Monday, January 16, 2017

What Do You Really Mean?

My mom taught me a poem when I was a kid:

A son is a son until he takes wife,
A daughter's a daughter the rest of her life.

Sweet, right? My mom was telling me that no matter what, we'd have a lasting girl-bond. Awesome.

But through the years of teenagerism, I forgot most of the poem. I was in my late teens when she asked me if I remembered it. So I recited:

A son is a son until he is wed,
A daughter's a daughter...until she is dead?

Okay, so it still rhymed, and the message was kind of the same, but alas, I had completely missed the mark. My mom was too shocked to reprimand me- or was she just laughing too hard?

Similar words, completely different interpretation.

Most people assume you meant things the way they themselves have interpreted it. I was a newcomer to a Bible reading group, and we were asked to read and talk about Acts 1. The leader asked what was the former book talked about in Acts 1:1, to which I promptly replied 'Theophilus'.

Well, the lady sitting next to me went into a tirade about how there's no book called Theophilus, and have I ever even read the bible before? She looked at me as if I was some kind of hell-bent renegade heathen ready to be roasted in Satan's flames.

The fact that I was new to church and hadn't read the bible before never even occurred to this lady. She was basing my answer on her interpretation that everyone in Bible study has already studied the bible. Go figure!

I misread the verse in Acts 1:1. He was talking to Theophilus, not talking about 'The unabridged, unpublished works called Theophilus'. But being a Bible noobie, I simply didn't know better. Too bad, too- despite the hard-to-pronounce title, it might have been an interesting book.

I'm not the only one who misunderstands the written word either...

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This is why writing humor comes naturally to me- there's just so much to misunderstand in the English language! One word could have a ton of different meanings- you just have to put the word in the proper perspective first.

Having a son with Aspergers helps me in this area too. I have to be concise with what I say, otherwise he gets mixed messages. Aspies also have a hard time reading body language, so I often have to exaggerate my gestures and expressions so he gets my point. 

Doing so has also helped in the humor department, because most humor is about exaggerations and over-emphasized expressions. People laugh harder when I tell a story in person! The gestures and expressions help to clarify the meaning of the story.

Hearing can also be misunderstood. Amazing Love has the chorus 'Yoooooou are myyyy King, Jesus yoooou are myyyy King' But when I was listening to it on the car radio (and quite distracted by driving) it sure sounded like 'You are mocking, Jesus you are mocking' Yikes!

(go ahead and take a minute to find that song and listen- I know you want to! I'll wait.)

The three factors of misunderstanding-  speech, sight, and hearing. All can be used to make things clear, or muddy them beyond comprehension. Even the Bible states that things will become more understood as the Second Coming approaches- and how many times have you heard of someone misinterpreting the Bible? More than you're willing to count, I bet.

Don't be afraid to ask someone to clarify something for you if it's misunderstood. Ask until you understand. If you're the one being asked, be kind in your tone, and patient with the one asking. And if you don't know the answer, lead them to someone who does- or at least will know more. You never know where a question about God will lead, whether you're asking or answering. But either way, you will be blessed!




Monday, January 9, 2017

Defining Purpose

It's a brand new year and most people do a life reboot- reevaluating goals, making new resolutions (and breaking them 2.3 seconds later), and making plans to do better this year.

Others decide to dig a little deeper and seek out purpose. But what is our purpose- especially for us Christians?

I came up with this to help me, and I'm sharing in hopes to help you.

PURPOSE:

P- Pray
U- Understand God's Word
R- Record key scriptures
P- Plan goals
O-Outline action steps
S- Set a realistic schedule for actions
E- Examine your progress

Before you do anything, pray. Pray for His help to find your purpose. Pray for change. Pray for the right changes. Pray for the energy to do what you need to do for God. Pray for guidance, pray for wisdom, and pray for using time wisely- including time to rest and read the bible.

Understanding God's Word isn't always easy. Digging deeper takes effort; it helps to have a study bible and the internet to help define what scriptures seem confusing.
Speaking as a word smith, when reading different renditions of the bible, some verses seem to say different things to me- but when I dug deeper, God's Word became much more clearly defined. For instance, when I first read the bible, I didn't understand why they used 'fear' a lot. But after digging, I realized 'fear' didn't always mean afraid- many times it meant respect! Big difference.

Writing down scriptures that speak to you can be a huge help in getting you through tough times, or encourage you to move forward. Little notebooks are wonderful tools for this, and I have one filled with gems of wisdom when I get in a spiritual bind- which happens a lot.

