Grandpa

I smelled my grandfather yesterday.  Not just once but twice.  It was… unexpected.

I don’t think about him that often, it’s been almost thirty years since he died.  When I go home I see pictures of him at my mother’s apartment, sitting with my grandmother, their children standing behind them, but he doesn’t come to mind regularly.

The first time I smelled him was at work.  An older gentleman walked up to the return counter and I was hit by the aroma of my grandfather’s pipe tobacco.  That’s how I remember him, sitting in his chair in the corner of the living room by the “davenport”, which is what they called the sofa, with his ashtray on its stand right next to the chair.  I smiled at the memory, helped the gentleman with his return, and went on with my day.

The second time was at a gas station.  I was getting back into my car after filling it up and there was that smell again.  I looked around and, other than a pickup truck that was pulling away, I didn’t see where the aroma could have come from.

It was that second time that really hit me.  After all these years I actually teared up on the drive home thinking about him.  I loved my grandpa, even though we never really talked much.  He wasn’t a very demonstrative kind of man, wasn’t big on the whole hugging, lovey kind of stuff, but I always loved how he smelled.  That is until he started smoking cigars.  I much preferred the pipe.

I would have liked to have known him better but he passed away when I was in my early twenties and I’d already moved out to Colorado.  I didn’t get home much back then, but I was able to get back to see him just before he died.  He was lying in a hospital bed and we all knew he wasn’t going to be with us much longer.  I remember bending down to give him a kiss on the cheek and him saying that he loved me.

I much prefer thinking about him in his big chair in the living room, not dying in a hospital bed.

Why I was reminded of him now I don’t know, but I’m almost tempted to go find that pipe tobacco just so I can smell it.  A memory long since buried brought to life again with such a simple thing.  Funny how that works.

 

Perspective on Frosting

My family has a traditional dessert which we serve at pretty much all our kid’s birthdays.  It’s called crazy cake.  It’s moist, it’s chocolatey, it’s delicious.

We make it from scratch, the frosting too.  Now, while I consider myself a good cook and baker, for some reason I can’t get the hang of the frosting.  You have to cook it to soft ball stage, then once you take it off the heat beat it until it’s the right consistency.  I never seem to be able to get it right.  I either don’t cook it long enough, or I cook it too long, or I beat it too long, or not long enough… I just can’t figure it out.

Any time I make this cake/frosting combo I find myself apologizing for the frosting that, to me, is sub-standard.  I mean, it tastes good, but if it’s not smooth and creamy like frosting should be I get irritated with myself.  I put myself down because, after all these years of making this dessert, I feel like I fail when it comes to the frosting.

No one ever says to me “That frosting is horrible!”.  I never find plates with the cake eaten and the frosting abandoned, no one ever asks me NOT to make the frosting.  This is all just me, isn’t that silly?

I made the recipe a few days ago, making cupcakes instead of cake, and of course the frosting wasn’t right.  It was more like fudge, which is how it turns out more often than not.  I took a few to a friend for his birthday and he loved them, didn’t say a thing about the hard frosting.  Last night my youngest daughter saw the cupcakes, the frosting that had started to harden before I got it spread just kind of plopped on top, and once again I started complaining about the fact that I am not a frosting wizard.

You know what she said?

“I love it this way, it’s like getting two treats in one!”

That, to me, was the best compliment I could have received about that darn frosting.  What a wonderful way to look at it!  It’s not a failure, it’s even better because it’s cake AND fudge!  Gosh, I love her.

So I sit here tonight, looking at the cupcake I’m about to eat, and I no longer see a great cake with so-so frosting but a fantastic combination of sweet tastes and textures.

Sometimes, it’s just a matter of changing your perspective…

 

 

Arrows

It hit me tonight, (as I was talking to my 17yr old at 10:45pm about the 10:00pm curfew we’d agreed upon for school nights) that by the time said 17yr old child graduates from high school in May of 2017, I’ll have been a single parent for thirteen years and seven months.

