Friday, April 3, 2015

Chapter 7

Always, I've walked a different track than other folks and it royally used to bother me. The slow, out-of-it, what-planet-are-you-from? track--that's where I've strolled all my life.

I run into friends and acquaintances downtown and they'll mention books they're reading, ones with titles like, "Understanding God From A-Z," or, "How To Pray in 250 Easy Steps," or, "Becoming the Ultra-Spiritual Person You've Always Longed To Be." 

(Okay. I'm exaggerating. A tad.)

But me? Usually I'm in the middle of books like, Rosamond du Jardin's, "Boy Trouble," or Betty MacDonald's, "Onions In The Stew," or Peter Mayle's, "Toujours Provence." So I switch the subject fast before being asked what I'm reading. I'm no fool. I know those kinds of books will bring only blank stares (Rosamond who?) or pity glances.

So then the other person describes the complete sets of teaching tapes they bought from three different Christian teachers and how he/she
is so excited because their children are all little missionaries and their church is bursting out of its building and saving the world and holding meetings every night of the week. 

And when they pause for a breath, that's when I say, "I have a blog." Usually, that kills the conversation.

Heh. I'm usually ready to go home anyway.

But you know? Anymore, I just don't care. Oh, I'm happy for those who lead exciting lives, but I no longer feel as though I must keep up or explain what God's doing through me. I'm happier and more at peace than I ever was during the years I competed with everybody--those years when being a Christian felt like one endless race (and not the kind of race the Apostle Paul spoke about, either).

Now I just try to obey God and go where He leads me, even if that means I stay home a lot and send my messages to the world from a desk.

If that's what God has for me, nothing is more important. I could force stuff, make myself feel more useful, but I'd just be wasting energy and God's time. Even if I appear to be running this track, alone, I'm not--and there's nothing more fulfilling than running this daily race with God. 


"Be it unto you even as you have believed."

Weeks ago I peeked outside the window to see if the mailman had pushed down the faded yellow flag on our mailbox, signaling our mail had arrived. But no, the flag was still up. I thought, "Oh well. It's not like I'm expecting any good mail anyway."

Immediately the Holy Spirit asked, "Did you just say you're not expecting anything good? Where's the faith and expectancy in that attitude?"

Ouch! He'd caught me again believing for nothing much--and receiving just that. 

I'd forgotten that when I believe for serendipitous things inside my mailbox, amazing discoveries appear in there. Sweet snail mail, tiny gifts, free samples and surprises.

And then last week I sat at the river in another gloomy cloud bank and told God, "Oh, I'd love it so much if the sun appeared for at least ten minutes today." Then right away I caught myself, remembering the mailbox incident. "No! I mean a half-hour of sunlight would be great."

I heard the Holy Spirit say, "A half-hour? A half-hour? That's the most you can stretch your faith?"

Ha! He got me there again. 

I want more than just piddly faith. I desire to stretch my faith to believe for the very best which God can provide. And personally, I feel if I can't believe God for the small things, I'll have a difficult time believing Him for the big, emergency stuff, also.


  "The time of the singing of birds is ..... here!"

For four days we've had gorgeous, sunny temperatures and Lennon The Cat and I have lounged on our front porch and watched our neighbors burst from the doors of their winter quarters and celebrate Spring. 

Usually this time of year, I sit on our wicker chair and spy on our neighbors while they clear the winter debris and work hard--sweat-- in their yards anywhere from 4 to 8 hours in a single day. 

That's not the way Debra works. 

She's an "inch-by-inch-anything's-a-cinch" worker. She works a little, rests a little, reads a little, drinks a little lemonade. Works a little, rests a little, reads a little, drinks a little lemonade...

On Sunday evening, I wiped down our front porch and vacuumed the rug. Probably took me a half hour. Yesterday, I sat on the lawn and began clearing away our yard's autumn leaves and twigs from the flower beds--in two half-hour shifts. And even though our front yard is the size of an average pick-up truck--still--it will probably take me a week to finish sprucing. The same for our back and side yards, too.

"Slow and steady wins the race." Emphasis on slow. And steady.

And while I gaze across the street and think my neighbors do their yard work the difficult way, probably they peek over here and think I do everything the lazy way.

