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Knowledge, inspiration, and encouragement from a Christian perspective is my goal. I post a weekly commentary, which could be about world events or the events of my week. Other days I might share stories, recipes, homemaking tips, book reviews, political talk, biblical truth, or other blogs and websites I like. This blog is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're gonna get.

Friday, August 21, 2009

EARTH SHOES AND MOOD RINGS

Do you remember the ugly shoes we wore in the seventies? They were called earth shoes and of course they were brown. Brown must have been a popular color back then. I also had a pair of brown platform shoes with a big yellow sunflower on them. Remember mood rings? I wonder if they work for women going through menopause. We'd probably have to rename them rainbow rings.

I've been feeling nostalgic lately. I've been wishing for my earth shoes back and my mood ring, just so I can remember wearing them. I'd also like to have the clothes I wore from fifth grade and up. My mom made me this dress in fifth grade that I loved so much I wore it for my class pictures. Wonder how far I'd have to dig to find that? The dress was reversible with stars on it. One day I could have a blue dress with white stars and the next day a red one. Think of the money and time we could save on laundry if reversible clothes came back in style.

It's amazing to me how things go in and out of style. And then years later we see those things again. Who ever thought that afros would come back? Men actually sat through the perming process in the seventies just to have a cool hairstyle. That's how far we'll go to be in the groove. Will the word groovy ever come back in style? I think Greg Brady originated that one. Or was it Marcia?

I had this star neclace that I wore in middle school. I'm still looking for one like it. Whenever I see something that reminds me of my past I try to buy it. I like having familiar things around me, especially things that I once loved. On the top of my wish list right now is my favorite doll. Her name is Baby Beans. She was made in 1970, so I would have been about eight years old when I begged my parents to buy me one for Christmas. I saw a few on ebay but I'm hoping to discover her at a yard sale one day so I can get excited about the serendipity of finding her again.

My mom made me a doll once. Today, I would treasure that doll even more than my beloved baby beans. The doll had yellow yarn for hair and was at least three feet tall with a blue dress. If only I had taken better care of those things. I'm not sure where the doll ended up, probably in a garbage can beside baby beans after she was tore open and the beans fell out.

My sister had a pet rock...or was it a pet stick? Whoever thought of that crazy fad must have laughed all the way to the bank and back. Let's see, do you think pet acorns would ever catch on?

I also want my metal lunch kettle back. It had the wildest hot pink flowers on it. Remember flower power? I use to write "flower power" on my notebook, my walls, even a grey suitcase I had was jazzed up with pink paint and the words flower power. It's funny how you reach a certain age and feel the need to personalize everything you own. My daughter's going through that now. After rearranging her bedroom and taking her bed off its frame and onto the floor, she now wants to paint the walls purple. My sister had a similar love for purple in high school. I recall dark purple shag carpeting and purple flowered walls.

Remember the game mystery date? Or leapin letters? Board games are very nostalgic. Old Maids, pick up stix, chinese jumprope, and jacks. I've been looking for a chinese jumprope so I can show my daughter the way we used to stretch that rope around our ankles and play games I can't remember. We also put the rope on our hands and passed it back and forth with finger tricks like Jacob's ladder. I couldn't do it now.

I want my Saturday Night Fever album back and my record player. I want my poster of a woman releasing a dove on the beach. "If you love something set it free. If it comes back to you it's yours" or something like that was the poem written on it. I want my fiber optic night light that glowed pink on the tip of each strand, and my black-light poster. Bedrooms were the coolest in the sixties and seventies. Lava lamps and beaded curtains, smiley faces and peace signs. My sister had a Donny Osmond poster on her door. I liked David Cassidy from The Partridge Family.

All these things are special because they're part of who I once was. I wouldn't want to go back, but I want to remember the life I had. Our childhood and teen years are so filled with special memories. I treasure my diary from 1977-78. I get the biggest kick out of reading it now. Was that really me? Did I really think like that? It makes you realize how much you've matured and thank goodness! I'd rather be a grown up, but it's neat to remember the things we once thought were important like earth shoes and mood rings.


Thursday, August 13, 2009

LIVING THE FRESH-BREWED LIFE Book Commentary

"I see women all the time who seem joyless and lonely--I can see it in their expressionless eyes. They stare straight ahead or look down, walking forward but not going anywhere. They are terrified that life is going to find them."

