Saturday, December 8, 2012

An "All is Calm, All is Bright, Heavenly Peace" kind of Christmas

Ha... all those Christmas songs and stories that waft through the air at Christmas time are just a joke.  I mean, really, who has time to sit by the fireplace in a little log cabin somewhere in the middle of an evergreen forest.  Yeah, it's a nice dream to think about cuddling up in a fuzzy blanket, sipping warm drinks, staring romantically into a special someone's eyes, and taking horse-drawn sleigh rides at night with light snowflakes softly drifting to the ground. 

BUT- reality is- every day from November until Christmas Day finds me creating dozens of lists, scurrying from store to store, frantically cleaning the house from top to bottom to eliminate even the tiniest particles of dirt, pulling down the boxes of decorations from the attic, and baking until I can barely stand the sight of flour.  There's family get-togethers, parties, church programs, and caroling.  I carefully map out each day with a list of things to get done.  Monday- houseclean the kitchen and bathroom.  Tuesday- houseclean the bedrooms.  Wednesday through Friday- bake twenty dozen of cookies.  Oh, the utter mental agony that awaits me if I do not fully complete my item of to-dos.  I mean, it is even hard to go to sleep with all the things that need to be accomplished jumbling around in my head. 

AND THEN...I WAS HIT HARD.  Well, not literally, thankfully; but I was jolted back to what Christmas is really about when I started realizing that I wasn't enjoying the little moments around me.  What happened to celebrating the baby born in the manger, strengthening family relationships, and growing closer to my friends?  I have been so busy that I haven't even been appreciating all the "gifts" that are around me at Christmas time. 

So, this Christmas, I won't stress out if my Sunday School class makes mistakes during the Christmas program; instead I will soak in the excited looks on their faces and remember how special this time of year was when I was a child.  I won't worry if I don't get all the kinds of cookies made that I was intending to; instead I will take joy in the fact of being able to create some holiday cheer in a little round circle of dough.  I won't focus so much on cleaning that I forget to tell my family that I love them.  And when I am with my friends, I will try to keep my mind on what they are saying instead of absentmindedly listening with my ears while my head is spinning and trying to keep my plans in order. 

Yup, that sounds like the kind of Christmas that will mean the most.  The kind of Christmas that isn't focused on me and my plans, but on the ones around me.

Today is a good day to start.  I think I will eliminate some of the needless jobs that I was intending to do and instead spend quality time with my brother, give my mother a hug, tell Dad that I appreciate him and all he does, text my friends to see how they are doing, make some hot chocolate, pull out a good classic that I haven't read for awhile, turn on my colorful snowman decoration that I loved when I was little, fill the bathtub with lots of bubbles, light some candles, listen to the Messiah, and have a date night with the One Who made Christmas possible.

This year, I will have a "Silent Night" Christmas.  It will be an "all is calm, all is bright, heavenly peace" kind of a Christmas!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Tribute Paper to Grandma

This is the paper that I had the privilege to write for Grandma's viewing and funeral.  Hopefully this is a small way that I can do one last special thing for her.

Edith Rebecca Newswanger Seibel Good
On June 30, 1925, Amos and Lydia introduced their baby girl, Edith, to the world. Edith enjoyed her childhood days with her brothers and sisters- Walter, Paul, Elsie, Raymond, Amos Jr., Lester, Robert, Richard, and Anna. She admired her strict yet fun-loving father and her bubbly mother.

As an adult, she would often like to talk about what it was like growing up in the Great Depression and World War II. In 1937, she made the most important decision in her life when she accepted Christ at revival meetings and was later baptized. She made another important decision when she decided to court a young man named Leonard Seibel. They were married on April 5, 1947, and she filled all the duties of a wife while also holding a job at a shoe factory. She was soon to be called Mother when she brought her fist child into the world in 1948. The rest followed in 1949, 1950, 1951, 1954, 1955, 1958, 1960, and 1966. With nine children to keep fed, clothed, and schooled, her days were filled from morning to evening. Soon, she watched as her children started to find partners and make their own homes.

One would think that her life would have slowed down once she no longer had her children to care for, but she made sure it did not. She quilted with church sewing circles, she went swap meeting to buy items- wash them up- and resell them, she had a stand for Spring Glen Foods, and she lovingly created scrapbooks for each of her forty-one grandchildren. She enjoyed going to Kmart blue special sales and stocking up on clothing articles to give to Christian Aid Ministries. Christmas, birthday parties, and family reunions were highlights in her life. She loved to be surrounded by her children, grandchildren, and now seventy-seven great- grandchildren. On May 29, 2001, her husband, Leonard, passed away, leaving her a widow.

She married Paul Good in March 22, 2003, and started a new path in life. She also gained five more children, twenty-seven grandchildren, and seventy-six great-grandchildren through the remarriage. A few years later, she started to become afflicted with dementia. It frustrated her to not be able to remember things anymore. Her condition continued to worsen until Paul could no longer care for her. She was moved to her daughter, Shirley Martin’s place. She experienced a lot of confusion, anxiety, and nervousness; but on her good days, she was able to enjoy the animals around the place and walks outside.

At age eighty-seven on September 4, 2012, she was peacefully called Home. She had faced quite a few hardships in life, but now she can truly sing one of her favorite songs, “…Sweet home of the happy and free; Fair haven of rest for the weary, How beautiful Heaven must be.”

Children’s Memories:

Edith: Mom was very practical, not a complainer about circumstances of life, whether it was physical or otherwise. She worked hard to provide for her family. I’m very thankful for her example to make the best of what life brings your way. I will always remember her ready smile.

