Friday, April 3, 2015

Chapter 15

One morning around 4:30 I heard what sounded like a sick/confused/loony bird outside our kitchen window. Man, he kept making a weird, squeaking noise and kept making a weird squeaking noise and kept--

Then after Tom arrived home from working night shift he asked, "Did you hear that strange bird out there?" I said, "I know! He's been at it for two whole hours. What's up with that?"

Alas. We are such suburbanites.

So that evening after Tom left for work I opened our kitchen window since I'd painted our dining room earlier and wow! A whole loud Hallelujah Chorus of sick/sqqueaky/loony birds filled the air. But immediately I realized--and said aloud--"Peepers! Those are Spring Peepers!"

I opened the window wider to the shadowy-ness and remembered Gladys Taber's mentions of these Springtime critters and smiled. My very first peepers! Here in my own backyard.

They are cool. They sound rather like tiny policemen blowing whistles to two or three beats. They are different than crickets--and they are loud.

This afternoon I pruned the plants on the 'lake side' of our house and I could hear no peepers (they only perform in the evenings), but I did hear our resident marsh frogs as they click-clicked rhythmically. 

Click click. Click click. In the eerie silence.

What an odd sound and from a distance I glimpsed slowly moving forms and bubbling in the water and with their noises, well, they sounded rather like something from a sci-fi flick. 

I know. Too much Stargate Atlantis.

Anyway, first we had such early, early robins and now we have peepers. Springtime is blissful in the country.


"For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment."   ... James 2:13


Before Tom drives to work in the dark mornings, we usually watch the local news together. 

There we were this morning watching a story about the big boss in the road department (or something... I can never recall those specific details). He'd been skimming money off the top, but paying it back (he said), all except for the latest $2,800 he'd 'borrowed.' 

Well, two FBI agents showed up at his house yesterday and after talking awhile, the guy got physical with them, pushed them, and at one point they were all wrestling together on his living room carpet.

Tom and I exclaimed things like, "What a dweeb! Didn't he know better than to wrestle with FBI guysSheesh. Not real smart, is he?" We said even more stuff like that when the guy was quoted as saying, "I could have taken both of you!"

"Yeah, right," Tom and I laughed. And I thought, "Man, this guy must really be scared because he's really guilty. He is so in trouble!"

Then at the very end of the story--the final sentence--the announcer said that he (Road Department Guy) had recently lost his wife who'd passed away.


Tom and I got really quiet.  My throat began to hurt and I murmured, "Hmm... Wow." Both of us could suddenly picture a primal force of sadness, aloneness and desperation so strong that you'd horrify yourself by your own actions, finding yourself wrestling with FBI agents on your floor.

May I always remind myself that there are two sides to every story. May I welcome those Holy Spirit pings which zap me, reminding me to be quick to hear, quick to care and much, much slower to speak (or to maybe not utter a word).

And may I more often look 'behind the curtain' of peoples' lives and extend mercy, remembering that if I wish to receive mercy, I first must show it to others. 


“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy."   ...  Matthew 5:7


When I first ran this, someone thought I was excusing this man's taking the money. But no, I'm only saying I better understand his doing such a foolish thing as trying to overtake FBI agents.

Mercy helps you understand why a person did something--and have compassion for him-- without approving of what he did.


So the long flower bed on the sunny side of the house looks a bazillion times better after all my work, but there's a hitch. A biggish garter snake (northern brown snake?) always slinks there now. 

She says she loves what I've done with the place and she especially enjoys startling me just to hear my garbled scream. I flick my wrists at her and cry "Shoo! Shoo!", but she just giggles, then sticks her tongue out at me. She even loves hiding beneath the muffin tins so I always take one of Tom's canes out there at night to tap, tap, tap them first. Such is Life in the country.


Now here's a verse which keeps me from becoming upset with people who just don't understand me or the things I do:

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

I mean, if I, myself, don't understand what God is trying to do or say through me, then why do I expect others to 'get me?' Why do I become frustrated when others question my motives or actions?

Various people who don't know Tom and I well were shocked when we bought this little farm. Some because we'd never before lived in the country (so they questioned whether we'd like it) and others because God has certainly not called them to do such a drastic thing--so they can't understand why anyone would. Why would anyone, they ask, take on so much work when we could be out 'winning souls?'

Probably we all know people who only view the world through their own tiny slant of light. If they've not thought a thing, done a thing, believed a thing then, well, that thing is a distraction and a waste of time for anyone. And just plain wrong.


Yet just when that small-mindedness threatens to frustrate me, along comes that soothing verse, above. If half the time I don't even comprehend how God is using me to share Him with this world, why would I expect anyone else to understand? Why do I expect others to get the purpose of our Healing Acres when I've not even grasped the full scope yet?


