Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Our Advent Calendar

Take time to be aware that in the very midst of our busy preparations for the celebration of Christ’s birth in ancient Bethlehem, Christ is reborn in the Bethlehems of our homes and daily lives. Take time, slow down, be still, be awake to the Divine Mystery that looks so common and so ordinary yet is wondrously present. ~Edward Hays, A Pilgrim’s Almanac

I always wanted an Advent Calender even though it was not a tradition in my family nor in my husband's. I like the artistic decorative paper ones as well as the wooden ones with boxes. We have a wooden one with "ornaments" in each box to place on its tree in the middle. Each little ornament, having magnets to make them stay in place on the Christmas tree, is symbolic of Christmas or of a Christmas tradition and forklore. It is our tradition that every night before bedtime, the Princess opens a door to take out the ornament. Often we try to guess what the symbol will be. Then I read from the cards that came with the set.

This year I will be inviting you to our advent tradition too, so every night at around 8:00 PM I will make an advent post. I hope you will enjoy it with us.

~ My Lord, thank you for dear friends to share our advent tradition with us. Prepare our hearts each day to take time, slow down, be still, be awake to the Divine Mystery that looks so common and so ordinary yet is wondrously present. ~

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Thankful for You

Thanksgiving, after all, is a word of action. ~W.J. Cameron

Have I told you lately how thankful I am that you are a part of my life? I am very thankful!

I am sure that my precious online friends feel that I have been remiss about keeping in touch of late and I really do not know what everyone is doing because I have not read my favorite people's blogs either. I am missing you all so much! I need to spend some time reading and catching up!

As you know, I have not written much either...and at the first of the month I have an article due that I have not yet even begun to think about! Truth be told, lately I have not much leisure time to spend online, even on my computer. I am still in the process of loading programs and moving data to this new-to-me-but-older hard drive. It is a process slowed by holiday preparations and other in real life stuff and, perhaps, I just am not in a hurry to do it.

We spent Thanksgiving with our pastor and his wife and her daughter's family, so there were six adults, three children, and two dogs, the littlest one in the teething puppy stage, in a home they just moved into the weekend before with most things still in boxes! Most people would have given up on the idea of having a holiday dinner, but they are generous people doing it with what they have. (I am so learning this lesson, my Lord.) My husband does an exceptional turkey in a brine making it so moist and he did the delicious gravy, of course. I made sourdough rolls, crumb top apple pie (one of my best ever I must say), and my red cabbage holiday coleslaw—which for some reason I cannot find a previous post that I thought did on it...maybe I have not posted it before?

It was so nice to have others with whom to share stories and conversation and good food. That is what makes Thanksgiving the holiday it is. I tend to get a bit depressed as the holidays approach because it is not much of a "family" gathering for us. I have always wished for large gatherings, but most years my husband and I had Thanksgiving at home by ourselves because he had to work. If we did go anywhere, it was to his parent's home with just his mother and father. Thanksgiving was usually a quiet holiday. Having had my fill over the years, I think I am now tired of quiet holidays, so being with others and watching the children play and get loud at times, the people in the kitchen working around each other, and the cleaning up of it all was very enjoyable for me.

I felt twinges of guilt knowing that my husband's mother was home alone and she sounded depressed and lonely on the phone. We offered several times but she declined to visit us for the holidays. I am concerned for her with Christmas coming. She has neither invited us nor has accepted our offer to come here. What else can we do?

Yesterday was Black Friday...I usually do not go out shopping on the Friday after Thanksgiving, but I did this time. I got up very early and went shopping but the lines were not that bad. The worse lines were for electronics and I was not in any of them. When I finally got home just before noon, I just felt terrible. After I ate my favorite after-Thanksgiving lunch of turkey sandwich with mayonnaise and Dijon mustard, I felt a bit better but I still had this disoriented feeling so I cozied myself on sofa and watched a DVD trying catch a few Z's now and then.

I had settled my brains for a long winter's nap...well, it felt like that but the clatter to which I awoke was a crying child. The Princess had been deleting the unwanted pictures from her camera and accidentally deleted them all. She calmed down after I explained that deleting only means that the program in the camera does not have the path to the pictures now, but the pictures are still there and that they probably can be recovered just as I did with my computer. Now I have to fiddle around with that to find out how to recover them. Here we go again!

