Thursday, January 30, 2014

When it Snows in Georgia

Snow and adolescence are the only problems that disappear if you ignore them long enough. ~Earl Wilson

We did not go out for errands on Wednesday this week, but we had gotten in an extra piano lesson on Monday and Living Science cancelled classes for Tuesday and Wednesday due to the extreme cold and possibility of a winter storm. Good thing too, because of what happened....

First, I have to say that those of us who are originally from the northern states are always amazed at the level of unpreparedness that seems inevitable even when Georgians know a snow/ice storm is coming, but what began Tuesday morning this week went far beyond the worst case scenarios I could have imagined. It really could not have been much worse if there had been an unscheduled bomb drill in the middle of Atlanta that the general public mistook for the real thing. The magnitude of what three little inches of fluffy, white stuff and below freezing temperatures can do to this area is unimaginable unless you experience it for yourself.

It all started with the weather models showing that a storm would sweep across Georgia probably blanketing it with snow and possibly freezing rain somewhere...the best guess was south of Atlanta, because of the jet stream coming up from the south bringing moist air up to the higher atmosphere into the strong winter front moving in from the northwest is the toughest call for meteorologists in pinpointing the dump zone. Even the computer models went back and forth between nearly all of Georgia getting it to most of it hitting south of Atlanta, practically until it was upon us. Having lived in Georgia for well over a decade, I can say unpredictability really should be no surprise to anyone who has lived here even longer. It is just best to expect the worst and be thankful when you are wrong when it comes to winter storms here.

Folks, let me write this again so there is no misunderstanding: We all knew for a fact that a completely unpredictable major winter storm was approaching with temperatures in the twenties and lower from the northwest into Georgia. The only uncertainty about it was when, where, and how much snow and/or ice.

So, here is the Mayor of Atlanta and the Governor of Georgia knowing a major winter storm is coming in for sure, like everyone else, knowing it is unpredictable, like everyone else, but instead of erring on the side of caution in fear of being criticized for overreacting, they keep all the government offices open so employees are at work and all children are in school. The Governor honestly stated in a speech that he felt his biggest failure was in not staggering the time government employees could be released from work...yeah, like that would have made all the difference. Now the school boards are independent and can close schools as they see fit, but since all the rest of the government facilities were up and running....

The morning starts out sunny and bright, but well below freezing. Then snow comes in with the clouds, light at first, but within an hour it is obvious that it was accumulating and the roads began to get icy. Our county school board sent out an alert at 10:30 AM that they had decided to release the students early. The elementary students would be leaving the school at 12:30 PM, with the middle schools and high schools at other times (like staggering) but it was already too late at 10:30 AM when the notice was sent. Many buses could not even get to the schools. Many children here and all over the Metro Atlanta area stayed over night in their schools, and those were the luckier ones, for some were stuck on school buses that could not finish routes because of the ice. Most of Atlanta had about three inches of snow, I think we had more like four in our area, but it was hard to tell as it was dry and blowing off roofs and trees.

The governor stated that what caused most of the traffic problem was that businesses sent people home all at the same time, rather than staggering I suppose, so salt trucks could not treat the roads because of all the traffic, as if Atlanta never has much traffic except during rush hours...but again that was already too late as they should have began treating when the snow started falling.  When I thought about it, why wouldn't businesses send home their workers when their children were being sent home by the schools...?

My husband was working only 45 minutes from home, on the average day, even though I did not want him to go out at all because I just knew this was going to be a bad one. The customer account he was at closed so he had to leave around 1:30 in the afternoon. He had already called around to hotels, but they were full. He made sure he had plenty of gas and headed home. He tried different ways because I-20 was closed, so he was looking for a road not yet closed to get north of I-20 and every time he was met with a road that was closed. The radio stations were no help at all: just people telling their own stories about being stuck in stopped traffic and cars being abandoned because of an accident, jack-knifed semis blocking the road, running out of gas, lack of traction, or the driver just gave up all along major highways and roads, even smack in the middle of lanes, because they could not move them off.

At least my husband and I could talk to each other because he had enough gas and his cell phone charger with him, some people had dead cell phone batteries and could no longer talk to anyone. At 10:30 PM, an hour and a half after we last talked, I asked how far he had traveled in that time: two tenths of a mile. There was not much I could do about it so I went to bed, knowing my husband can take care of himself and praying he would arrive soon. Twelve hours after he started, at 1:30 AM, my husband finally made it home. We were fortunate: in our church, a few husbands working in the city have not been home for two nights, either staying at work or hotels near work.

Would you believe that work asked my husband to fly to Boston that day, while he was stuck in his van all those hours? He simply told them that Delta had cancelled all flights, which was true, and all the highways and roads around the airport, we later found out, were the worst of the worst all the next day as well, for we did not have enough sunshine and the temperatures were still in the 20's.

As horrible as Tuesday was, Wednesday was not much better. It took until afternoon before people could get out at all. While we were all advised to stay home, vehicles were still obstructing driving lanes, so people wanted to get their cars, if they could, because the "magic hour" was ending around 5:00 PM, when the sun would start going down and everything that had somewhat thawed in the sunlight would refreeze. Actually, it never got above freezing as we were still in the 20's all that day, but there were some patches of the roads with good amounts of sunshine that melted some of the ice. Power outages were not the big problem as they were with the ice storm in 2011, because it was a dry snow rather than a heavy wet snow or freezing rain which causes pine trees to snap from the added weight and down power lines.

Today (Thursday), the schools were still closed and some businesses were opening with later hours.  This afternoon the temperature has reached above freezing for a few hours and the snow is melting fastest in the sunlight and most of the ice has melted on well traveled roads, but there is still ice in the road in front of our house and there could still be patches of black ice again tonight. Tomorrow and thereafter, the highs are to be in the fifties and rain is in the forecast, so in a day or two more, this debacle will wiped from the natural earth as if it did not even happen, but with over 900 reported accidents in the area and who knows how many yet to be reported, people will still have some cleaning up to do for many coming days.