Jane: She taught me what it was to be a good hostess. She loved company and always gave them the best of everything- from offering the nicest chairs to making a huge meal and seeing that they got enough. Whenever she was invited way, she would make sure to take an apron along so she could help clean up and do the dishes.

Laverne: I was Mom’s kitchen helper, and I also was able to help her with swap meets for about ten years. I will never forget how she could take horrible-looking things and turn them into beautiful items. She especially had a talent for transforming teddy bears. She loved to iron and was indeed the best ironer in the world.

Darlene: The first memory I think of when I think of Mom was the time when there were three of us children in bed for three months with nephritis. How she could be so patient and caring, I can not fathom. The doctor said that we should have been in the hospital but he knew Mom would be a good nurse; so he let us stay at home under Mom’s care. I also remember Mom as the best cook; though we were poor, she could make food out of nothing. I still get hungry for her good meals.

Shirley: My memory of Mom that I would like to share is from some of the last times I had with her. For the last four months, she stayed at my place. I still remember how she loved the animals when we would take walks outside. That was a highlight in her life.

Lydia: Mom would sometimes buy us hand-blown animals. Those were so special to me. As a child, I also looked forward to when she would get candy and divide it out for us. She was a very sweet mother.

Margie: Mom always kept us well cared for with clean clothing and good food.

Dale: After my first wife, Joyce, died and I was widower with young children, Mom would walk to my place every morning (five days a week for three years) to make breakfast, dress the children, make sure they got to school, do the dishes, and baby sit Doris until the older children got back from school in the afternoon. I also remember that she helped me a lot with my homework when I was a boy.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

The collector and the tea cup

I don't know if I really qualify to have the title "Collector".  That name brings images to my mind of scavenging squirrels stocking up on their supply of acorns--- or I could word it in a regular and boring way and say--- that name brings images to my mind of dedicated individuals searching and collecting certain items of their interests of which they are very knowledgeable. 

Well, I only have eight bone china tea cups and saucers, and I really do not know much about them; but I guess I will award myself the term of "Collector" for this post (it sounds a lot more professional, don't you think?). 

Why am I writing about my collection of bone china tea cups?  Basically, it is because I was awoken to the rude reality of realization. 

Whenever I visit a thrift shop or antique store and see a neglected bone china tea cup and saucer, I pull it from its dusty confines and speculate on the great find I just made.  I can picture myself holding a $2,000 item in my hand that someone had overlooked and sold for $.50.  I take my precious treasure home, wash it up, gently display it in my room, and look on it with pride- waiting for the day when the discovery will be made that I could be a millionaire if I would allow my fine collection to be placed in a grand museum.

But today, I finally decided to try to locate the value of my collection by myself and put a little work into bringing in my extreme wealth (since no museum had called me up yet).  I wrote down every little piece of information I could find, and I memorized the pattern print, and I sat down at the computer to embark on the information dig.

The more I looked and scanned the pages, the sadder I became.  I started to see my million dollars drift away and vanish.  No museum would be knocking on my door and begging for the china cup that an empress had lifted to her lips, or the china cup that was the only one of its kind to survive a major rickshaw wreck as it was being transported in a big wooden box.

Alas, my imaginings were all in vain.  Heartbreaking, isn't it?, when you find out what you have isn't going to buy that vacation trip around the world or build that cute chalet in the Alps. 

It is so easy to pick up the "strike it rich" mentality.  I see advertisements all the time that proclaim that their business will make you rich in just a few days if you follow their simple guidelines or sell their amazing products.  I stand behind lots of people eagerly scratching their lottery cards hoping for "The Big Win."  There's t.v. shows proclaiming lots of money to the person that can just get the answer right.

This nation hopes and dreams for instant wealth for two reasons:  1. They are tired of working hard and would rather lay back and let a lucky win keep them comfy for the rest of their lives and 2. They can't possibly acquire all their "wants" without the cash to buy them.

Since when did it become such an awful thing to work hard and buy just the basic items of food, some clothes, and a place to live?  Why does there have to be the best of phones, computers, cars, vacations, homes, stocks, and retirement tacked on as needs and requirements to live a happy life?

All I have seen come from the search of "instant wins" and "lucky breaks" is a bunch of unhappy people spending more money on trying to win than what their chances are of ever getting it back. 

Don't get me wrong.  I am one of the firmest believers of dreaming big and reaching for the stars, but I believe that it should be done on hard work and not just the chance of luck.  Besides, wouldn't we be happier if we just do our best and let God take care of the rest?

Well, that's all that this tea cup collector has to say for this week.  Blessings for your journey until I cross your path next week!  (And don't forget to drink your tea) 

Thursday, August 23, 2012

The Departure

I am one of those sentimental persons.  I can play a c.d. of Tchaikovsky, light a few candles, watch the rain falling outside my window, and start becoming melancholy about anything. 

However, I did not have to do any of that to get this sad, lonely feeling that is abiding inside of me right now. 

That happened all by itself when I started thinking about the loss of a very special friend that will be taking place tomorrow evening. 

Oh, I know she is not dying; and I will hopefully see her in a year or so; but I still can not help feeling a little depressed about the situation.

My very dear friend has been called to Grenada for the next two years to teach school.  I couldn't be more proud of her, but I really am going to miss her.  Isn't it funny how you take your friends for granted when you can see them every week?  A youth activity, supper together, or a sleepover were just a normal occurence.  I was so used to seeing her- that I didn't think twice about it. 

Now I really wish I had enjoyed those times together more.  It really makes you stop and appreciate something when you know it will be taken from you.  Why is it so hard to get my brain geared to the simple activity of thanking God daily for all the blessings He puts in my life???  Why is it so easy to forget to tell my friends and family how wonderful they are??? 
 So, Amanda, if you happen to read this little post, I want you to know.... that even though I may have never told you this very often, I am so glad that God placed you in my life! 

