Friday, February 27, 2009

Small Victories

  • One string art project finished! The appropriateness of the design will be seen in the next incident.
  • My youngest daughter was troubled that two of her friends were fighting. Playing the peacemaker, she remembered a Bible verse that we had recently memorized and quoted it to them. It worked! I told her that was a good example of USING the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God. (Isn't it amazing that a sword could bring peace?)
  • My teenage son is learning how to wake up using an alarm clock. Why should such a mundane thing be considered a victory? Because this kid has suffered from sleep abnormalities all of his life. Morning wake-up has always been a trial for him (and for the one charged with seeing he is up--that would be me).
  • I have learned how to make tri-fold brochures :) Sounds silly, I know, because it is really not all that hard. But I have been dependent on others to do this for me and it feels good to be able to do it myself!
  • Melody has saved her portion (25%) of the cost to have her piano recording professionally mixed and mastered. We should have this done by next month.
  • I'm making progress cataloging, sorting, and reviewing my personal book library via the site Goodreads. This is a fun project, one I hope that I can keep current; at least a little more current than my family photo album. Ahem. Guess there's always room for another victory!

Small accomplishments bring great rewards, not the least of which is the desire to keep moving ahead. The apostle Paul said, "I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus." I like that our movement through life is upward!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

When I Lay My Isaac Down: Unshakable Faith in Unthinkable Circumstances When I Lay My Isaac Down: Unshakable Faith in Unthinkable Circumstances by Carol Kent

My review

rating: 4 of 5 stars
A gifted communicator and speaker, Carol Kent's world crashed down around her when her son shot and killed his wife's ex. An only child, her son had an exemplary military career and an impeccable record. His trial and subsequent life sentence was a nightmare for a mother to live through. But live she did, thanks to her faith, strong marriage, and network of supportive friends. Carol came to see that for her, "normal" living would have to be redefined. She and her husband picked up the pieces of their shattered family life and have learned to be fruitful in a place they never hoped to know intimately: prison. The title correlates with the Biblical story of Abraham and his obedience to God in placing his only son on the altar of sacrifice. This is a touching memoir and would be healing balm to any parent who suffers because of the choices a beloved child makes.

View all my reviews.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The Precious Words

He ate and drank the precious Words --
His Spirit grew robust --
He knew no more that he was poor,
Nor that his frame was Dust --

He danced along the dingy Days
And this Bequest of Wings
Was but a Book -- What Liberty
A loosened spirit brings --

~Emily Dickinson

Monday, February 16, 2009

Time: an Unexpected Bequest

How do you use an unexpected bequest of time; time that you thought you wouldn't have?

We get these unexpected bonuses occasionally in the Midwest. It happens when there is a blizzard, or a large dump of snow that temporarily paralyzes the city. School children call these bonuses "snow days" and little do they know that (some) adults secretly look forward to them with equal relish. Perhaps I should qualify that statement: adults who can see past the snow to be shoveled and the schedules to be re-arranged can enjoy snow days.

Oh, and it helps to have plenty of food in the pantry and a well-stocked refrigerator. Especially if you have 3 hungry teens inside. It wouldn't do to be shut up tight indoors sans popcorn and apples and hot chocolate.

Those who wait to buy groceries the evening before a predicted snowstorm can be in for a harrowing experience. No grocery carts available at Bag'n'Save. Long lines at the meat counter at Fareway. It's all part of the foreshadowing, and with the right attitude it can also be part of the fun. At Fareway, I stood in line beside my second cousin whom I hadn't seen for a very long time. Our light chit-chat enabled us to catch up on each other's lives as we awaited our turn with the butcher.

When the storm finally hits, life kicks into slow gear. It's dreamy to watch the big flakes enveloping the landscape. It makes me sleepy. Should I take a nap? Pull out a jigsaw puzzle or board games to do with the family? Read a book? Complete a craft project? Go sledding? Wonderful options, all.

On a more serious note, the way we choose to use an unexpected gift of time tells a lot about us. I confess to spending some of my bequest wisely, and to frittering some of it away to no purpose. But I exult in the luxury of having that choice, and I have no regrets.

Today the streets are cleared, the walks are shoveled, and life will return to normal. And I re-engage in life feeling rested, filled, contented, and yes, grateful for the gifts of winter.

Vintage photo compliments of the Graphics Fairy.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Little Tin Box

"I was keeping my money in a little tin box, and so I could see it dwindling away. I nearly wore out what I had left, counting it, hoping there would be more than I knew there was. (Snip) I was dreading the day I would have to write and ask for money."

and later....

"I wasn't regularly employed yet, I wasn't what you could call a "success," but my little stock of money in the tin box quit shrinking and began to grow. I started a bank account."
~~quotes taken from the novel Hannah Coulter, by Wendell Berry

I had the opportunity to have lunch with a couple of elderly farm wives last week. They had lived through the depression, and they knew something about thrift. When the conversation turned to our nation's broken economy, one lady remarked that she knew who could balance the budget.


"Iowa farm wives. If those Washington big-wigs would send the budget to us, we'd fix it! We know how to save pennies in a band-aid box until we have enough to pay CASH. We don't buy on credit. We don't buy what we can't afford."

Her words may sound simplistic, but I think there is a lot of wisdom in them. The Hannah Coulters of the last century had their little stashes--the egg money or the pin money set aside for some small luxury that may take years to realize. Touching the coins, counting them, and hearing them "ka-ching" inside the tin box was part of the ritual. You could see and feel progress as the box became heavy.

I never had a tin box, but when I was first married, we used the "envelope system" of budgeting. We put the cash from our paycheck into envelopes earmarked for food, gas, house payment, etc. When the money in the envelope was gone, we quit spending.

Today, when I use a credit/debit card, I have brought the whole process of buying and selling into the abstract. I'm in danger of buying beyond my means when I use a plastic card because I can't visualize the dent it will make on the bottom line. When I get what I want NOW, I fail to savor the pleasure of planning, scheming, and budgeting ahead for the reward.

There are means to compensate for this. You can use an online money manager and see your spending all laid out in pie charts and graphs. I prefer my homespun paper chart that hangs on the door by my computer, where I pay the bills. I need a tangible snapshot of where I've been and where I'm going financially, and how long it will take to meet my goals. It's a paper version of the tin box; it feels good to cross off one more payment on the chart.

I think there is more to this than meets the eye. The tin-box method of money management says something about character and maturity. The ability to delay gratification makes it all the sweeter when it is fulfilled. I have the opportunity to cultivate gratefulness, because there are spaces in between my purchases. It feels good to be extricated from the world's trap of buying-like-there's-no-tomorrow.

Do you have a little tin box?

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

It's the Little Things

Ever notice how a just a small act of kindness can make all the difference in the day?

  • Our waitress at Wheatfield's gave us early-bird pricing for our breakfast date even though we were a few minutes late.
  • My husband filled the gas tank in my car, saving me from freezing in this frigid weather.
  • I found a "You're the Best Mommy" note on my refrigerator.
  • The clerk at the Rotella's Bread Store always sends me away with a hard roll for each of my kids.
  • A package of black licorice mysteriously appears on my kitchen counter (my weakness!)

I will eschew the sentimentality of Valentine's Day for these little acts of love any day. What little gestures mean the most to you?