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.


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!

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

I Can't Be Knee-dy

I have no idea what happened. 

One day all was well with the world, and the next, Gimpyville. I did something to my knee, and for the past two months, I've been limping around like a wounded gazelle. 

A very rotund, wounded gazelle.

Did I see a doctor? Sort of. My clinic card expired, and until it's renewed, I just have to wait. But I went to friends who are professionals in the field and asked them what the heck I did to myself. The verdict was the same. 

Tendinitis. Oh Joy and Rapture.

Normally I heal up faster than a level 20 cleric (for all you non RPGers out there, that's cheetah-fast), but this time it's a little different. This thing will take months to heal, and that's if I behave myself.

(insert maniacal laughter here)

I am a wife, mother, and caretaker of our home. You know behaving myself isn't in the picture- I'm not sure it's even possible.

Food needs to be bought. Dinners made. With four people and three cats, houses need cleaning. Sure, my husband can help with some of that, but he's also a deacon at our church, which means he has two full-time jobs on his hands already. As for the kids? They do some, but my daughter volunteers three times a week at a therapy horse ranch, and doesn't get home until almost bedtime during the week, and my son...well, let's just say he needs more motivational yelling than I have the energy for. 
My gimpy self can get the job done faster instead of telling him how to do it. Aspergers my left ankle- my son knows how to work the 'chores of the house' system like a boss. When I need him to do anything, he disappears upstairs like Houdini, and is sneakier than our cat Boo-Boo when he gets a Panera Orange Scone. Poof! Gone. For hours. Without a peep.

I've learned I can put up my leg and still cut veggies for dinner if I set up everything on the living room coffee table, while watching reruns of Gilmore Girls. Depending on the meal, I can get everything cut and ready to cook in only one or two episodes. We cook in bulk, so that's a lot of veggies and meat! 

Sometimes I get a break and can rest as I wrap and ice my knee. Sometimes, like yesterday, I consider getting a peg-leg and becoming a pirate. Shopping at not one, but two warehouse-esque stores does not to a body good! Thank God for shopping carts that act as walking sticks with baskets attached- otherwise they would still be trying to pick my gimpy butt up off of the floor at Sam's Club.

Did I mention that Restaurant Depot had an awesome deal on boneless chicken? Did I mention that you can only buy said chicken in forty pound boxes? Did you also know that I'm willing to ignore my stupid knee whilst putting two of those forty pound boxes on my cart, because the deal was just too darned good to pass up? 
I now have enough chicken to feed a third-world country- but I can't stand upright long enough to cook it. Knees are funny that way when you tick them off. Good thing I have a deep chest freezer. 

For the chicken, not the knee- although I did consider laying it in there for a bit.

As a mom/wife/homemaker, I can't be knee-dy. There's more to do than can ever be done (do I hear Lion King music?), and even if both kids were available full-time, I still couldn't cross off my entire To Do list. I don't think any family woman could, even with two good knees. And that's surprisingly comforting.

For now I will persevere with wraps, ice, prayers, and what rest I can snag until the clinic paperwork comes in. As for dinner....Gilmore Girls, anyone?

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Believe God

Words are interesting things. You can twist them to make others laugh, compare them to make others think, and by just adding one extra word, change the entire meaning of a sentence.

For instance- we Christians believe in God- but do we believe God?

Big difference!

Many people believe in God- even demons believe in God- in fact, demons freely admit believing in God in the Bible! But do we all believe God? Do we trust in Him and follow Him through faith?

Well...not always.

I believed in God for years before I believed Him. Even now I stumble and wind up doing things my way because I'm impatient- the problem is the stew God is preparing for me needs to simmer, not be microwaved. In an instant society, we are brought up to expect bigger, better, faster- and more often. But God wants us to immerse ourselves in Him, soak Him up slowly, and est in His promises.

But we're too busy living life to slow down and absorb all the flavors that are God's grace. 

Just microwave my Jesus please, with a little Holy Spirit on the side!

It's not easy slowing down. It's certainly not easy believing God when there are so many 'get fixed quick' ideas out there in the world, both real and digital. Too many things to distract us from our true purpose- glorifying God and doing His will.

