Friday, December 21, 2012

Which Lesson to Learn?

God allows us to experience the low points of life in order to teach us lessons we could not learn in any other way. The way we learn those lessons is not to deny the feelings but to find the meanings underlying them. ~Stanley Lindquist

Most lessons are hard. I think this must be so for if a lesson is not then I really did not learn something new.

I woke up this morning with a few hives and this was not an allergic reation. Actually, the few times I have had hives in my life were due to my nerves, so I have had to really examine where I have been emotionally, which I must admit that I have been trying to hide from myself. Even so, I have known for the last few weeks that I am coming to the end of my rope, burning out, loosing my grip, going under--you get the picture. I have been struggling with every disappointment on the brink of tears and the list of disappointments are mounting daily, almost hourly at times, because not much seems to be going right. I have been far too easily irritated. I feel I am out of control of my life and that I dislike where it all is going with my family. Some days I just want to stay in bed and other days I want drop everything and go out somewhere to do something just for fun.

My heart cries out: Lord, why? I have been through far worse times in my life and far greater depressions, but really this is neither. It is the overwhelming weight of responsibility and all that goes with leadership. I find little comfort in a leadership role, because I think it makes too great an opportunity as a target for slinging arrows. To be honest these the arrows have been more like the suction-cup toy arrows that just stubbornly stick to you, but are not intended to be harmful...I just cannot seem to shake them off. 

As I wrote previously in a post about giving up working at the 4-H horse barn on Tuesdays, when I take on a responsibility, I have difficulty in giving it up...actually, resigning from it. I do not like to quit anything, particularly when other people are counting on me. Sometimes I feel trapped by my own sense of responsibility and loyalty. This why I rarely volunteer for anything: I give it the best that I can and often more than I should for my own good. I can burn myself out easily in long term commitments, even when I try to pace myself, but give me a ministry doing something for my Lord...I am completely blind as to where my boundaries should be.

I get high on doing any ministry for God, but low when others do not see God's amazing work in it, because I question if others do not see the same as I believe God has shown me, was it God at all or just me? I am not looking for recognition for myself, but for acknowledgement, praises even, of God's workings from others. Is this a trial for me to learn something new, to make some changes in my attitude? Is it not a trial, but my Lord cornering me, because I will not give up even though that is what He is trying to show me it is His will that I should.

There are times that I have cheered on people resigning because of high principles and there are times I have cheered on people who persevered through difficulty, even when no one supported them. If it were on those terms alone, I could go either way in my situation, but I want to go with God and be in His way. I just do not know which way God is leading me, but I do know that something needs to change because...well, hives are a sign I cannot ignore. I can make excuses for being extra tired or cranky or not getting my housework done or not setting aside time for doing the things I love to do, things that give me joy, but I cannot make excuses for hives!

Sign from God that my attitude needs to change or that my time of service is coming to an end? I am just not hearing the answer to this question right now...or maybe I am choosing not to hear it?

~ My Lord, You know all that is on my heart this day. Please show me what it is You wish from me and then give me the strength to do it. ~

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

It is the Little Things

The time to repair the roof is when the sun is shining. ~John Fitzgerald Kennedy

My husband has been on a fix-it kick for the past month and I am very thankful for it. I could go into the long list of things he has been fixing, which would include the church media computer and a huge change in our Internet service provider with its router and more. However, I just wanted to write about two little things that have improved my life...just a little bit.

I finally have a handle on my refrigerator! Believe it or not, the handle on our refrigerator broke three years ago, when we were in some very financially tough times. After a year of opening the refrigerator door by our fingernails, I searched the Internet for a replacement. Being that our refrigerator is twenty years old, the only places I found on the Internet to replace it would tell me that they did not have it in stock, but to go ahead and order it (pay for it) as the manufacturer would do a run when there were sufficient orders for could be a few weeks or a few months.

All those places, by the way, were actually the same one company with different names, but the websites were nearly identical. Unlike most places, they would charge our credit card for the item immediately and ship it when it came in. It was rather expensive too. Something like $90 for just the metal part of the handle, not even the entire handle...oh, but shipping was free! (Probably because it justified the overcharge of the $20 metal piece of the handle.) However, one of the "other" companies--which was the same one--listed it for $15 cheaper. Things were just so tight then, I could not justify tossing money at or giving my credit card information to an untrusted source, who had a few companies with different price structures. Besides, we could still open the refrigerator!

Lately, my dishwasher has been leaving more stuff on the dishes than it is taking off and it needs a part replaced, which my husband ordered and should be here within a week. Also, its utensil basket was disintegrating at the bottom so the silverware fell though in some parts. Honestly, when you put your dirty silverware into the basket, you really don't want to be concerned placing them in a pattern that mirrors where the diminishing bottom is still intact. Why did not I order one before? Can you guess? Yes, it seemed to be from the same company as the refrigerator handle and, yes, they were never in stock. Let's not forget that it cost about $70 for this basket but the shipping was free! Oh, and one of the "other" companies listed it at around $15 less.

I have no idea what my husband spent for these items as he has his own money...that is, he gets reimbursed for his work expenses, which just pays for actual expenditures, except for car mileage. That is where they pay a certain amount per mile toward gas, maintenance, repairs, and the expense of buying the car, but not actual expenditures. We had only one vehicle for two years until he got a better job and then we had to buy a second one two years ago, which we paid by credit card. I never saw any of the mileage money go toward paying off that debt, even so we just paid off that credit card last month. I am still doing the happy dance over having no credit card debt!

Anyway, the extra money for vehicle expenses somehow never gets into my budget envelope for the vehicles, but my husband sometimes buys things for car maintenance as well as treats us to a dinner out and he did get me a new computer with it (months after he bought an iPad for himself that he mostly uses for work). So, I just work with the paycheck and he has his mad money to spend as he sees fit. Our marriage works this way: my budget pays the bills and necessities with some emergency money for those unexpected things and my husband gets to be generous or gets himself things without asking if we have it in the budget.

I think he used to think I was too strict with budgeting. However, he appreciated my budget when we needed new tires three years ago--this was also when money was so tight I would not buy a replacement refrigerator handle and my dishwasher was complete broke too. The tires literally were coming apart and I had built into my budget extra money for maintenance and repairs since we had such an older vehicle with lots of miles on it that became his work van. He looked nearly ill thinking about the cost of the tires, which is usually my thing, not his. He was apologizing to me about cost of new tires thinking I would lose it, which I can do when more is going out than coming in. I remember calmly asking him how much the tires would be and when he told me, I was the one assuring him that we could afford that expense. The look of surprise and relief on his face was priceless! Yeah, I can still dazzle the guy with my budget planning now and then.

Usually, my husband worries far less about money than I do, but that time of being out of work four years ago and then finding a job at 60% of what he used to make and the state of our government outspending its revenue had transformed his perspective about our finances. It has had a lasting affect. I doubt we will run up our credit card debt again. I would not even add the amount of a refrigerator handle and a dishwasher basket to our debt! I know it may sound ridiculous to you and it was not my plan to open the refrigerator by my fingernails for three years, but we all survived it. I saw those things as very nice conveniences, but they were not absolutely necessary to get by.

Now we are out of our credit card debt. Now we have a refrigerator handle and a dishwasher basket with a complete bottom. I have a new computer that thankfully did not have Windows 8 on it! My husband found his iPad that he misplaced five days ago. My daughter and I spent yesterday icing Christmas cut out sugar cookies.

This is one of the best Christmases I have ever had!

~ My Lord, thank you for the lean times so that I can better appreciated the times I can repair and improve. ~

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Oh, No! Not Fudge Again!

Fudge is a noun, a verb, an interjection, and delicious! ~Terri Guillemets

 ....except when it is not really fudge. Then it is some nouns, some verbs, definitely some interjections, and maybe even still tasty...but it is NOT fudge!

This will be brief, partially because it is very late and partially because I have had enough fun laughing at myself for the last hour. It all started with a new fudge recipe--well, no. That is not entirely accurate. It started with a certain new flavor of fudge in my mind, key lime, but all the recipes I found for it were called for condensed milk and white chocolate. I have those ingredients on hand, but I wanted to try to make my fudge the old fashion way like I do most all my fudges.

 (I just love to complicate things.)

So basically, I did not follow the recipe exactly. I found one for lemon fudge and used key lime juice instead, but even then I used more juice because key lime recipes called for more. I think that is where all the problems began.

After it did not set the first time, I considered doubling the amount, but adding the condensed milk and white chocolate for the other part. I really did consider it, but I do not like giving into fudge. So I reheated and tried again, it was closer to setting than before, but not enough. Then I was determined not to admit defeat!

