Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Change, Changed, and Changing Continuously

The 3 C’s of life: choices, chances and changes - You must make a choice to take a chance or your life will never change. ~Unknown

Many things have changed in the past year. I could pick a number of subjects that would be fitting under the above title, but what has changed the most is me...internally. I realized some time ago that I have been oppressed by "religion" for years. I am not blaming the church(es) here or even the area being in the Bible Belt, which is heavily controlled by Southern Baptists, although these factors were encouraging influences--in their discouraging ways. I blame myself.

When I began to to seriously prepare for homeschooling, I read many books on the subject and I was drawn to the Classical approach to homeschooling. This method was championed in several writings,  most authored by Christians, very traditional, even legalistic. They made me feel that I had been an inadequate Christian. One book even stated that while using the Classical model of homeschooling they advocated, they gave strong warnings about reading anything of Greek or Latin polytheism that saturated Classical writings often modeled for grammar analysis and imitation. I wavered back and forth on this in my mind because I could not imagine understanding any other culture excluding their religious beliefs, but I avoided such writings while my daughter was young just because that was what I believed was the more Christian route.

Although I shunned skirt-only churches, that is what I wore to every Sunday morning church service and how I dressed my daughter as well. I favored long denim dresses and skirts, loose fitting long dresses, and comfortable flat sandals or boots. The tops I wore the most were white with an old fashion flare, puffed sleeves and slight tapering at the waist. Always there was a plain white or off-white cardigan accompanying me as I would get chilled in air conditioning or in the winter. A true Southern tradition, the Princess also wore hats at every service, but I only did now and then. Why did I not just go to a skirt-only church? Well, it is one thing to choose to wear a dress and quite another for it to be expected of me.

I expected enough from myself: I was being Christian mother homeschooling her daughter and raising her "right."

It was not that I feel these things were wrong to do. I am sure most all of it was the right thing to do at that time. It was a season in my life and I enjoyed it as it was...but something about it lingered with an oppressing of my spirit, perhaps even souring my heart.

About three years ago I felt tugs to break away from the "me" I had created. It probably was stirring in my heart even before that, but when I was asked to be the praise leader at our old church, that is when I began emerging from my self-made cocoon. The opposition against the songs I was being given by the Lord from others in the church was heartbreaking, but the confirmations and encouragements from the Lord were unmistakeable. It did not last but five months before we felt called to leave and I was so ready for something else: A living worship experience where my daughter could witness the wonders of God's love and grace through miracles and healings taking place right in our midst. I wanted her to know God is not just Someone far away that we pray at, but that He was close, so very close, as the softest whisper, and His presence is not something hidden from us.

Going to the church that we recently left is where I began to deal with my heart and it was healed. Another season, its purpose served. When we left there, I began to deal with my mind, attitude actually...those things you say to yourself in your head. I was constantly feeling overwhelmed and I heard way too much "I cannot do's" and quite a few (when I was being honest) "I don't want to do's" with just a touch of depression in the undercurrent. I would be alarmed if my daughter talk that way to herself! I finally decided that if I did not have anything good and encouraging to say to myself...I should just shut up.

The silence was filled with God's words. His good. His encouragement.

I began doing things that I had told myself that I cannot do or that I did not want to do, without resistance, sabotage, or dread. What seemed to be too much work before to me or would take too much time, just started to seem easy and fit into my day without stress. What did not fit or got bumped out would be there tomorrow or even the next day. I did not become frozen with feelings of being overwhelmed.

There was so much freedom in that. Every day has its possibilities. It was one thing to know that in my head, quite another to feel that in my heart.

What do I wear these days? Well, I think am done with my version of dowdy. I now have a leopard print soft fuzzy jacket and a lovely sage colored purse and various colorful versions of my love bracelets! I shop at Goodwill regularly looking for fun clothes and when I find some that fit and are not too scratchy or worn, I buy them. I have more color in my closet these days, including black which I avoided for years, although I am still partial to my jeans.

I think God just might be smiling at His butterfly.

~ My Lord, You are a most wondrous God, ever so close even when I have turned away. Thank you for Your patient guidance of my stubborn heart. ~

Monday, January 26, 2015

New Year, New Beginnings

Each new day is a new beginning-
to learn more about ourselves
to care more about others,
to laugh more than we did,
to accomplish more than we thought we could,
and be more than we were before.