Good grief- even Adam and Eve had trouble, and they didn't have the Internet!

For heaven's sake (literally!) take time and slow down. Simmer in God's word. Believe Him as you believe in Him. Pray with a friend when you falter. Pray with a faltering friend. Breathe deep and take in the savory scent of the Savior- it's worth waiting for!

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Stand Up- For Jesus!

I did it. I actually did it.

I tried my hand at doing stand-up comedy for the first time ever.

It started with a regional CCA (Christian Comedy Association) conference. It was fifteen minutes from my house. That should have been the first red flag, but nooooo, I decided to click on the link and register anyway. 

I knew some of the people running the conference. That should have been a second red flag. People who know you make you do stuff you want to do, but but won't do, because you're too terrified to do it. Blah.

They had food. The third red flag. I was doomed the moment I clicked on 'Register'.

Three red flags and a lot of trepidation later, I'm at the Meet and Greet, thinking so far, so good, when someone asks "You signing up for the open mic tomorrow?" 

I laugh. 

Foolish mortal- do you not know the depths of my fear? It's somewhere between bed-wetting and a near-death experience. Thank you, but no. Nope. Nuh uh. Never ever gonna do that. Don't even think it.

Then these comedians, these heinous humortarians, these crazy carnivores of comedic chaos nipped at my heels, smiled ever-so-charmingly, and planted seeds in my head that I just might be able to pull of a three to five minute set.

I resisted. I was a warrior! I had my hedge of protection- the problem was, they gave my muse a nice sharp pair of shears. 

My muse began tickling my mind as I slept, giving me ideas on how I could whip together a set from the myriad piles of notes I'd taken throughout life. Comedy notes I'd been writing for years but never intended to perform. I awoke with my mind buzzing, tearing through my notes faster than a toddler eats crayons.

I actually had enough material on one topic to create a quick set. Egad.

Lucky for me they had all day comedy classes, so I had time to firm everything up on a 3x5 card. If I was going to do this, there was no way in Washington I was going to rely on my cheap sponge-mop memory! I took notes, learned a lot, and tried not to eat or drink before they started the open mic session.

I was fourth on the list. 

My nerves were shot. But as I watched the others, the critiques were actually encouraging. They included my opinions in the critiques as well- it wasn't 'professionals vs. newbies' but more like a discussion group to help improve (or get rid of) material. There were even suggestions that made everyone laugh! And the newbies were taking notes. 

Maybe, just maybe it wouldn't be so bad.

At least until he called my name. I got up there all smiles, but my little piddly 3x5 card was shaking like a neurotic hummingbird in my hand. 

I did my act. 
I was horrible

I held the mic everywhere but my mouth because I talk with my hands. 
They reminded me to breathe in the beginning, because I forgot.
I missed joke notes and had to go back.
I paused too long (no dead air time during open mic! Bad, bad!)
I was shaking through the entire thing.  
About two minutes into it, I settled a little.
One minute more, and I started getting laughs.
I also got blank faces at times.
By the time I got to the end of my little 3x5 card, I'd done a whopping six minutes! That was one minute over the set time, but they were nice enough to let me ramble on anyway.
I didn't even mention God or Jesus. I forgot!
I was still shaking when they applauded.

Now was the part I dreaded. The critique. Surprise! They actually liked some of my jokes! They told me what they liked, what I could work on (hello mic skills!), and what I could improve or make into a longer piece. They also suggested different topics (I had chosen stories about being overweight- not my usual topic, but a popular one), and ways I could manipulate words to make the stories a bit funnier. 

They all sympathized when I could barely hold my pen to take notes. I was still shaking like a caffeinated squirrel for at least ten minutes afterward! But I managed to make legible notations, thanked everyone and got a lot of smiles and pats on the back for my first try. 

I'm still not sure that will ever be the right path for me- Maybe my path runs along the Funny Inspirational speaker, maybe I'll write for other comedians, or maybe keep my focus on being a funny author- but these skills are still very valuable skills that will not only help me tell and write better stories, but might allow me to make funny vlogs, vines, videos or even short commercials somewhere down the line. 

