Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Christmas Done

Which Christmas is the most vivid to me? It's always the next Christmas. ~Joanne Woodward

It was not the kind of Christmas I would typically enjoy writing about; it was bittersweet and simple. However, I was given the three things I wanted most: a bigger camera bag, a thermal mug that keeps things hot or cold for hours, and a Silhouette cutting machine.

Last year my husband bought me a new camera that is so much faster and higher end than the one I had that I actually can get the facial expressions I was going for rather than the blurry one than comes two seconds later. I did not use the new camera much because it was a bit more complicated and...well, I had been having years of disappointing pictures with a child who increasing was becoming camera shy. It just soured me about taking pictures, so last year when I received this camera and had not asked for one, I guess I just was not in the mood to fully appreciate it. I did buy a tripod with my gift money from my husband's mother as the one I had was not good anymore, but I still just did not use it much. Then I began trying to take some pictures, especially when we went to north Georgia this past fall and all I could think of was why had I not been using this little gem so much more! I had to get used to switching lens and my camera case just was not accommodating for everything, so that went on my list for this Christmas. I am loving my camera now!

My husband asked for a thermal mug a few Christmases ago. We picked up one at a store hoping it was a good one—it was priced like it should have been. It kept his tea hot for hours as he wanted...probably not as many hours as the one he gave to our daughter and me, but it has served him well. After I had a drink from his a few hours after he had been carrying it around, I was amazed how hot it still was and I might have mentioned that I wanted one then...wink, wink.

The Silhouette cutting machine was something I told my daughter about in the last few weeks and I thought would not happen. My husband was away from home the last four weeks. I had looked at these machines before and with the renovations we are going to be making in nearly every room in our house this coming year, I thought I would find a number of uses for it. The Princess is eyeing some ideas for her room as well. I did not get any materials for cutting, but that is fine. I would rather choose the materials for myself and my husband's mother was quite generous with her money gift this year so...I am really looking forward to placing lovely words on a few walls here and there, amongst other things.

My husband's big gift was a gun safe. It has been delivered and is in waiting in our garage to be moved into its special spot in what will become my husband's man cave/office room (presently our arts and craft room). My husband pulled off the wallpaper and I finished that corner of the room as it should have been done the first time by the first owners. My husband said that the walls and ceiling where the safe will go looks so beautiful that he hates to cover it, but eventually that entire room will look that good.

He also asked for Christian T-shirts as his old ones were quite worn looking. I found a company that had Kerusso shirts for half price with free shipping for orders over $60, so my husband now has eight new Christian T-shirts.

The Princess had been given a new point and shoot camera before the science retreat as part of her Christmas gifts. She got lots of stuff that she loves being that she is fully a teenager: temporary hair coloring sprays in several colors, leg warmers, leggings, lightly colored lip gloss (the only makeup she is allowed to have presently), over the ear headphones and adapters so she can use them with her tech as well as the digital piano and keyboard. She also loves her thermal mug and when she opened it she mistook it for mine that I had not yet opened because the colors were so close especially in the lower light: hers is red and mine is plum. Realizing what she had unintentionally given away what I was getting, I laughed it off saying with saying that Dad must have been really good at fooling her by having her help him wrap her own present and having her think it was for me.

We also bought tickets to the Creation Museum at half price and will be going sometime this coming year, probably in the late spring or early summer on our way to visit with my aunt and uncle in Ohio.

We had Christmas dinner and then rested. At around 6:00, we got ready to go to see Star Wars: The Force Awakens at an IMAX theater in 3D. It was so worth it! No spoilers here. When we got home it was after 11:00.

That was the good.

There was also the bad.

My husband's back went out on Saturday night, Dec 18th, when he was bending over to get a light bulb to replace one that went out. You have to understand that my husband has a very physical job and lifts very heavy stuff all the time, but over the years we have determined that the only time his back goes out is when he has been under a lot of stress and he is doing a mundane task. For instance, about fifteen years ago, he was working for a manger that kept pressuring him, making him feel unappreciated and it turned to making him quite resentful; I came home to find him crawling on the floor after he had bent over to pick up an envelop he dropped at the mailbox. Yeah, we laugh at it now, but at the time.... So this time it was stress from our situation with the Princess for the past few months and the last month being under a great deal of pressure at an account to install a machine when the room for its installation was not properly prepared by the customer. His back was primed just for the right moment to kink and so it did. I prayed over him and it went back in place, confirmed by the chiropractor, however the muscle soreness has been more stubborn and I think that is because he is supposed to rest this holiday...we all are, I think.

On the evening of December 16, our pastor's 16 year old son died from a head-on car collision when his car went over the middle line for reasons unknown, but the curve is sharp and it is a dark area of that two lane highway. We have not been to the church because of my husband's back. The play was postponed and will probably be revised since it will be after Christmas now. I honestly do not know the pastor's family that well. All pastors are busy people, but I will say that he has a good support team or circle of close friends. We did not attend the viewing or the funeral on Monday, but we prayed. You may remember one of my very first posts about Valerie; it is very hard for me as an empath to not sink into the stormy sea of people's darkest emotions, particularly with the death of a child. With everything that we have been going through with her, I am thankful to have my child, but since I lost my own brother when we both were still in elementary school, I have always had a keen sense of how fragile life can be and how precious it is. This was just one more thing to tug me down that emotional abyss out from which I keep trying to climb. We all agreed to keep a distance and allow the family to have one less family with which they would have to interact.

The Princess' piano teacher decided that her old dog was not healing well from an injury and could not take the medicines that would help him because of his other health issues, so she put him down about two weeks ago. She is a dear friend, who has been living alone for many years and I feel so bad for her.

Lastly, I really missed my Jamie cat this Christmas. He always right in the way in one way or another while we were unwrapping presents for nearly two decades.

Although, not necessarily bad, it has been unseasonably warm, as in the 70's on Christmas. No fire in the fireplace, hot chocolate just does not have that warming of the old bones feeling, air conditioner uncovered and running to reduce the humidity in the house because of all the rain, and even all my sweaters are still packed away! It just kind of messes with the whole ambiance of the season for us.

Ending on a good note....
One of the Princess' science projects was to be making a "Rube," that is short for a Rube Goldberg device, which is a contraption, invention, device or apparatus that is deliberately over-engineered to perform a simple task in a complicated fashion, generally including a chain reaction. Instantly, my husband and I thought of Doc Brown's dog food machine in the first scene of Back to the Future. My daughter had not seen the Back to the Future movies and it just so happens they released a 30th anniversary blu-ray edition. 30 years?!  I remember when that movie came out the very best of media was LaserDisc (before CDs) and I viewed a portion of that movie on it, but today with blu-ray is even better than that. We watched the first one last night and I have to say that one has to love digitally remastered and big widescreens with surround sound! Wow!

My Lord, thank you for another Christmas with my family together, safe and happy. Your Son was our best Christmas gift of all, still every year we are together, I am very thankful.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Christmas Without My Twinkle Lights

No matter how carefully you stored the lights last year, they will be snarled again this Christmas. ~Robert Kirby

Christmas is just around the corner. How is that for stating the obvious? My home is not ready for it, and when I write that, I mean this is not going to be our traditional Christmas, not at all.

Usually I have baked cookies so that we could have them while we decorate the Christmas tree. This year, I have not baked any cookies, but the Princess said she plans to make Snowballs—the when is a bit vague.

We have a Christmas tree and we did get lights on it after it sat without anything on it for about a two weeks. We finally gave up and did not put on the random sparkle or twinkle lights I love because two of our programmed strings bit the dust and we could not find any replacements. Well, that is I could not find any of those programmed strings until after we already put the lights on. I was actually talking on my phone to my friend Birbitt, for whom I wrote out the Snowball recipe, when I found them!

I did get wall repaired, which as I stated in a previous post, turnout out to be more work than I anticipated because of the termite damage; not quite enough to need to tear out and replace the plaster board, but just enough to to keep missing a little place here and there. I finally got the window and wall painted and the drapes up where we place the tree, but we still do not even have the skirt and our Nativity scene out yet. I finished the patching work on the other living room window yesterday and will be painting it today. The drapes should go up tomorrow and then I have lots of vacuuming and dusting to do to clean up the living room.

We have not put out Christmas wreaths on every front window or even the one my husband made together our first year here on our front door. We worked so hard to finish painting the porch before it got cold and I had envisioned it all decorated for Christmas in the most beautiful fashion, but we only set up our large Nativity set in the front yard.

