Friday, April 3, 2015

Chapter 5

"Do not be deceived; God is not mocked: for whatever a man sows, that will he also reap." ... Galations 6:7

Sitting in my tower room this morning while watching the clouds float past the windows, this is what I thought:

Nearly always I only get out of a thing what I first put into it.

When I put a lot into my blog (time, prayer, thought), I get more out of it. When I leave comments at other peoples' blogs I tend to receive extra comments at my own. And when I sow sweet things into peoples' lives, I reap sweet things in my own life. 

Yet not always directly from those same people. No, but God sees to it that somebody, somewhere, blesses me back.

That's the kind of God He is.

When I become lazy and self-thinking, I reap things, also--negative, dull things. I dig deep pits for myself when I try reaping big things without sowing anything first, because usually I accuse others of being faulty, when actually, I, myself was the faulty one.

It all becomes rather like reaching for an apple from a tree I never planted in the first place.

What I need to remember is that, ultimately, God keeps track of it all and He knows exactly what He's doing. Each of my blessings come from Him and He is full of surprises. 

And just when I think I have Him all figured out? He shakes things around, just to keep me guessing--curious--and seeking Him with my whole heart.

And therefore reaping the very best things of all.


 Basically, it was all Beatrix Potter's fault.

I read that, as a young woman, Beatrix kept mice inside a closet in her bedroom, bringing them out not only to sketch them, but to play with them, also. She'd place one of the mice on a ceiling lamp rim and it would enjoy falling down upon her bed which she always moved just below the lamp. It was the mouse's favorite trick (although how Beatrix knew that for certain?). Anyway, one day Beatrix placed the mouse on the lamp rim and just as the mouse jumped, she realized she hadn't moved the bed to just below the lamp. The mouse fell to the floor. She gingerly picked him up and he died, slowly, within her hand.

She was devastated and felt guilty for a long time.

I thought about that story for a few months. It was a sad story, yes, but still, it was just a mouse!

And then Naomi brought home two pet mice when she was 20. The mice were cute--both little girls, one black, one white. She'd hold the tiny, hairy things and it would give me the eebie-jeebies just to watch her. I told her I could never hold a mouse. Not in a million years.

Never say never. 

Eventually I did hold the black one. It was the funniest mouse--for awhile it was in a cage where it could sneak its way out and when I'd come in to check on it, the silly thing would quickly squeeze itself back inside its cage, as if telling me, "See? I'm being good."

Nearly two years later, Naomi went to England with an all-girl band for a month and she needed me to care for the one remaining mouse--the black one. And oh dear, it died while she was gone. The morning I saw its still little body, I cried. And more--Beatrix Potter's story about her mice came back to me and suddenly I felt like our house, was just not a home without a mouse in it.

So I bought another mouse for Naomi, a white one. I even trained it to submit to being held. Naomi returned from her trip (I'd already told her over the phone about her mouse's demise) and after a couple days, she told me in a "well, uh, I hate to tell you this" kind of way--she didn't really want another mouse. So the little white mouse became mine. 

Two weeks later, she gave birth to nine more little mice.

Oh wow. All of a sudden I was the caretaker of 10 tiny mice. Fortunately, Naomi had extra cages because she'd also recently gone through a hamster stage (long story). 

So there I was feeling rather like Beatrix Potter, herself--a keeper of mice. Eventually I had to separate all the male mice--male mice are brats! Always one male must be king if you keep them together, and they fought until one died. There was nothing left to do but give each one a cage of his own. 

The four female mice were sweet! They all got along wonderfully and cuddled together and took care of one another. (And I could make a little sermon out of those differences, but I won't.)

But then after a year and a half, the mice began dying, one by one, over a six month period. And with most of the deaths, I would cry. Especially when the mother mouse died, for she had been my favorite. Then I chose another favorite mouse, a male, and as he lay dying I stood over him and petted his tiny back and said, "No, Little Mouse, please don't die!" I prayed for him and still he died. And I sobbed. 

And two years after I'd bought the mouse for Naomi, we were once again a mouseless house. (Well, except for the mice I often hear over my head as I sit at this basement computer. The ones I must buy some D-Con for this week--and then feel like a murderer afterward.)

