Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Grumpiness

               The beginning of this year hope was restored to me in my battle with pain.  I started injecting a medicine by needle instead of ingesting it through pill form.  I went virtually pain free for four months.  I envision heaven being painless.  Summer loomed with beautiful possibilities of fun in the sun and finishing many much needed projects.  Memorial Day my back went out and for the last two months and some odd days, I have been living in pain once again.  Steadily, I have been working on my to-do list with some progress.  Two day ago, my throat started hurting, a summer cold.  Really, must we add a cold to pain?
                I am a firm believer that our attitude will dictate 90 percent of a positive or negative outcome in our lives.  For forty plus years, I have watched many people decide their fate through hard work or lack thereof and approach to life either optimistic or pessimistic.  I follow the hard working optimistic mentality.  By being this way, I have succeeded in obtaining a college degree with a lack of financial backing and retiring from a twenty year career in the military.  Even in a lot of pain, I strive to accomplish tasks throughout the day, but I have to tell you, it isn’t easy.  There are days I just want to curl up in my bed and whine with the best of the pessimists.  Today was one such day!  I am feeling a bit defeated.
                When my husband’s alarm clock started discussing something (talk radio), I groaned.  My first thought, “My throat hurts, my head hurts, I want to paint,” whining dripping from each word.  I had suspected I was coming down with something because I hadn’t felt good the day before and ignored it.  My alarm was scheduled to start beeping (no talk radio for me) two hours later.  Usually I get up right after my husband.  I tried to get back to sleep.  I snoozed for an hour and a half still feeling poorly.  The morning proceeded at a steady crawl until I dropped my daughter off at Vacation Bible School at the same time picking up my friend’s baby to watch so she can teach. 
                Rapunzel Five (the nickname my son has given the baby; there are five girls in total) is a delight and very easy to care for.  She and I hung out all morning, but my back started hurting.  I am not used to carrying little ones and all their gear.  At noon, I switched baby for my nine year old and came home.  To continue resting, I sat in front of the computer for a little down time and watching Netflix.  Neither the speakers nor the headphones produced any sound.  Hum….
Two months of pain, a cold, no sound and more pain resulted in me becoming a bit grumpy.  I called my husband growling about his computer.  Patiently he reminded me to restart the machine.  I had to do it twice before it started working.  I went to my chiropractor’s appointment trying to smile and be friendly.  Instead, I complained to the young lady who puts the electro shock pads on my back and buffers it.  This made me a bit grumpier because I hate being a complainer.  I stopped at the pharmacy for a refill to a prescription.  I glared when the lady said the pharmacist had to check it first.  Finally back home, I sat in front of the television to veg out.  My daughter wanted to watch a movie.  Hey, I could do that without displaying any negativity.  She ended up ditching me for the neighborhood kids, but I didn’t mind.  My husband ran away to hang out with friends.  I was invited, but no one wants a grump around. 
I learned from a pain management book that I have to rest when I know big things are in store for me.  I still have three more days of baby duty which I am so happy to do.  In fact, I am thankful.  God sent me this time with Rapunzel Five to have a positive activity to participate in while I am dealing with a sore throat and headache.  Plus, she gives me a chance to rest instead of trying to paint and garden.  I didn’t do great with the attitude today, but I will try again tomorrow sore throat or not.  Tonight when I say my thankful prayer, I will include asking for strength for the new day I will embark on in the morning.  He will be with me and that puts a smile on my face and conviction in an optimistic outlook for tomorrow.
Blessings to you all.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Family History

                This past weekend we went back home to my husband’s stomping grounds.  During our early years of marriage, we lived in the small little town and both our boys were born in the local hospital.  We have celebrated weddings, births, holidays, and funerals with family and friends.  Laughter and tears have played a factor in the relationships that develop and continue to grow.  On this trip, we made some history and looked at history.
                The afternoon of the wedding, four of the cousins of the bride (my husband being one of them) were in charge of directing traffic to park in the field and drive the guests in the golf carts up to the house.  Before they started to arrive in full force, my daughter and the bride’s cousin on the other side went for a little ride.  Side note: the bride’s cousin is the son of one of my old teachers.  His brother and I were a year apart in high school.  We grew up about a twelve hours drive from here.  He instructed Madelle to turn the cart and hit the gas pedal.  “Don’t worry about the brake.”  She listened.  The ending result?  They put the golf cart in the ditch.  Since no one was hurt, we all laughed until the tears flowed.


