Wednesday, February 25, 2009

It's just a small thing, really...

A couple of months ago in a Bible study session we were talking about how our society and culture has a way of making sin acceptable. Little by little we become more accustomed to a accepting a behavior as normal that once was thought of as sinful. It’s not an overnight thing. It happens gradually, so much so that we don’t even realize it’s happening. Little by little we become numb to the fact that sin has crept in without us realizing it. Even when we read words in the Bible that remind us that God considers the behavior sin, we still offer explanations of “cultural relevancy” or say something like “this is the 21st Century” or this “this is not the dark ages anymore.”

At that same Bible study session, I shared with the women about my personal example of this. The organization I work for leases office space in a bank. There is shared kitchen in the building that is just down the hall from my office, right across from the women’s restroom. The main reason I go in that kitchen is because there is an ice maker in the refrigerator. Ice is free, renewable resource, right? Yeah, I thought you would agree.

Sometimes I would go down the hall with the restroom as my main goal. When I finish up in the restroom, I realize I have forgotten to bring my cup so that I can fill it up with ice from the kitchen (I have my own drinks in my office). Right there on the kitchen counter are plastic disposable cups with the bright red and blue bank logo printed on them. I whine about not wanting to make a trip back to my office to get my own personal cup, so I fill one of the bank logo cups with ice from the ice maker.

After a time or two of using those cups, I began to get convicted about the fact that those aren’t my cups. I began to see it at stealing. A couple of the women in my Bible study group laughed at me and told me I must not have anything to do at work if all I’m worried about is plastic cups.

I am grateful that the temptation put in front of me was only plastic cups. But where would it lead? If I took cups, am I not capable of taking the coffee pot? If I took the coffee pot, I could take the table and chairs next. Before you know it, I could be robbing the bank vault.

Bank robbers don’t wake up one day and suddenly become bank robbers. It starts long before that. It’s those little things that they get by with that leads them to believe they can get by with even more.

It’s the little things.

Focusing more on those little things has changed my perspective some, and not thy way I thought it would.

Earlier this week I felt like such a failure. There was no major crash and burn event. I didn’t rob a bank, I didn’t cheat on my husband, I didn’t get fired from my job.

It was a series of little things. I ate things that weren’t really on my diet (that is no longer a diet because I ate those things!). I put off making a phone call that I needed to make. I had a long range project at work that is not fun, so I didn’t work on it for a couple of days. It was just a couple of days without very much success in being faithful to the little things.

I was miserable. I just wanted to cry.

I went down the hall to the restroom and to get some ice from the kitchen. I then realized I had my own cup in my hand. I grabbed it without even thinking about it. A small victory for me, but an enormous one for God because in that moment I saw that God is trying to show me HIS absolute faithfulness in all the little things, not condemn me about mine and the lack thereof.

Oh, hallelujah.

Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much. Luke 16:10

Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Microwave Move

When Scott and I got married, on the top of my gift registry list was a microwave. Not being much of a cook (and not much improvement since then either!), I simply HAD to had a microwave for all those easy meals that were in our future.

Because they were so pleased about us getting married, some of Scott’s family bought us the biggest, fanciest, most-bells and-whistles-ever-microwave they could find. It was a mighty fine, top of the line microwave. It was big and brown with a faux wood finish. Honestly, however, it had features I never figured out how to use, but that’s beside the point here.

We got married over 20 years ago, so it was a 1980’s model microwave. We still had that microwave when we moved into the house we live in now. That was 12 years ago.

The kitchen in this house is probably the smallest kitchen we have ever had any place we’ve ever lived. A friend described it as a galley and that’s exactly what it is. There is not really room for two people at the sink. You have to shut the refrigerator door to exit the kitchen. All of that is fine with me. Like I said, I’m not much of a cook so I don’t need much of a kitchen.

When we moved in to this little house and kitchen with our mighty microwave, there weren’t many options for its placement. We put it in the corner because that was the largest portion of counter space there was. That left little continuous counter space for anything else.

