Friday, June 27, 2014

The Gospel According to HGTV

I don't know about you, but I'm exhausted!

In the past three weeks I have flipped houses, salvaged barn doors, purchased real estate in Curacao, and refurbished a burned-out Victorian house in Minnesota. Not to mention perfecting the poached egg, learning everything I didn't know that I needed to know about food trucks across the country, and challenging Bobby Flay in Iron Chef America. I have saved restaurants from certain closure and hung on until the final round of Chopped! I feel so...empowered!

It is now three weeks and one day since my foot surgery. The first week was a blur. The second week was spent getting used to navigating the walker and adjusting to life on my blue-striped island in the family room. But the third week, well now that has been spent visiting with friends, dining on their food, (I am so blessed that I have friends who can cook, I mean these ladies can COOK!) and surfing the web and the networks.

Since most daytime tv is created, I am sure, for people waiting to check in with their parole officer, I have relied mostly on silence. Honestly, that's my favorite sound. I am a HUGE "Be still and know" (Psalm 46:10) fan. I love the peace that silence brings. The clarity that waits between ticks of the clock and the slow, low melody of the wind chimes on the back porch. God speaks volumes to me during these times and I covet them when I am doing my usual "running around." But sometimes the silence is a little too loud. Especially when your brain needs to be distracted from thinking about your foot. So enter channel 229 on your DirecTv remote and hallelujah! Background noise that you can almost always glance up at and not be repulsed!

Between HGTV, diy, and the Food, and Cooking channels, I have no loss for projects, ideas, and inspiration. I am ready to hit the flea markets for old, beat-up bookcases and stop by Home Depot on the way home for a can of miracle spray paint. While I'm out I'll go by the store for a list of mystery ingredients and come home and prepare the BEST MEAL EVER. And as for one of those "fixer-uppers" I pass on the way- I'm going to gut it, restore all the woodwork to its former glory, and rent it for a ridiculous sum of money to a family that can't decide whether to Love it or List It. Why? Because these people whom I do not know have told me that I can!

After watching these shows I am firmly convinced that, if they can do it, I can do it. After all, we are all human, right? We own power tools. We have access to Home Depot and Lowes. I own both sharp knives and a whisk. Why can't I conquer the afternoon with a few projects and dinner. Served on trendy plates. I watch, I take notes, I nod in approval. Then I get up, employ my walker into the kitchen, and see myself in the reflection of the mirror in my still unfinished bathroom. Oh yeah. I'm still me. I still can't decide on the light fixture I want. After two years.

If I lived on one of these shows I'd hop into my beat-up pickup truck and go to the local salvage store and get one for $35 that is old and has character and fair wiring. I'd get home and know which breaker to shut off and get it all spiffy-looking and hang it and be pleased. But I don't live on a show, I live in the real world. And so do we all. They make it look so easy.

Of course, my blog wouldn't be my blog without tying this in to my Christian walk. My faith. My life. So I go the step further and wonder if I make life look too easy for my non-Christian friends. Do I make it look like, because I believe and know that I will join my Savior in heaven one day and that my sins are forgiven and that I have the power of the Holy Spirit living in me, that my life is as easy as a crème brulee prepared in a convection oven in Gordon Ramsay's kitchen?

Was my salvation experience like flipping a house? Out with the old, in with the new. My value increased just because my self decreased? Easy as that? Have I made being a follower of the only One sent to live a sinless life, die on a cross in substitution for my sins, rise from the dead, appear to multitudes, and ascend into heaven and promise to return to us to join with us for eternity--have I made that sound too easy? Have I made it look too easy?

Oh- have I been guilty of falsely inspiring people and leading them to believe that life would be a bed of roses and that they would never need to be weeded, would never thirst, and would never wither?

I want to live life to the fullest, but I also want to be real. I want to show that I am weak and vulnerable and subject to all of the things that everyone else is subject to and I do not have all the answers; I just have one answer and that is Jesus. (John 14:6)

Please, Lord, let my flaws be examples of your love and forgiveness. Let people see the imperfections in me like the ones in the old wood in the Victorian home. And let me lead them to the only One Who can fully restore, fully rehabilitate, and always make new. And let us all know the difference between reality tv and reality.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

So in my last entry I warned that I am " a little on edge." Truth be told, I am a lot on edge.

