Sunday, November 30, 2014

How long...


After receiving a plethora of email notices about the digital credits for opting not to use the Prime service today, I checked my balance and discovered that I actually had enough to buy Michael Card's album about the Gospel of Mark.  Any thoughts I had of seeing a few of the dozens of movies I've missed since visits to movie theaters is not in my budget flew out of my head.  And I very promptly downloaded the album!!

Most definitely, I'm going to opt for slower shipping whenever I am not in dire need of whatever I purchased.  [If I remember to do so.]  After all, the refrigerator certainly survived waiting a few more days for its water filter.  And, as long as it is available, I will continue to order things one item at a time to get the credit for each item.  It turned out that Amazon simply shipped all those individual orders in one box anyway.  Thus, no wasted packaging or transportation costs even though I split up the purchase into five individual orders.

Anyway, two of the songs on the CD Michael Card wrote to accompany his commentary on the Gospel of Mark were more of choral pieces.  I care not for such style.  But the rest were a mix of his bluesy folk style and his slow, contemplative style.  Whilst I did not care for the style of all 10 songs, I did very much savor the craftsmanship of lyric.  I really, really, really like how Michael Card ponders the Living Word and then writes lyrics that leave you as unsettled as a "mother created by her own child."  The Word of God in all its fullness remains a mystery to the mind of man.  Michael Card is not afraid to say so.  And, as in the commentary, I thought that much of the emphasis of the songs were about Jesus and what He came to do for us.

The Service of the Sod

The seed is scattered.
It is sown.
It has power of its own.
The sower casts it all around.
Falls upon the fallow ground.
The sower sows in faithful toil,
Some on rocky shall soil,
Some eaten by the birds that swarm.
Some is withered, choked by thorns.

The seed remains the same
With the mystery of the power it contains.
What produces fruit for God
Is the service of the sod.

Lo, the kingdom's come to you.
If you have ear to hear the truth,
If you have eyes that you might see, 
You are the soil meant for the seed.

The seed remains the same
With the mystery of the power it contains.
What produces fruit for God
Is the service of the sod.

The mystery of the seed remains.
It is so small and self-contained
The sower need not ascertain
And, though he sleeps, produces grain.
                  ~Michael Card

Whilst I was listening to this song, it struck me the emphasis that seems to be lost when folk talk about this parable:  Jesus, a.k.a the seed.  I kept thinking that it matters not, in essence, just how good your own soil is, because the seed will do what it is intended to do.  That is the mystery of the Living Word:  its powerful, performative nature.  And the key in the parable is the seed, is Jesus.  Not me.  Not my soil.

In his song about the healings of Jairus' daughter, the woman who bled, and the leper, "At His Feet," Michael Card has the following chorus:

Life and healing in Him meet
The dark, demonic must retreat
All they hope for and more
They found at His feet

I really like the emphasis that life and healing meet in Jesus.  Too often, I think, the focus in solely on life Jesus brings.  Jesus is and brings both.  And I liked the simple statement that whether darkness bred (flesh or world) or demon led (the devil), the foe you are battling must (and will) retreat at the feet of Jesus.  Like the promise of the Psalter, if You call, I will answer....  Will.  Such a powerful, comforting, astounding Word.  Here, that "will" is clothed in text as "must."

You Walked in Lonely Places

When they told you of the Baptist
Of what Herod's men had done
You fled into the wilderness
You fled to be alone
You grieved the world's cruelty
You knew in flesh and bone
The heartache of the mistreated
And the sorrow of the lone

Lord, You walked in lonely places
Lord, You felt our emptiness
Lord, You walked in lonely places
To know the pain of man

In Gethsemane You struggled 
Just to make it through the night.
You called upon on those who loved You
Who weren't ready for the fight
You pleaded as they slumbered on
You knew in breath and blood
The heartache of abandoned
And the suffering of one

Lord, You walked in lonely places
Lord, You felt our emptiness
Lord, You walked in lonely places
To know the pain of man

And in my darkest hours 
I call upon Your name, O Lord
And You come into the solitude 
Of what I cannot face alone
Of what I cannot face alone

Lord, You walked in lonely places
Oh, You felt our emptiness
Lord, You walked in lonely places
To know the pain of man
                  ~Michael Card

This song reminded me a bit of another Michael Card song, one from his album The Hidden Face of God.  It reminded me of how incredible and yet truly ineffable it is that God took upon the flesh of man when He sent His Son to be born into this fallen world.  He knows us.  He knows us because He is in us as we, in our baptism, are in Him.

Come Lift Up Your Sorrows

If you are wounded

And if you're alone,
If you are angry,

If your heart is cold as stone,
If you have fallen 

And if you are weak,
Come find the worth of God
That only the suffering seek.

Come lift up your sorrow
and offer your pain.
Come make a sacrifice of all your shame.
There in your wilderness
He's waiting for you
To worship Him with your wounds,
For He's wounded, too.


He has not stuttered and He has not lied
When He said, "Come unto me, you're not disqualified"
When your heavy laden, you may want to depart,
But those who know sorrow 

They're closest to His heart.

Come lift up your sorrow
and offer your pain.
Come make a sacrifice of all your shame.
There in your wilderness
He's waiting for you
To worship Him with your wounds,
For He's wounded, too.


In this most Holy Place
He's made a sacred space
For those who will enter in
And trust to cry out to Him;
You'll find no curtain there,
No reason left for fear;
There's perfect freedom here
To weep every unwept tear.