After all, I had made chocolate fudge just a couple of days ago, messed up how I did it because I was distracted by a phone call. I could not remember how many cups of sugar I had put in and I put the butter in too early instead of letting it cool first. To fix this I doubled the recipe, because smaller batches have to be more exact than bigger ones with the sugar and I put the other half of the butter in at the right time. It come out just fine.

I even made pumpkin fudge earlier today that came out the best I have ever I done and the first time around too. This one has usually has been a problem for me in past years, but I think I finally have mastered it.

So, the new key lime fudge...I reheated it a third time and this time it went over the temperature of the softball stage--not my intention. I now have something that is more like a soft taffy...I think. It seemed to be from what was left on the spoon. I decided to pour it in the pan and it did set this time, but I am pretty sure it is not fudge. So I admit to being defeated by key lime least for tonight. I am not sure what to do with it tomorrow, maybe just leave it as it is for my family, maybe try adding the other recipe to double it, maybe just...well, I hate throwing out anything that is edible. But, for now I will just go bed.

Tuesday Morning Update: It is morning and here I am facing the green stuff that was meant to be key lime fudge. It is very grainy, soft taffy-like substance. Although a disappointment, this I can probably work with by going with my first thoughts and this time mixing the condensed milk and white chocolate recipe, which by itself makes a very soft, creamy fudge. Maybe the bad traits of them both will turn out something good. Well, here's to hoping...and trying a fourth time!

Friday Morning Update: I cannot believe it, but I have achieved Key Lime Fudge perfection! It seemed to be too soft at first so I refrigerated it for a day. Still unsure I decided to used crushed graham crackers to coat each piece. As I cut it last night, I was pleased that it was not too soft and dusted each piece with the crushed graham cracker just to be sure they would not stick together. I was hoping I would not have a fudge that was so soft it needed to be refrigerated and I do. The only problem is that I probably will never be able make to this fudge exactly again--in fact, I would not want to do so. I definitely need to create a Key Lime Fudge recipe that works...the first time and every time.

~ My Lord, thank you for tomorrows, for although the consequences of my mistakes linger, I have the opportunity of having fresher perspective on them.~

Friday, November 23, 2012

Pulled in All Directions

Be careful in your choices, my child. You have not yet learned that everything you own, actually owns you. ~me

I do not know why I am sitting and writing out my feelings right now, instead of getting things under least one or two. I mean, I have plenty of things to do like Christmas baking, cards, and shopping in addition to paying bills.

I missed a deadline for a book review, so I was told. That should be a higher priority than this is and I have an article due in a week that I have not started either.

I could go out and shop for the Black Friday specials, but my heart is not into it, but at least my van is working now. Oh, you may not have heard about the last fortnight. Well, it might explain why I am in the state of mind--or mindlessness--in which I am currently.

Well, it began kind of like this...

Saturday, November 10th
The church board meeting was a bit rough for me. I have been introducing too many new songs it seems, beautiful songs that have been popular and some have been out for over ten years, but apparently most of our board members do not listen to contemporary Christian radio. It was mentioned that more hymns would be nice.

I would love to incorporate more hymns, but there are three difficulties I have with them. One is that our selection is very limited and most of the songs are very short. Two, I do not have a band or even a pianist to bridge between songs and pull them together, so the hymns are like an abrupt difference and feel halting. Three, except for one family in their thirties, we have a 50 year old and older congregation of churched most of their lives and every church leader agrees that style of music is what determines the age of the congregation so hymns would fit for what we have now. However, I feel led to use more contemporary music for in just eight more years we will be a sixty and over congregation of churched with no new younger families joining and nothing for reaching the unchurched.

Sometimes the service is more contemporary, sometimes a bit more traditional, and sometimes the mix is balanced, but I spend a great deal of time listening to music and talking with God about each service, so I believe I was doing what pleased my Lord. I did appreciate the suggestion by another member to consider getting CDs for our hymnals, although I found them to be quite costly, but I passed on the information on later that day.

Sunday, November 11th
This was the first service after the election and also Veteran's Day. I had my songs already picked, but on Sunday morning I woke up and changed two of them. I was not sure it was my Lord's leading or just my reaction to the board meeting and the election, but I prayed that it would please my Lord. I also would read a poem called "The Ordinary Soldier" and talked briefly about placing our trust in God's kingdom rather than man's government and about being in service to our Lord as our military is in service to our country. God is so good! The guest pastor even mentioned how he had not spoken to anyone about his subject and how all this went perfectly with his message. I am amazed every Sunday how this has been happening, when we have such a variety of guest speakers and we all just trust God's leading! Wow!

My husband decided to give me my Christmas gift early, so right after church, he drove towards Atlanta instead of home. It was not a welcomed surprise for the Princess, who had plans for her afternoon apparently, but she tolerated it better after we talked about eating at Fuddrukers, a hamburger place she really likes. Then we went to Micro Center, my husband's favorite tech store. What I wanted for Christmas was simply an e-reader but he had it in mind to buy the laptop he had picked out for me, since the new responsibilities with church music and videos were overloading my six year old laptop, which was maxed out. I mean there are USB Flash Drives that have as much space available now! The one he had eyed online was a refurb for $100 less--my husband has become quite the spendthrift these last few years! So I am now the owner of a wide-screen, HD quality, great stereo speakers (for a laptop), Windows 7 laptop with a battery that last for hours!

As exciting as that is, changing over to a new computer has its hassles and I have had quite a few. I was really deflated when I realized that the battery was not charging at all. Googling, I found this was a common problem with Windows 7, but this is why I do not do brand new operating systems...I like it better when they have worked out all the bugs of a system, about a year or two old. Finally, after a couple of days and all the Windows updates, including one for the Bios, my battery was charging and all was right with my little cyber world. I still have few programs to load, but I now have a hard drive that is over ten times the space I had before. SO MUCH SPACE! Did you hear that virtual echo?

Tuesday, November 13th
I received an email on Monday evening, as all the board members did, that gave information about two CDs with hymns and one with Christmas music that we have at the church, which was in response to a report I had given at the board meeting on the prior Saturday. I appreciated the interest in the praise and worship, but the only one CD we have devoted to traditional "Christmas Hymns," as it is called, reads that it has 25 songs. Unfortunately, only 14 are actually for church service use as the rest are nice carols, like "Silver Bells" and "We Wish You a Merry Christmas." You get the picture. Also, each song ranges in play time from around three minutes to just one minute. Since I have listened to every song on every CD, I had additional information. For instance, "It Came Upon a Midnight Clear" has verse one and five for one minute of play time--the night was very short! Since the two hymns CDs are produced by the same company, they are similar. "Amazing Grace" has verse one, three, and seven only. Knowing that they would not have this information, on Tuesday I took the time to write out a sampling of the songs so that all the board members would have more detailed, factual information.

Thursday, November 15th
Thursday I started out with my usual errands wrapped around the Princess' piano lesson. I have noticed something going on with the van for the last few months, but whenever my husband drove it, the problem did not happen. Well, it really happened when I put the van in reverse to straighten it out in a parking space. The Princes thought we had hit something. "No, I pretty sure that was the transmission," I said as I tried to act as if it was just one of those little bumps in the road of life. Although it slipped, it did catch in gear and we got out of the parking space. Going forward did not seem to be the problem so I went on the rest of my errands being sure I would not have to go in reverse, but I forgot when we stopped in at a store near home. I got out of the parking space and parked where there would be no cars around the rest of the evening in case we needed to have it towed for now I was having a bit of a problem starting to going forward too. I called my husband who was on his way home but nearly two hours away. My daughter and I shopped and went to eat at a restaurant while he drove home to let out the dog, feed the pets, and clear out his work van full of parts to make room for us and the groceries. He drove my Dragon Heart to the garage and we followed in his Pegasus.

During all this my child lost her tween whine about what we could not do and just went with what we could do without a complaint. Apparently, I am better with crisis management than I think I am and it has been rubbing off on her.

Friday, November 16th
There are times I do not like being right. This would be one of them. This is the second transmission we have replaced in less than six months. Pegasus had to have a new one when she encountered rubber coming off a semi in July. Fortunately, Dragon Heart's transmission would not be as costly and although a setback, we are still free of credit card debt. So, we were told we should have the van back Tuesday evening. I began preparing foods for the church dinner on Sunday.

Sunday, November 18th
Although we have absolutely no traditional Thanksgiving hymns on any of our church CDs, I did find a medley video we could use. I asked for what we were thankful and everyone said the things that I expected home, family, health--basically all the things that make life comfortable and can be taken away. God had reminded me before the service that all the things for which we are typically thankful are things that we will not have to be concerned about in heaven so I passed on that little message.

