Inside my car today I waited in the drive-thru lane of McDonalds (this is Tom's day off) and in the sun and light of winter it came to me what being spiritual really is. Well, at least, what it means to me.
Being spiritual isn't what I once believe it was--memorizing Bible passages to impress people, being on so many committees at church that everyone calls my name as I step past, putting 'witnessing' and church and visitations before my spouse and my family, carrying my big Bible with me everywhere and underlining nearly all the verses, trying to speak and write in an ultra-spiritual style to keep up with the 'big kids'...
As I reached for the paper bag of chicken sandwiches from the guy behind the window, I thought being spiritual is waiting patiently, with a real smile, in a line, whether it be at McDonalds or the supermarket. It's expressing compassion for people who live differently than I do and hurrying to my quiet time with God in the mornings because I can hardly wait to get there and making sure there's always peace between Tom and me.
And it's obeying God, even if that means tossing away my big plans and taking on His 'small' plans instead, or staying silent when I'm just dying to speak, or doing my good deeds in secret when I'd rather do them upon a stage.
My definition of being spiritual is always changing. Subtle changes happen over time as long as I prefer His path of mystery, and not my safe, worn ruts.
Yesterday while the morning was black and blowing icy winds, Tom and I drove to the Big City for another of his back injections and I tried not to dread the whole affair (the NYS thruway most of all).
I was shocked that there even is a 6:45 a.m. outside of my own house.
One woman at the desk searched for any piece of paper stating that Tom even existed. Finally, she told the smiling woman next to her that she could find no record of Tom's appointment and rather than panic, moan or roll her eyes, the happy, smiling woman simply laughed and said, "Well, let's see what we can do."
And then Joy Woman looked at our last name upon the sheet Tom handed her and remarked what a wonderful name it was because there's a certain word within our name. She told us how good it must be to have such a word in our last name. By what she said, this woman gave us a hint that she knew God, and had she not been so efficient and able to send us merrily on our way before we even knew what happened, we would have acknowledged that we, also, were Christians.
But as we followed an adorable little elderly gentleman volunteer, we simply voiced our warmest thanks to Joy Woman and we came away feeling as though we'd just spent time with Tess from Touched By An Angel. Remember Della Reese's delightful angel character on that show?
And later, riding up and down the elevators and sitting in the child-sized chapel to kill time, I thought, "That's how I want to be--just like Joy Woman at the desk. But there's no way that's going to happen unless it comes from God, Himself."
And I was okay with that. I can trust Him enough to eventually get me to that place because He's brought me a thousand miles farther already than where I used to live before in a land called Pitiful.
And you know? I'm looking forward to the remainder of the trip because with God, you never know what kind of surprises may be waiting, especially when you switch from Dread to Anticipate.
Finally, Tom and I, the last of all the good people of Blogland, went to see The Chronicles of Narnia. Now, here in this great land I'd heard all sorts of comments about this movie (taken from a book I've curled up and read many a time), so I wasn't sure what to expect. Though most people liked it, overall, most picked at it, too, the way you pick at the turkey when you've sat too much and talked too long at the Thanksgiving table.
So what did I think of The Chronicles of Narnia? It was perfect. Just plain perfect.
But even if it hadn't been, I wouldn't criticize it around Blogland's water cooler. I want to watch movies and remember and discuss what I enjoyed and what I learned. Already this world has too many folks rabid-ready to express negative opinions.
And the same goes for my life, except that instead of watching, I want to participate--but not in all the complaining. No, rather, in all the God-breathed magic out there on Life's big screen just waiting to be appreciated.
"You tear apart the baby's rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest man that ever lived, could tear apart. Only faith, fancy, poetry, love, romance can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond." ... Frank P. Church
"Do everything without complaining or arguing..." Philippians 2:14 I am so excited about today. I can hardly wait to live it.
Here is a multiple choice test for you. Can you guess why I'm so excited about this day? Choose one:
A.) Tom and I are traveling to Disneyworld and we'll be there a whole week.
B.) I won $1,500 in the lottery and I'm going big-time shopping today.
C.) A dear old friend from Nevada is coming to visit.
D.) I'm going to a Victorian tea party.
E.) My first book is hitting the stands today!
F.) Tom and I are taking a romantic river boat ride.
G.) All of the above.
H.) None of the above.
