Saturday, June 30, 2007

Memory Lane

Listening to Johnny Cash while I'm blogging. The music I listen to affects how I think and write. Before Cash, I was listening to Beethoven during my quiet time for an hour. And after I blog, I'm going for a walk. Not sure what to listen to, but bluegrass might be good. I'm in a bluegrass frame of mind.

I grew up in a small town, so you might say I'm a red neck girl at heart. My parents favored country western music on the radio, especially on weekends. In college, I chose a degree in the College of Ag at the land grant state university, instead of heading out to Seattle's U of W. The big city intimidated me. The wheat fields of the Palouse attracted me. After I was done with school, I was planning to settle down on a small farm, raise a huge garden, have my own chicken coop and lots of dogs. And lots of kids with a husband who liked to work as hard as I did, except when we went fishing or camping. That was my freshman year dream. Johnny Cash reminds me of way back when.

As I progressed spiritually in my early twenties, my freshman year dream was forgotten as I started to dream bigger. Perhaps missions? At that point, missions was a rural idea to me. I don't know where I got it, perhaps from reading about the missionaries to indigenous peoples, and meeting more than a few who were out in the field with SIM. And that was the direction I felt I might be headed until someone told me that a majority of missions are actually targeting large cities. People in rural areas are migrating away from subsistence farming to find work in metropolitan areas. Whoa.

As I was approaching my thirties, I found that my protected small town upbringing had fostered a narrow view of life. I started to pray that God would enlarge my perceptions of Him and of the world. I started to get restless. When God opened doors to Seattle, to my surprise I went. To my parents' surprise as well. At first, I had no plan except to see what God would do in providing a place to live, a church to worship Him in, women to live with, and a place to work. Work was going to be my place of ministry, somehow. Nothing in my collegiate ministry experience taught me how to do that. Collegiate ministry prepped me for collegiate ministry. But you can't do that forever after graduation, even though there were a lot of principles I took away from the experience to apply to my next step in life.

At first I tried to have a ministry through my church. It was going slowly, but surely. After awhile, I realized that everyone was older than I was and a lot more established in our singles group. But it was a good place to learn, and I found peer relationships and older single women who were good mentors at showing me how to have a ministry at work and at home. I was learning about myself through trying to minister in church, and I realized that it took a long time of serving and building relationships to get to the place of making disciples. It was slower than reaching out in college, but it was possible.

I found more open doors among the people I worked with everyday. At least once a week, I had the opportunity to share the Gospel, and everyday I had a chance to talk with someone about spiritual things. It was a blue collar setting, and one I found that I fit in very well into. I was well respected because of my work ethic, and I was praying that God would teach me to be as good a steward as Joseph. I was given more and more responsibility and found favor with the business owners without losing my touch among the production crew.

The production crew was mainly made up of women in their thirties, forties and fifties. I became their boss, but I treated them like older sisters or like my mom. This went over extremely well. The work was mind numbingly boring and repetitive as we prepped vegetables for processing, so we had lots of time to talk. The trick was to have discussions that were lively and thought provoking without being offensive or negative. The ladies had lives outside of work, and didn't like overtime. My boss realized that if he could talk me into coming in on a Saturday morning, a large contingent of the crew would be willing to volunteer to be with me. I didn't know why, it had to be God. And volunteering to bake my famous cookies. I baked a lot of cookies on Friday nights.

That's how I knew I had a ministry--God gave me an amazing cookie recipe and a bunch of women who liked to spend time with me. For awhile, I had a bible study during lunch breaks. But I prayed that God would use me in spontaneous and informal ways.

In the meantime, I was learning how to adapt to a big city lifestyle. It wasn't as hard as I thought it would be, and I actually enjoyed it. I didn't miss my idea of a farm at all. But I was willing to do whatever God wanted me to do, go wherever He wanted me to go. Even if it meant being single for a long time, and I started to settle into that reality and make plans to be a steward of my career. Right after that resolution and following through with plans to that effect, Dennis started to change from casual but consistent letter writing friend to courting me--I quit dating other guys. After acknowledging some feelings about each other, a month later Dennis announced that he was going to work in California--a complete reversal from his earlier statements that he wanted to find a job in Seattle.

So in two months, I went from lifelong spinster to being courted to being abandoned. Even though I thought Dennis knew how I felt about him, he really didn't. He thought that I wasn't as interested romantically, and anticipated having to take a lot more time to develop our relationship into something serious. Being in California didn't seem to be a problem to him to accomplish that, whereas I saw it as a huge problem. To me, it was over while to him, it was a beginning. It was a huge surprise to him later when he decided to investigate where my true feelings were before his move to California.

He found out that I hated California. And that I loved him. And you know, California wasn't all that bad. (Neither was Atlanta or Denver or Lansing, for that matter.) After we married, we were in the military lifestyle and ministry with women within that context and the church exploded for me. I still don't get it, how slow it was in Seattle compared with the fruitfulness in California. To me, it was one of many affirmations that I was where God wanted me to be.