No skill is ever wasted. If you take nothing else away from this post, please take that with you. 

You never know when those odd little skills will be needed. For instance, I worked in the print and copy industry for eleven years. When my husband was burned, he had over three hundred staples in him to hold pigskin on his mid-section- and the docs were hurting him when they removed some of the staples. Who knew my awesome staple-pulling skills would come in handy in a hospital burn unit? 
And guess what? I taught the doctors a few things about staple removal!

Doing stand-up is hard. All of the professional comedians I met were helpful, supportive, and humble. They have no problem taking critiques as much as giving them! Many of them shared great stories about their first tries, which made us newbies feel a whole lot better.

I want to ask a favor from you.

Please help support your local Christian comedians by sharing their links with your Christian brothers, sisters and churches. Go see their shows! And if the church is large enough, your church can host a show of their own- How awesome is that?
Please remember that comedians have families to support- comedy is a hard job, and these fantastic people are worth every penny!

My thanks to Al Smith (our Host from the East Coast), Rik Roberts, Gordon Douglas, Sandi Joy Chadwick, Mary Ellen Rinaldi, and all of the other wonderful funny people I met at the conference!

Monday, November 7, 2016

The Rude Guest

Have you ever had a rude guest?

You invite someone to your house. They arrive late, walk right in, toss their coat on the floor, and sit down and eat the dinner you spent hours preparing, never speaking to you, even to say 'Hi'.  Then they yawn, belch, and tromp upstairs to fall asleep on your bed without saying a word. They never thanked you, or even acknowledged that you were there the entire time.

Wouldn't you be offended?

I mean really- who is this person that they don't even acknowledge you, after you've invited them over, fed them, and gave them a place to rest? Who do they think they are anyway?

Let's take that same scenario, but instead of your home, it's God's grace- and you're the guest. We accept God, accept His blessings, eat the food He provides, take the rest He gives; and the entire time we never acknowledge Him or His blessings.

Wouldn't God be offended?

God put us on this earth to glorify Him, praise Him, and share His word with others. And when we don't, we're that rude house guest, ignoring our Host as we eat, belch, and sleep in His presence.

If we don't acknowledge God, we offend Him.

Glorifying God is our main priority- it's not a side quest. But many times we forget that- myself included. Especially myself included! 

How many times have I forgotten to thank Him for food or shelter, but He blessed me with it anyway? How many times have I received healing, or money just when a bill was due, or any of the other blessings He's provided, and not acknowledged Him for it? Too many.

Munch, Gulp. Belch. Snore. Yep, I've done them all.

It's not always easy to thank God when you're going through trials. But we have to find that little nugget of gratefulness in our souls and thank Him for all that He's done- because we don't always see everything he's done for us. There were times I thought He was completely ignoring me, only to find out later He was working on something in the background on my behalf (20/20 hindsight is always perfect!)
Now, even if I don't see the blessings yet, I thank Him. Not all the time (darn this human self!), but I'm getting better at it. In fact, I've been making it a habit to thank Him every morning, even before I get out of bed.

The best part? Usually when I find one nugget of gratefulness, it leads to a ton of other nuggets!

I thank Him for the things He's done (that I know about), the things He's doing (that I don't know about) and for the gifts He's given me. No more tromping mud on His robes, belching, and snoring my way across His grace; I'm just glad He patient and opens my eyes to my mistakes- and He humbles my heart
enough to repent of them.

Thank You God, for all that You have given me- Yesterday, today and tomorrow. And please keep my eyes open to see Your hand in everything, and to keep my heart repentant and my mind willing to learn. Help me to be a good guest in Your grace and to please You in all things.

Now let me get some detergent for that mud on Your robe....

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

The Living Paradox

Round is a perfect shape.
You use something regularly and care for it, it will never wear out.
An object in motion, stays in motion.

Yeah, right. Not in my world. I'm a living paradox.

Scientists claim a sphere is a perfect shape, yet when I go to the doctor and show off my 'scientifically perfect' physique, he always recommends gastric bypass surgery. Same thing goes for the modeling agencies. 

Maybe they're just jealous of perfection.

