Tuesday, November 14, 2017

The Ultimate Tinker

Have you noticed that God is the Ultimate Tinker?



He never throws out the good stuff, and always puts together something new from the usable shards.

He molds us, bends us, and sometime even breaks us- but the stuff He throws away- that we think is an essential part of us- has nothing to do with what He has planned.

He keeps all the broken parts that have potential, and remakes them into something awesome.

Or should I say someone awesome?

Being broken isn't fun. I've heard so many people say (and to be honest, I've quoted this myself) 'God will never give you a burden you can't handle'- and that's a lie! 
He often gives us more than we can handle, because if we can handle our trials on our own, we don't need Him; and being the selfish human beings we are, we'd give ourselves all the credit because we did it all by ourselves. God strengthens us bit by bit to make us stronger, but sometimes He needs to break us in order to see His will- but God only does this when He thinks we're spiritually ready.

When He thinks we're ready, not when we think we're ready. Big difference. Boy, have I messed up that perspective in the past!

When trials come, we're not alone. Oh, sometimes it feels that way, but we're never truly alone. Even if you have no friends or family, God sends strangers in to lend a hand or offer a word of comfort.

If God can make rocks cry out, don't you think He can send you someone in your time of need? Sounds like an easier task than shouting rocks! (Though I admit that would be pretty cool to hear!)

God doesn't want us to handle everything ourselves, He wants us to come to Him for help- but some of us (like me) are just too stubborn to admit it even to ourselves, so God has to do a little breaking to get our attention.

He's gotten my attention a lot recently.

No, I don't like being broken. I don't like that He's trying to take those useless yet precious shards of my sin away from me and make me into something awesome. I don't see the awesome yet- I just see a table full of shards, and I try to salvage as many pieces as I can before God slaps my fingers again.

We are His children, and sometimes we just don't understand we're getting in His way- we just want our stuff and we want it because it's ours. Tinkers can't tinker if the kids keep getting in the way!

Yet here I am still trying to 'help' God by scooping up what He wants to toss away, thinking it's valuable. I interrupt Him by asking why He's adding this or taking away that instead of just watching Him work and learning from Him. 

Sigh.

Maybe you do the same thing as me. Maybe you've been there, done that, and have conquered the urge to help God and have stopped snatching those shiny, discarded shards. 
Just remember that if you're struggling, there's a hand waiting for you to grasp it, and if you've been there, remember to offer a hand to those that aren't up there with you yet. 

And let's both help each other stay out of the Tinker's way!


Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Let's Get Cooking!

We've done it.

We've taken the plunge. 
Jumped in with both feet. 
Gone where no sensible couple has gone before.

My husband and I are going to move into YouTube videos. The topic? Cooking.



We paid for a course so we wouldn't be completely lost in the dark chocolate abyss that is YouTube video creation and launches, praying it will literally pay off in the long run.

Personally, I'd love to see these videos go viral so my husband can retire and do what he loves to do- Cooking and expanding his men's ministry. 
As for me? I want to teach people basic cooking skills and eat what he makes!

The idea for the show is to make a series of videos for the month that have a soup, appetizer, or salad, then a main entree, and then a dessert. The fourth video will be bonus material concerning the last three videos (tips on types of foods to use, tips and tricks, types of table set-ups, etc.,) and we'd end with serving a full table of folks the entire meal. 

Two of our working titles are:

Plain and Fancy (a twist to the Amish theme, since most of our foods are based in Amish cooking- he's the fancy chef, and I'm the plain cook)

The Comfort Zone (my original idea for a food truck or cafe)

So far my husband likes the Comfort Zone- I'm on the fence, even though the second one was my idea..lol!

If we plan this right, we can hopefully get all the video we need in a single day and turn it into four separate videos, because until this takes off, we still have full and part-time jobs to do, with not a lot of leftover free time. 

It's not going to be easy, but success rarely ever is- But it's going to be fun!

Anytime our friends come over it's always dinner and a show- My husband and I banter with each other to make everyone laugh- so why not do what we naturally do on video? 

I'm sure you can guess who will be the serious one, and who will be the comic relief...

Let's just say my husband loves some of the quirky ideas I've come up with. But first we have to take the classes!

