awful lot like our conscience. And oh my, listening and obeying that requires much humility--
--and knowing God will show us the best way if only we will pause and listen for it. For Him.
"As for God, His way is perfect! The word of the Lord is tested and tried; He is a shield to all those who take refuge and put their trust in Him." ... Psalm 18:20
Tuesday, November 15, 2005
Tom and I have an old-fashioned radio through which I Play vintage songs. I pretend these are old days--it's like I switch the era and the atmosphere of my house by changing the radio station.
Sometimes God is like a radio station.
It's like there's God's Station which comes in more clearly than we like to believe. That is, unless a bunch of other stations vye for a spot on the same frequency, and then all you get is garbled static and words you cannot understand.
Too much competition for one frequency leads to a noisy mess.
Then there are times when I've sat beside the radio and listened to what I believed was the God Station, but it wasn't. I even listened weeks, months, even buying what they advertised--junk which did not do what they promised.
They sell a lot of lies on those other radio stations.
So now I'm more careful to listen only to the God Station. It is everything I need a radio station to be.
After time and experience, you learn to recognize when the station on your radio has changed. You learn to recognize when you are listening to lies and when you're listening to Truth.
Friday, November 11, 2005
It matters how I pack my husband's lunch for work.
It matters that I send him out our blue back door with a smile and that I spend time with him while he's home and how I keep my little grey house.
It matters that I do my best to decorate the house nicely, make it comfortable for my family and that I keep up with the laundry way down in our deep, dark basement so that we have clean clothes to wear.
It matters that I care for Lennon and McCartney, our cats, as best I can.
And that I smile at people at the supermarket, especially the ones who look haunted with loneliness. It matters that I motion for people to go ahead and walk in front of my car because I'll pause and wait for them.
All these things, and hundreds more, matter because love matters:
"... but the greatest of these is love..."
I wonder if sometimes homemakers, especially, are insecure and unfulfilled because they don't realize that what they do matters. All of it. Instead, into our ears is constantly whispered:
"But the greatest of these is money, education, a glamorous career, great clothes, a big house, a small body, and a new car."
No wonder so many people go through their days feeling they are wasting their time, when in reality, everything we do matters a great deal.
In reality, we're only wasting our time if whatever we do, is not done in love. Whatever is done out of--and because of--love, is done richly, with a wealth seen easily by God (and not so easily by people). And it all adds up.
Little things done in love are huge to God. They are a big deal to Him and He remembers them, stores them up, each one, because:
"... the greatest of these is love..."
Wednesday, November 09, 2005
I am in the recovery room as I write this and I'm coming to the end of Calling Away Days. Have you had those?
They're days when God calls you away from what you know as normal and the new normal becomes just to sit quietly with Him on your couch or downtown as often as you can. Listening. Just listening. And learning, growing,watching and changing, too.
And all the while, God is performing surgery while you're wide awake, but awake to what others around you do not see. It's more like you wonder what's happening inside of you and realize God is the one doing the bit of corrective surgery. He's tweaking thoughts and attitudes which you've believed were right since high school--but high school was a long time ago. Now it's time to move on--in truth this time.
And that's part of it, too. God shows you there is truth, even absolute truth, no matter how many people say no, it doesn't exist and never did. But those are the people who didn't come away when God called, did not submit to the surgery, the tweaking and the recovery time. Or the Bible.
Many people cannot even pause to sit still for the half-hour surgeries, but jump up after the first incision and go out bleeding back out into the world.
But right now I'm in recovery time after having more God Surgery. And God is a better surgeon than all the others. Why? Because after surgery He sits beside you as long as you need Him, holding your hand. He remains there--you spy Him through your tired eyes. And with a comforting whisper, He speaks with so much love that it cuts your healing days in half and makes them a time to be remembered, fondly.
Sunday, November 06, 2005
Ok. I've become addicted to my library-borrowed DVD's of Joan of Arcadia. I admit it.
And yet, there's one thing that bothers me about the episodes I've watched. It's the way that Joan is nearly always frustrated or angry with God.
And hey--I've had my moments of frustration with God--trust me! Lots of them in the last 30 years. And yet, that's what they were--moments. Not days and weeks and months. Not the 24/7 kind of frustration or anger or confusion. And I have never called God, "Jerk" as Joan did in one episode.
I wouldn't dare.
There is a reverential fear and awe of God, you know, and never could I call God negative names.
Babies and children grow up accusing their parents of knowing nothing. They believe their parents stop loving them when they correct them or do certain things which they, the children, do not understand. Babies and children shake their fists at their parents and scream at them when their frustration reaches the highest peaks.
But after growth,time and history, children grow-up. They awaken to a day where suddenly, what their parents did makes sense.
At least, they should. It's called maturing.
And in our walk and life with God we should grow, also, because we're gaining a history with Him. A history where we gaze backward, glimpsing where we've come from and Who brought us this far--and what it took for Him to get us to this new place.
A history which taught us, finally who the things God did made sense.
Or if a few things still don't make sense, our level of trust of God's goodness and justness and perfection should be growing day by day to where we find ourselves trusting instead of screaming and accusing and venting.
The peace should be increasing because the trust is increasing.
And maybe it is, afterall, our pride which, through our time and history and watching of God, is what gets brushed away, in layers, from our eyes. And then we are able to see things from His point of view. Well, at least partially.
And maybe that's why it can be said of some people that they truly have their Father's eyes.
"As for God, his way is perfect; the word of the Lord is flawless. He is a shield
for all who take refuge in him." ... Psalm 18:30
Tuesday, November 01, 2005
I get to go out today into the Land of Autumn, otherwise known as My Town.
I love this time of year. I can do a simple little thing like drive to our 1930's supermarket and now, at the height of autumn, it's like riding in a parade. The streets are lined with trees of waving, rustling colors and their leaves are fluttering down like confetti, slapping my windshield.
Sometimes I consider doing a pretty little pageant wave as I drive along.
I'm not a busy person. On the rare occasions when I do become busy (rare occasions), I forget to notice what the trees or skies are doing. I skip my neighborhood walks, miss cool improvements my neighbors created in their yards. And I sorely miss the thoughts which only come via silence.
I miss even more, like hearing in my heart that my friend needed encouragement or our neighbor needed a smile or a faraway relative needed prayer.
Of course, there is a good kind of busyness. The Bible even speaks about being busy with our homes and the things which need to be done in Life.
But I like to think of that as a kind of Goldilocks Busyness. You know, how she found some of the bears' way of life too hard, too soft, too hot, too cold, but other parts she found just right.
Like Goldilocks, each day I look for the Just Right pace of life.
Not so fast that I miss the best things. Not too slow to where I slump in a rut and everything blurs into boredom.
But instead, a pace made just for me, one where God is leading and I follow closely, touching the hem of his robe. He is the ultimate Pace Maker and only His plans, His ways, will lead me to the places I should be--
---places, at paces, that are just right.