 And I also wish you all of God's blessings as you depart from home and enter into an exciting new journey.

"May God give you...
For every storm, a rainbow,
For every tear, a smile,
For every care, a promise,
And a blessing in each trial.
For every problem life sends,
A faithful friend to share,
For every sigh, a sweet song,
And an answer for each prayer."

Friday, July 20, 2012

Cobweb: The Unloved Kitten

It all started when the family decided that we would rather have cats roaming our property than mice. 

The traps and mouse bait just didn't seem to be doing the trick of eliminating those scurrying creatures; so my brother and I embarked on a kitten finding expedition. 

It didn't take us long to drive to a home that had  big sign out front reading "Free Kittens".  We parked the truck and got out to see what little fuzzy-wuzzy kittens we would be taking home with us. 

We soon found out that these kittens were wild with limited human contact. 

Oh well, we figured.  We were there now; so we might as well find the best ones and see what we could do with them. 

The lady that owned the kittens proceeded to try to catch the three that we picked out.  That was a crazy adventure in itself.  The kittens would run and hiss and scratch- it wasn't a pretty picture. 

When it was finally all done and said and the renegades had been captured, we had a black and white kitten, a long-haired grey kitten, and a grey-striped kitten all riding home with us in a box. 

On the way back to our place, we came across another "Free Kittens" sign; and decided to check out these kittens.  At this farm, there were some young children outside playing; and they easily picked up two of the cutest little kittens that they had named Butterscotch and Princess. 

Well, we just couldn't resist a lil' blondie and a multi-colored rascal; so we added another two kittens to our collection. 

We finally arrived home without anymore stops and proceeded to make a home for the kittens in the back, unused room of our office.  We figured that we would keep them there until they got older and more used to us.  We opened the box, and the strangest collection of kittens came hurrying out.  Immediately the wild ones all fled to corners to take refuge from these strange humans.

We easily assigned names to our new pets.  Panther was the black and white kitten, Napoleon was the grey-striped, Butterscotch was the Blondie, and Princess was the multi-colored.  Lastly, we decided to call the very wildest kitten Cobweb, since he was busy sleeking through the corners and catching uncleaned spiderwebs in his long hair. 

Butterscotch and Princess had no trouble at all adjusting to human contact.  They were busy winding around our legs wanting attention.  After a little, Napoleon started to cautiously approach us.  Eventually we could pet him; and after that he became a little bit of a pest!  It seems he must want to make up for his childhood of no affection; because he insists on being pampered.  If you stop petting him, he starts to meow a pitiful cry until someone takes pity on him and gives him more love.

So we had three for us and two against us.  Panther and Cobweb still clung to the shadows of solitude.  We kept showing attention to the others, supplying them with fresh food and milk, and showing up day after day to spend time with the group. 

I started to notice that Panther would get closer and closer each time.  She would just sit and watch while the other three would be getting petted.  Their contented purring seemed to strike up a longing inside of her.

Finally, the day arrived when she made the step forward.  She cautiously approached my hand.  I slowly moved my hand towards her, afraid that any sudden movement would send her scampering away.  A smile spread across my face when I finally got to pet her.  She moved closer and actually started to purr!  A thrill of success and achievement crowned my heart with victory. 

Cobweb still was untrusting.  She could see that all the rest were safe and happy, but she just couldn't give in to trust.  Eventually she started to sit closer and closer to me; she even sniffed my brother's hand one time when it was his turn to care for them.

But she still hasn't totally lost all her fear and mistrust.  Only time will tell if love and patience will triumph.  I am hoping that it will.  One day, I trust that Cobweb will be just like the other kittens.      

Cobweb's reactions really started me thinking the last couple of days.  She reminds me like the thousands and millions of children that have been abused or neglected or forced to survive in the foster care system.  She has seen so much that is the opposite of love, that she can't actually recognize love. 

She hangs in the shadows hoping that no one will pay attention to her; while at the same time, wishing someone would.  She hisses and scratches the ones who approach her; because she doesn't want to be hurt again.  Her trust has been broken so many times, and is not easily repaired.  She envies the ones that are receiving kindness, but yet she can't seem to break down the wall that separates her from them. 

Children's faces line my mind's eye when I think of Cobweb.  The tears well up in my eyes when I think about all the little souls that are living in the shadows of solitude like Cobweb does. 

Those children are condemned or ridiculed when they lash out; people give up on them; they are the ones called by the world as hopeless and not standing a chance. 

Perhaps all they need is someone who is willing to take the time----lots and lots of time---- to just be there for them, to just be a caring presence in their life.  Not someone who forces acceptance or love; but someone who is willing to wait and wait and wait until the child slowly approaches and breaks down their wall of fear and mistrust. 

It's hard to be that person; because it hurts when the child hisses or scratches you- even though you are devoting all your time and love and attention to help them.  It frustrates you to see the child sitting in the corner and shutting the world out.

However, God is there.  If He sees the little sparrow fall, He cares so much more for those little hurting lives that fill the world today.  He wraps His arms around every child that is living in the shadows, that is trying to run from the pain.  He can see and feel their pain, and will bless the ones that are trying to help the hurting lives around them.  He will give grace to the giver, and love to the server, and fortitude to the ones that persevere.  Parents, teachers, caregivers, sunday school teachers- - - He will give you the patience and endurance to be there for "Cobweb: The Unloved Kitten" until she starts to trust and love again!


Thursday, July 12, 2012

THROUGH the EYES of A child

This week is Vacation Bible School at our church.  I always look forward to this time of year.  The energy is running high, there's children's voices in every part of the church, and the outside is full of warm evening air and dancing lightning bugs. 