~ My Lord, please help the people of Georgia who were affected so badly by this storm. Thank you to getting my husband home to his loving family, warm food, and bed. ~

Sunday, January 26, 2014

At the Close of the 21-Day Fast

Unless you put prayer with your fasting, there is no need to fast. If it doesn't mean anything to you, it won't mean anything to God. ~Jentezen Franklin

Here am I...at the close of the 21-day fast and I am still wrestling with this "love myself" thing. I now well aware of the depths of this problem, I recognize it in my thoughts, but it seems to remain unresolved, not that God is done with me, but I had this hope....

Frankly, I had a very difficult time praying during this fast, more to the point I feel I failed in that respect. For the corporal part, we were to be praying about this year as a season of acceleration, multiplication, and increase based on prophetic words given to our pastor. The goals are local outreach, global missions, and Encounter 2014 (which is an intense spiritual retreat, I think). I wanted to pray about these things, but my mind wandered more than usual or I kept running head first into this "love myself" thing as if God wants me to work through this with Him the most...and it did not help that I seem to want to avoid God on top of it, which He often reminded me of what I was doing as I did it.

I have always thought of myself as conceited and selfish, and I still think that. On the other hand, I feel that I have no worth except in the things that I do or provide for others. I think certain things contributed to this besides my childhood, like many of the churches I was in. This might explain why I have hurt feelings left over from some churches and even anger towards some church philosophies: mainly the ones that seem to beat down their congregation and perhaps, in particular, women. It is not that I disagree with the scriptures used, but just how they were used to shame and beat congregations into submission. This in contrast to encouraging people to learn to listen to God themselves and act on His leading rather than relying completely on pastoral leadership as the sole mouthpiece of God. Even some of the church members that talk the right talk, with amens and hallelujahs in the service, seem to not hear God's words in their daily lives and frowned on those that did.

So, I hid away in those "safe" churches and kept quiet most of the time. I tried to fit what they expected of me as a member, as a woman, and as a wife. Part of me used to scream inside that I was as much of a human being as any man, that I had worth, that I hear God speak to me who is the greatest authority, but after awhile even my internal screaming became silent and I became even more complacent just to get along with everyone else. It still did not win me any friends, so why did I bother to try? There was only one church that really showed my husband and me how much we were appreciated and loved, and would be missed when we moved from Florida. The good news is we are now in a church that is very like it: only nearly 17 years later did we get back what we were missing, but the church is only three years old so...I guess we had to wait. These people get into your life and invite you into theirs. There is a greater sense of community than we had before.

Anyway, this is not meant to be a another gripe about churches, but rather I am just analyzing the influences in my life trying to identify what is my issue with "loving myself" and what that really means from God's perspective. I have always been taught that loving yourself is wrong; loving others more is right; loving God the most is ideal. That self-sacrifice is the greatest good. That hating your life means you love God more. If you are last then you will be first...all those humbling things that Jesus Himself said. However, when the visiting pastor was praying over me months ago and was given the message to give to me that I think I am being humble but I am not, that if I did not love myself I could not really love others, I was so very confused and highly disturbed. I thought I was doing that part right but here this man was telling me that I should take off my sunglasses to see that it really was daytime not night time like I thought. It just flipped my world, but I was not ready to flip with it...and I am not sure I still am. And I do not know the source of this, but there seems to be a measure of fear involved with this thing also. 

So, here am I at the end of this fast...I feel I did not pray as I should have, as long as I should have, or about what I should have, nor did I get a final resolution about healing my heart, but I also know that sometimes what I need comes after the fast has ended, so here am I, my Lord, hoping this healing of my heart is yet coming.

~ My Lord, reveal to me what I need to understand so that it will heal my heart and I will learn to love as You wish of me. ~

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Gearing Up for the Spring Expedition

We don’t think there’s something wrong with one-year-old children because they can’t walk perfectly. They fall down frequently, but we pick them up, love them, bandage them if necessary, and keep working with them. Surely our heavenly Father can do even more for us than we do for our children. ~Joyce Meyer

Tuesday this week my husband and I had to attend the mandatory parent meeting for Living Science. We dropped off the Princess at her piano teacher's home on the way. We were hoping she would squeeze her in some time that evening as she needs an extra lesson with her judging coming up in just a couple weeks. Usually she is farther along than she is and I am getting concern. The Princess, however, was complaining about her head aching, so it seemed unlikely that she would be in any shape for a lesson.

The main subject of the evening meeting was the 5-day expedition in April. It is the biggest event for middle schoolers. High school servant leaders also go to help out as well as chaperones. My husband insisted that we both sign up to chaperone, but I most likely will not be able to go. For one it is $250 per chaperone plus the cost of gas, although we will be given $100 for that this year. They need more men than women, because everyone travels by gender. The men drive boys and the women drive girls. As with most homeschooling families, the men are the bread winners and the women are the stay at home parent with more flexibility in schedules. I am still wondering if my husband will be able to get the time off also.

The other reason one of us probably needs to stay home is that we cannot kennel our dog, because we do not believe in giving her shots and up-to-date shot records are required by law for kennels. If it were just two days, our dog does well with the lady across the street caring for her while she is alone at home. Even though she has four rescued dogs of her own to handle and she works at night as a 911 operator, she is very good about coming over several times during the day to let our dog out and feed her during the day. I just do not feel our dog will do well for five days like that, she is too family needy and has gotten destructive with a dog bed when she was kenneled for a week once before. (I would like my couch to be in the same condition as it is now.)

At the meeting, they went over the rules for packing gear and the clothes allowed. They suggested that we all make some homemade treats to send along and they would be handed out by the leaders. Everything has to be marked due to many of the children having allergies. There was a great deal more, but they seem to have this trip organized well. There are three stops where the students are to switch cars so that they all get to know different students on the way. There also will be devotion and prayer times together. It will be very memorable for the Princess.

That night we were also given the report card for the first semester and the Princess received 97, an A. Also, I had a chance to talk to the people I needed to about our concerns. I had written an email and they had cleared some misunderstandings up, so I ended up apologizing for some of my concerns because they were based on the perceptions of my daughter, like the time she said she had a math teacher for a substitute. Actually, it was a science teacher and the math they were given was DNA related, which was the topic they were to cover that week, but she hates maths so much all she focused on was having math homework to do. I also picked up her T-shirts that night. So, I left feeling much better about the whole school thing.

