Friday, April 3, 2015

Chapter 8

Yesterday Tom and I traveled on the subway to the Bisons baseball game. 

We accidentally got off early and oh, what we saw and heard. A rhythm and blues group played and people danced (in the middle of the afternoon!) and ate their lunches while bobbing their heads. There was a farmer's market, even, and hot dog vendors, so of course we stopped and ordered a couple.

Oh, everyone was in a super mood with all that music and the hot dogs and sodas and the gorgeous weather. 

When we got off the plane to come live here in Buffalo, I felt in my heart that the people here were singing and dancing in the streets. And yesterday--not for the first time, either--I saw it with my own eyes there in downtown. 

Tom and I, both, felt we'd been invited to a party. And something else? I felt I'd glimpsed a tiny bit of Heaven, for here were streets where people sang, danced, laughed and ate or just walked or sat with smiling, grateful eyes. I truly can imagine such things take place on Heaven's streets.

But for now, Buffalo will have to do. And I'm so ok with that.  :)


Of course, you talk about change and people get scared. That's the first thing to remember. 

Years ago I heard in a sermon that if you are making changes, get ready to receive some flak and criticism from those closest to you. Why? Because seeing that you are changing is a reminder that they are not. And that is threatening. And just downright annoying.

So don't take it personally.


Ever since Tom left on Sunday, (he's due back late tonight), I've been watching Monk Season 5 dvd's (thanks to Netflix). 

Then at 4:30 today I got a call from a stranger at the Reno airport saying he'd found a cell phone on the floor, this phone with which he was now speaking to me. He said he'd be upset to lose his cell phone so he pushed the 'Home' button and was now wondering what I wanted him to do.

Uh-oh! Of course (after all those Monk episodes) this picture came to my mind: My sweet little husband was sitting at the airport when suddenly a couple thugs came along, grabbed him by the arms, his cell phone dropped to the floor, and they ushered him outside, telling him to keep quiet or he'd be sorry.

(Hey, you know you've imagined similar stuff.)

Well, I asked the guy (who sounded very kind) to have Tom paged and I thanked him for calling me, etc. And then right away, yes, you guessed it, I began repeating, "This is only a test. True, it's odd that Tom was at the airport way before his flight, but it's not odd for him to lose things. Not even." 

This is only a test. This is only a test. 

I prayed for Tom's safety and prayed, too, that I'd pass this test, and then I washed the French door glass in our Cozy Room (to stay busy) while I watched Oprah. And around a half-hour later Tom called me. From his cell phone. A bit sheepishly. They'd paged him, he had his cell phone back and all was well.

Whew. Always I'll be grateful for having learned about the whole 'this is only a test' thing. Rather than worrying about what might happen in any adverse circumstance, instead, the worry shifts to, "What should I do to pass this test so that God will be pleased?"

And that's a type of worry I can handle.


None of you would ever guess where Tom and I went last night.

Where did we go? To a bar. Yes, a bar where people stand around and drink alcohol two rows thick beside the counter on floors with missing tiles and play darts and shout over loud rhythm-and-blues and sit on ripped naugahyde chairs.

And well, calm down-- Tom and I did not order any of the aforementioned alcohol. Nor did we play darts. heh. But we did shout to each other over the music a few times--it was the only way we could hear one another.

See, our daughter has been a drummer since she was 14 and played on our church's worship team along with Tom who played guitar and sang. Then when Naomi turned 19, or so, she began playing with many and sundry bands, through the years, who often play at, well, bars. And every once in a blue moon her gigs begin before 10:00 p.m. (or 11 or 12) and she'll inform us old-early-to-bed folks in case we'd like to hear her current band play. Last night's gig began at 6:00 p.m., happy hour, I believe, and since we'll likely be moving soon, we went to hear Naomi play the drums with her current band.

So that's why Tom and I were at the bar. Honest.