The Princess had invited a friend to service with us as we were having Thanksgiving dinner at the church and I am glad she was there as the other family with a child could not make it. Although we usually do not leave until 9:00 AM, her parents dropped her off early at 8:00 AM as they were leaving for their church; they are heavily involved with the children's ministry there. I made a pumpkin pie, an apple pie, and brought a store bought peach pie, along with three kinds of homemade sourdough rolls and my Holiday Red Cabbage Coleslaw for which a few people ask; one of the church members loves it and calls "purple stuff." (I try to make extra so he will have plenty to take home.) After the dinner, we hung the greens for Christmas.

That evening I had scheduled for us to have pictures taken...I have not done this for years because it is a zoo during the holidays! We arrived about ten minutes late and were told there were four families before us so maybe thirty minutes wait. Thirty minutes later we were told there were four families before us so maybe thirty minutes wait. No kidding! Well, there was a book store near and so we went there. Pictures were taken and we waited another thirty minutes or more to view and choose.  We went just a bit over the budget amount...just a bit. Then we could wait another thirty minutes for them to be processed or pick them up later. The Princess was sure she would feint for lack of food so we opted for the later pick up.

Monday, November 19th
I was in crash mode. It became obvious as I wrestled with migrating email files that just was not working for me, mostly because I was just too burned out to think it through. Good news came in the late afternoon: Dragon Heart was ready for us with a new transmission. My husband also stopped to get the pictures.

Tuesday, November 20th
We paid the garage and picked up Dragon Heart, then I went back home to mess with the new computer and my husband on to work. I was so very glad I had the van later on!

The Princess brings in Sharii to me saying that he is not acting like himself and he had something I should see on his neck. One look, one feel, one phone call, and we are rushing to make an appointment in just twenty minutes so we can wait at the vet's for at least thirty minutes in the lobby, and another twenty in the examination room. Sharii has had swollen glands now and then every since we got him as a kitten, but never something like this. Half the width of his neck was the size of this thing. I thought it was an abscess. One stick of a needle and drawing out the fluid confirmed it. The recommendation was lancing, draining, and antibiotics. About a hundred dollars and another thirty minutes later, I had a cat who was happy to see me again and was draining from a much larger incision than I expected. Later that same cat would growl at me ever time I touched him.

I bought him inside with me during the evening and had him lay on my lap. He stopped growling and fell asleep. He would be spending a few days in the garage, which he loves to do but not half a much as Midnight. The squirrels began to take advantage of the missing cats and I hope they clean up the acorns while they have the chance.

Wednesday, November 21th
AT&T our phone and Internet ISP has been sending letters that if we do not take their offer to switch to U-verse that they will not be maintaining the DSL and we could lose service. They offered a new router for free and a reduction in monthly fee. So I spent some time last week trying to understand the costs and services to make a decision. I decided that we would go with U-verse with VOIP and they scheduled it for the morning on the day before Thanksgiving. Now, first I have to explain that while everyone who works for AT&T is so nice and seems quite proficient in their jobs, I have had the worst experiences with the company. Nothing ever goes smoothly or right. We used to have two phone lines, when I had a business. One was in my name and the other was in my husband's. They convinced me to combine the two onto one bill because it would save us money. Well, then both numbers were in my name. We tried to change the names and they disconnected one of the lines and then the other one. After the second time, I just left it. Later I closed the business and dropped one line...and made the mistake of again trying to change the name on the account. Since I decided to just leave it just was the better choice for my sanity.

So, here we are making another change with AT&T. Thankfully, my husband was home in the morning for the installation. Oh, the guy shows up, but we are not in the system so the DSL disconnect cannot happen. He cannot do it because the DSL guys are union. (You really do not want to know what I think of unions and to add to those feelings there is the whole Hostess and baker's union thing going on this week too.) However, we did get switched over and I have the dust from the lines being run through our drop ceiling in the office area in the basement to prove it. I must say that the phone lines are so quiet now. We have more bandwidth, although we did not ever use our limit before even with Netflix. I opted for the faster version so we are not seeing "rebuffering" when watching Netflix and my husband's employer pays for out Internet access. However, we need another router to network with our external hard drive that is supposed to be for backups, but also is being used to store the music and videos that would not fit on my old laptop and right now I cannot access the music.

I received an email telling me that I missed a deadline for the book review blog tour. I really do not understand why this one company has the program set up this way. What is the purpose of everyone posting their reviews during the same week and flooding the online retail customer reviews at the same time, then there are hardly any reviews afterward? No other company for which I do reviews does it this way. I would have dropped this book review program, but they enticed me with an educational book that I thought would be great for the Princess. I am too easily tempted by a book it seems. Look for the review in my next post. (I hope.)

I just realized as I wrote this that I completely forgot to fast! How could I forget to fast on Wednesday. I have been fasting on Wednesdays for four years! This is just another indication that I am just being pulled into too many directions.

Thanksgiving Day, November 22th
It was just the three of us at the meal for my daughter was playing with her friend in the morning. My husband soaked the turkey in brine overnight, as it never is dry that way. We had a simple meal with lots of leftovers. We played Wii Sports (I am extremely good at golf although in real life I dislike the game) and a board game in the evening that had us all in stitches, my husband most of all.

This Thanksgiving, I am thankful for my Lord and all this things about which I will not have to be concerned in heaven when the things of this world pass away.

~ My Lord, thank you for what You have given that I cannot yet see. ~

Friday, November 9, 2012

Realization Days After the Election

It cannot be emphasized too strongly or too often that this great nation was founded, not by religionists, but by Christians; not on religions, but on the gospel of Jesus Christ. For this very reason peoples of other faiths have been afforded asylum, prosperity, and freedom of worship here. ~The Trumpet Voice of Freedom: Patrick Henry of Virginia, p. iii.

In a sneaky way, one of my personal rules was broken. I did not realize it until this week. I distracted myself with the election and all that lead up to it, but I messed up.

I have this rule about placing expectations on other people: I try to have low-to-no expectations on people.

Now, I do have expectations on my daughter; she has chores and lessons she is expected to do with a reasonable attitude (relatively reasonable for a tween), but these expectations are necessary to guide her growth into a responsible woman. I have few on my husband, truth be told. However, the rest of the world...I hope, but I tend not to expect, which is one of the reasons I am a highly defensive driver!

Yet, I had some expectations of people in my country, of the presidential candidates and...yes, even of God in regards to this last election.

I expected that over half of the American people would be very concerned by many things our president has done in the last four years and our increasing debt due to uncontrolled spending. I expected them at least to be outraged that he knowingly lied to them and to the United Nations--basically, the entire world--setting up a man who made a YouTube clip, which had nothing to do with it at all, as to why four Americans including our Ambassador in Benghazi was murdered in a military attack that lasted for hours. It was act of war, (notice I did not write terrorist attack, because terrorism is an attack on civilians for the purpose of terrorizing them) while our nearby forces were told to stand down. I actually watched a large of part of Congressional hearings and then I watched ignorant Obama supporters at an Ohio College being interviewed about Benghazi, who did not have a clue about the attack at all but were voting without even googling. So much for being informed voters! Although I wonder if that would have mattered to them...?

I expected that the politicians to be...politicians, but better at showing the stuff they are really made of, so to speak, even though I knew that depended more on the mainstream media, which seems to favor one party over the other and tips the scales accordingly. That is probably why college students had no clue about Benghazi. Worse, though, I expected whoever was elected to work toward a resolution to better our economy before the dollar's inevitable demise.

What I expected of God about the election was that He would see to it that the candidate who served the greater good for the country would be elected, but I realize that the worst expectation of all.

Instead, I should have been willing to accept that God's purpose is not to make America what I would like to see it be. Why would He? How is America so different than ancient Israel that many times turned away from God, worshiping idols and practiced immorality, and then overtaken by enemies? As a nation, we have failed God, so we should expect being overtaken by our enemies, shouldn't we? But our real enemies are not of this world.

We can try to repair the crumbling front of being a great nation with superior military power; try to brag on the great men of our history who built our government into a sovereign country; and proudly claim our Constitution protects our rights of freedom. We could do all that but how does that stand with God? The reality is that today America is not a nation "in God we trust." It is ironic that these notes and coins on which that quote is stamped is on the very edge of crashing to worthlessness.

I should have not expected anything from any person. I should have trusted in God for all of it. There is always one very good thing that comes about from adversity...seeking God. I think people will be provided many opportunities to exercise this. I do not know what will happen with our nation, but I do know that we, as a people, have been comfortable with material amenities and unchallenged spiritual convictions. We allowed what is so ungodly to take over because of Constitutionally protected rights--that which protected religion when it was necessary has been twisted in our courts to protect from all religion. But then, religion is not what God wants from us.

