NEVER ONCE

I cut my teeth on the back of a pew in a small country church. My siblings did the same. I can take you to the church and show you the teeth marks.

In that church I learned that motives count. Not only should I give, but also I should want to give. I learned that honoring my parents meant more than being good in their presence. I learned the meaning of words I never encountered anywhere else: sanctification, regeneration, propitiation.

I knew from day one I was imperfect but God loved me and Jesus wanted to save me.

Qualities taught to me at home were reinforced inside that little church. Qualities like integrity, patience, and kindness.

God poured His grace down upon me, the little girl who wanted so passionately to be good but knew she would never be perfect.

My mind often wandered during church services. Sometimes I silently reviewed the memory verse I would be asked to recite in Bible class. I looked at pictures in my Bible of blind Samson breaking the pillars of the temple and Moses talking to God in the burning bush.

I studied my fingernails, picked at my cuticles, and passed an occasional note to my sister. I thought about what I would be doing that afternoon. I listened to my grandma singing alto in the pew behind me and tried to copy her.

I fanned myself with a paper fan provided by the Leland Carter Funeral Home. I watched mud daubers whizzing outside the window. I heard baby cousins fussing just a few rows back.

I watched my mother tend to my young siblings. I struggled not to laugh the Sunday my brother held chewing gum in his hand and eventually created a sticky, pink spider web between his fingers.

I tried to pay attention if the preacher wrote things on the chalkboard. I tried to focus as he pointed to places on one of the big Bible maps that stood on an easel near the podium.

Once, in a sermon about the tabernacle the Israelites built on their journey from Egypt to Canaan, the preacher flipped the map pages to one that showed the route they took. And right there, right in the middle of the map’s desert, a mud dauber had built a brown, crusty nest.

The preacher chuckled and said, “Well, there’s the tabernacle right there!” and everyone laughed.

I thought about going to college. I dreamed about someday driving a car, being a teacher, and having babies. I wondered if I was pretty.

I pondered unanswerable questions about whether or not Adam had a belly button and if God could make a box so tiny he couldn’t get into it. I contemplated trying to use faith to move a mountain.

I checked often to make sure my slip strap was not showing. I looked down and reaffirmed that I hated my old black, patent leather shoes.

Sometimes in church, I listened and learned. But, truth be told, much of the time I daydreamed and wondered and contemplated and planned and pondered and imagined and questioned and resolved.

But never once in all those Sundays did I worry that a lunatic with a gun might walk in and blow away my entire family and me.

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Autumn Pleasures

 

Pumpkins and scarecrows

Corn stalks and hay

Leaves on the ground

‘Til winds sweep them away.

 

 

Cider and sunflowers

Jackets with hoods

Campfires and asters

Colorful woods.

 

 

Crispy cool mornings

Frost on the ground

Playgrounds abandoned

Squirrels abound.

 

 

Migrating birds and

Football to play

Your breath in the air

A harvest array.

 

 

Pools are all covered

Grills put away

The air is now filled with

A wood smoke bouquet.

 

 

Reruns on TV

Quilts on our beds

Knee socks and mittens

Scarves around heads.

 

 

Apples, persimmons

Thanksgiving buffet

Sunset comes sooner

To shorten the day.

 

 

Late fall brings frostbite

Hayrides and s’mores

Get out the board games

We’re staying indoors.

 

 

Winter looms large now

With cold winds and snow

So savor fall’s pleasures

Before they all go.

 

HUH?

My husband and I have reached that unenviable age when the sense of hearing diminishes. Rarely does either of us get to say anything only once. The most often heard questions in our house are: “What did you say?”, “What’s that again?”, and “Don’t you know I can’t hear you when I’m in the bedroom and you’re in the kitchen?”

Because Dan and I were having trouble hearing/understanding each other, I had my hearing checked. After the test the audiologist told me my hearing fell within normal limits, but there was one particular tone I could not hear in either ear.

I explained this test result to Dan and speculated that maybe that singular tone is the tone into which his voice naturally falls. That could explain why I fail to hear him.

So now, in addition to calling out to Dan, “What did you say?” and “Speak up!” I can also legitimately yell, “And don’t talk to me in that tone of voice!”

I love it.

Hearing well is important. In fact failing to hear or mishearing can be dangerous and lead to comical or unfortunate results. “The mare will be shod at noon,” can be heard as “The mayor will be shot at noon.”