A new year has come with new beginnings. I cannot believe this is my first post in 2015. More so, I cannot believe it has been two months since my last post. In part, it has been our schedules. In part, it just has been a lesser priority. My focus has been on my home, homeschooling, and finding a church. Yes, we are still looking...but I feel that we have been led to one, finally. The one we had gone to through the holidays was more traditional in service with contemporary music, but the pastor did not believe in the gift of healing and I just felt that I would be in the same situation I had been for so many years previously in that church.

We have only visited three Sundays to this latest one, but it is more of which we all are seeking. We learned of it through my daughter's best friend in our neighborhood. She is the youngest of eight, five years younger than the next youngest, her brother, and also homeschooled. Years ago when my daughter was just turning five, her best friend (of the same name) was no longer available to her. (That is one of those long stories that would take more time than I have to commit presently. Let's just say the mother had an major issue with a Word of Knowledge I was given about her unborn child, so she asked me never to contact her again.) I was seeking a new friend in the neighborhood for my daughter. The girl was two years younger than my daughter, but I cannot see their house from mine, so I hoped that I could meet the mother and watch over our children playing together. She agreed initially, but later called me back telling me that she simply did not have the time. Understandably, still homeschooling five or six children, but I was heartbroken for my daughter.

A few years later that same child became my daughter's best friend. Although there is two year difference in their ages, they are the same height and wear about the same size shoes. They used to have about the same build, but my daughter, still slender, has matured in her figure, while her friend is quite thin. Now the mother prefers my daughter because the girls play quietly together and my daughter, who loves playing with even younger children, does not play head games that is so common with her age. I think they would adopt her!

This same family have been very involved with their church. The father was in the children's ministry. They had obligations, but the last few years, they were very displeased with an event that the youth was doing at Halloween. Like us, they do not celebrate that day. The youth had been hosting an event using a scare tactic about hell. I know this can have a profound effect on some, but I would not be interested in doing it if I was a youth leader. In addition, her youngest has serious issues with being scared which has improved some with age, but she has not completely conquered it.

So, after they gave notice to be released from their obligation, they began looking for a church also. They tried the one we ended up leaving and they felt there was something not quite right there, before I mentioned that we were thinking of leaving ourselves. They finally settled on a church just a mile from the one they had been for some many years. One of their sons is the youth praise and worship leader there or something like that.

This church sings praise songs we do not know yet, many written by themselves,but easy to follow after a verse or two. The pastor has a cleaner, more to the point, and uplifting delivery in his sermons. One of the things I really like is that every Monday evening, they have a "Healing Room" open for a couple of hours where anyone can come at any time. The woman that runs it was trained by Rhema. (I am sure that peaks the interest of a friend of mine.) They also had healing services last weekend and I wanted to go on Saturday night, but I was feeling a bit too weak--I have been fasting since the first week in January. I will be visiting the Healing Room soon though, because I have a nagging issue I have asked the Lord to heal for a few years.

~ My Lord, thank you for Your guidance. Give us clear signs showing us where You wish for us to be. ~

Friday, November 21, 2014

Seeking a Church Family

The church is the great lost and found department. ~Robert Short

Choosing a church home for us has never really been about choosing a convenient place to worship God or based on the activities that would be beneficial to us. For us, it is choosing a family. We have been members at five churches since we moved to this area yet, I feel that we have not really had a church family since we moved from our our Florida church seventeen years ago. We were led by God to certain churches for varying reasons and seasons, but as soon as we left, whether quietly or with good-byes, only two of the members of those former churches ever contacted us just to say something simple like "I miss you" (and one of them left to join the church we did a few months later). Perhaps we just did not make that much of an impact on their lives....

In truth, that may have been part of the problem, but the other part is that they did not make a real effort be an impact on ours either. In fact, most of them resisted or were just too busy when asked to join us for a meal. We made very good friends at a church we had gone to for four years and they followed us to the last one we went as I mentioned previously. That family will most likely stay there as it is rather convenient for them being just a few minutes from their house, which is not close to anything, and they like the church. However, I always felt that we found that church and stayed there for a time to settle them into it, because it was God's will for them at this time to be there, but I never really felt it was the place that we were meant to be for very long. I really hoped I was wrong about that temporary part, because I like sitting with them and talking with them before and after the service and I was very concerned about how our friendship would be affected. But, here we are...again, looking for a church, a family.