The Princess did the artwork for the Christmas cards. My husband formatted them and printed them out. Today the Princess with address the envelops and we will send them out tomorrow, hopefully.

It makes me sad as I write and think of all the things we usually do and have not done. I like Christmas to be full of good memories, but this Christmas is just off for all of us. From May we have been focused on the house with the renovations. Since the beginning of September, the Princess has been through some challenges. During all of this my husband has been away so much of the time and I feel like I am still stuck in an emotional abyss and when I am out it feels like I am teetering on its edge.

It has been a very strange and strained for the past six months. So much of my world has been turn sideways and nothing much is as it was. I guess it should be no surprise that our Christmas this year is a reflection of all that. It almost feels like the Grinch came in and stole all the decorations. I mean, I could not even have my twinkle lights this year! Yet, all the Whos still sang to welcome Christmas and that is what I hope we will be doing also.

My Lord, help me to remember that there is more to creating good Christmas memories than having my house decorated the way I would for it to be.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

The Upgrade

It is only when they go wrong that machines remind you how powerful they are. ~Clive James

Nothing could put the fear of technology in me as much as the loss of it. Besides a power outage, there are two things that will cause that loss: a highly damaging virus and an operating system or bios upgrade. I have done both kinds of upgrades over the years with as much dread as anticipation.

The best case: everything goes smoothly and there are absolutely no problems...period. Life goes on and I just have to learn my way around with the new changes.

The worse case: everything crashes. My life is then completely focused on what I cannot do with my computer and finding what I need to do to fix it for however long that takes. I know how bad that worse case can go. Once, about 25 years, ago my husband locked up the computer so badly, we could not get it to do anything, even in DOS; I put the DOS manual in front of me that afternoon and got it to something more than he had so that he could fix it, because the rest was beyond me at the time. (If DOS loses you, then you either are younger than I am or you have always had other people fix your computer...or both.)

My husband has taken courses on operating systems and networking and more. I did not, but I have taken computers apart and put them back together. I have fixed computer infected with viruses, especially when he was working and did not have the time to devote to it. I also learned on my own how to create websites from the backside, meaning I learned the codes you do not see that makes the website work as they do before there was WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get). Just think of it as the DOS of Internet...if you can.

When I talk to friends of mine, who are about 20 years or so younger than I—yes, I actually have quite a few—they often talk about the things they did in school with a computer. I laugh, because when I was in school computers were something that only NASA and a few large companies had. The closest thing to a personal computer was a pocket sized calculator and a few electronic learning toys like a Speak & Spell and Little Professor for learning math.

Microsoft Windows has changed so much since we bought our first computer in 1995. It is difficult to believe that it was only 20 years ago! Just two decades and we went from a clunky Minecraft presentation, slow operation, and counting the kilobytes to the beautiful blending of digital graphics, sleek operations, and counting how many gigabytes are in a terabyte.

Yesterday I broke one of my personal rules: never upgrade to the newest Windows version until it has been out for at least a year so that all the serious kinks have been ironed out. In my defense, we had already upgraded my daughter's laptop computer and it was running great but then hers has a touch screen and mine does not, for which Windows 10 was made but it is certainly better than Windows 8 was. Anyway, I while I was running errands, I let my computer do some running on its own. It downloaded the free Windows 10 and when I got home I accepted the terms for the installation and then took my daughter and her friend to the Christmas party for the youth at church.

When I came home, there was my new Windows 10 computer, up and running. All my setting are still there, including the backgrounds on my desktop screen! All is well...so far. The only thing I have noticed with both computers since the upgrade is that when I switch to the touch pad to move the cursor there is a lag of a second or two that was not there before. It is annoying, but actually that is fixable in the settings, I just found out so all is good. Very, very good!

Thank you, my Lord, for technology. We really do not know how much we use it until we do not have it.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Rise Up to Fall Back Down, Down, Down

Chaperons don't enforce morality; they force immorality to be discreet. ~Judith Martin

Remember the abyss I was talking about in my last post? Well, last night the Princess decided it was time to have a talk with both her parents together....

As she spoke, I lost my foothold and fell back down to the place from which I had started.

It is not so much that she was confessing to us that for the last two weeks she had again circumvented our rules, it is not knowing how to proceed. On one hand she came to us before we found out on our own, which would have happened eventually. So, we want her to understand that was the better thing to do (with the best thing being not to have done it at all), but we appreciate her coming to us.

On the other hand, she carried on a secret conversation for two weeks purposely knowing that she was breaking our rule...again! The Internet just provides way too many opportunities to socialize. I have the child completely locked down, but she still has access to her Google account, as do I and I see everything. However, I just did not think to be watching in her Google documents. Apparently, if the document is created to be shared, those who have access can make comments on the document. This worked well when she was collaborating with a science project/report, but...well, kids are resourceful and she was having a conversation that I could not read because they both were deleting them as they went.

Let me put this on hold for a moment and evaluate the other part that is digging into me...and I mean that quite literally because I usually do not get increasingly nagging back pains unless I have a nagging emotional issue. Last night, I think I figured it out.

  • The school did not inform us about the Princess not handing in but half her work since school began. 
  • At the retreat, no one informed my husband about the Princess going out early in the morning to meet with a boy who had a crush on her.
  • The leaders of the play did not inform us about the Princess breaking their rules until the time that they were taking the leading role from her.

In every instance, we were apart from our child and left her in the care of people we thought we could trust and with that was the expectation—a very reasonable expectation!—that they would enforce their own rules and they would inform us, her parents, if the Princess had broken any. With the play, there was at least enforcement, but we now know that she lost her role because it was a repeated offense...and yet we, her parents, were not told about any of them until they called a meeting to remove her.

On one hand, I have a teenager doing things I think is actually pretty typical of teenagers: making poor choices and breaking a few rules, nothing terribly major, but that need to be addressed. On the other hand, I have people left in charge of her for specific and limited events that act with disregard of us as her parents, which does not allow us the opportunity to guide and correct the child's course.

Now, back to that thought: Just as I was beginning to relax and think that everything is stabilizing, I find that my daughter has been sneaking around me, so I am back to feeling I cannot trust her...and this feeling is compounded by the facts that my husband is away more than home AND the people I trusted with my daughter are not informing me of things I should know as her mother.

My husband and I both are just on the edge of not going to any church for awhile and probably the only reason we have stuck with this one was because our neighbors went there and the play. Our neighbors' daughter is still in the play but they left the church and are back in their old one. Everything with the play ends this week and I just am not sure what we will do after that.

My Lord, please show me where to plant my feet, every little step I need to make.

Monday, December 14, 2015

A Tough Read for My Creative-Sensitive Mind

Thoughts are like an open ocean, they can either move you forward within its waves, or sink you under deep into its abyss.
~Anthony Liccione

I started a book called Strong-willed Child or Dreamer? that was given to me by a friend. She is the mother of my daughter's bestest friend that she met last year in her science class. The mother has given this book to many parents because it changed her perspective so much about her own daughter and how she thinks: She knew her child was not strong-willed, she is too selfless of a peacemaker to fit in that category.

After reading just two chapters, I had to step away for a little while for a couple of reasons. One, I am still working through my remaining feelings from all that transpired since the beginning of September. We went from the Princess' deepening funk to finding out she was not turning but half her schoolwork to a boy with a crush on her to the high school retreat to losing the lead role in the play to leaving the school to my husband being away from home for four weeks all with the holidays creeping in. I am thankful that the Princess is now a pretty normal teenager with the up and down moods that go with it, but at least there are the up ones and laughter now. I, on the other hand, have been walking on the edge of the emotional abyss and I slipped down into it a little ways so I am trying to climb out, but also I keep losing footholds and progress is hampered.

So, as I began reading the book weeks ago, the introduction of the workings inside the creative-sensitive mind, I am meeting myself in every page and I began slipping down again. It is not like I do not know who I am and how I think. I have known me for a very long time. I think what began hurting is that even though I know who I am, how I think, and what I need, being well aware of the all three does not ensure the third one: what I need.

What I need I have pushed aside for many good reasons, like homeschooling my daughter is my highest priority in this season my my life. That is a good one, right? Half of the inside my house is in a needs-renovation state because of damage to the walls from the window replacements so that has a priority. Another good one, right? The Princess needs more space and organization so she explore and refine her creative talents. That one is important for creative-sensitive minds...but that is the one that gives me a pinch.

