Monday, September 29, 2008

God Speaks Through Music: My Songs

Oh my! There are so many times in my life that God spoke to me through music, but three times in particular come right to my mind.

When I was in college, I struggled often to find funding for classes and textbooks, but one time in particular led to a miracle! I was working 30 hours a week and also carrying a full load so I would qualify for my loan. I had Human Anatomy and Physiology and found that I just couldn't stretch my budget to buy the book for the class. So I was going to the library every night to read the text book in the reference section. I couldn't keep up. No matter how hard I tried, I was slipping behind. One afternoon, I was feeling really low. As I walked away from my class, I looked up in the sky and saw a whole flock of sparrows. I thought immediately of the song "His Eye is on the Sparrow":

"Why should I be discouraged?
Why should the shadows come?
Why should my heart be lonely,
and long for Heaven and Home?
When Jesus is my portion?
My constant friend is He.
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me."
(Words: Civilla D. Martin, Music: Charles H. Gabriel)

I was still worried, I have to confess, but I felt peace. The next day, as I was leaving the Human Anatomy class, a girl I didn't know came right up to me and said "God told me to give you this." She handed me a brand new Human Anatomy and Physiology book...the sticker was still on it! By the time I could speak, she was gone. It was just a book, but when hard times came to me later in life, I remembered that song and that book. His eye is on the sparrow...and I know He watches me.

The next song that had a great impact on me was the chorus "Give Thanks". My husband was dying of cancer. He had been in the hospital for several days and I could see he was slowly slipping away from me. His mother and I took turns staying with him all night because we didn't want him to be alone. One night, he was restless. He had pulled and tugged at his oxygen mask and he just looked frightened. I remember leaning over his bed and stroking his dark hair and I began to softly sing to him:

"Give thanks with a grateful heart
Give thanks to the Holy One
Give thanks, because He's given Jesus Christ, His Son...
And now, let the weak say 'I am strong'
Let the poor say 'I am rich'
Because of what the Lord has done for us...give thanks."
(Words and Music by Henry Smith)

Jim immediately grew still. His brown eyes locked onto mine and he smiled and then he slowly fell asleep for the night. I can't sing that song without reliving that moment and remembering his smile and his brown eyes.

After he went to Heaven, life was so hard for me. I missed him so much, I literally thought I would die myself. I can't begin to describe the despair and the pain of those first few weeks and months. I had my little boy, only three years old, and I had to get on with life, but there were nights and mornings when I just wanted to go to Heaven myself. It hurt so bad. I would try to be strong all day, but when night came, and the house grew quiet, I'd lie in our bed and just weep. I'd struggle with reading God's word and trying to find comfort and even trying to find God. One night, I was awake all night. When morning came, I looked out the window and saw the pink dawn. In my head, I heard the song:

Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father
There is no shadow of turning with Thee
Thou changest not, Thy compassions they fail not.
As Thou hast been, thou forever will be.
Great is Thy faithfulness
Great is Thy faithfulness
Morning by morning new mercies I see
All I have needed, Thy hand has provided
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me."
(Words: Thomas O. Chisholm, Music: William M. Runyan)

Oh! I sang it over and over that morning and all the lonely mornings to come and one morning, I meant it again.

Music has always had an impact on my life, but these three songs are some of my favorites because each time, they pointed me to a loving Father who cared and KNEW me, inside and out.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Friday Fiction: Tante Rosi: Meddler Extraordinaire

My Friday Fiction contribution is based on a lady that really DID turn my furniture around one day while I was at classes. She also walked me right out into four-lane traffic. What a character! I hope you enjoy this fun story and for more great fiction, click here!

Tante Rosi: Meddler Extraordinaire

”Oh, I’m so tired,” I groan.

I flop onto a chair in my tiny apartment, kick off my sandals, and sigh. I notice the light on the answering machine blinking, so I hit the button.

“Charlice? Honey, thiz iz Tante Rosi. I’m comingue over in aboud twenty minutes. I haf zom new thangs for your apartment. Be there zoon.”

“Oh, Lord, please,” I pray, ”not Tante Rosi today.”

