Life’s Great Mysteries

In an effort to cut down on the dust that seems always to coat every horizontal surface inside our house, I have quit using dryer sheets. This has made little, if any, difference. Instead, I now add liquid fabric softener to every load of clothes and keep two anti-static balls (guaranteed to soften and fluff and control static) in my clothes dryer. These balls are bright yellow and about the size of tennis balls. For over a week, one of the balls was missing. I searched high and low for it, knowing that there were a limited number of places it could hide. Finally, when I stripped the bed on Friday, I found the ball inside the pillow case of my husband’s pillow.   How did he manage to sleep for a week without discovering that there was a ball inside his pillow case and how did I put the pillow case onto the pillow without noticing the ball was inside it?

Here are a few more of life’s great mysteries:

  • Why is it that when I open a bag of bread, I almost always lose the little plastic or wire twistee used to close the bag?       Honestly, how far and fast can those things travel?   The same question can be asked of lids off milk jugs, toothpaste tubes and shampoo bottles.
  • Why is it that when I see an ink pen in a wastebasket, I have to scribble it across a piece of paper to make sure it is bad before I actually put it in the trash.
  • How is it that I can open a can of cream of mushroom soup, turn to throw away the pull-off top, and turn back to find that the can of soup has vanished? How does one lose a can of soup?
  • Why is it that when I need a paper clip, all I can find are rubber bands and when I need a rubber band, all I find are paper clips?
  • Why does the bill from the landscape agency lie on my kitchen island and taunt me for a week but when I am finally ready to write a check and mail the bill, I can’t find it?
  • How do I manage to lose one shoe?
  • Why do those giant, dive-bomber houseflies never sit still on a surface where they can be swatted but instead perch on the rim of a glass or edge of a pie crust?
  • Is there even such a thing as a wrinkle-free shirt?
  • Why does a paper towel that, when wet, can hold a bowling ball in a T.V. commercial fall apart as I am carrying potato peels in it from my kitchen sink to the trash can?
  • Why do I hang onto a single black sock with white hearts on it for months, finally throw it away, and the very next week find its mate stuck to a bath towel in the guest bathroom?
  • Why does my computer freeze only when I am about to reach my highest score EVER in Word Mojo Gold?
  • Why do seat belts in cars twist into positions out of which they can never be untwisted?
  • Why is the TV remote control always lost?
  • How is it that we have figured out how to put men on the moon, get cars to parallel park themselves, and make baking pans out of plastic but we can’t have public bathroom stall doors that stay shut?

Just this morning I noticed that one of my dryer balls is again missing. Hopefully someone will enlighten me if I am unknowingly wearing it inside my pants or blouse or even my sock. I think I’ll go back to using dryer sheets. I’m losing the war against dust anyway.

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Lies I Live By

God hates lies, and so do I. Nothing makes me madder than realizing that someone has lied to me. Why is it then, that with some regularity I not only tell myself lies but also proceed to live as if they are truths? Could it be that lies enable me to do things I know I should not do?

Lie #1: I don’t need a cart. Grocery store shopping carts and I have a long and bitter history. They dislike me intensely, and they prove this by wobbling, skidding, refusing to be turned, making thumping sounds, and jitterbugging across aisles every time I try to use them. Therefore, I resist getting a cart on trips to the store. “After all, I’m getting only a few things,” I reason. Fifteen minutes later, other shoppers chuckle and give a wide berth to the middle-aged woman, her arms laden with boxes, bags, and bottles, a loaf of bread precariously squished between her left shoulder and ear, a bag of rice clutched between her teeth, pushing a gallon of milk with her foot, sheepishly heading toward the checkout. The truth is this: I almost always need a cart.

Lie #2: I will lie down and nap for about 15 minutes. One of my greatest pleasures in life is daytime sleeping. I fantasize about taking afternoon naps the way other people fantasize about owning sports cars or winning the lottery. Invariably, however, when I lie down to nap, I sleep for hours. I go into the deepest level of sleep and then resist getting up as strenuously as I do when my alarm goes off at 6:30 a.m. Setting my oven timer, microwave timer, clothes dryer timer, and cell phone timer does not help. Those annoying blasts, shrieks, whistles and rings only force me to get up and race all over the house slamming down buttons before running back and covering up to sleep for another hour. The truth is this: I take long naps.