I use my body regularly. In fact, I use it every minute of every day! I feed it, care for it, buy it chocolate, and I regularly take it to the doctor, chiropractor, and optometrist. But try telling that to my knees, back, and eyes. My knees refuse to work smoothly anymore, my back aches when I stand too long, and I have to squint to see anything anymore!

Are joints supposed to sound like bubble wrap?

An object in motion, especially one that has a strained knee, aching back, and astigmatism, tends to stop every few minutes to give her so-called perfect shape a break before she cries out like bellowing buffalo with a lion biting its butt. This object prefers to have her appendages cushioned by a couch, thank you very much. I think objects in motion tend to live a lot less longer, mostly because those objects get run over in traffic.

Kinda hard to shuffle one's perfect self across a busy street when she can barely see or walk...right? Especially in a city where red lights are just a suggestion to stop- If you feel like it.

I'm a living paradox. I've stopped believing the hype of scientific 'facts' that my body clearly doesn't follow. Just call me a rebel- but if you call me old, you'd better run- I may not be able to chase you on foot, but the knee I use to drive with is just fine- and remember, red lights are optional.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Unborn Christians

I bet you read the above title and thought Doesn't she mean REborn Christians?

Nope. I mean unborn. These are Christians who don't know they're Christians...yet. At least until we talk to them.
Unborn Christians are those who don't know about Jesus, or kinda-sorta know about God, but don't know enough to claim His promises. That's where we come in.

Scary, isn't it?

You never know when you'll influence someone to come to God. It's not always about brandishing a Bible and praising God at the top of your lungs; sometimes it's that way people see you acting (and reacting) with your co-workers. Or family and friends. Or your children.

One woman is a homemaker. Her and her husband raised three kids in God's word, and when they were grown, they brought fifty-thousand unborn Christians to God through ministry. Is her job any less important because she only influenced three little people? What about her neighbors and friends? They saw God through her eyes and actions and came to Christ, and are now influencing their own kids in God's ways. One little homemaker influenced the future of thousands of unborn Christians.

Another woman works in an office. She not only influences her co-workers, but also the clients she works with. Not all of them come to God, but the few that do wind up influencing their co-workers, bosses, and clients, who them go home and talk to their husbands and wives and then their children...

You get the idea. There are a lot of unborn Christians out there- and all we need to do is talk to them.
Or pray for them. Let them see God through us.

Even though we screw up. Especially when we screw up. That's probably the hardest and scariest part of all because those who are usually the closest to breaking and finding God are our hardest critics, keeping an eye on every thing we do. You know those cynics are watching when a Christian messes up- just wondering what we'll do and how we'll act.

The funny thing is, if we act out of God's will, this is usually the opposite reaction that the cynics expect. And that's usually the best time to talk to these unborn Christians!

Your co-worker asks,"Why didn't you try to get out of it? You could have (list excuse here)...." Your answer will tell her everything about your Christian walk. And that it's not a walk of the perfected- quite the opposite in fact. People might not break down that day and give their lives to God, but you brought them one step closer because you acted in God's best interest.

Living life God's way isn't easy- not by a long shot. But unborn Christians need to not only see us triumph over the struggles of life, but triumph over struggles we're still going through. That is what gets their attention the most. I can't tell you how many times unborn Christians have gone up to my husband and asked, "How did you get through it?" His answers brought many into God's fold.

We both have our moments where God's light doesn't shine as much as it should. We both struggle with staying in God's sight. Honestly, he's quicker on the draw when it comes to admitting mistakes and learning from them, but he's teaching me as I trip along my merry way. Or should I say His merry way?

I'll be meeting a lot of unborn Christians by the time God calls me home (I hope), and I pray I'll be a good example of what God wants me to be. And if I'm not, I hope the cynics see a repentant heart, a submissive spirit, and a humble attitude. I want them to see God working through me.

Who knows how many people we influence each day? But wouldn't it be great to see those unborn Christians of today in heaven when we are called home?

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

God's Hint and a Half

Have you ever had God tell you to do something and though you knew what He wanted, you still wanted to do things your way?

Have you ever had God remind you to listen to Him when your thoughts strayed from His will?

