Saturday, April 28, 2007

The Secret




No, this isn't about 'The Secret' in all the media now, even though I agree with some of its concepts. This is a different one.

Years ago, I learned The Secret to never wandering away from God. The crawling back all crying, skin-kneed, sorry and having wasted your life or ruined others' lives type of wandering.

I'd always been taught that The Secret was reading l-o-n-g passages of the Bible every morning, praying by the clock and sitting in a church pew every single instance that the doors were unlocked. And constantly talking about your faith, whether people wanted to listen or not. You know, being one regimented, good little Christian soldier.

And maybe that works for you. That's cool. I get that.

But The Secret--for me, anyway--is something different altogether. Simply put? I try never to stop needing God for even one minute of my days.

I drive our car into the supermarket parking lot and as I open the car door, I ask under my breath, "Please help me make wise choices with our money while I'm shopping."

While I'm yanking the lawnmower out of the crowded shed I say, "Please help me start this thing up right away and keep it going safely."

All day long it's "Please help me."  "Please help me speak kindly to Tom when he gets home from work, even if he does something to annoy me."  "Remind me to write down all the tasks I need to do so I won't forget any of them" "Show me the best ways to do all my chores today."

It's that constant neediness of Him which keeps me close. I can never become too distracted, too lost, if I require His help every hour.

And something else--a constant gratefulness. When I find something I misplaced, I'm quick to thank God for leading me to it. When I pull into a terrific parking place downtown, I say aloud, "Thanks for that!". When I run out of mayonnaise or cheese or cereal--and there's a terrific sale on them that week--I whisper, "Thank-you" right there in the store aisle.

It's that constant gratitude which keeps me close, too. It's having Him always on my mind--and finding joy in that. It's in enjoying God in all my hours.

These are the secrets.


******


"By myself I can do nothing..." John 5:30


*****

Friday, April 27, 2007

Of Birthdays And Replies



A special thanks to those of you who wished Tom a happy birthday! 

Yesterday was one of those magical days, not because of where we went or what we saw, but because of the coating of Grace and harmony on each hour. We went out to lunch over in the village of Niagara Falls and shopped for Tom's birthday gift from me (we do things differently around here) and for odds and ends.

In the evening, Naomi and Carl came bearing gifts and dinner and dessert--what a sweetie pie our daughter has become. Though, she's always been a daddy's girl and that has always blessed my heart. Well, not counting the times she and Tom have allied against me. Er hem. Naomi had cooked us two Indian dishes--our first taste of Indian food in our conscious memories--and very good chicken dishes they were. And you can see the cake, above, which she and Carl decorated so cutely that I just had to snap a picture.

Just one more thing. I'd asked our friends and relatives to send Tom emails on (or before) his birthday and he was very heart-blessed by each note. In fact, he did the oddest thing as I sat here and watched him. Now get this--after he read each email, he immediately clicked 'respond' and wrote back to each person. What a wild, amazing concept! 

Debra never does that. No, she walks away and enjoys the note inside her head, then mops the floor and cooks meals. She spends days writing extremely droll and witty replies in the air which means often, she ends up believing she did respond to the email when no! She certainly did not.

I think Tom just may be onto something there. I'll have to give that instantly responding thing a try someday.



******

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Happy 50th Birthday....

...to my hubby!

Of course, you realize, don't you, that it's totally unfair that just a few years ago he was attending college with our daughter and their classmates thought he was her brother, not her dad. Somehow he manages to look younger every year and though I've watched closely, I can't figure out how he does that. (Drats!)

But anyway, happy 50th birthday to the best and sweetest husband in all the world (seriously, no exaggeration)! I am looking forward to all the years to come with you.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Of Morning Light and Preparations


I love morning light.

Early sun can make even the most derelict house appear lovely, to me, anyway. (Note to self: as you  search for houses, picture each on a cloudy day.) 

Oh well. I'm thinking that regular, normal windows looking out upon an actual view of gardens or lawns or trees will be a fair exchange. I can live with that.



The realtor is coming this Friday or Saturday to inspect our house and tell us what we should change. In the meantime I'm trying not to go the overwhelmed route, attempting to, in one week, make every corner perfect. 

No, I'm learning to just do what Grace leads me to, take a lot of breaks, and hope for the best.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Opinions and Such




Sometimes I enjoy going all controversial on you so, well, here goes.