Over 13 years – that just boggles my mind – and in nine months it will all be over, give or take…

Now, as any parent knows, you don’t STOP being a parent just because your kids grow up. The relationship just moves to a different level.  I already have two children who are out on their own, one of them is married.  My last is hoping to be in the military in a year.  All children eventually walk their own path.  I’m reminded of a poem by Kahlil Gibran that I read for an acting workshop I attended while my kids were still young.

On Children

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you.
And though they are with you, they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts.
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
Which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite.
And He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hands be for happiness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
So He loves the bow that is stable.

I remember barely being able to get through the reading I was so choked up.  “You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth”  So very poignant, and heart wrenching, and inspiring.  I pray I’ve been a stable bow, that I’ve done the best I could do.  There’s much I regret not being able to do for them, but the one thing I always tried to do was show them plenty of love and support for where they saw their lives heading.

I have not been a “perfect” parent, not sure there is such a thing.  There were plenty of times when I lost my temper, especially at the beginning of my single parent journey.   There were also plenty of times when I asked for forgiveness and gave it, asked for a hug and got it.  Forts were made in the living room, chocolate cake was eaten for birthday breakfasts.  Kids did their chores (or not…), we watched movies, went out to eat when the budget allowed and did our best to live together in happiness.  Discipline was meted out when necessary, from spankings to groundings to sitting in the middle of the living room with knees touching saying nice things about the other sibling (the last one seemed the most painful for them).

Did my children learn anything from me?  I would hope they learned that none of us is perfect but with compassion and love, happiness can exist wherever you are, whatever you’re doing.

In the end, after all is said and done, we turn the last page of our children’s books and watch with expectation at where God leads them.  We keep praying for them, we may even hear from them every once in awhile.  We have done our part.

“And though they are with you, they belong not to you”

This was not the post I was expecting to write tonight, but it’s what came out.  Some other time I’ll write more about the single parent thing.  For now, though, I’ll sit with the realization that a very big chapter in my life is nearing its end, and while I watch with hope as my youngest prepares to start her journey into a new life, I also look with anticipation at my OWN life, and the new possibilities God has in store for me as well.

And life goes on…

You Matter

I’m trying one of those dating websites… again

Having tried this before, most recently last year, I realize that it seems silly to do it yet again.  What’s the definition of insanity “doing the same thing over and over expecting a different result”.  Well, I’m not doing the same thing this time, not really. I mean, yes, I signed up on the site but this time I’m not going to delete my profile the minute one man shows he’s a jerk, or another only wants a booty call.  Plus my mother said I should try again, lol.

I’m also in a different frame of mind now.  I am not doing it because I feel a I need a man to be whole, to feel wanted or loved.  I’m doing it because I’d really like to have a man in my life, I’d like to be married again, but not in the sense of, in the words of Jerry McGuire “You complete me”.  I’m already complete, I’d just like some icing for my cake.

I’ve already met with one man.  He was very nice, we had a good chat and some wine but that was all, no connection, and that’s perfectly fine.  Just the fact that he showed up was a step above the last guy I’d spoken with from a dating site.

I’m chatting to a couple other gentlemen right now, through the site only, and it’s just nice.  I’ve also turned down a few men, politely telling them that I didn’t feel we’d make a match but good luck to them, that sort of thing, as one man did with me as well.  It’s the polite thing to do, wouldn’t you say?  One man didn’t agree…

On my profile I’d stated that I’d like to be married.  It’s a question everyone has to answer and you can say you just want friendship, just dating, long-term etc.  I opened the app last night and a man had sent me a message.  All he said was “I’d marry you”.  Yes, a bit corny since all he knew about me was what was on my profile.  I went to his profile, read through things, looked at his pictures (no, that’s not shallow, there has to be a physical attraction) and decided I’d tell him I was not interested.

His reply was “I guess I’ll have to spend my millions on someone else.  You think you’re that much of a catch?? YAWN!”

You know, the first thing that popped into my head (after “what an ass”) was that I didn’t reply to him thinking I was a catch….