Lie #3: I will start some good habits tomorrow. Starting tomorrow I will display a positive, pleasant attitude. I will eat reasonably, exercise faithfully, and clean everything in my house that needs to be cleaned. I will encourage my friends, dispense words of wisdom to my children and grandchildren, honor God and serve humanity. In short, I will be the Proverbs 31 woman in spades. The truth is this: Unless I expend a great amount of effort, I will be the same person tomorrow that I am today.

Investigate the lies that you live by and then challenge them. You will find that each one serves a purpose in your life, but it isn’t a good one. Commit to speaking the truth to yourself about yourself. Lies excuse bad behaviors but the truth can set you free.

Celebrating Relationships

My sister Pam is three years younger than I am, which does not mean nearly as much today as it did when we were kids. She was the typical pesky little sister, the one who skillfully removed the peanut from a peanut M & M, filled the cavity with mustard, and gave it to me with a smile.

When we played paper dolls, she dressed her doll in a wedding dress for every event. When the dolls went to the movies, Pam’s doll wore her wedding dress. When they went shopping, to the beauty salon, to school and even to church, that doll was dressed in her wedding dress. It exasperated me to no end! “You can’t dress your doll in a wedding dress to go to the beach!” I yelled. “Yes, I can,” she protested. “It is her prettiest dress and she wears it every day.” I wish with all my might that today I could show up at Pam’s front door for some planned outing wearing my wedding dress! Two obstacles prevent me from doing that: (1) She lives 400 miles away. (2) I can’t squeeze myself into that tiny, size 7 dress!

I love my sister Pam. We have a relationship that goes back literally forever, as we are two branches that sprang from the same root. I also have another friend named Pam. When I was a young woman, new to this area and scared to death of driving in Indianapolis, she and I went to see Gone with the Wind at a theater on the south side. I drove, though I was petrified behind the wheel. All went well, until we came out of the theater when the movie was over and discovered that I had locked my keys inside the car, left the headlights on so the battery was dead and it was raining like crazy. I remember that Pam looked at me, laughed and said, “Well . . . .” I love the way she still responds in that same way to frustrating situations today.

Today, Friday, May 16, 2014, my husband and I mark our 41st wedding anniversary. Every day this week he has said to me, “I want to wish you a happy anniversary today because I’m afraid I’ll forget on Friday.” This morning when I woke up I looked over at his sleeping form and took advantage of the opportunity to one-up him. “Happy anniversary,” I whispered.

He turned, removed his CPAP sleeping mask, rubbed his eyes and said, with all the romance he could muster, “Of all the people in the world, you’re still the one I would choose to spend 41 years with.”

I responded, “And you’re still the one with whom I would choose to spend 41 years.”

“You and your sick obsession with grammar!” he muttered, rolling over to go back to sleep.

Dan and I have been through many highs and lows in our marriage. Together we have been poor and not so poor, bought homes and cars, raised children, taken trips, buried parents, and navigated day-to-day life. All of those things have been important, but one component of the glue that holds us together is reflected in short, playful conversations like the one we had this morning. We “get” each other. Most of the time we even like each other.

The relationships that I have with my husband, family and friends mean the world to me; they are worth fighting for. (You fellow grammarians will just have to make peace with that last sentence.)   God Himself declared that it is not good for one to be alone. Nurture the healthy relationships that you have. Celebrate the special people in your life.

A Little Work

I am married to a man who could use a little work. Don’t misunderstand me. My husband is a wonderful Christian, a Bible class teacher and a man of high morals. He is successful in a highly respected profession. He’s also a terrific husband and father, a great provider and generally an all-round good guy. But he could use a little work.

He watches too much television. He stays up too late, spends too much time in the bathroom, fails to exercise regularly or to maintain a healthy diet. He habitually runs behind on every schedule he tries to keep, starts new projects before finishing old ones, takes on too many tasks at work instead of delegating to subordinates, drives too fast, procrastinates, and bites his cuticles.

