Wednesday, August 27, 2008

On more grey hair for me

I'm really kind of a plain jane when it comes to sweets, so my very favorite kind of cake is just plain pound cake. My husband made me one for my birthday. Yes, from scratch.

It went in the oven Sunday afternoon when I went out to a rehearsal. When I got home and opened the front door, oh, the wonderful smell that I walked into. If I breathe deeply I can almost still smell it. Ahhhhh. Mmmmmm.

My birthday wasn't until the next day, so we waited to cut the cake. Of course, the first thing I put in my mouth on the morning of my birthday was a big hunk of that cake. Cake for breakfast. Yummy. Even after we cut it, I still couldn't get over the delicious smell. Close my eyes. Inhale. Ahhhh.

Not only did it smell good, it was oh, so, tasty.

And there were cards. We like lots of cards.

Again, my husband knows me so well. The card in the picture that mentions happy hour is a reference to my new found love of the hours of 2-4 PM at Sonic when a 44 ounce Diet Coke is only $1. Sometimes it is unsweet tea, but usually I stick with the Diet Coke. It's that ice that makes it so good.

My surprise was this cute little Willow Tree figurine holding a book. If you could see the stack on my nightstand, you would know this IS me. Oh, and the gift bag with hearts on it. That's me too.

Later that day, Scott called me to tell me he had cancelled his rehearsal that was scheduled for that night so we could go out to dinner. Which we did.

And then I did a little shopping at Kohl's. I spent less than $50 and got two sweaters and one pair of pants. Wooohooo. It met my "under $20" per item rule, so I didn't have to stress over it. I just bought it 'cause it was my birthday!

All of that to say, my husband has been paying attention. He treated me like it was my special day and he knew exactly what to do to make me smile.

I'm still smiling.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Not exactly the makeover I was looking for

A couple of years ago Scott and I went through Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University class. If you’ve ever been through it you know that it is very enlightening and very convicting. We did pretty well following the principles, for a while anyway.

This weekend, the Dave Ramsey Total Money Makeover Live event was held at the coliseum. There were a couple of others from church interested in going, and we certainly needed a refresher course, so we all went.

To be honest, the week prior to the event I wasn’t really that excited about going. It was a timing thing. If it had been some other weekend I might have gotten more excited about it. This weekend, however, was the one nearest my birthday and I wanted to spend some money on myself, not hear about how I should be saving every penny I have.

The event was 5 hours long and I stayed interested pretty much the whole time, even in those uncomfortable seats. The basic principles and even most of the examples haven’t changed much since the we first took the class, but it is still, dare I say it, right on the money. And of course, Dave still has that charisma.

One of the key scriptures Dave uses and bases his financial philosophy on is Proverbs 6:1-5.

My son, if you have put up security for your neighbor, if you have struck hands in pledge for another, if you have been trapped by what you said, ensnared by the words of your mouth, then do this, my son, to free yourself, since you have fallen into your neighbor's hands: Go and humble yourself; press your plea with your neighbor! Allow no sleep to your eyes, no slumber to your eyelids. Free yourself, like a gazelle from the hand of the hunter, like a bird from the snare of the fowler.
The scripture was printed in the worksheet booklet they handed out at the event. When Dave read it out loud, he emphasized a couple of words by reading them slowly and repeating them. I circled them on the worksheet because they struck me as if I had never read them before. Dave was using the NKJV; it says “deliver yourself.” My NIV says “free yourself.” Free yourself. Free yourself.

There is a qualifier in it. This scripture is specifically talking about when you get yourself into a fix. And, even more specifically, when you get yourself into a mess because of things you said. Oh, my.

How many times have I agreed to do something that I wasn’t entirely sure I could follow through on, and then when I failed went crying to God to get me out of the mess? Too many to count.

Yes, I believe that God has all the strength and power to get me out of any circumstance I find myself in. But it looks like to me His Word says that as a responsible human being, I AM responsible. I am responsible for my actions; responsible for my words. I am responsible for working it out and getting myself out of the mess.

And the Word says the first instruction to getting out of the mess is to humble yourself.

It’s quite simple, really. But not always easy.

Kind of like those Dave Ramsey Financial Peace principles.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

I'll have the #1 combo, upsized with a diet coke

My husband picked me up for lunch one day (before the ugly scrambled egg episode last week) and we headed to the sandwich shop that we patronize at least a couple of times a week. There were too many cars and not enough parking spaces there, so we decided to drive a little further down the road to Arby’s.

When we pulled back out into the road we got behind a car with a disabled persons license plate. An elderly woman was riding on the passenger side; the driver was an elderly man. He was driving slowly and cautiously in the left lane.

We didn’t have far to go to get to Arby’s, so we stayed behind them. Their left turn signal indicated they were going to turn in for a roast beef sandwich too.

Like most fast food restaurants, the Arby’s parking lot is designed around the drive-thru lane. The parking spaces were secondary to the drive-thru lane in the planning, I’m sure.

If you park in the spaces away from the building, you have to walk through the traffic in the drive-thru lane. There is a high probability that a collision could happen here, and the bump-up would be on your flesh and bones. Ouch.