This week I have been reminded of Paul singing praises in prison as I began preparing the praise and worship service for this coming Sunday. Also, in our weakness, God's strength. America may become weak, but if that is what it takes to make the lost souls in America turn towards God, then I should welcome it. My expectations would not have been met no matter which candidate won, because meeting my expectations was not God's purpose and I was not surrendered to His will.

Finally, I came to this conclusion:

My man did not win on the election,
but then my Man was not even running.

~ My Lord, thank you for reminding me that this is not my home. My home is where You reign and that reign starts within my heart.~

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Down the Drain with Eyes Turning Up

Socialism is a philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance, and the gospel of envy, its inherent virtue is the equal sharing of misery. ~Winston Churchill

I have often wondered at what point one finally gives into to the struggle of rushing water, when the body is too exhausted to continue and the hope to survive has been replaced with the emotionless desire to simply yield to one's fate.

I want to resign myself to the drain.

I went to sleep last night realizing that today I would wake in a country that is no longer the American dream. No, it did not change overnight, just a few decades of one socialist idea becoming law and then the addition of others like it slowly eroding personal liberty while promising security. Last night, however, was the indication that just over half of the American people, most of them living in large cities, are into entitlement.

These are people who must have food brought into their grocery stores, because they have no place to raise their own. In a crisis of having no power, as we are seeing in the northeast after the wake of Hurricane Sandy, they can only survive by relying on the generosity others and, if that is not enough for them, they will take from others, because producing the most basic needs for survival like food and warmth is not possible for them. This reminds me of the last chapter of Ayn Rand's book, Atlas Shrugged--actually the entire political train wreck does.

Perhaps it is the inevitable course of mankind as it seeks to make all that we want as humans righteous in our own sight. I had hoped that Americans would come to understand how much government would have to take from them to give all it is promising to them. It is obvious to me now that too many, far too many, people are dependent on government support, or just want to be, so they vote for the representatives who promise a government that will care of them and that will protect them from all judgements about their lifestyles...even from God Himself. We are an arrogant nation racing to condemn ourselves as we substitute God with government, religious beliefs with secular policies, and charitable generosity with forced redistribution.

Too many people turn a blind eye as to where government will get the funding. They are told it will be from the rich, the ones who have so much more than they need. The reality is that it will come from all. They will later groan about how much everything is costing them because taxes are embedded in the prices of all goods and services. Eventually, they think it is a good idea for government to freeze prices, which will be the final death of capitalism resulting in struggling companies going out of business. Which companies will be cherry-picked and how many of them can the government buy into to keep them going? There will be more job loss and more expectations on government to provide and more government dependency. Each feeding on the other, but more like a snake swallowing its own tail.

It was not important to the people voting that our government is spending an unbelievable amount of money that it does not have while it is taking care of all of them. They are too far removed from it. They are ignorant about how our government works--rather, should work--preferring to see it only for what they can get from it. It took just a hundred years to evolve into a credit card country with people believing in entitlement over financial responsibility and making minimal payments as the spending continues and debt increases.

They really don't care how in debt the government is as long as they get more. Perhaps they believe it is too big to fail...maybe. Europe's financial problems are too far removed...well, maybe not much longer.

I wish sometimes I was like them. That I was ignorant or just did not care so that I could go blissfully along and get my government handouts. That I was not one of the 53% of Americans who actually pay federal income tax, but got all the benefits from the others that do and felt I was entitled to it and more.

But, even though I am clearly caught in the whirlpool of the drain, I still am struggling against it. What I hoped would not happen for four long years, did, in fact, happen, and I am grieving today watching the dying off of what was the American dream. Yet, I just cannot completely resign myself to the defeating exhaustion and impending destruction. Last night I lost so much hope for my country, but I am still believing God has a purpose in all things and now my eyes are focused on His Kingdom even more.

~ My Lord, My Lord, You alone are my Hope. ~

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

The Modern Day Pharisee

 And the book of the prophet Isaiah was handed to Him. And He opened the book and found the place where it was written,

"The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, 
because He anointed Me to preach the Gospel to the poor.
He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives,
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to set free those who are oppressed,
to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord."

 And He closed the book, gave it back to the attendant and sat down; and the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on Him. And He began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”
~Luke 4:17-21

And He said, “Truly I say to you, no prophet is welcome in his hometown.
~Luke 4:24

 And all the people in the synagogue were filled with rage as they heard these things; and they got up and drove Him out of the city, and led Him to the brow of the hill on which their city had been built, in order to throw Him down the cliff.  But passing through their midst, He went His way.
~Luke 4:28-30

Jesus was such a troublemaker!

Does this statement make you uncomfortable?

He was raised as a Jew, God's chosen people. He worshiped in the synagogue with His neighbors. One day He read scripture about the Messiah and then said "Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing."

See what I mean? Troublemaker!

I could make a very long list of all the Jewish laws He broke: healing on the Sabbath, allowing a harlot to touch His feet as she washed them, not washing before eating, eating with obvious sinners, and so much more, but here is the thing...

He did not break even one of God's laws.

We look up to Jesus as our example of a pure life, pleasing to God. We see Him as fulfillment of the Law. We are proud of Him taking a stand against those who were keepers of the Jewish laws, the Pharisees. He was a radical. The Pharisees wanted Him to fit in their theology. They were certain He was not the Messiah, because He was not religious like them. They saw Him only as a troublemaker.

My questions then are these:

If Jesus spoke at my church, would we feel comfortable with Him? Would we see Him as too radical to be the right kind of Christian? Would He be religious enough to fit in?

I am always fascinated by hypocrisies.

The very things Jesus pointed out was not important in God's Kingdom are the very things we have made important in our churches. Have we, who take pride in believing in His ways and worshiping the way He would have us do it, not done exactly what the Pharisees did? Are we suppose to conduct our worship service in the way that makes everyone comfortable or should it make us a little uncomfortable...or would any of us be uncomfortable if we were listening to what God wants and going with the Spirit's leading rather than worrying about what we want?

Has the church become the worship place of modern day Pharisees comfortable in their religion because they are uncomfortable with being like the radical, troublemaking Jesus led by the Spirit of God?

~ Please save me from being a Pharisee and give me the courage to be a radical, Spirit-filled troublemaker like You, my Lord~

Monday, November 5, 2012

The Coffee Shop Recital 2012

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself. ~Johann Sebastian Bach

My daughter's piano teacher likes to have a casual, coffee shop recital in autumn. The problem has been that the local independent coffee shops have gone out of business in as little as two years or even a few months. Actually, there had not been any around for the last few years. However, this year there is a large coffee shop called The Copper Coin in the heart of historical Woodstock near the remodeled train station on the ground floor of a four story building. This building has the look of an updated factory building, but in fact is a new build with shops on the ground floor and apartments having a modified loft style on the three upper stories. The area has become a chic kind of place.

The thing about a coffee shop is that people are moving around, talking, and it is loud when filled with people. The young performers get the experience of what it is like to play in this environment that is similar to performing in a band. It is a very good contrast to the formal recital in the spring where everything is staged with a quiet, attentive audience. This forum also made it difficult to get a good video and the angle of the piano was not good for stills either.

I did not do the programs this time, so imagine my surprise when I arrived to find my daughter was the chosen to be the first to play a piece called "Equinox." She would play "It is Well with My Soul" in the second half of the program. The first, which she probably could have done blindfolded, was done well...until--yeah, she messed up had difficulty finding a place to get back into it hitting more wrong notes. (Those few seconds seem so long to a mother praying.) She did finally find her place and ended it well. The second song was done flawlessly. I think she was just more nervous being first.

Now that I have taken all the suspense out, let me explain what happened on the other side of things. First, my daughter had left her music at church...twice! She took it with her the Sunday she played "It is Well with My Soul" two weeks ago and then she forgot to get it the next Sunday, being distracted with thoughts of pizza, birthday cake, and inflatables (see my last post). My husband having church keys and security code, but a heavy work schedule finally was able to get the music on Wednesday night so she would have it on her last lesson with Miss Trudy before the recital.

At that lesson, Miss Trudy asked me if I could do the introductions of the students and the songs at the recital as she still had a cough and so did another person she has used in the past. I turned toward my daughter, directly looked her in the eye, and said "This is what happens when you do praise and worship. People then think you can do anything." I was half joking. You see, people just never have thought of me as an on-stage kind of person, even though I used to sing in choirs, I played in a band when I was a teen for two years, I acted in high school and in churches, and I have given lectures and seminars for a few years.

I was worried about doing this without having the programs to go through a few days in advance, because I knew that there were a few students with highly unique names, not necessarily in spelling but in pronunciation, and these are my weaknesses: remembering names and pronouncing them correctly. I felt I would be ill-prepared. In addition, I just do not do last minute memorization well. (There it goes off in my mind again: my weakness, His strength!) Additionally, one family is from Nigeria with a last name that probably is very common there, but even Miss Trudy did not know how to pronounce it. In the formal recitals, names are not announced so she had been dodging that bullet for the last two years she has been teaching this student.

