What We Draw Near

Cojoined Tree CIMG3853

     We have a new dog.  So I’ve been taking a lot more walks in nature.  So now it’s me, the dog, my son, and sometimes if I can manage one more thing in addition to a pocket full of treats, water bottles, poop bags, cell phone, and car keys, I bring my camera too.

       I’m finding that dog-walking is actually God-walking.  I’m walking with God as I enjoy all the good things God has blessed me with.

We walk together, my dog, my son, and I– sometimes talking, sometimes quiet, all the while finding amazing things to sniff, pick up, explore, and take pictures of.  I feel joyfulness in nature’s solitude and joy in fellowship with those that I love.  And it feels as if there is someone else with us too.  I can’t see or hear Him.  But it’s more than a feeling or intuition.  It’s just a knowing.   

     On one of our walks I saw this amazing tree.  I was immediately drawn to the tree.  For it is a co-joined tree.  Or at least that’s the term I gave it.  Is it one tree or is it two?  Have you seen one like this?  The base spreads out and out pops another tree, but they share the same roots, the same source of nourishment.  I looked up.  Oh my!  Look son, this tree is holding hands with that one!  Or at least that’s how it appeared.  They are not connected at the branches, but they certainly look like it.

The tree was at a concrete reminder of what I’m learning in my current bible study.

     Right now I’m elbows deep in another amazing Beth Moore bible study where we are studying the book of James.  James was the brother of Jesus (actually half-brother if you count the fact that God was Jesus father and Joseph was the father of Jesus, his three brothers and unspecified number of sisters).

The entire book of James is the one of my favorites because it is hard-hitting and puts the gears in motion to the words of our faith.  James teaches us about:

  • Not just enduring trials, but rejoicing in the process of the trial because of the way it refines us.
  • Being doers of our faith, not merely hearers of the word.
  • How our tongue is a source of both blessings and cursings and it is the rudder that guides our ship (tell me about it!)
  • How we are to eliminate all prejudice in our life and be active in works of mercy, especially regarding the poor.
  • How we are to yield, not show partiality, do good deeds, and to sow seeds of peace and goodness.
  • There are warnings about judging others, warnings about arrogance, and putting too much stock in “our plans” for our lives.
  • There are also warnings about riches and money.  If we lose our humility, then what good is our money anyway?
  • There is great wisdom about being patient while we suffer.  Oh yeah, who doesn’t want some of that?  It’s okay God, just take your time on this one, I’ve got all LIFE!  Seriously though, like we have a choice during our trials?
  • He concludes his six-pack of wisdom by talking about the power of prayer and how we are to help others who wonder away from the truth.
  • The whole book, all seven pages of it (in my bible anyway) is easy to read, but takes a life time to fully grasp.   But my favorite part might simply be this small nugget of truth:

“Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you.”  James 4:8

     In this same chapter we learn how we don’t get what we most want in life because we don’t ask God, who created not only the whole universe, but also our tiny little self.  We spend our entire lives as if we want to be remembered like Frank Sinatra’s song:  I did it……”My Way!”  Or we ask God for something, but we ask with wrong motives.   Oh come on, who among us hasn’t chuckled as we identify with the little kitten on Facebook who woefully prays, “Lord if you can’t make me skinny, can you at least make my friends fat?”   Do we not sometimes pray for God to exact our rendition of fairness and justice?

So what to do about all in life that ails us? Inequities?  Relationships that go sour, or worse–end in abandonment?  Sickness?   Lack?  Trials of every kind?   Stress?  People who can’t seem to get it together, understand us, or do what we want them to do in order to get along?    Are we supposed to just totally surrender all?

Well, I read James and the answer is one I don’t like sometimes:  Yep!

But that means the other guy wins, I don’t get my way, I won’t be understood, it will hurt, or I can’t fix this.  Right.  Now you are where you need to be. 

Believe me I can write this better than I always live it out in my own life, but it really is true.  We waste so much valuable time we could be living, doing what we really love or at least finding out what that is, by trying to either manipulate or persuade people or situations to our liking to make life more tolerable.