A couple of years after we had been in this house we bought a new microwave. We passed the old one on to another family member. The new one was a small, white, simple model that matched my cooking skills more appropriately. When we took the old one out, we put the new one in the exact same place on the counter and it’s been there ever since. I guess we did that because it was convenient and it was where the microwave had always been. I guess we forgot that size and space was the reason we chose that space initially. That’s been about 10 years or so by now.

Last week I stood in my little galley kitchen and all of a sudden it hit me. I realized the arrangement of appliances and utensils and other stuff on my counters made absolutely no sense. The microwave, the toaster, the blender, the electric can opener, and of course, some decorative Homer Laughlin Fiesta pieces… It was as if my eyes were finally opened and I was seeing their horribly inefficient placement for the very first time. It took me 10 years to realize it. I guess I’m not too quick on the uptake, huh?

So, I spent the President’s Day holiday the past Monday rearranging it all with space-saving efficiency as my top priority. Can I just say it? WOW. What a difference it makes. It’s like I have twice as much room now just by switching places with some things. I didn’t throw anything away, I just moved it around. I’m still surprised by all the extra room every time I walk in the kitchen. Let me say it again, WOW, what a difference. It’s still refreshing to see all that counter space.

Have you ever done that? Got used to something and lived with it for years before you woke up and realized there was a better way? Why do we let that happen? Well, it was easy. It was comfortable. It was convenient. There are a million other reasons. All of them have a way of disguising the fact that it just wasn’t right. When you finally see the light (and the extra counter space!), you wonder what took you so long to come around.

There are so many things in life like that. I just keep doing things because they seem to be working out OK the way they are. When some space opens up, I fill it with the next available thing without even considering how it might affect everything else around me.

The truth is, if I would open my eyes and take a good look around before I make any actions, I might just see a better way and the greater blessings in store. And I wouldn't waste 10 years doing it the hard way.

Open my eyes, Lord.

Say to those with fearful hearts, "Be strong, do not fear; your God will come, he will come with vengeance; with divine retribution he will come to save you." Then will the eyes of the blind be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped. Isaiah 35:4-5

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Change on the horizon and my excuse for everything

Friends, forgive me. It has been 7 days since my last confession…er, uh, blog post.

Never fear, however, because I have a very good, uh…excuse… for my slackness.

And, I might add, that it is such a fine reason/excuse that I’m going to be claiming it for every single one of my shortcomings over the next 10 years or so. No, really. Seriously.

Are you ready for this?

I can sum it up in one word.

Ok, now.

Here goes.


There. I said it. Out loud.

I haven’t actually had a hot flash yet. The cycle continues without interruption. The closest I come to having a night sweat is the warmth I experience from piling on too many clothes and blankets because the thermostat is set on, well, cold.

I may not technically be there yet, but I must be close.

I have one defining symptom that has me convinced and it is the fact that what used to work for me no longer does.

I used to be able to control how my body reacted, to some degree anyway. The whole diet and exercise thing used to work. It doesn’t any more. I promise. My fat does what it wants to. It now has a mind of its own. It had to, because I seem to have lost mine.

A solid 8 hours of sleep used guarantee my bright rise and shine morning self. Now, getting out of bed in the morning is the last thing I want to do first thing in the morning, no matter how many hours of sleep I’ve had. I need a nap. Now.

I used to be inspired by a good book because it would always increase my yearning to read more. Now, I have a hard time even finishing a book. I just can’t seem to concentrate on it for any length of time. I think they call it brain fog.

I used to get so absorbed working on a creative project that I would lose track of time. This past weekend I spent what seemed like hours in Michael’s craft store pouring over all the possibilities, then leaving the store empty handed because when I actually considered putting all that time and effort into something “homemade,” I grew weary just thinking about it.

I just can’t seem to do it anymore.