Instead of making resolutions, plan goals instead. What does God want you to do? Where do you feel called? When can you take time to fulfill these goals? How can you glorify God in your plans? Once you find your purpose, God will help you fill in the blanks.

Having an outline helps you get to those goals. Start with your purpose and work towards your goal. If you have trouble planning from A to Z, work backwards from the goal, taking small steps until you're back to your purpose. It's better to work backwards from Z to A for me- but of course I'm weird. Do what works best for you. Just get those plans defined, steps written down, and get ready to take action!

If you're anything like me, you have an over-zealous streak that thinks you can do more than you actually can do, so you over-schedule yourself, then burn out a week later. Setting a realistic schedule for action steps will not only boost your confidence, but you'll gain a sense of purpose you might not have had before. 
Accomplishments on a regular basis feel good! So why schedule the joy and glory out of your true purpose by doing too much too fast? You can't grow a tree in a week (just try begging a tree to do so and see where it gets you), and people can't function properly if they work themselves to exhaustion. Work at your own true pace- so what if it takes two years instead of one for you to do something? The point is you'll be a lot farther in accomplishing your goals in a year than you are now! 

When you're in a lull or a rut, it helps to take a look back and see just how far you've come. Even if you're behind schedule (especially if you've overestimated your time and energy like I usually do), it helps to see just what you've accomplished in the time that's passed. Don't see it as 'I'm behind and have so much more to do!'- see it as 'Wow- I've gotten this much done! I should tweak my schedule, now that I know what my pace is.' and move forward. You're not running a race- and God is very, very patient. Ask me how I know.

So what is your purpose? What is God calling you to do? I hope this post helps you define what God has in store for you- because no matter what that purpose is, you will be awesome doing it!



Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Happy Bethday!

Yep- today is my birthday!

The bells don't just ring in the new year. they also let me know I'm getting just a wee bit older. This year is no different. However this is an important year for me.

Why?

It's a year to make changes. Big ones. Lifestyle changes both in the home, and in finances. I really feel like God's undercurrent last year will spout forth into awesomeness this year!

It's a year to grow spiritually. God put us here to bring others to Him, and to praise Him. Two things I haven't nearly done enough in 2016. In fact, I might've chased a few people away from Him to become hermits. Or lawyers. Or politicians.
Reading the bible more, talking more to others about God, and especially listening more to others before I open my big yap would be really good to do this year. God gave me a big mouth for a reason, but I haven't been using it the way He wants most of the time. Yikes!

It's a year for contemplation. 'Contemplation' meaning "ACK! Who's that fat old lady in the mirror? When did I stop being twenty-two?!?" Basically contemplating my thighs and overly rotund belly and buttocks. Also contemplating the need to lose a little fluff to help out my cranky ol' knee. Either that or stop looking in mirrors.

It's a year of realization. I now know there will be things I just cannot to physically anymore (so much for those ballerina lessons when I was two), but the trade off is that I don't have to give a flying fart what others think- at least not as much as I used to.

It's a year of being on the cusp. I'm on the cusp of a new biological decade. I'm on the cusp of being an oldie- I hear my favorite teen tunes on the oldies station, and notice parts of those songs being rewritten into 'new' music for my daughter to hear.
I'm on the cusp of being an empty nester, as my son will (hopefully) go to college next year, and my daughter two years after that.
I'm also on the cusp of becoming a regularly self-published author. Three journal/planners out, three more to come, with more coming out this year to help finance the art for my written works. And when my writing comes out (I hope to have at least one book out before Christmas this year), look out world- I'm on my way to drop-in-the-bucket stardom.

As of today, I'm forty-nine. The big 4-9. Almost fifty. Almost half a century, but no huge party- yet. I have to wait another year. Poop.

After a not-so-great last year, this year should be better just by comparison. For instance, my daughter took me out to breakfast with her own cat-sitting money (color me proud!), and afterwards my son comes in from school with something for me hidden in his coat- and unwrapped can of Boy-ar-dees beef ravioli that he slapped into my hand (color me astounded!)

I made sure to eat it for lunch, before he could. You can't leave anything out for more than a few days before he eats it. Still not sure of that's a teen thing or an Asperger thing. Probably both.

Yes folks, this should be a very interesting year!

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

2016- The Emotional Roller Coaster

Wow- I can't believe this year is almost over. 

I'm both relieved and saddened- but mostly relieved.

We had six funerals. Six. and that was just the people we knew well- not including celebrities. Four which happened in a two week period. Two of the six were my mother and my husband's mom. Christmas was weird without them.