Since I'll be unable to make any videos until after the holidays (due to surgery), so we'll be taking the classes during that time, and I can start planning and writing video menus and outlines whilst I'm recovering. I've already got some great stuff in store for our first viewers!

And we get to spend time together doing what we both love- cooking and eating! WOOHOO!

The best part of all? We get to have fun teaching other people how to cook real food on a budget, do basic and fancier recipes, and teach people more about the differences concerning processed food, take out, and home cooking. We want to teach the world that, yes, you CAN make real mashed potatoes, and great tasting, low-budget meals for you and your family!

We ask God to bless this endeavor, and for you to enjoy the fruits of our passions. Jumping in with both feet is scary and exciting, and I hope our videos will make the world a better (and tastier) place- I will keep you posted!

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Still Waters Run Muddy

Ever get so overwhelmed with life that your mind completely shuts down?

Been there, still doing that.

Honestly, it's a wonder that I still have two brain cells left to breathe, no less function as a human being. I feel like a frozen slug in molasses in January- at the North Pole.

Here are a few things on my mind at the moment:

Son might have to withdraw from college.
Starting a video cooking series with my husband.
Son has a court date coming soon (he's a victim and witness).
Hysterectomy surgery.
Writing a new book.
Ways to sell my other books.
Trying to book work (I do odd jobs) to keep ahead of the bills.

And this is on top of my regular thoughts- is it any wonder my brain wants to take a long nap?

Now people are talking about Christmas- something I don't have time to even blink over.

God is going to have to help me. Again. I'm tired of telling myself  'next year will be better', and hoping for the best. I need God to kick me in the butt and get my mind right. I keep sinking into my bad habits and need to break out of my muddy-minded shell.



The water that is me might look calm and still, but there's a lot of stuff churning under the surface to cloud my thoughts big time. Most times (I hate to admit) my thoughts turn to money. Why? Mainly because I don't have any. If the bank account is down and the bills are due, I go into a panic and try to find creative ways of staying above water.

Lucky enough for me, God gave me friends willing to call me on the carpet when I slip.

I focus a lot on funds, but it's not truly about the money- it's about security. If I won the lottery (that I never played), and received  millions of dollars, do you know what I'd do with most of it after paying off the bills and such?

I'd help people with it.

Big mansions aren't my style. I don't care about sports cars or gold-lined toilet seats or living in Tahiti. I'd allow myself a nice, modest place with a yard, a pool, and a cleaning lady, but that's basically it. The rest of the money would go to help others attain their goals. I don't know what form that help would take, but most of it would not go into a bank and sit there.

Even now when we're hurting, it hurts more that we can't give as much as we want to. We still give what we can (especially if someone is hungry!), but it kills us that we can't do more.

So my mind tries to find ways to do more, so we can make more, so we can help more. Does that make any sense?

Do your thoughts run the same road as mine? You know, the road so cluttered with thoughts that your brain can't run a straight line and has to dodge all of those thought obstacles? 

Maybe we should pray together for clear and steady minds as we wade through the chaos! 

Lord, please help us to stay on the right path. Help us to be people You are thrilled to bless, and give us the wisdom to use those blessings wisely. Clear our hearts, minds, and spirits so we can clearly see the road you've laid out for us. Amen!

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Focus Failure

Ever notice yourself getting off-track from your goals without knowing how you did? You had a plan, a schedule, and your eyes were on the ball, but somehow  focus without ever realizing it until things went screwy.

Oh yeah- been there, done that a thousand times with you!

Often the focus isn't on the ball in the first place- or should I say the right ball. Let's take, for instance, the book fair I vendored this weekend. The ball I focused on was money. Definitely the wrong ball- especially since my new puzzle books didn't arrive before the fair. But even if they had come, I was still focused on the wrong ball.

I should have focused on God. He is the Provider, whether I make a ton of money or not. And frankly, that money-ball should have even taken a backseat to a secondary ball- connecting with people. God first, connecting second, and then money. But this juggler got the balls all mixed up, and focused on the wrong one.

And then I dropped the ball.