Ok, so which answer did you choose? Are you ready for the correct answer? The correct answer is..... drum roll.... H.) None of the above.
Heh. Not that I wouldn't love any of those things (how do you think I came up with that list?).
No, I am so excited about today because it is one of my altogether-rare Suzy Homemaker Days. Yep, that's all!
Tom drove away at 6:30 a.m. to work day shift so now I get twelve whole, golden hours to myself. And ok, so I am car-less, but who cares?
I can feed the backyard birds,drink coffee, read books upstairs in my dream room and spend time up there with God, Himself. I can catch-up on my email or write an old-fashioned letter (remember those?).
I might wash dishes during Regis and Kelly and laugh with my arms in suds or make my own mixes and tuck them away in little sandwich bags in secret places. Maybe I'll wear an apron and iron clothes and watch a movie or listen to Big Band era music and travel back in Time.
I can take a walk past big old family houses built in 1910, houses where other homemakers are busy and happy inside (I live in such an old-fashioned town--you wouldn't believe it). Maybe I'll stroll to a neighborhood convenience store and smile at everyone I see and then walk back home with a snack clenched in my hand.
I could create another collage in my art scrapbook, read decorating magazines for ideas, or paint a chair, a wall or a table or sing while I'm dusting, dance while I'm exercising,dream while I'm folding clothes.
You'll have to excuse me--after writing that list of possibilities, I am nearly excited out of my mind--and I can no longer wait to get started.
And yet, for you, I am wishing you a day twice as special as mine, in whatever you may be doing.
"When you have only two pennies left in the world, buy a loaf of bread with one, and a lily with the other." ... Chinese Proverb
A new online friend asked me last night about this empty nest thing. I thought I'd answer her here instead of in an email.
The empty nest, for me, has been fun. A starting-over place. A time-to-make-my-dreams-come-true place.
But oh my--the hard, awful, painful parts were the prior years to the empty nest. The letting-go of Naomi. The Really Letting Go, not the saying (lying) that I had and yet still aching inside at just the thought she'd someday be gone and my major days of motherhood would be no more.
The Really, Truly Letting Go was the tough part.
But throughout the hardest releasing times, God began promising me that there's great potential for an exciting life over on the other side.
Below are just some suggestions of how to make the empty nest phase into a fun, all-things-made-new phase. I'll bet you can think of more ideas!
Rebuilding Your Empty Nest:
1. Think "now I can do some of what I've always wanted to do, but couldn't." Think 'anticipate' not 'dread.' Think 'a beginning' and not 'the end.'
2. Go back to school and get your degree.
3. Use your computer and your city library to become an expert in an area you've always wished you knew more about.
4. Redecorate a few rooms in your house. Study the art of home decoration and the use of color. Help friends decorate their own homes.
5. Plant a garden ( a container garden counts, too). Study and learn all you can about making things grow.
6. Become a volunteer anywhere help is needed in your community.
7. Write a book.
8. Become an excellent photographer. Enter some photography contests or just share your photos online.
9. Begin a collection of something you've always loved. Go treasure hunting at junk shops and yard sales.
10. Make scrapbooks with all those family photos you've been meaning to organize.
11. Make the most of having a freer schedule. Leave earlier and shop before the crowds are out. Or stay out later and have fun without worrying that the kids are home wondering where you are.
12. Volunteer at church.
13. Get into shape. Walk with a friend each day or start a support group for others who wish to get healthy.
14. Take lunch to the beach or to a park. Have picnics with your spouse or with yourself and a good book.
15. Organize your home. Start with one room at a time and get rid of the clutter you've been meaning to toss for years.
16. Read all those books you've never had time to read before.
17. Join online email groups who share your same interests. Or start one.
18. Regularly visit a house-bound neighbor. Take her little surprises.
19. Become an expert chef. Create a custom-made cookbook. Enter cooking contests.
20. Create the incredible home library you've always wanted. Search used bookstores and places like www.Bookfinder.com and www.Amazon.com for favorite books and dvd's. Organize them alphabetically so you can easily share them with your friends.
21. Start a tea party group in your home which meets once or twice a month, taking turns in each other's homes. The group can occasionally go on 'field trips', also, to fun places.
22. You've paid for lessons for your children, how about taking your turn now? How about taking lessons in singing or dancing or rollerskating or writing or?