If there’s a woman who’s more intrusive and obnoxious than my Tante Rosi, I’ve yet to meet her. I check the time on the answering machine and see that I have five minutes to get out of here if I want to avoid her. I slip my feet back in my sandals and head to the mall.

The air-conditioned building cools my nerves and for a few minutes, I feel guilty about ditching out on Tante Rosi. I know she means well, but there’s just no way to curb her enthusiastic meddling.

Since I’ve moved close to her for my new job, she hasn’t missed a day coming to my apartment. She’s brought me dinner, gotten my mail, and watered my plants. She even went along when I did my laundry, tsking the whole time over the “dirty und filsy” conditions of the Laundromat. She was right, but c’mon…it was a Laundromat!

One day, my old beat-up car had broken down and I’d had no way to get groceries. I’d called Tante Rosi to see if she could drive me. It just so happened that Tante Rosi’s car was in the shop, too, but did that stop her? No. She’d had a friend drop her off at my door, her arms laden with the makings for “spaetzle und Weiner schnitzel”.

As we’d cleaned up after dinner, I’d joked that I’d have to eat schnitzel for breakfast since my cupboards and fridge were bare. Big mistake.

She’d happily asserted that we could walk to the grocery to get “zome zings”…it would be “fun for der bode of uz” and “gut for uz, too.” Never mind that the grocery was five miles away, and never mind that we’d have to walk along a 4-lane highway…oh no…it would be “fun for der bode of uz”. I must have been out of my mind to go along with her zany idea.

Everything had gone surprisingly well until the trip back. Tante Rosi had suddenly decided that we were walking on the wrong “site of der roat”, and she wanted to cross four lanes of zooming traffic to the “udder site”.

“C’mon, now. Vee hurry und git ober dere!” and she’d yanked me out into traffic behind her.

“Tante Rosi!” I’d screamed, “We’ll get killed!”

She’d calmly replied, “Nonzenze…dey stop, dey stop.”

And stop they did. Four lanes of rush-hour traffic had come to a screeching halt while two crazy women strolled across the highway, clutching brown paper grocery bags in their arms. I’d wanted to apologize to each and every driver, but shame had kept my chin tucked to my chest as I’d meekly followed behind Tante Rosi like a duckling following her mama. The stunned drivers had been so dazed by our stupidity, they hadn’t even honked their horns.

I shake my head at the memory as I stroll past the storefronts. I spend two more hours at the mall before I start home, but as I approach my apartment, I catch a glimpse of light coming from under the door. No. She couldn’t still be… here? I swing open the door and there stands Tante Rosi, her arms wide and her face lit with pleasure.

“Charlice! Velcome home! I decidet dat dis place needs zomezing. Zo! How do you like it?”

I look at what used to be my living room…nothing is the same! Tante Rosi has changed out my furniture…all my knick-knacks…all my…everything!

She hugs me tightly and laughs with glee at her surprise. My blood pressure starts to climb.

“Now, I haf made a vonderful dinner…sauerbraten mit noodles. You relax und I vill put it on de table.” She hands me a glass of cold lemonade and pushes me down into the softest chair I’ve ever sat in. The smells from the kitchen make my mouth water and my stomach growl. I let my pounding head roll back against the fluffy chair.

Tomorrow, I will have to straighten Tante Rosi out about her role in my life, but tonight…well…I guess dinner can be “fun for der bode of uz”.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

It's Almost Time

I'm gearing up for NaNoWriMo again in November. For those who wonder what I'm talking about, it's a national contest to write a novel in 30 days. Yes. Thirty. Days.

I tried it for the first time last November, and it was fun! But a couple of weeks into the contest, I got very sick and had to stop. Still, I managed to type a little over 7,000 words. The difficult thing about NaNoWriMo is that you are not allowed to edit. The whole point is to write for the fun of writing and to achieve a goal. Let me tell you, that was the most difficult thing...I could barely stand to start back in on the story after leaving it sit all night in those festering and often reeking words, but that was the deal. It was hard to not go in there with my red pen and slash away all that I had written the night before. It was difficult, and even painful, to have this screaming little editor, sitting on my shoulder the whole time I typed, wanting me to fix that word or get rid of that sentence. And I even made my screaming editor muse laugh a few times with my paltry attempts at dialogue. Oh well. I'm assured that every book starts out reeking and festering and that it takes many months of honing and polishing for even the best novel to start to shine through the muck.

