Monday, June 24, 2013

Finding Home: How Does Your House Reflect You?

I know a person’s home reflects as much about her tastes as it does her place along her journey, but I was hard-pressed to imagine the whimsy that inspired this design. 

I felt as though we had kayaked into a nursery rhyme. “There was an old woman who lived in a shoe. She had so many children she didn't know what to do. . .  Peter, Peter pumpkin eater, had a wife and couldn't keep her. He put her in a pumpkin shell . . . ”  

As we paddled deeper into the cove, I imagined poking the bulging side with a paddle and watching it explode, or unseating it from its foundation and seeing it float away, or maybe bounce along the bank and bob along the water.

There’s no end to the creative endeavors people put into their homes. A quick search of unusual homes offers the following sample:

For the ocean lover—a seashell house.

For the hermit—a house on a rock.

Making home digs deep into the things we value. Whether playful or peaceful, bulging at the seams with friends and family, or silent and austere with meditation, our homes, in part, enable us to use the gifts we have been given.

I've discovered being an HGTV (House Hunters International, yes!) junkie (and yes, I did enter the Dream House contest) helps me to define the things that are important to me in a house at this stage of my journey. (I know, I know. Didn't we just finish renovating a house?) But my husband and I think we have one more in us.

And so, we pack up my father-in-law and scour the countryside for properties. At the end of the day we say: “Okay, we need to eliminate one. Which one will it be?”  Our little game helps us to stay on track, to keep refining and redefining what we've come to value—peace, serenity, and beauty.

Sometimes I feel guilty about enjoying these pleasures.  But when I have guests and they are able to sit by the pool, surrounded by bird-song filled trees, shed their tensions and soak in beauty, I know it is the gift I have been given.

So come on by. Once you make it past the initial canine chaos at the front door, I guarantee a relaxing afternoon. And maybe, if that HGTV van comes along with my winnings—we’ll move on over lakeside!

How about you? What do you like in a house?  How does your home reflect the place you are in life? Do you think the different places you've lived have been representative of your journey and gifts?

And don’t you wonder just what that final place is going to look like?—the one whose architect and builder is God!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Habit or Humor?

Ever since my ninety-three-year-old father-in-law moved in with us a few months back, I've been witness to the mysteries of memory and habit.

 Although the memory of daily doings sticks to him as loosely as a dandelion puff on a breeze, once he has repeated an action several times it becomes entrenched in his mind. He even continues to do the things here at our house that he used to do when he lived on his own—like rinse out his cup as soon as he’s finished, turn off the light every time he gets up, and shut doors and drawers.

I am thankful for this power of patterned behavior. It helps him to function very well even if he doesn't remember what he had for breakfast twenty minutes earlier. The problem is—how to reprogram some of those routines that don’t work so well in my own house.

For example, I always keep open the door of my Shaker jelly cupboard where I have my random collection of family forget-me-nots.  One day, I walked by and saw it closed. I opened it.

Two days later, there it was shut up tight as Buckingham guard. I opened it.

Now the first time something unusual happens, you might think nothing of it. The second time it happens, you question yourself—am I forgetting whether or not I did this? The third time it happens you cast about for suspects. Pa was high on my list but I never caught him doing it.

Finally one night my husband saw Pa shuffle by, stop, shut the door and continue on his way to his chair.

The next time he walked by the cupboard I intercepted him. “Pa, do you see this door?”

He stared at it as though I were the peculiar one. “Yeah, what about it?”

“It’s open,” I say. “I like it open, but you keep closing it. You had me worried. I thought I had a ghost!”

“I’ll never close it again,” he declared. Smiling all the way to his chair.

Two days later. . .              

P.S. One of the ten books in my June pile was The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg. Interesting insights on habits and how to change them. Duhigg covers a wide range of subjects as examples—from business and advertising, to addiction to football coaching techniques. He acknowledges the power of belief in changing our response to habits, albeit not necessarily a belief in God,although we know He is the One who sets the prisoners free.

Still, worth your while if interested in changing habits. (Not sure about Pa’s!)

Blessings abundant this middle week of June which includes National Hug Holiday, Loving Day, Kitchen Klutzes of American Day, Flag Day, and National Hollerin' Contest Day, among other who-would-have thought-occasions!


Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Is your dream as dried up as a "raisin in the sun'?

 My journal entry for May 2005 included this verse from Psalm 71: I will come with the mighty deeds of the Lord God. I will make mention of Thy righteousness, Thine alone. And even when I am old and gray O God, do not forsake me, until I declare Thy strength to this generation, Thy power to all who are to come.

My prayer following this entry was, “Lord, I love to speak publicly and I desire to write a book. Both require having something to say! I offer this “loaf and fish” unto you. I open my mouth and ask you to fill it.”

Today, June 2013, eight years later, I did a radio interview with Lynne Ford at WBCL Indiana about Call of a Coward-The God of Moses and the Middle-Class Housewife. The book I ended up writing years after the seed of desire was planted in my heart. Back in 2005, I was totally unaware of the path that was opening before me: a book written and published without my ever writing a book proposal. (Thank you God!)

