Friday, April 3, 2015

Chapter 14

I know you've read them--those 'forwards' with stories how the author finally learned that it's the simple things in life which mean the most and now her family comes first now and so she'll be doing less dusting, less cleaning in order to spend time with her children. Nice, sweet lessons for us all.

Man, those things irk me.

I mean, why can't we have time to clean and time to spend with our children? Why do the only alternatives appear to be obsessive dusting or not dusting at all? How is it better to live inside a dirty house as long as you're spending quality time with your kids?


Debra says this: The key will always be balance. There's a time for cleaning and there's a time to spend playing with your family. There's even a time to spend cleaning house with your family. For isn't it also our responsibility, as parents, to raise our children to know how to care for their future homes so that they will live responsibly within their own four walls?

It was in the 1980's that all this "play, don't clean" stuff began. I know--I was there. I read all the magazines and saw it over and over. And look where it's gotten us! TV shows like Clean House, Clean Sweep and Life Laundry are huge ratings grabbers--people everywhere long to learn how to dig themselves out from beneath their clutter-piled homes. They're gasping for air, some limits and some common sense.

And yes, often all that is a result of the 'me first, I deserve to buy everything I want' mentality saturating our nation. Yet, I believe messy homes also happen because of the thinking that everything in life must be fun and the ol', "It's beneath me to clean--wasn't that what those sad, un-liberated June Cleaver types did in the 50's? Clean house? Me do something so trivial?"

Alas, cleaning is no small thing. Just ask those folks with all sorts of dust allergies or those living in so much clutter that they struggle every morning to find their keys or their wallets, purses, permission slips, books, sweaters, reports, briefcases or the items they bought and know they have--somewhere--but now they must go spend money to buy another one.

Spend time with your children, play with them--yes! But have them help you clean the home you all share, also. Do it all together and it will become a habit, something you do with barely a thought (or a complaint). Who knows? You just might find yourself dusting the coffee table one day, automatically, without realizing you're doing so. And not minding one bit.

And what a pleasant day that will be.


Finally(!) our out-in-the-boonies town has a tiny market. What was supposed to happen in 6 weeks took nearly 6 months and of course, all the groceries are priced too high, but hey--when you live in the center of the boonies, you accept that. And are grateful. I mean, all these months our town has not sold one fresh fruit or vegetable and now? 

How amazing to not have to drive 9 miles for a banana.


Oh, I loved this quote about winter over at Aunt Amelia's blog:

"There is a privacy about it which no other season gives you... In spring, summer and fall people sort of have an open season on each other; only in the winter, in the country, can you have longer, quiet stretches when you can savor belonging to yourself." ~Ruth Stout

Makes a person view winter a whole other way, doesn't it? Always, I've valued my privacy and I must confess, there's much about myself I don't share with you here. (I totally understand now why some movie stars appear rabid about protecting their privacy.) 

And it also explains, in part, why I'm ecstatic about creating my Secret Garden behind our barn--I'll not be so visible while I work. Honestly, I don't appreciate being watched and I'd hoped to have more privacy out here, but this (sad) example shows the truth: 

Just fifteen minutes after a large tractor-like-thing with a post hole digger was delivered to start building our new garage last October, our across-the-street neighbor knocked on the door. He told me (Tom wasn't home) that he and _____ saw the post hole digger and they hoped we weren't putting in a fence for animals. 

Because I knew exactly where he was going with this I told him (a tad testily), "No, we're not. We're just building a garage."

He went on to explain what I already knew--the previous owners had raised sheep and neighbors complained. They had to sell some sheep, cart others to their new home-- yadayadayada. I told him we are in contact with the previous owners and we know all about the sheep fiasco. He said he knew it wasn't any of his business (you can imagine what I wanted to say to that!), but he and ____ just wanted to save us the trouble  of putting in a fence , buying animals, then having to undo the whole thing. And waste money.

Argh. Even before he left, I inwardly fumed.

The post hole digger had only been beside our barn for 15 minutes! Suddenly it felt like the whole neighborhood stands at their windows 24/7 eyeing us. I felt like, "Please! Can't Tom and I be allowed our God-given freedom to make mistakes? Can't we be given some credit now that he's 51 and I'm 49? Can't we live here without feeling like our quasi parents live across the street?

I know, I know--pride, pride, pride. Okay. But still, some of you understand exactly what I mean. I hope so, anyway.

So, returning to that winter quote--at least now in January we have privacy. Well, here inside our house where most of our Winter Life takes place. 