So, I plan to give it another go and I hope I can accomplish my goals this time! In the meantime, I have a lot of planning and plotting to do. I have a lot of praying and asking the Lord what He'd like me to accomplish because one thing I'm sure of at this point, I have a story I think He wants me to tell. And I want to do it justice and set in motion what He's been bringing into my world lately. It's exciting and scary at the same time, but it's something I definitely want to try.

If you'd like more information about NaNoWriMo, here's the link:

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Feeling Punk

Colds are one of those things that make you sick enough to want to go to bed and stay there, but they aren't really bad enough to go to bed and stay there. I have the cold that my son had last week. I never realize how much I appreciate a good, clear, deep breath until I can't get one anymore!

My husband's Amish/Mennonite roots show sometimes in the words he uses and one of my favorites is "punk". Not the kind of punk that conjures up images of a teen with an attitude, but he means it as a term of illness. The word punk means being just sick enough to feel lousy, but not sick enough to go to the doctor or stay in bed.

So today I feel punk. And I really just want to curl up with a good book and read. I want chicken noodle soup and lots of warm tea. I don't want to fix any meals, write any stories, or plan any lessons. I also don't want to do the dishes or make the bed. I feel punk, so I just want to read.

Sometimes I wonder if we need to feel punk just to slow down...maybe forget about being responsible adults and kind of curl up in our Father's lap and let Him take care of us. A punk-y day means we get to slowly browse through the Word...let the messages come to us as they come with no plan or order.

I hope I get back to myself's much more difficult to feel punk without anxiousness when school is waiting and dinner has to be made. I can't relax in my illness when the calendar has a list of things waiting for me to do.

A day of feeling punk is not so bad once in a while, but I sure wouldn't want to wallow in it!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Few Who Knew Us Then

I wouldn't say that I'm old, not by a long shot! But I have experienced some things in my life that remind me of the way my life might be when I'm older.

I was thinking today about my dad. He's in a nursing home because he has Alzheimer's and it is a sad, sad world in there. So many rarely see their families anymore, and so many only have their memories to keep them company.

Would it surprise you to know that I have moments like that? I had a marriage once with a fellow named Jim Brown. He was my best friend, and my Knight in Shining Armor. We went everywhere together and did everything together and bought a house and had a son. I touched his face when he slept at night and he was real. But when our son was two, Jim was diagnosed with a devastating cancer. Though he fought with all his might, he lost his battle to cancer and won his victory in Jesus. He went home to be with our Father in Heaven on September 26th, 1995. It seems like a lifetime ago now, but in a way, every September, my mind goes back along those familiar our car and our home and our music and the life we held so dear together. I feel like people in the nursing home: few in my life now ever knew us then...few ever saw us together or laughed at our wedding, shared a pizza and jokes with us around our table.

Sometimes, I feel disloyal to my husband, Arlen, and the wonderful life we went on to create, when I talk about my life with Jim. Arlen understands, but many others view my talk as "living in the past". Yes, Joseph and I picked up the pieces and God helped us patch our hearts back together and we lived on. But there will never be a day when I don't miss Jim. There will never be a day that I don't see him in his son or suddenly have a moment of wondering what he would be like now.

Like those folks in the nursing homes who have only their memories to commemorate life's biggest moments, I have a mental photo album of memories with Jim that only he and I shared. I realize with a start that he was the only other person (who knew me) that was in the room when Joseph was born...I only shared with him the first time "we" gave Joesph his bath...the first time Joseph spoke...the first time our son laughed...the first coo...and so many other moments that are personal to a couple with their first, and in my case, only child. These memories are bittersweet and I find myself wanting to say to Arlen, "Remember the look on Joseph's face when he ate his first cereal..." but then I pause as the realization hits me that, no, Arlen would not remember. And I always feel a little sad.

So today, I want to introduce you to that other couple: to Jim and Dee and the family they were way back then. I've added a few photos from those days and I hope you enjoy getting to know Jim, and Dee, and Joseph Brown. In memory of Jim, I add the verse he had marked in his Bible (he never wrote or underlined any passages in his Bible but this one):

In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me. John 16:16

That promise made by Jesus to his disciples holds true for my Jim and me, too. Someday, Heaven will be my home, and then I will see Jim again.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Bugs Do a Lot of Nothing

Did you ever notice how bugs do an awful lot of sitting around...doing nothing?