I have never been one of those "emotional people." I learned how to build walls at an early age and I've become pretty good at it. I'm not bragging; that's nothing to brag about. It's weird when other people cry at movies or songs or Folger's commercials and you are the one wondering about the staging or the marketing concept behind a young man returning from college and fairly-well breaking and entering and no one hearing him except the baby sister. These people must sleep like rocks. And what about the dog? Not even a woof. Oh yes, you remind yourself, I'm supposed to be misty-eyed right now and rushing to the kitchen for a cup of emotion.

Can I add that, along with a degree in Personal Masonry, I minored in Sarcasm and Cynicism?

Long ago a good friend (who is much like me when it comes to All Things Emotional) and I went to see "Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band." I said it was a long time ago. Don't ask me why we went; it was the '70s and if that's all I have to regret I'm doing pretty well. (Instead ask why they had to make a movie with the Bee Gees in the first place.) There was a scene in the movie where the obligatory love interest had died and they were having the funeral. Complete with the coffin scene. A glass coffin. Peter Frampton singing to Strawberry Fields. And she's a girl and she's in a glass coffin. I am not lying. Look it up on imdb . I did, to make sure I was remembering correctly. As they picked up the coffin and the inappropriate music swelled, my friend and I both noticed that the actress's head slid, ever so slightly, to the end of the coffin. That was all it took. We didn't even need to discuss it. We didn't need to look at each other to know we had seen it. So in the middle of the theater, surrounded by overly-emotional teenage girls, we began to laugh. We could not stop. You couldn't have stopped us if you had tried, and a few people did. (By the way, "shushing" people only makes them laugh more.) If you are reading this and if you were in that theater, I still do NOT apologize. It was a stupid scene with bad actors and, for heaven's sake, a glass coffin.

So to find myself becoming teary-eyed lately has left me shocked, curious, and a little annoyed. What in the world is happening to me? I would blame it on the pain meds or just the pain: after all, it's as though someone took a ball peen hammer to my foot, then wrapped it in scratchy gauze and an ace wrap and then kept hitting it and sticking it with pins. Yeah, there's pain. But no, I was getting this way about a week before the surgery.

I remember driving through the Poconos with my husband last month, and not being able to take a whole breath because the Brooklyn Tab choir (pumping through my husband's new speakers) was singing like it was already in heaven. I was overcome with joy and love and gratitude and all of the emotions and all I wanted to do was...cry.

It was at that moment that I started thinking about the things that do touch me. The moments that Break Through. So here they are. The stuff that causes Darth Vader to choke up. That makes Clint Eastwood blink. And wipe his eyes. They may mean nothing to you, but they do to me. Feel free to add your own "joys" in the comments. Open up. Let's see where this goes...

(these are most certainly not in any particular order; so don't judge me if some "salvation subject" is listed under "watching kittens play." Just an example)

1. Birds Yes, birds. Most everything about them. But mostly the fact that, when God made them, He could have just stopped with making one. Or for that matter He didn't even have to make one. But He did and then He made more, in different colors, shapes, sizes and to do different things. Then He gave them SONGS! Of all things- I mean they already have feathers and they can fly, but they also can...SING! And don't they just sing their little hearts out? Of course they do. Maybe they are thanking Him for letting them sing. I know I am.

2. Flowers For basically the same reason as the birds. No, not the song. I'm not on that much medicine. I mean the vast, immeasurable variety of flowers and plants that God filled this soil with. Stop and think about it because you should- He made them all and so different and so beautiful...just because He could. If that doesn't make you grateful, dear heart, you are not reading this in the way it was intended and you're not thinking of Him the way He wants you to.
Jesus Himself said that, unless we saw signs and wonders, we would never believe. (John 4:48) So here we are. Surrounded by signs and wonders, yet we overlook them. Don't overlook them- take a moment (or the rest of your life) and give God the attention that He deserves.

3. Mountains I grew up in a coastal area. Some of my earliest memories are of going to the beach. As soon as I was able to drive myself, I spent as much time at the beach as possible. But not because I loved it. I mean, it's beautiful and I appreciate God's handiwork and His might and the power of His hand in creating something as huge as the Atlantic Ocean (as well as the others), but it does not cause me to...well up inside. The beach was just the Thing to Do.  But the mountains. I cannot even grasp what happens to my heart when I am in the mountains. Even the first glimpse of the first rise and my eyes begin to fill up with the tears like the tears you get when you see a good friend after a long, long time. I think of His hand guiding and perfecting the ridges and the valleys and the peaks. I stare and try to grasp the courage of my ancestors pulling and tugging and dragging their heavy loads of meager belongings through these hills to eke out their living and their livelihood while trying to survive. No matter the season. No matter the weather or the view-- they are one of the few things on earth that I have trouble grasping that I am worthy of looking upon. One day I will see mountains through clear eyes, but for now, my eyes are always filled with tears.