23. Use this time to get to know God better. Sit with Him on your sunny porch each day or go out for coffee with Him. Listen to Him. Learn from Him. Enjoy Him.
24. Enjoy Life!
And if it's having children around your home that you miss:
25. Become a Big Sister/Big Brother to a child who needs a friend.
26. Volunteer at local schools or Vacation Bible School.
27. Babysit, but not with the old attitude. Instead, see it as 'grandparent practice' and enjoy the kids you care for. Take them places, cook with them and teach them the things a grandparent might teach them.
28. Start an after school or summer program for kids in your neighborhood. Have them meet in your backyard to play games, make crafts, have snacks and have stories read to them, etc.
29. Start a neighborhood children's library in your home. Spend time setting up an organized library, complete with cards to sign books out and little prizes for your own summer/winter reading program.
"I remember You upon my bed, and meditate on You in the night watches." Psalm 63:6
Saija brought up the night watches first.This is one of my favorite subjects.
There are many reasons we awaken at night, the reasons would make a book.
I believe sometimes it's God who awakens us and we'll lie there wondering why we cannot return to our dreams until oh yes! It comes to us, "Perhaps God wants me to pray for someone." Then on our back we pray until we sleep again, often awaking in the morning without even remembering those prayers.
And that's a Good Thing, even a God Thing.
Other times we awaken because God wishes to teach us something, often because He was not able to catch us sooner. We used-up our daylight hours running our errands and filling-up our ears with music, tv, and scurrying our children from Here to Over There. He reached out, but could not grab the back hem of our coat as we ran. So our bed at 3 a.m. becomes the Quiet Place we missed and now, finally, He has time to speak to our heart and whisper what He was trying to teach earlier.
And that, too, is a Good Thing, a God Thing.
But the reason I love best is this: The nights when you awaken, in the silence, sometimes with moonlight warm upon your face, and you open your eyes wide, you sense He is there again, there sitting upon the edge of your bed smiling down at you. He is taking a night watch and you are the one He is watching. Tonight it is your turn to know He is that close.
And you smile in the silver light and tell Him, "I wish I could see you." To which He replies, "Why do you need to see me if you know that I am here?"
And while you ponder His words, the room, even the corners, become full of His love--you feel it heavy, like your grandma's old quilt, upon you. So heavy, so warm, that your eyes sting with tears, happy ones, tears which whisk you away to dreams and morning light and a knowing smile when you awaken.
...and a sense of His presence all day long. All because of love in the night watches. All because of Him.
Way back when I was newly married, I lived in a tiny mountain town (pop. 1,100) and washed dishes in a cubbyhole called Birds' Cafe.
Well, now I have my own 'Birds' Cafe' in my backyard where I have three birdfeeders and two birdbaths. A crowd flies in every morning and afternoon. This week's special on the menu is Lilac Water and everyone loves it. My lilac 'trees' are in full-bloom and lie, weighed down, into the birdbath next to them, scenting the water both for drinking and for baths. Even the bees can be seen leaning into the lilac water, sipping deeply, and then flying away a little lilac punch drunk.
I run my Birds' Cafe for many reasons, but here is the most important one:
"Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God." ... Luke 12:6
That's one of those verses which, the more you think about it, the more it blows you away.
God is so good. I can hardly stand it.
Last year, Tom and I watched just about the most pointless movie ever made. (That is not the part where God is so good...heh...). It was called The Upside of Anger and well, parts of it were well-written, but the ending was sooo bizarre/pointless/just-plain-ridiculous, that I was sorry we'd even watched it.
Except for one amazing thing.
Halfway through, there's a scene where the very pretty Keri Russell, with long wavy hair, a blue cardigan sweater and a full, flowing floral skirt, gets on an old-fashioned girl's bike and rides home beside a river in a park.
Oh my, the scene was like something out of a 1950's Audrey Hepburn romantic movie. I watched her ride along that path and gasped. I thought, "That's the real me on the inside!" It felt like seeing myself, my real self, there on the screen. And suddenly I wanted that to be the real me-- not just inside me--but outside as well.
Because of that one scene, I began growing my hair long. I got a wavy perm, even, and I began searching for a blue cardigan, a long floral skirt and an old-fashioned bike.