Friday, June 29, 2007

In Michael Lawrence's article, "I'm Just Not Attracted To Her, Part 2", he again gives biblical advice to single men, which I think we could all learn from. Even as a woman, you have a lot to apply if you raise daughters, affirm nieces and other young women in this culture who are tormented by the lie that they are not "pretty enough". Please read the article, and remember that we need to have minds that are not conforming to our sick American (or any other) culture but transformed by God's Word and Spirit.

Check out also for Carolyn McCulley's comments on the article.

From I'm Just Not Attracted To Her, Part 2
by Michael Lawrence
Redefining Culture
Finally, immerse yourself in a counter-cultural understanding of beauty. I stand by what I said at the beginning: Beauty is culturally determined and we cannot escape our culture. If you are surrounded by people and media that say beauty is merely a matter of body shape and color, then you will find it almost impossible to be attracted to anything else. But if you are in regular conversation with people who think otherwise, if you are listening to messages that say otherwise, if you witness passionate, intimate marriages that prove otherwise, then your definition of beauty and your sense of attraction will be changed by that culture. Where can you find such a culture?

You can find it only in a healthy, biblical, local church.

As Christians, we are citizens of more than one culture. The Bible presents a
worldview, including a definition of beauty, that's opposed to the worldview of
our culture. But a worldview that is not lived out is just dead theory. The
biblical worldview takes on counter-cultural life in the context of the church.
In the community of God's people, as we listen to God's word and allow it to
transform us, we find the vision of beauty we need to transform our preferences
and desires from weak, worldly lusts into strong, godly attraction to true beauty.

What's more, in this kind of culture, women understand what it means
to be truly beautiful, and they know how to pursue that beauty. Most of all,
they are confident that attaining such beauty is worth it. Not just so the guys
will notice them, but because the guys have encouraged them above all to shape
the whole of their lives for the loving gaze of God. His eyes never fail to
recognize true beauty and his heart never fails to be attracted to it. Men, why
would we want to be any different?

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Old Dog, New Tricks

I'm still thinking a lot about aging. I never gave it this much thought before.

This morning, memories came back to me of experiences and interactions I've had with various older people and their communities. I was close to my grandmother, and visited her often in college. She was extremely social, so we spent a lot of time calling on her neighbors in the senior living community she lived in.

They all liked me and were always giving me stuff. I still have a lot of it. The main theme seemed to be was how they were trying to live in smaller spaces and having to deal with a lifetime of accumulation. The epitome was the lady in the trailer home next to my grandmother's. She had a place stuffed with trash and treasures, with everything crammed together from floor to ceiling. She was a retired college professor whose late husband traveled through Asia during the 1920's. She often went with them before they had children. Her antiques were thousands of years old. She was extremely obese and hardly moved, but she had a lot of great stories about her past. And shortly after our visit, she died.

Not long ago, I was listening to a commentary on a movie that included the set decorator. The movie featured Diane Keaton as a dying mom, and the set decorator described how she tried to convey history and Keaton's protrayal of illness through the environment she created. The number one thing that stuck to me about the decorator's comments was the idea of layers. She worked hard at creating layers in the dying character's home that suggested that pruning things out became too tiresome, so there were layers upon layers of objects from different decades.

And the other thing that stuck was that when people are sick, they are just trying to survive, so dealing with cleaning and clearing their homes becomes a low priority.

I'm only in my mid-forties, and I already I see how this is true in my own life. I did not accumulate a lot of stuff by buying it, but mostly by family members dying and leaving it to us. There's a lot of emotional baggage tied to it, and a confusion on how to deal with it. My brother and my sisters do not even have half the momentos I do, mostly because their taste in decorating is more modern and so most of the stuff doesn't fit in. What they do have is always in storage. Since I am more sentimental and I like old and used stuff, it is more appealing to me.

And as I get older myself, the less time I really want to spend cleaning. Or sorting. After this summer, my goal is to simplify things so that cleaning would be easier and things would be organized. And excess would be gone. I don't think that I will improve on having more energy, in fact, as I look down the road, I know that things might get worse instead of better in twenty years time, if I get there.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Progress report

This week I got to see Dr. Vicki and talk about the results of my lab tests. Everything improved--the HDL "good" cholesterol slightly went up, LDL "bad" cholesterol went way down, and the heart sonagram showed a slight rigidity in the left ventrical valve. Not bad for my age, but as a diabetic, it is something important to keep an eye on. The problem that Vicki wants to concentrate on is my blood pressure. It has improved significantly, but she wants the diastolic (resting pressure) reading to drop. It's been in the 70's the last few days (I have a monitor I use at home). I remember in college that my blood pressure was 83 over 55.

I'm going to start cardio classes again in a few weeks. I think it helped. As well as eating a lot more veggies and nuts. And more red wine.

I wish there was like a spiritual check up I could schedule. Like, there would be some kind of lab test that gave me a reading on how I was doing in my soul. Meet with a spiritual health professional who could prescribe some dosage of something or suggest some lifestyle changes that would make a difference.

Jesus is called the "Great Physician" for a reason. I'd rather see Him for a check up than see Him in the emergency room for some preventable spiritual ailment if I had focused on maintainence instead of waiting for the bottom to fall out to do something.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

"So, What's Up With Jesus?"

