Saturday, April 25, 2015

Word of the year.

Have you ever had a “word of the year”?

Every December, the local Christian radio station does a campaign encouraging people to choose a word for the coming year. It’s supposed to be something that challenges you in an area you need to work on, kind of a daily kick in the pants to not be a slacker. I’ve never picked a word before, mostly because I can’t decide—among the myriad things I need help with—which one is the most important, but also because I’m just not a bandwagon kind of girl. I’m not one to do what everyone else is doing just because it’s the new “thing” to do.

But for whatever reason, I chose the word “worship” to focus on for 2014. I felt like I was kind of in a rut, going through the motions of sing a hymn, pray, sit down, stand up, sing another hymn, listen to the preaching, sing, go home. So I started each day by reminding myself to find instances when I could worship. I looked for beautiful things, helpful people—anything that was positive. And I learned two things: (1) that over the years I had begun to notice the bad before the good, I had come to expect the bad, and that the good almost surprised me; and (2) that I had a lot to learn about worship.

I learned that worship is not just when something good happens and you say, “Wow, that was awesome! Thanks, God! You rock!” It’s more of a whatever and no matter what comes my way, God is wonderful and holy and magnificent and all-powerful and full of grace and mercy, and my goodness, don’t we need to remember all of that every single day? It was a daily reminder of all that God is, all the time, even when I’m not thinking about him because the car broke or the boss is crabby or somebody cut me off on 95. Worship is an action that reflects a constant state of mind that I am his and he is mine no matter what else is happening in my life, good or bad or terrifying, and how comforting that is! No matter what, the Lord is worthy of worship all the time.

And the best part is that when 2014 ended, that time of focusing on worship did not. It became a habit. “Commit thy works unto the LORD, and thy thoughts shall be established” (Proverbs 16:3). If you want to establish a new way of thinking, start DOING first, and eventually, your thoughts will follow. In the beginning, I had to always be looking for opportunities to worship—a beautiful sunrise on the way to work, the great garden fire in the middle of the night that did NOT burn my house to the ground, safety for my son and daughter-in-love while they were deployed in hostile places around the globe. But by the end of the year, the worship was just spilling out of me over little things—a great cup of Wawa coffee, a good night’s sleep, a husband who can fix things and save us thousands of dollars. And then the big things became even bigger—that I have a God who loves me in spite of what I am, a faithful husband for 31 years, five kids and three grandsons all healthy and happy and leading productive lives.

The Lord is worthy.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Is this the longest week ever?

You just never know what a day is going to bring, and while you can't sit around fretting about what-ifs, it would be nice if you could be prepared in some teensy way. These things always remind me of a story Corrie Ten Boom told her sister about grace. She said it was like a train ticket. She told Betsy that Father never gave her a train ticket until the conductor was coming through and wanted to punch it because she didn't need it before that. She said grace was the same way—that God didn't give it until you needed it, and then he gave all you needed. So true.

Also, I've been on a music downer lately. Christian music choices on the radio where I live are pretty limited, and I just can't make myself listen to most of it. But today after some pretty stinky news, I flipped on the radio and heard this line: "Your hands are holding me even when I don't believe it." Good job, God.

And that's all I'm going to say about THAT.

In happy news, we got a call from our eldest today that he is back in the US. It was so good to hear his voice.

Also, I planted kale and yellow and green squash yesterday, and my little tomato plants are trying valiantly not to die before they're big enough to put in the ground. Come on, little babies! I've tried for several years to grow plants from seeds, and every time has been a colossal failure that ended with a trip to Lowe's to buy plants. I'm trying to get my average up to .250 this year.

And now after a conversation about yeast die-off symptoms with my daughter, I'm going to quit this day.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Picture in your mind a frail old lady hobbling across the living room, hunched over leaning on her cane. She doesn't actually pick her feet up, but her movement through the house is more of a shuffle.

Welcome to my life.