And then winter came and in the midst of snow and freezing rain, one doesn't think much about bikes and riding down the street with your long hair flowing behind you. At least, not this gal. But just this past Monday, I remembered the dream and how Keri Russell looked on that bike and how I still didn't have the bike, the sweater, nor the skirt. I told Tom, "Hey! We never did get a bike for me."
He said we'd have to do something about that. I said it should have a basket.
But this morning our neighbors had a yard sale and poof! From our sunroom windows I glimpsed it--an old blue bike outside on their front lawn. One with a basket, even.
So I got dressed and made-up, zipped out the door, though slowed my steps and tried to look oh-so-barely-interested as I approached the bike. I casually peeked at the price tag. $25. The date: 1962. I spoke with the owner, a brother-in-law of our neighbors, and he gave me the bike's history as he knew it... a woman, long ago, bought it and planned to ride it, but it hung in her garage for two years and then she passed away. Then it hung in the garage for many, many years after that.
Waiting for me, I like to think.
And as I reached inside my tiny red change purse for the money, the owner said, "Oh, you can have it for just $20. My wife said to sell it for that, but I was going to keep the $5 for myself." He smiled. I thanked him and I smiled (and thanked God for what felt like favor) and wheeled it home and into our shed, saving it for later.
And that is the part where God is so good that I can hardly stand it.
Raise your hand if you've ever experienced a mini mid-life crisis.
I see those hands.
Once again, poor ol' Debra is Mini Mid-Life Crisis Cranky.
I want to decorate my house to reflect myself, yet Tom and I keep talking about moving in the near future. Moving where? We have no idea.
I think about fixing up this house to sell and then I run out of energy just thinking about all that needs to be done.
I feel absolutely terrificly-healthy one day, then have the pre-menopausal bleary-eyed-headachy-blues the next, especially if I've spend a couple days eating fast food. Oh, and did I mention that I'm now allergic to all my favorite comfort foods and if I don't eat like a boring Healthy Hanna every single day, my body rebels?
(Moving right along.)
Tom and I both agree we need to come up with some new hobbies, but for the life of us, we can't decide on any.
Tom has a whole string of days off right now and we'd like to go on vacation, but we can't think of any place we'd like to go. And all the packing-up and taking our high-maintenance cats over to our daughter's (and having her come over here to water our yard) just sounds like way too much trouble anyway.
We consider day trips instead of a vacation, but we've already done that to death and, after 13 years, we have this whole area memorized.
I want to have company, but Tom doesn't (he's having a little mid-life crisis of his own. It's more fun, of course, when you are both looney-bin-bound at the same time.).
One day I feel certain of the Life Direction which Tom and I should take. The next day the whole thing sounds preposterous, unlikely and just too much work. We both know God is going to change our lives soon, but we don't know how.
Oh the Limbo Land-ness of it all......
Growing pains--that's what it boils down to, I think. These mini-crisis' always feel like being a teenager all over again, though being one in a much older body, one with grey hair (which isn't helping my morale a whole lot right now, either).
Oh well. This too shall pass. It always does.
I mean, thank Heaven that God is still God.
He is still good.
And He still hangs-out at my house--even when I'm not exactly pleasant to be around.
And how wonderful that He promises to never leave me.
And the kinds of changes I'm speaking of are simple:
Place some flowers from your yard in a vase.
Rearrange the furniture in one room.
Wash one shelf of knick-knacks.
Clean-out one closet, one drawer, or one cupboard.
Paint one chair or one wall.
Place pretty contact paper in one drawer.
Run one errand.
Dig one flower bed.
Create one quiet reading corner just for you.
Rearrange the items on one table.
Deep clean one room.
Gather one bag of cast-offs for a thrift shop.
Wash one decorative pillow.
Hang one picture.
I'm certain you can think of a hundred more 'one things', non-oh-so-daily one things (the tasks I 'should' do each day don't count).
Sometimes we just get stuck on the couch in an overwhelmed frame of mind, dreading the one-hundred things which need to be done. And often just by standing-up and doing that one simple thing, we're then inspired to do yet another thing and then another. Just pushing past the awful weight of lethargy and hopelessness can be the start of creativity-released.
One thing--one new thing a day. Life-changing stuff.
It also works for relationships--one new thing to resuscitate that friendship I've let slide. One thing to show my husband he's still my favorite friend. One thing to show my daughter she's always in my thoughts even though she's no longer living in our house...