Wait, WHAT??

The HELL I’m not!

I AM a great catch, thank you very much!  I’m intelligent, I treat people with respect, I have a good sense of humor, a strong faith, am loving and loyal to my family and friends.  I have a lot to offer and expect the same.  So, I wrote him back…

“I am a great catch for the right man, just like you will be a catch for the right woman.  I thought I would at least respond to your message but maybe I should have ignored you completely.  Have a nice life.”

Yes, there is a bit of snark there but hey, he had no right to judge me just by one picture and a short paragraph in my profile. Justifiable snark, in my book.

How often do we do that though, judge someone superficially.  I’ll bet we do it more than we’d like to admit, I’m sure I do even though I try not to be a judgmental person.  Words can be so hurtful, if we let them. Especially if we are not rooted in the belief that God put us here for a reason.  WE matter to HIM or we wouldn’t be here, and that’s what really counts.

So, I’ll stay on the site, meet up with a few more gentlemen for coffee or drinks.  Maybe I’ll meet that special someone and fall in love, maybe I won’t.  All I know for sure is I DO MATTER, to the One who matters most.  HE knows I’m a catch, and so are you.

Infinite Life

About a month ago I jumped onto the Candy Crush bandwagon…

Some of you may be thinking “What took you so long”, others are possibly thinking “I would NEVER play that game just because so many people do, I don’t want to be a joiner”.  Well, I used to think the later but then decided to see what all the fuss was about.  I totally believe all the hype now, it is definitely addictive!

This past Saturday I was sitting on my couch playing a few levels.  If you are not familiar with the game, you have a limited number of lives with which to match up similar candies so they “crush” each other and you can even create other candies depending on how many of them you match up.  Some of the levels have you clearing “jelly” which appears as a clear bubble around the candies, others have you collecting fruit, etc.   As you progress in the game you get to levels where you can collect special wrapped candies.  Once you’ve collected enough of them you win prizes, one of which is “Infinite Life”.

Now, this infinite life isn’t actually infinite, you only get it for a few hours.  I found myself at such a point on Saturday and I took full advantage, playing each level over and over again until I was successful at whatever task was required and then moved to the next one, you get the picture.  I finally got to the end of the levels in that particular set and was informed I’d have to wait 72hrs before moving to the next group.  I could move up faster if I paid a fee but I was not going to do that, I’d just be patient and wait.

When I glanced up at the clock I realized I’d been playing for two and a half hours.  2 1/2 hours!!  As I came out of my sugar crush stupor, the day started to come back into focus.  I heard children laughing outside, dogs barking in the dog run as they played with their owners, a slight breeze coming in my open balcony door.  I also felt the soreness of my backside from sitting so long in one position and my fingers were a bit stiff from holding my phone.

I was missing a beautiful day for a chance to have infinite life … in a game.

I couldn’t help but compare the eternal life we get through Jesus Christ with this episode of abandon.  How different it is!  The game, and this applies to any number of video games, can captivate us in the worst way – stealing time if we let it.  We miss out on life, the joys around us.

As for infinite life, in the game it’s a sham but the enemy can use that desire in us to “move up” or “win” and we become enthralled.  With eternal life through Christ, we don’t have to win anything or collect good deeds in order to have everlasting life through Christ, we just have to believe, have faith, and accept Him as our savior.  He already paid the price, and the life HE offers is NOT limited to just a few hours.  We won’t miss out on the beauty around us when we go home, we’ll be a part of it!

I’m not saying video games are an instrument of the devil, but just like anything else, he can use them and make us become obsessed by them.  I still enjoy Candy Crush, but I limit my playing time, I watch the clock and when my time is up I stop.  Don’t let the enemy use a fun distraction to rob you of more important things.  Keep to a time limit so you can enjoy all the other joys this life has for you.

Later today I think I’ll see if I can reach level 54…

 

 

 

Where to start…

It has been such a long time since I posted anything, so much has been going on.