This time, however, we do have certain things we need from the church. Our daughter needs to be involved with the praise and worship team and play piano or even another instrument with the band. She needs this experience to develop the skill of playing with other instruments and backing up singers. She also needs a youth group that will challenger her to grow spiritually and be her sisters and brothers. She has very good parents who do this, I believe, but she needs to have support coming from other directions as well at this point in her life. This time we are specifically looking in these areas of the church to see if it has the potential to meet these needs for her as we both feel strongly led to do.

As for my husband and I, we would like a family. People who actually do impact our lives. People we would miss if they were no longer around and people who would miss us if we were no longer around. People who really share and care, not "the only when we are at church" dump then jump. People who challenge us to grow spiritually inwardly yet actually do things to help others outside of the church. I do not expect perfection; if the church was perfect, it would have no room for us. I would like a place where some of the people that inspired me to want to be a better Christian and that I would do the same for some them.

The church we left is one that I would still like to visit now and then. We did visit it a few weeks ago. I like the positive message, but honestly even that day it was the same message we have heard for a year and a half, just the angle changes: freedom from bondage, be the church outside the church, use your gifts. Great message, but it is basically the same thing every Sunday and it was great for the first six months because we needed it so much, I suppose, but now it just seems stagnant. It is as if outside world has no impact on the church and, sadly, visa versa. My husband who has Israeli friends was so sensitive to the fact that the pastor did not lead us in prayer for Israel's protection as missiles rained on it not that long ago.

We visited one of the churches recommended by the siding guy--that sounds weirder than it was, but if you read my previous post you get it. Anyway, it is about as far as the last one in a different direction. It is smallish but has just gone to two services each Sunday. We got there earlier than we meant to, but that gave us plenty of time to meet people. First impression, this church has hospitality. We were met with a wonderful aroma the moment we walked into the front door. The decor was exquisite. Orange walls with chartreuse and black accents; thoughtfully simple yet obvious and friendly, as if it this place was loved. The sanctuary was unfinished with a cement floor and all the inwards of a metal building showing, but even there I saw touches of love. Off to the side of the sanctuary was a large room filled with--are you ready for this?--coffee, hot water for tea, hot cider, iced tea, cold lemonade, all kinds of donuts and even a few bangles with cream cheese available. Now this kind of stuff is not necessary, of course, but I was thankful because we left in a rush and I had not had breakfast...and I felt that someone cared enough about me, and all the people who would be coming that day, to provide this hospitality. Yes, I felt at home...and loved.

After talking with a few people, I lost track of my daughter, but I heard her playing one of her recital pieces on the keyboard, a showy piece that requires her to play with one hand over the other several times. She told me that after they dropped their jaws, the man who asked her to play turned to the other man and said he was fired. One man who plays the bass guitar is in a band and sometimes cannot be there. On those Sundays, the keyboardist plays the bass guitar and they have no one on the keyboard--yes, they would love to have my daughter join the group.

Next Sunday is the men's meeting before service at a BBQ restaurant. The wives often eat breakfast so that they do not have to use two vehicles to get to church. We are planning on it but then it would make a very long time at the church; after the second service, they are having a newcomers lunch where they discuss the doctrine of the church, which I would expect leans or is completely Baptist even though it is not in the name. They are a planted church sponsored by a huge Baptist church not that far away. The pastor has a doctorate in theology, which is probably part of the reason his sermons are framed in the traditional way, but certainly more in depth Biblical teaching than we have had at the previous church. The music is contemporary and not as much the top popular songs as our last church, but also more worshipful and respectful--not as much staging and hyping up. The membership, we were told, is around 150, but we did not stay for the second service to see for ourselves. The youth group is in a rebuilding stage as they had quite a few graduates this year, so that can be good or bad depending on how it goes for the Princess.

Will this be our new church family? I have pretty good feelings so far.

~ My Lord, please let us see clearly the path You already prepared for us in finding our new church home. ~

Friday, September 19, 2014

This Must Be a God Thing

God always gives His best to those who leave the choice with him. ~Jim Elliot

Some would say it is a coincidence, but I would say it must be God. It all started with me posting... well, actually, it started before that....