... and so on until one thing has become thousands of things over the years and feeling overwhelmed and bored has become just a vague memory.
We drove home from running errands today and --oh my-- our neighbors behind us and just to the left, were having their huge backyard tree chopped down. We have no wooden fences near us, so these yards feel all connected (in a way), so there they were chopping down this 100 year-old + tree which always felt like it was partly ours. Though, I know, I know--it wasn't.
We sat in the car a couple minutes and watched the men destroy that huge tree (I'm clueless about most tree names, but it looked like the one in the above picture), the one I always collected red,yellow, and orange leaves from every autumn. The tree which housed many of the backyard birds I feed each morning, the tree which blazed in glory outside our upstairs guest room windows beginning in September.
And right away we began muttering and complaining under our breath as we unlocked the side door and stepped into our house. "Tree murderers! Bird home wreckers... tree murderers...... shade destroyers..." and did I say "tree murderers?"
Sigh. But here's the thing: this is none of our business. No matter how much we'd like it to be--it just isn't. No matter how much it hurts, after 13 years of living here and loving that huge tree, still, it's none of our business that our neighbors chose to kill it. It was their tree in their yard.
There I was having a pleasant Sunday afternoon yesterday and then a poison person phoned me.
Sigh. This is a person I can only spend short bits of time with. At this time in my life, I am not strong enough to ward off the poison arrows of negativity which this person shoots at most people, and at me--usually in subtle, underneath-it-all ways. I feel the sting of those little arrows and suddenly find myself swimming around in the Sea of Insecurity. And still dripping after my swim, I begin cleaning my house. That's what I do when I feel most insecure. I clean things so at least no one can say, "And Debra lives in a messy house, too."
Yes, I clean house until I finally slow down enough for Jesus to catch me. And oh my--how good it feels when He does. He reminds me of all I mean to Him and then the peace--wonderful, calming peace--returns. Not because I am good, but because He is.
And then usually He will confirm it all with a verse like the one from God Calling this morning:
"And the work of righteousness will be peace and the effect of righteousness quietness and assurance forever. Isaiah 32:17
Success is the result of work done in peace. Only so can work yield its increase. There can be no hurry in your plans. You live not in time but in Eternity. It is in the Unseen that your life-future is being planned.
Abide in Me, and I in you, so will you bring forth much fruit. Be calm, assured, at rest. Love, not rush. Peace, not unrest. Nothing fitful. All effectual. Sown in Prayer, watered by Trust, bearing flower and fruit in Joy."
And I thanked Him for the reminders.
If I want to share peace with you in this blog, then I must first have peace. I cannot share what I do not have. And you are more important than my allowing those little poison darts to remain inside me, time-releasing their poison drop by drop.
I'm coming to desire peace more than soaking in offense. I cannot have both.
"Depart from evil and do good; seek, inquire for, and crave peace and pursue (go after) it!" ... Psalm 34:14
Tom and I watched Pop & Me, a film a father and his adult son made during their 6-month trip around the world while they also interviewed other fathers and sons in various countries.
We laughed and cried through the whole bittersweet thing. And felt sad for the father--he'd so loved being a dad to his three sons, but now they were all grown-up and he, himself, was divorced from their mother and at 55 (or so) had retired. He was lonely--you could see it and hear it in his voice.
Just watching him reaffirmed to me the need for couples to put their own relationship before that of their children, otherwise, when your kids leave (as they will and should), you, as a parent, might very well be left by yourself. As this man was.
Pop and his son traveled to places he and his wife had visited while their sons were tiny. When he'd stand in those same places, he only found himself feeling, basically, worse. His wife was gone and his boys, though he still shared good relationships with them, now lived lives of their own. Everything had changed.
It was a reminder, also, to create a life of one's own even before one's children fly from the nest so that their leaving is not as traumatic. I began finding that 'extra life' while Naomi was early in high school and I'm still grateful. It made the transition much easier.
Anyway, I recommend Pop & Me, especially if you can watch it with a TV Guardian dvd player (there was a bit of naughty language). There were many lessons shared in this film and many issues one generally has with one's parents. Like I said, we could identify.
I love road trip films and both Tom and I enjoyed this one, bitter-sweetness and all.