It seems our technology attack is not over, unfortunately. On Wednesday, my husband lost his work cell phone also. He has never lost a cell phone before. He lives with his cell phone and he usually has a photographic memory about where he places things...even where I place things! The worse part is there has been something wrong with his work computer, that has not been fixed although he sent it in, so he could not back up all the contacts and calls and text messages from his cell phone as he is supposed to do. About 200 contacts are just gone. It will take him weeks upon weeks to get all that information again. He is scheduled for a new work computer in the spring, supposedly.

Maybe all this better explains why I have not been all that eager to work on my computer in any capacity. It just seems obvious to me that the Lord is allowing all this to get our attention about something.

~ My Lord, thank you for precious friends, those who choose us and become like family in our hearts. Thank you that delete does not necessarily mean gone for good and that things lost are just "things". Thank you for the desire to change and try new or different things, ingenuity to do with what we have when we must or just should, the blessing in sharing our hearts with each other, and the grace You give us every day. ~

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Happy, Happy, Happy!

We have to pray with our eyes on God, not on the difficulties. ~Oswald Chambers

It could take more than my lifetime to learn how to keep that quote in continual practice. At times I think I have it and then a week later, it has escaped me. However, today, I am happy, happy happy! I have received answers to prayer and news of good things I felt the Lord had promised, just blessings! Today I have much, so very much, for which I am thanking my Lord! It is too much to write right now; sorry to keep you in suspense, but I still have lots to do setting up a computer.

Okay, I will give you a tiny sweet morsel. I did restore my computer, mostly. It still has a very nasty Trojan with worms kind of virus on it and I have not found a way to remove it completely yet, but I have stopped the pop ups. I have most of my data files copied to an external drive (I say most because I keep finding a few I had forgotten), and I am in the process setting up an identical laptop, only it will be done a bit differently. It has reminded me of how I get stuck in ruts. I mean, what I do with my computer now is somewhat different than what I used to do when I first set it up and yet I did not reorganize it to make it more efficient for what I do now. I have been focusing on rearranging here and there to make my home fit our lifestyle better, so why not my computer too? It may take me a couple more weeks to get everything set up and settled in, but it is all looking good.

Happy dancing!

~ Thank you, my Lord, for hearing my prayers and providing a solution to get my data as You promised me. I always believe and hope, but I am still surprised at the things You do for me just because You love me in a way I cannot ever deserve. ~

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Outer Limits

There is nothing wrong with your television set. Do not attempt to adjust the picture. We are controlling transmission. If we wish to make it louder, we will bring up the volume. If we wish to make it softer, we will tune it to a whisper. We will control the horizontal. We will control the vertical. We can roll the image, make it flutter. We can change the focus to a soft blur or sharpen it to crystal clarity. For the next hour, sit quietly and we will control all that you see and hear. We repeat: there is nothing wrong with your television set. You are about to participate in a great adventure. You are about to experience the awe and mystery which reaches from the inner mind to... The Outer Limits. ~Opening narration of the Outer Limits (1960s)

Yes, I have reached what must be the Outer Limits. In the span of one week, I have fried three computers...well, technically two computers and three hard drives. I am now typing on my computer with my husband's old hard drive, which he managed to revive today after I killed it yesterday. All have had different problems, but in the end the results were that I had no working computer.

Do you want to know more? In my last entry, I related that our phone line had been down, but we still had DSL. Then it came back and everything worked for a few hours. The next morning, the phone lines and the DSL were dead. They said lines were cut somewhere and it should be up by Friday. A day later everything worked but then...

Today I was drying my daughter's hair to hurry her along so we could get our shopping and errands done. The hair dyer suddenly seem to be losing power. I looked up at the lights to see if we were experiencing a brown out, but everything else was just fine. I turned it off and on a few times and it just stayed that way, so I tried to finish with what I had and suddenly without any reason, it began working normally again.

There is more! I get to the health food grocery store today that I have shopped for thirteen years and have never seen this problem, not even once, but the electronic scale would not work....No, I am not kidding! After several tries to get it to reset, the clerk was finally able to get it to work.

Folks, I am living out one of my daydreaming-mares that plays out a poignant message of how much I rely on technology...perhaps it has come to the place that was worshipping it? I seriously doubt if I spend as much time in prayer as I do in front of a computer screen, justifying it as I squeeze in a prayer about something or other while a program loads, if my daughter is not in need of my attention at that moment first.