We have more more debt. We were gaining ground in the beginning- at least until summer when the funerals began. Loans had to be taken out. Too much month, too little money...again. Ugh. If it wasn't for the good stuff God gives (including sanity), we'd be in those padded rooms with the pretty white coats with long sleeves by now.

I'm hobbling like an old troll. Stupid knee. I still don't know what I did to it. My medical card expired and until I get a new one, I'll just keep on hobbling. The problem isn't my knee so much anymore- it's that lovely circle of life thing (or should I call it Circle of Aargh?)- your knee hurts, so you limp. You limp for too long, your hips hurt. You stay off the knee and hip and you gain weight, losing core muscle. So now when you stand for more than five seconds, your entire body spasms with joint and muscle pain. Thanks a lot 2016...I blame you for this!

But it does get better.

Our son was accepted to the college of his choice. This is one of those 'roller-coaster' events because we are thrilled that he made it, but wonder if he'll make it. We have to apply and pray for financial aid. If it comes through, great! If it doesn't? Well, Chic-Fil-A might be a good prospect. 
I'm also torn about my first fledgling taking wing out of the nest. I'm both proud and scared to death for him out in the Great Big World- especially since he has Aspergers and will deal with people who aren't so tolerant of others who think and act differently. 
But another part of me is cheering along with my daughter that he will be out of the house, not eating everyone elses food, and making messes- not to mention him sneaking his laundry (which he's supposed to wash) into ours all the time.
He also seems to think he'll find work as a math tutor right away (even though he'd be a freshman and no one will know him yet), or get a job in the cafeteria, because he can eat for free and get paid. Or so he thinks.
His experience on the job market for the past two summers has been "I can't apply if you don't drive me there" and "I looked all over and applied to Chic-Fil-A, but they haven't called me yet" (he applied once and never followed up, as his parents and his entire youth group suggested), so yeah, people will be beating down your door and throwing money at you to help them study what you yourself are learning and to eat anything you want in copious amounts. 

I have a feeling I'll be sending a lot of care packages next year. Either that, or he'll live on bologna and crackers until he graduates.

This is one of the hardest moments in a parent's life. Watching your babies awkwardly flutter off without flying after them. Or under them. Sigh.

But then you get into the good stuff.

We spent a week away from home for the first time in over four years (since my husband's work accident) in Indiana. It was a much needed downtime to spend with a very good friend and business associate of mine and her family, but also to get my husband away from work and ministry so he could get some rest. 

Yes, I said ministry. You can get exhausted doing for others on a constant basis- and now I know why pastors take sabbaticals. Sometimes even hospitality oriented people like us need to recharge the spiritual batteries!

I worked outside of my home for the first time in eons as a Lyft driver. Good for the finances, bad for the family, but we got some debt paid down. It also helped that I did odd jobs that brought in some unexpected but welcome fundage. These were very good things because we might not have gotten the loan for the funerals if I hadn't paid off a few minor debts.

Work and the funerals were the breaking points for another revelation. I'd been feeling like the kids didn't need me anymore, and that my husband didn't need me home as much since the kids were doing the bulk of the chores. So I started working to bring in extra money and so I could feel useful.
But when I realized I was working six jobs (two airport driving companies, Lyft, face painting, crafting/sewing, and writing/Assitant Editor), yet making much less than my husband even though I was working more hours than he worked, on top of caring for my ailing mother. It was too much. I considered change, but wasn't sure of I should stop- or could stop.

It was the funerals and the aftermath that made me look at life from a different perspective. Yes, we needed the money, but money would come and go- my kids will only be with me for a little longer and they still needed me. My husband still needed me. Even the cats needed me. And let's be honest here- it didn't help that the house was a wreck. The house needed me too.
After a lot of prayer, fasting, and listening, I decided it was best to stop Lyft (the one with the most hours- and wear and tear on the van), and concentrate on writing. Actually, it was God that decided for me- I'm just doing what He told me to do!

Then the really good stuff came along.

For the first time in history, I published a book. In fact, to this date I published three books. There might even be one more for sale by the end of the year, but I'm good with three! No, they aren't my stories or my other fully-written works, but they are really awesome journals and planner/journals I made with my very own brain and keyboard! These books are going to help fund the artwork I need for my non-journal/planner written books, so when the time comes, I'll have some great books for kids and women out there! 

The fact that I even had the synapses to figure out self-publishing is amazing- not to mention actually getting sales on those books within a few weeks- now that's the kind of roller-coaster I want to ride! If things go well, I might have my first storybook out in 2017. How awesome is that?