Part of me wanted to start all over again--the part which loved watching the mice run up to the sides of their cages when they would see me. They acted happier to see me than most of the people in my life did. I appreciated that. I enjoyed holding them and listening to my old Bob Hope Radio Show cassettes while I cleaned their cages down here in the basement. They lived down here in their own little room.

But I just couldn't face all those deaths again. 

Yet now, a few years later, I sometimes toy with the idea of keeping mice again when we finally settle in another place (hopefully in the country). The mice were so cute and little and fun. So who knows?

I mean, like they say-- never say never.


 While driving around our neighborhood yesterday, we found a nearly-new stove sitting upon the curb. And well, guess what we just happened to need?

This stove, above, is the second one we've hauled home from the curb. We moved into this house 13 years ago and the stove which came with it was horrid-brown and dreadful inside (6 inches of ash in the broiler. Yuck.). Less than a year later Tom found a much nicer, off-white stove on the curb and lugged it home. All these years later it worked mostly ok, but the handle fell off if you didn't open the oven a secret way and the knobs were peeling, the chrome was all scratched, and well, the poor thing had suffered mightily at the hand of Naomi and myself.

So anyway, that's our latest curb story. (Oh, and the new stove works perfectly.) Also, our neighbor helped us move the old stove out and the new stove inside just two minutes before snow began falling. 

Snow? Snow? So early in October? (Here's the scene from our front porch this evening.):

But even so, is God good or what?

P.S. And yes, this stove story is true! 


Tom and Naomi went online two years before I did. 

Those were the days when I believed the modern online world was certainly not for me, when I made up my mind without checking out facts, when I ran with a tiny bit of information and pretended I'd heard it all. And missed-out on who-knows-how-many delightful things.

But then I got some sense.

I went online for myself and found more kindred spirits in one year than I'd found in the previous 40.

And everything changed. I stopped thinking of myself as a freak of nature,the only person left on Earth who actually respected June Cleaver, enjoyed homemaking and wearing aprons, and who took notes from old 1930's woman's magazines while humming along to Big Band tunes.

Only rarely (rarely!) from the years I was a child would I find someone a little bit like me. Most times, people shook their heads or gave me lectures about how I, really, should become more like everyone else, even throwing in Bible verses to prove their point.

But, as I said, online I discovered many other nut cases just like myself. There are thousands of us here in Blogland and if others look upon us like loopy, misguided souls, well, that's all right. At least we have found each other. 

At least we are happy in our own little retro world.


I can be very rebellious. In fact, being rebellious even makes me smile--at times.

Just how rebellious can I get?

I have a dishwasher, but I never use it. And I even use a natural, toxin-free laundry detergent to wash my dishes.

Sometimes I watch Dr. Phil (deal with it) and Oprah even though many of my friends would rather die than watch them.

I'm approaching 50, but I'm growing my hair long anyway. It's about halfway down my back right now. I like it long.

Parties or potlucks or most situations where there is only small talk and big, noisy crowds make me want to run home. Exceptions would be the baseball games at our nearby stadium and estate sales (where, even though I love walking through old houses, I still slip away early if people stand close and start breathing down my neck).

Sometimes in this blog I tell people how I feel about certain things, even though I know darn well I'm going to offend some of them.

Nearly always I've been good at saying 'no.'

I moved to New York with my husband and daughter even though no one else thought we should (and have proceeded to have the time of my life for 13 years).

I raised my daughter differently than the way I, myself, was raised.

I decorate my house with old furnishings even though most of the people I know prefer new stuff.

I read tons of kids' lit. even though my friends stick to adult books. 

I have never, ever regretted dropping out of college.

I wear aprons nearly every day. For many years I wore only dresses.

Sometimes I eat an apple without washing it first.

My, my--I'll bet you never thought I was such a rebellious woman now, did you?

Actually, some of these things are humorous, but you'd be surprised at how many controllers folks I have irked by being the way I am. 

Oh well. If we really want to be used by God, sometimes He will use us to show others what is inside their own hearts. Just by being who we are, often without even saying anything. (Will they judge us? Will they gossip? Will they toss us aside because we're different?) 

We don't have to like being used that way, but we must stay willing to risk it, even if it means we are misunderstood in the process.

Sometimes, that's just Life with God.