The other side of it is, I find myself doing things that I used to would not have been caught dead doing.

Like forgetting to mail the bills. I have never been a math person. The checkbook has always been my albatross, therefore, I was extra careful and diligent with it. Now, instead of crying over not being able to reconcile it, I just ignore it. Since I can’t concentrate on words or numbers for any length of time, I put it out of my mind completely. That seems to alleviate my stress.

I’ve also eaten Cocoa Pebbles. I don’t even really like chocolate all that much, but recently when I compared the labels on the Cocoa Pebbles box and the box of my standard wheat and oat cereal box I discovered that the difference in calories, fat grams, and sugar content was teensy-weensy, teeny tiny, minimal. So, I ate the Cocoa Pebbles because they made me feel like a kid instead of a fiber-eating geriatric. Do you think that’s why I keep gaining weight instead of losing it?

I have been late. I used to hate to be late. For anything. I wanted to be the first one there, not the last one. I never understood “fashionably late.” I was always the early bird. Now, at least once a day I’m late to something. It’s usually work. Which might have something to do with my inability to get out of bed any more.

So there it is.

I’m not the same person I used to be. My stamina and motivation is waning.

Who knows what or who I will become by the time this is all over.

There’s no telling what I will eat or read. Or not.

Maybe I’ll be able to stay awake and be the all-nighter kind of girl that I never was in college. That might be fun.

Whatever trouble I get myself into, I’m blaming menopause. From now on.

Then Jesus said to his disciples: "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. Life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest? Luke 12:22-26

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

I'm a toddler blogger now


It happens every year about this time.

It’s the shortest month in the entire year, but full of so many different things.

Like Groundhog Day. It always makes me laugh because it’s so absurd. And, they even made a movie about it, which also makes me laugh.

Then there is Valentine’s Day. I love hearts. I have several pieces of heart jewelry and lots of heart decorations around my house. Since I was a little slack in sending out Christmas cards back in December, I have tried to make up for it by sending out a few Valentine’s cards. That’s always fun becasue people aren't really expecting them.

February also brings a holiday for presidents. Well, not really FOR presidents, but in honor of them, celebrating all the cherry pie and not telling lies and wooden teeth. And reading books and theatre assassinations.

This year we have a new president, who is also African American. Which is another thing about February. It’s Black History month.

This year Lent begins in February. I’m not sure that’s always to the case, but it’s probably close.
On a personal level, February always makes me think of craniotomies. (If you want to know why, click here and read this). It’s funny how a personal experience will affect your perspective about something simple, like the weather conditions in February. It’s also funny how something random (like the weather) will trigger memories of that personal experience. For me, there’s something about a cold, brisk, sunshiny February day that always makes me think about a brain being exposed to the light of day. Weird, I know.

And, tomorrow, I’m celebrating something new in February. My first blogiversary. It’s been one year since my very first post. Wow. I can’t believe 12 months have gone by already.

I don’t even remember how I even got interested in blogging in the first place. It’s almost like I woke up one day and said, “I think I’ll start my own blog.” And I did.

I didn’t do it for any kind of supplemental income. I don’t have ads or sponsors or giveaways, so there is no money involved.

I didn’t do it to become a part of a larger community or to network and add to my contact list. I like to communicate but I prefer more intimate settings, not mass, global levels and not at light speed. I do not have a Facebook page, I don’t twitter. I don’t even really have a cell phone. (Well, OK, I have a prepaid phone with about 30 minutes on it that I carry in my purse just for emergencies. I don’t even know the phone number of it. I only use it to call my husband and it's turned off until I get ready to do that).

In the same vein, I didn’t start blogging to grow my own cult. By that I mean, I have no intentions of building a readership for some future book I want to write. There is no such book in my head. I also had no expectations about comments. By that I mean, I expected that there would be no comments. I know there are some readers because I get emails and face to face comments from some local friends. I love those of you who do read and I’m glad you’re along for the ride, but sorry, I didn’t really get into the blog thing to keep you informed and intrigued by the goings-on in my head. That’s just a bonus, for free.

