Category Archives: Healthy Relationships

Cactus Underwear or Cascade Mountain Lake?

 

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A very wise man, Dennis Prager, has said that the most grateful people are the happiest people.

And even though Dennis Prager is not a Christian (he is Jewish), he adheres to the biblical theology that people are made in God’s image, made for His purposes, to reflect Him in all we say and do.

The Bible is filled with accounts of God’s people singing, dancing, playing on lovely and loud instruments, verbalizing their praises in both speech and song to God.

Praise Him, all ye little Children

Because gratitude, rightly understood, involves thanking someone outside of ourselves, it lifts our minds and hearts away from our poor, poor selves, and focuses it on someone else, on the giver of the gift, even if temporarily.

Gratitude is an outpouring of faith. Without faith, it is almost impossible to thank God for hard times. Because faith says: “God, I don’t understand, but whatever comes my way I will trust you, because I know you are in control and you are working out a greater plan for my life than I can imagine. Thank You.”

I’m a pretty thankful person, most of the time. Probably because, growing up, I didn’t have too much, I very much appreciated what I received. My parents weren’t wealthy, and I was well aware of their struggle to provide for us kids.

In my church and in my community I know both grateful and ungrateful people, and let me tell you, there is a huge difference between them. People who only focus on the negative things that happened to them in their day aren’t too pleasant to be around. These are often the same people who complain whenever something isn’t exactly what they want. Their attitude is ruled each day by what they did not get, what other people aren’t doing to please them, or how the weather or traffic conspired to cause them grief.

Do you know people like that? I do. Sometimes that person is me, temporarily.

But I try to get out of that attitude quickly, because it’s not a pleasant place to stay. It’s like living in cactus underwear. Prickly, scratchy, get-me-out-of-this! And who wants to be too near a cactus?

And, being an old woman now, I’ve come to know that my best days are the days when I’ve taken the time to get my eyes off myself, to look around and list the wonderful things I’ve been blessed with. I call days like this, “Cascade Mountain lake days.” Could anything be more lovely and inviting?

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I recently purchased a sweet little journal called, “A Life of Gratitude.” The book, by Lori Roberts, takes you through daily written exercises where you list blessings, or positive thoughts, or beautiful things, etc. It’s not necessarily a Christian book, but since I am a Christian I prefer to do these exercises while lifting to God in gratitude each thought that I write down. After all:

“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” (James1:7, NIB Bible)

 

Here’s what I’m thankful for today: Jazz music woofs from the speakers down on the lowest level of the house. Because my loving husband is actually home this week, working in his office. He usually travels, but today he’s around. I’m thankful for him.

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It was cold this morning. I slipped warm socks on my feet and marveled at how God constructed my size 6, double E width feet. How they take a daily pounding under my 125 pound frame, but they’re still ready to carry me on the next 10-mile hike.

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It only takes seconds to notice something God has provided you, then utter an awed prayer of thanks to Him.

It’s a great habit to cultivate. And I mean to keep cultivating it each day.

“And whatever you do, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” (Col 3:17 NIV Bible)

I Miss My Grandparents

My grandmother was born in 1900, and grew up on a farm outside the very tiny town of Anita, Iowa.

Her mother had died when she was a girl. Her father needed a wife to take care of the domestic duties and to mind the six children, so he advertised and married a woman “in name only.”

This new wife, in time, became much beloved by the children, and eventually Grandmommy’s daddy, too. Soon, their marriage became a real love story.

Grandmommy watched her brothers travel to Berkeley, California to study at the University. Since she was anxious to escape the farm environment that held her a prisoner (Oh, she wanted excitement and glamour), she followed them to UC Berkeley to get her college degree…and a husband. My grandmother was a beautiful woman and many guys wanted to marry her. But she sensibly chose my grandfather, Jay Reed, a man with good moral character, a strong work ethic (he, too, had grown up on a farm), and business ambition.

(That’s my grandmother, in the center of the photo, with her siblings. Still good-looking even at the age of fifty!)

Granddaddy eventually became the CEO of a successful import/export firm in San Francisco, and a few years before World War II broke out he bought a lovely home in an exclusive district in the city.

But the farm ethic was strong in both of them.