In her blog, Solo Femininity, Carolyn McCulley quotes Micheal Lawrence's article, I'm Just Not Attracted to Her, in Boundless Webzine. It's an excellent article for everyone, not just singles, to read. I've known a few couples to struggle over the issue of losing interest in each other, and at least one couple that finally broke apart over it. As for me, it makes me appreciate my husband all the more! So, here's quoting Lawrence, who communicates better than I could on the subject. I encourage you to please read the rest of the article, even though his audience is other men.

No one in his right mind ever marries a woman he doesn't find beautiful. And it's no different with Jesus. Except for one problem. We aren't attractive. In our sin and rebellion, we are downright ugly. So what's up with Jesus?

I said earlier that Adam started off as a developer, making the beauty of Paradise flourish and grow. Adam failed, and we'll think more about what that means next time. But where Adam failed, Jesus succeeded. Only this second Adam had a much more difficult job. Not expanding perfection, but cleansing the dirty, forgiving the guilty, and making the ugly beautiful again. Paul tells us that like a husband, "Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless" (Ephesians 5:25-27).

Think about what that means. Jesus didn't come to earth looking for a beautiful bride, going back to heaven disappointed because no one lived up to His standards. No, He worked actively creating beauty through His death on the cross and the power of the gospel. He gave His life so that whoever repents of their sin and puts their faith in His finished work on the cross might become part of His dazzlingly beautiful bride! It's a promise He made and it's a promise He will keep.

As Christian men we can't do what Christ did, nor do we need to. But we are called to be like Him. That means we need to stop being beauty critics and get busy creating, honoring, and guarding real beauty in the women around us. How do we do that? We do it by appreciating women who resemble Christ more than a Vogue model. We do it by encouraging modesty rather than sexiness. We do it by extending grace to imperfect bodies and flawed personalities. We do it by rejecting the worldly values of beauty that lead women to starve themselves or spend a small fortune on clothes.

Whether you like it or not, whether you know it or not, you are a creator of beauty in the women around you. It's just a question of what kind. Take a look at the single women in your church or circle of friends. What kind of beauty are they focused on? Is it the beauty of what Peter calls "outward adornment" or is it the beauty of Christ in the gospel (1 Peter 3:3-5)? No doubt women have their own sinful motives in pursuing shallow forms of beauty. But the promise of beauty we make as men is heard loud and clear by our girlfriends and wives, even if we never open our mouths.

What promise of beauty are you making and who will keep it? Too many men are promising, "I'll be attracted to you if you're a size 2," and then waiting for the woman who will work hard to meet the condition. Jesus calls us to make a different kind of promise. "I'm attracted to you because of how much of Christ I already see in you and I promise to work hard to see even more of Christ in you."

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Golden Oldies

Kansas--Dust In The Wind

As a high school sophmore, I didn't understand this song when it first came out in 1977 reminding the world of mortality. I sat next to Doug on the bus on our way to a marching band event of some kind while he and a bunch of the other senior brass players were passing around album covers and studying liner notes. Doug was a great fellow, and I knew that there was something more to him than just good morals. I also believed in good morals, but something was missing. I also respected Doug for setting a high standard for our band performances and always getting stuff right. Always. If I had questions, Doug was the "go-to guy". Back then, I kept most of my questions to myself. But Doug was sitting there with the Kansas "Point of Know Return" cover, and I finally asked him what the "Dust"song meant. He referred to a couple of verses in the bible and tied it together about how brief life can be. He pointed to the album cover design and explained some 0f the symbolism there about God.

This was before contemporary Christian rock being popular, actually most of it was pretty crappy. For someone to slip in spiritual imagery into a rock song, it was considered radical especially when most evangelicals hated the very idea of a drum beat. Also, back then, most high schoolers didn't have a lot of pocket money to spend. We passed things around and borrowed from each other. If you liked something, you shared it with your friends and you talked about it. And that's how I knew that "Dust in the Wind" was more than a pretty song.

Six months later, Doug asked me out for pizza. I wasn't allowed to date until I was 16, and so Doug was my very first date. Our conversation turned to spiritual things and I told him I wasn't sure if there was a God. I asked him how he knew. Doug was shocked. He assumed because I went to the Catholic church down the block from his Baptist church that I was a believer in Christ like he was. I wore a cross around my neck all the time. But I wore it because it was a gift from a relative when I was born, that's all. Since Doug was a righteous dude and didn't believe in missionary dating (when he said that, I had no idea what he was talking about), he took me home rather quickly. I was confused about that date, not knowing what I did wrong to "blow it". Nowdays, I'm pretty impressed and understand how Doug made a prudent decision at this point. Thank God.

Five months after that, my questions led to belief in the Gospel, (but I still wasn't sure how to follow Jesus--another story how God helped me out with that). I started to read the bible on my own and finally understood what Doug was referring to when he answered my questions about a hauntingly truthful rock song.

"The Lord is compassionate and gracious,

Slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness.

He will not always strive with us;

Nor will He keep His anger forever.

He has not dealt with us according to our sins,

Nor rewarded us according to our iniquities.

For as high as the heavens are above the earth,

So great is His lovingkindness toward those who fear Him.

As far as the east is from the west,

So far has He removed our transgressions from us.

Just as a father has compassion on his children,

So the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him.

For He Himself knows our frame;

He is mindful that we are but dust.