The real fun is in reading other people’s blogs. I can’t tell you how many times in the last year I’ve been drawn in to other people’s lives that I have never met. Sometimes I get so absorbed in it that I think these bloggers live right in my own neighborhood and are my best friends. The blogosphere makes me believe it really is a small world after all. But at the same time, I have never met most of the people who write the blogs I read and I probably never will because they live half way around the world, which makes me feel small and the world too big. I had no idea about any of that that kind of duality this time last year.

All I know is a long time ago I used to be different. Somewhere along the way in living life and getting older, for one reason or another, I lost many of my creative outlets. My creativity, part of my heart and soul, just stayed inside longing for release. About a year or so ago, I began to think my head would explode from the internal build-up. Voilá! The blog spot for my brain overload was born.

Maybe if I keep at it for another year, I might figure out what in the world I’m really doing here. If you have any clue, leave me a comment. Or not. I love you anyway.

Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way. The Lord be with all of you. I, Paul, write this greeting in my own hand, which is the distinguishing mark in all my letters. This is how I write. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. 2 Thessalonians 3: 16-08

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

On my knees

I’ve had something on my mind all day today and I was just waiting for a little time to myself so I could sit down and write a post about it. But, that will have to wait. Something else has transpired that has outrun that first thing in my brain, and now I just have to tell you about this other thing instead of the first thing. I just need to share it with somebody, and you’re it.

So, here goes.

Back during the Christmas holidays one of the beautiful older ladies at church gave me a Ziploc bag of Amish Friendship Bread “starter.” She was so excited about it. She beamed and clucked about all the different varieties she had made. Some with peaches, some with nuts, coconut, bananas, and anything else she had on hand. I could tell she had been having a blast playing around with this stuff. It sounded like all of her experiments were success stories.

The Ziploc bag of starter is mushy and stinky. It stays in that bag for 10 days and over those ten days there are certain days you’re supposed to add more ingredients to it. The days in between ingredient additions, you are supposed to knead the bag. On day 10, you mix in some more ingredients, then measure out 4 more starter bags to give your friends. After that, with the mixture that is left, you add yet even more ingredients and bake it.

And just so you know, to me, it’s not technically bread. It has a lot of sugar and pudding and stuff like that in it, so it is more like cake.


I am not a baker. The extent of my baking skills ends with canned biscuits and Martha White muffin mix packets. Scott is the real baker in my house, and he only bakes one cake per year – on my birthday. But, this woman’s joy was contagious so I took the Ziploc bag with gratitude and high hopes for that same kind of joy.

With all the holiday hoopla, I lost track where I was in the 10 days. I didn’t know if the ingredient adding day had passed or not. That will teach me to write things down. Maybe. I finally gave up and threw the bag in the garbage the day after New Year’s. I was a little embarrassed and defeated, but also somewhat secretly relieved. In the back of my mind I knew it would never bring me the joy it brought the woman who gave it to me. I hoped that she would lose track with all the holiday excitement too and forget to ask me about it.

No such luck.

She asked and I had to come clean about putting it in the garbage. She said she had plenty more and would bring me another starter bag. Which she did. Only this time she brought it to me on Day 9, so all I had to do was bake it the next day. She even said I could wait up to two days to bake it.

That was Sunday. Today is Tuesday. I HAD to bake it today. I had to stop by the grocery store on the way home to get oil and baking soda. After that, I scrambled home to get busy and git ‘er done. I wasn’t interested in having fun. I just wanted to finish the job so I could tell my friend that I had finally accomplished the deed.

In my haste, I was not careful about being neat and tidy. I kept thinking to myself, “I’ll clean it all up when I get this baby in the oven.” Which I did.