A while back I told you I fasted and prayed for an Answer- and God told me to write.
Write books.
Write all of them.
I did what He wanted. I was behaving. Until I saw our dwindling bank account.

Then a mild panic set in and I started brainstorming new ways to bring in extra funds, since I stopped driving for Lyft (for good reason) and the other driving jobs dried up entirely. As of this past Friday, I'd made a decision to call about a possible job driving special needs students to and from schools. I talked it over with my husband, and he thought it should be okay to go forward (because dropping off the kids after school would interfere in family dinner time.) We'd just have to adjust the schedule a bit, so I could drive. I could write and prep dinner in between pick-ups...right?

God decided I needed a hint.

Throughout the week, my bible readings were full of 'the people of Israel were told to do this, and they didn't listen'... 'the people of Israel were told to do that, and they didn't listen'...'Then God got mad and punished them, and they still didn't listen'.

All week God knew what I was thinking, and told me through scripture that His way was a better way. But I was looking at the bank statements and not Him.

So Sunday morning comes and God hit us with a hint and a half. The lesson not only spoke of obeying God, but will He not also provide what we need as we obey? God was blunt enough that even I understood His meaning, and after services My husband and I both talked and agreed that I should bide my time doing what God said to do. 

Besides, what if the journals and planners I'd been working on (as fast self-publishing books) was the answer to our financial dilemma? I would have missed out not only on the blessing, but lost experience practicing self-publishing! Frankly, it doesn't matter how He'll take care of things- it just matters that He will. Just like the sparrows.

I took the hint. I didn't want to know what God would do next if I didn't listen. He's not always so subtle- and I'd rather not find out what His not-so-subtle hints would be! Listening is a much better prospect, don't you agree?

So here I am, writing this blog and sending out my first planner through the vast cyberspace to be judged worthy of publication. I'd never have gotten to this point if God hadn't pushed me. 
I won't tell you that I'll never think another 'get an outside job' thought again- because I'm still human, with a stubborn will of my own. But God will be guiding my steps through it all, and I hope to completely trust in Him without those thoughts in the future.

And I won't stop counting the blessings on the way!

Monday, October 10, 2016

Smelling Myself

I was listening to one of the Pastors giving a small talk before communion. He spoke about how Christians can seem when posting online, but act differently in church. Sometimes what is posted can be misconstrued (and let's face it, it often is!), but it also can show the heart attitude of a person.
He asked for us to imagine our Christian attitudes as a scent. Is that scent pleasing aroma to God, or do we stink? Some people sit in church praising God while hating the brother or sister sitting next to them.

Ouch, Pastor!

One thing I love about my church is the diversity of our pastors. This one doesn't pull any punches and gets right to the point. I love that.

The moment he uttered those words, he might have been speaking directly to me- and from the expressions of most of the congregants, they felt the same as I did. Did my heart really stink?

So after church, I gave my inner self a sniff or three. Oh yeah, there was some stinkification in my heart. Fortunately, I knew what attitudes needed changing- unfortunately some people got a bad whiff of me a few weeks back, and it's something I can't change. There is no 'Undo' button. No 'Replay'. No 'Reload your game'. I screwed up and I can't take it back. That just makes my spiritual redo harder.

Though not impossible!

I smelled a lot of good things too, but those aren't my main concern. I need to clean the bad spots before I can improve the whole- like bleaching a shirt. A little spot cleaning here and there before you toss the whole thing into the wash.

And sometimes you need to rewash. More than once.

I've been reading Leviticus and Numbers, and God talks about 'a pleasing aroma' a lot in those chapters. God likes Himself a good smell! He's also willing to help us with the spot cleaning, so we smell good to Him again. Gotta love that...right?

When people want to know what a Christian is, I want them to give me a sniff and come away smiling, not holding their noses. Too many times I've seen unborn Christians (people who aren't Christians...yet!) with their noses crinkled as they passed by, not realizing I was the reason for their reaction. 


Help me be a pleasing aroma to You, Lord. Help me find the stink and eradicate it. Let my life in reality, online, and in my writing reflect You and glorify You in all aspects. I want to smell good not only to You, but to those around me too!