And yet, both ways, it all gets done. Year after year and Spring after Spring.

And isn't that what matters? That, and not forming critical opinions when people do things differently?


Work smarter, not harder.


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

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

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

My, my, my.... how things change.

And yet there was another change, too. When Naomi and Carl stepped through the door, they came bearing Easter gifts. Naomi and Carl carried two chocolate bunnies, two bottles of my favorite seltzer water, a lemon jello cake for Tom and even our grand-kitty, Oreo, came along. 

And best of all, Naomi brought all the sweetness and pleasantness which is Naomi at her best. I felt absolutely no sense of we're-walking-on-egg-shells-here-so-watch-what-you-say. No one got offended and no one argued about politics. There was just laughter and one sweet, sincere visit.

And again... how things change.

I guess all I'm saying in this simple post is to remember this: what is true today, may not be true tomorrow. If there are grey clouds and snow and sadness forecasted for this day in your life--hold on! Tomorrow, sun and gladness may push today into just a hazy memory.

There is always hope. Especially when you aim to view Life through God's always-hopeful eyes. But you must believe for the incredible long enough to bask in it.


We had our carpet steam-cleaned yesterday, most of it, anyway, for the first time ever in this house. The men arrived around noon and Lennon went streaking back to the dark bedroom where Tom slept, having worked the graveyard shift Friday night. McCartney just hid under the bed in my Dream Room upstairs.

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

No. We. Do. Not.

I mean, we only sometimes remove our shoes and we don't ask our company to do so. At one time, while Naomi (Miss Lover of Cats) lived here, we had six cats (draw your own conclusions). No, our living room carpet is a high grade burbour kind which we probably got on special sale (knowing us like I do). So let this simply be a commercial touting high quality burbour carpet--it lasts and lasts and lasts...

Well, they completed the job in around an hour and it was a pleasant experience. I gave the young man a check, along with my driver's licence, and if he'd have stated, "I mean this in the most respectful way, ma'am, but you look ever so much younger than your birth date implies," well, the carpet-cleaning experience would have been perfect. But alas, I'm still waiting for someone, anyone, to say that. ...heh...

Anyway, there was something I did which made me giddy all the rest of the day. Being shy and also an in-the-bone penny-pincher, I considered giving the workers a tip, but I wavered, then decided I'd already paid enough by way of the bill. Yet as they were folding up their cleaning equipment outside, I took a quick peak at the stair carpet and that of the Tower Room upstairs, noted they'd been cleaned quite well, then raced back downstairs, grabbed a fistful of dollar bills, and ran outside to their truck. I thanked them again, gave them the tip and they were very appreciative, sweet and surprised by it.

And well, that made my whole day. 

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

All day long it's "Help me, please." As in, "Help me speak kindly to Tom when he gets home from work, even if he does something to annoy me." Or, "Please remind me to write down all the tasks I need to do so I won't forget any of them and show me the best ways to do them."  

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

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

It's having Him always on my mind--and finding joy in that. And mostly? It's in enjoying and loving God all my hours that never lets me wander too far away. 


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


  For lots of years when we'd drive through run-down, depressing neighborhoods, I'd sit in the passenger seat and play the "I Would Never Live There" game. It's simple--you just peer at houses with iron bars across the windows and wine bottles, weeds and washing machines in the yard and then wrinkle your nose and thank God you live someplace else--someplace nice.

But you don't learn much while playing that game.

But now I play a different, more challenging version. I call it, "If I Had To Live There." I usually play it while strolling down a street nearby, one which once (I'm told) was a Guinness Book of World Records winner for the U.S. street with the most bars. All these years later it has, oh, maybe 5 bars and lots of old, crumbling tall houses.

With this game, I imagine that Tom and I have lost our money and must now run a business on the lower level of a certain house on that street. I choose the colors and types of flowers I'd plant in the front yard. Then I paint the house and its trim in my head and try to arrange our current furniture in the rooms. I list every advantage to living there that I can--lots of those houses have larger backyards than I currently have, many of them have more square footage and since they're older, some still have more antique touches and nooks.

And I list ways in which I could carve out a contented, old-fashioned life for Tom and I inside such a house, even if we had little left of what we own now.