It just doesn’t work like this.  In an odd sort of way James is a structured way to a sort of Zen-like happiness.  When you can truly rejoice in your trials because you know God’s in it, when you can let go of outcome because you know God will work it to the good (even if not here on earth or in your lifetime)  then you can truly be at peace.  You can be at peace and find joy as you suffer.  That’s what it means to share in Christ’s suffering.    This is how we become “strong in character and ready for everything!”  (James 1:3)

We ultimately have to make peace with our own demise.   I believe God teaches us (by giving us plenty of opportunities) to let go of everything else first.   Control really should be a synonym for futility.

I always say:  We are all just renters here.  At the end of the day, we own nothing, for tomorrow is not assured.

It’s good to lean on true friends and family sometimes.  But some things only God can fix—in His own way, and His timing.  Lean not on your own understanding, we are taught.  We can take it a step further—we can lean into the one who made us and loves us as if we are the love of His life.  That’s because we are.

We are all on a journey in life, trying to navigate through trials, learn a few lessons along the way, experience blessings, and hopefully be one to others too.  Like the trees in the forest, we are each unique with our own family branches and occasional nuts (but that’s another blog) and fruits.  Some of us are in full-bloom and some of us are watching the last of our leaves blow away   But as we each draw near to God, not only does He draw near to us, he draws us closer to one another too.  Like co-joined trees, maybe where we each of us ends, is the place where God begins.  God, our home base—He is at the core of our roots that nourish us and grow us, and when the storms come, though we sway, He helps us to still stand tall.

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The 2 and 2/3 Biscuit Rule

biscuit_hero_crop.ashxPHOTO CREDIT: Pillsbury.com

      I weigh 2.6 lbs more than I did yesterday.  Curses!  How did this happen?  I’ll tell you how.

It all went down like this.  It was another busy day in my household in a series of hectic days.  I arrived home at 7:03 pm for the first time after too many things to mention here.  I was starving.  I put arms of supplies and miscellany from the day on the table.  I opened the refrigerator door.  Mostly nothing but science experiments scattered amongst vast open spaces.

I was so tired.  So I started cleaning out the refrigerator.  I tossed, scrubbed, and rearranged until the shelves sparkled with clean glass and even fewer items.  I even took out the bottom drawers and laboriously cleaned up a dried up concoction of what looked like meat juice that had solidified into a syrupy-sticky paste all over the entire floor of the refrigerator.  That took a while.

The time was now 8:11 pm.  I had neither lunch or dinner yet.  I was famished.  I was to the point where all that was left to clean was the refrigerator door.

And then my eyes beheld a glorious sight.  A blue can of LARGE BUTTERMILK biscuits.  GRANDNESS!  It felt like the moment in the movies where the light of heaven shines down and an angelic chorus sings.  I felt as if I were tingling.

“Hallelujah!” I exclaimed.  I plopped down my rag and in one fell swoop glided a few feet over to my oven door, grabbed the stoneware pan awaiting it’s task, hit preheat, and summoned my young son to come over.  “Quick!  I told him.  I have a very important job for you to do, but you need to do it right this minute!”   “But I’m doing my homework,” he replied.  Forget about that!” I said.  “This is important!”

    I peeled down the wrapper on the biscuit can.  I gave him a spoon and showed him where the carboard g-spot was.  Turn the spoon around backwards and press here I instructed.  Now watch!

POP!  Like a genie just coming out a bottle, the magic elixir to hunger sprang forth!  I showed him how to find the demarcation line between the flaky layers to separate the biscuits.  “Don’t worry if you misjudge,” I told him, that just means some biscuits will be bigger than others.  More for me I thought as I started to salivate.

We got out the honey butter.  We got out the honey.  I know a better mom would have scrounged for something else to go with biscuits for dinner.  Not me.  I pulled my weight today and then some.  It was chow time.  All proper gastronomy rules flew out the window.  And hey, it beat the customary bowl of Lucky Charms on the other nights when there is no time to eat!

Eleven minutes slowly crept.  Then at last!  Ding!  I mitted up my hand and pulled them out.  “Don’t touch!” I yelled.   “For I don’t want you to get burned,” my voice trailed off as I pinched off just a bite to sample.

I slathered honey butter on the butter biscuits in case they were butter biscuits in name only.   I squeezed the honey out of the plastic bear bottle in case the honey butter was weak.  The biscuits were still steamy.  I threw them on a plate.  Let’s eat!” I said.