If you park in the spaces close to the building and the drive-thru lane gets backed up, then you have difficulty backing out. In that case, at least you are in your car and any bump-ups would most likely be to your car and not you. While there is not really any good place to park in such small lots designed around a lane of circular traffic (kind of like a NASCAR track – in more ways than one!), I think parking next to the building is a little safer.

Anyway, still traveling slowly, we pulled into the parking lot behind the car with the disabled person license plate and the little old man driving. There were three parking empty spaces up close to the entrance of the building. Two of them were handicap spaces, the other one was just a regular space.

We waited as the little old man driver hesitated to make a parking space decision and then maneuvered the large sedan into it. He passed up the two handicap spaces and chose the only regular space there. Of course.

We drove on by the two remaining handicap spaces, on over to the far side of the lot. We walked across the lane of traffic lined with eager drivers who give new meaning to the term FAST food.

I think maybe the little old man thought he would save the handicap spaces for someone in greater need than they. And, I guess I want to have that same mindset; the one that leads me to think of others that are less fortunate even when I myself am ailing. You know, it always makes things look better and often makes a lot more sense when I take the focus off of me and my problems!

"Everything is permissible"—but not everything is beneficial. "Everything is permissible"—but not everything is constructive. Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others. 1 Corinthians 10:23-24

Sunday, August 17, 2008

W-w-w-w-ater would be nice

Last Wednesday my computer became infected by a virus and completely shut down. I haven’t gotten the problem completely remedied yet so right now I’m shuffling between a couple of back-up computers.

About twelve hours after my computer went down, I also got some kind of up-chuck bug that completely shut me down too.

Actually, I ate some scrambled eggs that I think must have been slightly-salmonella-tainted.

I was feeling absolutely fine and never got any hint that I was about to go down. Just a few hours before, I had even shared a story with a friend about how not too long ago I ate some leftover Taco Bell refried beans for breakfast and found them most satisfying, even before 11 AM. Not really something I think you would talk about if you felt a queasy stomach on the horizon.

But exactly four hours after eating those eggs, with no warning, I sat up and said, “I’m gonna be sick.” And I was.

The day afterwards, meals consisted of Advil and fruit flavored Life Savers.

A couple of days later as I began to feel better, I had a strange craving for tortilla chips, salsa, and queso. I think my mouth just wanted to taste food again and spicy just seemed like the way to jump start my appetite and get it back in shape. Saturday Scott dutifully took me out, not only to eat chips and salsa but to get me out of the house for a while. I needed some fresh air and a change of scenery for sure!

Of course we had to travel an hour to get the really good chips and salsa, so while we were over that way we made a trip to the Lifeway store (for me) and to Best Buy (for him). As we got ready to head back home, I told Scott he was going to have to stop and get me a drink. I didn’t think I could make the hour trip back home without a traveler. Except this time, the drive-through would not do. I needed to go in, order a large iced tea, sit down and drink it there. The reason I needed to do that was because I needed a refill. I knew I needed a refill even before I took the first sip. And that’s what I did. I actually refilled it twice before I walked out with the third one. I was THAT thirsty.

A couple of days in the wilderness of dry heaves and parching fever left me craving the spicy, but it was the drink that satisfied me more than anything.

I think there’s probably a lesson in there somewhere.

He led you through the vast and dreadful desert, that thirsty and waterless land, with its venomous snakes and scorpions. He brought you water out of hard rock. He gave you manna to eat in the desert, something your fathers had never known, to humble and to test you so that in the end it might go well with you. Deuteronomy 8:15-16

Monday, August 11, 2008

Behind the uniform

I don’t usually take naps on Saturday afternoon. However, this past Saturday we were up, dressed, and out the door long before we normally even think about rolling out of bed on the weekend. So, by about 2 pm, I laid down for little rest.

I dozed off and as I’m likely to do if it’s an unusual sleeping time, I had a crazy dream. I don’t remember a lot of the details about the dream. I know it involved a large crowd of people. The crowd, including me, was wandering through a big building trying to negotiate our way through a labyrinth of hallways. We kept looking for the policemen in the dark blue uniforms. One was positioned every few yards pointing us in the direction that led to wherever it was we were headed. I think maybe we were trying to find our way out, but I’m not sure.

The next thing I remember of the dream is that lightning struck something outside of the building we were walking through. There were cries all through the hallways to “Call the fire department, call the fire department!” Next thing I knew, we were standing outside (funny how quickly you can move through walls in a dream). We were standing around a car that was charred and parts of it still burning. The car was on some kind of tile flooring and all four corners of each square of tile was singed and curled upward. We all stood around just staring, waiting for the firemen in their reflective overcoats and hard hats to come and make it right again.

I don’t remember how the dream ended. When I woke up, the dream was still on my mind. I knew exactly where it had come from. The sights and sounds my senses had absorbed in the morning hours prior to my nap had permeated my subconscious and affected my soul.

The reason we got up, dressed, and out the door so early on a Saturday morning was to attend the funeral of one of our county sheriff’s deputies that was shot and killed earlier this week as he answered a burglary alarm call.

I did not know the officer personally. The service was held at our church because it is the largest sanctuary in town and a very large crowd was expected.