Last night I read a blog post where the author mentioned Laura Ingalls Wilder's book, The Long Winter. Personally I love that book. I reread it during the bleakest, snowiest part of winter so I can remind myself to stop complaining that I have it rough. Because I don't. 

Not even close.

Anyway, the blog author found the book depressing (her right, I agree) and she wondered why the Ingalls didn't just move away following that long winter, rather than risk another one like it. And in the comment box? Someone wondered why Pa Ingalls even left his hometown and his relatives in the first place.He should have just remained at home and not dragged his family farther west.

To be my usual nice and sweet self, I'll use this word to describe those kinds of thoughts: naive, with a tad of controlling-nature on the side.

People are funny sometimes. I mean, we've all done things like these:

Our body can't take handle real coffee anymore, so we stop drinking it and feel better. Then suddenly we think no one should drink coffee. We start a whole campaign to get all our friends to stop drinking it so they, also, will feel wonderful.

We've always painted our walls white and --but of course!-- we believe every one's house would look terrific if only they painted their walls, white.

We live in a small, sensibly-priced house and we frown at (and gossip about) anyone who lives in a big, expensive house. (Ditto for a car.)

God convicts us, personally, to give to a certain charity, we do, and then we preach to everyone that they, also, should give to that cause. Or He convicts us to stay home while our children are young and --wham!-- we believe every woman should stay home.

And more.

My favorite teacher once said something like, "People who insist on minding other people's business are usually miserable." 

Boy, is that the truth! God created people to live their own lives in ways He directs--not as we do. And since He's one amazing, creative God?  His designs for each of us are endless. Unique. One-of-a-kind. 

And when we try to control others' choices our way, we butt heads, and hence, the misery.

I love this verse:

"Man's goings are of the Lord; how can a man then understand his own way?" ... Proverbs 20:24

So true! Half the time we're not even sure what God wants us to do and yet we freely advise others what we believe God wants them to do. 

Like, one conviction fits all. Oh my.

Yes, we all have a right to our opinions. But when they hurt others? Eh. Not so much. Nor is it correct to believe our opinions should belong to everyone else.

Lately, I'm attempting to mind my own business and keep my opinions to myself and you know? The peace, it's just rolling in.

Wow, should've tried this sooner.


******

Sunday, April 22, 2007

More Sowing, More Reaping.




We had our carpet steam-cleaned yesterday, most of it, anyway, for the first time ever in this house.

 The men arrived around noon and Lennon went streaking back to the dark bedroom where Tom slept, having worked the graveyard shift Friday night.

The younger man reminded me much of Naomi's boyfriend, the older man mostly spoke Spanish and both appeared friendly. The younger guy asked how old our carpet was and when I told him ten years he exclaimed, "Wow! You must take really good care of your carpet."

No. We. Do. Not.

I mean, we only sometimes remove our shoes and we don't ask our company to do so. At one time, while Naomi (Miss Lover of Cats) lived here, we had six cats (draw your own conclusions). No, our living room carpet is a high grade berber kind which we got as a remnant so let this simply be a commercial touting 100% nylon berber. It lasts.

The job was completed in an hour and after I paid by check?  I did something which made me giddy the day's remainder. 

Being shy and also an in-the-bone penny-pincher, I considered giving the workers a tip, but I wavered, then decided I'd already paid enough by way of the bill. Yet as they were folding up their cleaning equipment outside, I took a quick peak at the stair carpet and that of the Tower Room upstairs, noted they'd been cleaned well, then raced back downstairs, grabbed a fistful of dollar bills, and ran outside. I thanked them again, handed over the dollars and they were very appreciative, sweet and surprised by it.

And well, that made my whole day.

I don't know why we think the object in Life is to get by with paying the least amount of money we can. Personally, I believe God loves us to be generous, sowing into other peoples' lives, even the money which we'd have spent on ourselves once again. 

Tom and I loving giving tips, actually. Once we tipped the delivery man who'd, for months, picked up many of Tom's boxes for his Ebay sales and he said no one had given him a tip in something like 8 years. Oh my. Made me extremely sorry for all the times I've talked myself out of tipping workers.

I believe that somehow it will matter in Heaven how much we gave to others here. True, not just money-wise! (You go talking about money and some people get all weird.)

