Bucket Lists and Fear

Fear

I was asked to give a talk at a ladies luncheon at our church and their theme was “Bucket List.”  They asked me to share a bit about our time as missionaries in Thailand, and go anywhere I liked with my talk.  I can talk FOREVER, so I asked what time frame they wanted me to keep to.  Ruth replied, “Take as long as you like!”  What a bad idea – so we arrived at 45 minutes to an hour, VERY generous!  So I planned for 30 minutes and took 30 minutes – a miracle! Well, plus the little bit I told about Thailand before jumping in with this. Here is my talk.

I have a bucket list.  You know, those things you want to do before you die.  There are some odd things on my list, reflecting my personality.  It looks something like this, in no particular order:

  • Many more MAJOR evangelistic opportunities
  • Tour Israel
  • Check out Florence, Venice, Rome and Vienna
  • Visit Thailand MANY more times
  • Renew our vows on our 50th wedding anniversary in June 2025
  • See Ankor Wat (in Cambodia)
  • Visit Madagascar (homeland of lemurs)
  • Visit Honduras (homeland of howler monkeys)
  • Visit the Great Barrier Reef in Australia
  • Visit Uluru (Ayer’s Rock) in Australia
  • Visit all our friends in Australia
  • See penguins in the wild (possibly in Ushuaia?)
  • See the Northern Lights
  • See all 50 states, New England in the autumn
  • Visit New Zealand, see where The Hobbit was filmed, visit all our friends there
  • Visit the UK and our friends there
  • Visit Canada and our friends there
  • See my book/books published beyond self-publishing (I think I have interesting and/or helpful stuff to share)
  • Learn to sing PROPERLY
  • Learn to play the guitar PROPERLY
  • Learn to play the piano FAR better
  • Re-learn the flute
  • Many more things, but this is enough for now!

I know many of you are thinking lemurs, howler monkeys and penguins?!  Yep!  I’ve already had the opportunity to pet kangaroos and hold a wombat, so we’re good on those two things.

Because this is to be a talk at a CHURCH ladies luncheon, I felt tempted to alter that list, to scold myself for not being “spiritual enough.”  But my cousin had some amazing insight.  She wrote to me on Facebook and said, “I find our enemy attempts many times to steal our joy, and ambitions. He does so by convincing us we are not worthy to attain such goals or makes us to feel guilty if we take and do some of the things on our bucket list as if we are somehow being selfish to want the things on our bucket list.”  So, I looked at this list once again and realized most revolve around people, places of both beauty and accomplishment, and abilities that could be honed to advance the Kingdom of God.  I don’t know if that original thought about spirituality was from pride or fear, or a combination of both, but I choose to forge on!

What’s on Your Bucket List?

My bucket list is so odd – so I thought I’d take a very non-scientific poll of my Facebook friends and see what’s on their lists.  The first six were posted by more than one person.  After that, they are in no particular order.

  • Visit Israel
  • See the Northern Lights
  • See Niagra Falls
  • See all 50 states
  • See New Zealand
  • Visit Alaska/take an Alaskan cruise
  • Go skydiving
  • Go air gliding in a squirrel suit
  • Visit Scotland for the Highland Games
  • Visit the UK, ride Hogwart’s Express
  • Visit Four Corners
  • See the Vatican
  • Visit the Louvre
  • See the New England fall colors
  • Travel cross-country in an RV
  • Hold elected office
  • Have my books published (not only self-published) – can you tell that’s my husband?
  • Go on a book tour (these two were set forth by two different people)
  • Go to Thailand
  • See all the Great Lakes
  • Go on a Disney Cruise
  • Visit Norway and go on a river cruise there
  • Visit Canada
  • “See my musician spouse play in a large venue, such as The Grand Ole Opry”
  • Visit Waco, TX. Knowing my friend, I assume this is to see Magnolia Farms and meet Chip and Joanna Gaines.
  • Learn to surf
  • Travel the Trans-Siberian Railroad
  • See all the continents

Lots of interesting things.  You can tell which ones MIGHT belong to my younger friends.

What Keeps You from Accomplishing Your Bucket List?