We had to race home after church to let out the dog and find the flier for the recital with the address of the place, which I just could not find so I had to call Trudy. We grabbed a bite to eat at the closest Arby's and ate in the car. Then we entered the address in the GPS....

Let me just say that GPS is wonderful technology...when it actually takes you to the address you intended. However, it is not always accurate and, of course, this was one of those times! Another call to Trudy, who is beginning to sound a bit stressed as she normally does just before a recital. We were just a mile south of where we needed to be so we showed up just minutes later and early enough to settle down and go over every student's name and song title...except that one family. I would talk to them and work on the pronunciation, which I would forget and ask again just before the child played. (Did I say I have difficulty with names?)

I did pretty well with the introductions considering one family with two students did not show up and I did not know that in advance. It was necessary on the fly to change the order of other two students because one parent was not yet present and another had a flight to catch. Another had dropped one of her pieces and I mistakenly announced even though I knew not to do so. Oh, and on the spot I was asked to turn pages for a duet in which Miss Trudy was playing with an older student. I have seen page turning disasters, so my first thoughts were, "No, please don't make me! Please, please, find someone else." I could not voice my refusal though, not in front of all those people, but...I may never be asked to turn pages again...probably. Thankfully, the unattached page just slipped down some and I recovered the paper before it fell onto the keyboard. Yeah, and that was only the first page! I had two more to go. It did not go a bad as I feared, but not as good as I hoped either.

We had a ten minute intermission and we reminded everyone that the tip jars were for the students. Once my daughter made over $7, but it is usually $3 to $6 once it is divided evenly among the students. I usually am a bit more tired on Sundays when I with just doing praise and worship so the recital was getting to me by the time we took a break. My voice was cracking also, but it was better after drinking some tea and the crowd thinned out so I did not have to talk so loudly.

The Princess feel asleep on the hour drive home and I read a book until it was too dark. With the time change, it now gets dark so much earlier. I probably would have done better to take a nap myself. None of us was hungry, so we had an apple and popcorn while watching "The Christmas Bunny" on Netflix.

~ My Lord, thank you for Your strength in my weaknesses. Thank you for my gifted daughter and may she also use her talents and her weaknesses in for Your Glory! ~

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

One Fun Afternoon

Children need the freedom and time to play. Play is not a luxury. Play is a necessity. ~Kay Redfield Jamison

Sunday afternoon we celebrated a child's birthday with her parents, our friends. They planned to go to an inflatable place so our children could jump around after going for pizza, but when the mother discovered the hours had changed and that the place was only open for just over an hour on Sunday, she called me to find out if Saturday would be better as the place was open for a few hours.

I knew that her husband and mine as well wanted to go hunting on Saturday, although mine did not end up going. I knew I might not be up for going out on Saturday myself. However, above all that I knew that one hour jumping around and climbing those large inflatable structures was more than enough time to tire any child of any age and activity level.

I have gone a few times, just a few, in the past with another homeschool-maybe parent and her child. From experience with watching the other children as well as my own, I could see that after that first hour things go south with the children quickly. There are more injuries, whining, tattle-telling, crying, and just plain unhappy children who never want to leave, but then can barely make the walk to the car in the parking lot.

I mentioned to the mother that I felt an hour and fifteen minutes, which was the span of time the place would be open, was just enough for the children to be worn out but not tip over into that frame of mind that spoils the entire event. Besides, after pizza they could come to our home have cake and ice cream and leave about an hour or so later allowing time for everything digest enough that the inflatable event would not have additional bad memories.

I could relate with this mother as I am a thrifty person wanting the most for my money and I am the mother of an only child also. I think it is common of parents with one child to try to have more experiences and pack in as much as you can because the child has no siblings and so few playmates. This family lives in a more remote place than we do, but her child goes to school. I have had about five and a half more years of experience wrestling with this compensating the only child syndrome, so I reassured her that it would no matter how long the children were there, it would not be long enough for them from their point of view, but it would be plenty of time for them to wear themselves out.

The fathers spent fifteen minutes in one inflatable with the children and returned worn out and sweaty. The mother was not going in one herself, but just a few minutes before closing time my daughter ran up to say that her daughter was hurt and crying. Next thing I knew we both were in front of the inflatable. She quickly kicked off her shoes and dove into the opening of the inflatable maze--I should take this moment to explain that opening was a rather snug fit so when she dove in, she did not clear the opening easily. She began laughing at her own predicament immediately. Realizing it would take her a few minutes to get to her child, I walked around the ouside and spotted the child. She was no longer crying. I inquired about what was wrong and she said she had bent her toe as she dove towards the next chamber in the maze all smiles. Her poor mother was still in the first chamber still laughing at her own struggles and now our husbands were pushing the sides back and forth so she could not keep her balance at all and she wasn't doing that well before they began. She finally exited the maze some minutes later saying that was the hardest thing she had ever done in her life...and I did not have the heart to tell her at that moment that she is still young in her motherhood. hour and fifteen minutes was plenty time enough to wear out everyone. I felt worn out before I even got there as I was still not over this illness myself so I did not tempt fate.

When we arrived at home, my daughter poured herself out of the car and walked so slowly that I felt she was in a time warp. When she got inside, she sat down and stared blankly at nothing, as if she could not hear me saying the cats needed to be fed. She could barely function even after a shower and eating. Her mood the rest of the evening was precarious at best, but I was sure she would sleep well and she did.

~ Thank you, my Lord, for the fun times we enjoy with our children and friends. ~

Saturday, October 27, 2012

It is All About Pleasing God

Will God ever ask you to do something you are not able to do? The answer is yes--all the time! It must be that way, for God's glory and kingdom. If we function according to our ability alone, we get the glory; if we function according to the power of the Spirit within us, God gets the glory. He wants to reveal Himself to a watching world.
~Henry T. Blackaby, Experiencing the Spirit: The Power of Pentecost Every Day

I have begun to think of each church service as a gardening experience with our hearts being the soil where we should want God's Spirit to take root and grow. Unfortunately, we all have some weeds that need to be uprooted because the heart's soil is vulnerable to so many kinds of seeds, and weeds can grow fast to choke out the Beauty purposely planted. Our hearts must be prepared and willing to have the Gardener pluck those weeds out. Our church services have sermons to cultivate spiritual understanding so we will bear the fruit of the Spirit. The praise and worship through music is the nourishment that prepares the soil and feeds the plant. Music is the orchestration of both rain and sunlight. It breaks up the hardened soil and moistens it with spiritual tears so that not only the Spirit's seeds easily spout, but that weeds are easily pulled out.

I wonder each week which seeds have taken root and grown. If each garden was well tended during the week, or if we are starting all over again with weeding and working hardened soil trying to give the Spirit every opportunity to break through.

Leading praise and worship is not a task, but a ministry. I knew that when I accepted the position. I knew that I would do it differently than it had been done. I also knew that I would do it well...NOT because I knew how to do it, but because I would devote it all, with my abilities and inabilities, completely to my Lord. I would sing with a weak voice to glorify His strength and He healed my vocal chords. I would listen to music and pray each week about which songs would please my Lord to be sung in the next service and then listen to Him as He guided the selection process. I was receiving compliments, which I admit was so encouraging to me personally, but I had to pass all to the One who deserved the credit and not consider compliments to be important to myself. I did not accept this ministry to please anyone else but my Lord.

I just have to write that again with emphasis (for me)! 

  • I did not do it because I desired or even like the responsibility of church leadership.
  • I did not do it to win approval from the church members.
  • I did not do it to continue how it was done before.

I did not accepted the praise and worship
ministry to please anyone but my Lord!

This week the opportunity to be reminded of this conviction was provided. It was a merely a suggestion to change my approach done in the nicest way, but it made me think and pray and pray and pray and...stop praying to listen closely for the words from my Lord. Talking with God is always such a good thing! Adversity's greatest virtue is that it brings a person to his knees with a broken spirit seeking God's heart on the matter. So, let me praise in adversity, my Lord!

What can I say? There was a time that I might have done the same and I still might again. I may have suggested something to be done in a way that I would like more and have good reasons to back it up--but the only good reason is because it comes from the Lord, otherwise it does not necessarily have His blessing. Church people must to be open to change, I included as well, but more so, we need to be willing to change towards pleasing God more and more. My little heart is not without its own stubborn weeds, so I needed to take some time with my Lord to be sure I actually am pleasing Him with how I am doing everything.