I had a job for a few months with a friend, helping her with her podcast, but unfortunately I will not be able to continue with her for financial reasons so I’m once again looking for a job.  I’ve been applying to all kinds of companies from office worker to retail to customer service, the one area I have tons of experience in, and nothing is happening.  It’s really quite depressing.

I was also recently diagnosed with chronic depression, go figure.  So, I’m looking for work again, have no money again, and no one seems to want to hire me.  Seriously, it’s annoying.  I got really mad at God the other day.  I just wanted to be out of this difficult season and can’t understand why I’m still in it!  What the heck, right??  I’m tired of it, over it.  Is there something I haven’t learned?  Have I not been patient? Have I not come to You in prayer enough?  Have I not trusted You enough?  Just let it be over already!  I want stable income and less stress and to be able to pay for gas and food without relying on others.  Why can’t I have that???

Frustration, annoyance, anger…

My twin sister reminded me that it’s okay to be angry, even at God.  Read Psalms, she said, David got plenty angry.  It doesn’t mean  you don’t still trust that God will do what He needs to, or that you don’t believe anymore.  It’s normal to be upset when you don’t understand something, and really, how often does God explain Himself?  I guess that’s what belief is, trusting that God has everything handled even when we can’t see it, even when life is hard, even through the anger.

And it’s Really. Hard. Right. Now.

The one thing I continually tell myself is this: God is mighty. God is faithful. God’s got this.  Joshua 1:9 comes to mind:

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

So I’m trying, I’m really trying.

I had  a dream the other night.  I was at this store, like a little general store, the kind that has everything you need.  The store was on this hill near a river.  I walked up this path and when I turned around the path was flooded!  I looked to my right and there were people actually jumping into the rushing water to be carried away, but I was safe on a hill.  Across the river there was an even larger body of water, like a huge lake.  The waves on the lake were gigantic, out of proportion big, know what I mean?  I felt very small but I wasn’t afraid of it, it was amazing and beautiful, and I was safe.  I thought it was the weirdest dream, I couldn’t make sense of it.  Then I read Psalm 124 that morning.

“If the Lord had not been on our side—
    let Israel say—
if the Lord had not been on our side
    when people attacked us,
they would have swallowed us alive
    when their anger flared against us;
the flood would have engulfed us,
    the torrent would have swept over us,
the raging waters
    would have swept us away.

Praise be to the Lord,
    who has not let us be torn by their teeth.
We have escaped like a bird
    from the fowler’s snare;
the snare has been broken,
    and we have escaped.
Our help is in the name of the Lord,
    the Maker of heaven and earth.”

God was reminding me of His power, that He is keeping me safe and will provide all I need.

Don’t you just love that?!  I felt so much better after that and even though I am still job searching and still feel somewhat concerned, because I am human, the level of stress has lessened quite a bit.  It’s such a lovely feeling.

On a completely different note, my oldest daughter is getting married over Memorial Day weekend!  She’s done such a good job organizing everything, all that’s left is the flowers and of course those can’t be done until just before the wedding.  Her dress is at the bridal shop getting pressed this week and one of my sister’s and I will have the veil completed by the end of this week.  I have a dress, a cute bag and now only need shoes.  Lots of people will be here, family is coming into town next week, it’s going to be a fabulous celebration!

So, as you can see, it’s been a very up and down year for me so far.  I am so thankful for my family, good friends and great church support.  Thank you, Lord, for holding me together and for reminding me that through it all, You will always be there!

 

Suitcases

I have a job!

Well, technically it’s just expanded from what I was doing, helping my friend with her podcast, BUT I’m with her daily now and actually learning how to be a full radio show producer.  It’s fun, it’s exciting learning something new and it appears I have an innate skill for the role.  I’m really enjoying myself and, at the same time, teaming up with a friend in a wonderful ministry.  I love it!

It is also a big step of faith because we don’t quite have the income yet to pay me regularly.