My son and I captured male and female praying mantis's yesterday. We put them in our bug vivarium and watched them. The female spent the first hour or so pouncing on the male every once in a while, but other than that, the bugs just sat. Or clung, if they were at the top or sides. We kind of got enough of her sudden and disturbing pounces on the hapless male, and we'd read that hungry females can start eating their mates, so we decided to put another food source in there.

We procured a maimed, gigantic mosquito and dropped him through the hole. Still nothing. The male swiveled his triangular and alien-shaped head when the female came near, but otherwise, no action. Tsk.

I kid you not...this inaction on the part of the bugs made me think about God and me. I'm in His vivarium (earth)...He's watching my He seeing any action?

Just wondering.

Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self–controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed. 1 Peter 1:13

Friday, September 5, 2008

Friday Fiction: Little Rascal's Traveling Antique Show

My choice this Friday is an early entry in the Writing Challenge at Faithwriters. Boy! Did it ever need some work to spruce it up! But, it's reminiscent of the times I went with my mom to Antique Shows and Flea Markets. We were well known as the "Deco Dealers"; we specialized in Art Deco and stuff from the 20's, 30's, and 40's. It was fun!

To read more great fiction, hop on over to Pattering's Blog and click on the links posted there.

Little Rascal's Traveling Antique Show

“My map was turned upside down, Mabel!” I exclaimed.

“Is that why we’re out here in the boonies?” Mabel muttered.

My sister Mabel’s sigh reflected how hopeless she thought this day was becoming. She glanced in her rearview mirror to check for traffic before she swung our car and the attached trailer into a farmer’s lane that had a wide turn-around at its end. The dust-covered caravan wormed a circle back onto the road as we reversed our journey to the main highway.

Two weeks ago, this whole thing seemed like such a lark, but now, road weary and nearing poverty, we were thinking it might be time to give up and go home. Ah, but that would take money and we had almost nothing left. We’d have to hit at least one more flea market and hope for the best in order to get back to Ohio. The nearest market was where we were trying to go, but my less than exemplary map skills put us miles in the wrong direction.

“What time does that brochure say we need to be there to set up tonight, Mryt?” asked Mabel.

“Well, it says, umm, let me see…by 7:00. Better floor it, Mabel!”

“Yeah, you get us lost, then pressure me to make it come out all right,” she grumbled. Still, she pressed the pedal to the medal, so to speak.

Our troubles didn’t bother us for long. The sun was shining; the scenery was beautiful; and hope was riding with us. This trip had worn us out, but we’d had a blast being away from the pressures of our antique shop, Little Rascal’s Antique Emporium.

I settled in my seat and watched the scenery fly past. We rolled into the Bradley County Fairgrounds at 6:15. This was our fifth Antique Show and Flea Market so we could almost unload in our sleep. A bleary-eyed presenter pointed us toward the building
we were scheduled to set up in.

At the door of the Sheep Barn, a teenaged-back-for-hire loaded our stuff onto his cart and rolled us to our spot. We paid him with our next to last twenty.

We managed to get most of the glassware unpacked before the presenter shut the lights off row-by-row. He left our row for last. Nice man, I hope, considering we have no money right now to pay him.

The next morning, at 6 am, we hit the floor running and got to our spot before any early birds showed up.

“I need coffee, Myrtle,” said my sister after twenty minutes of placing the displays.

“Ok, let me finish this, and I’ll go find some.”

I followed my nose to a cafĂ© in the back of the building. I nearly turned around when I read the sign over the counter: PTOMAINE JOE’S.

“At least he’s honest,” I muttered to myself.

After getting two cups of coffee to go, I got back in time to see two buyers looking over a Depression glass butter dish with a matching top.

“I don’t think this top goes with this bottom,” said Buyer One to Buyer Two.

“You are so right,” said Buyer Two to Buyer One.

They turned to Mabel and asked her to sell them just the top since it wasn’t really the right one for the bottom dish anyway.