My favorite teacher says many are the lessons at the supermarket. She is so right!

So today while Tom lounged in the fun lunch area of the supermarket, I roamed the aisles trying, as always, to find food which won't eventually kill us. After giving-up about halfway through, I snatched my coupons and store card from my purse then wheeled my cart to the checkout-stand. I unloaded my groceries upon the belt thingy, then the young, adorable-looking worker asked if I'd like to donate to a certain medical research group. I smiled. "No, not this time."

She smiled and said, "I know people are in here all the time and they've probably given already." To which I replied, "I was just going to say, 'Been there, done that, already.' But I realize it's part of your job to ask anyway."

Then this sweet little thing leaned toward me, lowered her voice and said, "Yes, it is part of my job, but some people get mad at me for asking every time they walk through here."

Come on, people.

I don't know about you, but that sort of thing irks me. I don't care how low the economy is sinking into the abyss or how tired or busy we are --even so--there's no excuse for snapping at supermarket workers doing their jobs. Especially cute little 20-somethings like this girl with the long, dark curly hair and a sweet smile. Or especially anyone else, either.

I told her how horrible it was that people would get upset at her for doing her job. I think, I hope, I encouraged her. That's part of why I go supermarket shopping-- to be a blessing. Oh yeah, and to buy groceries.


I am a Sit Down Farmer.

Yes, if you drive past my little farm you'll glimpse me sitting in our flower beds or garden upon my homemade cushion--a trash bag tied at the top, with newspapers inside (read that idea somewhere) and digging with my hand-held spade, bed by bed, row by row, acre by acre.

No, really. In two weeks I weeded and fertilized the four flower beds beside our house, mostly while sitting down. In the shade, before the sun got there. All comfortably.

Oh, the wheelbarrow trips to the fertilizer pile behind the barn and up to the house got a bit tedious, but I made each step count, always asking myself if I needed to pick up a bucket or the spade or something else along the way, rather than walk back and get it needlessly later.

I only work for twenty-five minutes, or so, completing just a small section and maybe trimming a tree or watering seedlings, then I go inside to rest or read or eat or all three. Or to do a bit of easy housework. And after a half-hour , or longer, when I'm all rested, I go back outside for some more Sit Down Farming.

In other words, I'm pretty lazy. :)

Nah, mostly I'm telling you of my being a Sit Down Farmer so to encourage those of you who may be gazing out at your flower beds and gardens and feeling too overwhelmed to even begin. Perhaps you're not nearly as strong as you once were or are debilitated in some way. 

To you I would say, just start by sitting in your garden upon a little cushion or a tiny bench with a spade in your hand and a bucket by your side for weeds. And dig a little, hum a little, think some Happy Thoughts, think square foot gardening, and then stop when you begin to feel tired, even if it's only been ten minutes.

At least you will have begun--that's the hardest part. Begin and look upon your small beginning and call it Good. Because pushing past inertia always is.

Take it from me, The Sit Down Farmer.


So y'all missed it when I went ballistic after Tom had an eighth tractor delivered and stuffed into our barn.

That was the ol' straw which broke Debra's figurative back.

I was livid, not to mention a little afraid. Eight tractors! Six which don't even work. An obsession gone wrong. So I gave Tom three ultimatums of what will happen if he brings home one more tractor and so far God has not convicted me at all about making those ultimatums. 

I think even God is a little afraid for Tom--being out of balance too often leads to falling into ditches.

So far, so good. I'm thinking Tom, deep down inside, wanted someone to pull a plug--to put a limit on the number of tractors he crams into our barn. In fact, one tractor is stored outside, behind our barn, which has us both a little fearful that someday our farm will more closely resemble the occasional junk yard we pass out here. Heaven forbid. 

So call this post a reminder that sometimes confrontation is necessary. It's not fun, it is sticky and unpleasant, but if not done at the right time, worse things can happen in the future. Things not even imagined.


On the lighter side, today after visiting so many yard sales that I didn't care if I ever saw another one, we picked up some lunch then took it to our favorite park along the shores of Lake Ontario. We always carry a blanket in the car, so we were prepared and oh the peace! We came away from the mesmerizing waters and perfect temps like Raggedy Andy and Ann--practically muscle-free and all droopy. Always our time there feels better than a full-body massage.


Oh, and lest anyone attempt to defend Tom's having eight tractors, well, I wouldn't go there if I were you. :)


  So before Tom went out mowing on one of his tractors yesterday, I recited my Be Careful Speech, complete with details to stay way clear of the drainage ditch (lest he tip over) and to not travel out in our still-soft lake, lest he get bogged down. Stuff like that.