Sometimes it is easy to just focus on getting the lesson taught, the songs sung, and the snack fed to the bouncing tiggers seated around me.  I tend to forget that these little minds should be my teachers.

Perhaps I should try to put myself in their tiny butterfly sandals and see through their eyes again.  Adulthood has a way of changing a person....we tell ourselves it is for the better....but sometimes I really wonder if that is true?  What could I really learn if I would get down on their level? 

The little boy that won't stay quiet while I'm teaching the lesson isn't afraid to talk to anyone.  Why do I hesitate to start a conversation with people that make me feel uncomfortable?

The little girl that is randomly coloring on everything but what she should be has learned that sometimes black and white routines need a bit of rainbow.  Why do I settle for using blacks and browns instead of coloring with crayola "mango tango" and "electric lime" on the things that God calls me to do?

The quiet child that I tend to overlook has maybe just seen her parents fight or her siblings do drugs.  Why do I get slightly irritated at the defensive wall she has built instead of caring about her fears and heartaches?

The boy that stands gazing at the ducks, regardless of the fact that his teacher is in a hurry, has found that sometimes you learn more by observing than by rushing.  Why do I always scurry around loudly and frantically when I could be enjoying the small joys of life?

The girl that always grabs her teacher's hand when we go for a walk has discovered that friendship is one of the best things in life.  Why do I take my friends for granted and pick out their flaws instead of their good points?

Isn't it interesting that Jesus says that we must become as little children to enter the kingdom of Heaven?

If God could give me their eyes for just a little while, maybe I could see life more clearly.  Maybe I could feel their hurts- and see what they are going through- and start to actually care more about them as individuals than if we get our papers glued properly. 

Maybe I would adapt some of that childlike humility and joy and love if I could see through the eyes of a child.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

The moral of the Chocolate Chip Cookie

  It all started when I was making some chocolate chip cookies last week. 

I had on my white apron; the oven was warming up; I had the cookie sheets all greased and ready; and the wooden spoon was in my hand. 

I started to get out the ingredients I needed.  It was all the basics - like- brown sugar, white sugar, eggs, water, baking soda, baking powder, flour, and chocolate chips.  My recipe book was laying open, and my attention was focused on making sure I followed every step properly.  I absentmindedly picked up the one-cup measuring container and put in the correct amount of white sugar and brown sugar; but when I went to add in the eggs....well, let's just say that there was quite a commotion. 

Brown Sugar started it all, "Well, what do we have here?  Some ole' runny Eggs coming into our territory and trying to cut in on our business!" 

Of course, White Sugar couldn't keep her mouth shut, "That's right, Brownie, we have someone that thinks they are mighty important.  Takes alot of nerve to show up looking the way they do." 

"Enough!  We have every right to be here.  I'd say that we're one of the most important ingredients there could be in chocolate chip cookies," remarked the irritated Eggs.

"Ha!  One of the most important?  You are one vain ingredient.  Everyone knows that the most important part of chocolate chip cookies is the chocolate chips," scoffed the Chocolate Chips from the counter where they lay.

"Well, most important or not, I don't think anyone should be in this bowl but the Sugar family," replied Brown Sugar.  "Our family goes way back.  The Sugars are renowned and well-known throughout the generations of time."

"Noone knows about baking and chocolate chip cookies more than we do," piped in Baking Soda and Baking Powder.  "If everyone would just go back to their place in the cupboard and let us in control, we would have the best cookies out there." 

I would like to keep dialoguing the conversation for you; but the argument became so heated with everyone talking at once, that it would be nearly impossible to recollect everything that was said. 

I then knew that I needed to intervene and try to work out this problem before all my ingredients became so overheated in the process that I would never get my chocolate chip cookies done. 

"Time out!" I yelled as I waved my wooden spoon in the air. 

There was a dead silence as everyone turned to look at me. 

"You all think that you know best, that you are the best, and that you don't need each other.  Well, we are just going to see exactly how grand and special you are on your very own.-------------It's time to hold a baking contest!" I announced with a twinkle in my eye.

Cheers erupted as each ingredient boasted of a sure win.  I started to get out more bowls.  In one- I placed Baking Soda and Baking Powder, in another- the Eggs, in a third- the Chocolate Chips, and fortunately for the dishwasher (which was myself)- White and Brown Sugar already had their bowl.  I then came to Water.

"I don't want to be by myself," he remarked.  "I'm not anything special.  I can't do anything.  Just leave me out of this." 

I didn't reply to his remark, but kept it in the back of my head. 

"On your mark, get set, go!" I said.

Oh, what happened next brought tears of laughter to my eyes.  How I wish you could see the way they acted.  The Sugars sat there and thought and thought about how would be the best way to go about this; the Eggs swirled and swirled around in the bowl with no result except getting whipped up in a frenzy; the Chocolate Chips didn't do a thing- thinking that they were enough just as they were; and Baking Soda was barking orders to Baking Powder which ended up confusing them both.

When I could see that they were exhausted and quiet (after about twenty minutes), I took them all and poured them in my mixing bowl and started to stir and stir them together.  I finally added in Water to the mixture telling him that he was actually quite needed to this process, put the dough on sheets and stuck them in the oven.  After fifteen minutes, soft and gooey chocolate chips were cooling on my counter. 

So all that to say, that, even though I wish my ingredients were so talkative and interesting; none of that really did happen.  But I couldn't help but think about what it would be like if that were true.  For devotions last week, I read in

1 Corinthians 12:12-27

King James Version (KJV)
12 For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ.
13 For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.
14 For the body is not one member, but many.
15 If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body?
16 And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body?
17 If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling?
18 But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him.
19 And if they were all one member, where were the body?
20 But now are they many members, yet but one body.
21 And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you.
22 Nay, much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary:
23 And those members of the body, which we think to be less honourable, upon these we bestow more abundant honour; and our uncomely parts have more abundant comeliness.
24 For our comely parts have no need: but God hath tempered the body together, having given more abundant honour to that part which lacked.
25 That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another.
26 And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it.
27 Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.