Monday, October 3, 2016

Forehead Swatting God

Sometimes I wonder why God puts up with us.

He made us. He gave us free will. We are His children. But instead of being grateful and doing what He asks, we tear off the diapers and run all over the neighborhood, screaming 'FREEDOM!' and flashing all of the neighbors.

This is when God swats his forehead. Free will...why did I give them free will??

It's happened throughout biblical history.

"I know You said not to eat the fruit, but the snake said..."

Forehead swat.

"I'm tired of manna- I want meat! We'd be better of being slaves in Egypt.."

Forehead swat.

"The land of milk and honey? But there are giants there! No way am I going in there!"

Forehead swat.

As I look back on my own life, I can tell you I probably caused God to swat His forehead more than I'd like to admit. Why is it so hard for us to listen and obey Him sometimes?

Because His will be done- not mine, And I have free will, so that makes me extra stubborn and selfish. I mean really- who is He to tell me what to do anyway? My way is so much better!

I also can't tell you how many times I sold myself on that bit of tripe.

So here I sit in my self-righteous misery, wondering why life is such a big, stressful mess. This is usually when I pray the hardest. The funny thing is, God still answers. The funnier thing is, I still don't listen because many times the answers aren't jiving with what I want!

When it happened again, I decided to actually try and listen- and obey. I tell you that last part has to be the hardest thing to do. Ever. 

I was given an Answer. 
I listened.
I obeyed. 
And I sacrificed what I needed to achieve His Answer.

Sweet cheese and crackers, Batman! what happened next had me completely flabbergasted.

I felt a peace I hadn't felt in a very long time (probably the last time I listened and obeyed!)
I felt calm for the first time in ages, despite the fact that my life wasn't matching my ideal.
I felt content. Do you know what contentment truly feels like? It's that small smile you make when you're doing something that you truly love. You feel satisfied, productive, and happy.

Because I knew if I listened and obeyed, God was going to handle the rest.

Now that doesn't mean bad things won't ever happen. It doesn't mean I'll never feel sad or angry. It means that no matter what happens, God will be there with me to get through it, whatever it is. I'm telling you, it's the most awesome feeling in the universe!

Looking back through my life, I can see God helping me stay sane.

When my mom and I were both out of work and we had no food in the house.

When my husband was severely burned in a work accident.

When my mom, my husband's mom, a cousin and a family friend all died within two weeks.

People still marvel over that last one, 'How are you not lying in a fetal position completely depressed?' people have asked me. 
Well, the truth is I did get depressed. Only God kept me upright and got me back on track again. All He wanted me to do was go to Him in prayer. I just had to ask and He was right there with me, telling me what to do.

Do I still want to tear off the diaper and run about the neighborhood? Absolutely! (Not literally people- Pampers doesn't make diapers in size Bodacious- besides, I don't like the crinkling noises!) But when I start feeling rebellious, I make myself look back and see His hand in everything good in my life, and instead of tearing off the diaper, I read the Bible and pray. Much better choices for me- and my neighbors!

Hopefully God will not have any more forehead-swatting moments concerning me, but let's face it- I still have free will and am still stubborn and selfish. 

But I know that when I cry out to Him, He will always be there.

Probably swatting His forehead.

Monday, September 26, 2016

The Trouble With Being Multi-Talented- Part Deux

I wrote a post a few years back about being multi-talented (2011- Egad! Where has the time gone?!?), and now, I feel I must expand on this. Because the issue has gotten worse, not better.

I am multi-talented. I'm not bragging or one-upping anyone- trust me- this is more of a burden than a blessing most of the time! I like to do too many things, and when I find something new I like to do, I tend to dive in and get good at it fairly quickly.

For instance:

I went to a women's fellowship meeting. We were given play-doh and asked to make something within ten minutes. This is what I made.
I used a pen cap to make the face and paws.
And yes. I watch waaay too many Pinterest videos.

Want to know the weird part? I'd never sculpted a thing in my life. Great. Go ahead God, add another talent on the pile. 

Why do I sound so snarkish about all of this? Because I have no idea what to do with all of these gifts! Think of a juggler. It's easy for a juggler to juggle two balls in the air, but how about five? Or ten? How about trying to juggle twelve or twenty balls? That's basically what I'm trying to do- and failing miserably.