After the meeting we went to pick up the Princess who had been sleeping the entire time on Trudy's couch; quite unlike her. She had told Trudy not to put on the TV or to get her anything, she just wanted to lie down and be left alone--so unlike my Princess. Trudy, who was supposed to be downstairs in her piano studio giving lessons, ended up having all of that evening's students cancel due to illness...that started with a migraine and then their throats swelled. She had plenty of time to work with the Princess on her pieces but the Princess seemed to have a migraine herself. She did not want to move to just put on her shoes so we could take her home and she said she was very nauseated.

I was hoping the news about her grade would cheer her up some, but she was just too ill at the time to be cheered up. We finally got the Princess in the van and began the drive home. About half way, she finally did throw up, which was not much as there was not much in her stomach and thankfully we had a thick blanket doubled over that we had used to take our dog to the vet a few days ago still in the van so that is were it went. Immediately, she felt so much better. She said, "I had forgotten what that tasted like." We tried not to laugh, as I told her we all try to forget what that tastes like as I offered her some water. 

It was 10:30 PM by the time we got home with our errand and classes day following, while we are still fasting. The Princess was feeling so much better that she did not need any help preparing for bed and the next morning she was dancing around like normal. I was not quite as energetic, but then I am fasting all food and she is only fasting her evening meal, although she has been drinking one to two glasses of milk at night! Well, she is a going about-to-be-teenager in just three months--Yikes!

~ My Lord, thank you this upcoming amazing opportunity for my daughter and for her illness to be so short. Please make it possible for my husband to have the time off to chaperone so he can be there with our daughter. ~

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Changes in the Rabbitry

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven. ~Ecclesiastes 3:3

I am reminded of a folk song that I learn to sing in elementary school, Mr. Rabbit. Because it was a folk and not written down until long after it had been passed around and every folk artist had his own rendition. I remember loving the song except for one morbid verse in the version of our song books (in some other versions the eyes are red):

Mister Rabbit, Mister Rabbit, your foot's mighty red.
Yes, kind Sir, I'm almost dead.

I could only imagine the foot being red from bleeding after being caught in a trap. Not something I liked to sing, but it made such an impression that I still remember the song today. I never imagined myself raising rabbits for meat, in fact I doubt if I even knew that people ate rabbits in elementary school, oddly, because I lived in a small town surrounded by farms most of my childhood. The truth is that we humans outlive most animals and livestock animals have a purpose in our food chain, at least for those of us who eat meat.

It has been three years ago since we purchased our rabbits from a larger breeding facility certified for laboratory animals, so their rabbits were kept in highly sanitary conditions and healthy. They had so many with such good records that inbreeding was not a concern. However, we did not go to the facility as the owner was coming our way, so she picked the rabbits for us according to our specifications and met with us while she was visiting family for the holidays.

We knew the age of Sugar when we got her because she was about half grown and we had to wait a few months before breeding her. Mr. Buck was young, but nearly fully grown and a capable breeder. Miss Doe was full grown and had kindled at least once, so we were told, so she was a proven breeder as we wanted. It stands to reason we did not get a proven doe they wanted to keep, but she was healthy...and fat. Having raised rabbits all this time and seeing how they develop, Doe probably was more like a two to three year old rabbit at that time. Generally speaking, it is recommended that rabbit does retire from breeding around the age of six, which is the age we judged her to be. Typically she had kindles of seven to thirteen but she only had two super-sized kits the last time.

In addition, she was getting more and more aggressive with me. (Yeah, rabbits are not really as docile as people tend to think.) I would mess with the kits more because of her larger kindles and the smaller ones needing milk supplements; I expected her to be a little disturbed by this. I always wear a jacket of some sort and gloves as a precaution, even in summer, when I have to do anything inside their cages because they have sharp long nails. However, the only one I really had trouble with aggression was Doe. She often would grunt at me and turn her head as if she would like to bite me...she never did, but it seems I am very good with animals, even troubled, unpredictable, and aggressive ones, as I noticed when I worked at the 4-H horse barn—I am very calm, gentle but firm, and I rarely get injuries from animals because I seem to know how they are feeling and how I handle them. (One of the benefits of being empathic, I suppose.)

My husband told me that Doe did not treat him the same way—well, not until the last few months, at least. The last few weeks she became very aggressive with him as well. Doe has always been a big eater. She always seems to be starving, but actually she was fat and she was that way when we first got her. She was so fat that we could not tell if her first breeding had taken! We cut down her feed and got her to a healthier weight, but she definitely did not like it.

Considering the amount of food she was eating, her large size, her probable age being time to retire her from breeding, her aggression, and the space we have, it was obvious that she was not a good candidate to be a pet for anyone, so she was processed this weekend. My daughter just asked that that meat would not be served to her, but she would not know it even if we did, but since it would be a tougher meat, it will most likely be ground to mix with ground beef for hamburgers (because rabbit has no fat, the fat of the beef makes the meat hold together) or dog food.

Now we need at least another breeding doe, but we would like to get two. Actually, we would like to get another New Zealand White (NZW) doe and get an unrelated breeding pair of Californians, but we have found that pure bred Californians are difficult to find. We plan on cross breeding the NZWs with the Californians for our meat rabbits, but since Californians are hard to find and are in demand, we would like to have pure Californians to sell now and then as breeders. All breeders for Californians we are finding are a two-hour drive for us in differing directions. My husband is also seriously considering a couple of heritage breeds that are the same size, like American and Silver Fox; they both have pretty coats, are hardier, calmer in nature, better mothers, and there are nearby breeders. The nearest breeder for a Californian will have a weaned one ready in about three months and then we have to wait a few more months before she is mature enough to breed, because we are careful and responsible with our breeding program.

Last summer my husband built a breeding hutch for our expecting does and plans to build another. We had one kindling in it so far and we still lost a few, but none of them got out of the cage. My husband since has added a larger heating pad in the enclosed nesting area so that if a kit gets out of the nest it will be able to stay warm and possibly improve its chances to survive until we find it. We still had one dragged out into the open cage area and being winter it did not survive. However, the hutch is larger so when as the kits grow there is less crowding also. We usually keep them with the mother until they should naturally be weaned, about eight weeks. At which time they are separated by gender and placed in cages with no more than four to a cage and the doe is returned to her own cage for about a month to rest and restore before we breed her again. In the wild, does can be impregnated the day after they give birth, but we breed then about every three months in rotation.