Just two chapters in and instead of being thrilled to better understand myself or my child, I only feel confirmation of what I already knew about both of us. But, worse, I realize more keenly than before that I have been denying myself what I would never want to deny my own daughter. How many years has it been? There have been moments, but most of my life I have pushed back, pushed aside, and even given completely up the very things I am trying to make sure my daughter has, what I did not and still do not allow myself to have. I am every bit of the creative dreamer that she is. I am not jealous...well, maybe I am, not of her but of the encouraging mother she has—twisted as it sounds. I am jealous of myself for being the mother I wish I had, but I am also jealous that I do not allow myself the creative time that I allow for my daughter.

I just have not been able to continue the book without a loosing a foothold. The book is very good, but I may have to take it in by small bits. I believe my Lord placed it in my hands to help me understand what I have done to myself, what has become a habit for me for many years. The book was not so much for me to better understand my daughter, although I am sure I will glean some good from it, and it was not so much for me to better understand myself, I know me, but to better understand how I deny my own desires to use the gifts He created in me for His pleasure, as well as my own. If I take pleasure seeing my daughter use her creative gifts, certainly I have been denying my Lord that pleasure.

My Lord has made it clear to me that I need to go through this, to come to terms with it. I do not want these underlying feelings to taint the relationship I have with my daughter nor our creative workings. I want us to enjoy creating together and apart from each other as well. We have different styles, but we can appreciate the differences and learn from each other because of them.

There is one other thing I wonder: If I am the mother I wish I had, does that also get twisted around that my daughter is the daughter I wish I had been able to be? I catch my thoughts going that way sometimes. I was given a vision mentioned in Just One Year Ago that suggested that when my daughter was just a year old. I feel I also must be very careful not to place such an expectation on her.

My Lord, lead me on this walk. Let me place my feet only on the solid places You show me so I no longer slip down on my way up and out.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Coloring in the Lines

Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up. ~Pablo Picasso, quoted in Time, October 1976

While we were out shopping, my daughter and I found a couple of those adult stress-relieving coloring books. I used to love coloring with crayons and colored pencils when I was young. In fact, one of my fondest memories of my mother is lying on the floor next to me with our feet up as she colored beside me. I believe it was from her that I learned a technique to inline the outline slightly darker than the area I was coloring; it gave it a 3D quality. Also coloring lightly with one color then coloring lightly with another color added more interest and could add to the 3D quality.

I was always a stickler for colors being natural until I was a young adult and was messing around with a quilt like pattern I made up filling it in with markers of bright, bold colors. I made several of these patterned pieces, leaving each with an unfinished look on purpose, just to see how different it could look with the same colors in different places in the pattern. It was interesting to see how the eye blended the colors and the mind filled in the unfinished pattern.

Since then I have been in love with bright colors, but my style of art, that is what I like to draw which is mostly faces, is on the realistic side. Also, although I like color in different mediums, my favorite mediums tend to be pencil and stippling with ink. Things change though....

Then came face painting with bold colors on a 3D (and often moving) canvas. I found my own style there with bright colors and I love it, but not everyone wants my art on their face; most children, particularly boys, want some superhero.

So, when we saw these coloring books, I thought it would be good for both my daughter and me. The Princess is more of a black and white cartoonist, who uses a bit of shading but she really never enjoyed coloring. In fact, it is surprising to me how good of an artist she can be even though filling in with color is still not her strong suit. Even so, she wanted these fancy coloring books and I hoped it would help her with techniques in coloring.

I was supposed to being driving her to a piano lesson today, but the alternator on Dragon Heart, my van, had been dying a slow death until today when it completely died and could not charge her battery anymore, so she was in the shop getting a replacement. I had a number of other things I could have done, should have done, but we decided to color. The Princess did three to my one, but I wanted her to see what one can do in blending colored pencils so I did this....

Thank you, my Lord, for a day of just coloring with my daughter. I hope it created a good memory for her.

Monday, December 7, 2015

The Wolves Dressed as Sheep

My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. ~John 10:27

When my husband has the opportunity, like being a chaperon to boys on the recent school retreat, he often teaches on the analogy of sheep, sheepdogs, wolves, and shepherds. He told me that he sees me as a sheepdog, one who tries to hide among the sheep yet when necessary puts herself in harms way to protect the sheep from the wolves. I have this very strong driving desire to stop any harm or injustice or just of people being taken advantage. I want to break its cycle or at least make it known so the unsuspecting have the chance to be aware. Once I have become aware of such wrongs I just cannot allow them to continue to hurt more people. I suppose it comes partially from being abused as a child that I will step into things even when not wanted or asked to protect the ones who need it.

I like the idea of the sheepdog, but I do not always like being one, hence the reason that unlike other sheepdogs, who stay separate but close to watch the flock and herd them, I tend to stay even closer to herd, in it on the edges, hiding among their woolly bodies. Sometimes I think I would rather be just one of the sheep, but I never really believe that I am anything other than a sheepdog.

Being hidden by the herd, I have come unintentionally face-to-face with many a wolf also hiding in with the sheep, those that have placed wool over their coats fooling the sheep, even the sheepdogs sometimes. Some of these wolves slipped in to cause all out havoc; they know they are wolves and they are proud of their stealth. However, some of those wolves have been among the herd for so long they have become comfortable, almost losing their identities, seemingly wanting to live in peace among the sheep, even though they are still wolves. Those wolves are the ones who do not attack the sheep in a herd but lead the weaker willed away from the herd.

After asking my Lord "why?" for weeks with all that has happen with the Princess, my Lord turned it back around and asked me why I had not used the gifts He had given me.

He kept reminding me that I was given gifts to be used, that they were not given for me to try to not use. I have not like being dependent on them or for others to be dependent on me because of them nor for others to avoid me because of them, but God wants them to be used. 

He also was reminding me that our struggle is not against flesh and bone, but spiritual forces. I know this is true, but when it comes to spiritual warfare, I really much rather be an ignorant sheep. Apparently, though, my Lord wants me to be the sheepdog that I am.

So, I used the gift. As an empath, I can know many things about a person, but while some things are so obvious to me that I just know them without any effort (and often without wanting to), other things are more hidden in deeper places, masked. What still amazes me is I even can know whether or not a person has given their life to Christ.

My internal struggle with this gift has been that I do not always want to know the things I can know about people. For as many years as I have had this gift, I have struggle with it. I have kept it hidden, yet not really because I have this strong desire to help people. I have openly used it, but not really because I fear it. It just seemed safer to hide in with the sheep, but I am a sheepdog and it is obvious to me now that I never have pretended to be a sheep. I feel that my Lord is guiding me to come to terms with this once and for all, because now it is my daughter who being lead away by the wolves appearing to be sheep or even sheepdogs.

Although I forgave all, I had still been perplexed by the letter I received mentioned in the last few paragraphs of Why seekingmyLord? Something was not settled in my spirit. As I was talking to my Lord this and He asked me if I had discerned if the sender was a Christian. I realized I had not.

In the letter sent to me, it was stated that I had made assumptions...and my Lord pointed out that I had. I had assumed the woman was a Christian and now I know she is not. Outwardly, she does everything a Christian would do and she hides among the sheep very well, but I was just not willing to see that the letter revealed what was in her heart—actually what was lacking in her heart. I would have known this weeks ago, if I only had used my gift and if I had known then, things would have been handled differently from my side. Instead of treating everything as one believer to another both connected to God and seeking His guidance, I would have treated it as it was one believer to an unbeliever.

Actually, there were two wolves among the sheep in my daughter's life: one at the school and one at our church. I expected the latter because we welcome the unsaved and it was a teenager, but the other one was a teacher at the Christian Home Study Center and my daughter's chaperon on the retreat, a wolf with authority not just over my daughter but others, as a shepherd would give a sheepdog authority to protect his herd...that one was unexpected. My daughter, still a little sheep, was led astray easily by both and the wonderful opportunities she had been given were taken from her.

These people who are wolves among the sheep are not my enemy, but Satan is and he can use them so easily because they are not following the Shepherd and are not protected by His sheepdogs. This woman does not recognize the wrong she did to my family, because she is a wolf and she just did what wolves do. The problem is not that she is a wolf, it is that she has hidden it so well that she has everyone convinced she is a sheep, perhaps to the point she is seen as worthy to be a sheepdog, and she has even convinced herself of this. I believe she knows a lot about God and how Christians should be, but does not really know Him in her heart. How terribly sad for her! I will be praying that she accepts My Lord as her Savior.