Sometimes I get a bit miffed at God. Why did You give me all of these talents? What am I supposed to do with them all? It's not like I can give them away or sell them on Ebay. Yet when I don't use them, I feel like I'm doing God a disservice. That's why being multi-talented can feel like a curse more than a blessing. How can one person use all these talents to glorify God? 
I can't be a novel, blog, and children's book-writing, paper-cutting, quilting, sculpting, teaching, speaking, humorist, ventriloquist videographer! Well, I could be, but then the nice men in white coats would need to put me in a cell where there's no Pinterest. (GASP!) Trying to be everything would also suck out the joy and thoroughly mess up the life God has in store for me, because any down time would be spent sleeping!

Some choices have to be made. 
By me. 
With God's help. 
Lots and lots of God's help.

Lucky for me God sent me a guy named Bob, who still answers my phone calls (maybe he doesn't have caller ID?). I talked to him about this very subject. Bob is a wise-guy, but also a wise guy, and his words of wisdom were these; Think of using your talents in seasons- let God help you choose which talent is in season right now, and see where He takes you. Do what brings you and God joy. He'll tell you when you're ready to enter into the next season.

I'm glad he answered the phone. He's brilliant.

So I put time aside this week, fasted, read His Word, and asked God what He wanted me to do. After a long, heartfelt chat (read: me with my face buried in my pillow begging for an answer) He finally said something. 
Write books.
"All of them?" I asked, incredulous (because I'm all over the map genre-wise).
Yes. All of them.

Whew! I know what ball to focus on! 

Yes, I have a lot of genres. I even have two books ready to go (minus the artwork)! But there's nothing stopping me from writing them all. Just not all at once. If I'm in a puzzle mood, I'll write puzzle books, Flesh out children's story notes. Work on that fantasy world. Write proposals and one-sheets for the finished works (also Bob's suggestion). Just...write books. 

This isn't surprising news. He's told me this before. But being the distracted, multi-tasking person I am, I get off-track and then need Him to tell me again. Write. Write books. Write all of them. That alone will take me several lifetimes- especially if I keep going off-track. But if I work on the big stories a little at a time, and finish a lot of small stories, by the time God calls me home, I should have a library's worth of books on the shelves. 

I'm so very glad God is patient. I'm also glad he gave me these talents, despite my earlier groaning. Maybe He gave me the artsy talents to use as recreation, to bless others or the church, or use them to help with the family finances until the books take off- I have no idea. But I have them, and I'll use them when He tells me to. I just have to wait for the right season!

Monday, September 19, 2016

I Am NOT Your Mother!

I never thought of myself as Youth Impaired. Yes, I'm a bit big around the britches, but all in all, I'm young at heart.

Apparently my outsides aren't reflecting my insides.

I took my husband to the doctor a while back. He was dizzy and had no business driving, so I went with him and helped him into the doctor's office. The nurse smiled and asked "So, what's wrong with your son today?"
My son? What was she talking about? My son was in school, and...wait...oh no she didn't! This woman did not just assume I was my husband's mother, did she? I gave her another chance. "Excuse me?" I asked, raising a brow in warning.
She nodded towards my husband. "Your son- What's wrong with him today?"
That's it. She was on my hit list.
I smiled oh-so-sweetly. "My husband is having dizzy spells, like vertigo."
The nurse hid her incredulousness well. "Your husband? Oh- sorry about that."
Not well enough though. I could see the look in her eyes.
It said Humph. Cougar.
I sat my husband down, trying not to swat the little grin off of his face, and turned to the nurse, my composure riposted by a deep breath. I smiled again. "That's okay- we just had our nineteenth anniversary."
Let her chew on that for a while, I thought. Cougar, my Aunt Fanny.He's only five years my junior!
The nurse remained quiet except for a few medical questions, and then we went back into one of the little sub-offices to wait for the doctor.
When he came in, he greeted us and started asking much of the same questions to verify what the nurse wrote down. Then he turned to me and asked "And what's Mother's health history?"
Seriously? Did he just imply the same exact thing the nurse had?
This time I didn't miss a beat.
"I don't know about 'Mother's' history, since she's back at her place, probably gardening. You'll have to ask my husband about her health history."
"Oh!" he exclaimed, looking deeper into the paperwork. "He's forty-one, not twenty-one! He looks like a college kid."
Yeah. Thanks a lot, Buster. I heard my husband snort. I sat in the second chair, folded my arms and and gave a disgruntled snort.

