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A Hobby or a Job?


What happens when your hobby becomes a job?

I was once an avid cross-stitcher. For anyone who does not know what cross-stitching entails, I will explain.

A cross-stitched project begins with a piece of finely woven fabric dotted with tiny holes placed equal distances apart, usually 11, 14, 18 or 22 holes per inch of fabric. Numerous skeins of colored floss (thread), a blunt-tipped sewing needle, an embroidery hoop, and a pair of sharp scissors are also needed.

Following a color-coded pattern printed on a tiny grid, the cross-stitch worker counts tediously and sews tiny x’s or half-x’s or quarter-x’s, using the appropriate color floss. She does this by pushing her needle up and down in exactly the correct holes of the fabric, sometimes even between the holes of the fabric, thus replicating the picture on the paper pattern.

Cross-stitching, like other hobbies, can become work. The more beautiful projects I completed, the more driven I was to begin new ones. Never mind that I was ruining my eyesight and developing pressure sores on my behind.

Over the years I have dabbled in other hobbies including scrapbooking, gardening, and sewing clothes. Once again I discovered I didn’t own these projects. They owned me.

Progress on the scrapbook I was assembling for my seven-year-old granddaughter halted after her first birthday. Soon I had as much hope of catching up on her scrapbook as I would have of running after and catching a bus traveling 50 miles an hour.

My gardening hobby hit a snag when I realized my tomato plants were producing tomatoes faster than I could use them. The sight of ripe tomatoes rotting on the ground because I neglected them caused me to feel wasteful and irresponsible.

My sewing hobby tortured me most. Every time my eyes lit on a sewing project left unfinished because I couldn’t figure out how to put in sleeves or create pleats or insert a zipper, I felt like a ninth-grader well on her way to flunking home economics.

Unfinished projects taunted me everywhere I looked. When I had a bit of free time, I couldn’t decide which one of them to tackle. Frustrated by indecision, I usually retreated to the hammock to take a nap.

I have finally developed a strategy that keeps me from obsessing over abandoned hobbies. First, I shush the little voice inside my head that tells me quitting is always bad.

I shove my cross-stitch projects and supplies, along with all unfinished sewing projects, into a dresser drawer. Then I stay away from stores like JoAnn Fabrics where such materials are sold.

I plant only enough tomatoes to supply my family and friends, not the whole county. I then invite neighbors to help themselves to my crop. That way I share not only my harvest but also any guilt that comes when tomatoes are left unused.

The scrapbook for my granddaughter is one project I passionately want to complete. If I give up cross-stitching, gardening, and sewing, maybe I will make some progress on it.

Or maybe I won’t. To move forward with the scrapbook project, I will need to stop writing, working crossword puzzles, crocheting, reading, listening to audio books, and playing Bookworm on my laptop. So many interests. So little time.

I think I hear the hammock calling.

Second-Day Hair

My hair looks better the day after it has been washed and styled than it does on the day it gets special treatment. Second-day hair is shinier and fuller than first-day hair.

Many things are better when they are not brand new. The best wines and cheeses, for example, are intentionally aged. The quilt my grandmother made when I was a little girl is softer and comfier now than it was the day Grandma finished it.

Chili is better on day two, and so are marinated salads. Who wants to eat a lime-green banana the day it is brought home from the grocery store?

Worn shoes are more comfortable than new ones. An old deck of playing cards is easier to play with than a new deck right out of a cellophane-wrapped box.

Old baseball cards are more valuable than new ones. So are old coins and furniture. Old movies and television shows, in many people’s opinion, are better than the new ones. When it comes to great works of art, the older the better.

Go to an auction or estate sale and take note of the most sought after items: Old dishes; old tools; old toys; and even old, framed, black-and-white photos of people the new owners never even met.

Savvy entrepreneurs know consumers are always in the market for used items. Where would the Exit 76 Antique Mall, the Used Car Factory, Half Price Books, eBay, and Craigslist be if everyone demanded new?