My Lord reminded me that he healed my vocals cords, which He knew I wanted but did not ask for as a sign that I should accept the responsibilities of this ministry. He reminded me of how I go to Him each week in prayer while choosing songs. He reminded me of the times I had some songs in mind and that I scrapped all that work at the last minute on Saturday to use the songs He gave me then or that I was awaken early Sunday morning to change one song out for another or the order of the songs or add something else to the service I had not planned. That is God's doing because I like to know what I am going to do well in advance.

My weakness, His strength.

I am not without my weeds, but God reminded me of my willingness to listen and be guided and my heart's desire to please Him. Now I again have peace.

~ My Lord, how beautiful You are. Pull out the weeds of my own heart so that people will see the Beauty of You through me. Help the people of my church hear and feel the prayers and pleadings of their hearts in the songs we sing. Let our songs be pleasing to You. ~

Friday, October 26, 2012

Sick (and Tired)

In order to change we must be sick and tired of being sick and tired.  ~Author Unknown

Even though my brain is not exactly working on all thrusters--and I write that because it disturbs me that you might not notice the difference--I will attempt to describe the last few weeks of my life. Let's see, three weeks ago my husband's mother woke in the very early morning with a familiar acute symptoms that happen when she is passing a kidney stone so she asked visiting family members of a nearby neighbor to take her to the hospital and take care of her dog. Her dog is in a very fragile state and needs lots of extra care. This time the doctor wanted to insert a stent, which is a minor surgery.

When Mom gave him that news, my husband decided to fly down to Florida to help out. The Princess had been begging to see her grandma for months so I suggested she go as well and let me have a break as I was pretty burned out. We used up all our SkyMiles on this one because it was booked on the day of the flight, but it did not cost us anything. I believe that was on Sunday afternoon.

They took over care for the dog and visited Mom at the hospital. They were booked to return on Friday, but as it happened Mom did not pass the stone and her heart began beating out of rhythm, so she was still in the hospital on Friday. Now, here's the thing. My mother-in-law takes medication for high blood pressure regularly and anxiety as needed, and whenever she is given news she does not like--for instance, "you will not be released today because you have not passed the stone" and later "your heartbeat is irregular so you need more tests"--it is very likely her anxiety level goes up and when her anxiety level increases it is very likely it could and would effect her blood pressure, therefore her heart as well. My husband told the hospital she would be checking out, after this cycle started getting too obvious and ridiculous. A few hours after she knew she was going home, her heart was fine--big surprise! She went home after my husband dropped off our daughter at the airport.

I jumped ahead a bit. My husband had taken a whole week off from work and was asked to work in Tampa (three hours away on the other side of Florida) the next week. At that point, Mom was still in the hospital and my daughter was still in Florida too. My husband was determined to have Mom home on Sunday afternoon at the latest but he was not absolutely certain about that and he could not get a seat on the same flight so the Princess would be flying back...ALONE!

Now I know she has flown a few times with her father and I know the flight attendants are very attentive of the unaccompanied children, but that was my child on that flight. Without either of her parents. All by herself. Alone. Now my anxiety levels are up and my heart is not beating in a good rhythm.

I arranged the praise and worship for Sunday services so that it was incredibly simple as someone with no experience would be running the media. Later, I would be leaving to get to the airport in plenty of time. I even found an excellent parking space! I began thinking this would all go quite well.

But...that is where the all-is-going-well stuff ended.

As much as my husband has flown in the past few years, I have not flown since 1997...yeah, that was before 9-11-2001 and all the changes in security, additions to the airport, and the remodel. I have not even gone into the airport except to pick up my aunt and uncle once some years ago. My husband had it set up that I would be able to get a gate pass and pick up my daughter when she got off the plane. However, I had to go to a particular counter to get it. There is only one person in front of me, a younger woman with a four-year-old who missed his nap is acting like he had too much candy for lunch. The family had just moved here a few months ago and her eleven-year-old son happened to have been visiting his grandma in her home town so he was on the same flight as my daughter.

We waited...and waited.....and.......waited. The two people working at the counter were busy but with only two customers. One was answering a woman's questions about her daughter traveling alone and the other was dealing with some kind of issues with a dog. The questioning woman leaves and her counter person goes over to help the other with the dog. In the meantime, two groups come up escorted by airline employees. One is an elderly woman in a wheelchair and the other is a family having issues with a missing boarding pass. Both do not get into line behind us, but are placed in front of us. Now we have been waiting about 20 minutes before we get our turn at the counter which takes another five minutes and we still have security to get through...and I will not bother to write what an ordeal security was with a crabby preschooler as I was waiting for his mother. Plus, the Atlanta airport is very big and it takes quite a bit of time to take the transport and then walk the remaining way to the gate.

As I walk up to the gate, I see a flight attendant walking out holding Rachel Rebecca, my daughter's large doll. My daughter was right behind her and did not yet see me so she had that look. If you have ever been a parent you know that look--it is the searching the horizon on the edge of abysmal panic. It silently screams "Mama, where are you?" I was only fifteen feet away, but it felt like I was in a dream where I am running but not really moving. I called her name and said "I am right in front of you"...twice, before she finally connected. Then the child was all smiles. My first thought: I would go through hell to get to you, my child. And the realization of the depths of this truth actually surprised me!

Anyway, she was home with me again and we started on our week. Monday was what I expected it to be with trying to ease back into routine. That following Tuesday was the last one with us taking care of the horse barn. (I still am trying to figure out how to "do it all" and keep doing the barn just feels like I should be able to do it all, even though in practice it was just so not working.) On that morning, the Princess mentions she had a sore throat. We did the barn; by afternoon she is acting like she really does not feel well and does not want to eat. I had a pressure headache, which I thought was from the dust at the barn. Wednesday, the Princess was worse and she started having a fever. I still had the headache and it was worse so I finally took half the dosage of a sinus medicine because I hate feeling doped up and it was just enough to work, thankfully. Thursday we cancelled piano lessons, but the Princess was beginning to feel better in the afternoon although her sinuses were draining constantly and she had that residual cough she tends to get with any tickles in her throat.

My husband originally had scheduled Thursday and Friday off, but he only needed to work a few hours Thursday morning and came home in the early evening, so we had to pick him up at the airport. Sugar, my daughter's breeding rabbit, finally had her kindle of nine before we left for the airport (One kit was outside of the nest and had gotten too cold but warmed up and survived when I placed him back in the kindle.) My husband also had Monday and Tuesday off. We were planning to go to apple country, just a two hour drive north to get apples and enjoy the autumn colors and hike. My husband planned to hunt a day or two also. Instead he processed the rabbits he had hoped to process the previous weekend and took care of other things.

One of the other things he took care of was...well, everything. On Sunday, we went to church and did our usual things. I led praise and worship, my husband handled the media, and the Princess played "It is Well with My Soul" flawlessly on the piano. We came home and ate. Things are normalizing and maybe we can go to the apple country on Monday or Tuesday, if my daughter's little cough gets under control. We might pass on hiking and enjoy the downtown shops instead. That would have been so nice, but after Sunday dinner, I ate something sweet and then...BAM! I had a really bad sore throat. Just like that. I did not have it and then I did.

So, it has been two days of sore throat with fever starting on Tuesday. Fever broke Tuesday night, but Wednesday I still feel bad with sinuses draining. I did go out briefly to get water and vote early. Thursday, which was just yesterday, I felt so drained and sinuses were still draining, but my daughter had not been to a piano lesson for two weeks. The teacher was sick two weeks ago and the Princess was in Florida the week after, so I was determined to get her there as she has a casual recital at a coffee shop on the first Sunday in November. However, I really should not have gone out. My mind was not with me all day as I made silly little mistakes and I felt drained of energy.

By the time we got home--I have to stop and write how much it is such a treat when my husband is working from home for the week and even more so when he is home in the early evening! By the time we got home, I was done for the day. My husband and daughter, without me saying a word, put away most of the groceries and took care of the animals and dinner. I checked my temperature and it was not has high as it was before, but still higher than it should have been, so I rested in bed all evening.

Today, I am still not feeling well and I am not going anywhere. Did I mention that I do not do sick well?

~ My Lord, thank you for reminding me of how limiting sickness is. I accept Your healing. ~

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Product Review: Glade Expressions Collection

Who doesn't like their home to have a pleasing fragrance? As a Bzzagent, I was given the opportunity to try two Glade Expressions products free in exchange for this review. I chose Pineapple & Mangosteen for the oil diffuser with the wood grain décor because I love tropical scents. It is described as a blend of freshly cut pineapples and hint of tangy mangosteen, creamy coconut and passionflower. The first ten days the fragrance was quite strong and yummy smelling--it made me crave pineapple. Later it was a nice subtle fragrance that I prefer. The diffuser has a pleasant look and I like that the oil cannot spill.