After awhile I stood at the window to check on Tom and alas, he was happily doing both those things. The guy looked like Indiana Jones out there, complete with the hat, zooming and zipping right next to the ditch and churning up sparkling water drops in the center of the lake. Then he mowed past the edges of the ditch. Good grief.

Oh the tests I've had living out here in the country. 

This old dog is already tired of all the new tricks she's had to learn, especially when God nags me to let Tom do what he must do--and then not worry about him. And with a good spirit, even. (God has to nag when I fail the tests the first 71 times. Poor God.)


  All these months, a Stop Ahead sign stood in front of our house, about dead center, on the other side of our street. Probably was there a thousand years (well...). 

Often I've sat upon our front porch thinking, "That sign is like a blight upon our view of the evergreens and maples across the street, what with its garish yellow color. If only it wasn't there!"

Guess what? They moved the sign! 

It now stands farther down the street where we can't see its yellowness at all. It's at the outside edge of our neighbors' driveway, yet doesn't block their view of anything except, perhaps, our house, but hey--they don't need to be looking over here anyway. :)

I didn't even pray that the sign would be moved. I don't--or didn't--have that much faith. (But I do now!) No, I just wished it wasn't there, but alas, not being a big proponent of wishing, I now wish I would have prayed about it. heh. Then I could call this an answer to prayer.

So that's why I'm naming this a miracle, one stemming from the goodness of God's heart. Face it--traffic signs do not get moved every day. Part of me says only God can move a sign like that, especially in New York state.

So thank-you God, so very much, for doing such a sweet favor for me.


Today over miles of countryside Tom and I 'saled' through fields and farms, barns, old farmhouses, white picket fences and Australian Shepherd dogs on porches. Even after 16 years in New York, we never tire of the old-fashioned way people still live back here.

Our favorite yard sale was at the decrepit farmhouse of two little old ladies, sweetest things ever, who had priced all their cool old stuff at quarter here, fifty cents there. Adorable, those two old friends.

We stepped into dark, dusty barns and inside an aging Victorian and into garages and gazebos. So much stuff! We wanted to hurry to see it all, but Time out in the countryside slows one down. Perhaps it is the silence.

We ate lunch at 60-yea- old diner and our waitress reminded us both of a young Flo from Mel's Diner. Or Fannie Flagg. The food was cheap and tasty and the waitresses called many customers by name, names like Mr. Walter or Mrs. Evans. I sat there sipping my decaf, listening, memorizing Life there.

And after hours of tables of old treasures and dusty brown and green books we traveled home and arranged our new finds in our own house and barn.

How lovely  our freedom, our strength to experience days like that one, trips to places where people online tell me no longer exist. Let them think what they will while Tom and I keep traveling back in Time very weekend.


  Ew. Ew. Ewwww! (Gross Alert.)

I just came in from mowing our lawn where, unfortunately, I accidentally mowed over what was probably that same snake I told you about here

Argh. I absolutely hate it when I kill an animal, even a snake. 

And worse, by the looks of its guts (I told you this was gross), it was probably pregnant. So of course, I feel worse. But alas, as Dr. Phil says, guilt implies intent, and I certainly didn't intend to rip that poor snake to shreds. If only she'd remained beneath the pallet! 

Sigh. I hated to have this opened-up snake lying there for Tom to take away when he arrives home from work, so I mosied over to our neighbors' barn where I knew Rob was working. I told him the problem, asked him if maybe a cat or wild animal would just cart the snake away or would it just poof! disappear. He said he wouldn't mind carrying it out to the woods for me. What a sweetie! I thanked him at least twenty times for carrying the carcass away.

And yes, one must expect these sorts of things when she lives on a farm. But still, I feel dreadful. Poor snake--but at least its end was quick.

(Update in 2015: Even now, six years later, I still feel bad about accidentally killing that snake!)


Every early, darkish morning I throw my long black wool coat over my robe, walk down our front steps and take big gulps of damp country air on my way to snatching the newspaper from our mailbox. I remind myself to treasure every moment out here in the land of living my 35-year-old dream. 

But even with all the treasuring and enjoying and noticing and breathing-in, it all still goes too fast. It'll be Tuesday, the day to take out the trash and then--before I blink, even--it's next Tuesday and I'm lugging the trash to the curb again. 

And like this morning--I discovered from an old Facebook friend that another friend, one from long ago, passed away. He was only a few years older than Tom and myself, a pastor who'd been ill for a couple years. I'm sure it all went by too fast for him and way too quickly for the family he left behind.