Am I rethinking my priorities and how I manage my time? Yes, I am. Absolutely. Along with praying, cross-stitching, crocheting, drawing, reading, gardening, and general housework are far less complicated and now seem to be far more attractive pursuits to me.

Progress on the data recovery is being made. My husband can now see my data files on my old hard drive, but he cannot grab them yet. I feel the Lord has told me that he will recover them, so it is just a matter of when. My gaming computer has not been touched...yet. We are doing one hard drive at a time. I am again trying to load programs on this one, but this time we are backing it up...heavily.

~ My Lord, if You are trying to get my attention away from my computer and more on You, I have gotten the message. Help me keep my computer activities within Your will from now on, so that nothing replaces You as my highest priority. ~

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Enough Already, Maybe Not Enough?

Our greatest victories are won on our knees and with empty stomachs.
~Julio C. Ruibal

There are times I can get beaten down and then there are times when I start getting angry because I feel like I am being pushed into a corner...and somewhere during those times I remind myself that my Lord is...He just is. I should be at peace in that.

I often think that my ideal of my Lord falls so short of what He really is. If I am to be brutally honest with myself, I just want Him to be my kind of god, but actually I really should want to be His kind of child. I am sure I fall way short of His ideal in that...way short.

Right now am typing this post on my daughter's computer. "Why?" You may ask. Why, indeed. Well, my husband has not yet been able to read the data off of my lap top hard drive, which still is not working, so I used my gaming computer to make my last post, then something happened to it as well and I cannot even get into Windows on it now either. I am actually afraid to even be typing on my daughter's computer! I know what you might be thinking. At least, we have computers to spare! Yes, it is one of the perks of being married to a techie kind of guy, but then we have computer parts everywhere collecting dust as well, so it has its downside too. I can say though, having had more than one computer for many years, I also know how incredibility unlikely it is to take down two computers within days of each other by the same person not doing the same thing to cause it.

I am not that upset (not like I usually would be, at least) about the computers. I am more upset that I cannot tell from where this is coming. Life in this existence is not paradise. I do not expect it to be good for me always, at least what I perceive as good for me, but I am just not sure that what is good for me from my Lord's perspective. I can see God's pathways laid out for other people quite clearly, but I am blind to my own. I am asking those, with gifts of discernment, if is this another aspect of an evil spiritual attack. It seems we have been enduring such a thing lately and some have told me is related to the fast and our 20% tithe commitment, perhaps our church also, or is this just my Lord disciplining me about how much I rely (and play, but generally just spend too much time in total) on my computer and the Internet, or is it all just a coincidence in which I would like to see a purpose when none exists.

Also, my husband noticed yesterday that our van is leaking oil again in an entirely different area than before, this after I drove it on Thursday. It could be that they simply did not get a good seal on the gasket they replaced or.... I don't want to think about the "or" actually.

Then another little thing: the temperature gauge I use to make yogurt glitched last night and I could not get it to turn off or do anything. I simply removed the battery and put it back in so it seems to be working, but right now it is like anything with technology is bent to glitch when I touch it.

This morning my husband went to a church board meeting and the good news is that our church is going forward with building onto our existing building as far as our building fund and faith will take us, which is an answer to my prayer for confirmation about the vision I believed I was given. Oh, and then I realized our phone line is dead.... Do you see what I mean? We made a call last night, but it was not working when I tried calling my husband after the meeting this afternoon.

I really am at a lost as to what I am suppose to do! Maybe I am just suppose to endure...and be content in doing so?

Ah, that may be the heart of my discontent! What probably is concerning me the most is my attitude. Regardless from where it is coming, am I honoring God in any of this? Do you see me honoring God in this, because I do not. Am I pleasing Him at all? Am I failing even more at being His ideal child? I am not disappointed in my Lord, I am disappointed in me. I want to be willing to accept anything from Him, even disciplining, but I do not know if I am being disciplined or being used as an example (some example I make) or if this is just all out spiritual warfare (for which I seem woefully incompetent to handle).

~ My Lord, for what should I pray? Please make me into what pleases You. ~

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Computer Problems

The problem with troubleshooting is that trouble shoots back. ~Author Unknown

Yesterday I went onto a website and the next thing I knew, it looked like something was being downloaded and then...BAM! I cannot get my computer to come up at all. Fortunately, I am married to a computer savvy kind of guy. I think my data was backed up about a month ago, so I will not lose much if we have do the the worst thing, which is reformat the hard drive. However, it will take some time to reload programs, although I might have to do that anyway even if we don't have to reformat.

