Wednesday, October 31, 2012

1000 gifts: joy strewn on the path

Continuing my list of gifts, blessings that I write down to remember all the wonderful things that God gives me along life's journey. I write these down on my calendar, and when I get a chance I add them here to my blog. These are all blessings are from October, 2012.

528. Joy strewn on my path
From Jesus Calling devotional, by Sarah Young
"Some days joy is generously strewn along your life path, glistening in the sunlight. On days like that, being content is as simple as breathing the next breath or taking the next step.

"Other days are overcast and gloomy; you feel the strain of the journey which seems endless. Dully gray rocks greet your gaze and cause your feet to ache. Yet joy is still attainable. Search for it as for hidden treasure [my theme: Seek Him!].

 "Begin by remembering that I have created this day; it is not a chance occurrence. Recall that I am present with you whether you sense my presence or not. Then, start talking with Me about whatever is on your mind. Rejoice in the face that I understand you perfectly, and I know exactly what you are experiencing. As you continue communicating with Me, your mood will gradually lighten. Awareness of My companionship can infuse joy into the grayest day."

529.  Helen's prayers
Helen is from Kenya and she does housework for one of my friends. She prays through the house as she works. She loves to pray; she considers it her gift. After meeting me, she asked if she could pray for me and my friend D., who had been hospitalized for bipolar, and was separated from her children. Her praying was so energetic and imploring; I wondered how she could not be breathless at the end of it! and I loved how she called on many different names of the Lord: Jehovah-Rovi (shepherd), Jehovah-Rapha (healer), Jehovah-Jireh (provider), Adonai, El-Shaddai. About a week after Helen's amazing prayer, I called D. and was thrilled to hear she was home from the hospital and sounding like herself again.

530. Reasoning, kid-style
One day I heard the kids yelling at each other upstairs. I called out "Hey, what are you guys fighting about up there?"  Blaze answered: "we are not fighting, we are reasoning."

531. Unusual pumpkin decorations
Our school always gives every kid a pumpkin every year, but it was too soon to carve the pumpkins, so I let the kids draw all over the pumpkins instead, and someone had given us some stick-in face pieces for pumpkins. Apparently that wasn't enough though, because one day I came home to find all four pumpkins stuck full of toothpicks.

532. Six snowmen
We got a big wet fall snowfall one Saturday morning, at least six inches of snow, and perfect for building snowmen. The girls rolled no less than six snowmen, some of them quite big! But by noon all six snowmen were gone - the day warmed up too quickly.

533. Ballet and zombies
Mom took me, Blaze and Dreamer to see the Sleeping Beauty ballet in Denver. My favorite ballet and such an elegant, classic experience! After the ballet was over, we walked through downtown to 16th St which is the heart of downtown shopping and restaurants, hoping to find a nice place to eat. Instead, we walked smack into the middle of a  zombie crawl - thousands of people dressed up in zombies walking down the blocked off street. What a contrast to the elegant ballet!

534. Steampunk Dracula
A friend of mine invited me to a local performance of Dracula which had some fun steampunk twists to it, with things like Mina communicating with Jonathan via a steam-powered iPads.

535. Waking up early to put costumes on
The girls were so excited about wearing their costumes to school on Halloween, they all woke up a half hour early at 6:30 to get ready! Blaze was a leopard, Dreamer was Batgirl, Starlet and Serious were Indian princesses (a costume I always wanted when I was a kid - I did get moccasins but never the full outfit).

536. Monster ducks under the pillow
At one house the girls trick-or-treated at, the family handed out rubber duckies - except these were monster versions of ducks with three pop-eyes or antennae. The day after Halloween, I discovered the twins had stashed their monster ducks under their pillows while the slept. I wonder what kind of dreams they had (smile).

537. Praise even when disappointed
From Jesus Calling devotional by Sarah Young:  "The best response to losses or thwarted hopes is praise. Remember that all good things - your possessions, your family and friends, your health and abilities, your time - are gifts from Me. Instead of feeling entitled to all these blessings, hold on them loosely, with gratitude." 

This has been such a year of blessings for me and I am so full of praise. There have been hard parts: my father's progressively worsening Parkinson's disease and B.'s mother's struggle with cancer. Need to continue praising through good times and bad.

538. Lost eight pounds.
Loving my Overeaters Anonymous meetings, and starting to feel comfortable texting C. and L. during the week for additional encouragement. Discovered they are both born-again believers. And C. is also a writer and planning to do NaNoWriMo in November!

539. Listening to others with God's insight
From Jesus Calling devotional, by Sarah Young. "Listen to Me even while you are listening to other people. You need the help of My spirit to respond appropriately. If you respond to others' needs through your unaided thought, you are offering them dry crumbs. When the Spirit empowers your listening and speaking, My streams of living water flow through you to other people."

Oh that I could remember to do this for God and for others more!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Unclear lines in marriage

What do you do when you want out of your marriage? If you think you made a terrible mistake, married for the wrong reasons, or married someone and discover you have differences you can't live with? 

Like, for example, you knew when you got married that he drank once in a while, then come to find out he drinks all the time. 

Or you knew when he got married that he had bad credit, but thought it was as a result of just one mistake or issue, and then come to find out he is  a chronic over-spender? 