Wow!  Post that question on Facebook, and you’ll read a LOT of “time and money” answers.  But I was hoping for a few answers that were a bit less obvious and more telling.

One of my friends responded, “I’m supposed to have a bucket list?”  Years ago I thought the same thing, and even phrased it in a very similar fashion.  For me, it was hopelessness disguised as humor, gloominess disguised as gaiety.  I believed that it was so beyond possibility, why even bother?  Maybe some of you feel that way.  I sure did for a good, long time.

I have a couple of teacher friends that responded.  We teachers are experts at metacognition, a term educators use and is defined as “awareness of analysis of one’s own learning or thinking processes.” (www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/metacognition accessed 26 September 2018)  Roxann, a friend a bit older than I, responded, “Time and money for sure.  But I find when I’m afraid/uncertain of something I keep putting it off.”  Carole, a bit younger than I, wrote, “Fearing success as much as failure.  Either will cause change and it is easier to stay in place than to change.”

I think time and money are often the obvious excuses.  But I also believe that often the reason we don’t pursue our “bucket lists” is because of deep-seated fear.  And fear is really what I want to address.

My Biggest Fear

I’ll be quite honest here.  I think I have a lot of interesting stories to tell, mostly because I’ve had the privilege of living overseas for 11 years.  There have been many crazy things that have happened to me, and I have gained insight into a lot of things because of these experiences.  I believe a lot of people could benefit from, or at least be entertained by, these stories.

But I fear rejection.  This is what keeps me from writing and sharing.  God has been teaching me about fear in many of its forms.  I taught the ladies in Thailand about fear and overcoming fear.  I took those notes and wrote and self-published a little book about it.  My heart must have been beating a mile a minute and my blood pressure sky-high when I clicked that button on Amazon’s KDP press site to “Publish Now.”

(BTW, just go to amazon.com and put my name, Cindy Bratton, in the search bar, and you’ll find it.)

I have other topics I’ve taught the ladies there: The Fruit of the Spirit and The Armor of God and The Put-Ons and Put-Offs, amongst other things.  Simple, basic things.  My little twist on all of it is simple application of truths into daily life, not necessarily the deep, knowing-the-Greek-and-Hebrew-and-syntax type of learning, but the practical application of Scripture to life in simple, doable ways.  But nothing I write is scholarly, and I cringe that I’ll be condemned for my “shallowness.”  I allow this fear to cripple me, keep me from writing and sharing, teaching and encouraging others.  Maybe some of you have a similar fear.

But there are other fears that can be just a crippling.

I’ve come to the conclusion that worry is fear, disguised as something honorable. Let me explain what I mean.

First of all, let me be perfectly clear that I do worry from time to time, but it is not USUALLY what controls me.  I see trouble or the potential for trouble, and then make a plan and do it.

The silliest worry I had was worrying because I didn’t worry about my loved ones enough.  How silly is that?!  Does this ever happen to anyone else?  I would scroll down my Facebook feed and see my women friends worried about this thing for their loved one, or another thing.  Of course, it’s all love, NOT worry! (That was written very much tongue-in-cheek fashion.) This “love” is lauded as good, as desirable, even as honorable!  I think to myself, “Do I really love my loved ones?  If so, why am I not consumed with ‘concern’ for their wellbeing and happiness, etc., etc.?  What is the matter with me?!”  I worry that I’m not a “normal” wife, mother, grandmother, friend.  While that’s true enough, it’s not my lack of worry that’s the problem.

his is kind of an abrupt transition, but back to fear in general.   What I’m learning is the opposite of fear is NOT courage.  I know . . . you think I’m crazy for sure now!  Courage is the “mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty.”  (www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/courage accessed 5 October 2018)  The opposite of fear is LOVE.  1 John 4:8 tells us, “. . . [P]erfect love expels all fear” (NLT). When His love is exceptionally present in our lives, we will be able to live BOLDLY for Him.  In 2 Timothy 1:7 we also see fear and love contrasted:  “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (NKJV).

Here’s the challenge:  Will you choose to place “Learn to not live in fear” on your bucket list?  Oh, fear will come knocking at your heart . . . but, will you use that sound mind God has placed in you, rely on His love, on His power, to rise above that fear?