We have other computers so I can get online. I am using our gaming computer right now, which has not been turned on for at least a year because who has time for games? However, I do use my laptop for other really important things, like homeschool records and creating homeschool materials, so I am feeling a bit down this morning. Fortunately...and unfortunately...it is my errand day. My husband can work on it while I am gone and not hovering over him, but last night he purchased an external drive enclosure for my laptop's hard drive so he could access it and it did not work. Now he needs to find one that will with only one computer store around before I have to leave on my errands or it will be several more days. He does this stuff all the time so he is patient and careful, but I have seen him when it is his own computer and I know that he finds it far less stressful when he is fixing any computer belonging to someone else.

You never really realize how nice you have everything set up on your personal computer until you have to use another one. I don't have bookmarks! I don't have mobility! I don't have all those nifty programs and graphics! I don't even have Firefox and I so dislike IE for my browser. I have to remember my online access to my email!

All this on the day I have to leave earlier because my daughter has an hour piano lesson so we have to be there earlier and my husband was hoping to have the van to himself this evening, rather than working on a computer.

Some good unrelated news:
The last van repair not only fixed the oil leak but Pegusus stopped burning oil too, which meant that she probably was leaking only when she was running previously and the engine is still in good shape overall. Happy dancing here!

My oven is working again and I made sourdough bread and sourdough biscuits. My husband told me yesterday that he really likes my bread. That put a smile on my face at a time when I was feeling like the I had been a bad teacher because my daughter could not even tell me what an adjective is, which she has been taught and seemed to know for some years and should be able to recall at anytime and now we are going to be spending lots of time reviewing, but no matter, my husband likes my bread!

~ My Lord, You know how much I rely on this technology, particularly my PC. Please let it be easy to resolve and done quickly. Please? And, thank you so very much for my husband. You chose wisely for me. ~

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Counting Sixteenth Notes

Music and rhythm find their way into the secret places of the soul. ~Plato

I have dreaded this moment since my daughter began piano in May of 2005...yes, five and a half years ago. For those of you who are new readers, my daughter started piano just after she turned four years old, after begging me for a year, and she has a gift for it. This is the Princess at 4½ years old, with just six months of lessons, at her very first informal recital at a coffee shop. Quite a difference when comparing her last recital this spring: The Little Lady Plays a Minuet.

Aw, such a sweet memory! It was all so simple and fun, but even then I knew it was inevitable, this dreaded moment, and now it is upon me: counting sixteenth notes!

The Princess is learning another Bach piece, this one with sixteenth notes, that she must have ready for judging in a few months. Those of you who enjoy music but have had no training may not fully appreciate my repugnance to learning to count sixteen notes. Quarter notes in 3/4 time, as minuets are, are just simply counting 1, 2, 3. That was easy! Somewhere in her second year of her formal training, she learned eighth notes. Counting them is not that difficult: 1 and 2 and 3 and (or in short hand 1 + 2 + 3 +)...repeatedly.

Now it is sixteenth notes and it it just unnatural for me. We need to learn to count like this: 1 ee and ah 2 ee and ah 3 ee and ah. In the meantime, my daughter is playing with her right hand a dotted eight note, then a sixteenth note and then two staccato quarter notes (detached or just hit the key and lift so you do not hold it at all giving an abrupt and often playful sound). That is just the first measure and we can barely do it!!!

Now if this was the only song she has to learn, memorize, and perform without music for the judging, I know she would get it and she will get it, however she has to also pick another song to begin learning for this same judging and these are not simple pieces. In between we have two holiday breaks so she will not have at least three lessons with her teacher too.

I have to say, though, in performance when most children tend to freeze up, the Princess really shines, but I also know the hours of practice, prayers, and tears with which we both struggle to be performance ready just so she is able to sit there playing as if it is the easiest, most natural thing in the world for her to do.

~ My Lord, one of my fears is that I will be a hindrance in what training You wish have for my daughter as she is being prepared to for Your purpose, so please help me learn to count sixteenth notes with ease. ~

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Peaceful in the Quiet

Thou hast created us for Thyself, and our heart is not quiet until it rests in Thee. ~Saint Augustine

My husband mentioned something to me this morning that I have also been feeling myself. Ever since the 40-day fast, we have enjoyed quiet...true quiet. We had our TV service turned off just before the fast, but that was not all of it.