The above quote is part of the introduction to Fresh-Brewed Life: A Stirring invitation to Wake Up Your Soul, my latest great book find.  It's available at Amazon.  The book was given to me by a friend who said that it's her favorite book. I just love when people recommend books to me or give me a book they've read as a gift. I'm already planning to read it again because I fell in love with it too. The best way I can describe it is to say that it's a book about all the things that women secretly think but don't talk about.

Fresh-Brewed Life is a journey of awakenings: to God, to ourselves, and to others. Author Nicole Johnson has masterfully written an invitation to wake up and embrace life. Just as the smell and taste of fresh-brewed coffee awakens our sleepiness, this book will inspire you to stop sleepwalking through life, to wake up to a more exciting, more passionate fullness of life.

"Wake up! We need you as an alive and awake woman, listening and contributing," says Johnson. "Wake up your creative genius and let it out into the world. Wake up to your power and use it wisely. Wake up to your pain and investigate it. Wake up the dull old parts that are hiding from the light. Wake up to love and let it flood through you."

And what's the first step toward this fresh new way of living? "Surrendering to God is the key that unlocks the door to the life you want." Our wake up call begins in a relationship with the one in whom we began. Because only God can rouse our sleepy souls. Only God can tell us what we most want to know. Johnson discovered that life isn't about being busy and keeping it all together, it's about trusting in the One who can keep it all together.

But how do we surrender? Where do we start? Having a relationship with God requires a commitment of time. How can we discipline ourselves to make time for God? For Johnson, the answer was journaling. She learned to bring her heart to God by writing down her struggles. "Journaling became for me the tangible representation of my relationship with God and others, and my wrestlings with the world around me." But journaling should never be a pressure. We shouldn't beat ourselves up if we can't stick to it with consistency. Just don't give up on finding quiet time with God.

I still haven't disciplined myself to write in my journal every day. Sometimes weeks go by without an entry, but I communicate with God every day through prayer and bible reading. I think that's the important part, just having God in our thoughts. For some reason, I think about God most when I'm driving. The sun on my face, traveling through the beauty of His creation, and cottony clouds against a clear blue sky arouse in me a knowing that God exists.

By journaling, I make time for God and I get to know myself better too. But what kind of things should we write in our journals? Should we use it like a diary? Johnson suggests that we write down our longings, those empty places in our lives that haven't been filled. Every woman longs for something. I long to be a newspaper columnist and some day an author who brings encouragement and hope to women. I long to go to Tuscany for my dream vacation. And I long to be known and loved by the people I love.

"Dreams and longings have a way of resurfacing," says Johnson. But we are masters at killing our dreams. Instead of participating on the field, we sit in the stands and watch or we stand on the sidelines criticizing ourselves and criticizing those who are reaching for their dreams. God gave us those longings for a reason. They are the map that will point the way Johnson says. Write down your longings. "When you are honest about the places in your soul that ache to be filled, you are right where God can tenderly reach in and touch the deepest parts of your heart."

Listen to the conversations of women and you'll learn that they have many longings. We want to be beautiful. We long to be appreciated. We want more passion and purpose. We want to be known, loved, and cherished. By "known" I don't mean famous. A woman needs someone to take the time to stop and really see her. Women long for more attention and affection. That's why they become addicted to romance novels and soap operas. But according to Johnson, God is the only one big enough to hold our longings. Apart from Him we will never be satisfied.

Every woman who's ever felt lonely or empty, who's ever wondered, "Is this all there is?" Every woman who right now feels that something is missing needs this book. Fresh Brewed Life is a masterpiece because it inspires a woman to become a masterpiece by listening to her longings, embracing her beauty, savoring her sexuality, enriching her relationships, and changing her world. And the key to doing those things is to let God in on your life.

We need God like we need a good cup of coffee. He's the only one who can satisfy our loneliness, fill our emptiness and wake up our souls. Without Him we can only sleepwalk through life with expressionless eyes, walking forward but not going anywhere.