I want to close with the lyrics to a song entitled “Fear is a Liar.”  It was written by Jason Ingram, Zach Williams, and Jonathan Lindley Smith and recorded by Zach Williams.  Listen to these words.

When he told you you’re not good enough
When he told you you’re not right
When he told you you’re not strong enough
To put up a good fight
When he told you you’re not worthy
When he told you you’re not loved
When he told you you’re not beautiful
That you’ll never be enough

Fear he is a liar
He will take your breath
Stop you in your steps
Fear he is a liar
He will rob your rest
Steal your happiness
Cast your fear in the fire
Cause fear he is a liar

When he told you were troubled
You’ll forever be alone
When he told you you should run away
You’ll never find a home
When he told you you were dirty
And you should be ashamed
When he told you you could be the one
That grace could never change

Fear he is a liar
He will take your breath
Stop you in your steps
Fear he is a liar
He will rob your rest
Steal your happiness
Cast your fear in the fire
Cause fear he is a liar

[CHECK OUT THIS BRIDGE, fear contrasted with love]
Let Your fire fall and cast out all my fears
Let Your fire fall Your love is all I feel
Fear he is a liar
He will take your breath
Stop you in your steps
Fear he is a liar
He will rob your rest
Steal your happiness
Cast your fear in the fire
Cause fear he is a liar

https://genius.com/Zach-williams-fear-is-a-liar-lyrics accessed 5 October 2018

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Rejoice With Us!

Our House

Today’s theme is gratefulness. I want to record all of God’s goodness to us in the most detail I can.

God led us to our home.  A home we had initially rejected as we did internet research, but nevertheless the home for us.  Just the leading to the place was extraordinary.

We looked at one place that was well within our budget. It was somewhat redone (kind of a poor “flip” job), but no laundry area, air conditioning in the main living area and the secondary bedroom, but not the master bedroom (what’s with that?!).  A “soggy” place in the secondary bedroom floor, not a good sign.  A bit on the small side.  Kind of a messy park.  Park rent $490 a month.  Rather disappointing.

We had seen another mobile home for sale in the park across the street, #84.  We decided to drive by it and see it with our own eyes.  We saw that the owner was home, so we knocked on the door.  The new owner answered (the home should have been taken off the internet sites), but said that the home two doors down (#86) was for sale and to check it out.  So, we wandered down the street.

Two vehicles were in the carport, a golf cart was blocking access to the front door, but flyers were out in the little box attached to the “For Sale” sign.  As I reached in to get a flyer, a woman came out the front door.  We later learned that she thought I was the neighbor from across the street, to whom I bear resemblance.  She asked if we wanted to see the house.  “Of course!” we replied.  So, in we went.

Elke introduced herself and her husband, Bryne.  Just inside the front door is what Elke called the “boot room.”  That’s the term Canadians use for mud room.  It contained a rack for shoes, a chair to sit on to take off, change, or put on shoes, a little table, and a place for umbrellas, coats, sweaters, and the like.  Nice.  No need for shoes to gather around the foot of our chairs!  This is a continual problem with us.

Next, we entered a small living room/breakfast nook area.  I noticed the beautiful wood or wood laminate flooring that would be found throughout most of the home.  I’ve always loved wood floors; I grew up with narrow slat hardwood floors, and they were so beautiful, especially after Mom had deep cleaned and waxed them!  This room also has a reclining leather love seat, end table, and recliner.  This room has become Dana’s office.

We then entered the kitchen, the only room in the house with tile flooring.  Elke explained that, although all the house had been redone, the only thing that had been redone in the kitchen was the appliances.  Only the dishwasher is more than a couple of years old.  The stove is for someone who loves cooking, and Elke loves cooking!  The top of it is a solid cast-iron grill.  I’ve long “petted” stoves like this, liking them but never in my wildest dreams thinking I would actually have one.  There’s a small chest deep-freeze, perfect for the way I like to cook – making large batches and freezing portions for two servings that just need baked or microwaved for us.  Some fresh paint, new window treatments, and possibly cabinet and drawer face replacement, maybe new roll flooring, and it will be AMAZING! Just a little bit for me to do at some point to make the house “mine.”  Nothing urgent!