As for man, his days are like grass;

As a flower of the field, so he flourishes.

When the wind has passed over it, it is no more;

And its place acknowledges it no longer."

Psalm 103:8-16

Once, I ran into Doug's mom at a discount store in my home town. I introduced myself and told her that I knew Doug from school. I found her to be warm and she seemed to know me already. I wondered if she had prayed for me, since things came together spiritually pretty quickly after that date.

Although Doug did not intend to spend time with me on that pizza date to witness to me, God used him in my life for His purposes. Ten years after that date, Dennis and I got married in the Baptist church that Doug grew up in. I believe that God showed me His compassion and graciousness throughout my love life. Even in the middle of what seemed like a harsh rejection.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Old School Is Always Cool

I've turned 45 today, and was feeling pretty old until I was reminded that Crush from "Finding Nemo" was 150 and still punctuated every sentence with "Dude". The combination of wisdom from experience with a fresh outlook in life is something I liked about Crush.

"Keep swimming!"

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Yearning, Part 2

"...Everyday I keep pushing,

Keep trying to move forward

But something is driving me, oh, back,

And something’s trying to hold on to me,

To my way of life, why..."

Monday, June 18, 2007


What is something worth? What do we use to measure what we treasure?

In this society, the most convenient, is a monetary value.

A popular credit card ad tallies up the cost of each expense and at the end, it concludes with that one word: priceless. In other words, in order to get to that state of happiness or meaning, it took all those purchases to acheive it. It's so typically human. But there must be something else.

My quiet times for the rest of this month will be following "31 Days With Christ" by J. O. Sanders. My heart is yearning for the truth of what God treasures, what He stamps with His approval, what He evaluates with that one word statement of "priceless" and what He uses to make that evaluation.

And will I share what I discover with you? I don't know. Some things just can't be blogged. I decided to discontinue my site meter because I can't be distracted by who shows up to be my audience and who doesn't. I really only have one audience. Not just for this blog, but in every area of my life.


The words are a lullaby to a little one who doesn't know yet that the life it is born into is difficult, so the mom is trying to pretend that everything is okay, wanting something different for her child than what is expected.

In this version, Janis Joplin expresses a deep yearning layered with grief in the song, even though her vocalizations are difficult to listen to, I can't help but feel that the emotions are genuine. I also relate to the fact that the sounds that Joplin is making convey more than what the lyrics all by themselves ever could. I wish people could appreciate the art in this, instead of just writing it all off as just another rock and roll song. Art isn't always pretty, but it can have a beauty that transcends our lives even through it's ugliness.

It reminds of me of the verse about prayer when the Holy Spirit interprets for us to God what groanings we have in our hearts that are too deep for words. This amazes me, it absolutely amazes me that God wants to know, hear and understand intimately what our hearts are feeling. Yes, when we worship, it is nice when we all harmonize and sound...nice. But I can't help but to think that God wants more than that from us.

If I were a brave woman, I would pray like Janis Joplin sings.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Dinner #2

Last night, I used leftover pasta and frozen cooked shrimp, but it was pretty much a disaster. Live and learn, I guess. I re-heated the pasta and threw the thawed shrimp on top with a Parmalat container of strained tomatoes and dried basil and minced garlic. It was bland. If I had to do it again, I would have done a quick saute of the shrimp with olive oil and garlic, then added the tomatoes, and it would have been a much tastier result.

I think.

Tonight, we both work, and Dennis has a potluck at work where they asked him to bring a dip, that's all. I didn't know about it until this morning, so Den had to go to the store on the way to work. If I had more time, I would've done one with some avocados I have on top of the counter. My friend, Miriam, showed me how to make a killer guacamole in a blender.

Tonight, I'm making a bean and orzo marinated salad to share with the guys I'm closing with, Dave, Andrew and Mark.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Dinner #1

I am starting a schedule of cooking only what we have in the house without shopping (bread and milk only) for a week.

Tonight's Dinner: Turkey Italian Sausage Pasta

1 pound turkey italian sausage, cut into large pieces
1 large vidalia onion, chopped large
2 tablespoons minced garlic
2 tablespoons olive oil
12 dried halved tomatoes
1 large can peeled and diced tomatoes, drained
quarter of a bag of fresh spinach
1 cup red wine

2 cups penne pasta, uncooked

Boil eight cups of water with the dried tomatoes, add penne pasta when water comes to a rolling boil, bring to a boil, reduce heat and cook until all dente. Turn off heat. Using a slotted spoon, take tomatoes out of the pot into a large pan. Drain the pasta.

In the large pan with the tomatoes, cook sausage, onion and garlic in the olive oil over medium high heat until sausage is cooked through. Add the spinach, cook until the spinach has wilted. Add canned tomatoes and the red wine. Cook eight minutes on medium heat. Serve sauce over pasta, top with salt and ground pepper.

Serves 4.

Confessions of Althea

A few years ago, I read in a favorite cooking magazine an article written by a guy who decided to not shop for food for a week, that he was going to prepare meals only from what he already had in the house. By the end of the week, he had made a meal out of a few cans of vegetables and maple syrup. It was a creative endeavor, and he even included recipes. Some meals he admitted were pretty dismal, and some exceeded his expectations.