Mabel smiled, took the dish and said: “Oh my, we never sell faulty merchandise, Gentlemen. I’ll just put this away.”

Their faces fell, but they finally forked over $60.00 for the whole set and left in a huff.

“How many times do you think that’s happened to us, Mabel?” I asked with a laugh.

“Enough times for us to learn they’re trying to cheat us, Myrtle,” she answered with a grin.

We had the gamut of buyers that day; the Lookers, the Walking-Encyclopedias, the My-Grandma-Has-One-Just-Like-Thats, and the Collectors.

We love the Collectors. They scan our booth with infrared eyes and zero in on their target in seconds. A collector never squabbles over price; he hunts, bags his trophy, and carries it away. He comes prepared with cold, hard cash, too.

At the end of the day, we counted out enough money to pay the presenter and still have enough to make it to Ohio. We loaded our stuff and revved up the engine to head home.

“Give me five, Mabel!” I said merrily.

“On the side, Myrtle!

”In the air, Mabel!”

“We’re square, Myrtle!” We slapped hands and smiled.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

8 Random Facts

OK, Lynda Schab tagged me to produce my own "8 Random Facts". Here they are!

First, the rules:

1. Each player starts with eight random facts/habits about themselves.
2. People who are tagged need to write their own blog about their eight things and post these rules.
3. At the end of your blog, you need to choose eight people to get tagged and list their names.
4. Don't forget to leave them a comment telling them they're tagged, and to read your blog.

Here are my VERY interesting and compelling random facts:

1. I did research work in the late '80's on aspartame (Nutrasweet).

2. I sang in a band during my college years.

3. My first job was at the first Wendy's franchise sold outside of Columbus. Dave Thomas came to the Wendy's regularly to check up on us. (He was firm and serious.)

4. I squired a nationally known pediatrician around my high school my senior year during some kind of event (can't remember what it was now or his name-just know that he was often on TV!) He suggested we sneak off to the movies instead of going to the lectures.

5. I was stopped by an American tourist in Paris and asked if I could speak English because he thought I was a Parisian and could give him directions. Right. Imagine his surprise when I said I was from Ohio.

6. My brother's step-daughter was in a few episodes of "90210"-or whatever it was called! I only watched the ones she showed up in.

7. The last room I visited in Versailles Palace was bombed by the Red Brigade just after our tour group left in the late '70's. The gendarmes were running up the palace steps as we were leaving. A bomb was hidden behind a painting of Napoleon in the room. We heard about it when we reached Germany that night.

8. I have a severe allergy to horses in spite of the fact that I'm never around them. Go figure.

I'm tagging...

Sunny (Yes! Tell us some interesting facts about you!)

Monday, September 1, 2008

Treasuring Up

My one and only is 16 now! I'm like every other mother; I think the time went too fast. In my mind and heart he's still a three year old or a five year old. It seems that when he started school, the years flew past and now we'll be starting our 10th grade year of home school in a day or so. The memories I have of him on his first day of kindergarten seem like they were made three days ago! Oh my. Life certainly doesn't sit still for any of us.

Do you suppose Mary, the mother of Jesus, had moments like these? I always think she showed her mom's heart right away at the birth of her Son when the Bible explains that "...Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart." (Luke 2:16) I wonder if the years flew by: the flight to Egypt...the trip to the Temple...the day Jesus began His ministry...the day He was honored on the streets of Jerusalem...the day He stood before Pilot...the day of the cross...the day of Resurrection...the day of her final goodbye to Him on the mountain as the clouds obscured His image from her one last time.

It's interesting that the Bible doesn't tell much about the relationship between Jesus and His step-father, but through all of His years, Mary is mentioned. A mother's love is a powerful thing!

I'm glad God gave me Joseph...and I'm so happy he is growing into a nice, loving young man. But my mom's heart wants to treasure up all the things we've done together and ponder them. To me, my son is an example of God's love for me, for Jim, and for Arlen. Though Joseph's dad, Jim, went to Heaven before us, we have this wonderful person to love and share happy and joyous times with. Life has been good...not always easy or happy or perfect, but very good. And one of the reasons it has been good is because of my son. Happy 16th birthday, Joseph!