This mobile had originally been a two-bedroom place, but Elke and Bryne have transformed the second bedroom, adjacent to the small living room/breakfast nook, into a semi-formal dining room.  Once again, the closet and built-ins from the bedroom could be refaced, but it’s absolutely perfect!  The table can seat up to 8, maybe 10.

The sliding glass door that lead from this second-bedroom-now-dining-room has been removed, providing direct access to the enclosed sun room, which is now a living room.  Another large opening has been made between the dining room and the living room adding to the open look while still maintaining the integrity of the structure. I think that larger living room is about 12’x40’. There is a PIANO, another little table for office work or eating, a grandfather clock, and TWO sofas that turn into beds.  (My thought is to switch places with the old-school sofa bed and the reclining love seat, thus providing two separate sleeping areas for family.)  This room will be perfect for a home Bible study and/or prayer group and family gatherings.  WOW!

At the far end of this room is an enclosed porch – not too pretty, but not too much work to make beautiful.  Like everything else we had seen, it is structurally sound.  This area, about 12’x12’ or 12’x15’, will make a PERFECT sewing/craft/office room for me, and the door can be closed to block the view of how most sewing and craft rooms look much of the time.  Some paint, some better lighting and more electric outlets, a window air conditioning unit, and a big craft table at a good height, and a proper office chair is all it needs! Roll laminate flooring would be nice instead of the indoor/outdoor carpet that’s in there now.  Carpet and sewing pins can be dangerous to bare feet!  Again, nothing is urgent.

We came back around through the living room and dining room, and proceed through the hallway toward the bathroom and bedroom.  The washer and dryer are in an alcove in the hallway, then the bathroom.  It’s large and has a wonderful, new shower installed last year, along with a new toilet, sink and plumbing fixtures.  We also learned that the shower head is pressurized and will maintain constant temperature even when the toilet is flushed or laundry is started.  A small, but very appreciated, feature.  Also, the water heater is only two years old, as is the central heating system.  The evaporative cooler, aka swamper, is the same age.  Bryne said that on the 108* days we had in October 2017, he had it down to 68*F.  Nice!  And, very rarely is an air conditioner required here in the dry, dry desert.

The bedroom is somewhat small, but has a wonderfully large closet.  There’s room for our Southern California clothes to hang year ‘round, plus additional for the little bit of cold-weather clothing we have for our trips to Medford, Vancouver, and Virgin in the winter.  There is a window air conditioning unit in the bedroom.  Good thinking since the house does not have central air and sometimes it’s nice to chill a bedroom down just before bedtime.  The mattress is new, queen size like all the bedding we own.  Oh!  I don’t think that I’ve stated yet that all the furnishings, except a couple of Elke’s favorite pots and her good dishes and Bryne’s tools, came with the house!

We went out the back door, opposite the laundry area, to find ample storage for whatever we want to store.  We brought a lot of stuff with us from Thailand, but not that much!  As Elke was showing one of the locked storage closets, she pointed out the brand-new golf cart charger, because the golf cart comes with the home.  The carport extends the length of the mobile (60 feet, I think) and is paved and in excellent condition.  Alongside the carport are some plants, two of which are rosemary bushes.  How I love fresh rosemary!  We walked around the back of the home into a small yard area, also accessible through the sewing room.  It contains some pretty plants, a couple of chairs and a little table.  Walking back up the other side of the home, the outside wall of the sewing room, large living room, and mud room, there are five citrus trees, all bearing:  Blood orange, Clementine orange, Meyer lemon, Kumquat, and Grapefruit.  WOW!  We snagged a couple of kumquats – DELICIOUS! Elke says those kumquats make excellent marmalade.

Having made a complete circuit, we found ourselves back on the front porch.  It’s small, but has a little bistro set-up, a small bistro table and a couple of chairs along with a good-sized umbrella.  Good for sitting at in the evenings and spying on whoever goes up and down the street.  I like to spy on people 😉

This home meets all our needs (hard flooring, in-unit laundry, the ability to sleep our family when they come visit, a place for me to sew and craft and an office) and goes far beyond.