How does one get from changing phones to finding a reputable siding company to confirmation of home church concerns?

I guess the very first thing that put this into motion was that our wireless phone system was not doing its job very well anymore. You see, I like having my hands free when I talk on the phone, so I always use a headset. Most of the time, I talk while doing quiet, mind numbing tasks that have no favor with me, like folding and putting away laundry or dusting...these are extremely boring, need-no-thought tasks that I found go so much faster and are far more enjoyable when I am talking on the phone.

Now the problem was that the phone system, being older, was not doing well with all the other wireless technology we have added. A few years ago, we had changed from a land line to a VOIP, which took care of the line static that was quite annoying and made it difficult for both parties to hear each other. The VOIP was very quiet, however as time went on the signal between the base and the phone being used was breaking up in more areas of our home, so that there were few zones with a clear signal for a conversation. One of the worse zones is where I fold my laundry and go to talk in solitude. After a couple of years dealing with this difficulty, my husband and I seriously began considering changing over to completely cellular even though it would be a greater monthly expense.

I did have a cellular phone--a prepaid flip phone that usually cost me only $50 a year, because I just did not use it much--so we decided to keep that plan and get a new flip phone for our daughter. It is not hers, per se, but rather the one we allow her to use when we are apart. I looked at phones a few months before choosing my smart phone: Samsung Galaxy 5. I had not had a fully functioning smart phone before, but my husband assured me that once I picked the phone I really wanted, I would love it...and I really do love it. It is like my Kindle with more and I can access the Internet from anywhere, which I rarely do but that feature has come in handy a time or two. What an amazing feat in technology! It is great for picture taking and then I can send the photo immediately. You might be rolling your eyes here and I know others have been doing this for awhile, but I only had a flip phone before. The downside is that I have had to get use to taking my phone with me everywhere or placing it near me even in the house, which was new. I have willing tethered myself to this small bit of technology; owned by it as much as I own it. Now on any given moment of the day, I find myself moving my laptop with my Kindle and Galaxy also in tow. So it goes with technology enslavement!

After the phone switch, we then had an unused three-phone, two-line wireless phone system I bought when I had a home business and needed the second line, although I had not used the second line feature in nine years. I listed the phone system on Craigslist for a very reasonable price and got a good bite within a day.

I met with the woman to make the transaction with the three phones, head set, and manual (yeah, I do keep everything) and tell her about the one phone, which was used more than the others, might need a new battery as it is functioning but quirky at times. She was far more interested in the intercom workings because she is going to use it in her business...which originally was a roofing company but with her partner it has added siding, windows, gutters, and more. Just what we need to fix our home. The company has her father's name, but he retired giving half of his business to his daughter and the other half to a young man who was a developer that he hired years ago--not sold, gave. I was impressed when she told me that they never do anything on credit in their company. We used to see their billboards in the area with their name, but her father told them that Jesus was the only advertising they needed, so no more billboards. That impressed me even more and since then God has blessed them so they have been busier than ever.

I asked to set up a time to get an estimate because we probably have just under half of what we need to have the work done and I have a very good feeling about this company. When the partner came to talk with both my husband and me about what we wanted to have done, we were pleased the quality of the products he uses and his candor, but we are still cautious having been burned so badly the last time we had such major work done.

As we talked, the conversation somehow turned to churches. We told him that we might be looking again for another. This man also has a Christian band and has lived in the area all his life so he gave us referrals of churches that might be more encouraging of getting the Princess involved with music. We also mentioned that we were having issues with "Encounter." It was not until then that he told us his sister used to go to our church and she left over that same thing. There is such tremendous pressure and secretiveness encircling Encounter that it just did not feel right to her.

That was confirmation I had been praying about for sometime. I had been questioning myself, wondering if I was making this more of an issue than it is because when I am sitting in this church, I  cannot help but feel like they (all the ones who have been to Encounter) think I am second-hand Christian. I cannot see how anyone can feel like he belongs in this church without having been to Encounter. Also, I have noticed over the months that a few people are missing who used to go every Sunday and I thought maybe they were going to the later service or to the other campus, but we have had a few services with everyone together and I still have not seen these people. I know that a few did not have any Internet access and it is frustrating how heavily the church relies on Facebook. Honestly, I do not know why these people are no longer coming, but it seems it started a few months ago with the push for the last Encounter.