For the fragrance mist, I wanted to use Lavender & Juniper Berry, however after hunting for it in six different stores, I could not find it. I could only find that scent in the oil diffuser. I ended up getting the Pineapple & Mangosteen in the spray as well. Had I known it was going to be impossible to find I would have switch fragrances using the Lavender for the diffuser and Pineapple for the spray.

As fragrances go, there are only four from which to chose, but you are likely to find at least one you will like--unless you live in my area and are looking for Lavender & Juniper Berry in the fragrance mist, that is.

Generally, I enjoyed the fragrance, but I am not one to like scented products because of potential toxins, but S. C. Johnson & Son has made efforts to avoid known carcinogens and other harmful chemicals. Still, I have concerns about using any fragrance continually, but it is refreshing now and then.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

My Lord Heals! He Healed Me

Heal me, O Lord, and I will be healed; Save me and I will be saved, For You are my praise. ~Jeremiah 17:14

I did mention this in a recent post, but I feel I was just too timid about it. Perhaps I really did not believe it or just was not as sure as I am now so I buried it in a post. I am one who believes yet asks my Lord to help my unbelief. So, forgive me if you have read this before. It is not a brag on me, but on my Lord.

Let us dance and sing and praise the Lord today for His love shown through His miracles. For the miracle itself is wondrous but His love is far more the greatest gift, the greatest miracle!

My Lord Loves Me!

My Lord Healed My Vocal Cords!

I have cowardly tried singing songs now and then since, testing the waters, but in fear that a plunge would prove my disillusion. Instead, I found that my voice is stronger than I have ever known it to be and it sounds so much better. Still, I knew from over years of experience since my speaking days that the more I sang, the more I would eventually stress those weaker cords too much and have problems getting through some songs again, so I would not want to stress them too much.

There are tricks I had to do to dealing with the loss of my voice right in the middle of my range when singing, like choosing songs that are on the lower end of my range or higher and purposely softening around and into the notes I knew would not hold the same volume so as to mask my voice dropping off abruptly. No one really knew except when I told them. I think everyone thought I had a nice voice but I was just not a strong singer...well, I did tell everyone I was not a strong singer so I suppose that is what they would believe.

Healings differ. Some happen over time, some happen miraculously days later, and some happen in an instant, but all happen at my Lord's pleasure. This one happened quickly. Perhaps too quickly. One day I noticed a heaviness at my throat as if it was being pressed against and when I asked my Lord, He told me He had healed my vocal cords.

I believed it in that moment. Later, however, I was afraid that I just thought He told me this. That it was just something I wanted to believe. That even if He did that I could mess it up. The way my Lord heals may differ, but when He heals, there is healing.

Bless the Lord, O my soul,
O my soul!
Worship His holy name!
Sing like never before,
O my soul!
I'll worship Your holy name!

And, this is the part I would like for you to understand, my dear friend, if God loved me enough to show His love through the healing my vocal cords, He also loves you enough to heal you in your need also. There is no doubt in my mind that God heals and desires to heal us as all are healed in His Kingdom. Are we not already in His Kingdom when we come to accept His Son as our Savior?

I have seen too many healings to doubt my Lord's love, but I am still amazed when it happens to me. Wouldn't you like to be as amazed by God's love today? Please give me the opportunity to pray for and with you today by leaving a message here or email me. I love being an obedient servant in God's healings as much as being a recipient!

~ Thank You, my Lord, for Your Healing Love. Bless You. ~

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Book Review: Unglued

Why had I become completely unglued about bathroom towels? Towels, for heaven's sake. Towels!
~Lysa TerKeurst in Unglued

Ladies, I have the book for you! Trust me, you need it. First of all, let's judge this book by its cover: a woman bent over on top of a rock in the middle of a nowhere field screaming into a large yellow bag. Need I say more? How many times have you felt just that way?

Unlgued: Making Wise Choices in the Midst of Raw Emotions by Lysa TerKeurst is a raw emotion vs. spirit empowerment revelation with intimate confessions of unglued moments and engaging Biblical wisdom. She invites the reader to journey with her "imperfect progress" toward holiness. Although there are large portions of meat in the principles, there is the spice of sarcasm and sweet, tender desserts in the author's personal and humorous confessions that compliment this spiritual feasting. Yes, this is a book I ate up eagerly. It is written in a lighthearted style, but is raw in conviction. I felt Lysa TerKeurst's welcoming embrace of been there, done that, might do it again but trying not to understanding and love through her writing. Perhaps it spoke to me more because it was such a timely read as I was struggling with my own overloaded schedule and was having more unglued moments than usual.

TerKeurst describes four types of unglued reactions that women tend to do (men too, I suspect): the exploder who shames herself, the exploder who blames others, the stuffer who builds barriers, and the stuffer who collects retaliation rocks. I agree with the author's comments that there is not one that we do all the time, but rather we do them all in differing situations. Identifying and classifying our reactions is one thing, but then what do we do?

The author created a "Biblical Procedure Manual" for the purpose of "positioning [your] heart into the flow of God's power"--such a compelling description!--for those oncoming unglued moments based on the story of King Jehoshaphat reaction to being hopelessly surrounded by armies of neighboring nations.

  • Step 1: Remember who you are (to and in your Lord).
  • Step 2: Redirect your focus to Jesus.
  • Step 3: Recognize God's job isn't your job.
  • Step 4: Recite thanks and praises to God.
  • Step 5: Realize reactions determine reach.

TerKeurst's descriptions of unsubstantiated, imprisoning, critical, negative mind chatter sprinkled throughout the book is spot on. Her technique of using scriptural ammunition to fight it off is effective and practical. However, the very last chapter is what surprised me and thank you, Lysa, for also writing that coming unglued isn't all bad, that it can be an outward expression of internal indications (things that we hide away but eat at our spirits) or just an overloaded, overwhelming schedule...both are fixable. The things broken inside us can also be used to bring us broken spiritually before our Lord and knowing that we come unglued on others at times, can also help us to understand that when others come unglued on us that it may not be about us, but something internal in them that needs tender, loving us the opportunity to position our hearts into the flow of God's power.

I received this book for free from Zondervan in exchange for my honest review.

~ My Lord, thank You for providing this book when I needed it most and bless all those who were involved with bringing it into my hands and heart. You are so amazing!~

Friday, October 5, 2012

One Less Thing

All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy; for what we leave behind us is a part of ourselves; we must die to one life before we can enter another. ~Anatole France

My aunt has always been the all-or-nothing type of person and she has lived her life as though she believed that anything she had not mastered was just something she had not yet tried. She also has always been quite discerning about matching her desires and talents, but no job was beneath her. In times of necessity, she just does what is necessary. She has always been one to get by with what she had, learn about what she did not know how to do, and then just make it work. She loved music so she took piano and voice lessons. Then she formed two singing groups: one large one with about 50 teens and another small one that started as a soft Christian rock band and evolved into the country gospel one I was in. Even though she is in her seventies now, she is still leading a choir for two productions each year. She always scheduled time to read, play an instrument, do art, and rest, because even she believed she worked hard enough to earn time for those pleasures. She still milks goats twice a day and works in the gardens. From the time I can remember she could out work most men and always took on more than most people would do. In fact, she worked at a technical college after having graduated from there with a business degree in her forties and when she retired in her sixties, they hired three full-time people to replace her and still begged her to come back to work part-time.

Needless to say, my aunt is one of the people I admire and strive to be like. Actually, we have some similarities in that when I do something, I give it all I have and try to it better than it was done before or do more than would be expected. I throw myself into whatever I do, until I am completely exhausted and unable or quite roughly tossed back out, because I just see complications and difficulties as expected in life's course, rather than signs. There must be a way that I can make it work!

Obviously, there is a downside to being this type of person:

There is always more things I can take on
...and once I have committed myself to a long term task,
I have difficulty ending it.

This leads to sometimes having too much to do
...and not enough of me to do them.

Sadly, I rarely take hints, even from my Lord, that I need to back out politely and gracefully at times, so He usually has to be very direct and leave no doubt in my mind and even back me into corners so that I have only one choice, which is out. I don't like giving up or giving in, yet in my heart, I want to listen better, obey quicker, and please Him more, which sometimes requires me to do those things.

My dear readers have been reading the moanings of my heart: Time Slipping Away and Where Has My Peace Gone? My poor husband and daughter have been enduring my weekly meltdowns for weeks mostly because I now have the added task of preparing the praise and worship part of our church services. At this point, it takes hours to do this well, probably because of my inexperience with picking music to flow, preparing lyrics to be projected, and learning the songs well enough to be comfortable to lead them. I would enjoy them more if I did not feel that I have to squeeze them into a schedule that is already overloaded. Still, I feel this new task brings pleasure to my Lord.