Now, for some of the even more interesting parts of this story.  Elke and Bryne had just returned, less than 10 minutes before, from a multiple-day trip to Mexico for dental work.  And, after hearing how lackadaisical their real estate agent is, if they had not been home, we probably wouldn’t have been able to see the home for a good, long time.  As we talked about faith, we learned they too are Christians.  As we spoke of our church, we found that they attend the same church, just the early service, the same time we attend Sunday School.  Also, their being snowbirds from the Edmonton, Canada area means they aren’t there all year ‘round.  And we’ve only been regular attenders there since October or so, so it’s no big surprise that we’ve not met them yet.

We gave an offer, which was accepted.  I emptied out my 403b account to get the cash to fully pay for the home; we didn’t want to incur any debt. We then applied for residency in the mobile home park.  On Saturday, 27 January, the paperwork was received from Vista Grande Spa telling us we were approved as residents.  On Monday, 29 January a call came to confirm that it really was me requesting the disbursement from my 403b account.  That check arrived in about a week.  Elke requested the paperwork to prove the title on the mobile home is clear, so it was possible to accomplish the transfer to our name well before Bryne and Elkie returned to Canada.  Things like this are a real relief to me.  Government paperwork drives me nuts!  We moved in the first week of April.  And the park rent is only $440 per month, includes water, sewer and trash, and it’s rent-controlled.  I think that means rent can only increase in conjunction with the cost of living figures from the government.

After 13 months of not having a home of our own, we are getting settled.  I never, in my wildest dreams, expected to be able to own our home again.  I never, in my wildest dreams, considered that our monthly rent would be under $1,000 per month.  I’m overwhelmed with gratitude for what God has provided us.

Then, Sunday, 14 January just added a bit of icing to the cake, so to speak. We were asked to share, during the service, the testimony of how God has provided a home for us. The church has just completed 8 days of prayer, and one of the things prayed over was our housing situation.

We’ve been in our home two and a half months now.  It really feels like home!  On Thursday, 7 June we hosted our first home Bible study, and it’s wonderful to see God encouraging others and us as Dana leads us through the book of Mark and we pray for each other. We thought it would mostly reach the park residents, but some from our church come and some of our friends from the Gideon’s are also coming.  I’m really enjoying that stove and oven, making snacks for each week.

When we follow God’s leading, He will provide everything we need, and BEYOND what we can even imagine possible.  Why do we ever doubt His love and watch-care for us.

 

His Glory

Solar Eclipse Chicago Trubine

He is the God who made the world and everything in it.  Since He is Lord of Heaven and Earth, He doesn’t live in man-made temples, and human hands can’t serve His needs – for He has no needs.  He Himself gives life and breath to everything, and He satisfies every need.

Acts 17:24,25 (NLT)

What a paradigm shift!  I serve Christ not because He needs me to – as if He’d die or fail miserably if I do not – but out of love (imperfect as my love is) and gratitude.

I’ve been taught this, I know this, I often – I would hope – serve Christ with this motivation.  But I know it’s not all the time.  Pride nearly always sneaks in there, often in the form of a martyr attitude: “If I don’t do this, no one else will, and God’s name will be blasphemed; God’s glory will be diminished.”  As if His glory can ever be diminished!

What can be diminished, however, is the reflection of His glory in my life.

My given name, Cynthia, can refer to the Greek goddess of the moon.  And, as the moon reflects the light of the sun, so should my life reflect the Light of Christ, the Son of God.

So many facets exist in that analogy.  The moon cycles trough phases.  At full moon, it shines so bright, especially when it’s at perigee!  Then it wanes into the new moon, when Earth does not receive any of its reflected sunlight.  Yet, the moon is closer to the sun.  Then is when the moon’s gravity, in conjunction with the sun’s gravity, draws the tides even higher, closer to the sun.

The new moon can represent times when I’m closer to Christ, but this closeness is not directly visible to others.  Yet the effect may be still drawing others toward Christ, whether that tugging is perceived or not.  Most people don’t pay much attention to the tides, but they still occur and influence life.