Until we work together as ONE INGREDIENT instead of separate ones, we will never get those chocolate chip cookies made.  And not one ingredient is more or less important than the rest. 

I think I will try to think of that each time I reach for a chocolate chip cookie.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Stars and Sparkles

"There's nothing better in life than to just be the little star you were meant to be and sparkle in the spot in space where God put you. It may not seem like much at the time, but your whole-hearted shine will give the world a brighter night."

It was one of those days. 

Did you ever read Pilgrim's Progress?  Well, sometimes I can sympathize with Christian locked away in Doubting Castle by Giant Despair. 

I was laying in my bed last night and started the whole self-pity thing.  Now if you have ever had any experience with a selfish self-pity, you know that it usually gets worse and worse.  My mind started out with how my life is so boring...i try to plan fun things to do, but no one wants to do them...if there are parties, I'm left one ever cares about me....everyone thinks I'm weird....and well, I think you got the point. 

But of course, I didn't stop there.  You can't stop with just that when you're on a steady roll of depressing thoughts. 

I then started to think that no one really likes me, and I thought about how there are at least one-hundred and one reasons why people shouldn't like me.  My nose is too big, my quirks are too strange, my personality is too loud and obnoxious (okay, I won't list all one-hundred and one reasons for time's sake- you get the idea). 

The next step of my pity party was to start thinking about how my life is so meaningless.  
By now I was sure I would be spreading the love of God in some foreign, disease-stricken land, or rescuing sex slaves from the brothels of a mystique Asian country, or caring for orphans that have been neglected or unloved.  I mean if I would die tomorrow because of a spinning tornado or crashing plane, I would have not even made a difference in this life.  Really, all I do is work for the family business and go to church every Sunday---that sounds like a real booming life, right?! 

Sounding like Eeyore yet? 

Well, that's about how I was feeling. 

And then I started thinking about stars.  Yup, that's strange to start thinking about stars when you are self-pitying yourself; but what can I say, my mind is afflicted with A.D.H.D.  I started thinking about all the thousands and millions and trillions of stars in the night sky.  What if one of those tiny, far-away stars started to think that she was of no importance, that she doesn't make a difference, that she doesn't matter?  Her misery would slowly cloud over her until not even the faintest of light would sparkle anymore. 

But instead, those stars are just happy with the little space where God put them.  They may not feel like they are doing anything grand, especially when they look around them at the big ole' planets spinning and dancing.  

However, they realize that as long as they let their light sparkle as brightly as they possibly can, they are making a difference.  They add a bit of light to the darkest of nights. 

Then God told me----

That even though I may not feel like I'm worth anything or making a difference, as long as I'm following Him and giving my sparkliest best wherever I am, I am worth the whole world to Him.  No, I may not be on the mission field like a Mary Slessor, but I can reach out to the ones around me.  No, I may not be rescuing young girls like an Amy Carmichael, but I can pray for them.  No, I may not be helping orphans like a Gladys Alward, but I can share the money I make with the ones who are helping them.  Besides, what good does it do to sit around in self-pity?  That is pure selfishness when I focus on myself and my problems- instead of what I could be doing for God and others. 

So with that, God gave me the key to exit my little dungeon of despair. 

All through the thought of a little star somewhere way up in the night sky that just kept on sparkling!   

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Skunks and Peanut Butter

I do believe that life will never be boring in this household.  Who would think that a mother, father, brother, (and me, of course), a yellow parakeet, and two dogs could be so interesting?  I could probably fill page after page of some of the escapades that goes on in my little area of life.

One of the most recent adventures included a skunk and our two dogs.

Ever since we moved into our home (which has now been about a year and a half), we have had the pleasure of being able to sit on our front porch and enjoy the pleasant smell of skunk spray wafting on the summer breeze--- or being able to eat dinner while the gentle fragrant odors of the neighborhood vermin fill our nostrils.

So our easy conclusion, from the scents we smelled on many an evening, was that we had moved into a community that was harboring skunks.  We probably wouldn't have minded as badly if the skunks would have kept far away; but no, they had to tramp around our private property.

And that is where the dogs enter the story.  Our dogs are pretty pampered and spoiled; they are allowed to have free roam of the whole backyard.  They exercise their territorial rights very well, and guard their land to the extreme.  Any low-flying bird or innocent bunny that wanders too closely into the realm of "The Dogs" will soon regret their trespassing.  Animals talk in hushed whispers of the viciousness that lives within the backyard.  They school their children to fear those two big mammals with sharp teeth and low growls. 

Well, it so happens that Mr. Skunk decided to risk the chance of entering the feared domain.  Who knows why?  I never got the chance to ask him.  Perhaps he was trying to be brave and daring and show off to his friends; perhaps he was coming home from work and decided to take a shortcut; perhaps he thought dog food would make a better meal than his usual courses.  Perhaps he never had the true fear he should have.  You know how skunks can be.  They seem to think they are the masters of the animal world because of their stinky weapons. 

Whatever the reason was, Mr. Skunk should have never given into the temptation to enter the forbidden realm of "The Dogs." 

There was not even a body left to send home to his family for a proper burial.  There were only a few pieces of fur to be kept in remembrance.

Like people, skunks do not always learn from experience.  After such a terrible tragedy, why would you even let the thought of entering the territory of "The Dogs" enter your mind?  Oh, the powers of temptations- they make the strongest of us fall. 