The early years when Naomi played at bars and got home around 3 or 4 in the morning? Those were the years I became intimately acquainted with Worry. With standing at the front door, pacing, or waking up at night so I could check to see if she was home--and if not, struggling with that dark breed of Worry some more. I prayed every kind of prayer over Naomi--and continued to worry.

Then God, one year, told me He'd had enough. He said, yes, pray! But no more worry allowed. Worry would cancels-out my prayers. Worry would make me sick. He told me from now on, to go to bed and sleep. 

And over time I did that, though you other parents of teens and adult kids can guess it wasn't easy. But the trust has increased as my love for God has increased and as I've watched Naomi change incredibly since I stopped worrying constantly about her. Also, since I stopped doubting she would change, she's become interested in cooking and health and gardening and making a nice home--all things she, well, chided me about for years.

Naomi's become just about the sweetest daughter on Earth. Last night when Tom and I left the bar, she told us she would stand at the end of the alley and watch us to make sure we made it to our car all right, uninjured by anyone. Naomi worries about Tom and I now--she sometimes treats us like we're a cute old senile couple. Her concern makes us giggle.

And well, did I mention that this past year Naomi and her boyfriend moved in together? And how she's known since she was nine years old how Tom and I feel about that? But there again, God has instructed me not to worry. To pray for Naomi, instead. And to just love her while God is changing her day by day... just as He's changing me, also.


"To give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace." Luke 1:79

Wow. That's what Zacharias said his son, John (the Baptist) would be doing when he grew up.

But isn't that what all of us should be doing when we "grow up?" Especially the "guiding people's feet into the way of peace" thing?

The problem, though, is that some of us never quite grow up enough to lead anybody anywhere. Face it-- we cannot take other people where we, ourselves, have not been first.

Trust me--I tried. For, like, twenty years.

I tried to lead people to a more peaceful way of living and then I'd go home and get frustrated to tears because Tom left his dirty dishes beside the recliner (again), Naomi's bedroom looked like Where All The World's Toys Go To Die and the cats threw-up. All of them.

Or I'd go to church and sit there offended out of my mind after a woman (with no children, by choice) turned around and hushed Naomi because she was coloring too loudly--at the same moment I gently tapped her crayon to quiet her.

I'd be nice to people so they'd be nice to me (and then have a cow when they weren't). I'd take on projects and hobbies because my friends were gifted to do those things (but I wasn't. Hence, more frustration.) I thought I should do more so God would love me more.  But I never seemed to do enough.

Of course, most of you know living that way--if it doesn't kill you--will make you sick. Tired. Sick and tired. Tired and sick. And pathetic.

And it will snatch you far away peace.

So you know what God did in my case? He made me start all over. All over. Me! Mrs. Good Christian for 23 years. He said it was back to kindergarten for me, for I needed to learn to do things His way.

And His way lead me back to the path of peace.

My ways? Huh! They lead to those well-worn paths of Frustration, Discouragement and the one called Repeatedly Hitting Your Head Against A Brick Wall And Expecting It To Move.

For the past 13 years instead of fighting for what I want, I've learned how to receive from God. I've learned to hate my own ways because they never, ever lead my feet to that way of peace.

But God's ways lead me there every time--even if they stir things up a bit, shall we say. And that has made all the difference.

"You will keep him in perfect peace,
Whose mind is stayed on You,
Because he trusts in You." ... Isaiah 26:3

"May he turn our hearts to him, to walk in all his ways..." ... I Kings 8:58


Most of the time? I like it when people tell me a certain thing just cannot be done. That what I'm hoping to do is Impossible.

Why? Because it gets my blood bubbling. Suddenly I feel energized, able to conquer the world when I'm told that, for me, life will be just like it is for everybody else (sad, sickly, tiresome). I become determined when faced with impossibilities.