After the new moon, the phases wax back to full moon, where it shines bright once again.

There are times when the moon would be expected to shine bright in the new moon phase, yet it does not: a lunar eclipse, when Earth is directly between the sun and the moon, and the moon doesn’t receive light directly from the sun.  I imagine this as those times when I “walk through the shadow of the valley of death.”  The fallenness of creation disrupts my direct line of sight to my Savior.

As with lunar eclipses, people gather and watch for the outcome.  They watch with baited breath, hoping for the moon to reappear, a glorious outcome.  In many cultures, there is great rejoicing when the moon emerges from totality.  So it is when I emerge vicorious from a very difficult season of life.  Others rejoice when the difficulty has finally been overcome.  Christ is once again brightly reflected in my life.

I see the sources of the eclipses in my own life coming from two distinct sources.  The undesirable source would be sin in my life.  Choosing the world and its cares above the glory of Christ.  This eclipse ends when I repent and my direct line of sight to Christ is restored.

The other source of eclipse is the darkness of the enemy, the prince of this world, forcing his way between Christ and me with the express purpose of extinguishing the light of His glory.  How foolish the enemy is!  Does the sun go out during a lunar eclipse?  Of course not!  Its glory is just as bright as ever!  Its reflection off the moon is impeded.  It is similar when the enemy seeks to extinguish the glory of Christ.  His glory never fades, only the reflection of that glory in my life may fade.  Some would call this spiritual oppression.

When this second type of eclipse occurs in my life, it may look the same as an eclipse caused by sin to all those observing it, but the cause is not the same.

When the moon is in total eclipse, it reflects a reddish light – light that has been distorted by the world’s atmosphere, and this light is quite obvious to all those observing the eclipse.

Here is a possible outcome of my struggles:  When I’m walking through the valley of the shadow of death, others may be able to see and comprehend that they have a distorted view of God.  The sun hasn’t changed, the moon hasn’t changed, but the perspective of those observing the eclipse has been altered.  Maybe it’s during the times when my life is hard that others get a glimpse of their own misperceptions and afterwards choose to bask in the undistorted Light of Christ themselves.  This makes the struggle worth it.

There are also solar eclipses.  The moon is in its new moon phase, directly between the sun and Earth.  These eclipses are far more glorious than lunar eclipses.

As a solar eclipse progresses, the observers experience a darkening of the skies, as if night is coming.  It gets darker and darker.  The disk of the moon can be seen moving further and further over the disk of the sun.  Then it happens: Totality!  The corona of the sun can be seen shining ever so brightly, a crown!  The existence of the moon is momentarily forgotten . . . all that exists is the corona, the glorious crown.  What a beautiful sight!

And so, it might be in my life.  Those times when I might be so aligned with Christ, closer to Him than to worldly pleasures, my back turned to everything that is NOT Christ.  Then the crown of His glory shines forth in such brilliance!  And my existence is momentarily forgotten because of the dazzling display of His glory.  THAT is what I live for.

 

 

Image from the Chicago Tribune.

Love is Messy

Love is messy

Galatians 1:10 (NLT) – Obviously, I’m not trying to win the approval of people, but of God.  If pleasing people were my goal, I would not be Christ’s servant.

Although Paul wrote this in direct reference to preaching the Gospel and exactly what the Gospel is, and relating to the falling away of the church at Galatia, application can still be made to any what which Christ has called me to serve.

We lost any expressed approval/respect we may have had with at least two people dear to me the day we left for Thailand as full-time missionaries.

Then, when Dana’s as-of-yet-undiagnosed dementia took a turn for the worse this past spring, summer, and fall I also lost the expressed approval/respect of three additional people dear to me when I wouldn’t abandon and divorce Dana and pursue my own personal financial well-being.

At this time, I serve God mostly by honoring my marriage vows and serving Dana.