This season of unemployment has been one big faith trip for me.  Seriously, it’s been a TRIP!  Many of you probably think I’m crazy, accepting a full-time job that won’t be able to pay me a sustainable salary from the get-go.  Heck, had something like this happened to me just a few short years ago I’d agree with you!  There’s no way I would have felt comfortable going without a job for so long.

Something I’ve learned, though, through the past 8 months, is that it’s not all up to me!  In fact, not a lot is up to any of us.  God has a specific design and will put us where HE needs us.  He will also REMOVE us from where we are not meant to be, and not always seamlessly, like He did with me last May.

HE knew it wasn’t a risk for me to be unemployed, because HE was taking care of all of it.  He is here to lift the load, we only have to trust Him.  Yes, that can be easier said than done, but it CAN be done.

Any worry I had He relieved swiftly, any unease of spirit He calmed gently, any burden weighing me down He lifted powerfully.  He provided not only financially but relationally as well.  I’ve recently made some new friends and reconnected with some people I knew years ago and it’s been a real blessing, to say the least.  Every time I turn around He’s doing something else, like providing this computer on which I’m composing this blog!

He has helped me get through a long state of depression with the help of friends, prayer and spending time in His word every day.  Of everything I have learned, that is the most important, and I am faithfully reading in my Bible every day.  Another thing that has helped is praising.  I praise His work every day, in my life, in my children’s lives, in my friend’s lives.

Suitcases

We don’t have to be afraid, we don’t have to carry those suitcases full of earthly burdens.  He will take care of us – always and forever.

Never doubt it!

 

The Changes a Year Can Bring

Now that the end of the year is coming I decided to take a look back.  I also figured since I hadn’t written anything in over a month that it was time!

The year started off fairly normal.  I had my same full time job that I disliked but it was income.  I was almost at a year in my apartment that I loved.  Kids were in school, car was still running.  Just a normal life.

In March I helped launch a new campus for my church and started producing the service every Sunday, which I loved.

Then, at the end of May, I was laid off.  I had no prospects for a job and, honestly, felt like God was telling me to wait for the right one instead of just taking anything that came along.

Around the middle of June I started helping a friend with her podcast, booking guests and managing her calendar.  In July I broke through a barrier of unforgiveness about an abortion.  In August I wrote about it publicly, in September I went on my friend’s podcast to talk about it publicly.

In the last 3 months of the year I’ve been to a worship leader’s conference, helped produce a women’s conference, spoken about my abortion at church, started working alongside a wonderful group of women on some possibilities for next year AND was hired as a volunteer programming coordinator for the Denver Comic Con coming up next June.

Sounds great right?  Doing things I like to do, whether or not I was getting paid to do them, really has been fun.

These are not the things that have made the biggest impact on my year though.

What has made the most impact has been spending more time with God, in the word.  It’s been having time to focus on my friends and family and not be stressed.   Most of all, it’s been my growing trust in God’s provision.

I am in my seventh month of unemployment but I am also still in my lovely apartment, still have my car, still have food, can still purchase gas, am still helping at church and with my friend’s podcast.  Through it all, while I can’t say I never worry, I am quicker to remember how God has provided over all these months.  Anonymous gifts, remarkable generosity and unending support from everyone I know, and some I don’t.

I still believe God is going to bring me to the exact job He wants me in and that, until then, He will take care of things.  I’ve asked Him to make it as clear as day where He wants me and I trust that will happen.

I am looking forward to the new year and what possibilities lay ahead.  I never imagined, in all my life, that NOT working, not being able to provide for my family, could be such a positive experience.  In giving up my dependence on what I thought I had to provide, He has shown me what the REAL provider can do, and it’s amazing.

Take a walk

Feeling low again as yet another job interview proves fruitless

I’ve always been more prone to sitting around depressed than doing something about it. I wallow, I’m a wallower.  I’m fighting against that more and more as my state of joblessness stretches toward it’s sixth month.  My unemployment benefits will run out at the beginning of the year and, while I know God has everything covered, I’m struggling to hope today.