Yep, always I've been that way, mostly because since I was tiny, I've believed God. Not just believed in God, but believed what He said in the Bible. That He could do anything. That He always provides what we need and He can still heal people today. That nothing is too hard for Him. I believed all those, even while growing-up in churches which taught otherwise.

A cute example? I still recall, at 6-years-old, arriving home from church and standing beside my mom while she fumbled in her purse for her key to unlock the front door. She was very pregnant at the moment with my brother and for the first time I wondered, "How did the baby get inside her in the first place?" And although my family had only recently begun attending church, immediately I thought, "God knows everything about everything. Maybe He's the one who places babies inside of mothers. "

That childlike trust still makes me smile today. It still teaches me something, also.

It's good to outgrow some things, and trust me, I've outgrown a whole lot. But this believing God can do whatever He wants--and if He wants to help me, He will--well, I'm not planning on ever outgrowing that. Not ever.


My family can really use your prayers right now.

My sister called a few minutes ago, and well, my dad passed away this morning.

It was sudden--his lungs had filled with fluid (they think now it was pneumonia and his weakened heart couldn't handle it). The ambulance came, worked over him, but were unable to help.

The doctors had said he had at least three months left...

.......   My dad was a Baptist minister for many years. And do you know what his favorite verse has always, always been? It's the one which says, "Eye has not seen, nor has ear heard, nor has it entered into the heart of man what God has prepared for those who love Him."

And now, during his first hours in Heaven--he sees, he hears, he knows what is kept from all of us until we cross over into that place God has prepared. And I'm positive it's all beyond what he ever imagined.

My dad's sister, my Aunt Marian, went to that place only ten months ago. I told you about her here and here. And I described to you how I could almost see my grandparents, my Aunt Marion and my Uncle Ray at an outdoor table in bright light sitting, drinking amazing coffee and laughing. Well, just now I realize all along there's been an empty chair at that table, one ready, waiting for my dad.

And now I see him there, also.


While we were out in California for my dad's memorial service, Tom finally began thinking outside of the box concerning the rest of our lives.

Of course, that's something I've tried to make him do these last two years, but well, you know how husbands are. They have to hear this stuff from other people before it registers.

It was so great for Tom (and for me) to sit in the large circle in my parents' living room while listening to the adventure stories of my two uncles and an elderly friend of the family. They shared harrowing adventures of driving through dark nights in unfamiliar states and being greeted by sight-seeing wonders in the morning.

Their memories were so sharp, even at age 70 and beyond. One uncle would turn to his wife and ask, "At that restaurant in Milwaukee in 1983-- didn't we have red snapper that night?" And she'd answer, "Yes, and that's where we had stuffed baked potatoes for the first time."

Good grief. Ask me what I ate at a restaurant last week and I'd say, "Are you serious? How am I supposed to remember that far back?"

My uncles and their wives have traveled on adventures together for at least 40 years, first with all their children, combined, then just as couples as their children left home. Story after story we sat entranced, amazed at their pristine memories, laughing at the occasional mishap and misadventure.

But you know? I noticed how silent we of the younger generation were. I wondered if, in twenty more years, any of us would nave these kinds of tales to tell. Oh, Tom and I shared our Gettysburg and bus tour of D.C. memories, but after that, well, our other adventures sounded mild in comparison to those of the seniors in our group. And as I told Tom later, when I thought of how he and I spent last winter in our Cozy Room watching movies near the tiny electric heater, well, it just didn't have the same adventurous ring to it as all the stories swirling around us.

Anyway. All those exciting tales inspired Tom. He spoke with the oldest man in our group who said he's never once regretted retiring at 58 and has always looked upon each morning as a potential door to someplace new. And well, finally, Tom can see beyond Life In The Power Plant. He can imagine there are other ways to live, new vistas, new possibilities, especially as long as we let God lead us down every unknown path ahead.

And if we do that, I can't help but feel everything will be all right.

So there I was in my parents' living room last week with my sister and my mom's two brothers and their wives who I'd not seen in 30 years.