Outside where I shovel snow and feed the birds there's less privacy because of all those naked trees. But in here? In here there's a whole other world, a cozy winter world, and I'm thankful for privacy, freedom and silence.


"Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands..." 1 Thessalonians 4:11


  I forgot to tell you something.

Our "Have-More" Plan Book arrived some time ago. It's terrific and I recommend it to anyone interested in buying some land and 'going natural' or getting off the grid (and all that). I've also been rereading Sylvia's Farm, a book about her adventures as a lone sheep farmer and I've just begun reading Peace At Heart, a book very similar (so far) to Sylvia's Farm, except that the author has a husband for a partner.

These books tell of birthing sheep--and how sometimes you, uh, (gross alert) must reach up inside the laboring ewe to help her deliver her lamb, lest you lose both mother and baby. And on Sylvia's farm, some of her adorable young lambs (always, she gives each a name) die in freak accidents or they freeze to death or catch fatal diseases. In The Have More Plan book, there are pictures about how best to kill chickens (and other animals). In Peace At Heart, she shares the story of a weakened chicken which was nearly pecked to death by its peers (chickens do that, she says).

So here's what I've forgotten to tell you: I've decided to become a vegetable farmer. A flower farmer. A fruit tree farmer. A No Animals Allowed On This Farm, Ever, farmer.

Oh dear. I would die if I had to help birth a lamb. Or faint, anyway. And most likely, I'd get so attached to my chickens that, should I find a dead one, I'd be broken-hearted. And kill one of them to eat? Are you kidding?

I know, I know. But I do realize my limitations. Hey, from 2002 - 2004 I raised pet mice, 10 of them, down in our basement. And when they started dying one by one, I sobbed. Stood above them, stroked their backs, watched them breathe final breaths, spoke to them and cried hot tears.

And I'm still not over that.

So it's flowers and fruit trees and vegetables for this farmgirl! 

A gal must know herself and her limitations and her callings. Only then can she walk in peace, for there is no peace doing what others are called to do, but you are not. (And right there is a major reason why zillions of people are unhappy--they're on someone else's custom-made road, not their own.)

Though, okay--I reserve the right to change my mind about the chickens. Maybe I could handle a few of those. Maybe.


I realize we all have our own personal convictions. You know, decisions we've made about what we will or will not read or watch or do or believe. I certainly have my share. Mrs. Convictions, that's me.

But you know? The past few years I've seen that some of my so-called convictions were actually fears with Godly Conviction Labels slapped on them.

I avoided watching certain tv shows because I didn't agree with persons starring in the show. I avoided certain books because the authors came from different places than where I had. Maybe they believed differently than I do about certain biblical principles so I feared perhaps their words would scar me or cause me to change my mind about my own values and beliefs. Rather like a spreading of proverbial cooties.

And to this day, I still avoid certain books and tv shows and even ministers, ok? Like, I said, I've still got some convictions which I believe came from God.

But, there's a difference now. See, I realized years ago that I wasn't growing much anymore. I heard the same old things I'd always heard from the same ol' people in the same ol' places.. And it was like running around inside a narrow box, rather than running free.

But now? Now I can learn from nearly everyone and every situation. All people have a story to tell and everyone has some wisdom to share. Or if they lack wisdom and make many mistakes? I can learn from those mistakes, avoiding them, myself. So still, they are teaching me new things.

Godly lessons from unlikely teachers are everywhere! 


On his way home from work, Tom bought another tractor, one for only $20. Sigh. The seller will even deliver it for him on Friday.

Maybe Tom can retire and sell tractors full time. Perhaps it would behoove me to just accept his love for them, especially since I'll now be living with 6 tractors. Again. Especially since Tom subscribes to two tractor magazines, reads about tractors online, has fat binders crammed with tractor information and dreams about tractors at night.

A girl should realize when she's losing battles.

Making threats and begging Tom to stop bringing tractors home certainly hasn't worked and you'd think after 30 years I could remember long ago lessons. Namely, nagging nearly always backfires. Nagging makes the other person want to do the opposite of what you say.

I've beheld miracles when I stop nagging. When I stopped getting after Tom to pick up his clothes, he began picking them up. After I ceased begging him to put his dishes in the sink, he placed them in the sink, himself. There are more examples, but I'll spare you.

Nagging, I think, is a sign that I don't believe God can get through to Tom. It's as though--by nagging--I'm acting like Holy Spirit Junior, except that the Holy Spirit does not raise His voice and get ugly (though He, too, can be pretty darn insistent).

Actually, it makes sense that Tom would change after I gave-up trying to change him. Maybe only in the silence was he able to hear that still, small voice--only after I switched off that blaring Nagging Siren.