But often I've seen this: if we can lose the fear of lack and, instead, freely give our money to bless others, we'll give more freely in other areas, also. Something happens-- a bondage breaks--when we understand the concepts of giving before we can receive. 

And the giddy joy in the midst of it all improves--and makes sweeter--ones oh so daily life.


*****


"Freely you have received, freely give." ... Matthew 10:8

Saturday, April 21, 2007

It's a Bird! It's a Plane!



...It's a what-is-that-thing-anyway?

Heh. Actually, this is one of my many "seek ye first" things.

Let me explain.

Way back in '94, God began doing such a huge "seek ye first" work in my heart. He'd whisper, "Come away with me, first." He promised me if I did, He'd take care of everything else, plus, 'all these things would be added unto me,' to boot. 

So I did and He did--take care of everything else, I mean. That was during a very specific season of my life, one I fondly call, The Coming Away Season.

During those days, I began noticing the oddest happenings. One afternoon I thought, "Hmm. I don't have any room in front of our windows inside the house to start seedlings in tiny pots. I need a portable greenhouse, one I can place in the sun outside during the earliest part of Spring and then tuck it away at night." 

I had a specific picture in my mind, yet said nothing about it to anyone.

Well, guess what? Three days later I was out in the backyard and Tom drove home from curb shopping (or for photos, here) and what did he pull out of the back of the car? Yep, this odd-looking little greenhouse thing, above, something probably from an old refrigerator maybe, who knows? 

All I knew is it was perfect and just what I'd imagined. It even had adjustable air vents on each side and a convenient removable panel in the middle. I told Tom it was exactly what I'd needed. He said he wasn't even sure why he brought it home.

During that Coming Away Season? That sort of thing happened nearly each week. I even made "Presents from God" lists because it was all kinda, well, spooky. But lovely.

And I'm glad I made a list and there's a reason I took this photo this morning. I'm going to release this little greenhouse before we move. In all my ruthlessness lately, the little greenhouse didn't make the cut and now I'll pass it along to someone else. But I took the photo to remind myself of all the myriad times God surprised and blessed me. 

Besides, I can't keep everything--God doesn't mean for me to keep (horde) every present from Him. But I would so hate to forget any of them.


******



"But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you." ... Matthew 6:33

Friday, April 20, 2007

Spring Giddy


So there I was on Tuesday sitting upstairs in my pink-like-a-hug Dream Room, healing from Monday's tragedy. 

There on the oval rug I sat with my seltzer water and watched yet another episode of Road to Avonlea, a show which whisks me to a country where, ok, I'll say it--I sometimes live part-time. (Only if you've watched Road to Avonlea can you understand what I mean.) Avonlea is rather like a summer home (or a winter one) where I can move to when things like the weather or people or Life, in general, bug me.

Anyway, so there I was in Avonlea, er, I mean my Dream Room, when the new pastor said these words about his wife (who had debilitating back pain) to Janet King:

"She lives with almost constant pain, but never lets on how greatly she suffers. It's Viola's way. She clings to the philosophy that the Lord gave us Life and we praise Him by the fullness we live it."

Wow. Time stopped and I missed the next words spoken because, suddenly, Life felt good again. I thought, "How true! We do praise God by the fullness with which we live Life." It was like that 'apples of gold in pitchers of silver' thing of which the Bible speaks--perfect words delivered at the perfect time, bringing healing with them.

And then yesterday, Thursday, felt like magic.

Clear blue skies and sunshine every moment and 60 degrees! Tom and I ate lunch on the gleaming front porch, then I read books out there and took a walk. Even bought dark chocolate to munch upon while I passed all the yards waking up from Winter.

And then I puttered in my own back yard, trimming and lifting away the dead twigs from the daffodils and felt like I was in a dream, as though the fourteen other Spring times in this yard swirled inside my head, bringing along every sweet memory, every reason I've loved living here. 

And I must have gone a little delirious, because I actually felt grateful for this long, dark winter. Only when you escape out of such endless, grey, frigid weeks can a simple Spring-like day in your own tiny backyard feel like a miracle, better than even an afternoon in France or Italy or upon the Riviera.

No, really.


******

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Spring--Dare We Dream?


Here are some peeks of my kitchen and guess who's been painting like a wild woman lately? 