“What about the blessing?” my sweet boy said.   Right.  Thank you for our biscuits tonight.  In Jesus name.  Amen!”   We could resume our tradition of “God is great, God is good another night.”  Surely the Lord understood.

I put my biscuit in my mouth. Bliss.  Absolute bliss.  And then another.    We saved two for my husband.  After all , he worked hard all day and deserved a loving home-cooked meal as well!    That left one biscuit for my son and I to split.

“Here, I’ll cut it in half for us to split.”  As I did so, my knife must have misjudged because I accidentally cut off about 2/3 of the last biscuit and popped it in my mouth as I handed him the remainder and said, “here’s your half.” 

     Simple pleasures.  Simple sins.  I know I participated in both tonight for which I am both deeply remorseful and deeply thankful.

That was yesterday.  Today I woke up and I was still hungry.  Before I hopped in the shower I jumped on the scale as is punitive custom to start my day.  Many women start with this daily self-flogging so please don’t judge me.    Curses again!  I weigh 2.6 pounds more than yesterday.  The only thing softer than the biscuits is the middle of my tummy.   How ounces of biscuits converts to pounds of fat and only on women is fuzzy math I don’t want to understand; I only know it’s true.

I vow to look into starting a raw food diet detox very soon.  I don’t always meet my goals in life.  But still I press on, trying to cross the finish line.  I will at the very least get on the treadmill by this weekend.

Life is a journey.  A journey of structure and chaos and schedules that are cruel and days that go by too fast.  My advice?  Don’t forget to take time and stop and savor the biscuits.  Inhale their aroma and then wolf them down!

My Feminine Mystique

Hideous Shoe Framed

DID SOMEBODY WALLPAPER THIS SHOE?

This much I know for sure:  When it comes to buying shoes, I am a freak of nature.  My feminine mystique is flawed; I DETEST buying shoes.  I simply loathe the process.  I dislike nearly every style of shoe most women fawn over.  Jimmy Choo and Manolo Blahnik have never set foot in my closet!    The heel better not be over an inch and it better be really wide and flat.  I am not tip-toing around on pencil points just to look sexy when Mick Jagger clearly has the strut down pat.

So this past Saturday  as I made my annual pilgrimage to buy a pair of everyday shoes for 2013, I soon felt the old familiar dread of having to part with many dollars for a smidge of leather and sole.  I watched as members of my own species lovingly caressed and then purchased multiple boxes of these towers of pain.  Some unique pumps actually had spikes on the straps and reinforced metal toe straps in case you have a rabid case of PMS I suppose.  They were even paired with a matching clutch bag that had handles shaped like an old pair of brass knuckles.

I walked down every aisle.  I mentally told myself be more open-minded, less judgmental, and appreciative of today’s trend setters!   Still, whenever I would quizzically pick up a pair of 7-inch heels, I could only think of two things:  Nail guns.  And super models who’ve never experienced a three digit number on a scale.

Why would women want to buckle six straps across?   I NEVER have enough time to buckle or tie shoes,  unless they’re gym shoes that I can just kind of mash into.   I especially hate pumps that squeeze my sides and constrict my toes like a boa constrictor who just engulfed a plump goat.  It makes my metatarsus spill over the sides like a loaf of sausage that’s exploded out of its wrapper.

In fact I pretty much only like boots.  Cowgirl boots are the best looking. They pair nicely with all things denim (especially Daisy Dukes if you’re young and skinny), dress slacks, and occasionally a dress or skirt, but they’re expensive.  I found several pairs, but all were well over $100, so I kept on walking.

What I really wanted, but didn’t find, was a replacement pair that matched my current generic, common-sensical, goes-with-everything ,easy-to-slip-into,  basic black faux sheepskin-lined, PETA approved version of flat-footed black suede boots.  I wear them with everything!  Jeans.  Sweats.   ALL my dress pants to church, which is pretty much the only time I dress up.    They are comfy, like an old pair of sweats.  They are homely and plain and would pair nicely with Jane Eyre’s wardrobe on any given day.

Don’t get me wrong.  I like to get all dolled up–SOMETIMES.  Weddings.  Rare social occasions.  Ten minute pause here to see if I could think of anymore instances.  Nope.  That’s it.