I believe these past two months of God-directed vacation have healed me. 

From what? From having lived -- for 39 years-- inside houses with no countryside views from their windows, but only brick or wood slat walls and fronts of other houses across the street. From living sandwiched between two other houses, squeezed and feeling watched or listened to, even, and hearing others, also, if they raised their voices (or the volume on their radio or tv). And from feeling as though all windows had eyes watching me whenever I stepped outside the doors or sat upon an open porch.

Thirty-nine years of all that non-privacy placed upon this private person. Wow. No wonder the healing is taking all these hours, all these afternoons. And it feels so good! All that warm sunlight pouring in through old porch windows upon me at the round table-cloth'd window corner. All that heat tenderizing what had grown hardened when it taught itself to not yearn for what it could not have. Heat like x-rays, like heating pads, like Ben-Gay and saunas.

Usually, Lennon The Cat sits upon the table all squinty-eyed just inches from my face and when he turns to me I truly believe he is healing, too. "Now this is Good," his golden eyes tell me. "Windows should have views of pastures and trees and robins and sky."

I stare right back at him and agree. Totally. And we both go on healing at the table in all that sunlight, together. slowing down, listening, becoming whole.


Oh wow... God gave me geese for my birthday! This morning for the first time I saw geese land on our 'lake.' Oh how I love geese! I've been known to race down the stairs and out of the house when I hear them honking in the skies above.


  It concerns me when people preach that we all go through dry spells when God seems very far away. Frankly? I've not had one of those times in the last 15 years. Not one.

But before then? Yes, I had dry spells, like, every dayheh. Well, often anyway.

So what has been the difference? You've heard of extreme make-overs, extreme sports and extreme shopping, haven't you? Well, for 15 years I've practiced Extreme Dependence upon God. Remember that old hymn which goes something like this?-- "I need Thee, oh I need Thee. Every hour I need Thee." Well, it's like that. I need God every single hour.

And now I could not survive one hour without Him. I wouldn't want to. And He knows that.

I need Him to be my sanity in this wild world and the peace inside my head and heart. I need Him to be my friend. I need Him to be my common sense and to help me understand and even remember things as I grow older. 

And after all this Extreme Dependence, God knows I would be sunk without Him-- in only one short hour.

Scary thought, really.

Never would I return to the days when my proud little head thought I could do everything by myself. That is the scarier thought, a lonely thought too much to bear.


One thing I love about living in our area? In our nearly 16 years here, we've only once had a kinda-sorta-maybe drought. Mostly we're like, "Enough already with all the water!"

And trust me, after seeing drought happen in my old Out West haunts, I'm grateful.
 Let it rain some more if it wishes.

But yesterday was gorgeous! And you know what? After days inside, I dragged the lawn mower from the barn and mowed the front yard, the orchard and the side yard. Felt great to get outside and work like that. I broke it up into 20-minute segments which made it easy, coming inside between times to rest.


So Tom arrived home last night around 7:00 and before he came into the house he spoke with our neighbor. Rob said, "Debra got out and did all that mowing today."

Tom said, "Yeah, Debra's a hard worker."

I smiled when he told me that because, no, I'm not a hard worker. Not really. 

Mostly? Mostly I take 3 or 4 days off a week, doing only the tiny things which must be done lest the house fall down. The rest of the time I do a special project or two, things usually I've been procrastinating for ages.

Yet why does Tom think that I work hard? It's because of Grace. Grace makes me look good.

Grace stops me from spending all my energy doing ten things which don't (currently) matter, and instead, she directs me to the one or two things which, if I do them, will accomplish the most. And make the biggest impact. And keep me from falling behind.

When I follow Grace, rooms get painted and rearranged and cleaned. Lawns get mowed and garden beds get dug and stone patios get created. And thousands of blog posts get written, emails get answered and bills get paid on time--fun work, much of it becomes, therefore making it not feel like work.

Oh, a tiny part of that is me--the use of my hands and feet and head count for a part. But always I'll give Grace and God the biggest amount of credit. Not just because I'm 'supposed to', but rather, just because they are the ones who truly deserve it.


My Andy Williams record wafts and echoes through the house while I'm washing a load of clothes and feeling like every crisp, pretty housewife  like June Cleaver and her ilk, what with Andy and jotting down my list for the milkman and the sunshine and our warm golden dining room and sunny front porch where Lennon The Cat and I sat for awhile drinking pretend coffee (well, Lennon doesn't drink any, but both of us smiled like Cheshires).