I also want to say that I do not feel Encounter is a bad thing, I just still feel no leading from my Lord to go to it and I am concerned about what I am seeing, how such importance is being placed on it within the church...actually the many churches that embracing this across the country. There is good that comes from it for many people (we don't know exactly what because they are told not to talk about it to people who have not been to it--the outsiders that they do not call "outsiders") but there is also division and an undercurrent of judging to which they would never admit...and tactful, but ever persistant urgings that all this would go away for us if we would just go to Encounter. Yet, this is not a good reason to go.

~ My Lord, thank you for your answers to prayer about getting our house fixed and about concerns we have had with our church. Please guide our steps and have us follow You closely as decisions are made. ~

Friday, August 22, 2014

Love Bracelets

Beauty... is the shadow of God on the universe.
~Gabriela Mistral, DesolacĂ­on

While I was beautifying my gardens in the mornings and on cool days and some evenings, I was secretly starting a business in afternoons, during bad weather, and other evenings. Remember My Love Bracelet? Well, I really loved those beaded charm bracelets so much that I toyed around with the idea for months and then I finally justified my desires with the concept that it would be a very good opportunity to teach my daughter about entrepreneurship.

The Princess had been having fun making the Rainbow Loom bracelets that so many of her friends were also making and she talked of selling her creations but the problem is that so many girls are making them that there is no market. I tried to help her understand the concept of supply and demand in marketing. It is fine for her to enjoy making the rubber band bracelets and she even came up with a few of her own designs! However, it was probably always going to be a hobby, rather than a means to make a bit of coin.

With her desire to create things to sell and make some money...and the fact that we were both into bracelets...and that the beaded charm bracelets were so much like the expensive Pandora bracelets but could be sold at a fraction of the price--Imagine the cost of a completed bracelet matching or being less the cost of just one Pandora bead!--I knew that many of the women in my area would love to have one (or two or three). Then they would also love get some for friends and family as gifts because they really are quite lovely, fun, and affordable.

So, I began looking into sources for good quality glass beads, charms, and bracelets. My bracelets and charms are not sterling silver, but they are lead and nickel free, which was important to me because I am allergic to nickel. After making a few bracelets that I personally liked, just in case I would not sell any, I just matched what I was wearing whenever I went out and interest just happened...except it seemed that everyone wanted colors I did not have at the time so, of course, I had to order more beads, then it was some wanted more bling, and get the picture. In testing the market, we found that the prospects look promising and, hopefully, the Princess is beginning to understand  how to create a market because that people tend to want what they see and do not yet have.

I can spend hours looking at beads and charms to buy and more hours playing with combinations of them. It even surprises me how much I am enjoying this!

I spent several days with the camera and lighting equipment I had on hand testing how to take the best photographs of these beaded beauties. Above is one I call "You Need a Little Christmas." Then I posted them on Pinterest under the name of Miss T. Treasures and I have a few more to post yet too. So, you can see I now have a wide variety, but the cool thing, besides I can wear any as my favorite for the day (which is difficult to choose and so very, very nice!), is that everyone can personalize her own bracelet. I have made some that might be close to what a person would like and then it is just a matter of getting the right bracelet size and switching out a few beads and charms they do not like want for the ones they do. I am not planning to do this as an online business, presently, but who knows? I just think the bracelets sell themselves better in person.

So many bare wrists and so few bracelets!

~ Thank you, my Lord, for giving us the gift of creating and enjoying things of beauty. Please bless this little business. ~

Saturday, August 16, 2014

How Does My Garden Grow - Part 3

I like gardening - it's a place where I find myself when I need to lose myself. ~Alice Sebold

I have quite a few areas left to work on. The upper front garden, as I mentioned in my last post, is not done, but this is the one I focused on next, the blueberry bush garden which is on the south side and gets the most sun of all the gardens. I took this picture late in the day. I can only work in this garden early in the morning or late in the day to avoid sunburns and the heat. You can see I have the back stuff under the mulch that helps keeps the weeds under control, but nature finds a way, if you turn your back on it! Actually, nearly all the garden areas looked similar to this until I worked them, I was just too ashamed to even take the pictures to show the transformation. I decided that I should show at a least one...but it still makes me cringe.