Well no, that's an exaggeration. When you try to follow Grace in your work, you are more peaceful and steady than wild. At least, that's what I've found.



It still amazes me that--with paint--you can create a sunny summer morning even during the greyest, most frigid April in 85 years. This month, I've stepped into our kitchen and in all the brightness, felt the promise that, yes, Spring will someday arrive if only I'll wait patiently. Technically, Spring will come even if I wait impatiently, groaning, but who wants to waste the days in between?

Yet this morning, finally, we awoke to clear skies and sun. Oh my, I needed the sun today. And even if we reach only 48 degrees, as long as we have sunlight, you will see me out on our front porch when you walk by. Probably in a warm sweater, but still, out there is where I'll sit, soaking up the outdoor brightness I have so missed, especially this long week.

Monday, April 16, 2007



It's hard knowing what to write after such a tragedy as the one at Virginia Tech today. Here is yet one more incident which has wounded our Country and anyone, anywhere, whose heart has not hardened toward such pain.

Always when these horrible things happen, people try to make sense of senselessness and usually grow more frustrated, angry and fearful. But I so don't want to walk that road.

No, I desire to remind myself that God is still God and He is still good.

He's still the God of all comfort and the only one who can heal these kinds of wounds. And it is certainly not God who messed up, but people. 

And hindsight is always 100 percent.

May I remember to live Life prepared to leave it in case it's suddenly required of me to do so. Spending my days wisely, compassionately and with enough overflowing peace to spill over to others.

My prayers go out especially to those who've lost loved ones today at Virginia Tech--I can't even imagine losing a child or a spouse through such cruelty. And I pray for all the rest of us who are shell-shocked from witnessing yet another horrendous act which--even after all the talkm study and delving--will still remain not fully understood. 

That is, until we leave this dark-glass plain.


******

"For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known."  ... 1 Corinthians 13:12


******

A Pet Peeve... And A Commercial (Of Sorts)




One of my (silly and none of my business) pet peeves is when people pay good money at a theater to watch a bad movie they didn't read about ahead of time and then complain about the movie to the rest of us.

Come on, Folks. Think.

In today's world? I wouldn't think of traveling to view a movie I'd not checked-out online ahead of time. Well, certainly not one with a rating higher than PG, anyway. 

I mean, years ago I felt bad-moody because Tom didn't feel like driving me over to the old-fashioned, $3 a seat, whisk-you-back-in-time theater, so I drove there alone, which I normally enjoy, given the right corresponding mood. I chose Runaway Bride, but while I sat with my M and M's waiting for it to begin, the thought struck me, "Hey! This may turn out to be sleazy. I didn't read a word about it."

But, alas, I loved every minute. Whew. Even dragged Tom to see it nights later (he loved it, but don't tell him I told you) and bought the dvd which I've nearly worn tracking holes through.

But, as I said, (and as a rule) I never do that.

No, before we travel to see any movie I check with my favorite movie reviewer. As with other reviewers, he/they shares opinions about movies, yes, but also list more specific information. Such as, exactly how many (and which) 'naughty words' you'll hear, how many and what sort of, uhm, naughty things you will see, even how often anyone drank liquor, smoked or advocated what the Bible says, Hey don't do. 

They list those things then let you decide for yourself if you want to brave the weather, head over to the theater and hand your money to the cashier.

I like that.

So there you have it, one of my pet peeves. And you also have my explanation of why, most likely, you'll never hear me moaning in this blog about the sleazy, stupid movie I walked out of over the weekend.

It just ain't gonna happen.


***

"Get wisdom, get understanding..." ... Proverbs 4:5

Sunday, April 15, 2007

That 'Opposites Attracting' Thing




(This is so not an exhaustive study about this subject. It's only a blog post, after all, ok?)

So there I was yesterday, kicking back with Tom in our Cozy Room, eating McDonalds and watching yet another Red Green dvd, which is pretty much how Friday went, also. Two major days of rest in a row --and we have five more looming ahead.

Oh, we did drive another load of junk to Salvation Army and I grocery-shopped, vacuumed and placed our curb-find Ralph Lauren chair in the sunroom so our living room would appear larger to potential buyers. And we did search for houses online and I washed the dishes then went out to lunch with my friend, Laura, on Friday then Tom and I visited with Naomi that afternoon, too.