I’m growing older, perhaps wiser, and losing my desire to impress!  After all, I’ve been married for nearly 30 years.  I’m not in the market.  But still, I do like to at least appear presentable, even pulled together if you will, if I have a social engagement such as friends or family coming to visit.

I just don’t need to look like someone in a catalog.  I am not a woman who likes to go shoppingI’d rather clean the litterbox!  Honestly!  Unless there is a store where the shoes or clothes are discounted with the price tag of FREE on it, I’m just not that into it.  I especially don’t like shopping for clothes with other women!!  Especially at THE MALL.   Coffee?  Yes.  Clothes?  No way!  The goal is to get in the store and get out as fast and cheaply as possible.

      I know I must be an aberration to my sisterhood.  I know my husband should be more grateful that I’m not a shopper, but since he’s never known differently, he doesn’t know just how extreme the shoe or clothes-shopping  disease could be.  I don’t have a designer bag, glasses, or shoes.  I don’t know how to accessorize.

I have to daily fight the urge to not be completely frumpy!  Yet these few things make me feel feminine:    Make up.  Support wear.   Sundresses.

Most days I wear make up.  Oh how I love these three things:  Eyeliner, mascara, and lipstick.  Captain Jack Sparrow is my role model for eyeliner!  And anything with the name plum on the lipstick color is good enough for me.  The lips make the woman I recently told my husband.  Yep he said as the basketball tournament continued working its hypnotic magic on him.

I like Victoria’s Secret because they construct bras with the same attention to design detail as the engineers who designed the Eiffel Tower.  Lots of steel and wire to create a structural work of art.   Good old Vicki S. can embellish what a woman lacks and diminish what God abundantly blesses a woman with.  And yet, if I’m strolling the aisles of any big retail giant on a quick trip to buy toilet paper, pizza rolls, caulk, and a new plunger, I have to admit if I see a bra for only $7.99 under a flashing blue light special, I’m there quicker than a fly on stink!  At that moment, a part of my heart leaps for joy!  It’s probably similar to the thrill of the kill a hunter experiences.  I am DonaldineTrump; hear me roar as I master the Art of the Deal!!

 I still eek out enough estrogen on most days to be moderately hormonal,  but never so much I’m impractical!   I shudder to think there were once radical women who threw perfectly decent bras into bonfires to make a political point.  Such foolishness!    

I once heard Maya Angelou say something profound about “the sisters” after you reach a certain age:  It’s basically a race to see which side gets to the bottom first.   With that concept in mind, why would any woman want others to know which side is winning?   So yes, on a feminist scale, I’d definitely say I’m pro-bra!

In the summer, I love to wear sundresses if I’m tan with just my bare feet as my walk about look or possibly jeweled thong sandals or even flat strappy things that are just slightly girly.  But no heels please!  I love painted toenails too.  Toe rings?  All the better, if you can adjust to their constriction.    A wide-brimmed sunhat and some Jackie O-like sunglasses completes the deal.    Sundresses are great if you have a tasteful tattoo (though I just missed that boat; I really am getting old!)  I love colorful nicely crafted tatts of faces, crosses, roses, ornate butterflies, names written in Gothic script, or scripted verses.   But the rose-laden vine crawling in and out of skulls is a little over the top, as are the rose-wrapped swords (that just reminds me of all the yardwork I’m behind on!)

All that being said, WHO AM I TO JUDGE?  I don’t.  For one simple reason.   I really am part of a diverse sisterhood of friends and family!  Skinny ones.  Plump ones.  Barbie doll pretty and long-summer-at-sea faces if they have been blessed with many years.  Career girls.  Inky girls.  Creamy girls.  Runner girls.  Housewives.  Soccer moms.  Women writers.  Bohemian artist chicks!  I’ve known and loved them all as we’ve journeyed through life.

I think I’m at a good place in life these days.   I don’t need feminine charms to assist me in any goals I set.  But I don’t feel lacking as a lady either.  I know my feminism isn’t found in the clothes I wear, the make-up I apply, or the shape (or lack thereof) of my body.   It’s quantified by the love I can freely give, the beauty that GROWS in my heart each day as I see the uniqueness of others, the pearls of wisdom gleaned from a single tear, and the joy found in appreciating each moment that God gives me.   He made me female in all its majesty and mystery.  I am woman.  Hear me laugh.  Watch me do.  See me love.  This is the mystique I was born for.