But as I was praying before the interview, I thought of how often I’d heard Satan was the prince of the power of the air. For a fleeting moment a flicker of fear passed through me. Later, as radio host Lynne and I prayed together, I bowed in amazement at the power of the God we serve. Two Christian women, unknown to each other, but connected over the radio waves to proclaim the mighty deeds of the Lord. What had I to fear.

I look back over the past few years and wonder how I could worry my time for usefulness has passed. I marvel at the times I let hope leak out of me like air in saggy pool float, or let fear dismantle a dream.

It’s easy to feel confidence in retrospect. And yet it’s so human to lose the mountain vision down in the shadowy valley, where as the psalmist says, sadness and despair can make us think God has left us:  “it is my grief that the right hand of the Most High has changed.”—Psalm 77:10

Today as I celebrate the deeds of the unchanging Lord in my life and in the lives of his people, I think of you who feel your dreams have “dried up like a raisin in the sun,” as Langston Hughes writes.  You who are in the middle of a chapter that doesn't look as though it is going to have a good ending.

I want to encourage you with a prayer from Ephesians, but it’s hard to choose one because I have so many underlined in my Bible. Let me piece one together for you:

Father, you tell us to remember, but we forget. You tell us you are, and we worry you can’t. We don’t want to dish your word out like candy to a crying babe. We want to speak it for what it is—the word of God, which performs its work in us who believe.—1 Thess. 2:13
May we remember we are your workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which you prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. We ask to know the love of Christ, which surpasses knowledge that we may be filled up to all the fullness of God. And that the eyes of our hearts would be enlightened, so that we may know what is the hope of your calling, what are the riches of the glory of your inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of your power to us who believe.
(Eph 2:10, 3:19,1:18)

Blessings abundant friends. May you pick up that dream and offer it to the Lord,


Saturday, June 1, 2013

Finding Home #5: Making Friends

The lure of sunshine, adventure, or a new job can motivate you to move, but once the day clouds over, the foreign becomes the familiar, and the job routine, you realize how much you need a friend. Moving to the South, after living eleven years in Vermont, showed us just how precious true friendships are and how slowly making new friends goes. Usually friendships get formed at church or a social club (if you happen to have one)or work. But God can use any situation to provoke a friendship—even a bad case of “roots.’

     Critic John Leonard said, “It takes a long time to grow an old friend,” but Bob tried to tell me he made friends quickly because every day he ran into someone who called him “Buddy.”  My friend-making efforts weren't so productive. Although a few people had called me “Sugar,” and lots of people had “blessed my heart,” I was pretty certain the the check out woman at Home Depot had no idea she was my best friend.                                                                                                                                                                                                             
     After being buried in The Renovation for several months, I landed a temp job at a college bookstore. It was there  I met Beth and Valorie. Beth was so enthusiastic in greeting the students who came in looking for textbooks that I called her “Walmart.” She, in turn, having heard my tale about delivering telephone books, promptly dubbed me “Yellowbook.” Fitted with nicknames, we started a friendship. 
     Valorie was as soft-spoken Southern as peaches. She tried to teach me how to stretch my i’s and turn one- syllable words into two: My-y, it’s a ni-ice ni-ight for a kni-ife  fi-ight.”
     We all shared photos of family, anecdotes of personal misadventures, and a great many laughs. One day, during a lull in business, our conversation got around to the never-ending problem for unnatural blondes—roots. I was complaining that I didn't have money to get them done but wasn't ready to see what lay beneath my Redkin.
     “Oh, I can do them,” Beth offered, full of her usual enthusiasm. Valorie, wanted hers done too, so we all agreed to meet at Beth’’s house. We each arrived around 7 p.m. toting towels and our respective boxes of color. 
     Beth had platters of smoked salmon and capers, cheese and crackers. We scooped dip into little bowl-shaped chips, told stories, and got to know each other. Time passed quickly. Around 10:00 p.m., we deliberated whether or not to go ahead with the coloring. Assured by Beth that it wasn’t too late, I wrapped the plastic cape around my shoulders and waited for her to ready the mix.
     Unsure which of the two shades we had was the closest to my own, Beth suggested we try each and see which looked better. She separated two sections of hair.  “I haven’t ever done this before,” she confessed. “But I know how.”
     I was suddenly very alert. “What?”
     “Don’t worry. Really, I know how to do it but if you’d feel more comfortable, Valorie can do it. She’s done mine before,” Beth added reassuringly.
     There she was—my new friend, holding in her hand the power to determine whether I would walk out with  properly highlighted blonde tresses or ones that looked like an orange and vanilla Dairy Queen swirl.  Granted, this wasn’t a life-threatening situation, but it was still up close and personal; women can get pretty touchy about the color of their hair. 
     Our new friendship was having its first little test. I liked Beth, and didn’t want to offend her, but, still . . . .
     Before I could say anything, Valorie slid into position behind me, dabbed some color on the applicator brush, and in her soft Southern drawl said, “I don’t mi-ind.”

     I didn’t mi-ind either. It felt good to be growing friends again.
 Thank you for stopping by. May you blessed with an awareness of the One who is closer than a brother, and who is aware of the widow(er), the orphan, and the lonely.

God sets the lonely in families, he leads forth the prisoners in singing--Psalm 68:6