I am determine to come to terms with using the gifts as my Lord gave to me, because my instincts are to protect one particular young sheep who is being targeted quite pointedly by the wolves. But, also, I know that people who profess to be Christian and are not, manifest this self deception, this soul sickness, in many ways, including physical illnesses. And yet it only takes accepting Jesus because my Lord wishes that not even one should perish.

My Lord, thank you for opening my eyes. I pray that You given this woman every opportunity to know You within her heart. Help me, my Lord, to use the gifts You have given me as You wish with wisdom and without fear. And protect my daughter, give her wisdom and a strong desire to follow You.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Ten Years and Two Weeks - Part 4

Don't let the fear of the time it will take to accomplish something stand in the way of your doing it. The time will pass anyway; we might just as well put that passing time to the best possible use. ~Earl Nightingale

Where was I last? This will be the last of the four part series and since they were so spread out, here is the list of posts titled Ten Years and Two Weeks, if you would like to read them:

When windows, frame and all, are replaced, it is a less damaging process on the outside than on the inside. The interior trim around the widow has to be removed and that means some of it gets damaged in the process as well as the inside wall, mostly superficially, but still....

Once the windows were in, one of the workers began to try to place the old trim back in place. Corners did not line up, pieces of wood were missing or broken, and as if these things were not enough, he used way too many nails, as many as nine on one corner alone. My husband asked him to stop by the second one and stated we would replace them ourselves.

Later, as the painter was finishing the trim and windows on the outside, I noticed that they were only painting the trim around the windows and not the sashes. "Oh, no. I wouldn't paint the sashes."

We made a point to buy the more expensive paintable windows. They are not wood but a paintable PVC. In fact, I had a window sample right here in my living room for a few weeks as we were deciding on the material and paint colors that had a sticker on it clearly stating that they warranted Sherman Williams vinyl safe paint to be on the windows. However, when I talked to the contractor, he told me that he would not suggest we have the sashes painted because the paint would fail within five years due to the glass heating up the vinyl. That just had been his experience with vinyl windows in the Georgia sun. Although I remember that he also told us when we first talked to him about the job that he said the windows were a new product for him.

So, at that point I had a yellow house with a cream trim and white windows. Had I known they were not going to paint the sashes, I would have picked a better contrast for the trim because as it was it looked like we had the cheaper replacement widows that cannot be painted or very poor taste in color combinations, take your pick. The painters told me how they liked the look.... Yeah, well, the problem with that is it is my house and I do not like it at all.

I called the window manufacturer...twice. I do that sometimes just to see if I will get the same answer both times. Yes, the windows are not only paintable but the outside has been pretreated with a primer coat that is warranted for ten years. Although, they had changed the warranty recently, it used to be that the warranty was void if the windows were not painted. The only stickler was that it had to be Sherman Williams vinyl safe paint, which is not a particular paint but rather colors of certain values, basically only light colors could be used and the cream color I had picked was within the acceptable range.

Once the workers were done with the job and we had paid the contractor at the end of June, I began to pull out the sashes and painting them on both sides, as well as touching up missed areas on the outer trim. Since it had been raining a lot all this year, this process was spread out over a longer time than I hoped. I kind of figured that it would not be done until the end of September if all went well, but it actually was into the middle of October. I am still thankful that we have had a rather warm autumn so I could get it done. My husband had to finish the picture window on a ladder and the one window over the kitchen sink as I just could not touch up the trim but he missed opening the window to do the sill (which is why I wanted to do it myself), but I can contour enough get it from the inside, I hope.

Except for the sill of the sink window all the exterior window parts have been painted. We still have the front door to paint and the shutters as well as. Not sure when those will get done but eventually they will.

On a few rainy days I worked on patching the walls and just as I was finishing that, my husband decided that most of the windows were installed evenly as he was beginning to put the trim on, so he re-seated them and in the process, the plaster board again needed to be patched, particularly under the window. This is a picture of a new window in the rough in our bathroom.

I began finishing the interior around the windows in the the most difficult room first because I had to  match the faux texture paint in my bedroom. Writing that makes it sound so much easier than it was. Apparently, we had no paint left of the base color and we did not keep the lid with the tint mixture as we now do with it marked which room it was used and such. The color I finally got was close but not quite and then...my husband finds an extra paint can of the base paint. I just got to love the man.

Well, it is done now and looks great, but it did take me a long time. Long enough to wonder if I really wanted to attempt this in the guest room, even though we do have the paint and glazes for that room, but if you read a recent post, you know we will most likely be painting differently to give to the Princess.

I had only repaired the walls around the windows and painted trim around the windows in the Princess' current bedroom before that little thing I call life broke lose here. I was determined to finish the window where our Christmas tree goes before we got the tree last Friday, but...as I began to repair that wall around that window, I realized that it had more problems than I expected. Remember that I mentioned we had termites? They did not do serious damage to the supporting structures except the chimney, which we had rebuilt, and since we had the siding off the carpenters as well as we got a very good look, however they did make some tunnels in the plaster board that would make the paper bubble out when it was painted, not so bad that we need to rip out the plasterboard and replace it, as it was just here and there, but enough that it was necessary to press the board inward and plaster over it. Just when I thought I found it all, I would find another spot, which happened several times over three days.

The Christmas tree window is now done. While the paint for the living was really used up (and no hidden cans could be found this time), we took in the lid we saved with the tint mixture and—thank you, my Lord—it matched! I even touched up the wall next to the four steps up to the dining room and I cannot any difference at all. So I am hoping to finish the other living room window in a day, probably tomorrow.

Then we have lots more to do because when the windows in the dining room and the kitchen were replaced, it ripped the wallpaper that I have have wanted to change since we lived here, but the patterns were acceptable and the colors worked at least. We just ripped it all off, except behind the china cabinet and above the kitchen cabinets. We will need some friends to help us with the hutch, at least. So, basically, the only rooms in our house that are not in need of being completely re-painted are the living room, the guest bathroom (as it has no windows but the cabinet needs to be painted), and my bedroom.

Maybe next year at this time it will all be done...maybe.

My Lord, please give me the motivation and perseverance to finish these home improvements on the inside as well as on the outside.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Why seekingmyLord?

Decisions become easier when your will to please God outweighs your will to please the world. ~Anso Coetzer

Many years ago now, sometime between email lists and social media as we have now, the most popular method of finding people of like minds and conversing with them on the Internet was message boards. I loved them. I developed a few precious and lasting friendships from message boards, but since the message boards I liked the most were either about homeschooling or Christianity, it seemed they were targets for the anti-homeschooling and anti-Christian types, who could write just about anything while enjoying the safety of their anonymity.

Some of these discussions would be become very heated. Sometimes there were personal insults and name calling. I had been on a mail list about alternative health methods for a few years before that was basically the same, because people are basically the same regards of the forum, but it differed in that only the people on the list would see what had been written and it was a tighter group. The people knew each other or at least someone knew someone because it was by invitation only. One could write something and it did not stay on the Internet because it was email. Messages boards, however, had a more lasting effect.

Having been attacked for about two years by mostly two people on a mail list with others chiming in on either side, I learned to ignore personal attacks and stick with the subject. I learned the art of debating and not fighting dirty. One man used to say he loved my spunk, because while I never backed down from a good debate and even a nasty argument, I tried to be respectful and never really just slugged it out, which made my words more powerful. I would actually apologize when I was wrong or misunderstood and try to learn even from those who were put off by me. It was a better teaching environment on debating than I would have had in any classroom and I earned so much respect there that I was asked to be one of four key note speakers at an international conference! Who knew that was going to come out of a mail list?

Eventually, I dropped out of the mail list. It had changed direction somewhat and I had as well. Then came my daughter changing my focus quite a bit. I began to look into homeschooling and found quite a few message boards on that and a local message board about things going on in my community. The local one had forums where most of the action was and, of course, those were ones with the most controversy: politics, education, and religion. The very subjects we avoid in polite company and other than health, those were also my favorite subjects! But, on message boards everything is very public and lasting, and I saw many people take things to places from where they could not come back. One careless comment could attract a swarm of stings. I saw many a Christian making the mistake of being caught up in the moment in their responses and not being a good witness for the Lord they profess to serve.