But still. Mostly, these past two days have been lazy-daisy in style. And yes! We all need restful times. Yet lately, Tom and I are having a plethora of lazy days, especially when you consider the huge move we'll be (hopefully) making soon.

And so here's what popped into my zombied head yesterday there in the Cozy Room: "Aha! More than ever I totally get why God made opposites attract."

I mean, otherwise, if Type A personalities married other Type A's, it would be race, race, race! Both would (intensely) go after goals and promotions and the best houses or cars. And/or they'd both be determined to raise the brightest, most successful kids and to have the best and be the best in relationships and in the community or church or wherever--and experiencing burn-out every seven minutes.

--or--

If both were laid-back, que sera sera, la-de-da types (like Tom and me these past two days), the house could crumble, as could their bodies, finances and kids, and they'd only break a sweat and deal with their self-imposed, neglect-caused messes when they became too gigantic to ignore.

And okay, yes. I've written both examples to the extreme. But that's my  point.

If Tom and I weren't opposite enough to keep one another balanced, then we'd experience what this verse speaks of:

"Be well balanced (temperate, sober of mind), be vigilant and cautious at all times; for that enemy of yours, the devil, roams around like a lion roaring, seeking someone to seize upon and devour." 1 Peter 5:8 (Amplified)

I'm the penny-pinching-homebody in our family and often it's occurred to me that, if it weren't for Tom, we'd probably have almost no furniture, a limping old car and no memories of the vacations we wouldn't have taken. But if not for me, our house would be so crammed with furniture we couldn't walk, we'd have a driveway lined with cars and we'd have probably lived in 5 other states by now.

In our marriage, Tom and I are just opposite enough to keep one another balanced. 

We're just opposite enough to keep it interesting, indeed. And, again, balanced to the point of wisdom. And oh, for some balance--some good old-fashioned being opposite--over this long weekend!



******

Friday, April 13, 2007

With Eyes of Faith


At 6:00 this morning I fed Lennon and McCartney (The Cats), made my pretend coffee which I took upstairs to my Dream Room and then settled on the floor in front of the electric heater, which in my imagination only, resembles an old fashioned oil stove. 

I watched an episode of Road to Avonlea instead of holding my quiet time with my books, listening and praying. And don't tsk tsk, but if I get too legalistic about it, my quiet time becomes old hat and even God gets bored with it. I'll set time aside for us later today, but even so, still I sat there quietly, sipping and watching and brushing tears away (Avonlea always makes me cry) and kept an ear opened to God because, though it may sound odd, He often whispers to me whenever I quiet my heart while watching tv.

In fact, I recalled how, when Naomi was 10-years-old, I'd dread the years ahead when she'd be gone and my mothering days would cease. Back then I thought only of what would be lost, not gained. And so I spent the next years appreciating every aspect of Life With Naomi and trying to stretch each moment, which was a good thing. 

But I also dreaded the end of it all, which was not so good.

The problem was that I reached beyond Grace. There is a protection about Grace--as long as you cooperate with her and don't look beyond her, you enjoy where you are, what you have. But it's those stares beyond those frightened glimpses into the future which bring dread and spoil Today because we've not yet been given strength--Grace--to handle them.

Anyway, back to this morning there on the floor in front of the tv. I sat and thought how, during Years With Naomi, I didn't know I'd experience such luxury in the Years Beyond Naomi. Oh, not the sitting on the floor part (just something I prefer), but the creating of my own schedule, doing what I like and when and how. 

Oh, and dusting off my writing after taking a 25-year break and now writing uninterrupted.

And too, the ability to take time off to heal when the need arises. Instead of chauffeuring Naomi around, having to put on a smiling face down in the kitchen or postponing grieving or healing because of needing to attend open house, the basketball game, the church play, I can now, instead, be alone with my thoughts and God and His healing presence.

Oh, some people, I realize, can get over Life's hurts on the run and in the midst of crowds, but I'm not one of that group. No, I heal best alone with Time and God and Quiet. On the run and in busyness, I only pile hurt upon hurt, almost volcano-like, waiting till the inevitable burst.

And I guess I remembered those years of that nagging dread I kept always in a drawer in my mind, not because I'm hurt or healing right now, but because this all feels more like luxury and delight instead of the rough, life-won't-be-as-good days I'd supposed those long years ago without Grace.