I am reading a novel in which the main character, a musician, got a chance to play his guitar with a well-known musical artist at an outdoor concert. It was evening, and the sky played with the sunbeams, creating many beautiful colors.

At some point while he was playing, the amateur guitarist heard his idol artist say, “Man! This guy’s great!”

He savored that compliment for years.

Eventually though, he realized that what the renowned musician had actually said was not, “Man! This guy’s great!” He had said, “Man! This sky’s great!”

I am a word nerd and enjoy, in a sick sort of way, hearing mispronounced and misused words and phrases. Very often I hear, “For all intensive purposes.” The actual phrase is “For all intents and purposes.” Though some people say, “Nip it in the butt,” the actual phrase is “Nip it in the bud.”

Hymnal lyrics are often misheard. Low in the Grave He Lay becomes “Low in the Gravy Lay.” Gladly the Cross I’d Bear is heard as “Gladly, the Cross-eyed Bear.” And from Victory in Jesus, instead of He Sought Me and Bought Me, some hear, “He socked me and boxed me.” (All right, I stole that last one from Google.)

As I have already indicated, I’m a bit of a snob when it comes to the written and spoken English language. I once bought a Sara Lee cheesecake and read on the box Nobody Doesn’t Like Sara Lee. I had heard that jingle a thousand times when I had perfect hearing, and I knew the correct words were Nobody Does It Like Sara Lee.

I called the company’s 800 number to set them straight. The woman on the phone listened to me patiently and then told me, “Our slogan is Nobody Doesn’t Like Sara Lee.”

“What?” I asked. “But that can’t be right!  Nobody Doesn’t is a double negative!”

“We know,” she said, “but it works for us.”

I hate it when wrong is right.

 

 

 

 

 

FROM DUST TO DUST

One of the main reasons I hate housework is I am never finished with it. If I empty the clothes hampers, wash, dry, fold, hang up, or otherwise put away every item, I am at the same time wearing clothes and thus creating more laundry. The dishes I washed this morning will need to be washed again this evening. Floors swept today will need to be swept again tomorrow.

Dusting is the worst. In fact, dusting is the ultimate effort in futility. Even if all the dust in a house could be magically sucked out, within less than a minute more dust would appear to take its place.

Dan never mentions the dust in our house, so it apparently doesn’t bother him. The grandkids don’t give a hoot about it. In fact, they enjoy writing their names in it. We have few guests, and those who do visit don’t appear interested in dust. So I am the only one who is bothered by it.

Following this line of reasoning, I sometimes think I should stop fighting an unwinnable war. So I wave a dusty white flag in the air, declare dust the winner, and vow never to dust again.

But, the resolve never to dust again usually lasts about one day. The next day I declare outright war on it. I pull out the big guns: two vacuums, various brooms, dust mops, dust rags, window cleaner, furniture polish, long-handled spider web destroyers, Febreze, and every Swiffer product on the market.

I start and finish in the master bedroom. I don’t mean I start in that room and move through the whole house until I reach that bedroom again. I mean I start in that room and never move to another one.

I take everything off tabletops and dressers, take down the curtains, strip the bed, remove all wall hangings, pull every loose item out of the closet, disassemble lamps, pull heavy furniture away from the walls, collect all dried and silk flowers for dusting, and open the windows and remove the screens for cleaning.

By the time I get everything ready to be dusted, I’m too tired to lift a dust rag.

Frustration overwhelms me. If I resisted dusting a tidy room, what made me think I would want to dust one that was in complete disarray and barely navigable?

I sweep the books, lamps, flower arrangements, wall hangings, and window screens off the bed onto the floor. I lie down on the bare mattress and cover myself with a window curtain.

Dan usually comes home to find me there curled up in the fetal position. It doesn’t take him long to figure out what happened.

He gently awakens me, gets me to a sitting position, and asks, “You decided to dust again?”

I nod.

“It’s okay,” he says, “We’ll go get something to eat, just as soon as I return the ladders, the air compressor, the tool chest, and the appliance dolly to the garage.”

I drag myself off the bed and say, “But we can’t possibly sleep in here tonight.”

“That’s all right,” he says. “We can sleep in the spare bedroom.”

“I don’t know,” I say. “It’s awfully dusty in there.”