In the beginning I had been using my real name because I am who I am, but as things went on I decided it would be wiser to have a user name for the local board, even if only to add some protection as a homeschooling mother more often than not alone with her child. My first user name was Seeker, because I felt I was always seeking Truth, the kind that comes from God and is God. That worked on the local message board and a few small boards with low activity, but "Seeker" was usually already taken on others. I wanted a user name to be more pointedly about being a seeker of my Lord's heart, but that was a bit long, so it became seekingmyLord, which I have kept and use on this blog.

SeekingmyLord is also a reminder to me that it is not enough to just debate with respect of another person with an opposing perspective, but to seek my Lord's heart before I press "send" on an email or "publish" on my blog or just when leaving a comment on another blog. Even in the most heated of discussions on a message board, when fingers are furiously flying on the keyboard and tempers are up and people are turning mean, I would stop before I pressed the button, asking my Lord if what I had written pleased Him, if I was showing Jesus to these people. Sometimes I had to take the time to rewrite, but it became easier and easier to write what radiated from God from the beginning, saving so many rewrites. I often would say, "Okay, my Lord, what do you want me to say to this," and the words would come. Sometimes it was a calm and gentling message and other times it was blunt but respectful.

I was always amazed by the effect this has had on people. I remember two friends that used to entertain themselves on the local message board's forum for homeschoolers. They would tell us we are damaging our children and they would grow up unable to function in society and so on. The woman in particular would slam us for any grammar errors in our messages and tell us that we were not educated enough to teach our children. Actually, the most vocal of the homeschooling mothers on that board had degrees, except for me; I had never been to college, not even one course. Eventually, I learned that the young woman had degrees in child care and education, and she had worked as an au pair a few years, so God was helping me to understand her perspective.

One time I wrote that she mostly likely will be one of us, a homeschooling mother, because she will think that she can educate her own child better than anyone or any school. (Pretty much what every homeschooling parent believes!) She never argued that, she even said "maybe" after awhile and I continued to teasingly remind her of it every now and then. One day, out of the blue, after months of being targeted by the anti-homeschooling tag team, she and her friend individually apologized to me for the way they had been toward me personally. Of course, this was done privately so no one on the board knew, but I knew that was God. I persevered in standing my ground with Him as my shield while shining out His love and they finally recognized and acknowledged it. We did not become friends really but from then on we, at least, had respect for one another.

I have seen that happen many times with people and that is why I use seekingmyLord. It is my reminder even here, while I may just be writing out things in my heart at the moment, that in all things I should honor God, that I really want to please Him, that what I desire most is to seek His heart on the matter. Do people upset me? Oh, yes. Yet, I know that if I respond in the emotion I feel, I have taken away an opportunity for my Lord to do His work in my heart as well as in the others'.

This has become such a habit now that anytime I write about things of a sensitive nature, I strongly believe and trust God's words are more effective in getting His message to them than I could ever be. When I am not sure if what I am writing is pleasing Him, I will pray over each paragraph, asking Him to point out what I need to change to make it His message to the person. Sometimes that message is not well received at the time, but I have also seen many, who rejected a blunt message that I dreaded giving, come back later, sometimes years later, to tell me I was right and apologize. It was not me being right, it was God; I was just surrendering to His will.

I felt His urging to write a letter on a very sensitive subject recently. A wrong was done to us and I was very willing to just forgive and forget it, but God made it very clear He wanted it to be addressed for two reasons: it was not seen as a wrong and it was going to continue. I prayed as I wrote but here and there I wrote what I felt should be written rather than what God wanted. Knowing I had interjected and interrupted my Lord's words on the matter in some places, I then went back over every paragraph, praying He would point out to me anything that He wanted changed. Some were fine as written, some needed just a word to be changed, and a couple needed an entire sentence to be added or deleted. I did this paragraph by paragraph again, and then line by line. Then it was done and sent.

It was not received well. The response was as my Lord prepared me to expect. As God wished of me, I asked for forgiveness for my actions, which gave an impression that led to believing their actions were acceptable, and I stated my forgiveness of their actions against us. It was straightforward but not judgmental, however I feel that people tend to perceive things from an emotional standpoint at first and I am respectful of giving them the space and time process the information. I am praying they will seek God's perspective. Although I keep asking Him, He has been assuring me that I have served His desires on this matter. What saddens me most is that the point was made that we would not be forgiven...not at this time, at least. And there was no apology or acknowledgement of any wrongdoing done to us. It saddens me not for us, but for them. It also saddens me for my Lord, but I know He has amazing ways of turning hearts to seek Him in any situation.

This is why I am seekingmyLord.

My Lord, may I always seek Your heart and may others seek You because they see Your Presence in me.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Bye-Bye, Pegasus

Everything in life is somewhere else, and you get there in a car.
 ~E.B. White

I think my husband is having the same issues about Pegasus as I am about the guest room, but more so and for good reason. Pegasus is the white mini-van that we have had for...well, years and we got her before I began blogging, but I was keeping a journal at the time.

Here is an excerpt from November 28, 2007:
We sold the Panther last week and just got the Pegasus worked on. Tomorrow is the first time we will be driving Pegasus on our Thursday errands. I am actually happier that I will be driving a "beater" and that it is smaller so it is easier handle in parking lots. 

I need to explain what I did not write in my journal. We had a very nice black high top conversion van, the Panther, that I truly enjoyed, but sometime during the summer when Alan had to go on medical leave for the injury from my aunt's horse, I began feeling a strong urge to become very thrifty. We were living on about 60 percent of regular pay considering there was no overtime. Even though he had been back to work for a couple of months, that urgency only seem to be even stronger, so I suggested that we sell the Panther and get a used mini-van that would be better on mileage as gas prices were high at the time. It was not something I particularly wanted to do, but felt we just had to do.

So, we sold the Panther and bought a used 2000 white Dodge mini-van that we named Pegasus and then we realized why God had been urging us to do so.

Another entry from December 3, 2007:
My husband had been working a lot of hours this week, nearly 40 in over time. His boss called today while he was sleeping, but his manager was not his usual self and I felt there was something rather important about the meeting scheduled this morning that my husband had missed--particularly since he did not know what it was about before hand as he usually does. This evening a co-worker brought my husband home because the brakes locked up after he just had them replaced that day. He also had the one and only key to Pegasus because he was going to have another made today, so I could not pick him up even if he had thought of it. After his coworker left, my husband asked if I had a few minutes. Then came the news…Today was his last day at work, economical cutbacks they said. Well, it will be interesting to see how Atlanta runs with just four guys. My husband said they may hire him back, like they did in other cities after firing the experienced personnel, paying them their salaries plus their severance pay at the same time.

I have been of the mindset to cut back as far as we could for the last few weeks. The Lord again preparing my heart for what was to come, I believe. The news left me with odd feelings. I truly feel this is part of the Lord's plan for us and this is the last of the entanglements we built up in our life. (Insert: the entanglements were from a vision I kept seeing of angels untangling and clearing away a large pile of bright colored conduits.) Yet, part of me also believes I should be worried and scared; oddly, I find it a bit scary that I am not as concerned as I should be. What my Lord has in store, I am not sure.

I am concerned about having only one vehicle. If my husband gets a job without a company car, it could mean some real lifestyle changes. My typical Thursday would be pushed over to the weekend, I suppose. But, I am not sure what we would do for the Princess' piano lessons…? I suppose I could continue teach her piano myself for awhile until we could save enough for another car. Thankfully, we have not yet paid the credit card with the money we got from selling the Panther. We may need it for living expenses or another vehicle.

Lord, please let me see clearly the path you have provided for us to walk.

God had it all planned out. The money from the Panther not only paid for Pegasus and a few necessary repairs on her but also paid off our remaining 401K loan, which became due in full immediately after he was terminated. We did not see all that coming, but God did!

My husband did get a job on the last week of his severance pay, but there was no company vehicle and he was making about the same as he did on medical leave nearly a year before. Since he had to fly to most of weeks, the Princess and I would drive with him to the airport on most Monday mornings and pick him up at the airport most Friday nights. When he worked in town, he had Pegasus except on Thursdays; we continued with piano lessons and errands on that day by dropping him off at the office or at the customer's place of business depending on where he was needed that day.

Therefore, Pegasus was our one and only vehicle from December 2007 to February 2011, when my husband started a new job with a different company. At that time we added another white mini-van same model as Pegasus but a 2002 that only had 47,000 miles on it. By the way, it is not that we like white, it is just that these vehicles fit our criteria as to price and mileage, and since my husband had driven this model when he had company cars, we knew they were durable.