And last but not least, I surprised my husband at Christmas and got him a last-minute gift he's been wanting all year. He usually guesses what the gift is (he's exceedingly good at reading my mind and body language), but last week I was given a couple of big tips when driving and used them to order his gift lickety split- so even I didn't know I was getting it until the last minute! That might be the way to go from now on- if I get it right before his birthday or Christmas and not see him until that day, I can surprise him!
If he can't see me, he can't read me...right? I might be on to something here...

There isn't much left of 2016, but I believe it will end on a high note. This has to be the wildest ride yet, and frankly, I'd rather not have another year like this one- at least concerning the bad stuff. I think I need a week off just to recover from this year- maybe two!

Through the trials God has been with us every step of the way. I'm so grateful to Him and His blessings, and thank Him each day for the strength, comfort and provision He's given to us and those around us throughout the year. 

Advice for myself and my family next year? Slow Down. Rest. Enjoy. Always give, but learn to receive. 
Hospitality people have issues with receiving, did you know that? We get something and feel we have to give more in return! That's one reason we're so tired all of the time!  

Oh, and one more bit of advice to my dear husband and kids. Turn off the phones, computers, tablets and tech and once in a while, just be. Unplug from the world and tune into God- it's so worth it!

Goodbye 2016- I won't miss you much. Hello 2017- things are looking up!


Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Last Minute Everything!

I used to be one of those people you hate.

I used to have my tree up right after Thanksgiving, and had most of my shopping done by the first week of December because I'd been shopping all year long, stockpiling gifts and gifties for adults and kids alike. 

I was the one with dozens of cookies baked by mid-December (at least three kinds), along with banana breads, and jars homemade hot fudge, ready to put into adorable Christmas baskets for friends, family and guests.

I used to have everything wrapped at least a week early, because it was more fun wrapping closer to Christmas. Let's just say if I went by this particular mantra, I'd be ecstatic right now.

Why?

Nothing was done. Nothing. No buying. No baking. No decorations. No Christmas carols blaring from the speakers. No Christmas tree scented candles irritating our noses. Nada. There was no time, no money, no energy to do any of these things. These same things I'd done every year since the kiddos were small. The decorations are still up in the attic, and with my knee bugging me, they won't come down until someone comes home to fetch them.

Christmas came way too fast for my liking. Summer lasted forever, and Autumn was about three seconds- now it's Winter, the end of the year, and Christmas. I am so not ready for this!

At least until yesterday. Apparently everyone and their dog needed to get to the airport, stat, and I was the only driver available in the entire state of Pennsylvania. I had work, and lots of it, and most people were generous in the tip department. I had spending money for the first time in eons!

Not a ton of spending money, mind you, but enough so I could get a few things for my family. So yesterday I splurged on gifts for my husband and kids- and no, I won't say what I got- they might be reading this. (Nanny nanny boo-boo, hubby and kids!)

For the first time, I listened to Christmas music as I shopped. Oh how I missed this! Despite my stupid knee (which I admit, I was supposed to be elevating and icing instead of using it to shop), I came away from the stores with more than just purchases- I came away with blessings!

One store had everything 50% off- when the bill was rung up, I expected to pay the total price, thinking it was the actual price, and it was half instead! Apparently the register took it all off after the sales were totaled. If you heard someone cheer about 2:33 p.m. EST yesterday, that was me!

The second store I wanted to go to was way, way, way down from where I was. But when I checked my GPS, I thought it was a glitch- there was a new branch of that store open in the same mall! All I had to do was go down a few stores, and there it was- how awesome is that? 

I bought everything that I needed all in one place- and zip off towards home to rest my knee.

The house still isn't decorated, and the cookies aren't getting baked anytime soon (maybe Saturday), but at least I got a few things my family will love. Yes, I know it isn't all about the gifts, but I really do love seeing their faces when I give them something great (even if it's something they need, not want), and I found many unexpected great things for them this year!

Every year I get later and later getting ready for Christmas. I want back my time so I can bake all of those cookies, make hot fudge, and listen to carols on the radio. My kids won't be here forever (at least I hope not), but I want to cherish the moments I have with them as much as possible before colleges take them away. 

I hope next year I'll have the time to do everything at a slower pace. No more last minute Christmases, no more running around in a panic to get everything done in time. I don't want to be a grandmother before I get to spend time with my kids at Christmas!

I used to be one of those 'early bird' people you hated during the holiday rush. Now I can be the one that makes you feel better because at least you are closer to the finish line than I am- and that's okay! Just consider that good feeling a gift from me- because I didn't have time to buy you anything!