Let me explain myself.  In the back yard, I also keep a garden.  In the garden lives a groundhog, protected from the dogs by the bamboo fence that surrounds it.  My ever-caring brother decided to catch Grandpa Groundhog for me by setting a cage trap.  He carefully set it up and applied a big hunk of peanut butter inside to lure the annoying creature. 

Grandpa Groundhog was too smart for that little trick, but Miss Skunkette just had to get a taste of that peanut butter.  Inside she went, and down came the door.  She was trapped.  When the dogs realized that there was a trapped skunk in their midst, they of course were delighted.  But how can you get at a caged skunk?  They were trying to figure that out when Miss Skunkette decided that she had had enough of this craziness and let loose her beautiful aroma.  Dog 1 was smart enough to stay in front of Miss Skunkette, but Dog 2 received the full blast.  Needless to say, he was not a very happy dog or a very good-smelling one.

And so ends my little story.  The dogs lived on, but the skunk didn't.  Dog 1 never suffered a bit; however, Dog 2 is still living with the every-present cologne of Skunk.

So the moral of the story is simply this: Never give into the temptation of peanut butter- for its powers hold a sway that not many can overcome!  

Friday, June 1, 2012

FoRgIvEnEsS- yup that's a hard one

  I just had to share this.  Every night for devotions, the family reads a little story out of a 365-day devotional about Christians and Martyrs.  We happened to read about Anne Askew last night.  It really made me stop and think about FoRgIvEnEsS. 
  Anne Askew was a woman separated from her family, kicked out of her house by her husband, and taken to the Tower of London because of her Protestant beliefs.  There she was forced on the rack and tortured constantly.  She would faint from the pain; so the torturers would lower her, wait for a little, and start torturing her again once she revived.  She was racked so much that she was crippled from the ordeal.  From there, she was eventually carried to the stake and burnt as a heretic.  This was the prayer she prayed before she left this earth.  
  "O Lord, I have more enemies now, than there be hairs on my head! Yet, Lord, let them never overcome me with vain words, but fight thou, Lord, in my stead: for on Thee cast I my care! With all the spite they can imagine, they fall upon me, who am Thy poor creature. Yet, sweet Lord, let me not set by them that are against me; for in Thee is my whole delight. And, Lord, I heartily desire of Thee, that, Thou wilt, of Thy most merciful goodness, forgive them that violence which they do, and have done unto me; open also Thou their blind hearts, that they may hereafter do that thing in Thy sight, which is only acceptable before Thee, and to set forth Thy verity aright, without all vain fantasies of sinful man. So be it, 0 Lord, so be it "
Anne Askew. 1546

  After being put through physical and emotional pain, Anne forgave her torturers!  All anyone has to do to me is simply say the wrong thing to me, take something that I thought should have been mine, or even treat me with less respect than I thought I deserve--- and I become this uptight, grumpy, grudge-bearing, unforgiving MarJanita.  I can't imagine if I would have been in Anne Askew's shoes; I would probably have been praying, "O Lord, I have more enemies now, than there be hairs on my head!  (I really hope you do something really terrible to them to avenge me this agonizing pain)... Yup, that's all I ask, Lord; just do whatever You have to do to teach them a lesson.  Amen."

  Perhaps I should start to see things through Christ's eyes, the way Anne did.  Perhaps FoRgIvEnEsS should start to become more of a daily routine with me.  If I start with the small things that aggravate me- like halfheartedly-done jobs, pathetic attitudes, terrible drivers, and annoying customers- maybe I will start to form the habit of FoRgIvEnEsS and be able to forgive the "big things". 

After all, I pray to become more like Christ; and I can't think of a greater example of FoRgIvEnEsS than the Savior hanging on a tree saying, "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do"!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Lessons from Mother Duck

There she sits----day after day.  She has decided to build her nest and raise her little ones in our mulch lot. 

Oh, how I admire Mother Duck. 

No, she is not a beauty queen- she's just a plain brown duck.  Most wouldn't give her a second glance, but she doesn't let that stop her.  She pours her entire heart into what she has been called to do, knowing that she may not make a difference to others but she eventually will to her ducklings. 

She may not always be the smartest (really, one probably shouldn't build a nest in the middle of a busy mulch lot around big tractors), but that makes her all the more in common with us human beings.  I sure know about making mistakes, but do I make the best of them like she does? 

I think about her all the more as I work out in the blazing sun, taking breaks once in awhile to cool off and grab a drink of water.  I can't begin to imagine how hot it must be for her as she patiently sits upon her eggs. 

If she was a human mother, she would have all the reasons in the world not to hatch those little ducklings. 

She could be enjoying life, swimming around and eating and drinking to her heart's content; but she is sitting there surrounded by heat and noise and discomfort. 

What if the ducklings are deformed?  What if the father doesn't come around anymore?  What if the eggs never hatch? - I wonder if she ever asks those questions. 

Even if she did, I really don't think she cares about any of that.  She loves those lil' guys so much and the job that God has given her to do that she is willing to sacrifice absolutely all of herself for them.  Kinda makes you stop and think when you see all the women today who are so ready to abort their unborn child because of their countless excuses and reasons.

Just a plain duck.  But she's a duck that has poured all of her love into being a mother---- no matter what may happen. 

Monday, May 21, 2012

Jumping Jacks and Jump Rope: An ode to a 1yr. Anniversary

It's a one year anniversary!  Twelve months of grueling exercises.  A year ago, I thought I would never make it; but now, it seems like the time has flown.  A year ago, I rolled my eyes at the people that said that exercise is fun; they can't live without it; everyone should be doing it; it's so healthy for you; blah, blah, blah!  I used to think that there isn't too much a person can do about their weight if they are naturally big built or have weight problems in their genes.  I used to think that I could eat whatever I wanted because other people could while staying skinny.  I used to think that losing weight is all about looking good.  My, my, a year has changed my thinking DRASTICALLY. 