Once the second breeding hutch is ready, we can rotate the breeding of three does easily, because we give each a resting period, but we have to expand our fencing and gate to be sure that they are not disturbed nor can get out of the fenced area, which happened once. We plan to do most of this work after we have the house resided.

So, it may be that we will not have another breeding doe for a few months, which is disappointing because I have gotten the hang of cooking rabbit meat, which is the highest in protein and we give rabbit meat to friends now and then. Rabbit can be substituted in chicken recipes, but difference in the meaty parts was something I had to get used to, just because I did not have rabbit before we began raising them. For chickens, it is the breast, but for rabbits, the hind quarters. Deboned and cut up, no one knows the difference, but the meat is higher nutrition, like protein and vitamin B-12, than chicken. At the New Year's Eve stew jam, our rabbit stew was the favorite and a couple of members talking to us were interested in raising rabbits also.

~ My Lord, thank you for Your provisions, for our food and healthy rabbits. Guide us to find good ones for breeding. ~

Monday, January 20, 2014

Midnight Van Jacking

There are no ordinary cats. ~Colette

You never think a van jacking will ever happen to you...until it does...and it not only happened once, but it happened again last Saturday night!



The first time when she did not come for dinner we were concerned, but when she did not come for breakfast, we were really worried until my husband went to feed the rabbits and noticed a bit of white pawing on his van's window. What bothers me the most is that we have housed this young one, fed, taken care of her, and given her a warm bed on cold nights in the garage, but she just cannot resist a van even if it is outside in the freezing cold, as my husband's work van is. All it takes is just a few seconds for the door to be open and she is in. We do not know it until it is time for dinner. When she does not come to our calls for dinner, which even has priority over van jacking for her, we now look in the vans.




Yeah, Little Miss Midnight has a serious problem.

~ My Lord, thank you for our pets and their amusing quirks, and that Midnight was safe after all. ~

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Day 14 of the 21-Day Fast

God loves you just the way you are, but He refuses to leave you that way. He wants you to be just like Jesus.
~Max Lucado

I do not think I have ever disliked a fast as much as I have this one. This healing of my love-heart issue...well, I know in the end I will be better for it, but the process...I have been in a deep soul wrenching cry quite a few times the past two weeks.

Every time I think, "Okay. I think I got it now," my Lord uncovers more of what I had hidden and that revealing requires that I must deal with it...more crying. I hear this phrase practically every where I turn: You have to love yourself before you can love others. You know, I really dislike that "love yourself" idea; it always sounds like conceit to me, but that is not what my Lord has been revealing to me. I discount myself, I do not allow myself to love myself, and therefore I do not fully accept that others love me either, so how could I really love them fully. And the real ouchie is if I have not really been loving others then I probably have not really been fully loving my Lord either, holding back from the Creator of all things, of me...how sad is that?

My Lord reminded me of something as I was preparing for church today. I used to have an alternative health-related home business in which I trained and consulted people. I also saw it as a ministry and I used to tell people that they did not have to work to be good enough for God, but only be willing to accept the grace and gifts God is willing and even trying to give to them. The irony of how that relates to my current state does not escape me. He is suggesting I take my own advice to stop resisting His love and just accept it, but I keep putting up roadblocks and He keeps making me tear them back down.

Another fragment off this issue, and I did not really want to admit it as I never like to confess to my vulnerabilities, is this past year has taken its toll on my the relationship between my husband and me. We went through real financial stress for over three years and that was less damaging to our relationship than the past year I think. I have felt that I cannot count on him because he is rarely home and I have extra chores to do, but when he is home I have been so burned out from his absence and homeschooling a reluctant (although she is improving) near-teen that I end wanting to be alone and letting him take charge. He would come home burned out from work, but happy with the change of pace, so he could enjoy cooking and do his chores. We would go to church together and do other things together, but we were really not being together most of the time.

After the fast, we hope to make arrangements to have the Princess stay with a friend for a night and the next day so that we can have some time to be romantic and make a good memory: a nice meal out and maybe a movie or a special place to go with holding hands, loving looks, and my husband again telling me that the reason he married me is because he could kiss me any time he wants to. I am so looking forward to it!

~ My Lord, thank you for the work You are doing within me and forgive me when I feel ungrateful. I know You are doing this for my good. Please bring my husband and I to a closer and more loving relationship than we have ever had. ~

Friday, January 17, 2014

A Work of Faith

Faith expects from God what is beyond all expectation. ~Andrew Murray

We worked very hard to make it to the Praise and Worship Service on Wednesday night this week and we made it there on time mostly because no one is eating dinner during the 21-Day Fast. (The Princess does drink a glass of milk at night, but that is it.) It was a very uplifting service, but after about half of it, my Lord was speaking to me so I stopped singing, sat down, and listened. He is still working on me about accepting that He really loves me. He is just plain wearing me down on this and I am relenting...a...little...at...a...time.

After the service, one of the strongest singers in the church came up to give me a hug. She was losing her voice last Sunday and was even worse that night. There were so many people moving around and talking to each other that just a few minutes later, another lady came up to talk to her and a man approached me talking about having the Princess begin with the Praise and Worship team playing keyboard, which is what he does. However, I could barely talk to him; I had lost my voice. After we parted, I went looking for the singer.

She also is a healer, but she is not empathic. I told her that I needed to pray for her. She really was amazed that I could hardly talk, since we had spoken a few minutes earlier and my voice was fine. She said she would not hug me again when she is ill and I said that my gift allows me to know exactly for what I should pray so that would be counterproductive if she needed healing. So, I prayed for her with my hands on her chest for she had bronchitis. While I prayed I felt heat in the same area in my body and mentioned that she should be feeling heat, which she confirmed. When I finished praying for her, my voice was again fine, without once clearing my throat. She also began talking better too.

I love watching, actually feeling, my Lord's workings without boundaries! I wish I had faith as boundless.