In one corner of the garage, they had an old wash and rinse tub with a wringer overhanging the tub. On Mondays, the two of them would dunk their laundry in the steaming tub and wait while the old machine slowly churned. Granddaddy always made us stay well away of the tub and the wringer. He was super cautious about everything that could possibly endanger us. They put the laundry items through the wringer, then the rinse, then the ringer again. Even years after Granddaddy died, my grandmother kept that old washing machine.

After the wringer,everything got hung on a wire that Granddaddy had strung down the length of the garage. Grandmommy had a contraption call a mangle. Some of you older people know what that is. Her sheets and table cloths and napkins had been heavily starched, and then they would go through the mangle for pressing.

A coal man used to deliver coal and set it in a bin in their garage. On cold days, Granddaddy would tote a big lump upstairs for their fireplace.

Granddaddy worked in the financial district of San Francisco right at the bottom of all those impossible hills that cable cars climb. He rode the street cars there and back, and when he arrived home, Grandmommy would have his favorite bourbon and soda and some little appetizers ready for him. They’d sit in the lanai (a kind of sun room) and talk for about an hour while Granddaddy’s favorite chicken was baking in the oven.

Their life was predictable and organized, quiet, and unemotional. They had rules, which we followed without question. One did not question people of that generation.

No running in the house. No yelling. No “unglamorous frowns.”

Put your wraps in the closet immediately. In fact, everything in its place.

No feet on furniture.

Do not touch Grandmommy’s international dolls in the linen closet.

And especially…do not sit in Mr. Howell’s chair. Ever. Grandmommy had explained who Mr. Howell was, but that memory had become buried or lost by early childhood mental pruning We didn’t dare ask for a re-telling of the story of Mr. Howell and the reason for my grandparent’s devotion to his memory.  Still, we never touched Mr. Howell’s chair, even though the man had long since passed away.

My grandparents had lived a long time, and even though they didn’t tell too many stories from the old days, we knew their brain’s mental archives had shelved a wealth of them.

Granddaddy played the piano sometimes, usually at the end of a dinner party. He especially liked to play 1920 era pop duets with my uncle Harold. I loved the funny old lyrics. Granddaddy put his heart into his playing, which was about the only time he let emotion show.

I loved my grandparents and respected them. I loved their rules, even the ones that didn’t make sense, because I knew their wisdom far exceeded mine.

I miss the days of respect for older people. For the old memories and stories, the lovely rules of etiquette, the way men tipped their hats and held doors and carried packages for women,  the culture that makes no sense to the younger generation, the civility, the expectation of good behavior, and the censure of wrong speech and actions.

Do you feel sad, too, for the loss of that generation?

 

 

 

Above My Pay-Grade

“I gotta tell you, I’m not techy.” Imagine me screaming these words and you get the picture…or the audio.

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My publisher wants me to build my newsletter list. Simple for her. Not so simple for me.

My stomach is in knots, my head hurts, and my eyes are starting to blur.

I’m getting used to an email distribution system. The system instructions say:

“Type the recipient name here.”

Okay, but what about all the other names?”

“Drag this block over here…or wherever you want it.”

But it won’t stay where I put it.

“Upload a photo.” Ugh, it’s too big. How do I resize it?

“You have some text that needs to be removed.”

I go to remove it. “Are you sure you want to delete this text?”

“Cause once you do it, you’ll never ever, ever, ever, ever get it back. So ARE YOU SURE?”

Okay, it’s my first newsletter, so I hope my recipients are going to be understanding, even though I probably put the wrong names at the top of the letter.

Forgive me. I’ll do better next time.

This experience reminds me to show people grace. Just as I would want others to overlook my mistakes and perhaps give me an encouraging word. I’m trying to improve, and I’ll bet you are, too.

It’s good to learn new things. It teaches us humility!

 

 

 

Tiny, But Powerful

I turned off the news yesterday.

Not gonna watch it for awhile. It’s too distressing. It’s not the tragic stories themselves. It’s that every news media outlet spins the latest occurrences to reflect its own biases. Drives me crazy.