Though I read from the New International Version Bible today, I revert back to the language of the Old King James Bible when I quote familiar passages such as Psalms 23 and John 3:16. Words like leadeth and believeth touch my heart in a warmer, softer way than the words leads and believes.

Some second-hand items are better because of the person who used them first. My mother’s old pastry blender has a worn, wooden handle that was once painted red, and bent blades that were once straight and sharp. It might look worse for wear, but it is the one thing I am claiming as my own when Mom doesn’t need her things anymore.

All friends are treasures, but old friends are best because they have been loyal for a long time. An oft-quoted poem expresses this sentiment well: Make new friends. Keep the old. The one is silver. The other is gold.

New certainly has its place. I’m not advocating eating moldy bread or driving an old clunker if you don’t have to. But don’t discredit old.

As the old songs say, Give Me That Old-Time Religion, That Old-Time Rock and Roll, Those Old Cotton Fields Back Home, and My Old Kentucky Home (Arkansas, actually).

Today I am making a pan of lasagna. It will taste great for supper … tomorrow night, when it isn’t brand new.

Tomato Bounty

Tomatoes are her favorite fruit. She just can’t get enough.

She hates tomatoes from the store. They’re colorless and tough.

And so she buys some tender plants and puts them in the soil.

Waits patiently ‘til she can see reward for all her toil.

And then one day some blooms appear. She’s happy, awed and pleased.

She looks through cookbooks, Google too, to find new recipes.

She thought the day would never come when she would find one red.

She checked them every single day, but all were green instead.

And then one day her hope picked up.  She saw a hint of red.

She dreamed of rich spaghetti sauce, that night while in her bed.

Within a week her garden peaked.  Tomatoes everywhere!

She picked them morning, noon and night, but still there were more there.

She filled up buckets, tubs and crates. She pawned them off on friends.

She cooked them every way she knew, made sauces, stews and blends.

Her hairdresser, her postman too partook of her excess.

She left some on each neighbor’s porch (at night, she did confess).

At last, she sighs.  They’re finally gone.  Now she can get some rest.

But then she spies her apple tree producing with a zest!

Not Another Day

Lord, please don’t let me live another day focused only on myself: how I look and how I feel, striving to be seen as attractive, intelligent, well-liked, and productive, but mostly striving just to be seen. If these are the prizes I choose to run after, don’t let me slog through another self-centered day.

Lord, please don’t let me live another day with a crippling mindset of fear.  Don’t allow the dark presence of evil to overwhelm me. Give me a confidence born of faith. If I opt instead to live in dread and to dwell only upon fearful possibilities, please don’t let me agonize my way through another day.

Lord, please don’t let me live another day as a self-appointed judge. Keep me from scrutinizing other people’s actions, weighing them on my balance, and assigning motives based only on my own understanding. Don’t let me believe the lie that I function upon a higher, nobler level than the level upon which other people function. If I am determined to spend my time doling out criticism, don’t let me live another miserable, judgmental day.

Lord, please don’t let me live another day engaged in whining and complaining. Impress upon my heart the truth that I am blessed beyond measure. No person living in the past or in the present has received more good things than I have. If I am to insist upon feeling sorry for myself, don’t let me live another self-pitying day.

Lord, please don’t let me live another day bogged down with guilt. Help me believe Your promise to “remember my sins no more.” Cause me live in the light of redemption and not in the darkness of doubt. If I am determined to question Your forgiveness and consider myself unredeemable, don’t let me suffer through another day of self-condemnation.

Lord, don’t let me live another day wasted in chasing such idols as comfort, accomplishment, approval. Though these are not manmade gods of metal or stone, they are, nonetheless, idols and have no more power to satisfy and bless than had the Golden Calf. If I am to choose these gods over You, don’t let me live another idolatrous day.