My kids could also use a little work. My daughter spends money impulsively, eats too much junk, wastes time, kills her houseplants, mooches meals, drives too fast, puts off tasks until the last minute, and whines. Her brother, my son, stays up too late, leaves lights on all over the house, misplaces his dad’s tools, trashes the inside of his car, spends too much money on-line, loses things, drives too fast, and makes excuses. I wouldn’t take a million dollars for either of my kids, or give you a nickel for two more just like them.

Several of my friends could use a little work too. Some spend too much money on clothes; others are too lenient with their kids, fail to follow through with promises they make, talk on their cell phones while driving their cars, gossip, borrow things they forget to return, interrupt others who are talking, and run late for church.

As the wife/mother/friend of the above-mentioned folks, I can’t help recalling Matthew 7:3, in which Jesus cautions me against looking at the speck of sawdust in my brother’s (or husband’s or kid’s or friend’s) eye when I have a plank sticking out of one of my own. As followers of Jesus, let’s commit ourselves to improving the person who probably needs as much work as anyone else and the only person we have any hope of changing. For me, that would be the person writing this article. For you, it is the person reading it.

(This article was written in 2006.)

Please Don’t

Words fascinate me. I play with them both in my mind and on paper. I enjoy learning of a specific word’s origin, of its potential functions in sentence structures, and of its many forms. At baby and bridal showers, I tend to do well with word games. I like to play with rhyme, and I work hard to make words flow coherently and smoothly into sentences, sentences into paragraphs, and paragraphs into full-length articles. In more ways than one, it can be said of me that I am a wordy person.

This week I began pondering common proverbs that begin with the word Don’t. It won’t surprise you to learn that I made a list of over 60 such admonitions. These included “Don’t count your chickens before they hatch,” “Don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater,” “Don’t make a mountain out of a molehill,” “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket,” “Don’t spend all your money in one place,” and “Don’t bite off more than you can chew.” Used in proper context, all of these proverbs have some merit and almost without exception, each one is intended to provide protection against some potentially negative occurrence.

Some people believe the Bible to be primarily a long list of commands beginning with the word Don’t. That seems to me a negative approach to take toward the Good Book. I strongly suspect that among all the words printed upon its sacred pages, the word Do outnumbers the word Don’t. Besides, the word Don’t is not always negative. My minister asserts that every time God says to His people, “Don’t,” He is trying to protect them. What He is actually saying is, “Don’t hurt yourself by doing that.” We can all agree that avoiding causing hurt to oneself is a positive thing.

Can you think of any offense that does not hurt the offender as much as it hurts the offended? Does not the thief lose as much in the whole sordid transaction as the victim loses? The act will cost the thief dearly in terms of self-respect and freedom from guilt. He will never look at a police officer or patrol car without feeling apprehensive.   His enjoyment of the items he stole will not be as great as it would have been if he had acquired them through honest means. His act of thievery will rob him of contentment, peace and restful sleep all his life.

The murderer who takes the life of another person in a fit of blind rage or out of retaliation kills his own chances of living a whole and rich life. The adulterer betrays not only his spouse, but also himself. The cheater, likewise, swindles himself. The person who lies, who practices deceit, who is lazy, arrogant, selfish, or greedy, or who places his own interests above the interests of others probably hurts no one more than he hurts himself. In many cases, the price the offender pays is greater than the price paid by the one he offended.

As you read and meditate upon God’s Word, try looking at all of the commands beginning with the word Don’t as cautions intended to protect you, not necessarily someone else, from harm. Yes, of course God cares about the person who is wronged, but He cares equally about the person who causes the wrong. He does not want either of them to be hurt.

When you work to bring about what is best for others, you will ultimately bring about what is best for you. Choosing to live your life by any other formula will result in your violating this silly-sounding but practical piece of conventional wisdom: Don’t cut off your nose to spite your face.

You’ll Be Glad You Did

In Luke 2:19, near the end of the story of the birth of Jesus, these words are recorded: But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. It is only natural that this young woman would, for the rest of her life, remember every detail surrounding the conception, pregnancy and delivery of her firstborn son, our Lord.

All the mothers I know carry in their hearts priceless and private memories of their babies. My children’s births did not come about by divine intervention, as Jesus’ birth did. As far as I know, they were not born to fulfill prophecy or to bring about radical, earthshaking changes. However, they were the most special children on earth to me and, like Mary, I treasured up memories of their childhoods and still ponder them in my heart.