Yet this wasn't the first time this has happened.

My husband had to return something to a local home improvement store, and as I sat on the bench (due to a pulled muscle in my hip), he went up to the returns cashier to get his refund, chatting with her about our impending lunch date. The young girl glanced at me and smiled at my husband. "Oh! You're so sweet to take your mom out to lunch!"

If my hip wasn't bothering me at the time, I would have vaulted over that counter and let her know what's what. Darn hip.
It didn't help that he grinned like a Cheshire cat through the entire lunch, telling the waitress what had happened. She thought I didn't look old at all and that we were a very adorable young couple. 

I gave her a big tip.

Now it's a big family joke. Anytime anyone refers to my husband as my son, we just laugh and tell the offenders the other stories and share the joke. The kids especially love to share the stories. But there's a little more to the stories than this!

Sometimes my daughter is called my husband's wife- and I'm still his mother. I'm my daughter's mother-in-law, despite the fact we look a lot alike.
My son is referred to as my husband's brother- and I'm still considered their mother.
Apparently I look my age. At least these people don't think I'm ancient. They just think my husband is my son, my son's brother, and my daughter's wife.

Nothing confusing about that at all.

It could be the grey hair the three of them gave me. My husband has a tiny bit of grey in his sideburns, but no one seems to notice that. Mine is a lightened blaze at the top of my forehead, and one single curl on the side (like a reverse dalmatian) which apparently can be seen via satellite.

I hope it becomes that pretty white kind of grey and not that 'non-color' grey- I'd have no idea what to put on my renewed driver's license under 'Description'. Maybe 'Platinum Blonde'. Yeah. I like the sound of that.

To my darling husband...I am not your mother. You don't want me as your mother, trust me- just ask the kids!

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Get Over It...NOT!

Has anyone told you that you just need to 'Get over it' when you lose someone?

Maybe he felt that six weeks was enough time to mourn, no matter who it was.
Maybe she felt you were milking your sorrow, trying to garner extra helpings of pity.
Maybe they felt like you were wallowing too long, and needed a mourning 'intervention'.

The fact is folks, when you lose someone, you never 'get over it'. Ever.

That person, the one you were close to, was a piece of your life- and you can't 'get over' the memories that come when you're reminded of that someone, or when thinking of them on occasion. 

'Get over it' could possibly be the worst thing anyone could say to someone who suffered a deep loss.

But there is a dawn after the darkness.

Sadness fades. Scars heal. Memories start to make us smile instead of cry. The pain becomes a ghost of its former self, and the good things start showing through. It's not something to 'get over'- it's something to get through.

And yes, sometimes it takes more than six weeks.

If you know someone who has lost, the most comforting words to say can be "I'm sorry."
Then give them a hug.
Listen as they talk.
Offer them a shoulder to cry on.
Then give them a tissue, because shoulders aren't very absorbent- unless you're wearing shoulder pads.
Then hug them again.

You don't need longish speeches, the right words, or spout inspirational Bible passages to make someone feel better. All you need to do is be there when they need you. Hug them when you see them. Ask if they have any stories about their loved one. Listen. Cry together. Hug again.

You will never know the blessed impact you'll have when you do.

I'm beginning to remember the good stuff. I'm reminded of mom whenever I see okra (her favorite fried side), and though there's a little hint of sadness to my smile, I remember how much she enjoyed it- and the joy on her face when I got her an extra order to take home.

And I wouldn't be at this point if it weren't for the huggers, listeners, and people with very absorbent shoulder pads- and a boxful of tissues.

The wound is still too fresh, but it's healing slowly. And when it does, there will be even more blessings when I share her stories. Her passing is something I'll never fully get over. But with God and the friends He gave me, I'll definitely get through!