So while I am still here upon this Earth, upon these four acres, I will keep treasuring each new day and try to slow them all down. But still, it will sail by too fast. It always does.

.... Good-bye, Greg. I will remember you.


  So yesterday we traveled to our old haunts and watched Star Trek at the theater.

Oh my, what a wild ride! I did close my eyes through various violent scenes, but enjoyed the movie overall, even feeling emotionally overwhelmed when (slight spoiler) three of the characters parachuted out of the Enterprise. The way it was filmed, it felt as though I had--insanely--parachuted out with them. Yikes! 

But speaking of emotions, perhaps that was my favorite part of the film--the way keeping ones emotions under control was a theme. Just sitting there in that theater, I recalled the myriad emotions I'd felt during the ten years' worth of movies I'd seen there. How I'd often worried if I'd left the iron on and was our house in flames at that moment? Or was someone breaking into our car out in the parking lot while we sat munching popcorn? Many emotions and fears over the years, some silly, some not.

For me, I didn't really begin advancing in this life until I learned to control my emotions. The majority of my days did not, could not, become peaceful ones until I learned to obey not what I felt, but what I knew to be true.

And of course, I'm still learning. Learning to view Life from other peoples' eyes, rather than snub them because they hurt me. And rather than not exercising because I don't feel like it, I'm learning to exercise because it's the right and healthy thing to do. Instead of only paying the bills when I feel up to it, I'm learning to pay them once a week. You know--endless lessons.

The 'dying to self' which the Bible speaks of really comes into play in this area. 
Dead people don't stand up and start yelling at others. Dead people don't whine or cry or throw a fit when someone else gets what they (Mrs. Dead To Self) prayed for for years. Dead people don't overeat, cower in fear or collect a bunch of junk.

Dead people move on to a whole new Life and way of thinking.


I found this passage in the book, People With Dirty Hands, and it's been such a comfort:

"Could I see your garden?" I ask.

"Maybe in the spring," he says......I have two fifty-by-one-hundred-foot plots and my wife complains that they're not pretty at all. It's just in rows, everything, my flowers, my vegetables..."

"It sounds like my garden," I say. "It doesn't look like much of anything. And by August it's full of weeds."

"And that's okay," Rick says heatedly. "People don't seem to understand that amending the soil and all that--you don't have to do that stuff. If by July, it's too hot to sow successive crops and you don't care anymore--that's okay. A lot of years in August, I look forward to the first frost. So what? ..."

"Me, too," I say. "So what is it about gardening?"

"It's a meditation," Rick says. "I don't think, necessarily, when I'm gardening. I have an active mind and I'm always talking, talking and thinking. In the garden, I'm not. I'm a much more relaxed gardener than anyone I know. I grow it for my own edification, and that's all."

The whole thing is me to a T (as they say). 

Right now I'm passionately puttering in my garden--rearranging plants, planting seeds in containers on my little deck out there, snipping banana peels and apples and placing them in rings beneath the soil at the base of plants, putting down borders and pulling weeds and -- 

It feels like being ten and playing outside on the playground.

But come August? Eh. The passion will be gone. And I've always felt guilty about that, about leaving my garden undone and wild.

But no more will I feel that way! My garden is my garden and it can look and be anything I want it to be. I can learn from it and meditate in it and stare at it while it grows and then walk away from it when I tire of it. 

And then start all over again next Spring. Because it is mine.

And that, my friends, is one huge load off of my own tired ol' gardener's shoulders.


Personally? I believe everyone should make a major life change around age 50. You know, something beyond ones self, something that --if God doesn't do it through you-- it will fail.

I'm still learning to deal with mine.

Oh, there's so much to learn out on this wild, old farm! I call it wild because--take a few days off--and the whole thing turns all over-grown and wild-looking and starts screaming, "Do something, for I'm such an eyesore!"

What a challenge--but a good one, what with the mowing and decorating and pulling of weeds and pulling of weeds and the errands and cleaning and cooking of meals --

And all the learning of new things! That's what makes me recommend a huge life change at 50. Because often by then some of us have become all been-there-done-that-what's-there-left-to-do? And bored. 

I've known people who grew older and downright cranky. They lost their curiosity and sense of fun and people around them now paid for it, listening to unrealistic stories about The Good Old Days When Everything Was Better. But the Bible says this:

"Do not say, 'Why were the old days better than these?' For it is not wise to ask such questions." Ecclesiastes 7:10

I want to start well and finish well. Not whining about changes, even huge ones, but rather, I want my relationship with God to determine how my days go and feel--not my circumstances. Oh, there will be days when I'll slip into that moaning gear, I'm sure. 

But if you ever hear me whining about The Good Old Days, well, you have my permission to shoot me. :)


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