And perhaps that's why I'm sharing this--so that those of you who are trying to see beyond Grace can just relax and refocus your gaze to her present face. So that you can keep sowing in confidence the good things you will reap later. 

And so you'll know all can be well with your soul after your children leave, most likely more incredible than you are imagining now.



******

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Refusing to Worry


Years ago we uncovered this small painting among curb finds.

We've been online lately till we're bleary-eyed, peering at houses for sale around the Richmond and nearly at the same moment had one thought, "This is where we'd like to someday live."  You know, like the house/land in this painting. 

 If this is what God wants, then (we remind ourselves) everything will work out. We'll find the right house and eventually all areas will mesh. The moving, the selling of our house, the buying of another one. The financial aspects and the leaving of all we've known here. 

And so the different part is this: we're going to refuse to fret about any of those points. To worry about God's plan is, well, stupid. Unnecessary. A blatant sign of distrust, immaturity and forgetfulness of the myriad ways He's led us before.

We're too old for all that worry--it's as though we have energy for either worry or action--but certainly not both. After living nearly half a century we should already have noticed how things work, how God and Faith and Time work. After all this time--and all this living--He's expecting more maturity from us these later years. 

To whom much is given, much more will be required. And now is a perfect time to require more of ourselves as well.


******

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Instead of Complaining....




So there I was in our kitchen at 5:30 this morning making Tom's lunch for work, half-watching the local weather man and groaning, snarling when he said this is our coldest April in 85 years.

And I thought of that pastor in Kentucky who began this bracelet-wearing, anti-complaining campaign which has spread exponentially, especially since he appeared on Oprah. It came to me, "He's right, you know. Complaining about this miserable, eternal winter will only use-up the energy I could have spent to accomplish something valid, lasting and real."

Complaining. It's the easiest thing in the whole world to do! And the hardest thing to quit, especially when you consider that "who can tame the tongue?" verse. But of course, with God's help, even taming a complaining tongue is possible.

I can talk myself into feeling up or I can convince myself I deserve to feel down. 

And so instead of complaining about our upcoming long string of bleak, frigid, rainy-snowy days ahead, I'll try, instead, to apply my complaining energy to painting my walls warm colors instead. I'll switch the lamps on at strategic spots and polish the windows, mirrors and hutch glass so they'll shine. I'll trim the dead, brown leaves off my house plants, open all the curtains and dust the furniture.

All in an effort to create on the inside what I am hoping will someday (oh please!) arrive on the outside-- Springtime. 

There is a Springtime of the heart and today I'm aiming for that, but I'll never, ever get there if I waste away all my energy on useless, whining-style complaining.


******


Numbers 11:1
"And when the people complained, it displeased the Lord: and the Lord heard it; and his anger was kindled; and the fire of the Lord burnt among them, and consumed them that were in the uttermost parts of the camp."


******

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Speaking of Hope...




I purposely ended my post yesterday mentioning hope. 

The day before, I'd read this post written by Linda telling of the suicide of a friend years before and I read the comments from people with similar memories. Then, hours later, I received an email from a friend I've known since we were teens, telling me of her relative's suicide last month and how his father had taken his own life years prior.

If you have time, please pop over to Linda's blog to read her post (again, here). It's still haunting me and nudging me to include more hope and more directions to the God of all Hope here in my blog. What a responsibility we have here in Blogland and what an opportunity, one more massive than we can dream.

And we'll never know how many men and women knock on these doors, our Blogland ones, on the darkest, stormiest night of their lives.



******

Monday, April 09, 2007

My, How Things Change




In my younger, cute-little-homemaker years, I was quite the Hanna Hostess. I could whip-up a meal and scrub the whole house without breathing hard. Before our guests knocked at the door, Tom and I would recline, gaze over our newly-polished house and anticipate a happy time while the scent of a roast wafted into all peaceful corners.

But yesterday, there I was at 2:58 , just two minutes away from when Naomi and her boyfriend, Carl, were due to arrive for an early dinner.

I hadn't dyed the Easter eggs yet.
I was still galloping around in my old house clothes and stained apron.
I hadn't turned the heater up. Tom asked, "Why's it like ice in here?"
My hair wasn't even brushed.

My, my, my. How things change.