Or, another really devastating discovery: come to find out he's emotionally attached to another woman, even though he claims he's not having an affair. You confront him about her, but he insists she's just a friend, and won't give her up.

I faced one of these scenarios shortly after getting married, 13 years ago. I thought I made a terrible mistake. The good news is, we are still married, and more in love than I could have dreamed back then. The hard new is, it was hard. Sometimes it's still hard. He still has issues. I still have issues. The "big problem" is STILL a big problem. I wish could say that it goes away; that after faithfully praying, and trusting God, God delivered us.

In a way, I suppose he did deliver us, but not by taking the problem away. He did it by taking us THROUGH the problem. We're still going through, though the tunnel has gotten lighter and less scary.

But there were moments when I wanted out. It was too much. It was too hard and it hurt, and things got darker, not lighter. 

I have been thinking lately about unclear lines. The Bible is very clear about divorce; God hates divorce. But what about separation? Or what about intervention? When do you resort to these drastic measures?

A strong emotional attachment can lead to an actual affair. But there are degrees of attachment. The other woman might be an emotional crutch, someone to lean on during a hard time because he hasn't learned yet to lean on his wife or things are currently too hard in the marriage to lean on each other, but otherwise he has little interaction with the other woman. How do you determine where "the line" is crossed? When you should go from praying (and maybe asking a few other trusted friends to pray with you) about the matter to seeking active help (such as intervention)?
How do you tell the unclear line between a man who is making unwise and selfish financial decisions, to when it has reached this point in 1 Tim 5:8 where "Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever"?

I think we need to pray very hard over these unclear lines. Too often our own hurt gets in the way, clouding our judgment. "Well, his unwise financial choices have hurt me"or "when he sends texts to this woman, how can I trust him?" The "me" and the "I" get mixed in there and make us so hurt and angry that we want to push him over "the line". 

I think, if we honestly and humbly pose these questions to God, He will answer us. "God, has he crossed the line? I will keep praying for him, for us, but in the meantime should I do something else? Should I seek help/intervention for him, for us? Is there something I need to change about myself first?"  

You know a change is needed in him, but we can't force that change. Many times even with intervention other people can't change him. That leaves two options: leave him or stay and trust God to change him (and often while you are trusting and waiting, God changes you too in the process).

Of course this is all very easy to write about, but very hard to do. It is really amazing sometimes when we are hurt very bad how HARD it is to pray, how anger chokes all thoughts of prayer right out of us or makes us feel our prayers are utterly ineffectual. Satan is out to destroy marriages, and he will deceive you to think it's a waste of time to pray. Or why should you pray when obviously he isn't? 

Sometimes Satan might even get you to think prayer just makes things worse. Have you ever prayed about a tough situation and things seem to get worse before they get better? You have to keep going THROUGH the darkness before you see the light at the end of the tunnel.  

The most important thing of all is to remember that you, yourself, YOU can't do this. Jesus can, if you give it to him. Sometimes you need to come to the most basic prayers of all, "Help me!"  "Make me willing to be willing to pray." "I can't keep going. Pick me up and carry me the rest of the way."

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Tea with my mother

Had a wonderful talk with my mom over tea, out in the backyard (in our jackets - a bit chilly but sunny). The girls raked up piles of leaves to jump in, when they got bored they went inside to watch cartoons. But we stayed outside, Mom sharing lots of memories of her father and her childhood; I tried to remember some. I've been after mom to finish her father's biography she started years ago; I also want her to write her own biography. But in the mean time, I'm capturing as many memories as possible. This blog serves as my own autobiography of sorts, and I hope my children will someday treasure memories of their grandmother too. I know I treasure my grandmother's autobiography (Alfaretta) and wish I had captured more details about my other grandmother's life before she died (Gladys).

Mom remembers during World War II, her dad bringing home balloon cloth from his work at Goodyear, wrapped around his waist and covered by his clothes (because they weren't supposed to take it). Her mom would use it to make sheets, pillowcases, aprons. Mom remembers giving an embroidered aprons as gifts when invited to  birthday parties. One girl received no less than 4 aprons as gifts once. Mom does not like aprons to this day. Her older sisters taught her to embroider.

Her dad was allowed a gasoline ration to drive to work since his job at Goodyear was considered war-essential. He would pick anybody walking along the road to take them into town. He had a big drum that would get filled with gasoline, which he had to provide gas coupons to get; there were few gas stations.

Once one of her dad's friends showed him his "hoard" where he kept a large supply of black market items, sugar and make-up and other hard-to-come-by things. The man told her dad to take anything he needed since he knew they had a large family, but he wouldn't take anything because he disapproved of the black market. 

There was a fire in the part of the house that is now the apartment when Mom was fourteen and her mother was pregnant. Though the fire never reached the main house, it did fill up with smoke, and there was a lot of smoke damage. The first thing her mom grabbed to take out of the house was a radio phonograph that her dad had won in a contest for inventive ideas. Her mom miscarried possibly due to the strain of carrying things out of the house.

Mom remembers her dad giving her an idea for one of her classes, that to transfer goods from the port of Cleveland to outlying towns a huge conveyor belt could be built raised above the ground like an elevated train.