Lord, please don’t let me live another day so caught up in the busyness of life that I find no time to spend with You. Motivate me to take advantage of opportunities to pray, to read and study Your Word, to speak of Your goodness, and to glorify Your name. If I find these activities so unimportant that I fail to involve myself in them, don’t let me live through another day of neglecting You.

Lord, when I ask that You not let me live another day engaged in worthless indulgences, I am not asking You to take my life from me. I am asking You to grace me with the new life that you have already died to give to me.

Help me hunger and thirst for that life: a life characterized by selflessness, gratitude, grace, peace, and humility. And help me not to give up on reaching this goal until it is fully mine. Let my entire existence be grounded upon the sureness of Your promises, the certainty of Your love, and the unwavering assurance of Your presence in my life.

And in that new life, Lord, give me many days to praise Your Name to the highest heights.


Now Hear This!

When I taught first grade many years ago, I looked for opportunities to praise my little students. Every day I awarded a “Best Rester” ribbon to the child who was quietest and most compliant during our rest period after lunch. I also gave “Best Listener” awards to those who paid careful attention to what I said.

I want to be a good listener, but lately I realize I am deserving of no award in that area.

Since my husband and I have been together forty-plus years, I think I can anticipate what he is about to say. Thus, I often cut him off in mid-statement. For example, the other day while Dan and I were relaxing in the hammock, he said to me, “I am thinking ….” I interrupted and said, “I know. You are thinking we should have made this screened-in porch bigger.”

“Well, I do wish that,” he said, “but I was going to say I am thinking I might be more comfortable if you shifted a bit to the left.”

Listening Rule #1: Allow the speaker to finish what he/she is saying instead of interrupting and finishing the speaker’s sentence yourself.

One day last week I offered to fill a little wading pool with water for our four-year-old granddaughter to play in. As I hooked up the hose, she said to me, “Don’t put yucky water in it, Grandma.”

I was surprised. “I won’t put yucky water in the pool,” I assured her.

Within a few minutes she repeated her request. “Don’t put yucky water in the pool, Grandma,” she said.

I said to my little granddaughter, “I would never put yucky water in your pool, Sweetheart.”

“This morning you did,” she said.

I barely stopped myself from snapping, “No, I didn’t!”

Then I remembered that earlier in the day she had asked to play in the little pool. But the pool contained water (along with grass clippings, dead insects, etc.) from the previous day. Therefore, I had told her she couldn’t play in it because, in my exact words, the water was yucky. I understood then that she, with her four-year-old power of reasoning, thought I had intentionally filled the pool with yucky water that morning.

Listening Rule #2: When people say things that sound outlandish, pause and consider all the possible meanings of the statement before you shoot them that Are you crazy? look.

The other day my husband was scrolling through ads on the Internet. He called me into the room and said, “Look at these nice blouses, Deb. Do you want to order some?”

That is honestly what he said, but because I must have been in a snarky mood, this is what I heard: “Deb, you buy the wrong clothes. You should let me shop for you.”

Listening Rule #3: Resist assigning unkind meanings to the things people say. Be gracious enough to assume the person means what he/she says, and nothing more.

I am not likely to qualify as a finalist for the “Best Listener” Award. However, give me a soft, comfortable recliner and a light quilt; open the window and let a sweet breeze blow into the room, and I’ll be a shoo-in for the Best Rester Award.








Our little four-year-old granddaughter, whom I call Twinkle, began talking in sentences at about the age of two and hasn’t stopped talking since. I know all children go through a stage of asking lots of questions, but this child surely out-asks all others. I try my best to give her good answers, but occasionally I must resort to the old art of deflection.

“Grandma,” she unexpectedly asked the other day, “why did Jesus have to die on the cross for our sins?”

I did my best to explain in words she could understand that Jesus loves us very much and wants all of us to be in Heaven with him. God’s plan was for Jesus to die so we could live with both of them in Heaven forever.”

“Why do people drink Jesus’ blood in that little cup at church?”

Again, in my handicapped way, I tried to explain a bit about the Lord’s Supper, emphasizing that no one actually drinks Jesus’ blood.