When I first heard the news of the shooting earlier in the week, my thoughts immediately went to the deputies and troopers that I do know personally. There are at least four (that I can think of right now, maybe more) law enforcement officers that attend church with us. Even more whose families and relatives worship with us.

I couldn’t help but think about what THEY must be thinking and feeling. I could not imagine what it would be like the morning after a tragedy like that to get up, put on the uniform and go to work just like any other day. What are they supposed to do with all the fear, the guilt, the questions, the doubt, the anger, the shock, the grief, and everything else I cannot even begin to think of?

What? Just what? What in heaven’s name are they supposed to do?

But I guess the real question is, what am I supposed to do?

It all made me think of another incident not too long ago.

A couple of months ago, Scott and I were on the way to the mall or somewhere (I can’t remember exactly now). Anyway, we were headed to the next metropolitan area about an hour away. Our route was detoured by a wreck that involved two people on a motorcycle and a van/SUV-type vehicle. All traffic on the two-lane road had been rerouted.

On our return trip, we stopped at a restaurant to eat as we waited for the road to open up again. One of the state troopers that attends church with us came in the restaurant. He had been working the crash. We spoke to him and asked about the incident. We were curious about exactly what had happened that had slightly detoured our evening outing. He shared a little bit about the scene…and it really wasn’t appropriate dinner conversation. But we had asked for it. He said it had been a long time since he had seen bodies messed up that badly in a wreck. The road re-opened, our curiosity somewhat satisfied and eager to get home and see the film at ll, we spoke our pleasantries and went on our way.

It didn’t occur to me until about three days later that I should have asked that state trooper that night how HE was doing. He just witnessed death, and a very ugly, bloody one (two, actually), and I didn’t even think to reach out to him and offer him some comfort and support. How could I be so insensitive and take for granted that he wasn’t affected by it?

Saturday I stood in the back of the church as I watched rank after rank of officers stand at attention as the casket passed by. I watched them file silently in front of me filling every seat in the church. Row after row of uniforms lined the pews. The service moved out to the courtyard and I stood behind them as Amazing Grace flowed from the winds of the bagpipes, taps rang out from the bugle, a gunfire salute blasted the silence, and helicopter propeller blades cut through the sky. All the while, not one of them moved a muscle except to salute on command.

I stood behind them watching it all.

Actually, I guess the proper perspective is that they were standing in front of me. After all, that is what they do day after day. They stand in front of me, protecting me from danger. They stand in front of me, making a way for peace and order.

Because they stand in front of me, they see much more of the evil in this world than I do. They see it first and they see it on a daily basis. I think they see so much more than their fair share of it and therefore that is why they strive so hard to protect the good.

Again, I guess the real question is, what am I supposed to do?

Besides striving to never take any one of them for granted again, I will stand behind them.

I will stand behind them with thankfulness and compassion.

I will stand behind them with respect and support.

I will stand behind them.

When the slide show ends, you can click on the X in the top right corner of the slide screen to replay it.

Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. John 15:13

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Hey, Grandpa, what's for supper?

My husband and I have this same conversation over and over:

ME: “What do you want for dinner?”

HIM: “I don’t know, what do you want for dinner?”

ME: “Oh, I don’t know. What are you in the mood for?”

HIM: “I’m not sure. I guess I could eat anything.”

ME: “Well, then, how about a bowl of cereal?”

HIM: “Hmmm. I’m not really in the mood for that.”

ME: “Well, do you want me to cook something?”

HIM: “No, let’s just go get something.”

ME: “Do you want a ‘sit down’ restaurant or fast food?”

HIM: “You choose.”

ME: “OK. You narrow it down to three restaurants and I’ll pick two.”

HIM: “No, you pick two and then I’ll pick one from them.”

ME: “Oh, how about Chinese?”

HIM: “Uh, um, well, how about ….”

It goes on and on.

There are not that many restaurants in town to select from. At home, I use the same few recipes over and over. And the truth is, I just need to be fed. In just a few hours I’ll be hungry again. If I didn’t like the previous meal, I will have another chance to get something that will please my taste buds.

I let it happen for one of two reasons:

ONE: It’s a lot easier and we’re both a lot happier if I let him decide.

Sometimes, I just don’t want to make a decision about anything and all I want is for someone to choose for me. That’s usually when my brain and emotions are exhausted from making other decisions all day long and I’m spent; no longer capable of making a good decision.

Why, why, why, aren’t my side of daily conversations with God like that?

Every day God looks at me and says, “OK, what do you want to do today?”

My response is usually to present Him with a list of things on my agenda and my heart. I am often begging him to please, please, please, do something miraculous with what’s on my list.

I ask Him to take control.

But I hold tightly on to my list. I guess I expect Him to work within those parameters.

Why can’t I just say, “I don’t know, what do you want to do today, God?”

If I did, it would be a lot easier and we would both be a lot happier. I wouldn’t be limiting Him to my measly little list. He’s always capable of making the very best decision for me, no matter what state I’m in.

OK, God. What do You want to do today??

Now listen, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money." Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, "If it is the Lord's will, we will live and do this or that." James 4:13-15