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.~