And yet there was another change, too. When Naomi and Carl stepped through the door, they came bearing Easter gifts. Naomi and Carl carried two chocolate bunnies, two bottles of my favorite seltzer water, a lemon jello cake for Tom and even our grand-kitty, Oreo. And best of all, Naomi brought all the sweetness and pleasantness which is Naomi at her best and our whole visit was a delight. I felt no sense of we're-walking-on-egg-shells-here-so-watch-what-you-say. Nobody got offended and no one argued about politics. There was just laughter and one sweet, sincere visit.

And again. How things change.

All I'm saying? Remember this: what is true today, may not be true tomorrow. If there are grey clouds and snow and sadness forecasted for this day in your life--hold on!-- tomorrow everything may change to sun and gladness, pushing today into just a hazy memory.

There is always hope. Especially when you try to view Life through God's always-hopeful eyes.

And you'll never experience the incredible, hardly-imagined changes awaiting you unless you hang around long enough to bask in them.


******



Romans 15:13
Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost.


*****

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Loving Him First




Ten Christmasses ago, I gave one of my own copies of an Alexandra Stoddard book to a friend from church. 

We both loved the same kinds of decorating styles and enjoyed sharing creative ideas, so I thought she'd enjoy this book. I even inscribed it to her in my customary blue ink.

Three weeks after Christmas, she returned the book to me.

I asked her, "Didn't you like it?" She answered, "I liked it too much." And as we sat alone in the church auditorium, she explained that God was doing some important work in her heart and she felt if she kept the book, it would become a distraction to her.

Okay, now it felt weird and awkward to be given back a Christmas present which I'd given someone else. That had never happened to me before (nor since). And yet, in the midst of such an uncomfortable thing, I totally understood where she was coming from. That was one of those years when God was rearranging everything--cleaning house Big Time-- inside my own heart, also.

That incident came to mind as I thought about all of you, my kindred spirits, today as I read your encouraging comments about our upcoming move and pondered over all the encouragement and friendship you've shown me since I began this blog.

What do they have to do with one another? If I'd have had a blog 20 years ago (or 15, or even 10), I would have loved it too much. All of you would've meant way too much to me and your kind words? Oh my, I'd have clung to and memorized each one.

I know because for many years I wrote snail mail letters, sometimes 1,000 per year (yes, seriously) in a vain attempt to get from people what only God, Himself, could provide me. Always a solitary, homebody person, this whole Blogland adventure would have proven too grand of a dream come true--and hurled my heart even farther away.

So first, God had to change me on the inside. To fill me up with Himself so I'd not be starving for appreciation from people. 

And even now sometimes I need to be reminded why I'm even keeping a blog--because it's a ministry to you, not to me. Because it's done out of obedience rather than a wild ride careening for attention. 

And when I take a break? Sometimes it's just God making certain He's still first and that I could leave this blog if He asked me to.

And I'm okay with that. I'm loving following the one who gives me more peace than anything else ever, ever could.



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Mark 12:30
"And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment."


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Open Hand Living




Before we moved from Nevada, we gave away lots of our furniture to my friend, Connie and her family. 

Connie was incredulous that I could release tables and recliners--nice stuff--so freely, but I told her I like Open Hand Living. You know, where you picture your house and its insides upon your opened palms--not all scrunched-up in your closed fists.

With Open Hand Living, you are grateful for what is yours, but you realize you don't actually own anything. At least, not forever. Things might be taken from you or you may outgrow that gaudy lamp you once loved because now you have taste. γ‚· 

You may misplace favorite photos, drop money or gloves out of your pocket or accidentally shatter that heirloom fruit bowl. You might realize your friend or child loves your favorite candlesticks even more than you do, so you release them to her, instead.

Or God might even ask you to give away much of your furniture and books and move to a whole other state for unknown purposes and adventures.

I realize many people love being sentimentally and mystically attached to their homes, furniture, pets and their favorite restaurants and shops and all their stuff. But I'm finding that I'm happiest when I can gaze at everything and realize, in truth, I own nothing. Someday I will sail away from my house and all I 'own' and I'll travel to meet God-- grasping not one single thing inside my hands.

And perhaps I'm preparing for that now in tiny ways. I like the peeks of who I am apart from all my stuff. When I stand before God, it won't be beside a box marked 'trinkets'. True, I'll not miss my stuff there in Heaven, but it worries me how my heart gets all flutter-panicky when I consider letting go of a few favorite things/people now.