I am a little proficient at just opening up a door in my kitchen and making up recipes on the spot. Last Sunday, we had a few friends over on a spontaneous dinner invitation on Den's part, and I didn't know about it until noon. Den offered to pick up some ribs and corn at the store. Hmmm...we have a stand alone freezer downstairs in the basement and a pantry pretty much loaded. No need for that. I told him that he doesn't have to worry about running to the store. Due to various chores around the house, the yard sale disorganization and a full morning at church I didn't start dinner until a half hour before our friends came, I was not sure where to begin, either.

I pulled a package of shrimp out of the freezer, planning to defrost it for a salad. Randy, our houseguest for the week, came walking through the door and I remembered that he was allergic to shellfish. Not good hospitality to kill off your guest. I had to think of something else, the rest of our company were on their way.

I dug salmon out of the freezer and defrosted it. I found summer squash and zucchini in our fridge, as well as vidalia onions and cilantro. There was a lone lemon hanging around with a couple of limes I planned to use for iced tea, so I used it for dinner instead. Getting heavy foil, I made dinner packets for the grill with the fish, layered with veggies, cilantro, salt and pepper and the citrus fruit. Paired with a spinach salad with leftover tuscan bean salad I bought from the farmer's market, and Kalamata olives over the top, dinner was great.

So, inspired by this adventure in cooking, I decided to make an inventory of all the food in the house and plan to cook with it until all of it is used. This includes a leg of lamb, buffalo burgers, venison, a bag of chicken quarters, hot dog buns, rigatoni, the hugest can of tuna you could ever imagine and several cans of V-8 juice. I will shop for some staples, like bread and milk. But most of my meals will be made at home with food I have stored already.

For tonight, I thawed out italian turkey sausage. I'm thinking of using it in some kind of pasta dish, with swiss chard and some carrots from my veggie drawer in the fridge. Perhaps invite someone over for dinner to critique my work.

From the previous yard sale and generally thinking about stewardship, I am convicted of wastefulness in my choices. From an irrational reason along the way, I have started to hoard. I don't think it is a deliberate choice, but a reaction to a sense of insecurity. Maybe because of job instability with Den's changes of direction over the last two years, a whole lot of doctor bills because of my health, and just general costs of living going up. Whatever the case, I need to put my heart right with God and look to Him instead of falling back on my freezer and a well stocked pantry. That would be obedience. The other option would be sin.

"Why do you spend money for what is not bread, and your wages for what does not satisfy? Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good, and delight yourself in abundance." Isaiah 55:2

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Yard Sale: The Neverending Story

Our one day only sale is over. We cleared our basement--at least 80 percent of it. We sold about half of what we put out on the driveway. When we first opened, I remember that vulnerable feeling sitting in front of our house with all our junk in full view of the world. Would anyone want this stuff? What if no one comes? At first it was slow but in the end we took in 100 dollars--most of that was one transaction with one woman who bought a ton of stuff for fifty dollars, she and I spent 30 minutes on negotiations. I could tell the minute she got out of her car, she was here to buy. She was from Africa, her name was Marthe and she drove a hard bargain as she spoke with Dennis in french. We had a good time together.
Most of our neighbors came over, it was fun. I got to know Flora and Carol who came down and bought more than they thought they would. We had cassette tapes that I wasn't putting out on the sale tables because I didn't think anyone would want them. Carol came over specifically looking for some, so I got our box from the garage and she picked through them. I have a tape system that would allow for a CD walkman style player to play through a car cassette stereo, when I find it, I could give it to Carol, she's just down the street. Dennis took the items that Flora bought and carried them down the street to her house. We talked for an hour with Henry across the street and later his son came over to talk to Dennis about a summer job. Shirley next door joked with me that she had too much junk of her own, so she can't came over to shop our sale. Heather and her kids came over, she and her husband had just moved in a few days ago and needed furniture.

Most of the stuff we sold was stuff that we had gotten for free. I sold a bunch of cups with the Naval Reserve logo on them that Dennis used to give away in his recruiting days. The sewing machine came from a neighbor who really didn't have room for it when she was moving and the entertainment armoire came from another neighbor who stored it in his garage and gave it to Dennis who expressed admiration for it. I sold both of those items for fifty dollars. Even the dog carrier was given to us by friends who never used it--I sold it for 10 dollars.

It was so much fun, Dennis wants to do this again. I am not so sure. Our house is still in chaos from removing furniture from it and dirt tracked in from the basement and the garage. So our unsold junk is still sitting in our garage waiting for another sale in a few weeks. My question is if it is worth it. Our neighbors came over and that was great, would they come back? We had at one point, a minor traffic jam around noon time and a couple of near car accidents. The postman was really mad when I saw him, so I went up to him and he told me he had almost gotten hit and that he was having a hard time getting to the mail boxes. I apologized and soothed his ruffled feathers as much as possible--he was much calmer when he left. No one thinks about the postman in planning neighborhood events.