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Christmas Nuts

There are some benefits for not having excessive funds for Christmas shopping.

I don't have to deal with the loonies out there trying to find a bargain.

Or so I thought.

For example, I went to a bulk store doing my regular 'chest freezer shopping' and saw people fighting over the last of the giant fluffy stuffed animals left on display. Apparently giant stuffed fuchsia unicorns are more rare than the actual beasts, and these people were almost at fisticuffs over it. A well-dressed lady in a fur coat won the battle, leaving unconscious bodies in her wake as she continued shopping. 

It was a stuffed animal, people. Seriously? Fight over something significant, like a foot massager or chocolates for heaven's sake! Oh wait- someone beat you to the punch. Medic on aisle three and seven please!

What is it about Christmas that turns people into frenzied maniacs? Even the Tasmanian Devil would be hard pressed to come out alive with a gift at this rate! As for me, all I wanted was a two-hundred pound pack of chicken breasts and a few gallons of milk. Oh, and those rotisserie chickens. Gotta get me at least one of those suckers.

I head for the roasted chicken section, only to find it was cleaned out 2.3 seconds before I arrived. The next batch would be ready in six hours. That's okay, I can wait. It would take me that long to get through the checkout anyway. So I do some more shopping while I wait. I consider getting a pallet truck instead of a cart when I hear the timer for the chicken go off, and I dash for the roasted chicken section once more- as does everyone else in the store.

I crash into the sausage display as I try to stop the momentum of my overladen cart, just as the guy starts putting the chickens on the shelves. People were taking them before the containers hit the sheet metal, but I waited my turn, since they were ahead of me. As I touched one of the last chickens to come out, this lady dressed to the nines with a fur coat snatches a chicken right from under my fingers, giving me a haughty and triumphant smile. Her cart is loaded with gifts for half the state; all expensive, and all fancy- including that giant fuchsia unicorn.

Oh no she didn't!

Have you ever daydreamed about what you'd like to have done instead of what you did? My imagination took over....

The fancy lady's smile faded as sparks emanated from my very being. How dare she snatch that chicken from me? She won that bout over the unicorn, but I will not be thwarted from my rotisserie chicken! 

With a primal yell, I body slam the well-dressed lady like a rampaging Pokemon, and snatch the precious chicken from her hands before the momentum throws her back about three-hundred feet. 

Sometimes it pays to be a big gal and understand the laws of physics. 

I was surprised by cheers behind me and turn to see the rivals of this well- dressed lady applauding my reaction to her greediness. Apparently she had the last of everything in her cart, and fought everyone and their reindeer to get it. At first I was elated. I was a hero! I stood up to a shopping bully and won! 

Or did I?

No, I didn't- but it was nice thinking about it as she walked off with my chicken in hand. I believe God would've frowned on the body-slamming, Pokemon thing though. 

Christmas Madness had almost gotten the better of me. And there wasn't even a gift involved! I just wanted homemade chicken salad for lunch.

Lucky for me the guy saw what happened and told me more was coming in a few minutes. He brought out the chickens and let me pick the one I wanted before anyone else since I was the first in line at that point. All done without carnage and skid marks down the aisle from a greedy woman's fur coat. 

It's so easy to forget why we celebrate Christmas when advertisers make everything sound so awesome. We want to make others happy, but when we're willing to body-slam a stranger three hundred feet down the aisle to get it- well, let's just say that isn't the spirit of the season God intended.

Just remember when making your purchases, you'll find a lot of Christmas nuts- but please don't become one- just deal with the ones in the fancy boxes covered in chocolate!

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Within The Shadows

I wrote this a few years back and thought I'd share it with you!

Within the Shadows
by Beth Brubaker

Santa, sleighs and colors bright,
illuminate the dark of night,
but do not glorify the plight
of the baby in the shadows.

Oh, the glitter- how it shines!
From sparkling gifts and glittered twine,
distracting us from the Divine
the toddler in the shadows.

Songs are sung of snowman's tales
of reindeer's nose and Grinchy fails,
but no one hears His love prevails
from the child within the shadows.

Fam'lies gathered, parties planned
for feast of food and music grand
how can we see the pleading hand
of the child within the shadows?

Did we forget what God did lose?
He spent His Son to pay our dues
and sent His Son as a babe imbued
within a manger's shadows.

The child, when grown to man will give
His life for us so we may live
When we believe and then forgive
blessed by the Man in shadow.

The lights, the gifts lose their array
inane songs fade when He comes our way
and we can celebrate the day
He brought us from the shadows!