Sunday, August 9, 2009

PATIENCE AND FAITH

"For I know the plans I have for you." says the Lord. "They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope...when you pray, I will listen. If you look for me in earnest, you will find me when you seek me."--Jeremiah 29:11

As I'm writing this a song is playing in my head: The waiting is the hardest part. Maybe that's the title, Waiting. I don't know music like some do. Waiting is a universal problem. I don't like it myself, but I'm learning that it's a very important skill to have. The best example I can think of that shows the consequences of being impatient is credit card debt. I have a friend whom I've lost touch with that still owes me $80. When I reminded her many years ago she claimed she didn't remember borrowing the money. Now that's scary. A person like that could get into some major credit card debt.

Delayed gratification is a wonderful thing because we appreciate the thing we've waited for so much more than we do when we get it right away. Whatever happened to saving for the things we want. It's just too tempting to get out the plastic, have what we want now and worry about paying for it later. The downside is that we end up paying far more than the item is worth because of interest charges and we are burdened with the stress of unpaid debt. A stress that can bring us to homelessness, poverty, and shame.

I always hated owing someone money. It would bother me everyday until I paid it back. I'm grateful that I have that conviction and I'm discovering that God actually blesses patience. So many times when I want something but walk away from it instead of buying it, I will find that exact item later for a much lesser price. God knows the desires of my heart and He loves to give me even the smallest thing that I'm longing for. My most recent delayed purchase was a board game called Clue. My daughter and I like to play games when boredom hits. I've been wanting the game Clue for quite a while. I remember playing it at my cousin's house when I was a child. Well guess what I found at a yard sale on Friday? The game Clue in a box like new with every piece intact for the bargain price of one dollar.

I just love when that happens. I love to see the blessings of my faith. Some people might call that a coincidence but I know better because I've had things like that happen to me so many times that it defies the law of coincidence. The word coincidence suggests something rare and random, a total fluke. But when these flukes begin to occur on a regular basis we can no longer call them coincidence. We must acknowledge the power behind them.

Patience and faith bring so many blessings. But faith is more than just believing in God. It's believing that God knows each one of us personally and wants to bless us and help us. What difference does faith make in a person's life? Well first of all our faith determines where we will spend eternity. People who believe that life is over when they're dead don't really know that for sure because they haven't died yet. Eternity is a long time, too long to take a chance on spending it somewhere unpleasant.

Another difference faith makes is the quality of our lives on earth. I remember reading about a woman who feared losing her job because she worked on commission and the sales at her register were very low. Someone suggested that she pray and ask that God would give her favor with people so they would come to her register to pay for their purchases. She took the advice and was amazed. God did bless her with what she asked for. Her sales doubled, then tripled.

Faith is a journey. It's a day by day discovery of God and his goodness. I don't always think of praying about every problem. I still try to figure things out on my own. I want to reach a point where prayer is my first reaction to every problem. That's the kind of faith I want. Hannah Whitall Smith calls that kind of faith "the life on wings". Every time I see a bird with wings stretched motionless, floating on the wind, I'm reminded of that life on wings that I long for. What an amazing way to live. And that's the way God created us to live. But how many ever find it?

I'll tell you the story about someone who did find the life she longed for. I discovered a wonderful author, Jan Karon. Her book, The Mitford Bedside Companion was something else I discovered while yardsaling on Friday. To me the best part of that book is her essay at the beginning titled, "I Know The Plans I Have For You." She shares her life story of how she got started as a writer. She was working in advertising and feeling very unhappy in that career. She longed to write books. So she began to pray.

"What do you want me to do, Lord? And how am I to accomplish it?" was her plea to God. After two years of persistent prayer, God spoke to her heart and said, Go. And I will go with you. So she sold her house and moved to a mountain village in North Carolina with the intention of having a peaceful place to write. After wrestling with doubts and a serious case of writer's block, Jan Karon had a surprising mental image of a man walking down a village street. This inspired her to begin writing about a fictional Episcopal priest named Father Tim. She took the first two chapters of her writing to a local newspaper editor and soon she was a columnist. After writing two years worth of columns she had a complete book. That book was the first of a bestselling series of Mitford Years books.

And this is my favorite part of that story. Jan Karon, at the end of her essay, tells us why she shared her early struggles as a want-to-be writer: "I tell you all that in order to assure you of this: God has plans for you, too. His plans are for good. And if you trust Him, you have both a future and a hope. How do I know this to be utterly and absolutely true? Because I have lived it. And I am living it still."

Now there is a testimony to the power of faith. Patience and faith will greatly increase the quality of our lives. We only need to put them into practice.