“Will I drink out of that cup when I’m a grown-up?”

“Yes, Sweetie.”

“Why can’t I drink out of that little cup now?”

“Hey, I’ve got an idea,” I said. “Let’s sing the Arky-Arky song together.”


Later, in the car, we had this conversation.

“Why can’t I play on your tablet in the car, Grandma?”

“Because you’ll use up all my data minutes.”

“What are data minutes.”

“Data minutes let me use the Internet.”

“What is the Internet?”

“The Internet is what I use when I send emails and pictures to you and your mommy and when you play games on my tablet.”

“You let me use your tablet at your house, Grandma. Why can’t I use it in the car?”

“I let you use the tablet at my house because my house has Wi-Fi. My car doesn’t have Wi-Fi.”

“What’s Wi-Fi, Grandma?”

“Hey, I’ve got an idea,” I said. “Let’s drive through Dairy Queen and get some ice cream.”


Still later in the day, her Grandpa and I decided to take Twinkle and her sister to a saddle club to ride ponies. This decision generated the following conversation.

“Grandma, will you wear your high heels when we go ride the ponies today?”

“No, Sweetheart, I won’t wear my high heels to the horse barn.”

“Can I wear your high heels?”

“No, not today.”

“Why can’t I wear your high heels to ride the pony?”

“High heels are not the right kind of shoes to have on when you’re riding a pony.”

“Why are high heels not the right kind of shoes to have on when I’m riding a pony, Grandma?”

“Hey, I’ve got an idea,” I said. “How about letting me help you finish your sticker book?”


On the way home from the saddle club, Twinkle stated. “We get milk from cows, Grandma.”

“Yes, that’s right,”  I said.

“We get eggs from chickens.”

“Yes, we do.”

“My daddy says we get bacon from pigs.”


“How do we get bacon from pigs, Grandma?”

“Hey, I’ve got an idea,” I said. “Let’s sing Old McDonald Had a Farm.”


Before she went home, she asked, “When will I be as old as my big sister?”

“Your sister is seven. In three years you will be seven and she will be ten. You and your sister will never be the same age at the same time.”

“Why, Grandma?”

“Because your sister was born before you were born.”

“When was I born, Grandma?”

“You were born in 2012.”

“Where was I before that?”

“You weren’t really anywhere before that, Sweetheart.”

“Was I in Heaven with Jesus?”

“Maybe so, Darling.”

“Why did Jesus have to die on the cross for our sins?”






This is my book recommendation for the little question-askers in  your world.

Jesus Storybook Bible

The Moonbeam Award Gold Medal Winner in the religion category, The Jesus Storybook Bible tells the Story beneath all the stories in the Bible. At the center of the Story is a baby, the child upon whom everything will depend. Every story whispers his name. From Noah to Moses to the great King David—every story points to him. He is like the missing piece in a puzzle—the piece that makes all the other pieces fit together. From the Old Testament through the New Testament, as the Story unfolds, children will pick up the clues and piece together the puzzle. A Bible like no other, The Jesus Storybook Bible invites children to join in the greatest of all adventures, to discover for themselves that Jesus is at the center of God’s great story of salvation—and at the center of their Story too.

This book by Sally Lloyd-Jones is available in hardback from Amazon for $9.99. Makes a wonderful gift!

Who Are You?

My sister Joni is Queen of the Three-Quarter-Length Sleeve. In addition, she is a busy homemaker, enthusiastic grandmother, active church worker, and friend of children in Haiti. The sleeve thing is just one minor little attribute of Joni’s that sets her apart from others.  Like all of us, she is a composite of many different qualities.

In the following paragraphs, I will identify some characteristics that help to distinguish me from others.

I am a woman who loves God, family, and country. I do my best to obey the laws of the land and I practice, to the best of my ability, the Golden Rule. I brush and floss religiously, go for yearly mammograms, practice thorough hand washing, and take a multivitamin.