Every time I think I see a glimmer at the end of this tunnel it gets snuffed out.  I know there are plenty of people out there who have a lot more to be depressed about than I do.  I’m not sick, my kids are healthy, I have a home and clothes and a car and WiFi, for crying out loud.  I mean, what is WiFi compared to clean water and shoes for my feet?

All the logical thinking in the world can’t get through to us sometimes, you know?  That’s me today.  I don’t even feel like picking up my bible.  I’m listening to Kari Jobe on YouTube as I write this and even that isn’t helping.  I’m in the middle of a moat filled with black tar.  It’s stinky and sticky, but it’s like I’d rather sit here than make the effort to pull myself out, the drawbridge feels too far out of reach.

I think what I need is to get out of this apartment, take a walk.  Sometimes it’s the simplest thing that can help us, don’t you think?  If you’re feeling like me today, go take a walk.  No music, no phone calls, just go out and enjoy God’s creation and remember, YOU’RE His creation too.

All He creates is good.

Expect the Unexpected

A wonderful thing happened recently…

I just got home today from a three-day worship conference.  It was amazing.  The music was fantastic, the talks were inspiring, the prayers prophetic and being surrounded by hundreds of strangers and a group of friends from church was electric.  There was this unplanned theme that emerged, for me at least, in both the prayers and the breakout sessions I attended.  God will provide whatever you need and He sees YOU, He knows YOU.

Now, for those who have not read my recent blogs let me tell you this is a big deal.  I’ve been unemployed since June of this year.  It’s the longest I’ve gone without a job since, well ever.  I’ve been working since I was fifteen and the only time I did not have a job was four weeks back in 1988, I think.   What God was telling me during this conference was a reminder, a reinforcement message.  He knew I was starting to feel more and more uneasy about not having a job, thinking about money or lack there of to be more specific, so He kindly nudged me back to the right thinking.

The conference was just what I needed to get me out of my funk and I loved being in that huge group of believers just listening and pouring our hearts out to God.

On the way home today I made sure to text my daughter (I was not driving, I promise) to let her know when I’d be back.  She told me there was a surprise for me from a couple of her friends.  When I got home I noticed some boxes of canned soda on the microwave but I didn’t think much of it because a friend of the family had stayed with my daughter while I was away and I assumed she had bought them.  This wasn’t the case, as it turns out.

I opened the fridge and saw a couple of gallons of milk, a baked chicken, five dozen eggs (seriously, 5 dozen, or the same amount Gaston from Disney’s Beauty and the Beast eats every morning to get large …) and some chips up on top of the fridge.  I then opened the pantry and saw at least a dozen cans of soup, a few jars of spaghetti sauce, about a dozen boxes of pasta, some cereal and in the freezer some pizzas and little flour tortillas…. Needless to say I was dumbfounded.

I texted my daughter and asked if all that food was from her friends.  She said yes!  I asked where they’d gotten it, she said they’d bought all of it for us.  I then asked if it was with the help of their parents and she said no, it wasn’t.

If you want hope that our teenagers are being used by God to serve others, you just read it.  Two 16-year-old boys, good friend’s with my daughter, who just wanted to help out because they knew I was unemployed.

That’s not all!  I also had two phone calls while at the conference today and when I listened to the messages tonight they are from two companies I’d sent applications to who want to talk to me about a position.  I already had an interview lined up for tomorrow before I left for the conference Tuesday morning so now I have three possibilities for employment.

God is most certainly GOOD and if I was ever in doubt of that I need no more proof of His faithfulness then my own life.

One thing that was said today by Pastor Cash Luna from Guatemala at the conference, something that really impacted me, was this:  “People pray according to their income and not because of faith.  Pray according to what God can do.”

Can I get an AMEN?!

If you’d like to experience a little of what I did over the last few days go to New Life Church, hit the menu icon and go to “Conferences” and then “podcasts”.  There isn’t anything posted yet from this year’s conference but you can choose sessions from last year, which was equally as awesome.