Financially, it was a loss. The travel time, the gas, the meals...all of it was more than a wash- I actually had less fundage than what I started out with before the trip. I sold a whopping three books. I might have sold more, but the ones they wanted were the puzzle books- which I didn't have.

I could have kept focusing on that, but I forced my eyes from that ball and began to focus on the people.


(This is me and my daughter at the book fair!)

When people visited me, I made them laugh. I showed them the positive aspects of each of the books they were interested in, and they took my flyers and business cards. Even if they didn't it didn't matter- just so long as they left my table with a smile. 

And when there was a lull, I prayed and I thanked God for the opportunity. 

Yes, my focus was the exact opposite of what it should've been, but I wound up focusing on the right ball in the end. And like my visitors leaving with a smile, I finished the fair with the focus that mattered most- my focus on God.

I learned a lot that day- and it had nothing to do with selling books. Thank You Lord for turning my eyes to the right ball!

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Mama-Bearin'

Hormones are strange things.

They can make us happy, they can make us sad, and they can make us one heck of a crazy Mama Bear- whether you have kids or not.




That's one thing the bible didn't mention in Ecclesiastes 3- a time for Mama-Bearin'. The other one the bible missed was a time to hide from said Bear. 

A happy camper I ain't.

Unexpected hormonal surges turn this semi-mild mannered woman into a raving lunatic, and even I don't know if it will make me turn into a protective Mama Bear or the Hulk hyped up on gamma rays. Being a Momma Bear might sound like a good thing, but the results are much the same as the Big Green Dude. 

The kids have stopped telling me about their days because if someone gave them a hard time, that someone's body might not be found. Ever. No one messes with my kids while I'm immersed in the Hormonal Pool of Doom.
Hot flashes don't help either. They hit like a hammer blow; much like going from an arctic, air-conditioned room to the outdoors during a heat-wave. They didn't used to last long, but now people can grill things over my head or do a little slow-roasted BBQ. I'm okay with that, as long as they give some to me.

When the Mama-Bear waters have ebbed, I'm a pretty nice person. Some who haven't seen me in Bear mode don't believe me. "But you're so nice!" They say. Or, "I can't imagine you acting like that!" They exclaim, doubting my tales. 
But those that have seen the Bear know better. There must be an expression I make, or a threat in the tone of my voice when the Bear waters cometh, because those who love me tend to nervously glance at each other and back away from me slowly- As they should.

I can't say that I like myself in this mode, unless there's someone or something to legitimately fight. My fights tend to be verbal, but because I'm as big as I am, I tend to paint a very intimidating picture. It's not pretty folks, but it does come in handy when there is a real threat. 
Let's just say you don't want to be the one I catch robbing my house in the middle of the night. Or trying to rob my house. You won't. You might even lose a few body parts in the process while trying to vacate the premises as expediently as possible, because 'the Bear don't play'.

Just sayin'.

I wish I had control of it. I pray every day for God to not let me do lasting damage to my family and friends relationships. Hormonal surges are like little bouts of insanity- you go crazy for a little bit, then when things calm down you have to do damage control because everyone is mad at you for something you don't remember saying- or don't want to remember saying. Ugh.

Sometimes I have to close my eyes and repeat "Your will be done Lord, not mine." over and over again until the surges pass. I'm just glad God made me a writer- most Mama-Bear moments happen when I'm home alone, for which I'm eternally grateful. So far no one has found the bite marks on the furniture.

Prayer does help. 

I'm praying the Bear goes into hibernation soon, but I really won't know until after the surgery. If the hormones are still running rampant afterwards, then God is going to be One Busy Guy, because there's going to be a lot of prayers coming from this house- and not just by me.

Can you imagine a wounded Mama Bear recouping from surgery? Egad- where's the chocolate and BBQ?

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Changing Gears With God

I used to think life was a crazy triathlon. It's actually more like a polyathlon- because life has changed gears more than three times. Much more.

For me, life is beginning to resemble the tango!

Kids grow up.
Kids go to college.
I find myself looking for the woman I used to be, but I'll never be her again.
I'll be better.

I'll be better because I know more than I used to. Some call that wisdom; I call it experience. Your kids and husband give it to you, whether you like it or not. Just don't tell them I'm wise- they might not think you're talking about the same person.