I washed the mixing bowls and measuring cups and wiped down the counter. Then I noticed a drip of batter on the lower cabinet, so I bent down to reach it. Once I bent down, I noticed some flour on the floor. I got down on my knees with a Clorox wipe to get the flour up off the floor.

As I knelt there on my knees I saw a few coffee grounds specks that didn’t make it into the pot, fell to the floor and were collecting in the corner. On my knees, I saw a dried up drip of who-knows-what staining the white cabinet door under my sink. On my knees, I noticed all the tiny crumbs on my floor I couldn’t see when I was standing upright. On my knees, I saw the dust and dirt on the baseboards under the cabinets. On my knees, I saw the nasty dirt stains on my floor.

On my knees.

That’s when it dawned on me. Sometimes it takes getting on my knees to really see my own dirt clearly. All the stuff that’s messed up about my life, all the bad choices I’ve made, the responsibilities and opportunities I’ve ignored, my personal failures due to my own stupidity, all the stuff I want to hide - - when I get on my knees before Jesus, He shows me these things more clearly than ever before. He points these things out to me to give me perspective. He brings them to my attention to remind me that the only thing I need to do about them is to admit they are mine. Then give them to Him.

When I get on my knees before Jesus my perspective changes. I see things a little more like He does. Not only do I see how big my pile of dirt is, I also see that great big pile as somewhat of a measurement of the forgiveness He has for me.

I can’t see it that clearly when I’m standing on my own two feet.

Only on my knees.

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Philippians 2:9-11

Monday, February 2, 2009

Phil-ing the love

Late last night at the end of another long Sunday, I sat on the couch for a few minutes of mind-numbing TV. I found a channel airing the movie “Groundhog Day.” That movie is one of my favorites, so I pulled some blankets and pillows up around me and settled into my little nest to watch.

If you haven’t seen it, the movie is about Phil Connors, a weatherman that is sent to cover the Punksutawney Phil shadow-seeing –groundhog event on Feb. 2. He has covered this assignment so many times that it has long lost its luster to Phil. He does it begrudgingly. He wants to just do the job and go home. No enthusiasm. A snow storm that he predicted would miss the area hit hard and their news crew had to stay an extra day. Phil finds himself in some a kind of time warp that keeps looping the same Groundhog Day over and over. The radio alarm clock goes off with a Sonny and Cher song blaring at 6 AM every day. And everything is the same as the day before. People are doing and saying exactly the same things as the day before. And the day before that, and the day before that.

Everything is the same except Phil. He’s the only one aware that everything is the same day as the day before. Knowing how things are going to turn out, Phil initially tries to take advantage of situations to benefit him and only him. By the end, he finds that using the foreknowledge to help others and save them from dangerous situations is eventually what gets him out of the loop.

It’s one of those goofy movies that, if you try hard enough, you can also find some inspiration and meaning in it. Smart and stupid, all in the same movie. Just my speed.

When I turned on the TV last night the movie was about midway through. I was already tired when I sat down on the couch, so it really didn’t take long for me to nod off. When I woke up a couple of hours later, I saw the same scenes I was watching when I first sat down. I almost felt like I was in the loop.

Turns out it was a Groundhog Day marathon and the channel was showing the movie back-to back again and again. Appropriate programming I suppose, given the fact that today really is Groundhog Day and all.

My alarm clock was set for 6 AM this morning. When it went off, I half expected to hear that Sonny and Cher song blaring.

It is so easy to get caught up in the loop. To keep doing the same things every day. That is especially easy when your focus is yourself. Me only circles back to Me. If my focus in on someone else, then it’s not a circled cycle, it’s a directional arrow.

So today, on this Groundhog day, I’m going to try to put down the hula hoop loop and start checking my quiver for those directional arrows, and to hopefully begin to focus outward more instead of inward so much.

Just saying the words quiver and arrows makes me think about Valentine’s Day, which is only 12 days away, and a really good day to show some extra love to others. And that makes me very happy.

Love y’all.

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Romans 12:9-11