Ben is going on a mission trip later this year in which he will be hiking in the mountains, carrying a 40-pound pack with all his worldly possessions including tent and sleeping bag, food, stove, water, clothing, and maybe a few band-aids if he can fit them. And because he is a smart man and knows his limitations, he has begun training for this trip, meaning he puts on his boots, straps on his pack, and walks. A lot. Mostly he goes at 4:30 in the morning and since I don't want to disturb his solitude at that hour (yes, that's it), I stay in bed where all normal people are when it's still the middle of the night.

So yesterday morning while I was grocery shopping, he went for a seven-mile walk, his longest one yet. I was duly impressed. Then later that day when we had to leave the house so people could come see it, I suggested we go drive through a nearby park that has a beautiful seven-mile road with almost no traffic. It's scenic and quiet and one of my favorite places to run. He loved it so we made plans to walk the whole thing after church this morning.


It's been a little while since I walked that far. And I wasn't wearing heavy boots or carrying a backpack. Tomorrow is going to be rough.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Life lesson #28.

Today I did something I never thought I would do. If you'd told me this morning when I woke up that I was going to do this today, I would have laughed in your face. It was so bizarre, I almost couldn't pull it off. I walked around CVS for a good twenty minutes trying to work up the courage, and then I couldn't stop fidgeting while I was standing in line. I was filled with an irrational fear that someone I knew would walk in at that very moment and see me standing there holding it. My reputation would be ruined. No one would ever take my healthy-living advice again. I would be a laughingstock. (I just learned that laughingstock is one word, not hyphenated.)

I bought a Diet Coke.


It wasn't for me. I bought it for a friend who had spent the day in the ER after she injured her back bending over to put food in her dog's bowl. And since I know that the more stress she's under, the more she needs a Diet Coke, I figured she could use one. I'm an enabler that way.

So the moral of the story is don't bend over to feed the dog or you might wind up drinking a Diet Coke in the ER.

Life lessons you can't live without.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

And miles to go before I sleep.

I have a love/hate relationship with my bed. I love my sleep, but my current mattress isn't conducive to much of it. Over the years Ben and I have had two different water beds and six or eight innerspring mattresses, from Guido's discount cheap-o to a fancy Kingsdown pillow-top that made us feel like we were sleeping in matching canyons within the first six months. I've been threatening for years to buy a foam bed, but I keep shying away from them for various reasons, most of which involve me not wanting to part with many thousands of dollars. Ben is willing to get whatever I want since he can literally sleep standing up, and has. His Fitbit routinely tells him that it took him zero seconds to fall asleep.

I've been on a mattress-research kick for the last few months, knowing our current sleep situation is precarious at best. Fourteen hundred dollars only gets you two and a half years worth of mattress these days, and the last two years are iffy.

So yesterday when we were talking finances, I mentioned that I had opened the IRA and had paid the taxes that day which has pretty much wiped out any semblance of a savings account balance we had. I lamented that I'd really enjoyed the security of having $10,000 dollars in the bank.

Ben commented, "It was a nice month."

And that's the story of our life. But like I said yesterday, our needs are met, and as Ben says, it's only money.

So today I stopped at Sleepy's (the mattress store) after work and told the salesperson my sad tale of insomniatic woe (I just made that word up). She immediately led me to the second-most-expensive bed in the store, a Tempur-Pedic Flex Hybrid Elite, which I now want.

I would love to hear your opinion if you have experience with a memory foam bed. I've only slept in one, and while it was quite firm, I didn't mind it. My friend explained that you don't get in it as much as you get on it, and that's an accurate statement. But I'm leaning in that direction. And while I love doing research, I'm approaching information overload and will need to just make a decision at some point. Hopefully soon.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Jehovah Jireh, God the provider.

You know how I feel about taxes? Yes. Yes, you do.