On a personal level, I do the same thing. I wish I could turn off my own tongue, too. My mind is filled with judgments, prejudices, criticisms, harsh words, or snarky comebacks. And my tongue practically pants to articulate those negative thoughts to anyone who will listen.

It’s not that I don’t also have some lovely thoughts, too. Those slip off my tongue like rain from our backyard big-leaf maple, nurturing the shrubs and flowers below.

May I alway rain this way!

Last week, Bruce and I stayed in the Seattle Marriott by the water. The scenes outside our windows thrilled me. To the west I viewed long ferries carrying cars and people to and from Bainbridge Island. To the south, towering office buildings, piers, restaurants, the Ferris Wheel, and beyond, magnificent Mount Rainier. Below, bustling car and pedestrian traffic moved along Alaskan Way.

Out in the sound, a gigantic cargo ship was being escorted south into the Harbor by a tug boat. Bruce and I watched for nearly a half hour, entranced by how such a tiny ship could pull the black behemoth, loaded with box cars. I imagined that the weight disparity between the two boats would be staggering. Yet, the cargo ship submitted to the leading of this tiny boat.

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Then, of course, the verses from James popped into my mind:
“Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body…No man can tame the tongue.” (James 3:4-7 NIV Bible)

In the world of boat and harbors,  a tiny tug boat is a good thing.

But in the heart and mind of a woman who sincerely wants to bless people, my tiny tongue leads me where I don’t want to go.

My tongue expresses the real thoughts and intentions of my heart. It mocks my occasionally self-satisfied state, those days when I think I’ve got it all under control.

“Aha, you super-Christian. You think you’re so mature and godly. Well, if you’re so good, how come you just said what you said?”

And I recognize again, that I simply lean into wrong-doing as easily as a dog to a fire hydrant.

It’s a comfort to know I’m not a lone in my struggle to tame my errant tongue. I think that’s why the Apostle Paul said, “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts.” (Col. 3:15)

My goal is to sideline my negative speech with words such as these:

  • “Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly…” (Col. 3:16)
  • “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you will know how to answer everyone.” (Col. 4:6)
  • “I will extol the Lord at all times; His praise will always be on my lips.” (Psalm 34:1)
  • “Whoever of you lives life and desires to see many good days, keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking lies. Turn from evil and do good, seek peace and pursue it.” (Psalm 34: 12-14)

What are your favorite verses on the subject?

Like Little Children

When I was a small child I found the world of adults—particularly my parents— gargantuan, scary, and incomprehensible.

The things they conversed about sounded like gibberish.

They could do things that seemed god-like, such as lighting a pilot light, driving a car, or going to sleep in a dark, dark room without needing a night-lite.

Who else but a god could read a newspaper and understand it, let alone enjoy its contents?

Who else but a god knew how to drive from our house to some strange place we’d never been before?

And who but a god knew the order of our days: when to get up, what to wear, and if the events of the day were going to diverge from the ordinary?

So when my god-like parents determined that it was time to take a nap, I did not question them.

When food was placed before me, it did not occur to me to ask for menu options.

If my parent-gods were pleased with me, my world felt secure.

If one of these gods was displeased, I felt shame.

I learned to socialize.wild-basin-june-2011-072

A few years passed.

I went to school, developed relationships with my peers, and learned to do god-like things like read and write.

By ten, my parents were no longer gods. Sure, they were people to be admired, even feared at times.

But they no longer dwelt on Mt. Olympus.

I let them know by my words and body language—even though, obedient— that I no longer accepted their orders and instructions without question.

I ceased to be a little child.

This is as it should be for the growing child. He or she must begin to learn how to live independently.

But in the supernatural world of the seeker of Christ, or the disciple of Christ, to be child-like is exactly what we need to be. Dependent.

To recognize that the world surrounding us is gargantuan, often scary, and almost always incomprehensible.

And to trust that our Father knows what is best for us.

Unlike the little child living under his parents’ roof, I will never grow so mature and knowledgeable that I won’t need Him.

I need to keep reminding myself that…

He is the Alpha and Omega

and I am just a wee small babe in constant need of protection and guidance.

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“At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, ‘Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?’

He called a little child and had him stand among them. And He said: ‘I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.'” (Matt. 18: 1-3 NIV Bible)