Three Stories

STORY #1

My sister Joni is a book-lover. Yesterday she went to a large book sale, looking in particular for picture books for her grandchildren. After shopping for a while and selecting quite a stack, she took the books to the check-out desk and asked the clerk to hold them for her while she continued to shop.

When she finished shopping, she went to the desk to pay for the books she had chosen. The clerk looked at first flustered and then apologetic.

“Another woman told me we were holding those books for her,” she said. “She has already paid for them and left the shop.”

STORY #2

I once worked with a young woman who loved nice clothes. One Monday morning she was wearing a new mid-calf sheath that looked especially nice on her. I complimented her on it and then noticed something awry. The price tag was sticking out of the neck opening in the back of the dress.

“Ooops,” I said. “The price tag on your dress is sticking out. Let me cut it off for you.”

“No!” she snapped. “Don’t cut it off. I bought this dress to wear to church yesterday for Easter. I’m wearing it again today. Then I’m going to return it to the store and say it didn’t fit. I do it all the time.”

STORY #3

When I was teaching English to adults many years ago, a student came to me at the end of class. She told me she could not submit her term paper, though it was due.

As she was driving to class that day, she said, she had car trouble. She stopped at a garage to have a mechanic look at her car. For some reason, she took her term paper into the garage with her and accidentally left it there. Since the paper was still at the garage, she wanted me to excuse her from turning it in on that date.

I said, “Go back to the garage and get your paper and turn it in to me before the end of the day.”

The student called me later in the day and told me she went back to the garage and found her paper, but it had gotten covered with grease. She knew I wouldn’t want to read a term paper that was messy.

I told her to bring the paper to me anyway. I would evaluate only its content, not its appearance.

I never saw the paper, and the woman eventually stopped attending class.

The untruths described above are fairly insignificant. But, if I know nothing else about the women depicted, I know they are not completely honest. This proves the saying, Tell a lie once and all your truths become questionable. (Pinterest)

When I was a little girl, the words lie, liar, and lying were not used in our house. An untruth was referred to as a story. The one telling the story was a storyteller, and the act itself was referred to as storytelling.

 If my mother suspected I was being less than truthful, she asked me, “Are you telling me the truth or are you telling me a story?”

In the three scenarios above, the woman who took the books that were not hers, the woman who “borrowed” a dress from a store, and the woman who failed to turn in her term paper all told stories.

I wouldn’t ask either one of these storytellers to housesit for me or to hold my purse while I was in the restroom. Trust that has been broken is hard to put back together.

Luke 16:10 reads, “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much.”

That is why a mom drags her kid back to the convenience store to return a swiped candy bar. She knows that a stolen candy bar today may be a stolen car years later.

Limit your storytelling to the sweet fairytales you tell your children at bedtime. Demand complete honesty from them, and from yourself.

 

Household Hints

Just before Dan and I married in 1973, my college roommates gave me a copy of the book, Heloise’s Housekeeping Hints (Pocket Books, 1972). This paperback reference manual is filled with ideas for making one’s home function more smoothly.

Many of Heloise’s suggestions begin with the words how to: how to remove stains from clothes, how to organize your kitchen cabinets, how to make windows sparkle.

When I was a young bride, I consulted this book fairly often. Now I hold on to it only for sentimental reasons. The cover is faded and creased, and every time I open the book, pages fall out.

I read some of those dried and discolored pages today and found a few suggestions that made me laugh out loud. I will share them with you.

WAX YOUR PETTICOATS (page 91)

I have found the answer to the nylon and cotton petticoats that go limp after washing. Since they have to be ironed anyway, I place waxed paper over the petticoat and press. The wax from the paper transfers to the garment and it looks new again. This is especially good in damp weather when everything goes limp.

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TRIM YOUR LIPSTICK, GIRLS (pages 119-120)

If you use a razor blade to slice off the end of your lipstick tube diagonally, it will give you a very sharp outline when applied. It seems to fill out those minute wrinkles and cracks around your lips. Put the discarded lipstick ends in a small jar and use them with your lipstick brush.

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QUICK TRICKS (page 124)

When hanging nylons or leotards outdoors to dry, slip a teaspoon into each toe. This prevents the hose from wrapping around the clothesline and getting snagged.

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I am no Heloise, but in my 44 years of homemaking, I have discovered some excellent tips that I will now share with you.