In fact, I am sure it pleases Him, because this week my Lord healed my vocal cords. Yes, He did! I had been asking for this because I caused damage to my vocal cords when I used to lecture. Within the tight range I used for speaking, my singing voice would just be extremely weak on certain notes and I tend to go hoarse after phone conversations or speaking for just a half an hour. I felt a heaviness in my throat last week asked my Lord what was happening and felt Him tell me that He was healing my voice. Last Sunday, I sang without a crack, without weakness on any note! I ran scales on our piano and my voice range is strong and nearly as broad as it was when I was young.

I have an amazing God! Worthy of all praise!

So...the question has been: am I to keep doing everything that is the most pleasing to my Lord for He is worthy of my obedience?

A few nights ago, my husband asked me to consider a Christian private school for the Princess, because he felt I did not enjoy homeschooling anymore and we are going to be out of credit card debt before the end of this month. (YAY! to that payment being gone.) I would have time by myself every day to devote to other things that I would like to do, but we would be constrained to a school schedule and that alone is not really appealing with my husband's erratic work schedule. Worse is that we would have to rearrange everything from helping at the horse barn to piano lessons, because everything would have to be in the evening when she would have homework to keep up with a class. When would she have time to play with friends? No, I felt certain that was not a solution nor God's leading. The main reason I have not been enjoying homeschooling is because I feel I am not doing it well and I feel rushed to fit everything into three days each week, so that my only child has some time to play with friends as I feel that is important for her.

Am I to give up the classical homeschool approach? To be honest, that is not been given the full commitment necessary to make it work for us and a good part of that is that I really am only doing the core lessons on three days each week or less if my husband takes off Monday or Friday as a comp day, or gets home early on Friday (rare but it happens). What falls by the wayside is art, violin, writing, science, or history. I try to rotate which so that they are all covered some, but that is not the way I would like for it to be. She loves science, writing, violin, and art. She also seems to like history to a lesser degree, but that may be because I am not really working history the way I hoped.

I still feel called to homeschool. I feel called to lead praise and worship. I feel called to be a wife, mother, and keeper of my home. I feel my daughter's calling has something to do with art, writing, and music...and maybe the last one has something to do with why I am the praise and worship leader now?

Here's the part that hurts...I do not feel called to take care of the horse barn. I prayed before she was born that my daughter would be gifted in music and ride horses. She is gifted in music, very much so, and she has ridden horses, but she may not love riding and caring for the horses. I love it so much. I would go everyday if I could, but my daughter seems to be basically okay with it. We have been going to the horse barn since we had the second van, over a year and a half. We have been working the barn in the mornings mostly by ourselves for over a year. My daughter still does not have that knack for horses I hoped would develop and that may be in part because there are so many to care for all with their own personalities and quirks. I am thinking if she had just one or two with which she really could interact more intimately, she would feel differently. Maybe riding lessons would be a better solution...?

At this point, I feel whatever we do with horses, if we continue to do anything with horses, it would be better to do in the evening. She still wants to be a part of 4-H and that is doable for us as it works around school hours on evenings, weekends, and school breaks, but not every week. I feel at peace with this decision finally--perhaps the wake up call was my husband suggesting private school, which would have forced this change anyway--still, I am not looking forward to talking with Miss Annette to tell her. I know that it is difficult for her to care for all the horses herself with her health conditions and there are few homeschooling families in the club, who are willing to take mornings, fewer she feels are confident with the horses and trustworthy for the barn responsibilities. I know that giving it up will burden her, so I am praying that my Lord will fill her need, so that it is not a burden for her.

~ My Lord, letting go of a commitment is very difficult for me, especially one that I love to do, but I am believing that there was a reason You placed working at the 4-H horse barn in ours lives for a season and a reason that You have lead us away for another season. Please, my Lord, be kind to your servant, Miss Annette, as I know she loves you and serves you through 4-H. Provide her with help at the barn so that she is not burdened from us no longer continuing to come on Tuesday mornings. ~

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Let's Talk About Miracles!

Miracles never cease to amaze me. I expect them, but their consistent arrival is always delightful to experience. ~Mark Victor Hansen

I knew for a few weeks that a praise and worship service was to be held on September 30th, which meant there would be no visiting pastor giving a sermon so I would be preparing the entire service. The thought that came to me when I first found out was that the service should be about miracles. As the week of planning approach though, I decided for myself (and not consulting my Lord), that doing a service on miracles was just what I wanted and I had doubts it would go well so I began thinking of doing it on some other topic. However, the question came up the previous Sunday and out from my mouth I heard, "It will be on miracles." Even I was surprised I had said it, so then I got to thinking maybe, just maybe, my Lord wanted it to be on miracles and He had been leading me to do it all along. I am more than willing to concede that all brilliant ideas are really not my own, so I was okay with it being God's idea, but my husband loves to say:

--And that's when the fight broke out!

I ashamed to say that fight was between my Lord and me. Yes, I have been known to wrestle with Him about some things now and then, I am ashamed to say. You see, my church--that would be the people--is not only conservative in nature but on the reserved side as well. We are friendly and accepting of anyone who comes in the door but not really outgoing to get people into that door. We invite and are welcoming, but we do not pursue and draw in well. I guess for the most part, we are not risk takers and that definitely includes me. I began to fear that a service on miracles would be...well, it could be risky! Not the "stone her" or "throw her out" risky, but "you need to tone it down, girl" or "we appreciate your enthusiasm, but we would like the praise and worship more like it used to be."

The people of my church are loving, committed, steadfast believers, who I believe really desire to follow God wherever He leads. Most churches have 20% (or less) who are the doers...we are that 20%. Everyone else has left. So, now that we are down to the core, what would God have us do?

What, indeed.

Apparently, my Lord would have a woman with a weak voice, who has never been considered a leader before, leading the praise and worship portion of the Sunday services and periodically the entire service when we cannot schedule a pastor to deliver a sermon. Sometimes, I am amazed at how God picks the weak to show His strength...and I certainly needed His strength to do this. I think I have surprised people, because given a mic and an audience, I am not the quiet (tongue-biting, actually) person they have known and given that I am leading in the worship of my Lord--well, I can barely contain my spirit within the confines of my body. There is still a little girl in me that wanted and promised--yeah, I actually did promise and it seems God has a really good memory about such things--to sing for my Lord forever.

Singing one well-rehearsed solo song once in awhile is one thing, singing in a group with well-rehearsed songs is another thing, but choosing several different songs and leading a congregation in singing every week is quite different...but then my Lord knew that and He said I could do it, even though I still need convincing from Him nearly every week.

I asked everyone to share any miracles they have experienced or witnessed. A few shared some very good things. My husband surprised me too. I personally had a difficult time choosing which miracles I would share that day. Yes, I have seen many and been the recipient of quite a few also. I chose to tell of my uncle's deliverance from smoking pipes, even the smell of tobacco was gone from his clothes and their home from that moment on. My aunt was told she would be blind by the time she was thirty and she was healed that same night, but the evidence of the healing of her eyes was gradual over several days.

You have to understand that my aunt and uncle (and myself with them) were Baptists and Baptists are cessationists, believing that the gifts of the Holy Spirit ended with the apostles or when the Bible was canonized. Being a teenager, I was not into theology, but I knew that things we talked about at home were not things others discussed at church. In my aunt's home, we lived believing in the gifts of the Holy Spirit, so I have seen, heard, and received many miracles in my life. I expect God to do miraculous things...He's God!

Over the years, I have come to realize that most Christians I know believe God can do such things, but doesn't or just doesn't really do miraculous things for them. Few ask for signs of confirmation. Few ask for intercessory prayers. Few ask for other believers to pray for confirmation of a message they believe came from the Lord. I do all these and have been asked by others as well. Fewer ask for healing while believing that healing is God's will. Are some not healed? Yes, that is true and that makes praying for healing risky, but I believe far more people would be healed if we who call ourselves Christians trusted God first instead of placing our first faith in modern medicine and then seeking God when it fails us.

We need to exercise our faith and that requires risk. When we exercise our faith, we also need to recognize God's miracles. To illustrate this point, my husband, daughter, and I performed this skit...

During the service, I read a bit from The Essential Guide to Healing: Equipping All Christians to Pray for the Sick, a book I reviewed a few months ago. It has had so much impact on me. I read it wanting to understanding healings, but what I learned is a healing ministry is not about understanding but about doing as God wills and believing. Apparently I chose well for the service--again, that must be God's doing, not mine. My church not only received God's message well through songs, readings, and testimonies, they experienced something special with our Lord. I could see it. That in itself was a miracle to me and that I lead them to that--WOW! God is just so powerful in my weakness!

~ My Lord, thank You. Praise You for what You have done, are doing, and will do. Open our hearts and minds to not only be willing to receive, recognize, and acknowledge Your works, but to learn to give and do such works through Your Spirit. ~