Finally I am moving away from nature before I have to have some oxygen delivered to this house.
4. Prayer  I'm not really referring to my own prayers right now; I'm talking about the prayers of others. I've spoken about this before. The kind of prayer that...hushes you. The kind where you know that the person is revealing the way they converse with the God of all. The very One Who created everything is listening and speaking back to this person and you are blessed enough to hear it and to come alongside and join in it. It is personal and private and precious. And then one step further, that puts me over the edge, is when it is done on my behalf. The very thought that someone would take the most valued private time with our Savior and use that time to utter my name to Him is the most humbling feeling that comes into my heart. I am never ungrateful and never untouched by that. Hopefully I am never unchanged by it, either.

5. America  I am about as patriotic as you can get. I love American history. I love being a native Virginian. And again, I mean I love it to the point of tears when I stand on the lawn in front of George Wythe's house. When I sing the National Anthem. When I put out our flag. My husband and I may not have met but for the fact that both of our fathers stayed here in this area after having been stationed here during WWII. We may not have married were it not for the fact that we passed each other's Favorite President Test while dating. Yes, it was and still is THAT important. Never mind how many kids you think you'll want or if you like to go to the movies or if you leave the toothpaste cap off...who was your favorite president and why and what part of the Revolution was the turning point for you and for goodness sake please don't say that Plymouth had the first Thanksgiving or I will have to get out of the car right now!!! Yep. This country and all it stood for and what it still tries to stand for will bring me to tears every. single. time. And I am proud of it.

6. Goodbyes  I am horrible at goodbyes. I do not do it well, I do not do it pretty, so I avoid doing it at all costs. I am so bad at goodbyes that I want no more pets. Not even a goldfish. I dread the times that I know that friends are moving and I try (and now the secret is out) to plan something that will make it impossible for me to attend the farewell. I cry and become overwhelmed and cry more and look awful and never, ever, say the things I want to say because I can't get the words out because I am crying. I would much rather write the note and leave it on the gift table before the party. And slip away and cry like a baby because I just can't bear the thought.

7. Answered Prayer  Totally different from the Prayer entry, this is a thing all its own. If you have ever prayed for something specific, then seen that specific prayer answered, you, my friend,  have witnessed a miracle. For it is something only God can do. But this miracle isn't rare. My God answers prayer. All the time. We just need to see His hand in the answer. Sometime it matches up with what we are praying for; sometime it doesn't. But what it always does is right and good and will have everlasting effects. So to have joined with God and to have seen this thing through and to see Him work in a have been Part of It. No words. Only emotion.

8. Seeing the Holy Spirit Move  For my friends who may read this who are not Christian, obviously this is one that is hard to understand. But it happens. And if you know me well enough to be reading this, you know me well enough to trust me. It happened just yesterday, as a matter of fact. I was covered with  grace during an unexpected moment and I was able to conduct myself with that grace and dignity and come out on the other side of it stronger and closer than ever to the Lord Who was with me in the storm. There was a moment yesterday when I experienced the God of the Universe working in my life. In a huge way. In every detail. And that moved me to tears and I am so glad it did.

9. Really Good Music I mentioned the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir earlier. I have to mention them again, as well as many Christian and secular artists. I can be moved to tears by a piece by Mozart or Mannheim Steamroller. I am not going to name all of the artists; there is no need. Just know that both Chris Tomlin and Billy Joel are responsible for my having to keep tissues in my car.

So there you have them. No particular order. Stopped at nine because that's where my thoughts stopped- not forcing a Top Ten or anything like that. Sure, there are other things that, from time to time, will cause me to become a little verklempt, but for the most part these are the things that make my heart fill up and pour out. I would love to know yours.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Don't mess with me right now. I'm a little on edge.

Frankentoe has now become Frankenfoot. I had surgery June 4 to repair, realign, shorten, you name it. Years of pointing my toe in order to reach the gas pedal (you tall people have no idea what I'm talking about) combined with at least a couple of poorly-healed breaks led to some nerve damage that could no longer be ignored. That plus the fact that I had a toe whose bruising caused me to have to change my polish color to purple to match the constant hue of the nail and one that had to be encased in a nylon sheath every time it was stuffed into a shoe. Yeah, my right foot was, as one medical professional put it: "A hot mess."