These are some things that I have learned through a year-long journey:

1.  By making myself devote 30 minutes a day to exercise for five days a week, I have become so much more disciplined in other areas of my life.  I know it sounds strange- but it's true!

2.  Exercise can be lots of fun....just do something you enjoy (but make sure the activity has your heart rate sky high=)

3.  I actually can feel a difference in my body when I go for a day or two without exercise.  I become much more lethargic, prone to headaches, and irritable.

4.  Exercise is one of the best things you can do for your health!  Forget the old-fashioned idea of dieting- how does that tone muscle, boost metabolism, and increase heart and lung strength?  All that dieting serves to do is make a hungry, unenergetic, skinny person.  (Don't get me wrong; diet is very important and detrimental to health.  A proper diet should walk hand in hand with exercise; but it usually doesn't do too well on its own.)  I am living proof that exercise has kept me from diabetes.  I had all the symptoms of diabetes before I started, but now have none of them.

5.  God has created people with different body builds and shapes.  I will never be as slender as some people; but that doesn't give me an excuse to not maintain the body that God has given me.  I know that weight problems run in both sides of my family trees.  (We're not those wimpy lil' birches; we are some strong and mighty  So instead of just sitting back and figuring that there is no hope, I am trying to do something to keep myself from becoming another obese, cholesterol-packed, diabetes-filled statistic.

6.  Some people have different speeds on their metabolism.  Whereas some can eat a hamburger, fries, and milkshake and stay thin, I can eat lettuce, grilled fish, and yogart and gain weight.  So I have just learned to find my body's healthy balance of calorie input and energy output.  No use whining and griping about it.

7.  Making a lifestyle change that includes healthy diet and vigorous exercise is not just to try to make yourself slender or look good.  To exercise just so you can look great and wear a size 4 dress is not going to keep you going when you don't get immediate weight loss results or when you hit a plateau.  I started with such shallow intentions, but soon found out that exercise is about more than looks.  It's about how you feel inside and out.  I have finally reached the conclusion that even if I wouldn't have lost 40 pounds and a crazy amount of inches, I would still be exercising because of the way it has changed my health.

8.  If you ask, God will give you all the strength you need to persevere and endure until you reach that goal of better health!  Nope, it's not easy.  My goodness, there has been times when I almost gave up and sat down in a puddle of sweat and cried; but God's strength is all-sufficient to keep you going (whether it's in exercise or any other area of life.)

Yeah, you probably think this is really lame...hello...who writes an ode to exercising?  But I am living proof that an overweight person can actually lose weight and feel great=)

Friday, May 11, 2012

The Travel Bug

It bit me once again. 

That tiny bug that flies around this world and attacks its innocent victims decided to cast me under its spell.

 It reminds me of the way a spider paralyzes his prey before entwining them in his silken web to save and eat for a midnight snack----

Except instead of insects, this little bug preys upon homebodies that seldom exit their house.  He keeps his beady eyes open for his chance to sneak in and sink his fangs into their protective bubble of routine life. 

Oh the agony that goes along with that bite.  At one moment, you are content with the small world around you; but then after that fateful bite, the small world seems as if it closes in tighter and tighter by the day. 

The symptoms of the travel bug are easy to identify.
 His victims gaze wistfully at maps, stare for countless hours at globes, daydream of English tea shoppes, French umbrellas, Swiss mountaintops, and Irish highlands. 
They pack suitcases and live out of them even when at home, they obtain cookbooks of different ethnic foods and try to follow the recipes for some new cuisine, they read travelers' blogs, view travel agency websites, and pretend to buy tickets from Delta airlines. 
They can imagine how thrilling it would be to backpack through the Rocky mountains, travel by train to Prince Edward Island, visit and help orphanages in Africa, travel by sled to the outermost regions of Alaska, see the ruins of the Berlin Wall in Germany, walk beside the Great Wall of China, traverse the deep jungles of Peru, canoe the bayous of Louisiana, enjoy the perils of the rugged Russia, soak in the sun on some remote, uninhabited island, and soar the rolling oceans while the wind whips through their hair.

Oh, that bite.  All it takes is a one-time attack, and the symptoms will last for a lifetime; watch out if you get bit more than once.  My body bears the marks of countless bites from the nasty travel bug.  Each bite worsens the symptoms double fold. 

So what is the anecdote?  How can one at least partially relieve these terrible effects from the travel bug? 

The only way that I have found relief is by self-will alone. That commitment to staying where God puts me and living within the means of my finances.  Perhaps one day when I am old and ancient, walking with a cane, and crippled with arthritis, I will inherit some money from a distant relative and be able to finally put the travel bug to rest.  One never knows!  But till then, I will pretend my house is an enchanted villa and my windows look out upon rolling hills filled with broken-down castles.  Every day will be a new day to allow my imagination to carry me away to the worlds I will probably never visit. 

All due to that stupid little bug..... 

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Spell Check?spel ceck?spell chek?

Wouldn't it be nice if life had the spell check option?  That one little button would correct all our mistakes before anyone could see our weaknesses. 

Perhaps, though, that idea isn't so far out there.  Perhaps we already have our own little form of spell check all figured out.  You know what I often do we let people see the true us?

Maybe I should ask- how often do I let people see the true me?  Am I so afraid to be myself (weaknesses and all); because it might make others think less of me? 

So often, I struggle all alone because I don't want anyone to know that I actually have struggles!  Imagine, me with problems!  Ha, I scoff at the idea in public; but realize it all too well when I am alone. 