I was not and am not a perfect mother. Upon reflection, I would have done some things differently when raising my children. Many things, however, I do not regret. In fact, a few of my mothering practices turned out to be spectacular successes. For the benefit of newer moms, here is a bit of advice offered by this older, gently used mom.

Shower your kids with exorbitant love. Cuddle, hug, kiss and physically and emotionally stroke your kids every single day. No child ever gets too much love or affirmation. Look for opportunities to praise advancements they make and successes they achieve. Tell them often that they are wonderful, special and incredibly cherished simply for the fact that they exist and belong to you.

Involve God in all that you do. Talk with your children openly and unashamedly of God and the supreme role He plays in your life and theirs. Pray over them and with them often. Draw attention daily to the wonderful marvels of His creation. Never vacillate on Sunday about whether or not you and your family will be going to church. Make that a given for your household. If God is important to you, make sure your children know it.

Live a disciplined life. You will not model a perfect life for your children, but hold yourself to a high standard. Be honest and kind. Show love, patience and respect to everyone. Practice what you preach. Spread forgiveness and compassion wherever you go. Tend to the sick, encourage the struggling, and openly support good causes. Don’t merely tell your kids how they should live. Show them.

Give your kids your full attention. Participate happily in your children’s tea parties and pirate adventures. Take them outside to play in the sun and the snow. When they ask you to play school, play doctor or play church, play it. Sing and dance with them and read to them every single day. Turn off your phone and be fully present and engaged with your kids.

Down the road, you will probably regret some of the things you did or did not do when your kids were young. You will never regret doing these four things. In fact, you’ll be glad you did them. They will be the things you ponder in your heart for years to come.

Life Is a Game of Euchre

I have spent the past 40 years wandering in the land of euchre. When I married Dan in 1973 and moved to Indiana, I quickly learned that many get-togethers to which we were invited involved playing this card game. Having never heard of euchre previously and being quite shy, I was intimidated for the first several years of playing the game. Now, though it is not my favorite activity, I do play it on occasion more or less without fear.

These are some of the things I have learned about euchre. Whether I enjoy the game or simply endure it depends primarily upon the nature of the people with whom I am playing. If they are cutthroat euchre players, intent upon catching newbies making a wrong move, pointing out obscure and intricate strategies and gloating over their own expertise, then the game is no fun.   If, however, they tolerate and occasionally even commit an offense and move along without raising too much of a fuss, I can relax and enjoy it. The same is true of life; I like playing that game with people who make the best of their mistakes and mine and move along without being preachy, condemnatory or condescending.

If I am holding both the left and right bower and an off-suit ace, I feel decidedly more confident than I do when I am holding all 9s and 10s. On a rare occasion in a euchre game, I have even chosen to “go alone” and have scored four points for my partner and me. As it is in euchre, so it is in life; temerity has its place, but opportunities are missed when people fail to recognize and act upon good fortune when it presents itself.

Common offenses a person may commit while playing this game include playing out of turn, failing to follow suit, unnecessarily trumping his or her partner’s ace, and forgetting which cards have already been played. I confess to having made all of those mistakes more than once. Upon reflection, I realize that the cause of such blunders was almost always a failure on my part to pay attention to the game. Although I was holding cards in my hand and appeared to be studying them, I was more interested in something else. My true focus was on a funny story another player was telling, the lovely decor of my hostess’s home, or the bowl of peanut M & M’s in the middle of the table.

So it is in life. The importance of paying attention to that game cannot be overstated. Let down your guard even for a short time and a relationship crumbles, your career veers off course, a fortune is lost, or you’re blindsided by an adversity that you should have seen coming.

A high price is paid when we fail to give our full attention to the task at hand. Consider the deadly consequences that result when a person tries both to text and to drive. On a lesser level, how many stitches have I had to rip out of a cross-stitch project because my attention was drawn to a TV program? How many trays of cookies have I burned because I was engrossed in reading a novel or solving a crossword puzzle?

Winning at the game of life is not a trivial pursuit. Keep your ears open, your eyes on the prize, your hand to the plow, your feet on the path, your shoulder to the wheel, your nose to the grindstone, your pedal to the metal, your rear in gear and your head in the game. Otherwise, you’re likely to be euchred.

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