We hoped to keep Pegasus another year even though she has tipped over 300,000 miles because she has been such a good reliable van, but then his company signed on to the Runzheimer plan: 30 Days or Else. Before we knew about this, Pegasus just had her timing belt and water pump changed, a $700 job, and book price she is probably worth just that up to $1,200 maybe. She has been sitting in our driveway partially because my husband has not been home to try to sell her, not wanting me to handle it myself, and partially because he is having difficulty with the idea of selling her.

It was not just the eight years, Pegasus has been a symbol to us of how God guided us, protected us, and helped us to prepare and endure some tough years financially. When we watched too many other people around us lose their jobs and then their homes, we were still eeking by. It was not comfortable, but it was doable.

There was the time after we had her for over a year that one of her tires literally disintegrated on its sides as my husband and I with our dog were driving back from picking him up at the airport while the Princess was watching a movie at the church. I was so glad this happened with him being there. The treads were not too bad, it just was the tires were old. My husband changed the tire only to have the spare go flat as we got back on the highway. I do not know why he did not go through the intersection to pull into the gas station, but instead he pulled into the closest lit place, a McDonald's, to try to fix the spare and try to fill it with air with our emergency compressor, which was going to taking lots of time, but I was at peace as I was praying about getting back to our daughter.

Within a minute or two a red pickup pulled up right next to us. The man had an air compressor in the cab of the truck and between the fix-a-flat and the air, we made it back to the church and then home. My husband was worried about the money for new tires all around and I asked how much it would cost. He seemed relieved when I told him that we had it because I factored into my budget that we would need to have money available for repairs and maintenance.

Two weeks later after getting the new tires, we were driving through the remains of a horrible ice storm that blanketed northern Tennessee and on up through all of Ohio. It was not so much that it was slick, but the roads were terribly bumpy from the ice, because it had been too cold for salt to melt the ice completely. We could only go about 45 miles an hour in the best of places to my mother's funeral and it was jarring us all the way. I am so glad we have the new tires before that!

We had moments like that all the time. Pegasus has kind of like our rod and our staff that comforted us; she never parted the sea, but through her God always seem to meet our needs before we knew them and she certainly got us wherever we needed to go without a back up vehicle.

The thrifty side of me would like to sell her for at least the $700 we just put into her, but nothing anyone would pay for her would come close to what she is worth to us, so far more than her book price. After much consideration and prayer, we decided to donate her to a Christian organization that ministers to children, who should be coming for her this morning; the signed title and keys waiting on the table next to me. It just feels right, but in a bittersweet way.

My Lord, I probably do not know all the times You provided for us, but I also know times when it was so obvious to us that You did. Thank you for blessing us with reliable vehicles and taking care of us in preparation for rough times as You have. I ask that You continue to bless our vehicles and us.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Giving Thanks on Thanksgiving Day

For each new morning with its light,
For rest and shelter of the night,
For health and food, for love and friends,
For everything Thy goodness sends.
~Ralph Waldo Emerson

I woke up this morning with this wonder of what I would be doing today and talking to my Lord about it as well as all the times He has guiding through the tough times. I thirst for His reassurances. I have done this probably much of my life except for those times when my thoughts were taken hostage too immediately by an overpowering gloom left over from the night before...or several nights. It has been many nights, so many that this air has an ancient familiarity, yet also feels awkward.

Today, though, I awoke in a reflective state which I would describe as normal for me as if this is my default mode. So, I am enjoying the golden hour of the morning with a voluminous harvest moon setting in the west  and the dawning sun in the east as the my home planet slowly rotates with a cup of Sweet Harvest Pumpkin tea on my left and the glare of technology in front beckoning me as blank canvases would an artist.

It is such a sweet feeling and I wish to savor it. A sip of tea...savor all there is in this quiet moment.

Today is Thanksgiving Day. I barely had an awareness that we were in November—well, I knew that it was November because the first week of it my husband and the Princess were on the retreat. I mean, for me time stopped from the weekend when the rest of the dominoes fell immediately after the retreat. I was stuck there. The moon and the sun continued their dances across the sky, but for me time had no real impact.

I found myself, more than once or twice the past month, still in my pajamas past noon. Now, I have nothing against people who stay in their pajamas long into the day, but it is not me. I like to dress as soon as I can without disturbing my husband, who might have had a later night than I. Pajamas still seen on me past daylight is often an indication that I am ill or in pain. I have been both, although the pain was in my heart.

My husband is now up and preparing in the kitchen. Thanksgiving is usually his day. Early in the week, I may have made a homemade pie and our Holiday Red Cabbage Cole Slaw, fondly called "the purple stuff" by a friend, but usually the only thing I might have my hand in the kitchen for this day is a sweet potato dish. My husband loves to cook, he loves to plan meals, and I am more than happy let him have this day as cooking is something I appreciate far more when someone else does it. This time around there will only be the three of us and the meal will be simple.

The turkey was in a brine over night and it will be smoked on our grill outside. Sometimes my husband fries the turkey, which is a Southern thing; Southerns fry just about anything they can stick a fork into seems and it is an indication that we have lived in the South a long time, even though originally I was a Yankee and my husband from the West. I have a store brought cherry pie and vanilla ice cream, a breech in protocol for us not to have homemade of both. Sweet potatoes will be baked with butter and brown sugar on hand. A salad and/or a simple vegetable side dish will be plenty.

It is not as fancy as we like but then our house is in a state of repair and remodel inside due to the replacement windows and yet-to-be-completed work on the outside—mostly left is painting the front door and the shutters. Add to that the events of since school started we, are emotionally worn and my husband has been away, except on the weekends, for the past few weeks. We have a way of adapting to the situations of life and we know that leaving some unclaimed space between all this and our limits is the best way to retain our civility...and quite possibly our sanity.

A friend asked us to join their family and in years past, we have shared a few holiday meals together, but with her mother, father-in-law, and two adult nieces living next door now, I felt that would be too much for me. Too many people, too noisy, and too much of all the things that can overwhelm a highly sensitive empath at her best. I have not regained confidence in my emotional stability just yet.

This morning after my daughter joined us for a breakfast of tea and sweet bread, our traditional holiday breakfast, I opened up a discussion I have been wanting to have us all to brainstorm for several months. We have several challenges in our home:

  • The Princess and I both need an art and craft studio area that is functional. She is drawing all the time and writing when not doing that with reading pushed into third place.
  • The Princess has no room in her bedroom making it difficult for her to have a guest sleepover.
  • The Princess' digital piano, our birthday present, is crowding my dining room. (My keyboard is downstairs in the office area and the acoustical piano is in the living room.)
  • For Christmas this year, the family gift is a big gun safe which is going in the basement room under the living room, which is also the room that houses our pantry and art and craft studio and storage currently. (The garage is the same level as the basement so no steps.)
  • We have too much furniture and not enough functional spaces in the basement rooms.

One of the solutions I thought about last spring was to give the Princess both of the bedrooms, one she is using and the guest room. That would be ideal for us all at this stage. She could have the digital piano and even maybe the keyboard on a stacking stand in her study room along with her bookcase and desk.

The downside is we have a lovely honey oak country bedroom set that I really like and do not want to get rid of in the guest room and we do not have the space to store it—back to that later.

My husband has suggested a few times before to move his desk into the art and craft studio area and move all the art stuff into the office area. He also suggested building a wall of shelves on one end of the office area for all our books, which is a significant collection considering that we homeschool and just love books. Lots of incidental things get moved and changed, but these would be the major ones. The main thing that holds me back is the guest room furniture.

Maybe there is such an attachment because the guest room was the first room I redecorated in this house and the first furniture we bought so that friends from where we moved could visit as well as family. Even though there is just walking room at the foot and sides of the queen size bed and the matching armoire is in the Princess' room because it does not fit in with the guest room with the dresser and night stand, it has a old fashion inn quality with its faux painted walls in subtle old rose, peaches, cream with touches of gold, and decorations of roses and angels. It would sell better that way though if there was room for a rocking chair and a reading lamp on a side table with hardwood floors and homemade rugs, but I did what I could with the space that I had.

If we move, the main criteria would be a larger room for the Princess and an art studio area as well as a workout area, a large kitchen, and a mud/utility room with at the very least two usable acres, ten in all would be better but two need to be cleared and relatively flat. The house would be preferably less than 15 years old or remodeled, but with the ability to hide asbestos concerns, I would rather it be a newer home.