I love that game. It keeps my imagination and determination, strong. 
Besides, seeing potential wherever I look is a great habit which comes in handy when dealing with people. Indeed.


So there I was, a sophomore in high school during career week. You know, those days when, at 15, you were supposed to decide what you wanted to be for the rest of your whole life(!) You just (according to the teacher) walked over to the career box, thumbed through a few career cards and poof! Picked a life-long career. And then during the weekend you were supposed to find someone already working in your chosen line of work, interview them, and hand in the interview along with a few of your own thoughts.



Want to know the career I hoped to find in the career box? You'll never guess, so I will tell you:

I hoped to find a hermit card in there. 

(I know. Wild, huh?) But they don't have any hermit career cards in career boxes. I'm certain--I checked.

Yes, at 15 I was already tired of dealing with people, especially people who criticized me for being different and hard to understand. People who didn't act the way I thought they should. 

And well, all these years later I still love spending time alone--as long as it's kept in balance. Anything taken out of balance no longer feels like a good thing. 

Anyway, I just thought I'd share a smile with you this Monday morning. Imagine--wanting to be a real-live hermit at 15 and actually picturing myself in a secluded little cabin up in the woods away from everyone, growing my own food and cutting my own fuel. Alone. Imagine!

All I can say is that I'm so grateful that God had a wiser, different plan.


Saturday I sat on our front porch and watched the people in my Mayberry-esque neighborhood and thumbed through my old Mary Jane's Farm magazines while Lennon the Cat knelt beside me, eyeing the neighbors.

It all should have felt perfect, but it didn't. No I, instead, felt depleted and tired and well, yicky in a ho-hum-general-sort-of way. You know, Plain Ol' Blech, and for the third (fourth?) day in a row. I chalked it up to just more unfair pre-menopause nonsense or this limbo state I seem to be living inside regarding our upcoming (we hope) move or the state of our world or our annoying too-cool-for-sitting-outside weather or--(insert any ol' excuse here).

And not until Sunday morning did I finally obey that tiny voice inside me, the one which for days had been begging, "Pull out your copy of Eat Right For Your (Blood) Type," a nifty book Naomi found. It's a cool book, one which contains, all between two covers, the research I did online for years whenever I'd feel this poor old body crumbling to pieces with yet a new and different ailment. I could have saved a bunch of hours by finding this book first. Oh well.

My favorite part of Eat Right For Your Type are the three food lists it gives specifically for your blood type (mine is O), foods under these headings: Highly Beneficial, Neutral and Avoid. I'm skipping lots of information, but trust me, over the past couple years I've felt marvelous as long as I eat foods from the Highly Beneficial and Neutral lists.

And well, good grief! For days, (weeks?), I'd been eating almost exclusively from the Foods To Avoid list. Wheat, dairy, caffeine, peanuts. Big surprise why I'd been feeling like Naomi's old Raggedy Ann doll looks. What was I thinking?

So yesterday morning, after rereading the book's lists for Type O, I heated up some onions (Highly Beneficial) in a tad bit of canola oil (Neutral) and ate some walnuts (Highly Beneficial). Then later I had some soy yogurt (Neutral) and Ezekiel Bread (Highly Beneficial) and-- well, you get the picture. I ate like a person with some common sense.

Within hours after eating the right foods--and avoiding the wrong ones--I began to feel more like my good old, chirpy, Miss Pollyanna self. Seriously. 

Now, I'm not saying that this book is the solution to the world's ills. Uh, no. I'm just saying that sometimes Life is more simple than we make it and blaming others or our past or the weather or the devil, himself, well, often that just wastes time and what could have been good days. Usually, the answer isn't to complicate matters more--but to simplify them, instead... 

...and usually the answer is to listen to the One with all the answers. And then go from there, obeying Him every moment along the rest of the journey, as well.
Last year Tom and I drove along a country road and I pointed and asked, "Remember when we almost bought that house over there?" 

I thought awhile and then laughed and asked, "Do you realize how many things we've just thought about doing, but never actually did? How often we've just talked about big plans, but never followed through? Like, remember when we almost started a bed and breakfast inn? Or when we almost visited Prince Edward Island?"

"Remember when we almost moved to Las Vegas?" Tom joined in.