                I must admit that I became very misty eyed throughout the wedding.  Every time I kept looking at the bride, I saw the sweet little four-year-old at my wedding.  Love ya a ton Savannah!
                Our daughter has not been to the family farm that she remembers.  I believe she went out in her baby/toddler years.  We took her out and told her some stories.  I love the farm.  Unfortunately, I don’t have a lot of memories, but the ones I have are precious: sleeping on the couch, playing whist, the priest visit, Grandma’s good cooking, and branding.  Madelle heard the story of Uncle LeRoy standing at the top of the barn roof daring Uncle Cliff or Ray to throw a rock at him.  The end result, Uncle LeRoy fell from the roof with a headache.  He being a daring boy also climbed up the windmill at the age of three or four.  Since he couldn’t get down, Grandma had to climb up after him.  Me being afraid of heights, he might have had to stay up there for a while.

                The church and cemetery were our other stop.  This little building, for a handful of families out in the middle of the prairie, filled the community with faith.  They prayed, laughed, and cried together here.  My father-in-law went to church here beginning when he was born as did all his brothers and sisters.  Years later my husband attended church here from time to time as well.  He and his siblings went to vacation Bible school here in the summer.  The modest dwelling has no plumbing.  In the back one of the outhouses has fallen down.  The other still stands as the winds whip past it. 

                Sadly I noted the water damage inside the church.  The paint on the outside needs a fresh coat or two.  The bell is gone.  I was happy to see a new roof and a new door is getting ready to be hung.  Some people think it is a waste of money to spend on a church that isn’t used anymore.  I think it is a waste to let these buildings fall to the ground.  A few should be saved for historical purposes.  This little chapel would be perfect for such a task.

                More tears were shed at the cemetery.  Over half the people buried here on the prairie are relatives.  My dear little nephew, sister-in-law, Grandma, Grandpa, and an Uncle on my husband’s side are the few I personally knew.  He knew so many more.  As we looked, prayed, and chatted, I straightened flowers and pulled a couple of weeds.  When I come out here, part of my heart wishes we still lived in the area.  I would visit regularly to clean up the area though it is taken good care of when so far off the beaten path.  I would also work at painting and cleaning the church.  Alas, this will have to be a task of others.
                Blessings to you all.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Ways To Keep Our Salt