So, we are between fixing our house to sell or fixing it to suit ourselves or maybe both? We were hoping to move closer to the school to which the Princess was going, but that is no longer a concern and I have not received a clear word from the Lord yet about trying to move. I wonder if the reason we are to wait is because we would want to move closer to the college our daughter would be attending, if that is God's will for her, in just a few years. However, that puts homesteading off to the point we might not want to start such an endeavor.

All these ideas and yet I still have the walls around the windows to repair and paint, the interior of the windows to paint, the shutters and front door to paint, the dining room and kitchen to finish preparing from removing the wallpaper and to paint, and my bathroom to also paint. And the worse part is most of this would still have to be done even if we would like to move!

I was seeing our house as falling apart, even though we are fixing it up. It just reminded me of how everything rots in this world, everything needs maintenance and repair. However, when my home, that is, my family, began falling apart, that is when my perspective of what is most important focused on what it should be, not the plaster and paint, but the connections of love between my daughter, my husband, my friends, my Lord and me. All of them are my world, the house is just a place where they can find me. Still we have plans to change liabilities into assets in our living spaces because the house should serve our lifestyle not become our lifestyle. So, the Christmas tree we pick tomorrow will be probably be placed in front of a unpainted window with plaster still showing on the wall around it. It will not be perfect (as I so hoped to get it done before this day), but Christmas coming will be what we make it.

Thank you, my Lord. Just thank you for everything.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

When the Train is on the Wrong Track

The wheel of change moves on, and those who were down go up and those who were up go down. ~Jawaharlal Nehru

My Princess...it seemed that everything was going so good for her, that God was blessing her so abundantly, but she had become unreachable emotionally. Now she is again reachable but she began on a track that was the wrong one and her train just kept rolling on it, seemingly without God as the Engineer. Yes, she has been going on very rough rails and it breaks my heart to watch, but as teenagers become more independent thinkers, they can make some bad choices, which they rationalize to fit their own sense of justification. This often means that very rules we set as parents to protect them (because we have wisdom they have not yet acquired) will get bent and broken in varying degrees. It is a time of learning wisdom for themselves and it can come at some very high prices. Had the Princess used wisdom in respecting our rules and honoring us, she would not have broken the other ones that were set by the church play acting group and she would not have lost her role, the lead role, in the play.

We found out about her losing the part in the play on Sunday, November 8th, after church and that was the second whammy. The first being described in all the detail I felt comfortable to write in a public blog in my last post.

Then came the third! They say these things come in threes so I am very much hoping this is the last...for a very, very, VERY long time. (Three for three!)

This one happened at the school science retreat that she and her father were on the first week of November, because on Monday, November 9th—the day after we were given the news about the play—the mother of my daughter's best friend, a girl, at school and I talked. It was then I that learned about my daughter breaking another rule.

My friend's husband was also a chaperon in the only cabin where the pitiful air conditioner was not working at all in heat and humidity of Florida; the coolest night temperatures were in the 80's. My husband and this man were tentatively planning to have lunch on Monday. He has a similar job in another company so he was about to go out of state to the north and my husband was doing the same although he would be turning eastward after they ate. However, he realized something involving our daughter on the last day of the retreat and did not get to talk to my husband that day as they were preparing to leave. Sunday he thought we all would need to rest, so it could wait until Monday, but the lunch plans changed when we got the news about the play. We felt that we needed to be together as much as possible so my family went out together instead.

Back to Sunday, after the news about the play and being concerned about my daughter's mental/emotional state, I texted the wife to ask if her daughter, my daughter's best friend, could stay over night the coming Saturday as I had suggested a few weeks previously. Unfortunately, they were expecting family to visit so it was not possible, but she also texted that she had some concerns from the hardships and observations at the retreat. Considering her husband was in the cabin with the worse conditions, I figured that was at least one of the main ones, and we made plans to talk after I returned home from lunch on Monday with my husband and daughter.

Within the first few minutes, she told me what her husband had been hoping to tell my husband that day. I found myself moaning "no" and yet believing it completely.

After we completed our conversation that included other things which concerned her regarding the retreat that had nothing to do with my daughter, I called my husband, who almost turned right back around to come home, but instead he worked to make the two day job he was being sent to do done in one day and came back the following day with just two hours of sleep...actually, neither one of us slept well that night.

My husband was unaware of her breaking any rules while at the retreat; no one told him. The boys and girls are kept separate, except for group and team activities during the day, and while my husband was there he was the single chaperon in the cabin of a small group of boys. Due to the subtropical heat and sun, three of his boys became ill the first day, but one in particular had a bad time with the heat the entire week. Also, my husband is a very helpful kind of guy, therefore he was doing above and beyond his assigned duties, like changing the a flat tire for the school leader and such. So, although my husband was right there, he rarely saw our daughter and her chaperon failed to talk to him about the matter, even though she was aware of it...even facilitating what was against the rules on the retreat.

Many of those wonderful blessings God provided for the Princess as opportunities are for now just really sad reminders of what was taken away while she was trying to hide things from the very people who love her the most, could help her the most, and who will forgive her the most.

I have been having the weeping eyes syndrome off and on for about three weeks now. I go through the day with that uniquely exhausted feeling one has after a long gut wrenching cry, even though I have not had one...well, maybe in my spirit I am continually having one? I have been teetering between anger and despair. I can barely even pray because I start talking to my Lord about these things and I just end up ranting, forgetting completely that I was talking to the All Mighty. Peace eludes me or I, it.

After my husband spent much time in prayer and attempting to myself, I agreed with what he felt was God's answer: to remove our daughter from school. I was surprised that I actually feel relieved when he said it. The Princess is in a far better emotional and mental state since we found out about the incomplete school work, even with the lost of her role in the play. She has bad days still, but at least now she is also having good ones. She has been laughing and smiling and teasing like my Princess, the girl who bounces back and makes the very best of where she is with a happy heart. I see her in the cracks.

Perhaps we were not supposed to place her in the Home Study Center at all this year. Before we had paid our enrollment fees last spring, I felt that we should take this year off from the school. It really took a toll on my homeschooling and our relationship last year to get all her assignments and special projects done. I thought I just wanted a break and maybe that I was being selfish, but in retrospect I now think God was telling me not to do it this year.

We waited to tell the Princess of our decision to remove her from school until after her piano recital on Sunday, November 15th, but we prepared her about the possibility that the school could suspend her (although it is in the handbook, we doubted they would). She withheld her emotions during that talk, waiting until her father left for another longer work trip to have it out with me alone today. She told me that she was not happy that we did not "consult" her before making the decision or at least give her the right to choose, because she wanted to continue her classes there. I raised my eyebrows: "You did make that choice. You made it quite clear that you did not really want to be in the school by your choice of actions for the past two months, like not completing your assignments, including the lying you did to hide it." (Ironically, we have been doing devotions for the past two months based on communication and how much more actions and body language and then tone have greater weight than the meaning of words spoken—did I not say that God has been guiding her path and stays steps ahead of her?)

There were many reasons that contributed to the decision to remove her from the school besides what I have written so far and not all the fault of the Princess, at least not directly. One was that it concerned us that she could hand in only half of her work from the very first week of school and on, yet we were not told about this until two months had passed, after I asked her teachers to contact me about it. Since any assigned work handed in a week late only gets 80% credit and 0% after that, I would think that two to three weeks of incomplete assignments would warrant communication from the teacher to the parents.

There is more, but the worst of it all, I hate that I cannot trust my own daughter right now. It has been tearing me apart for weeks. I just want to hug my child with all the love I have for her to love away her self-hating thoughts and these tears that keep seeping out of my broken heart.

My Lord, I feel we are at a pivotal point and You want us to turn sharply in another direction. Please guide us to the right path that You have prepared for us and have prepared us for.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

All Things Work Together for Good

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. ~Romans 8:28

We went to apple country last Friday and then hiked in the woods at Fort Mountain State Park, as the Princess wanted since we had not been there for six years. Sore from the hiking, Saturday I painted the last windows frames as it was a warm, dry day. The outside of all the windows are finally done.  So, by Sunday my legs were quite sore, but I helped my husband with painting the porch railing and all the visible spots are done, but I like to paint the undersides and the back of the posts at the steps on the ground too, so I still have that to do before cold weather sets in.