Which got me thinking about organizing a block party potluck. Everyone seems friendly here and probably would love the chance to talk more and eat together. We could close down the street on a Sunday and put out tables in the middle for the food. Maybe organize games for the kids at the grade school a block away. I remember these events as a kid and loved them--especially when the dads played baseball with the kids. I know of a few people to talk to--Flora, Harleen and Jennifer--the long time residents and ask what they think.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Gollum's Song

I read The Hobbit when I was in fourth grade, and read the Lord of the Rings the summer before fifth grade. As much as I liked Frodo and Sam, Gollum/Smeagal made a bigger impression on me. I wanted Smeagal to win over Gollum, and finished reading all of those books just because I wanted to know what happened to him.

I re-read the stories later in high school, because the seniors were doing a theater production of The Hobbit, and so everyone was really into Tolkien for a good long while. The play was awesome, and I wanted to get involved in stage management and behind the scenes type work with future drama productions because of it.

Gollum was sinister, and it astonished me that there was a better part of him that had been buried down deep inside of him, even after being such an enemy of all what was good, that Frodo had managed to bring out of him, despite Sam's protests. Frodo made a mistake in betraying him, and because of his unforgiveness and misunderstanding Frodo's intentions, Gollum basically took over Smeagal. Even as a ten year old, I understood the fragility of relationships and trust through the story. It really drew me in.

Now, as an older person, I am in awe at how Tolkien had created such a masterpiece, especially through unforgettable and unique characters such as Gollum, Gimli, Gandalf (he felt familiar to me) and Bilbo. And the ups and downs of friendships.

Enjoy the video.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Yard Sale Blues, the Count Down Begins...

It's three days before the garage sale. I just called in the ad for the classifieds, so it will be running starting tomorrow through Saturday morning. And we are in the cleaning stage of preparing our junk, er, I mean, merchandise to make it saleable. I found out that Volunteers of America will be in the area tomorrow to pick up stuff to help homeless people, disabled people and others in need.


Something to discuss with Dennis. I looked over the list of what they need, and see that we could donate quite a bit. It might mean less profitability for us. But in what I know about God's heart, this is an opportunity to be involved in more than trying to raise up money just for our entertainment.

I will make sure that the items I listed in the ad will be available for sale on Saturday. But there is a lot that I didn't mention. Like my teapots. I decided to part with at least two of them, maybe a third. So, the charity can have those. We have a lot of blankets and afghans. Those should be helpful to the charity.

As for my newlywed dishes, I put them back in the cupboard. I decided that chips and cracks and mismatched pieces is my way to go against the consumerism that is prominient in this culture--actually, a badge of pride, not shame. When I told Dennis about it, he sighed with relief. "Honey, I'm glad, because I really like those dishes."
Well, time for me to get back to work. Anyone want a toilet seat cover with a big frog on it? Come on over! The price is right!

Yard Sale Blues, continued...

It's early in the morning and we're exhausted. We spent the better part of the day cleaning out our basement and storage shed in the backyard to find things to sell. And boy, we found things to sell...

It's all in our garage now, waiting to be cleaned, arranged and priced. I'm not looking forward to the process. The trick is to make this stuff not look like junk. In our newspaper ad, "antique" will be used twice. That's twice, people. We have an antique 1900's car trunk that my mom gave me and a circa 1920's sewing machine some neighbors gave us for helping them out. Free stuff. Now, we are going to collect on their room and board and transportation all over the country. Dennis is teaching me the value of a dollar.

I also found things that I haven't seen in many years. Sentimental things that should have not been regulated to the damp, dark corners of our basement. But we never had a basement before, so this is something we learned about. When you have a basement, it is easy to toss things down there and forget they ever existed.

After five years, it gets scary. Really scary. You don't want to do down there. You and your spouse make plans to do some deep organizing in the frightening, musty basement and it is hopeless. A lost, lost cause. Meanwhile, the junk buried the things of value--the treasure of our lives. And, everytime there is a tornado warning, you realize that the instructions to get to the lower part of the house you can't follow because of all the crap that is preventing you from possibly saving your own life.

The garage sale motivated us to real action on the problem. We both sorted, discussed and negotiated during the process. Wonderful but hard won lessons on marital communication in one day. We learned a lot about each other. For instance, I learned that Hubby thinks much deeper on that practical level than I do. He knows what other men (of a certain age) are looking at when they look at junk. They are looking at cannabalizing for parts. What what they need to complete a project they've had on hold for years because there is a lack of the right part.

This is a revelation to me. It's a whole new wide world, I see something that I've never seen before. I haven't felt this way in years. And to think I have been living with this person for nearly eighteen years. He's amazing! He's like... MacGyver! You know, the guy who could make a bomb out of three random things in a room and solve any problem in two minutes flat with contructing exactly the right tool out of three random things in a room. Or, like...Indiana Jones! You know, the resourceful guy who know how to survive against impossible odds with a whip, leather jacket and a hat.

Well, maybe I am exaggerating...but I definately have a newfound appreciation for Dennis. We have gotten a lot closer through the dirty and daunting job of cleaning the basement. Who knew that the best thing for a marriage was to roll up our sleeves and work on a difficult job?

In addition, our home feels great. It's like it lost weight. I open a cupboard and it isn't stuffed with several unneccessary items. My clothes closet is well ordered and it's a breeze to get ready for my day every day. My bookshelves contain orderly rows of books that I truly value and enjoy. I open my linen closet and I have just what I need, nothing more. And our basement has been cleared of 75% of the junk clogging it up. It is able to function now. I'm pretty excited at future possibilities at the open space in the basement. A ping pong table? Exercise room?