Detachment!!!  Detachment?  Detachment!!!  After I posted my blog about salt, I realized I still didn’t have an answer to how to protect my salt.  The whole idea seems to be a conundrum for me.  The explanation does say what we are to do.  Let’s see how I fare.
*** I have to be totally dedication to Jesus.
Growing up, I gave my life to Jesus at a young age.  I would say either in grade school or middle school.  I know it took place at the Church of God.  As I grew older, I worked really hard at being the “good” girl for my parents, teachers, and world.  I failed many times but kept trying.  In high school, I found friends with like minded endeavors of goodness.  I am sure I continued to fail in areas but kept trying.  As an adult, I still try to be the “good” girl.  I fail, pick myself back up, and try some more.  In my, dare I say it, middle age I continue the process I have been in since grade school with a lot of study of the saints who have gone before me, study of the Bible, and current literature.  I try to keep like minded friends to help me with my dedication.  I know I can pray more, give more, study more and be more.  Yet, as a woman living in the secular world with a family, I believe I am very dedicated.  God will continue to help me become more so.
*** I need to be detached from possessions.
Okay, on the surface, I feel I do this very well.  I live in a modest house with few toys.  My vehicle is paid for and I have no debt but the house payment.  By the world’s standards I am golden.  By God’s standards, I am doing well.  I could improve though.  If asked, I don’t know if I could get rid of my pickup.  I love my pickup.  I also love my home.  These are possessions.  I love my travel, more possessiveness.  I marvel at how the apostles left their homes, family, and possessions to follow Jesus.  Deep in my heart I don’t think I could leave my home, husband, kids, and pickup to go on a permanent mission trip like they did with Jesus.  God doesn’t call us all to this though.  He called me to have a family and be married.  He provides us with our transportation, roof, and entertainment.  God doesn’t want for us not to be happy, but he does want us to be detached from worldly possessions that keep us from Him.  I believe I am doing this well, not perfect, but well.
*** I need to not be a halfhearted disciple.
What is a halfhearted disciple?  At first thought, a person who skips church, talks ill of others (gossip), talks Christian but acts worldly, and really the list can go on are halfhearted disciples.  Hum, I don’t think I skip church without being sick.  When my defenses are down, I talk ill of others.  I know there are people out there who think I am hypocritical about my faith.  At times they are right.  I sin.  The apostles had their moments of half-heartedness.  I believe this is the human condition.  The key is to see when I am being halfhearted and remedy my actions and/or attitude at the time.  I believe 95% of the time I am dedicated to God.  The 5% when I am halfhearted (in a sinful state) means I need to be praying more and detached from the world.  Okay, looking at my percentages I am feeling very egotistical.  Eighty, twenty or fifty, fifty, I am not sure what my percentages are, but I do need to keep trying 24/7.
*** I need to be detached from family.
I want to take this deeper.  I believe I need to be detached from family, friends, and the world.  I need to be detached from myself and only ATtached to God.  I suck at being detached.  I care too much about the people around me.  I want to fix/help everyone I come in contact with.  When I was younger, I would get so insulted if people didn’t let me help.  I can think of one friend who never let me into her problems.  She moved out of her house for a week or two before I even knew.  She had a wall around her so thick that I couldn’t break it down.  Unfortunately, I probably did more damage than good even if all I was trying to do was help.  She forgave my self-righteous attitude and is still a very dear friend.  I also care what people think and say about me.  Okay, I don’t care what the average acquaintance thinks or says, but I care deeply about what my close friends and family think.  I need to detach from this because I then can’t be the person God calls me to be.  Just today I received a call from a loved one who kind of accused me of doing something very mean.  For about 20 minutes I fretted about what this person thought of me and what this person may say about me to other loved ones, more hateful thoughts which caused me to lose sight of God’s plan for me.  When the relationship is close, it is so hard to detach.  I had to remember it is what God thinks that matters.  My expectations are also a problem.  I expect those close to me to be loyal and have my back (stand up for me, not stab me in the back).  I need to detach myself from my expectations.  There is no peace when people can’t/won’t live up to them. And really, God has my back.  I don’t need anyone else too.  Though it is nice to know I have my husbandJ  I am better at this now then 20 years ago, but I need to keep working on it.
                I do lose my salt when I am not dedicated to Jesus, apply myself halfheartedly, am attached to possessions, and relationships.  The key is to rededicate every day, live fully for Jesus, detach from everything and everyone only to leave ourselves attached to God.
                Blessings to you all.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Salt: Don't Lose Your Flavor