Understandably, I was so tired Sunday night that I was ready for bed early, but I saw on Google Hangouts, where my daughter "talks" with a classmate, that he invited her to read one of his Google docs. Out of curiosity, I looked at what she had in her own Google docs. There were a few, one written by the Princess was from the perspective of our late cat, Jamie, who typed everything in CAPS. He was worried about her for various reasons and about things she was doing and had not been doing. He was asking the intended recipient to help her, but no help would have come as the letter to her classmate was not sent nor was it accessible to him...and later I would find that she never intended to really sent it.

Now I have a rather imaginative child and writing is her main outlet of her often wildest of ideas. I try not to take most of them seriously, because at times she is just writing out things she is churning over in her brain, including some of her darkest thoughts—teens tend to have quite a few—and that is all it is. However, this one hit me rather hard. The Princess has been uncharacteristically withdrawn ever since school started and somehow it just felt that I should investigate further about the things she had written. So, then I was wide awake, unable to sleep, and not wanting to wake my daughter, who has enough difficulty falling to sleep, all this with having to prepare for her classes in the morning.

Although I was still concerned, most of the urgency from the preceding night had left me in the morning with focusing on just getting everything packed for the day of errands. We were in the van completely ready to go with the keys in the ignition and she was settling in her seat when it all came to a halt.

I saw something that made everything my sweet, little Princess had written an absolute alarming truth, rather than abstract ravings from a creative teenage mind. Realizing that I had seen something she only halfheartedly had hidden, she immediately was in tears.

At first I was angry, but it was only out of shock. I told her we were going back into the house and there I was rather calm when I asked her why she would do such a thing and she yelled out in fear and frustration that she was failing at school, that she had not been handing in her work since school began!

I just could not believe it! How many times had I asked her if she needed help? The same number of times she would say, "No, I'm fine." How many times did I ask her if she had gotten all her assignments done? The same number of times she had said, "Yes." How many times had I trusted her and not looked everything over? The same number of times she had lied to me over a two month period. How many times do I tell her that I love her, give her hugs (well, try to), and tell her how special she is to me, to her father, and to God? Probably as many times as she had been rejecting it all. I was hoping it was just one of those teenage phases that would be passing...eventually.

I called the school telling them she would not be in classes and that I needed her teachers to call when they could, because part of me felt she was still exaggerating it to be worse than it was and I needed to verify her claims with the teachers. However if it was true, I was not going to be too happy they had not brought this to my attention weeks ago. I also left a message for her piano teacher saying we would not be there. And I called my husband, but apparently he was at an account where his cell phone has no bars, so I had to wait for him to call back. By then I was past my initial shock, ready to deal with everything alone from where we were in that moment, and seriously wanting to seek out what had been troubling my child, because that was far more important to me than school work and grades.

I also realized that she had been producing these little tells as her way of crying out for help, even as she had been rejecting it; hoping to be discovered, even though she feared it, and wanting it out of her, even though she tried to keep it a secret. She had stopped crying after the truth erupted from her earlier and there was no yelling left in her. Apparently, she had blurted out this terrible secret that she had been trying to hide for weeks and now that it was out (and I did not kill her, as she put it) she was actually talking with me openly about her fears and what she had been doing. She said she was also afraid that we would kick her out, even though we have NEVER made that threat.

It is kind of ironic, in a way, I had just written the encouragement letter to her that they will give her on high school science retreat that she is leaving for early tomorrow morning and I wrote it based on the Christian song "More Than You Think I Am" because I felt she had all these ideas about who I was as her mother and how I would respond to things, but she did not really understand the love I have for her and the grace I am ready to show her. I am telling you that God has been guiding this child very heavily from all angles, even while she was making very poor choices.

The algebra teacher called. This is the only teacher that she had last year, so she knows how different my daughter has been this year and we talked once before about our concerns. She told me that the Princess was behind in handing in some work, but she was not worried about the math, as she is rather bright in class, but she was far more concerned about her emotional state. I asked for a list of what was not turned in. I got it the next day and she was being very forgiving, because she only listed the last three weeks and was forgiving the rest. When I compared my daughter's list yesterday showing she handed in a little less than half and saw how she was not recalling how to do the work, I made the decision that she would do all of it with me so that she would actually learn it—that what homeschooling is really about after all, really learning not just testing well.

My husband called back finally and came home immediately, which was about an hour later as he was in town. Thank you, Lord. He had that time to drive to think out his initial anger response and was quite calm as he talked with her, but she was in a completely different frame of mind by then. She was initially worried that he was going to be angry, but after she realized that he was not going to "kill" her either, as she put it, nor kick her out of the house, she was actually smiling! I have not seen but a handful of genuine smiles since school started! My husband had to go back to work.

Afterward, I received a call from to her first science teacher, who only had her for September and then will have her for most of the second semester, and asked for a list of her incomplete work. Her current science teacher was too busy with the upcoming retreat, but I know she will get back to me when she can.

At dinner on Monday, my daughter was the child I had always known before all of this. She was talking! She laughed! She joked around! She was holding her head up instead of trying to hide and look down all the time! Her eyes twinkled! I turned toward my husband with an incredulous happy look and he said it was as if a great weight had been lifted.

We had taken all day Monday and Tuesday off for mental health days so that our emotions could stabilize: I can be the pillar of calm reasoning in a crisis but I have been known crash to an emotional puddle when it is mostly over and, for the Princess, we are hoping she settles in that happier state we are still seeing. We talked a lot about her fear of failing was actually resulting in her making choices that would cause her to fail. We talked about how everything she did and did not do so far is fixable and all can heal, and that we have flexibility because she is in a homeschool school taught by caring Christian homeschooling parents.

Wednesday we began tackling the overdue math assignments. All of my homeschooling lessons will be put on hold until we have everything with her outside classes caught up and I think it will take at least three weeks, but I also think that the Princess will feel much better once it is done.

I am hoping she has learned that avoiding things can allow them to grow into overwhelming problems so it is better to take them head on when they are smaller and more manageable; that asking for help is not showing weakness but showing faith in God that He will provide the knowledge needed; that accepting help when offered is honoring God because He had provided the help she needs; that God's grace overflows from the people He has placed in her life, including her parents (who did not "kill" her); and that we really do love her more than she can possibly understand almost as much a God does. So, in the end, maybe it was just one of those teenage phases, a temporary lapse of good judgment that just overwhelmed her quickly. I have that hope.

My Lord, thank you for always guiding my daughter back to You when she has made poor choices. May this lesson stay strong with her and may she be accepting of help. Please, my Lord, lavish Your blessings on all the people who have been praying for her.

Monday, October 19, 2015

More Broken Things!

God uses broken things. It takes broken soil to produce a crop, broken clouds to give rain, broken grain to give bread, broken bread to give strength. ~Vance Havner

Enough already! Two weeks ago Dragon Heart's (my mini-van) the power window on the diver's side stop working in the closed position and my husband said to be grateful it got stuck closed rather than open. My husband fixed it that weekend. Sunday (yesterday) we were set to go to church in Dragon Heart and I was sitting on the passenger side, lowered my window to say something to Midnight, my cat, and the window would not go back up. In fact, when I pushed the button to have it go up it went down the rest of the way. We vacated it and went to church in the new vehicle.

So, Sunday afternoon, instead of uninstalling and then reinstalling the dishwasher that is apparently having a temperamental float switch possibly because it is not as level as it thinks it should be or it is stuck somehow, my husband replaced the power window, except he found out that he also needed to replace the switch. He will pick up the switch today and hopefully be home this week to replace it.

Today while I am out doing that stuff I do on Mondays, my husband is planning to get the dishwasher working and maybe install the new range. This will be after he sells the old dishwasher to a used appliance store and gets the new power window switch.

I have to say that at least, at the very least, we got to take the new vehicle and use that sun roof on the perfect day to have it open with sunshine and temperatures in the low 60's. It was great! This is me being grateful.

Still, just about everything I touch of late seems to be breaking or getting lost.

However, last night I fixed the Princess' camera. Not sure how exactly, but the error code is gone and it is working now. Unfortunately, the jury is still out on her cell phone; it just may need a new battery or resetting the battery indicator, not sure which. I just never have seen a battery indicator go backwards before. I mean, it starts out fully charge but also with a reading that it has a few seconds left on in the battery and as long as the phone is on or in sleep mode, the time on the battery time goes up! No, I did not touch before her cell phone before this began happening, I promise you.

My Lord, thank you for reminding me that broken things can be blessings.