Does anyone else have a current car book? 

As in, a book you keep in the glove box of your car so that, while you're waiting for your slowpoke spouse or activity-ladened children, you can have something to wile away the time. 

My current car book is Forty Plus and Fancy Free by Emily Kimbrough, the co-author of Our Hearts Were Young And Gay, in which she shared her hilarious adventures of visiting Europe in the 1930's (I believe) with her friend. 

In Forty Plus, she returns to Europe, but this time as a grandmother with three of her friends who, themselves, are grandmothers. A delightful, funny book, indeed. So much so, that I've been known to get perturbed with Tom if he returns to the car in a quick fashion. Often I've whined, "Couldn't you have taken longer?"

That's a Good Thing, actually. So much pleasanter than greeting him with, "What took you so long?"  :)


I hope I will remember this:

"A man never discloses his own character so clearly as when he describes another's." ... Jean Paul Richter

... and keep my mouth shut or my fingers upon the computer keyboard, still, instead. 


Went and had my teeth cleaned this morning. 

Two words: Horrible Nightmare.


Sadly, I inherited problem teeth. When the hygienist, during my last cleaning 6 months ago, told me my teeth and gums looked great, well, I nearly fainted. No one in the dental profession had ever said such words to me. Must have been the fact that I've faithfully, daily been taking 2,000 mg.'s of vitamin C, I thought.

Well, Vitamin C performed no miracles for me these past 6 months... three of my teeth had chipped and I knew I'd be in for trouble my next dental 'visit' (a word with way too much of a positive spin on it).  I drove into the parking lot and saw not a single other car there this morning and alas! I wished with all my heart there'd be a note on the door saying, "Doctor ____ had an emergency. Call us later for an appointment."

There was no such note.

My so-called 'visit' was bad. Really bad. 

But it was funny, too. I mean, yesterday I received an email from a friend, a 'forward' where you answer questions about yourself so your friends will know you better. One of the questions was, "Name four places you would rather be right now." 

And well, yesterday I could not think of one single place. I thought only how much I love living where I do inside this house which always needs work of some kind.

But today in that dentist's chair, while the hygienist filed and sawed and poked and jammed her fingers around in my mouth--suddenly--I could think of 400,000 places I'd rather be!

Places like Hawaii, Prince Edward Island, and New England and --

But as more of the sawing and filing and jamming (and lecturing) went on, other places came to mind. Suddenly I thought, hey! This is so bad that I'd rather even be in a blessed traffic jam right now or in a supermarket line so long I'd question whether I'd ever get home or in a nice, sweltering heat wave with no air-conditioning for miles around.

Yet I made it out alive (just barely), even after the extra x-rays she forced me to have so she could show them to the dentist (who was on vacation. Probably in Hawaii.) He's going to call me if there's a problem. (I could tell the hygienist thinks he'll be calling me the minute he gets back.)

But now it's later and I've had some nice coffee and tater tots (the ultimate comfort food) and I can think straight. In fact, I can remind myself there are people who would give anything if their only medical problem was annoying, chipping teeth. There are people in doctor's offices and even on operating tables right this moment who probably think I am the most blessed person alive.

I would have to agree with them. 

And may I be wise enough to keep all these things in their right perspective.


"Each one should test his own actions. Then he can take pride in himself, without comparing himself to somebody else..." ... Galations 6:4

When you just have one child, people tend to tell you, in funny and not-so-funny ways, that you should have more kids. 

Trust me, I know. 

For lots of years, people--especially but not exclusively, relatives-- gave us advice and warnings and even prophecies stating we should have more children. And basically, the only result became my frustration and misery, because, well, it just wasn't happening. 

Tom and I were only able to have one child 'the old-fashioned way' and when I wasn't being told we should adopt or try this and that, I was happy with the way things were, with our one little bird in the family nest.

Yet when I listened to all those other voices and opinions,I floundered. Those words (and the occasional maternal hormone whining inside me) caused me to compare my little family to ones with two or more children and to let nagging, annoying doubts kick me around.

But believe it or not, God knows best (imagine that!). He knows me. He knows (and made) the plans He has for me. And He knew way back twenty years ago when I was floundering with all this, that having more children was not in His plan for me--and that today, I would be fine with that. Because really, I am.