I drive responsibly, keep my checkbook balanced, show up on time for appointments, and strictly avoid standing in the 20 items or fewer check-out line when my shopping cart contains more than 20 items. (I know the signs always say 20 items or less, but such signs demonstrate incorrect word usage and drive me nuts.) Because I cannot bear to see suffering, I sometimes rescue pitiful, semi-dried red worms off the driveway and return them to their source of water. (I pick them up with sticks.) Those are some of my finer traits.

On the flip side of the coin, I admit to possessing these less-desirable qualities. I am a so-so housekeeper and a lazy cook. I binge on ice cream, overindulge my grandchildren, and am lousy at backing a vehicle.

I eat raw cake batter and stand by my conviction that the best chocolate chip cookie is one that has never seen the inside of an oven. I recklessly cut off those pillow tags that warn: Do Not Remove Under Penalty of Law, and I may be just a bit persnickety in the area of grammar and word usage.

I procrastinate, overanalyze, make to-do lists and ignore them, leave coupons at home when I go shopping, yo-yo diet, drink diet soda, watch too many crime-solving shows on TV (Dateline, 48 Hours, etc.), search endlessly for books of crossword puzzles that are not too hard and not too easy, pluck out eyebrows compulsively when I am nervous, obsess over having just the right ink pen, and occasionally compose paragraphs containing only one long, run-on sentence, like this one.

I detest clutter, dust, weeds, and clothes that need to be ironed. I also hate crude language and gestures, running late, clothes shopping, and searching for my phone fifteen times a day. I look in the windows of parked cars to see if they are more cluttered than mine, and I occasionally scrutinize the junk food items in other people’s shopping carts and make unkind judgments. (Never mind the two quarts of mint chocolate chip ice cream in mine.)

I cry over spilled milk, make mountains out of molehills, cross bridges before I come to them, and beat dead horses. All of those are characteristics, good and bad, of the person I am, but they do not define me, just as Queen of the Three-Quarter Length Sleeve does not define Joni.

This is who I am: I am a mortal, plagued like all mortals, by imperfections. I am blessed beyond what I deserve and am awaiting a reward which I haven’t earned. I have been called, cleansed, and claimed as God’s child.

Who are you?


A Tribute

I am in love with a white-haired man.

This man has been at my side for over 43 years. In that time he has chalked up some noteworthy accomplishments. For over 35 years, he worked as a pharmacist five to six days (nights) a week. His job was both physically and mentally exhausting. In all those years, I estimate that he missed work no more than five days. Through his job, he gained the respect of thousands of people who relied on him to fill their prescriptions accurately and to give them reliable advice regarding the medications they took.

This man is a faithful Christian and has served in various capacities at church. He has taught literally hundreds of Bible classes to both children and adults. His knowledge of the Bible and his love for God and His people are widely known. Though he is a patient and kind man, he possesses the strength and courage of a leader.

This man was at my side during the births of our two children and he has stood faithfully as the head of his family throughout our marriage. Never have my children or I been abandoned or had to provide for ourselves. Our bills were paid, our home was kept in good repair, our cars ran well, our landscaping was neat, and every physical need was met by this man.

This man is God’s man. He has studied faithfully and lived out the principles of the Good Book. He has been 100% faithful to me, has loved and guided our children, has honored his parents, has served his church, and has set an example worthy of imitation.

This man is a spent man. His body is not as strong as it once was, his mind is not quite as sharp, his heart bears the scars of disappointments, but his spirit thrives. He is fighting the good fight. He will finish the course.

This man has a wife who feels blessed and honored to be making this life journey with him. He has children who respect him, grandchildren who have him wrapped around their little fingers, and friends who esteem him highly.

I am in love with a white-haired man.

Why Is it so Hard?

For the past three days, I have resolved to dust the bookshelves in my living room, but I have not yet completed this simple action.

Dusting my shelves is only one in a long list of simple tasks I avoid. Why do I find it so hard to do easy things?