                This past week, I spent time in the town I lived in during my high school years.  Due to extenuating circumstances, I went to the church I attended in those formative years though I have since become Catholic.  My memory does not serve me well; I haven’t a clue the last time I went to a protestant service.  Never have I taken my daughter to one.  Her two comments: “They sing a lot” and “Mom, it is so cool; me and another boy were the only two who have been baptized.”  My take on the service did go a bit deeper and I am trying to apply it to my life. 
The minister spoke of salt.  He flipped through his entire Bible giving all of us a lot of different verses about salt.  We, as Christians, are to maintain our flavor of saltiness/Christianity.  We are to guard this taste.  There are three similar passages in Matthew, Mark, and Luke.  I like Mark’s the best.  “Everyone will be salted with fire.  Salt is good, but if salt becomes insipid, with what will you restore its flavor?  Keep salt in yourselves and you will have peace with one another” 9:49-50.  Since listening to Pastor Phil’s sermon, I keep thinking about how he said we must protect our salt.  I didn’t do so well.
                All of us have people in our life that wear on our flavoring.  I have a relationship that can say all the right things to push all the wrong buttons of my personality.  Within a very short time, I can feel my salt running out of me leaving me depleted of physical energy, mental power, and self-worth due to the negativity that seems to wrap its tentacles all around me.  In the past twenty years, I have distanced myself.  With working fulltime and my family, I could keep my visits short.  Now that I am retired, I have no excuse not to spend more time in the presence of my button pusher.  I have to add my guilt keeps pushing me into staying longer.  Instead, I need to do smaller visits to keep my salt in tack.
                By the end of my stay, I had hateful thoughts, harsh words, and a total lack of love in my heart.  My salt had completely left me.  There was not peace.  I no longer felt like I followed in Christ’s footsteps; instead, he had to pick me up and carry me back home both physically and metaphorically.  I failed in my showing the world who Jesus is.  He still loves me though and I feel him working his healing in me.  Today I have my self-worth back if not a little bruised.  I am back to my go, go, go daily routine.  Hum, the mental power is debatable with all the misspelled words (thank you God for spell check), but I think it is doing better as well.  So, besides shorter visits, how do I protect my salt?
I like the side comment of Luke’s salt passage the best.  “The simile of salt follows the saying of Jesus that demanded of the disciple total dedication and detachment from family and possessions and illustrates the condition of one who does not display this total commitment.  The halfhearted disciple is like salt that cannot serve its intended purpose.”  Wow, there is a lot of stuff here.  I definitely ended my stay in my home town as a halfhearted disciple.  I went there totally dedicated but left only partially dedicated.  Detachment.  What a hard word to put into practice.  I should be detached from the negative comments, the crudely expressed sayings/words, and the other spoken commentary that leaches the taste from my salt.  Normally, I can do this, but only for a short time.
My journey to holiness faulted quite a bit this past week.  I am hoping I grew after all is said and done.  I pray I am back on the right path.  We all stumble along the way.  But if we keep going to Jesus to keep us salty, I believe we will all find our way to sainthood.
Blessings to you all.