To which I replied, "Well, I'm grateful beyond words that one fell through. But let's see... remember when we almost adopted more kids? Or almost became foster parents?"

"Or when we almost bought that huge house in Niagara Falls? Or about twenty other large houses around Western New York? Or when we almost took an ocean cruise? Or a train vacation?"

"Or when we almost went to the drive-in movies over in Buffalo? Or when we almost bought a boat?"

Well, we went on and on like that and laughed through some parts and groaned through others. But mostly we agreed on something: we play it too darn safe. We are not Risk Takers. We think things through, often to death, so much so that we usually end up doing nothing the least bit risky or new or exciting.

That can be good, or it can be bad (rather like most things in life). It's saved us from spending lots of money, but other times, it's saved us from lots of memories and adventures.

I believe that initial "Remember When..." conversation changed us, at least a small bit. We've loosened-up, had more fun, gone around with more of a spirit of adventure, even if so far, it's been mainly adventure in our own backyard. 

We're viewing Life differently, I think--realizing that no one is going to come around and force us to take some risks. Nobody will stand at the edge of our rut and yank us upward by the hair.

We'll have to climb out of that rut on our own.


Lately we've been taking baby steps by visiting places which, for years and years, we just drove past, one of us usually saying, "We'll have to stop at that restaurant some day." Or that museum, that park, that antique store. I don't know how it is where you live, but here, businesses come and go like clouds on a windy day. Wait too long to visit that mom and pop hamburger stand, and you'll regret it. You'll drive up to it and find the windows boarded-up and trash rolling along the parking lot.

That happened to us just last week. Again. This time, at a darling round-shaped hamburger stand on a country lane, one whose parking lot always was packed with cars all the previous years we drove past. And the drive-in movie theater in Buffalo? It closed this year after being in business more than 60 years. (We do have one left in nearby Lockport.)

You just never know. It really is possible to have one chance to do something or even (especially) visit someone--and miss out forever. Sometimes we're given just one opportunity to do what God, Himself, wanted us to do.

Tom and I are hoping to spend this last half of our life staying awake to those opportunities, to be more brave, more obedient and to enjoy Life more.


Lately, my memory has been awful. I'm hoping it's due to interrupted sleep patterns and good old-fashioned pre-menopause, both which I've read can have an influence.

I mean, I hate it when Tom says something like, "I gave you the tickets days ago." And then I say, "No, you didn't! I'm positive you did not."

"Oh yes I did!"

"Oh no you didn't!"

And then we discover, that yes... he did give me the tickets. They were in the drawer all the time. Razzle frats.

But anyhow, that's gotten me to thinking. What kind of an old lady will I be? Will I be a crabby, sneering old thing without a memory, one who snaps and sputters and pops with indignation if you cross me?

Or will I be a gentle, sweet old soul, who may have lost her mind, but not her manners? Who may not remember your name, but who remembers to be nice?

Obviously, I hope it will be the latter. I've watched others grow old and seen that, whatever their heart was most full of during their adult years, that is what intensifies. Usually.

And what I'm thinking is this: In order for me to be that kind, old woman in the future, I must allow God to rid me of the junk inside me--now--in my present. I believe if the crabby, always-must-be-right garbage is taken out today, then most likely, it will still be missing years from now. For I've seen that when God does a work, He does it well. Completely. And all that remains is for my continued cooperation with, and reliance upon, Him. His strength, not mine. 

So the work continues and I hope when this old lady is squeezed in the future, sweetness will gush out of her, not bitter.


"...for out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks..." Luke 6:45

"Does a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter?" ... James 3:11


I had to smile when I read Maggie Ann's comment to my last post this morning:

"Sounds like you are having fun...."

Well, kinda-sorta.

Actually, it's major test-taking time around my house and around my life.

See, last Thursday morning at 8:00 a.m., Tom's mom called and since that meant it was only 5 a.m. her time, we knew there was trouble. There was. While traveling down to their granddaughter's wedding, Tom's dad fell and broke four ribs. Oh dear. For months now, he has been falling. For months now he has had strokes. And for months now he--at 80--has refused to move into any type of a senior community (nice, safe duplexes) where he and his wife could live way more comfortably and with some help. He says he doesn't want to be with all those Old People (he calls them) over there and he doesn't want to give up any of his stuff.