The pricing story is still ongoing.

We own one tv and want to sell it. I am excited at the idea of raising enough money to replace it with a modest sized flat screen. Less clutter. Another good way to streamline a small, tight space in our family room. But we have to sell enough stuff at the right prices to afford it.

And a part of me that tends to be a little complex questions this whole endeavor of working so hard for a so obvious materialistic gain. A technological one, at that. We will not lie, we enjoy a little tv a few nights a week and we watch about two dvd's on weekends (we don't go out to movies but once every two months). What's wrong with the perfectly good tv we bought six years ago? And the used entertainment armoire our neighbor gave us for free? Sure, the doors are broken, but we don't use them anyway.

We've resisted XM satellite radio even though Dylan has a wonderful program. And ipods--we haven't jumped on the mp3 bandwagon, as tempting as it seems. All of a sudden, my CD player feels bulky and having to handle CD's seems awkward and clumsy. I forgot all about cassette tapes until we uncovered them in the basement. Some of them when I played them were squeeky and warped. Some of them are still quite good. I'm looking forward to re-discovering sermons from churches we once attended, worship music from the 70's, 80's and 90's and maybe, just maybe, get a better perspective on the high priced tech "toys" that I'm supposed to be able not live without in the 2000's.

So, I still have a lot of questions as we undertake the yard/garage sale (depending on weather). I am wondering what God's logic might be and what His heart would be about the matter of why we are doing all of this.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Yard Sale Blues

Our sale is next weekend, and I'm nearly done clearing out the junk in our home. It's out in the open, now, where I can see it instead of hiding in closets and cabinets. But this is the obvious junk. Not the insidious unneccessary items that I still place value on but clutter up our home.

For instance: How many teapots must a woman have?

First, there is the plain white little teapot I've had since forever that I've often used. Later, when I had saved some money, I bought a fancier, bigger teapot for women's bible studies that used to meet at my home. Then a friend gave me a really pretty one (which taught me a lesson--if I had waited a little longer, God provided a teapot for me). Dennis noticed that, boy, his wife sure likes tea and teapots, and gave me one for Christmas many years ago. Then, to top it all off, I saw a cute bunny teapot for only five dollars, and who could pass up a deal like that? So, as my teapot collection went up, my penchant for just microwaving my mug of water for tea also went up. When I just had one little teapot, I used it because I didn't have to make a decision about which favorite teapot to use. Now, having tea is too complicated.

Here's my chance to simplify, and I am having a crisis. I can't decide which one to keep, which ones to sell. There are fond memories with each one, a hard decision. So, this week, I'm going to be brewing a lot of tea to see which teapot makes the cut. Another option is to give a couple of them away to friends.

Another case in point, when we were newlyweds, we needed dishes for everyday use. I saw a sale at Target for a set that was the right style with eight place five piece settings for only 25 dollars, which was a huge sum for me back then. Almost eighteen years later, that set is chipped and several pieces have gone missing or broke. I think we got our money's worth. But when I look at the battered earthenware, I think of all the meals served on those plates, and all the friends and family that ate from them. Just sitting there on the dining room table ready to be moved into the garage for the sale, I see just how well that set just belongs there and how I'll never find another like it.

Another crisis! Worse than the teapot one!

I am going crazy between schemes to keep the dishes (find another pattern that co-ordinates, mismatched sets are shabby chic, new dishes are expensive) and desires to get rid of them (cutesy country is passe`, look at those chips, aren't you tired of them already?, these are pretty cheap looking). I've decided to work out a compromise between my thrifty nature and my tendency to like new things. I'll probably retain four place settings of the old and then find a plain new set with a matching color. I have additional extraneous dishes that I plan to give to friends.

And this is just a few of the decisions that I have to make in the next 6 days. It will be a long week.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

You Are Not Your Own

Real men live for Christ. Real women, too.

Property of Jesus

Go ahead and talk about him because he makes you doubt,
Because he has denied himself the things that you can't live without.
Laugh at him behind his back just like the others do,
Remind him of what he used to be when he comes walkin' through.

He's the property of Jesus
Resent him to the bone
You got something better
You've got a heart of stone

Stop your conversation when he passes on the street,
Hope he falls upon himself, oh, won't that be sweet
Because he can't be exploited by superstition anymore
Because he can't be bribed or bought by the things that you adore.

He's the property of Jesus
Resent him to the bone
You got something better
You've got a heart of stone

When the whip that's keeping you in line doesn't make him jump,
Say he's hard-of-hearin', say that he's a chump.
Say he's out of step with reality as you try to test his nerve
Because he doesn't pay no tribute to the king that you serve.

He's the property of Jesus
Resent him to the bone
You got something better
You've got a heart of stone

Say that he's a loser 'cause he got no common sense
Because he don't increase his worth at someone else's expense.
Because he's not afraid of trying, 'cause he don't look at you and smile,
'Cause he doesn't tell you jokes or fairy tales, say he's got no style.