It strikes me odd that, when it was generally believed that Dana was mentally ill, it would have been OK to have thoughts about divorcing or abandoning my spouse, even in Christian circles.  Even one person who expressed the opinion that I was acting in a crazy matter stated, “God forbid, if there really is something wrong with his (physical) brain (i.e., tumor or dementia), I’ll eat my words!”  Now there’s been a diagnosis of non-Alzheimer’s dementia, a dementia that first affects a person’s ability to logically reason. But I’ve not heard one word or read one text, email, or message to that effect.  I don’t even need to hear words of apology; I’d just like to see a change in attitude.

It also strikes me odd that the church cries out against divorce and for honoring marriage vows, yet many in the church approve of and may even encourage abandonment and even divorce in the case of severe illness and in the case of nearly all mental illnesses.

Here’s what I have learned over the past forty-two years of marriage:  Love, marriage, and commitment is not always kittens, sunshine, and skipping through the meadow.  Often it can be quite the opposite: The roaring lion – the enemy – seeking to devour, to tear apart Christian marriages, which are to represent God’s eternal covenant with the church; The valley of the shadow of death, walking through difficult, sometimes even dangerous, passages of our pilgrimages here on Earth, yet fearing no evil because God is with us; Trudging knee-deep through the mud and mire that this life sometimes is, through no fault of our own.

It is in those dark times when we are knee-deep in the messiness of this life, being attacked from every side, that true love can shine forth like a diamond: walking the path together, encouraging and strengthening and wrapping our arms around the other without condemning them in their struggle; Working out in real-time that love, that commitment, to serve the other’s need; Taking upon ourselves a portion of the heavy burden the other is carrying, the burden that is crushing them to the point of annihilation; Holding the other up when they are weary so together we can take one more step forward.  It’s in these times that an example of God’s love for us can be seen and He can be glorified in our lives.

As I walk this journey of dementia with the one I love, my husband of forty-two years, I know I won’t win the approval of many people.  I cannot expect that.  In fact, I expect the disapproval of most, if not everyone.  But that is not the calling of God on my life.  The calling of God on my life right now is to honor Him, to “do” my “I do’s.”

Minimalism

Less is More

I’ve been thinking a lot this past year about when we (finally) get our own place in the States.  What will I need to furnish it appropriate to our needs, both present and future?  I thought I’d go to Pinterest and get a bunch of ideas.  Oh, there are so many wonderful ideas, so much of it expensive and time consuming!

Then on September 24, during my Bible reading, I came across Matthew 6:19-21.  The past two years I’ve been reading a chronological Bible – two years and I’m not yet to the end.  But I regress.  That’s another story for another day.

Anyway, Matthew 6:19-21 in the New Living Translation reads, “Don’t store up treasures here on Earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal.  Store your treasures in Heaven were moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal.  Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.”

It seemed to me as if God was whispering (maybe yelling?) the word “minimalism” to me.  The past three months I’ve been focusing on what that means to me, and what it doesn’t mean to me.

By nature, I’m a clutter bug.  If the papers are to be put away, there must be an easy way to accomplish that task.  If the folded and hung laundry is to be put away properly, I need a place to do that, a place which is easily accessible.  You get the idea.  If a task seems overwhelming for whatever reason, I opt out of it.

A great part of minimalism is having what you need, and not a whole lot more.  Remembering that whatever I own will require maintenance, which uses a lot of time that could be better spent elsewhere, I asked myself, “How many pairs of slacks do I really need?”  Turns out, it’s not too many.  I figure two pair of nice, well-fitting black slacks should do it.  Same goes for skirts and shorts.  What about jeans?  I upped that to three or four, because they only get washed together because of the possibility of fading.  Then, several blouses to add color, a few sweaters in a variety of colors, and I’m pretty much finished.  My husband gave me a dress and some amazing Thai Silk fabric to sew into a skirt and blouse.  I do have a couple of nice suits, one a slack suit and the other a skirt suit. It should all fit on less than 3 feet of closet rod.  Nearly everything is machine washable too.  Easy to care for with minimal time spent.  Of course, my new tendency toward minimalism can’t be forced on my husband, but I can pursue it for myself.