We often would listen to talk radio too and, of course, Christian stations also. He was saying that since the fast, he has enjoyed quiet. He does not listen to much radio, just a few minutes a day periodically. He likes music playing softly in the evenings at times, but even then not as much as we used to do.

I told him that it was strange because I have been feeling the exact same thing. I am far more at peace with quiet, not looking to turn on something producing sound, and far more in peace when it is quiet. I think I listened to ten minutes of radio all this week. I find that I am less inclined to yell when things are making me upset. I am more inclined to think of a way to respond more positively. I am not telling the dog, cat, or child to move because one of them is in the way between the remote and the TV or yelling at them to quiet down (so counterproductive and ironic, that) so I can hear a show or the news. Why did I ever treated them as if they were less important to me than what I might be missing on TV or the radio?

Now I am wondering....was I using these things to drown out the noise in my mind, and, in so doing, adding more noise, tension, and stress in my mind, in my home? Did I create a no-win situation where all the things I used in an effort to achieve escapism were actually trapping me into the need to escape even more? Worse: Was I trying to drown out God too? (I have to be honest here, I knew down deep that I was even when it was not intentional, but was it really ever unintentional?)

Our TV service allows us to turn it off six months out of the year. It is scheduled to come back on the week before Christmas, but we have said we will probably turn it on before Thanksgiving. I am not sure what we will do after Christmas exactly yet. Maybe we will leave it on as it will be dark and cold outside so early in the evening and we will limit ourselves from watching much. Maybe we will save the money and just turn it off for good...?

A couple more thoughts:

Isn't watching TV a rather selfish indulgence? Not that we should never enjoy anything and not that we should never watch TV just for fun sometimes, but it is the amount of it, as well as content. I wonder if we purposely use it to artificially fill an emptiness in ourselves which would be better filled by serving God and other people.

How does watching hours of TV each day associate with living in the Kingdom, or at least are preparing our souls to be living in the Kingdom? Are we going to expect heaven to be a place where we are constantly entertained? Let's be honest here! We, most likely, have some expectation along those lines, because we would naturally tend to associate what brings us pleasure here as what will bring us pleasure in heaven.

I thought I was pretty strict with the TV before, but when I stepped away from it completely, I realized that the pleasure it provides is not lasting nor genuine and more often it adds tension in my home and pushes God aside. With a better perspective on how it affects my family, I will be far more careful with it in the future.

~ My Lord, thank you for the agreement my husband and I, and even our daughter, share in regards to enjoying the quiet and having peace in it. ~

Monday, November 1, 2010

A Persuaded Heart

To the world you may be just one person, but to one person you may be the world.
~Brandi Snyder

I just have to say that Persuaded at Tomato Soup Cake shames me to no end and she does it without meaning to do so. She just has such a loving heart, the kind that shines a light on your own faults and make you want to hide them, yet still you are drawn to the light of her loving kindness.

I first was introduced to Persuaded through her blog listed on a mutual friend's blog and I would once in awhile creep over to her place. I tried very hard not to get caught up into another blog, trying to keep my Internet addictions down to a minimum, but...I just could not help myself. I fell in love with this woman despite it all. She reminds me of Aunt Bee of the Mayberry with a bit more spunk and far more patience. I quite imagine that she often has twinkles in her eyes. I am still trying to figure out how she makes me feel like a child when she is only a few years older than I am!

She was even gracious enough to talk with me by phone just recently, with the battery of her cell phone drained completely as being the only way to break me away from her. Poor woman! I am hoping that her good ear is still good after all that.

What I like about Persuaded:
She has an amazing heart.
She has a strange attraction for clotheslines.
She has another strange attraction for plastic storage containers.
She sews, sews, and sews some more.
She loves just about anything vintage...an-y-thing...even this!
She has a rather cute sense of humor.

How can you not just love her?

Persuaded, this is my wish for you:
Comfort on difficult days,
smiles when sadness intrudes,
rainbows to follow the clouds,
laughter to kiss your lips,
sunsets to warm your heart,
hugs when spirits sag,
beauty for your eyes to see,
friendships to brighten your being,
faith so that you can believe,
confidence for when you doubt,
courage to know yourself,
patience to accept the truth,
Love to complete your life.

~ My Lord, please bless this dear lady and thank you for placing her in my heart. ~