The room got quiet, everybody was staring at me, so my aunt turned and asked if I worked. I smiled and gave her my standard answer, "I work at home. I'm a happy homemaker."

Wham. The usual panicky silence fell. You know, that's when people start wondering, "Do they even make those anymore? What kinds of questions do you ask a 'happy homemaker,' anyway?," and, "Boy, is this gonna be a long afternoon."

So my sister (who has a real job and a real life and grandkids and is a newlywed and plays piano at church and teaches piano in her spare time) piped up and said, "Oh, Debra has a blog, too, and lots of people read it." She gave me that 'come on, keep going' signal with her hands and she nodded with her head like, "get with it, kid. Stand up for yourself! Don't you want to give them the list of all you do?"

Ah, The List... The List you read off to everyone to prove just how busy you are and how vital to the world's ability to keep spinning. 

I remember The List. I used to have mine memorized and could rattle it off to you at any insecure moment and make you sorry you even asked.

But I gave it up years ago. It doesn't matter now that people know the 'important' things I'm doing. All that matters is that I spend time with God each day learning to love Him better. And that I obey Him in the little things He asks me to do and be and to live simply, as well. And that I learn to love others better, too.

But it's kinda hard to work that into most conversations. 

Yet, that's ok. I'd rather hear other peoples' stories, and I think most people would rather tell their own stories to a good listener. Besides, I prefer saving my own stories for the times God nudges me to share them. His timing is ever so much better than mine as are His words.

What I'm now aiming for is to speak those, instead, because, after all--

"...A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver."... Proverbs 25:11

... and that sounds so very good to me.


Yesterday I saw something amazing.

While on my walk, I passed by three young boys raking leaves into four-foot-high piles and then--after tossing aside the rakes--they leaped, laughing, into the leaf stacks.

They tossed leaves high and buried each other. They rolled around, giggling. They took turns running then did spread-eagle belly-flops--making big poofs of leaves rise in the autumn air.

Totally made my day to see something so old-fashioned as that.

Every year I hear people say things like this:

"Kids don't play in leaf piles anymore."
"You never see kids outside these days."
"Nobody reads books anymore."
"People never take time to visit their neighbors."
"These days, people are too stressed-out to be friendly."
"All modern tv shows and movies are just junk."
"The days of soda fountains inside stores are gone."
"The good old days, period, are just long gone."

Oh really? I don't find any of the above to be true.

And then I hear those same people tell me, "Well, I can only call it as I see it."

And to them I would say, well, open your eyes wider. Begin looking farther outward and expect to find what's rightnot what's wrong. Our expectations color what our eyes behold.

Once I heard this story: A woman sat at her friend's table drinking coffee one morning. Her friend bitterly pointed out her window to the yard next door and said, "My neighbor is such a slob. See? Even her laundry on her clothesline is dirty."

The visiting friend got up to peer closer and realized something. Her friend's window was dirty, not her neighbor's laundry! Everything outside appeared dusty and dull from this side of such a dirty window.

Terrific lesson.


I'll be going with Tom today for one of his injections for his back so to drive him home because of the pain killer he'll be taking. I wonder what kinds of good old-fashioned things I'll see there at the medical center? I always enjoy watching people holding doors open for others and loved ones walking slowly alongside those with canes. 

In fact, always I'm searching for good old-fashioned kindnesses and things wherever I go...

...and it's incredible just how much I still find.


  So yesterday Tom and I went out on a date. Yes, after nearly 29 years we still go out. We went to the movie theater, but do you know what? For only the third time ever, we each watched a different movie. Tom  really wanted to see Beowulf (barfo... But he loved it.). I really wanted to see Dan In Real Life.

Afterward, we went to the local buffet restaurant and told each other about the movies we'd seen. About the previews we'd watched, also, many which made us ask, "Why do they only squeeze all the great movies into, like, December through March instead of spreading them out over the whole year?" (Living in snow country, we're usually socked with snow when the best movies play.)