One reason I avoid tackling a job is because I overestimate the time it will require for completion. In the case of the bookshelves, I calculate that it will take me all day to remove the items from the shelves and dust thoroughly both the items and the shelves. I don’t have a full day to devote to dusting shelves.

Of course, I could do a less thorough but still reasonably good job in much less time. If I dusted only the exposed part of each shelf and the exposed sides of each item on the shelf, I could probably finish the job in thirty minutes. I won’t do that, though, because I have convinced myself that the task “will take too long”

A second reason I find it hard to do an easy thing is that I over-analyze the job. For example, if my kitchen floor needs to be mopped, I put too much forethought into the act of mopping. First, I chastise myself for letting the floor get so dirty. Then I resolve never to let it become so dirty again.

This requires me to decide upon an exact number of days between which I should let my kitchen floor go between moppings. If I decide the floor should be mopped every third day, I need to mark on my calendar each day that I should mop the floor so I won’t miss a mopping.

Also, I need to decide if mopping the kitchen floor should include mopping the floor of the kitchen’s adjoining hallway. I decide that it should not. The hallway should more logically be mopped on the day that I mop that hallway’s adjoining bathroom. I now need to mark the hallway/bathroom mopping schedule on my calendar, in addition to the kitchen mopping schedule.

The problem with this excuse is that in the time it took me to think through a plan and reject it, I could have mopped the floor twice. The floor hasn’t been mopped, though, and it won’t be mopped today because the task has now become too daunting.

A third excuse I use for not performing household tasks is my conviction that I was meant for more intellectually stimulating work. I was made to write. Writing is certainly more important than dusting and mopping. Surely I should pursue this higher calling.

The problem with this reasoning is that I can’t write worth a lick when I know I need to be doing something else. With each sentence I try to compose, I am distracted by thoughts of the dust on my living room shelves and the grime on my kitchen floor.

These excuses are not working very well for me. Obviously, I need some help. I don’t mean I need help getting my work done. I need help finding better excuses for not getting it done.

Life Lessons

My husband and I recently watched The Intern, starring Robert De Niro. In the movie, De Niro plays a retired professional who, out of boredom, agrees to work as an intern with an up-and-coming company.

The show confirmed my belief that our most important lessons are learned, not through classroom instruction or on-the-job training, but through the process of living life.

Life has taught me the following truths that were never presented to me by a teacher or professional.

  1. No matter how good or bad your situation is, your attitude will determine your level of happiness.
  1. The faults in other people that bother you most are probably the ones you yourself possess.
  1. Guilt may prompt you to do better for a while, but for the long haul, it is a poor motivator.
  1. You are likely to pass along to your kids some traits you would not wish them to have. I’m not just talking about high blood pressure and diabetes.
  1. If you carry inside a secret that is eating you alive, sharing it with a trusted friend will lessen its power over you.
  1. You are not the worst person who ever lived.
  1. Don’t feel sorry for yourself. When you are tempted to indulge in self-pity, find someone who has a bigger problem and offer a helping hand.
  1. If you rely on ice cream to make you happy, you will never manage to get enough of it. The same thing goes for approval and money.
  1. Your house is probably no messier than your friends’ houses. Just like you, they clean when they know someone is coming over.
  1. You will never run out of good books to read. You will have trouble finding good things to watch on TV.
  1. Your grandkids don’t care what you look like. Most other people don’t either.
  1. Not every woman who wears a size 8 is happy.
  1. Husbands who annoyed their wives when they were alive are sorely missed after they are dead.
  1. You need a friend who will tell you what you need to hear even when you don’t want to hear it.
  1. You never gain anything by skipping church.
  1. Cleaning your plate and keeping scraps of leftover food will not benefit starving children in other countries.
  1. Sometimes the best words you can give or receive are spoken in the language of a hug.

Surprisingly, I learned these lessons in only the first 60 years of my life. I wonder what I will learn in the next 60.