~ My Lord, thank you that we are in a church that is not only receptive to Your works, but eager to receive all that You are willing to give. Help me to have more faith, a faith without boundaries. ~

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

2013 in a Rear View Mirror

Relying on God has to begin all over again every day as if nothing had yet been done.
~C.S. Lewis, Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer

If I was to point to the five major influential changes in my life during 2013, they would be: changing churches, the Princess attending the Home Study Center, my husband's job, my Kindle, and my daughter's attitude. The list is disappointing to me overall. Not all of these changes felt as if they are working toward our good.

Church
The change in churches was the most positive thing we have done this year. We have settled on a church but not really involved as we would like just yet, which is mostly due to my husband's job and the crunch we have due to changing our errand day to Wednesday because of the Home Study Center. We love the church. It was not an easy choice when comparing the ones we had been visiting, but this one had been at the top of our list. We told our friends from our former church about it, who wanted to leave also, and they fell in love with it at their very first visit. So, we started going there with them, in our minds, to settle them in, and of course, we got settled in also. The only thing I see as a downside for me personally is I am not on Facebook, which is how most the active members communicate with each other and events are organized.

The Home Study Center
The Princess' piano lesson has been on Thursday since we started over eight years ago, until we enrolled her at the Home Study Center. Then it had to be changed to Wednesday and that was not much of a problem until we had chosen our church, which has services on that night and we have only made it to a couple of them.

The science program has turned out to be a point of some discomfort for me. I am not sure if I am just looking for things that are disappointing or if these are justified issues, but my scales have seem to weigh the inconveniences more heavily than the benefits since October. There are many factors, most that I have mentioned in early posts, that make me wonder if we would consider it all for next year. Perhaps one of the nags I feel is that in the beginning before we enrolled we were told that spring expedition was included in the tuition fees, yet since she was accepted we hear more often how the tuition does not cover all the costs of the expedition so they have various fund raisers that are impractical for us with the distance and that they are also trying to raise money to build another building, mostly to expand their current high school STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) program.

Husband's Job
I discussed this in a recent post, but I am not sure I could ever fully explain how his work schedule, particularly this year has affected us as a family. I am thankful he has a job and that he enjoys what he does, but...the other guy in our city just got himself kicked out of another customer's place last Friday, who never wants to see him again, because he did not fix the problem and made it even worse as he has done with them in the past also. So, I guess he will be again be rewarded with staying home when they call for service and my husband will get the wonderful opportunity to work more hours away from home to actually fix the problem, make the customer happy, and be stuck in the field and overlooked for promotions because he does his job so well where he is. You would think the company would rather guys like him do the field training with guys like that.

If I screamed "enough of this madness" would anyone hear it? 

My husband has this saying that he can handle one bad of three areas in his life as long as the other two are good. The three are family, church/spiritual, and work. The trouble is that when the one gone bad dominates, as he allowed it, then it can taint the other two as well. I am hoping my Lord is making way for some positive changes with my husband's job this year. 

My Kindle
I received my Kindle Fire HD for Christmas a year ago ever since I have taken the thing with me everywhere. I wish I could say I read books on it and I might yet, but mostly I use it as my Bible, notebook planner, and calculator as well as for email and for games. It is just so versatile and handy. Too handy, perhaps. I mean I can even watch Netflix on it if I want to, but I like the larger screens for movies.

What I like about our church is that we have free Wi-Fi and use the one Bible app "live," that is the church can upload the Bible verses that will be covered in the sermon when I am in that app. Pretty convenient!

The Princess' Attitude
Because of how much my husband was away for work, I was in this quandary of being a practically single mother impractically because when my husband was home, as infrequent and unpredictable as that had been, I suddenly had to shift to be wife and one of two parents even though he was too tired and burned out to be husband and father much of the time. During this time our little Princess developed into what we call the γινώσκω (pronounced ghin-OS-ko) stage, which is Greek for "I know." She knows so very much and she can do such amazing things (that we have yet to see her do) and whatever it is she has it worse or can do it better than anyone else...except for listening. It seems to me that her wirings from ear to brain and brain to mouth are in need of major overhauls!

There have been some very big changes in the Princess in the last year. Even though she begged me to paint her room pink four years ago (I cannot believe it was that long ago) and she still loved pink clothes the best then, the child has expanded choice of colors and now shuns pink, except for mauve and darker pinks. Her favorite color is in the teal to turquoise range, but she also likes greens, browns, and purples, all of which look lovely on her with her long, straight brown hair. Yes, she is by far pickier about her clothes than she was and tends to like to dress modestly on the sceen/punk side at times, but not into black and she still is into modesty. I think she is getting her ideas from the Claudia character on Warehouse 13, which is not too far out for me.

Expectations
I wish the most influential changes I had experienced in 2013 had been something more along the lines of spiritual enlightenment,  miracles, healings, and such things as that and I have those expectations still. Maybe 2014...?

~ My Lord, thank you for this time to look back and be appreciative for change. I am praying that You will guiding the changes for us in this next year.  ~

Monday, January 13, 2014

The Fast is Working

Faith is not the belief that God will do what you want. It is the belief that God will do what is right.
~Max Lucado, He Still Moves Stones

"The fast is working" is what my husband declared when I shared with him conversations between my Lord and me. I agree, but on my side it is proving to be a very painful process. Yesterday while getting ready for church my Lord and I were having one of our conversations and He asked me if there was one thing, just one thing, that I could ask of Him to heal what would it be. It took me some time as I thought of the three main physical things that I have been wanting Him to heal this past year. Then I thought of something else that was beyond them and I answered, "My heart."

Then He told me I had made the wise choice and reminded me of the day I had gone up in the church asking for healing, which I tucked away in a blog post called My Love Bracelet in October 2013. You see, He had already given me the answer months ago, but I was not looking for that answer then. I knew it was significant when I received it, but I was also disappointed that I did not receive the healing I wanted at that time. I realized that finally, after all these months, I am aligned with wanting the healing God desires for me to have. So, I guess my husband is right, the fast is working; I am willing to follow the Holy Spirit's leading into the depths of this heart issue that I probably have worked hard to ignore and avoid for years.