Friday, July 6, 2012

The Forest Fire

                I keep thinking of my blog theme, A Journey to Holiness.  At the time I began this blogging voyage, I wanted to write strictly about faith; yet, my love of fiction writing, crocheting, scrapbooking, raising kids, gardening, and a hodge podge of other events and activities I like to participate in or have no choice in the matter has made me feel like my theme is limited.  However, is it really all that limited?  Our journey to sainthood is more than just our religion/faith.  Everything I do should have God at the center whether it is baking a pie for my family or crocheting a blanket to donate to a charity.  Also, I should see the work of God through those around me.
                Two weeks ago, I saw the work of our Lord in the journey of a forest fire an event in my life that definitely wasn’t of my choosing.  The fire started on a Monday.  Everything was fine when we left home to go to dinner in town.  We live in a little cul-de-sac just two and a half miles from downtown.  Our backyard faces a busy road with a mountain climbing behind it with a few homes, dry grass, and trees on the ridgeline of mountains that continues north for a few miles.  I have always wondered what a fire would do if it caught in these mountains.  Technically, our home is safe with the road and irrigation ditch as blockers and a lack of fuel due to no trees.  However, seeing the huge plume of smoke hanging over the valley on our way home caused nervous energy in both my husband and me.  We watched from our deck as traffic became crazy with fire watchers, emergency vehicles, and people trying to get home from the end of the day.  Helicopters flew overhead with buckets of water, the police force closed the road, and the wind shifted causing smoke to cover our home.  Just in case, I loaded the cab of my pickup with all our photo albums and boxes.  Amazingly, I slept fine that night knowing God watched over us in the form of firefighters.
                Tuesday dawned beautiful with no wind, a huge blessing.  I went out to the backyard to weed the garden.  Eerily no commuter traffic traveled down the road, just emergency vehicles and the occasional neighbor trying to get to work or town.  A friend of one of my sons came over to mow the lawn when the wind picked up.  He finished as the wind shifted directions, our direction.  I had planned to go to town to run errands, but with the fire headed in my direction, I thought it better to stay out of the way of the crews screaming up the road.  I could feel the urgency as they made their way past our backyard.  My son’s room faces the direction of the fire, so I worked at cleaning it up and watched in nervous anticipation.
                The fire being on the other side of the mountains couldn’t be seen, but the point origin of the smoke could be observed.  It grew closer and closer.  Rumor from a neighbor said the fire had jumped our road further down.  Finally, I had to talk to my husband; the smoke seemed just too close.  We chatted and I tried to be brave.  Logically I knew we were safe.  Faithfully I knew God would take care of us whether we lost our house or not.  My heart cried out as I went through the rooms looking at our treasures.  The cotton my husband picked for me while he was in Louisiana, the bench my father made with tiny hand prints of the boys painted on the seat, and too many things to save with sentimental meaning never to be replaced.  Finally I told Jerry he might want to come home to water the roof, flying embers were a concern.
                Just minutes after hanging up the phone, I looked out the window and just knew nothing would stop the fire from coming up over the ridge.  We only had only minutes before we would see flames.  I started taking pictures off the walls wishing I had the van to get the big painting my sister-in-law painted in high school.  Coming back from the vehicle, I called my husband only to be able to leave a voicemail.  Moments later he pulled into the driveway.  My hero!  They almost didn’t let him through the roadblock.  His instructions were to get his family and get out of the area.  As he climbed the ladder up to the roof to get the sprinkler set on top, I finished up loading the van with our family portraits and the painting.  Our daughter loaded the hamster, I grabbed the cat, and away we went telling neighbors to head out as well.  I did see the first flame as it came over the top.  I am very thankful I didn’t see the rest.
                After regrouping at a restaurant, my husband went to a meeting at the local high school and I drove daughter and critters out to a friend’s house.  I also checked in with friends living in the area.  People were checking in with me.  My text inbox went from 50 to 200 in a matter of an hour or two.  After visiting with our friends and the kids playing, we were able to get back into our house.  The firefighters, bomber, and helicopters quickly took out the fire headed towards our home.
                The police officer let me through the roadblock.  He wore a flak jacket in all that heat to protect himself while protecting me and my home, a definite saint in the making.  I went out to the deck staring at the mountain.  Half lay blanketed in ash coming all the way down to the first line of homes.  Helicopters flew down filling their buckets from the irrigation ditch.  I watched in thankfulness as they continued to mop up our area.  During the night, I woke up periodically to check the red dots of the hot spots across from us.  I saw one flare up as it must have caught a tree on fire.  The next morning the helicopters flew in but at a greater distance.  Firefighters walked the side of the mountain double checking.  The fire was out.
                In three days, God reached out through all these people, the many friends who offered their home to us, the offers of help to get us out of the danger zone, the men and women fighting the fire from the ground and air, the police officers blocking the roads and working at keeping us safe, and the prayers.  I know thousands of people prayed for our community.  As I toured the area this week to see how much of our road was affected, I was amazed.  The fire went down the entire mountain range paralleling our road.  The area it jumped the road missed all the homes.  I can only image the work it took the firefighters to save everything.  Further into the mountains which I didn’t go look out, didn’t fare as well.  In total, four homes burnt down.  The damage could have been so much worse.  A good 100 homes had flames lapping just yards from their doors.
                Thank you God for all these saints in the making traveling down their road to holiness.
                Blessings to you all.