The only time I'm not fine with it are when I compare my family with others, imagining they have more good times than we have. But no one's life is one hilarious time after another, no matter how many children they have. Thank-goodness I've grown up enough to realize that.

And I've grown enough to realize that God gives me Grace for every single thing He gives me to do. It's only when I wander over to places my emotions or my comparisons take me that I eventually find myself flailing around and gasping for help. 

I could, right now, adopt a whole houseful of children and work at the local orphanage and head-up committees on helping the homeless--but I would crumble in the middle of it all. I would fail, exhausted, because God did not take me to those good and wonderful places. He takes other people there and gives them the Grace to stay, and I am nothing but unwise and just plain silly when I compare my bits of God-given Grace to theirs.

It's all good--but only when it's all from Him.


"When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise." ... 2 Corinthians 10:12


Sometimes God gets on my nerves.

Ok, calm down. Let me explain.

As I told you, Saturday was our anniversary, and well, we absolutely loved watching Deja Vu. It was awesome. Cool. Denzel (Tom's favorite actor) was at his incredible best. We even watched another movie after going out for dessert and strolling through Home Depot, and when we got home, Naomi had left an amazing lemon jello cake for us. A perfect day.

Then came Sunday. 

There we were, Tom and I, that cute couple who rarely fights anymore, standing in line at the supermarket, having an argument in heated whispers over my food choices for us. One of those which goes a little like:

"You shut-up!"
"Hey! We don't say that in our family."
"Well, you shut-up anyway."
"No, you shut-up!"

(Blah, blah, blah.)

We continued the fight on the way home in the car, and when we pulled into the driveway and Tom said that I was like the woman who lives across the street, I gasped and saw red. "You take that back!" I said.

"No, I won't. She nags her husband every time they're out in their yard and you are nagging me to death."

Oooooo... I was fuming. I stomped upstairs and only when I calmed down (took awhile) did I realize something. Part of the problem (just part) is that Tom is not yet ready to eat healthy foods on a constant basis. And it came to me that, even in that area, trying to change a person when God has not yet worked on their heart, well, it's pretty much impossible. For any of us to change, God has to prepare our hearts (like preparing soil) and then we have to cooperate with His ideas after that.

So I went downstairs and told Tom that I would no longer nag him about eating right and he could buy any unhealthy, salt-stuffed, heart-clogging food he wanted. In fact, I was going to another supermarket right that minute to get him the things he had wanted in the first supermarket, things I'd talked him out of.

Of course, he then said, "No, don't do that. I don't want anything. I won't eat it."

But I drove there anyway, still, uh, fuming inside (I confess). In fact, I sat inside the car in the parking lot a few minutes and thought, "I'll show him. I'll become like that lady in our town who started walking years ago every single day, no matter how much snow and ice there is, and who now looks like a (scary), obsessed, walking skeleton. I'll start walking like that, too, and I'll get so skinny and then I'll show him!"

(Of course, a little voice in my head said I'd have better luck "showing Tom" by becoming as round as I am tall. That would be easier, knowing me as well as I do." Heh.)

But here's where God gets on my nerves. Nowadays, He never lets me get away with that 'I'll show them!' attitude. Even if what I'm aiming to do appears to be a good thing, whether it be losing weight or becoming more giving when people accuse me of not giving or determining to clean my house so spotlessly, that neither Tom or Naomi will ever be able to make another little critical remark about it, or-- Well, you get what I mean.

No, even though years ago I accomplished all sorts of things out of my 'I'll show them!' motivation (it was my fuel, practically), God no longer lets me get away with that. Immediately, He nails me on my wrong motives. Instantly. His 'fuel' is not retaliation or insecurity, but love. 

And even though God is still getting on my nerves about all that, I know He is right.

He is always right.


I sat in church as a teenager and loved best the times we'd have foreign missionaries as guest speakers because their stories sounded so exciting and usually got me all teary-eyed. And nearly always I'd think, "When I grow-up, I want to be a missionary!"

And then on Monday I'd walk to school and I'd love sitting in my English classes and I'd think my English teacher had the best job on Earth. I'd picture myself, older, standing in her place and I'd dream about someday being a for-real English teacher, myself.