My Lord and I are cutting and unraveling the patchwork mending of my heart with honesty beyond what I would feel comfort sharing here (beyond what I am comfort with personally also), but I can share this one thing. Children grow up needing an anchor. Usually the anchor is one or both parents. In my case, neither of my parents. My father was abusive and my mother was too afraid of him to stop it. After they split up, my mother was a self-gratifying, undisciplined creature spending money she did not have, although she was working then, and going out with men and seeing friends while expecting the oldest child at the time to take care of everything at home with unpaid bills and hardly any food. I well remember how my sister just three years younger, who had been our mother's favorite before the baby, hated it when our mother started treating her as she had me when our  mother sent me to stay with my aunt and then decided she did not want me back; after two years of that treatment my sister left to live with another family member also.

I focused on my paternal grandmother as my role model when I was young, because we lived next door to her, but that was not really practical because her son was abusing us just fifteen feet away. Children are not practical. Gramma was a career woman who worked on a military base as a civilian with high clearance. She was not a cuddly grandmother, but she provided us with things that money could buy, like clothing, toys, and art supplies. She also paid our utility bills because the two houses, which were more like summer cottages, were connected for utilities and I doubt that my father ever even paid rent as he tended to spend money left over from groceries and beer on his hobbies. Although I later saw her as an enabler with a son that was fathered probably by her step father (even though she would never admit who the father was), I looked up to her as a young child: She was successful when men firmly reigned in the business world and she did not a man supporting her...a man she had to rely on for money as my mother did. Later I lived with Gramma for a couple of years as an adult when I first moved to Florida and although I loved her, she was no longer a role model for me. She was capable to take for herself and her things, but also manly kind of woman who would smile to your face and talk bad of you behind your back; she did not enjoy people and never went out with men that I ever remembered.

My ideal was my aunt, my mother's sister, also since I was a child and probably all of my adult life. In contrast to her sister, she was a highly disciplined and organized Christian woman who did so many things. She had a nice house that she kept extremely clean and well organized. She always has been an intensely emotional person; there was no doubt when she was happy or sad or angry and she yelled a lot at everyone when she was frustrated, so she was not perfect, but she was placed on a high pedestal in my eyes. She was happily married in a highly loving relationship, had four children, and always worked at something mostly at home and church. She got jobs outside the home when they needed extra money, she went back to college to start a career around forty years of age as their business began to fail, and she worked as the main steady bread winner until she retired. Before she had to work she started many things in her church and the community, mostly around music and involving teens. I could write an entire book on this woman and her accomplishments!

My aunt has been my best friend and my role model all of my life. During this fast, I realized that I would use her often as my measuring stick. My aunt drove a school bus when it was a man's domain so if she could drive a school bus, I could too...and I did for nearly an entire school year (long story). That was how I measured my abilities, because although my aunt was larger than life when I was a young girl, it was when I lived with her for two years, I realized she was just a person and I could do anything she could plus we had so many interests in common, like art and music.

I now realized that I may have been trying to model my life around my aunt's or at least my imagined version of my aunt. When I was younger, I often wondered what my aunt would think of this or that, if she would have done the same, if she would be proud of me, and so on. This anchored me when I did not trust myself to make good decisions and I rarely consciously do this now, but yesterday I realized that it is still ingrained in me. Which makes me wonder now...who am I really and have I really ever been just me?

All my life the things I have loved, I did not let myself love too much, because I am constantly aware that they are just things and things can be destroyed or taken from me as has happened a number of times in my life. The people I have loved, I have never really let myself love fully, because people can change, disappoint, move away, or die. I allow myself just a little pleasure, but then feel guilty remembering all the people living in huts without running water or children enslaved; my life is far better than theirs. I just cannot allow myself to be too happy, to love too much, to enjoy that which my Lord has blessed me and the other side of that is I do not let people love me too much as I fear disappointing them also.

I keep my expectations on others low, but expectations of myself are very high, so high in fact that I cannot but fall short of them. No matter how well I do anything, in my mind I could have and should have done it better. It is a self-defeating attitude, I know, but one that I have had all my life. I am hoping the fast is working, that I am dropping off this heavy backpack of burdens that I have been carrying all of my life because in my weaken fasting state I now realize how very heavy it is and I do not want to be carrying it around anymore.

~ My Lord, guide me further to the me You desire me to be and may it glorify You. ~

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Day Four of the 21-Day Fast

The greatest enemy of hunger for God is not poison but apple pie. It is not the banquet of the wicked that dulls our appetite for heaven, but endless nibbling at the table of the world. ~John Piper, A Hunger for God: Desiring God through Fasting and Prayer

I have this love and do-not-love thing with fasting. Even just fasting one day a week as I have for years, I have my good days and bad ones, but the third day of a longer fast is always the worse one for me. Once over that hump, it becomes more of a mundane exercise like marching a long distance when you just keep putting on foot in front of the other even though if you know you really are too exhausted to do it. Fasting strips me down to just doing what I absolutely must do and realizing the rest is just not really all that important. However, on a spiritual fast, there is another highly influential factor: God. It is when I am in this weakened state in the carnal and worldly sense that the spiritual aspect is heightened, so I hear my Lord the most and the best, but there are still things I must do.

Yesterday I drove an hour to have a chiropractic adjustment, filled my gas tank, dropped the Princess off at Living Science, drove to and shopped at my two favorite health food grocery stores (and bought way more than I planned because they were having very good sales on things I can freeze), drove back to pickup the Princess at school and then drove to her piano lesson, installed a new modem for the piano teacher, drove the hour home trying not to doze off, put all the food away, fed pets, and then went to our church's kick off service at the closer campus where it was held at 7:00. We finally got home at 10:00 and I was in bed by 10:30.

That is much to do on my good days, but on the third fasting day when my strength is waning, moodiness tipping to the dark side, and all I have is my resolve...just one foot in front of the other marching. The service was like a rally and I just was not in the mood for a rally, but we were given the vision and our goals for 2014, which seemed so overwhelming to me. I was thankful that they recapped last year when they did the same and others thought in their minds that it was impossible, yet every goal was met, because God does impossible so very well.

It was during the service I realized how much of an outsider I felt I was. I contributed it to the effects of fasting and told myself that I would probably feel better after a good night's rest. I might have, but sometime after 2:30 AM I just could not sleep at all for four hours. So I spent that time, warm in my bed, talking to God.