Now life is changing gears again. Life has become more malleable, allowing me to make choices I could never make before. Or choices I wouldn't allow myself to make.

Like starting my own business.
Starting a ministry.
Helping my husband start his own business.
And help him expand his church ministry.

Yes, I know some people can do these things with babies in their arms, but I'm not one of them. I can multitask with the best, but only when focused on one aspect of life at a time. I just can't do the family/career/missions thing all at once- my head would explode!

Pretty soon I'll have an empty nest, and I don't want to sit there trying to hatch something that's no longer there. I want to hop off the nest, shake my feathers, and go explore the possibilities!

Except for one thing. I've been on the nest for so long, I've forgotten how!

Taking that first step into the unknown has to be the scariest thing on the planet. It was easier when I was a toddler, because I didn't know any better. Stepping into something new was awesome as a kid! As an adult, I have no problem thinking about how everything can go wrong, and though fear shouldn't have a grasp on me, it often holds me back with an iron grip. "What if" can be a very empowering motivator, but at the same time it can also be quite crippling.

But then I remember I'm not by myself in this. God is with me.

He gives me the courage to try something new.
He lifts me up if I have setbacks- and there are a lot of them.
He provides through the lean times, and at times blesses us with enough to share.
He did this throughout my time as an at-home mom.

So why should I fear changing gears? It's not like God went out to lunch...right? He's still here right beside me- And He's beside you too!

Life has once more changed gears on me. Once I get past the fear, the excitement builds. I wrote a little haiku about it.


Choices

Making life choices
Standing on a precipice.

I can fall or fly.

God is going to help me fly!

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Puzzling Puzzles

Do you love puzzles? Me too!

I loved them as a kid. Usually it was puzzles that came in pieces in a box that I had to put together, and it took hours. I also loved puzzle books. I especially loved the puzzles in Highlights magazine; I'd never read the stories until I did at least three mind-challenging brain teasers first. That was a moral imperative!

As I grew into a teen my tastes changed. I still loved putting together puzzles, but I also bought puzzle books. Word Finds were my favorite, yet I hated crosswords; But when I found math puzzles, boy did I get excited! By the time I started writing articles for magazines as an adult, I was solving at least fifteen different kinds of puzzles.

I decided to start making them. I kept them simple at first- crosswords were a lot more fun to create than I expected (it's nice to know the answers beforehand!), but then I started getting into math puzzles and word logic, and before I knew it, I could create over twenty different types of puzzles.

Making puzzles was fun, but tedious. I had no programs to create them, and did them all  by hand- er...computer. I used a paint program and made everything from scratch; Not exactly efficient. But I didn't need to be fast- I was creating them for magazines, so i didn't need more than a handful a month. All was well with the world.

Then I found a neat little online program at www.crauswords.com to help me create puzzles without having to hand-make them anymore. Now instead of taking a half of a day to make one, I could create them in minutes! Wow!

Now it was time to create my very first puzzle book.

It took longer than I thought, yet went faster than I realized. Planning puzzles isn't the easiest thing to do, but once I had all the information down, all I had to do was type in the specs and create, create, create!

However, I forgot about formatting. Formatting can be a nightmare, especially since most of these were images. In fact, it was so much of a pain that I put the book aside for a bit and focused on the independent publishing of my journals. It was then I found another online wonder called www.Canva.com that allowed me to drag and drop everything I needed and to set the pages up the way I wanted. I had to do it in sections and that was fine- it was much better than trying to format everything!

After a lot of trial and error, I finally had not one book, but two!

I just sent them through createspace, and will be getting my proofs soon. How exciting! Not only can puzzle lovers buy the books on Amazon (Mind Play Puzzle Lovers Book Vol. 1 & 2 coming soon!), but I have links and an email address included so people can contact me with puzzle book ideas! That means if there's a puzzle book you'd love to see but can't seem to find, ask me- I can probably create one!

And I only say probably because I don't know all of the puzzle types out there- but I have a feeling I'm going to learn about new puzzles after these books come out!

I'm so excited about this new venture that I just had to share with you! And if you're a puzzle lover, join me on my Facebook page and I'll keep you posted on updates! https://www.facebook.com/Bethbrubakerauthor/