Other days I'd walk up the hill to our city library and think that librarians were the luckiest people, ever, to everyday, work and breathe amongst thousands of books-- and I'd long to be a librarian. And then I'd find a cozy corner there and read Emily Dickinson and dream about stuffing little stringed-together booklets of poems into my own bureaus to be found when I died, except I wanted to be appreciated now. Not to mention all the other days I sat there dreaming of becoming a farmer or an author or a mother of twelve (courtesy of Cheaper By The Dozen) or a hermit.

And then I grew-up. 

I became none of those things (though I wrote thousands of poems, but they did not impress the world and they won't when I die, either. Trust me.) I had dreamed all those dreams, but I was young-- I had the wisdom of a cockroach.

Dreaming is good. Dreaming is wonderful. The Bible says without a vision God's people perish and well, amen to that.

But for me, the only dreams which have breathed and survived beyond babyhood are those which God, Himself, placed inside my heart. Not the ones I thought were cool, though, especially not the ones designed to make me famous and appreciated. Uh, no.

The only time I've had problems with God's dreams for me are when I begin thinking, "I'd rather do _____ instead. Like ______ is doing."

But God isn't into tweaking the gifts and plans He made for us. Why? His designs are flawless. And may I respect that and aim for contentment to do those perfect things He's planned. 

It's that contentment with your callings which leads to joy.


  Way back when Naomi was around 12, I read something in a magazine. Probably it was just two paragraphs, or so, but it got me all teary-eyed And stuck with me.

Basically it was this: A woman said she used to complain that every time she cleaned a room, her children would mess it back up. But now she'd decided to stop complaining because someday her little girl and boy would grow-up and move far away and then her rooms would be, and stay, achingly clean.

Oh good grief. The things we do to ourselves. Especially that foolish thing we do, that jumping into future places inside our minds where we have no grace to be yet.

I mean, I can't believe I went around for years repeating that story, giving it almost biblical importance. What was I thinking?

Because now, to me, that type of thinking is just one more of those things designed to make us feel that without someone else--in this case, children--Life is empty. Sad. The good times are over. No more. Finis.


Here I sit all these years later over on that other side of which that woman wrote, a place where she had not yet been, but where, I assume, she is now. And in my heart I hope she has accepted that Life is always changing, always becoming something different. And how, in this case, it becomes our responsibility to create a new, post-children life. 

I guess that story returned to me today because I've been cleaning all day and my rooms look--not achingly clean--no! But rather, cozily, warmly clean. Life-Is-Good clean. And shhh... I enjoy finding them undisturbed in the mornings. 

Life is not stagnant and neither should we want it that way.

With God tugging me along, Life is, instead, becoming quite the big adventure.


Unless it's a dire, can't-escape-it emergency, I never, ever, myself, drive behind-the-wheel over the New York State thruway. No way. Nope. Forget it.

No, when I drive people to the airport, I take my Secret Back Way. 

Oh, it's longer and gobbles-up lots more time, there are tons of traffic lights, and it's often more crowded with cars, yes, but! Those cars are driving slower. Crowded traffic is one thing, but crowded, speeding-recklessly-past-you traffic is quite another. At least to me. Besides, my Secret Back Way does, eventually, have a lovely stretch of woods (though this time of year, they resemble the looming, scary woods of The Village) and a quiet road and old houses and I always feel my shoulders relax when I reach that part. It means I am nearly home.

So yesterday there I was in those heaps of traffic, at only 1:30 in the afternoon, yet it looked and felt like 5:00 because of the clouded, dark, dark skies and because I'd not gotten much sleep the night before. I pulled off from the slow madness, into the Target parking lot (packed with cars) and parked rather far away. Once inside, oh my, people scrambled everywhere and it felt like Christmas, but not the good part of Christmas, if you know what I mean. I went inside only to look for the dvd version of Miracle on 34th Street (the 1947 version, but of course) because I gave away my taped version, procrastinated all year ordering the dvd, and I always, always watch that movie while making Thanksgiving dinner in our kitchen. I will be alone for 12 hours, again, on Thanksgiving Day, so while I am cooking, I like to have movie friends in the kitchen with me.


No comments:

Post a Comment

Kindly let me know what you are thinking! :)