VINYL GLOVES

Buy and keep in your kitchen a box of disposable, vinyl gloves. I use these gloves whenever I handle raw meat. I am especially glad to have them at Thanksgiving when I am forced to get up close and personal with a tom turkey. I also wear them when I cut up pickles and other smelly foods in order to keep their odors off my hands.

I wear them when I mix meatloaf with my hands and whenever I handle food coloring, such as at Easter when I dye eggs with my grandkids. As an additional bonus, these gloves can be turned into balloons for the grandkids to decorate.

FROZEN CHOPPED ONIONS

Buy and keep in your freezer several bags of frozen chopped or diced onions. I hate chopping onions and have often rejected recipes that directed me to do that. Now I simply take a bag out of the freezer, use as many of the onions as I need, and return the bag to the freezer.

My husband has been heard to say on multiple occasions, “There’s not a thing in this house to eat for lunch but thank goodness we have five bags of onions in the freezer!”

 

DECORATIVE BOXES

Prepare and stash in several rooms of your house small, decorative boxes containing household items that you reach for daily. These include paper clips, scissors, Scotch tape, sticky notes, a nail file and clippers, a small stapler, a reliable ink pen, a sharp pencil with a good eraser, and a highlighter. Throw in a few Hershey Kisses if you are so inclined.

Now I have those things at hand wherever I am in the house. Before I did this, I often had to get up out of a chair or out of bed to retrieve an item kept in only one room of the house. I have these boxes in my living room near my recliner, in my kitchen, and on two bedside tables.

 

Of course we all want to wear clean clothes and have a tidy house, but those things are not of highest importance. What is much more important is maintaining loving relationships with the people who share your house with you.

 

Dan and me, housemates since 1973

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Count the Costs

Relationships are expensive.

Ask any mother. A mother loves her children “to the moon and back,” as she often tells them. She spends years nurturing, protecting, feeding, clothing, educating, consoling, encouraging, disciplining, and every other ing word that can be applied to child-rearing. She would have it no other way.

But ask a mom if motherhood has cost her anything and she will tell you it has indeed. She sacrifices time she would like to spend doing any number of other things. She sacrifices money to buy textbooks and bicycles when she wants to spend that money on a new couch or an outfit for a special occasion.

Ask any married woman if being married has cost her anything and she will tell you it has indeed. She is no longer living only for herself. Her husband’s needs and wants become as important as her own needs and wants. She doesn’t buy a family car or even redecorate their bedroom without including him in her decisions.

A woman who is fortunate enough to be married to a good man pays less in the marriage relationship than the woman who is married to a not-so-good man. But both women sacrifice something of themselves in the marriage relationship. That is what “the two become one” means.

Friendships are costly. For example, I occasionally surrender my restaurant preference and eat at a place I don’t particularly like because my friend enjoys eating there. I sacrifice time with my family in order to spend time with my friends. My friends do the same things for me.

Of these three costly relationships, friendship offers the most flexibility. Parenthood and marriage are lifetime commitments and deserving of extreme sacrifices, when necessary.

But a friendship can grow and thrive or it can lessen or even end. There are people with whom I choose not to be a close friend because their friendships cost too much.

Some of these “friends” expect me to become who they are; they want me to think, talk, and act exactly as they do. I am not willing to pay that price.

Other “friends” lead me slowly to sacrifice my established life values. They encourage me to spend too much money, to be hypercritical, or to be less than truthful. With friends like that . . . well, you know.

Still other “friends” live lives of nonstop drama and ask me to be their great “fixer.” They beg for my help but refuse to accept the help I offer. Mostly, they want a sympathetic ear and my permission for them to remain in their chaotic, unproductive lifestyle. I finally conclude that such people are not looking for friends. They are looking for enablers.

I don’t, of course, ignore or demean these people. I am kind to them and help them when I can. But I cannot afford to be a close friend to them.

I must not conclude this discussion of costly relationships without mentioning the cost of following Jesus. In Luke 14 Jesus cautions us that the cost of following him is high. He uses sobering phrases like “hating your own father and mother,” and “giving up everything you have.” Those words sound severe, but we must remember that securing a relationship with us cost him everything.

Pray that God will give you wisdom as you establish relationships with people. Pray also that he will never allow you to put a relationship with anyone above the one you have with His Son.

For friends who share common interests with me and enjoy reading lighthearted, inspirational, and entertaining articles, many with spiritual applications.