He's the property of Jesus
Resent him to the bone
You got something better
You've got a heart of stone

You can laugh at salvation, you can play Olympic games,
You think that when you rest at last you'll go back from where you came.
But you've picked up quite a story and you've changed since the womb.
What happened to the real you, you've been captured but by whom?

He's the property of Jesus
Resent him to the bone
You got something better
You've got a heart of stone
--Bob Dylan

Let Your Mind Dwell On These Things, Part II

When I was in college, the Navigator group that I was involved with memorized two hymns in my junior year. "Be Thou My Vision" and "Crown Him With Many Crowns" were the first hymns I sang without having to use the hymn book. Inspired by this, I "borrowed" a hymn book from church (I returned it a few weeks later) and wrote down all the lyrics to all my favorite hymns to memorize. A few months later, when I hard cold, hard cash in my pocket--a precious sum of 20 bucks, I bought a hymnbook to use during my quiet time worship, sometimes playing my flute.

The next year, I hurt my back one summer while grafting apple trees. It was a major source of my income to pay college tuition, plus a bonus in the spring according to how many of my trees survived the winter. I always did well, but God was teaching me to rely on Him. So, I went back to campus early to find a job before the fall semester started. I got a job as a parking ticketer on campus. Which meant walking through several lots and parking garages by myself. It was mind numbingly boring but one of the highest paid jobs around. I wasn't allowed to wear a walkman, so I sang my mental hymn book while on the job. Since I had several hours of monitoring lots, I had to increase my repertoire to fill in the time. My all time favorite was "How Firm A Foundation".

How firm a foundation, you saints of the Lord

Is laid for your faith in His excellent Word.

What more can He say than to you He hath said

To you who for refuge to Jesus have fled?

"Fear not I am with thee, O be not dismayed,

For I am thy God, and will still give thee aid;

I'll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand,

Upheld by My righteous, omnipotent hand.

"When through the deep waters I call thee to go

The rivers of sorrow shall not overflow;

For I will be with thee, thy troubles to bless,

And sanctify to thee thy deepest distress.

"When through fiery trials thy pathway shall lie,

My grace all sufficient, shall be thy supply;

The flame shall not hurt thee; I only design

Thy dross to consume, and thy gold to refine.

"The soul that on Jesus hath leaned for repose,

I will not, I will not desert to his foes;

That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,

I'll never, no never, no never forsake!"

Later that winter, I babysat for a couple so that they could attend bible study on Friday nights at our church and then go out for coffee afterward for their date night. It was easy, their boys were already in bed and I could sit at the kitchen table and study and drink tea if I wished. I noticed that Jenny had a hymnal opened in a cookbook stand by the kitchen sink to "How Great Thou Art". It reminded me of a quote I read about Ruth Graham Bell, Billy Graham's wife, of how she got through raising a bunch of kids while her husband was always on the road by having a bible open in every room of the house where she was most likely to see it and be able to get a short reading in while getting stuff done, like washing dishes, folding laundry or changing diapers. Jenny and Ruth showed me that no matter what, if you are committed, there is always a way to enjoy God's fellowship and His Word.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Let Your Mind Dwell On These Things

"Finally brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence or if anything worthy of praise, let your mind dwell on these things." Philippians 4:8

In college, I learned from a friend, Serena, who was discipling me how to memorize Scripture. At first, I breezed right through the first part of the Topical Memory System within a few weeks. It took me almost 3 years to finish the remaining 30 verses. That meant 10 verses a year, and then keeping up with reviewing the ones I already memorized. I agonized that it took me so long to get what took most people about 6 months to finish. It's been 25 years, and I still have them word perfect. I think that is good retention.

I was also learning how to meditate on God's Word. There are different methods, including using music. I memorized and meditated on Proverbs 3:1-4 with my very own melody about 20 years ago. It'll never make the top 40, but I can still sing it. During quiet times, I still "chew" on God's Word using personalization, visualization, repetative emphasis, questions and my personal favorite, the Loyola method. The Loyola method was invented by a Catholic monk to use all of your senses in placing yourself in the Bible story that you are reading. I walk my women's groups through it when we study the Book of Ruth, and they don't even know it.

My life has changed a lot over the years. But the verses in my heart have remained the same, and often the Holy Spirit comforts me with them during times of stress. It's more than head knowledge to me, it's about experiencing God's presence during the times that I review the verses. Sometimes, people and places come back to me as I review them as well. There is that verse I memorized on Kamiak Butte during a time alone with God. There are those verses that Krista checked me on as we walked on the Washington State University campus, the verses I memorized while pouring out my heart to God in my car as a single woman in Seattle, the verse that I memorized on the plane home after Dennis proposed to me...on the path going up the side of the hill I walked the way home from work, a feild dotted with blue bachelor button flowers...on the path by Monterey Bay Aquarium...the trail in the park by the Chatahoochee River...the Cherry Creek Reservoir...with Keiko on a walk a few summers the coffee shop a mile from my house. When we were single, Dennis had the audacity to take the cards of whatever I was memorizing and make me repeat it back for him. I was embarassed at how slow I was to get them right. He married me anyway.

I've stopped worrying about how long it takes for me to go through the process. I've been learning to enjoy the journey of Scripture memory and meditation, because wherever I am, He meets me at the same spot: in His home, my heart.