This garden has been edged with a variegated liriope that is the spreading rather than clumping type, which means that it spreads just like the grass that has infiltrated it. Such a messy garden! I decided to take it all out and maybe edge with a clumping liriope, separating the plants I have on hand in hopes that they will tolerate the sunlight.

Now in the next picture below, you will see, at the front of this garden, the stump of a ornamental cherry tree that we cut down because it was diseased. We used several treatments to kill the stump and roots, but as diseased as it was, the thing took years to completely die. After it finally did, fire ants decided that they would like to make a home around it. I would get rid of one batch and another would move in! So, there the fire-ant-wooing stump sat in the garden that was larger than I needed it to be and I would like to make smaller with the edge going right where the stump was and I decided enough was enough with the ants--I needed to remove the stump! I treated the ant hill and I talked about the stump with my husband the night before. He had been doing his own projects and so the gardening has been mine alone, even the Princess would not work in the heat.

Here is my garden in the embarrassing stage:

The next morning, it was cloudy and a bit cooler, and the ant hill was dead. My husband was working on the van because it was making a strange sound he could not find (which took most of the day for the mechanic to find the source but only ended up costing us a bit over $300 thankfully), so when I came outside to work in the garden and found the axe stuck in the stump, I thought he put it there for me to use...but my Prince Charming saw me pitifully hacking away and yelled, "That's not for you. Do you want to be able to go tubing tomorrow?" Okay, so why was it left there all by itself? (By the way, our friends changed the tubing trip to a swimming one at a park because of a church meeting and public school starting the next day, but we took our new tubes bought at a close-out store with us.) May I say that my husband is impressive when he is using an axe! The stump was out in less  than 30 minutes.

On my part, I first dug out about a third of liriope stuffed their bareroots in four plastic pots with a sign "Free Plants" by the road. Someone did take them. Good luck with them, I say. I still had more than I could ever want, but I am thankful for when I planted them, I only had a few and separated them a few times to fill in. They tolerated the four-year drought and poor soil when I lost so many plants, but at this point I have tired of their meandering ways and friendliness with the grass and weeds.

What is it with grass, anyway? It grows where you don't want it and doesn't grow where you do. This garden has a rock edging, but not enough to go all the way around, which is one of the reasons I wanted to make it smaller, so that meant I would have to move all the rock edging. I found grass had forged its way not just between the rocks but under them also, but then so had the liriope in the opposite direction. To avoid using chemicals, I ended up taking apart the entire garden, digging up all the roots under the old black sheeting, removing a rosemary bush that I never really liked there, laying down new black sheeting, and refitting the rocks with black sheets with an extra line of black sheeting under them also. If you have ever done a rock edge like this one, so that the rocks fit together with the smallest of gaps, you know what a job it is. It took me several mornings to do just this one patch of ground and the weather was particularly hot during this time even in the early morning.

Still ugly in the above picture, but now weed and grass free! I got all the rocks how I wanted them, but there is still a gap in the front as I knew there would be, so I had a plan. I divided and planted some of the liriope that clumps and makes a nice border as a test to see if they can take the sun, before I edge the entire garden area with them. The garden bed is a bit smaller, using less mulch, looking a bit sparse with just three blueberry bushes currently--well, the jury is still out about the middle one making it. I have also used this garden for planting watermelons and pumpkins as it does not bother me if the vines over flow but this year I knew I had to rework the entire thing so I did not plant any vines.

So I have done about all I am going to do with the gardens for now...maybe...well, there is always something to do and I want to finish planting the liriope edging behind the rocks on the garden on the left in this picture, but I had to wait until today because I treated yet another fire ant hill and I should be able to work the area now.

Then I need switch gears. I already put some clothing in our first consignment sale which I will be picking up the leftovers today and listing what is left for the next one this week. I am going to be consignment sale shopping one day this week with my friend and her daughter's former teacher, a fellow church member who has taken the year off for maternity purposes. I also need to begin planning our homeschool curriculum and I do have some other things I am excited about that I will be posting here soon.

~ My Lord, thank you for a summer of gardening, for the break I so much needed. Now that I am refreshed emotionally, my Lord, help me to bring my focus on educating my child.~