I've always done our taxes. With a degree in finance, I had no excuse not to. But when we moved to Virginia almost eleven years ago, our situation became more complicated. We had five kids, one in college, a rental home in another state, and then I started doing freelance work from home. So we decided to hire someone to do the deed for us. Being new to the area, we didn't know who to go to, so we asked for and got a recommendation.

S was probably in her sixties when we first met her, but many years of smoking made her seem closer to ninety. Every time she coughed we feared it would be her last, and every year, the ceiling and walls of her office were noticeably darker with nicotine. For the last three or four years, we were dumbstruck that we could owe the government money. We had two, sometimes three kids in college, Ben or I or both of us were taking classes at the master's level, we showed a loss on our rental home, had the max withheld, etc.

Finally in the spring of 2014 a co-worker got sick of listening to Ben complain and recommended someone else. So we took our last year's tax return and went to meet J, our new accountant.

Did you know there is a huge difference between a tax preparer and a certified public accountant?

Turns out there's about a $10,000 difference, that being the amount we overpaid for the last three years. So we stashed that money in a savings account and forgot about it, thinking it would probably go toward a downpayment on land in North Carolina.

Let me stop here and quote a verse. "And it shall come to pass, that before they call, I will answer; and while they are yet speaking, I will hear" (Isaiah 65:24).

That $10,000 was an answer to a need we didn't even know we had.

When it came time to file a tax return for 2014, we knew we were in trouble. Too much income, sale of the rental house, only one kid in college, and down to one dependent. The only way we could get out of paying an outrageous sum in taxes was to put the maximum in an IRA, and guess what—there it was, right where the Lord left it.

He provided before we knew the need. My God is wonderful.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Adventures in Pittsburgh, or don't worry, there's another bridge on the next block.

I am currently in Pittsburgh for the annual American Copy Editors Society conference. (I'm just going to go ahead and not write well, okay?)

I left home this morning and, after the obligatory stop at Wawa for coffee, discovered my right-rear tire was dangerously low. So the first 45 minutes of my trip was spent in a waiting room while the friendly tire technician removed a roofing nail from my almost-brand-new tire. I hate when that happens. And on my way up 95 I stopped in Aquia to kiss Ben one last time. So by the time I started driving in earnest, it was 10 am.

The drive wasn't bad—a little less than 5 hours—and Mapquest's directions were good. All went well until I was literally (literally literally, not figuratively literally) a block from the hotel, just coming off a bridge, with too many choices before me, when I hesitated long enough to miss my street (which, in my defense, was not marked), and I said right out loud, "That was my turn." With that, I found myself on one of Pittsburgh's many bridges headed who-knows-where (but I did get a glimpse of PNC Park as I whizzed by). So when I got to the other side (Why did the tourist cross the river?), I pulled into a parking lot and summoned Siri to help. She patiently recalculated several times while I found a place to do a U-turn (okay, three) and I found the hotel in short order.

Did you know that $150 a night in downtown Pittsburgh does not get you a place to park your car? But no worries, they offer valet parking for $30 a night.

Thirty. A night.

I opted for a parking garage two blocks away where I will pay a mere $16 a day for a parking space.

But enough complaining. After I checked in and deposited my luggage, I went out for a walk with my camera.

I know! Real photos! Not from a phone!

There is a beautiful park right in front of the hotel that sits on the triangular point where the Allegheny and Monongahela rivers meet, original site of Fort Duquesne, and it was a balmy 65°. I walked and took pictures for an hour. I would love to go run there in the morning, but it's going to be raining, so no thanks.

There were (I'm guessing) 50 or 60 editors at the freelancers' social, and I talked until my throat hurt.

May I just say that these are my people? It was so interesting to hear what people edit, how they got started, how they grow their businesses, etc. I even met my favorite writer of style books, Bill Walsh. Except it was at the very end of the social, and I hadn't eaten for seven hours, and I was on the verge of a sugar crash, and I may have abruptly turned and run down the stairs looking for food. And now I'll have to explain all that to him tomorrow.

In the meantime I'm going to turn the temperature in here down to 60° and sleep.