So now I am looking at several weeks of not putting any weight on it at all. Several weeks of being extremely dependent on others for...most everything.
Ask me which is bothering me more: enduring pain or being a pain? I'll let you answer that.

"But God is faithful. He will not let you be tempted (in this case, tempted to scream 'I have to get up right now and go drive somewhere and get a shower and carry my own coffee!!') beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted He will also provide a way out (in this case the WHOLE INTERNET) so that you can stand up (or lie down) under it." 1 Corinthians 10:13b

And so, those of you who choose to read my mind online, get ready for a few weeks of reflections, opinions, and laughter. It's my hope that as I share my experiences with you, you will become more aware of the work of the Lord in your life, as I am becoming increasingly aware of His work in mine.

 A combination of too much time on my hands, denial that I am really using a walker, and the fact that I never can be satisfied with things that are too generic, led me to decorate my walker. A late Baby Boomer version of Pimp my Ride. There were several ways I could have gone with it, but the style that won out was a cross between Breakfast at Tiffany's and Breakfast at Cracker Barrel. I bought black duct tape and adhesive-backed rhinestones. Then I got busy. The result did exactly what I wanted: it drew attention away from the fact that I am using an appliance for assistance and it made me smile. Hopefully others would smile too.  There was one area that I couldn't really mess with though; a series of hinges which allowed my Sweet Ride to collapse, and the stickers that warned me of eminent danger if I didn't follow directions. Yes, I considered a big old plastic diamond right smack in the middle, but then I thought, "what if it collapses and the insurance company fights my bills because of a plastic diamond?" So the sticker stayed. A week into using the walker I began to think about the wording on the warning label and the way I interpret it.
As most Church Women, I have taught preschool. Yes, I wear that as a Badge of Honor, because nothing is more intimidating than a group of 3 year olds. Wide eyes, short attention spans, and never-ending curiosity all wrapped up in an adorable 33 pound bundle. As simultaneously precious and scary as a baby leopard, you do not want to let them have the upper hand, mostly because they are covered with fuzz, jelly, play-doh, and dirt.
Because these precious tiny hands are constantly moving, I always prepared my kids for prayer by teaching them to close their eyes, put their hands together in their lap, and bow their heads. I tried to eliminate as many distractions as possible so that they could focus on the God that is never distracted from us. I suppose I was ensuring that they were "locked and in place."
I would begin to lead then in prayer in a soft, gentle voice, all the time aware of squirms, wiggles, and the occasional "just get up and walk around and play with trucks and kick things." After all, they're three year-olds!!!
But what about us? Oh, reader, I am right smack in the middle of being prayed for right now by some of the best. I mean THE BEST. Real prayer warriors if there ever were some. I know these people and I know their hearts and I have been in their company when they pray and they lift up prayers that are the kind that make you a little embarrassed, because it's like you're eavesdropping on a conversation between them and God. Because you are.
So again I ask: What about us? How focused are we when we approach the Throne of Grace? Billy Graham once said, "It's not the body's posture, but the heart's attitude that counts when we pray." I know, Rev. Graham. I know.
I do now.
The little one who was up and about and so active was listening to everything I said and sharing his own precious heart. (The others were probably focused on their own fuzzy, sticky fingers) We can be on our knees or in our car or washing dishes and bring our deepest concerns before our God because He only requires our focus, our hearts, to be locked on Him. We add the casual, "I'll pray for you" or click "like" on Facebook and add "Praying" in the comments and go back to looking at our friend's new puppy pictures. Did we pray? Did we? I mean, PRAY?
And then there's the corporate prayer. When we join together as one before the Lord and lift our collective hearts to Him. The Bride of Christ petitioning for His church. How amazing. Unless we are digging through our purse for a mint. Or planning our strategy out of the parking lot and to the restaurant. Or still holding on to bitterness that has no room for grace. Are our prayers focused toward the One we pray to or to the ones who hear us? Are they God-seeking or self-serving? Are they filled with grace and humility? Or are they uttered with an attitude of anger? Be real. But be real with respect. And for the right reasons. And make sure you are locked in and focused, or everything will collapse around you.
There are two other little stickers, one in each corner, that read "PUSH TO RELEASE." Remember, I told you I'm a little on edge.
All it takes is a little push...

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