And well, there's more, but I will spare you.

At first, Tom and I decided we'd both take a trip out there, even though my own parents would be upset that we couldn't travel the few hundred miles to their house this time. Even though I've never had anyone else give Lennon the Cat his daily shots of insulin and even though my yard would probably die and the house would get too hot for the cats and Naomi would have to keep coming over here to take care of all this. Even though I'd have to lose 10 pounds in three weeks. :)

But after trying to force things to work out, we decided two major things: Tom will travel--alone--later this month to see his parents. He'll have a meeting with them and as many of his sisters as possible to try to find some kind of a workable solution to his parents' living arrangements. Tom is a wonderful mediator, and well, we both know, no matter how hard I tried to stay silent, I would say something which would cause the whole situation to erupt like the proverbial volcano.

I'm funny that way.

And when I decided to stay home--poof!--instant peace flooded both of us. But alas! Will I be remaining here twiddling my thumbs? No, that brings me to my other announcement: We've decided to go ahead and sell our house. Or at least try, starting next Wednesday (the 15th). We both agreed that, should we sell it early, we'll just rent something so to be free to move when the time comes. Because we are moving. We just know not where. 

But we are ready to release this house to the next family who will, hopefully, love it as much as we have.

Also while Tom is gone, I will do some major packing. And you know? Selling the house and packing stuff--to me--sounds much calmer, much more pleasant than going away with Tom for those few days. And to Tom, going away and doing what he must do sounds like a vacation to him. Following Grace is like that. Grace has a way of adding ease and strength and enjoyment to anything God has called you to do.

But without Grace, well, I'd be sunk. And I'd be failing all these tests. But so far, so good.


I forgot to tell you that last weekend Tom and I went to our local, smallish County Fair. 

We loved every moment and every little detail.

The baby pigs were so cute, that I wanted to pick them up and hug them. And as Tom said, you kept expecting one to step over to you and say, "Hi, I'm Wilbur."

The Bantam chickens enchanted us, the goats stole our hearts (though the ones without ears just looked, well, odd), the lambs were sweet and the bunnies were floppy and adorable. We drooled over the classic old cars and we even enjoyed the old-time gospel singers while we sat inside the shady tent with our Sicilian white pizza, even though that's not our favorite type of music.

Clearly, we are becoming country people.

I mean, today at a yard sale I came across a box of free old Country Woman and Country Journal magazines, issues I probably glanced through years ago. But now I'm devouring them for information. I want a tiny farm so much!

I've seen myself change incredibly the past few years--and it's been strange at times, watching myself becoming a woman I do not recognize. But who wants to remain forever as she was at 35? Perhaps some women do. But I want to always be pliable in God's hands, responding the correct way to His ordained, current seasons in my Life. And I'm thinking lately that these upcoming years will be my country season.

So now I need to make right decisions, to be in the right place at the right time so that I'll get the most out of this season. And may I not wait too long or be afraid to step into these next years. The right window of time will not last forever. Some day I will be too old to plant a big garden, chase after chickens and walk a country mile.

Someday there will be a whole new season in which to live and I want to be able to glance backward at this one with gratitude, smiles and no regrets.


I'm still here...

Our house has been shown three times so far and a large parade of realtors will be whisking through this morning.

Our rooms have smelled delicious--mostly--for days now. Want to know the easy way to scent your home? I have two secrets:

1.) Use your coffeemaker. Make at least half a pot of something aromatic and keep it brewing for an hour or more. Currently, I'm using Folger's French Vanilla which we got for .50 cents each can at a yard sale. Yum. All three stories smell divine.

2.) Buy a small bottle of scented oil (I get the cinnamon kind for less than $3. And think oil, not water.) Then go around the house placing drops in bowls of potpourri, rub a little on the underside of furniture, place on wreaths or dried-flower-valence thingies, etc.

That's it! Unless your house smells downright vile, these two ideas make a quick, ten-minute fix. People have stepped into our house  and exclaimed, "Oh! It smells so nice in here!," and well, trust me--with ten-year-old berber carpet and two (formerly 6) cats, that's really saying something, indeed.


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