In this autumn of my life may I cultivate this inside area of my heart with love, mercy and understanding, because that's all I'm taking with me. There's a whole different form of currency in Heaven-- there's a whole other kind of wealth up there.



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Wednesday, April 04, 2007

It's All Bountiful




For probably 15 years, The Trip To Bountiful has been one of my all-time favorite movies. 

In case you missed it, it's the story of an elderly woman who longs to return to the farm where she grew-up. The farm--and her favorite memories--are all in the country town called Bountiful, a place, all these years later, which has pretty much collapsed into the ground. 

Yet, through determination and planning, Mrs. Watts finally escapes the tiny city apartment she shares with her son and his wife, back to the farm she loved.

I've no real clue why I wipe tears away the whole last half-hour every single viewing. For me, there is no old home place. No house anywhere, no town I call home, other than where I presently live. And mostly, I feel grateful.

While I was growing-up, my family moved too often--we never lived in the same house or town for even three years. (No, my dad wasn't in the military--he was in that other transient occupation. He was a pastor.) Later, when I married, although Tom and I lived in a California mountain town nine years together, then in Nevada for five, still, we never lived in the same house for three years, either.

Not until this house did we unpack our hearts and all our boxes. Not until here did I allow myself to fall in love with what amounts to walls and floors and windows.

And yet, truthfully? My heart is still a very transient being. Deep inside I feel half at home and half already-moved. I long for a new adventure--and a window over the kitchen sink. A clothesline and land enough to keep a dog, perhaps--at least more land than just a driveway separating my house from the neighbors'.

And although this old-fashioned Buffalo suburb has, for 14 years, afforded me a dream-come-true lifestyle reminiscent of the 1940's, still, it will never be my Bountiful, where, like Mrs. Watts, I plan,scheme and yearn to return to some long year ahead.

My own private Bountiful is the place wherever God leads me for however long or short. God is always on the move in lots of ways and I want to move along with Him, not growing stale or seeping all la-de-da-cluelessly in dead, dry tradition.

And besides, my Real Home isn't anywhere near here at all, anyway. It's oh so very, very far away.


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"Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands." ... 2 Corinthians 5:1

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Preparing To Follow God Elsewhere



This morning Tom met again with the man who's in charge of hiring for that Richmond, VA job. 

And when he came home, and we ate breakfast out on our sunny front porch, we discussed the meeting. Basically, the job is Tom's if he wants it. It wouldn't begin for another 2 or 3 months or perhaps a bit longer which, again, is more than fine for procrastinators like ourselves.

For six months, a peace about this has led us, guided us and kept us patient, calm and pondering things in our hearts. Such a move is huge, states away, we've lived here 14 years and we'd be leaving our daughter here to forge ahead in her own world. And there's the whole getting-the-house-prepared-to-sell-and-will-it-sell-in-time-and-what-about-finding-the-right-house-outside-of-Richmond thing?

But this we know--if this truly is God's idea, then everything will be all right.

There's no need for lists of pros and cons. 
No need for worry as to how the job will work out, 
Whether we'll sell this house in time or find another one in time 
Or whether we'll be happy, by ourselves, so far away from what we've known here. 

No, if this truly is God's idea, then it is a good idea because He is good. 

Not yet has He guided us somewhere, then hidden away in a cave and stopped leading. No, He's always hung around as long as we've remained afraid of our own plans--and sought and longed for His advice, His ways, instead.

For me, there's only one thing to fear, and that is this: my own bright ideas--and skipping ahead of Him, instead of running alongside, holding tightly to His hand.

Or worse-- staying behind in a place where He's finished with us and experiencing the boredom and discomfort of having missed His will out of fear. Or out of caving-in to what everybody else thought we should do according to their own experience.

No, already He's been loosening my heart's grip upon this house and this town where I've lived longer than anyplace else--ever. My mind lately wanders and designs rooms in a new house, a different garden--not in these old places I've known so long. 

Last April I could not have faced a move like this. But then, last April Grace wasn't here gently prying my fingers off of what is no longer mine. And last April, God wasn't saying the time is right and ripe to begin dreaming of moving on and working toward something new during this autumn season of our lives.

Yet they are here--both God and Grace. And so like I said, everything is going to be all right. No matter what happens.



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