When you stop to think about it, it really is quite sad.  Are not we, as Christians, supposed to take each other's burdens, confess our faults, ask prayer for our struggles?  Would not the body of believers be strengthened by such unity? 
Oh yes, without a doubt. 

So then why have we stopped being ourselves around others?  Why do we try to make ourselves something we are not, or become someone we were not meant to be?  Why do we hold all our emotions inside of ourselves until we nearly explode from all the drama and chaos?

Maybe it is because we have been ourselves with others in the past; but then were mocked because we were not "cool enough" or "rich enough" or "intelligent enough".  Maybe it is because we tried to share with our church family; but then someone went and used it to belittle or ridicule us.

 Maybe that is why we started turning on the spell check before we can say anything or do anything. 

So yes, spell check for life would be a great thing to download into ourselves---- if we never want people to see our mistakes. 

But, on the other hand, maybe we should try to just do our best and be who God wants us to be.  Really, we are human; (believe it or not) - everyone makes mistakes. 

Mistakes and failures will happen, but then we need to learn from them.  If my computer's spell check automatically corrects all my misspellings, I would never learn how to spell the words properly. 

So today, I think I'm gonna turn my spell check off and just be myself- No pretending I'm perfect, No wearing a mask of perfection.  I'm pretty sure that it will be a nice plunge into freedom; because, no matter what God calls me to do and no matter how stupid I may feel at times when I take a blind leap of faith....
I can realize that I am finally living life to its fullest instead of stifling it behind the fear of failure and spell checks. 

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Of Pens and Paper: Temptations/Talent/and Tshirts purchased at your l...

Of Pens and Paper: Temptations/Talent/and Tshirts purchased at your l...: Believe it or not---I do have a weakness.  That one great temptation that cannot be overcome.  It attacks me in the form of clothing bins, h...

Temptations/Talent/and Tshirts purchased at your local Goodwill!

Believe it or not---I do have a weakness.  That one great temptation that cannot be overcome.  It attacks me in the form of clothing bins, heaped with countless possibilities, all for $.75 a piece.  I am a Goodwill Shopper.  We, Goodwill shoppers are something special (although our closets don't always agree with us).  We are the ones that know the ins and outs of the trade of clothing bin shopping.  We hold the secrets that noone else begins to know.  Let me introduce you to the characteristics and benefits of being one of us.  First and foremost, we have extreme endurance.  We can shuffle through mountains of clothing for hours on end.  We are not distracted by the screaming children running toys into our feet; we do not let the carts and people in our way discourage our attempts. 
We also are great visionaries.  We hold up an article of clothing that some other unimaginative person discarded, and we can see how great it would look if paired with the right shirt or skirt or shoes.  Fabric, design, color, or age don't stop us- we see possibilities in the impossible. 
Our thriftiness is another quality to be desired.  Think how much we save by buying our clothes at $.75 instead of going to the namebrand stores and putting down a $20.00 bill on each item (and yes, we do get great brand-name clothes at our Goodwills!) 
Learning from experience also sets us apart from regular shoppers; because after awhile we realize that the cutest clothes are always a size too small, and buying it anyhow in hopes of eventually fitting into it never works.  Another lesson that is learned through experience is that buying something that you sorta, sorta don't like is never wise either; because that piece of clothing is what will keep being pushed to the back of the closet taking up space that something much better could be filling. 
Of course, clothing bin shopping teaches us the basics of cleanliness.  I mean, who really wants to wear something that has been on someone else's body?  That's why a sanitary run two times through the washer with the purchased items after getting back home eases the mind... (a personal shower for yourself after sorting through mounds of dirty clothes also feels great as well=) 
So yes, I am proud to put my name down on the list of clothing bin shoppers, and I encourage you to give it a try and watch the wonderful qualities of endurance, vision, thriftiness, learning, and cleanliness develop within your shopping personality!  (Because after all, this world can always use more talented shoppers like us;)

Friday, January 27, 2012

Of Pens and Paper: Sometimes I have to stop and wonder if I'm using w...

Of Pens and Paper: Sometimes I have to stop and wonder if I'm using w...: Sometimes I have to stop and wonder if I'm using what God has given me to its highest potential? Do I just constantly take from Him and hoa...
Sometimes I have to stop and wonder if I'm using what God has given me to its highest potential?  Do I just constantly take from Him and hoard it unto myself?  God gives me health- do I use that to help the ones that are sick and dying, physically or spiritually?  God has given me friends and family- do I use that to comfort the lonely and give friendship to the overlooked, the uncool, the outcast?  God has given me sunny days- do I soak it up in myself or do I box it up in a smile and pass it on to help clear away the rainclouds in someone else's day?  To be honest, sometimes I get the opinion that life is all about me; I seem to think that God placed me on this earth because I am just that special.  How sad, how extremely sad.  The sole reason I was placed upon this planet was so that I can praise God and help my fellow earth-inhabitants.  When I think about it like that, it kind of changes the perspective on the all-important ME, doesn't it?  "Lord, make me Your Servant.  Take all that I am and all that I have and use it for You! Amen."   

Friday, January 13, 2012

My very first blog. does it feel?-exciting and scary are two words that come to mind.  Why those two words?  Well, any new blog is exciting.  It is like a new journal, full of empty pages just waiting to be filled with thoughts and words.  (Oh, how I do love words!)  But why is it scary?  Perhaps because there is a certain responsibility that now comes along with the blog.  A responsibility to make sure that everything I write is uplifting and beneficial.  May my blog never be used as a means of slander or complaining, gossiping or lying, bragging or depression.  May my blog never be focused on me---but on Who lives within me!