Actually, I would say I was having out with Him and pouring out several of my complaints that I try to keep secreted away as if He does not know them. I think getting this out to let God address it directly was for my own benefit. I was complaining the most about feeling like an outsider and He reminded me of all the times I had chosen to stay out on the fringe. Like the times, in high school when I sat on the stage in the cafeteria with a newly transferred and shunned boy that had straggly clothes and even smelled from lack of laundering and bathing at times. I probably saw the in-crowd as snobbish sitting at their claimed table in the middle of all the tables and did not want to be in it back then, but maybe I was just covering for my own insecurity of not being good enough to fit in any group or even being snobbish myself. (Many people have thought that of me, that I am snobbish, because actually I am rather reserved with crowds unless I am performing or lecturing, yet they see me being very open and friendly with small groups and one on one.) God reminded me that while I made myself an outcast with many, I also gave my friendship to someone who was friendless and ignored.

My Lord remembers the good of these things. There were many others of which He reminded me...things that I had done over years because I was out on the fringe more than in a group. And here I am again, because I am fasting food, which is never the popular choice for a corporate fast. The "connectors," as church members are called as there is no formal membership, have chosen to fast the Internet, playing games, TV, and such. Most shake their heads at the idea that we are fasting food saying they just cannot do it. One man told my husband, "That's crazy!" My husband said to me last night that he did not understand why people justify refraining from being on the Internet as a fast, as there was no Internet in the Biblical times. What did they fast? Food. What did Jesus fast? Food. Yes, I agree that we have far more distractions of the mind than in those days than people did in Biblical times, but the need to eat is a very basic need for survival and is not something that has changed with time.

Is it any wonder that people from other parts of the world see Western Christianity as soft and watered down when the inconvenience of refraining from entertainment these days serves as fasting? Now I know that all things can be used by God for our good and these people will, I hope, use the freed time in prayer and devotions, but I also know from experience that giving up more for God means more is given from God. Many people are willing to give up things temporarily that a simple power outage and drained batteries would take from them, but most people are not willing to give up an essential of life like food for even three days, let alone twenty-one.

What they miss out on is the heighten spiritual aspect. Years ago God showed me the three aspects of a person: physical, emotional/intellectual, and spiritual. He also revealed to me how one of these three is usually dominate the other two. In the unbeliever, it the emotional/intellectual aspect typically, unless one is very ill and then it typically is the physical. Both of these aspects leave a person incomplete like an animal, but the spiritual aspect is wherein the Holy Spirit should dwell. The spiritual aspect of a person is not even detectable without the Holy Spirit but may not be the dominate aspect in a weak believer either.

However, during a fast, the spiritual aspect of the believer becomes extremely dominate as it should always be. If one is devoting the fast to God, it can completely overpower the emotional/intellectual aspect, but even if not it will strongly influence it. The benefits of this in physical aspect comes in heighten healing, in part because the body is not taking in toxins to be filtered and can focus on healing, but also because of the spiritual aspect with the Holy Spirit is in effect healing the ailments of the body.

This is what I love about fasting. I do not like being hungry or having difficulty with concentration, usually the worse during the first week, or making people uncomfortable at social events where food will be served, but the healing and spiritual benefits are worth it...absolutely.

~ My Lord, thank you for talking with me last night. I know I have more to work out between us, but thank you for showing me how I believe was a weakness in my personality is used by You for good. That I have worth in Your eyes, even when I cannot see it myself. ~

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Our 21-Day Fast Begins

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

Our church has encouraged its members to fast for twenty-one days in January since it began three years ago and we are beginning this one tomorrow. As how most church en masse fasts tend to go, we have some certain things on which we are concentrating in our prayers together and one can choose what he wishes to fast. My husband and I will be fasting food, but we may have small amounts of raw milk since he will be working and I am challenged with insomnia and leg cramps with fasts, especially in the winter. The Princess has chosen to fast sweets as usual, but this time she also has chosen to fast her evening meals, which is a first time thing for her.

On New Year's Eve we went to our second Stew Jam at one of the members' home. This is where everyone brings food, most in crock pots, to share with everyone. This time my husband made a rabbit pot pie type of stew but we used noodles instead of a pie crust and to my surprise it was the most popular dishes as we had hardly any left while others had far more. That night we sang songs of praise and made a list of things we wanted to "give away," actually things we did not want and needed for God to intervene in our lives. Then we burned the lists, not in the outside bonfire we hoped to have as the wood was too wet to burn, but in their fireplace. At midnight, the man of the house blew a shofar outside to ring in the new year.

Today our pastor talked about last year being the season of Momentum and this year is the season of Increase as well as the vision God has given him for the church, for us. This was one of those services when I truly felt God talking to me personally, but I have become keenly aware lately that something has been trying to cut me off from hearing God. In fact during the service, I actually felt like I could not hear the pastor...I could hear him, but I felt like something was trying to interfere with me hearing. There are very few times I have felt spiritual warfare in my midst, but today I believe I felt it. Even now as I began write this, I could not remember what it was God was saying to me in the last half of this sermon; it is as if the sermon was a month ago rather than today. I am thankful for technology because I listened to some of his points again that were given at the other campus by simply clicking here.

This week I had strange pains again. My entire rib cage began hurting on New Year's Day, after the Stew Jam, and it was diminishing but continued until yesterday afternoon. The Sunday service before Christmas I had this same problem and felt horrible. I had no intention of going to church service, so my husband and daughter went. However, he called me after the first service to tell me that the children were singing that morning, which neither of us knew, so he could pick me up for the second service. I wanted to see my daughter sing, but I felt miserable and my mood was as bad or worse. My husband told me at the church, when I was just not willing to go into the sanctuary (yes, I can be a pouting brat in rare occasions), that while he was driving to get me he was praying and he felt the Lord tell him that I was under a spiritual attack. If you knew my husband and how he thinks, this would floor you so, of course, it floored me. I knew he was probably right, but I cannot say that the knowledge improved my mood.

Perhaps God has a purpose for me and I am a target because of it. Of late, I have been working through the idea of God loving me. I know He does in my mind, however I am realizing how much I do not allow myself to feel like I am loved or just I will not accept that I am loved or even I just will not allow anyone, including God, to love me. And at times I feel I cannot really love anyone either.