And I'm planning to step outside into the country air and country scents where I'll weed the orchard trees and the flower beds beside the house and dig and fertilize and look around me a lot. And fill the birdfeeders (goldfinches are gold again!) and then take some extra Bison baseball tickets for Sunday afternoon (which Tom got from work) to our neighbors. And eat cold birthday pizza for lunch and not worry about the swine flu, even though tv people are suggesting hard that we should all worry.

Instead, I'll appreciate and celebrate and thank the One from whom all blessings flow and flow and flow.


  So yesterday I walked out to our newspaper box and found no newspaper. Gah. 

I came inside and complained to Tom, then he called the newspaper office to tell them our paper hadn't arrived (9:00 a.m. by now). The guy told him he wasn't sure if we would get one that day, and if we didn't, we'd receive a credit.

So we pretty much wrote it off for the day. And complained to each other, once again, about the incompetence of Today's Society and how you can't count on anyone to do the job right anymore,yadayada. You know. You've probably heard that refrain at your house a time or two, as well.

But just before noon I went to check the mail and saw the newspaper had arrived! So I carried it inside, but as I reached the door, I thought, "Hmm... that headline looks familiar."

Turns out, it was a copy of last Wednesday's newspaper. Good grief.

So Tom and I sang that "Is The Whole World Incompetent?" song yet again.

And then I began to laugh. And laugh. Suddenly I got this picture in my mind of some hardened newspaper guy with a visor on his head speaking into the phone. "Hey Kid. You forgot to deliver the paper to the L_____'s. So get over there."

Then the kid says, "But I ran out of today's issue."

"Aww, just take 'em any old issue. They'll never know the difference."

Heh. I told that to Tom and he laughed too. (Yet he still wanted to call and complain.)

But you know? This is a prime example that Life is just too darn short to stay mad.

It's not worth the churning stomach and frayed nerves to stay angry at our friends. Or strangers. It's not worth the internal poison to stay mad at our spouse or our kids or our neighbor. Or the FDA or Simon Cowell or the weather.

 Sooner or later all that stuff catches up to us on the inside and the outside--anger shows up on ones face, you know. Most likely we've all met someone with anger crevices dug deep into their face.

And may you never see that person staring back at you from a mirror.


There's another tiny town near ours, seven miles away, and I'd not been to their cute little supermarket in at least 6 years. So on this bright sunny morning after finding the back road directions on Mapquest (it's simple to get lost out here in the boonies, at least for me) I drove past fields and 1800's farmhouses galore, land where things have barely changed in 200 years.

I can't describe how marvelous it is to always start any trip in the middle of the countryside. All rides begin like a dream.

The four workers at the country market looked right into my eyes and spoke hello with welcoming smiles. Busily they rolled carts down the aisles, but none were too preoccupied to be friendly. People in the country are different that way. The atmosphere of the store was like others within these country towns--more 1930's than 2009. I thought of you while I wheeled my cart down over that old-fashioned floor and wished I could whisk you backward in Time with me.

Then back over these country roads to home, listening to classical music, rather like a movie soundtrack for my morning adventure. Early Spring in the country! We missed it last year, but we are so here for this one. And already I've promised not to miss one detail, not one greening tree or croaking toad or flowering daffodil. Last winter Tom and I promised each other we'd squeeze every precious moment from every clear, sunny day. 

And we mean to keep that promise. 


 As with anything in this life, I get out of Facebook only what I put into it. The more I contribute, the more I receive. The more fun and kindness I share with others, the more fun and kindness I get back.

It's called growing-up when we stop waiting for good things to drop upon us after sitting and doing nothing, first. Instead, it's exciting when we start sowing the things we'd like people to do for us. You know, rather like 'do unto others as you'd have them do unto you'.

It's silly the way we sometimes wilt and whine because friends aren't being the companions we'd hoped they would. But I've found when certain friends aren't 'showing themselves friendly' toward me, it's usually because I've been neglecting them. Or I'm expecting them to reciprocate in the same, exact way when maybe that's not their thing. 

Or perhaps I'm trying to resuscitate a friendship which died years ago or maybe even God is wanting me to back-off of the whole friendship thing for a little while so I can become better friends with Him. Perhaps He's keeping my friends from responding to my wild choke-holds upon our relationships.

Well, that's all going deeper than I wanted to go with this.

Mainly? Mainly this was just meant to be a reminder that even in 2009 we do still generally reap what we sow. And when we sow kindness and friendship--even at Facebook--we'll discover Life is more fun than we, perhaps, remembered it could be.


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