Anyway. How freeing to not get all hurt and upset if Tom doesn't want to see the movie I'm longing to see. In the old days, I could sulk for a week about that and say things like, "There's no way we're gonna sit in separate theaters! We either go together or we stay home." (And then stay home, in separate rooms, because we were mad and disappointed in each other.)

Good gracious.

How wonderful to grow-up! To crave peace more than having one's own controlling way. To give the other person space to be who they are and freedom to see the movie they prefer. And then to return home and spend even more happy time together sharing--online-- the previews we'd seen separately at the theater. 

I totally recommend Dan In Real Life. I came away feeling like I'd attended my own family reunion in the most amazing old house (complete with a 'kids' table') on a misty-grey lake. Such a decent movie and I never once felt embarrassed for the two teeny-bopper girls in front of me in the nearly-empty theater (our theater is almost always nearly-empty, that's why I love it). Yes, it was so devoid of bad language, sex and violence that at one point I asked myself, "Do they even make movies like this anymore?"

So refreshing and such a simple, fun Saturday here in our tiny spot of the world.


  I think it all began with my mother's first plane trip.

See, for the first 44 years of my life, my mom declared she would never, ever get into an airplane. NEVER. If you tried to talk her into flying, she'd just laugh, turn away, and say, "That'll be the day you get me into a plane."

Eventually, after forty years of anything like that, you just give-up trying to change a person's mind.

But in 2003 my brother, who lives in Texas, invited my parents out to visit his family. The only catch? He would only pay for plane tickets. Not the train. Not for gas and supplies for a car trip. No, they'd have to come by plane.

Amazingly, my parents accepted his offer. (Technically, my dad had flown during his Navy days and wasn't adverse to flying.) But to think of my mom traveling in the sky! Well, it shocked us all.

Funny thing--both my parents, before boarding the plane discussed how they had lived good, fulfilling lives and were ready for Heaven if the plane crashed. They'd set all their affairs so to make things easier for us kids in case they never returned.


Anyway, after their trip, my parents called me and sheesh, you'd have thought flying was a brand new invention and my mom was one of the first to fly. She raved about how quickly they got all the way down to Texas. She loved the ease of the whole thing. It was a million times better than driving (or in her case, riding alongside my dad while he drove). And she couldn't wait until they could fly once more to someplace. Anyplace. She just wanted to travel in such luxury again.

Of course, I stared wide-eyed at the phone and thought, "Who is this woman?"

Well, I received an email from my sister today, you know, the one in Hawaii on her honeymoon. The one who took our recently-widowed mother along with her. And do you know what she wrote? "Mom loves snorkeling!"

Good gracious. My mouth dropped open. And I thought, "What next?"

I mean, my mother has always been the quiet, supportive woman behind my dad. A cheerful, helpful, pastor's wife, someone who's always been too shy to get her driver's licence because her driver's ed. teacher in high school swore at her. And she never quite got over it.

But now she's vacationing in Hawaii. And snorkeling. I love it! And as I said, I think it all began with overcoming her fear of flying. 

Oh, how many of our fears hold us back from a whole other life we could be living! And what kinds of adventures we could all be having if we'd just take a deep breath and step past those dark fears which keep us all bound up.

That one brave step may just unleash courage for anything we may face in the years to come. But unless we take that first step, we will never know for certain.


 My favorite movies and documentaries have eccentric folks and always, I sit there and wish I could be like them. 

Oh, not insane-eccentric-crazy, but more like free-eccentric. Unafraid to be who I really am, even if that means appearing rather loopy to others. And brave enough to do the good things inside my heart, not hushed by shyness or fear of others' comments.

Yet not so eccentric as to make people back away slowly and escape. But r
ather, unique enough to draw them in, curious, wanting to hear more about what or Who gave me the freedom to be, well, free. Truly free.


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