I know the reason of this and it is not just an excuse. This is the residual from having an abusive parent: the self-gratifying, twisted, manipulative, and hurtful use of the word "love." A child who grows up in that kind of "love" is one who is unable to accept the real thing. It is not like I do not now know what love is or what it should be for the most part, it is that I cannot accept it completely, even from God, and I am questioning if I actually feel it. I also am rather annoyed that every time I think I have completely healed of my past that eventually God guides me to one more thing still left over that I did not recognize previously, but in reality, we all are dealing with those things in us that are not from God. If only it were as easy as writing them on a paper and burning them up!

So, today when the pastor talked of restoration and recovering what was lost, I heard God speaking to my heart about my heart. It is not broken or cracked, just badly mended, like a sloppy hand-sewn patching attempted by a child too young to have the necessary skills. This is what I am going to be praying about during this fast and I believe this is why I have been under spiritual attacks of late, because after God unravels these messy threads and heals my heart, I believe He will have me in a ministry that I have thought to be beyond for what I could have hoped.

~ My Lord, I am ready to know Your love. Make me ready to accept it completely as well. ~

Friday, January 3, 2014

Decisions

Never cut a tree down in the wintertime. Never make a negative decision in the low time. Never make your most important decisions when you are in your worst moods. Wait. Be patient. The storm will pass. The spring will come. ~Robert H. Schuller

There comes a time when one must take a good look at what one has been doing and re-evaluate.

  • Does it have value? This is not necessarily in the material sense but in the spiritual also.
  • Is it is worthy of continuing?
  • It is something to be done this because it is necessary, a tradition, or pleasing?
  • Is it continued strictly out of tradition or because it has meaning?
  • Is it setting a good example for others?

You may have guessed by the reduction in number of my posts over the last few months that I have been pondering the question of whether or not I should continue to blog (and other things as well), but more so since the holiday season. To my shame, it had become more of a regularly scheduled task rather than a welcomed time to enjoy my Lord.

Ministries are like that—not that this is a ministry, per se. It is just when we are doing even the things we are called to do by our Lord, we can be grooving out our own little rut doing the work while losing heart for the purpose. I lost my love for blogging, but worse I lost sight of its purpose. So, I took an unplanned blog break, but nonetheless a real vacation from blogging for about a month.

Unfortunately (or not) during that time, I allowed myself to become addicted to a game on my Kindle—yes, this is a confession. Castleville Legends is a building simulation game with dragons. (This is not an endorsement of the game, but I do so like dragons.) In this game, items are cultivated and workshops are built to make goods to be sold to gain lands and heroes. I have enjoyed it...a bit too much probably. However, God can make all things for our good. I began to become quite aware of time, such as how much time everything was taking in my real life as well as with the game. It is helping me to prepare to manage my time better...oddly. I would not suggest it as a therapy for time management, but it is helping me to realize how much time things really take rather than how long I imagine they should take. I was having some difficulties with my expectations of my time with a variety of tasks I need to do and constantly feeling that I never had any time for myself and then feeling guilty about my selfish desires of even needing time for myself.

Adding to my personal difficulties with time was my husband's work schedule. He was originally hired to be a lead in the field, like a supervisor, but there was no position created for it then, although he was paid more when he was hired and introduced to customers as the lead go-to guy because eventually this position would be created. A two years later, the company restructured and my husband had a new manager, who did not know this. A year later, with my husband still working as a pseudo-lead and getting totally burned out working weekends and traveling nearly every week, the company finally created the position and it was given to someone else without any experience. His manager said it was a difficult choice between him and the other guy (most likely because my husband was burned out). At the same time, there was a man in our city my husband had recommended and they hired that had flown only four times all of last year; my husband was flying out three to six times a month on average. A few times they had my husband fly to another state and had someone else flown here at the same time, which made little sense, but most of the customers ask for my husband while some customers have banned the other guy in the city.

Now I am used to my husband traveling during most weekdays, but all this travel over weekends this year was wearing on both of us and he was not able to get his comp days on top of that. It was all due to one man who did the scheduling, who seem to pick three or four guys as the ones to do all the traveling saying they were the best ones and everything was an emergency, but how were the other guys ever to get the experience to be better if they were sitting at home most of the time...yes, the other man in our city was seeing the few local customers who had not banned him on the average of one every one or two weeks; the rest of the time he was taking calls in the comfort of his home, but since he had a bad wireless connection there, most of those calls still went to my husband who backed him up without pay for being on call after regular business hours. Needless to say, my husband had developed a bit of an attitude, asked not be on call any more at all, and had already began looking for another job for a few months before he was given the news about not being promoted in November.

It was really hard for us, but now there is someone else doing the most of scheduling and he is committed to make the travel time more even among the men and cost effective so the men will be working at their local customers more. Also, after much prayer, my husband and I agreed for the sake of our sanity, relationship, and all projects he needs to do at home that he will not be working any more weekends at all until he has been given all his built-up comp time and then when he must work a weekend, he will be taking all his comp time from that trip the very week he returns. That is how it was when he began working for this company before the new manager (although the manager does not do the scheduling) and how it was when he worked for the previous company also.

Needless to say, both my husband and I were burned out and raw for the last half of 2013 because of his schedule. However, now he is changing his mode of thinking about his job. He is just a field service engineer he says and not the lead, so he should not be doing all that he was nor giving advice about how to be lead to the guy who got the promotion when he calls asking. He did explain to his boss, who honestly did not know, that he had been working as lead as much as he could within his capacity as he was hired to do and it had been promised to him, but now he would be backing out of the extra stuff he had been doing, no longer being the point man to the customers, and working according to his job title. He decided to go back on the on-call rotation after the first of this year, so we could save up to get the house resided this year, but he will not be burning himself out as he did before.

There is a time when taking a break is needed to restore oneself. God, who loves us so much, understands this. He did not create life for us to not enjoy it along with Him.

As to my blogging...well, that is another decision I could not make on my own, so I am praying about it.

~ My Lord, thank you for reminding us that that life You have given us is to be enjoyed and it is more enjoyable with You in it whispering in our spirits Your will. ~