I got to thinking next about bedding and other linens.  Is it truly necessary to have more than two complete sets of bedding for any bed in the house?  I think not.  What about towels?  Two sets for each person I can sleep in my home seems reasonable to me.  I do love to have LOTS of washcloths though.  Living in the tropics for over a decade had me using a clean cloth for every face wash or shower.  They just got so disgusting, not drying out well between uses.  The same applies to kitchen towels and cloths.  You see, I’m not a total minimalist, just trying to head that way.

Another place that can get overwhelming quite quickly is the kitchen.  How many place settings do I really need?  There are so many types of appliances available!  How about something that does several different jobs?  I like that idea!  I need to remember I don’t need appliances for every task, especially the ones I never do!

I think it’s going to be interesting to get into all the “stuff” we shipped back from Thailand and has been in storage more than nine months now.  What if a bunch of it is just stuff I can’t or won’t use?  I know I really miss some of it: my serge/overlock sewing machine, my keyboard, pictures, my fantastic high-capacity printer, the good vacuum cleaner which has been in storage these past 11 years.  It just might make me sick to see how much “junk” I had shipped over the Pacific Ocean, needing to toss even more as I unpack it all here!

One area I need to work on is my love for crochet thread, yarn, and fabric.  Much of it is used to generate income.  That’s legitimate.  The rest, not so much.  With that, I’ll share part of the prayer I wrote down in my journal on Sunday, 24 September 2017:

Father, guide me as we work to establish a home of our own once again.  Let us be more minimalist.  Keep me away from crochet thread, fabric, and yarn unless I have a specific use for it.  Keep us away from too many clothes, too many kitchen things, too many trinkets.

What are your thoughts on minimalism?

 

 

 

Repatriation, Part 9

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It’s been nearly 4 and a half months since my last entry about our repatriation.  That might provide a lot of information in and of itself.

It’s been a crazy 4 months.  Two days to recover from jet lag.  A funeral; nearly a week spent in Anaheim with family; our children delivering our car to us, and announcing that they took on ¾ of the cost of the car; a trip to the Pacific Northwest to visit family, especially four of our grandchildren; back to Riverside, CA and more resumes being sent out. This was all quite expected.

But then the unexpected happened.  My husband had a bad transition from his Thai medicines to medicines that are available here in the States.  Today marks his 26th day in hospital, with his discharge scheduled for 2 o’clock this afternoon.  He still has some ways to go to be fully “back to himself,” but we know that God is able.

My job hunt has not gone well.  Because I’ve been out of country and out of the school district so long, I cannot get letters of recommendation to apply for a contract position in the public school system here in California.  I do have applications in at two Christian schools in the area.  School opens early next month, and I’ve not heard anything.  Another online teaching opportunity just fell through.  However, I have a couple of kids I’m tutoring in their reading.  I’m in the process of working toward certification in teaching dyslexic kids and adults to read, spell, and write well.  I’d really like to have about 25 hours a week of private tutoring.  That could also include EFL/ESL and even sewing and crochet lessons.  I have my Cindy’s Creative Crafts shop on Facebook, and my husband will help me get the shopping cart stuff working better.  I need to find a better way to market it.  My book about overcoming fear is now available on Kindle via Amazon. I need to find a better way to market it too.  I’ve always had a lot of different interests, and there are a few things I do well.  Now they need to provide a way to provide for our financial needs.  I will probably have at least a brief stint in the retail arena.  Maybe as a clerk or cashier or something along those lines.  Minimum wage job with no benefits, probably multiple little jobs like this. I’ve submitted at least 50, probably closer to 100, online applications to various retailers.  Crickets.

I ask for your prayers in this next season of our lives.  We need a little place of our own, it doesn’t need to be much.  We need to stay in the Riverside area so my husband can complete his recovery here with the medical staff that is already involved in his care.

God has always taken care of us in the past, and I know He’ll continue and provide the perfect resources so we can once again serve with all our heart, soul, mind and strength.

 

My Online Shop is Up and Running!

13062157_10153639979811849_5165504760692843204_nGo check out what’s up at Cindy’s Creative Gifts! You can search for me on Facebook, and order from the “shop” link on the left side of the page. We won’t call the page “perfect,” but I’m learning a little more about how to do this day by day.  Look for my colorful doily when you search. Global shipping is included!