Come lift up your sorrow
and offer your pain.
Come make a sacrifice of all your shame.
There in your wilderness
He's waiting for you
To worship Him with your wounds,
For He's wounded, too.

                  ~Michael Card


What wild concepts:  make a sacrifice of shame and worship Him with your wounds!

I find it odd when Lutheran's start dithering about defining what worship is, how it should be done.  I mean, the doctrine of the Lutheran Church, as elucidated in the Christian Book of Concord, is fairly clear about that:

But because Christ's righteousness is given to us through faith, faith is righteousness credited to us. In other words, it is that by which we are made acceptable to God on account of the credit and ordinance of God, as Paul says, "Faith is counted as righteousness" (Romans 4:3, 5). Although, because certain hard-to-please people, we must say technically: Faith is truly righteousness, because it is obedience to the Gospel. For it is clear that obedience to the command of a superior is truly a kind of distributive justice. This obedience to the Gospel is credited for righteousness. So, only become of this--because we grasp Christ as the Atoning Sacrifice--are good works, or obedience to the Law, pleasing. We do not satisfy the Law, but for Christ's sake this is forgiven us, as Paul says, "There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus" (Romans 8:1). This faith gives God the honor, give God that which is His own. By receiving the promises of God, it obeys Him. Just as Paul also says, "No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God" (Romans 4:20). So the worship and divine service of the Gospel is to receive gifts from God. On the contrary, the worship of the Law is to offer and present our gifts to God. However, we can offer nothing to God unless we have first been reconciled and born again. This passage, too, brings the greatest comfort, as the chief worship of the Gospel is to desire to receive the forgiveness of sins, grace, and righteousness.  ~BOC, AP, V (III), 186-189 [emphasis mine]
And here:

Our churches teach that the history of saints may be set before us so that we may follow the example for their faith and good words, according to our calling. For example, the emperor may follow the example of David in making war to drive away the Turk from his country. For both are kings. But the Scriptures do not teach that we are to call on the saints to to ask the saints for help. Scripture sets before us the one Christ as the Mediator, Atoning Sacrifice, High Priest, and Intercessor. He is to be prayed to. He has promised that He will hear our prayer. This is the worship that He approves above all other worship, that He be called upon in all afflictions. "If anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father" (I John 2:1). ~BOC, AC, XXI, 1-4 [emphasis mine]

Gee, well, uhm ... the "doing" of worship is not so much active work of man, but a passive reception of the gifts of Christ.  It most certainly is not adiaphora.  As taught in Article X of the Formula of Concord Solid Declaration, to make adiaphora the focus of worship is actually to practice idolatry.

Worship is not in chanting or incense.  Worship is not, technically speaking, in the use of one of the five divine service settings promulgated by the LCMS.  Worship is in the Service of the Word and the Service of the Sacraments.  The unadulterated service of both.  The Gospel chanted or spoken.  The Gospel presented in set liturgy or in free form.  The thing about the liturgy is that it is a great protection from the adulteration of church services by the whims and desires of the human flesh, by the thoughts of man.  But the liturgy itself is not worship.  The giving and receiving of the gifts of Christ is.

So, well, worshiping God with your wounds, with a sacrifice of your shame, is not such a wild thought after all, eh?  For doing so is calling upon God in your affliction and longing to receive the gifts of Christ.

But I digressed.
Back to the Gospel of Mark.

In Michael Card's song about Bartimaeus, there is another wild phrase: "Surrender your striving and find the nerve to boldly ask for what you don't deserve."  What you don't deserve???

The Paradigm

He is poor.  He is blind.  
He will be a paradigm.  
One of Jesus' greatest finds 
There beside the road.  

Calling out
He has the nerve
To want what he does not deserve.
All the begger's begging for 
Is mercy from the Lord.

Come all you beggars up on your feet.
Take courage; He's calling to you.
Surrender your striving and find the nerve 
To boldly ask for what you don't deserve.

A timeless moment 
Caught in time
The beggar leaves it all behind.
Then the perfect Paradigm 
Calls Jesus by his name.

Falling down upon his knees
With one request 
He wants to see.
He could see immediately
When Jesus said, "Go."

So, come all you beggars up on your feet.
Take courage; He's calling to you.
Surrender your striving and find the nerve 
To boldly ask for what you don't deserve.

He is poor.  He is blind.  
He will be a paradigm.  
One of Jesus' greatest finds 
There beside the road.  

Come all you beggars up on your feet.
Take courage; He's calling to you.
Surrender your striving and find the nerve 
to boldly ask for what you don't deserve.
               ~Michael Card

Whilst listening to his song about the woman who anointed Jesus' feet, "In Memory of Her Love," I was struck by the fact that the disciples did not count Jesus among "the poor."  Yet Jesus had no riches.  As Jesus set out to share His Gospel,  He had no job.  He was dependent upon the mercy of others from the beginning to the end of His earthly ministry.  By any reckoning, Jesus was poor; Also, He was "the poor," because He took on our flesh and blood.  So, really, the disciples protestations that the "riches" of the oil should be spent on the poor were moot.  That is precisely how those riches were spent!

SIGH.

Yes, I spent many hours listening to the CD and reading the Gospel of Mark again.  And, well, I plowed through Michael Card's commentary once more.  A massive dose of All Jesus all the time.

I left off with another one of Michael Card's songs:


How Long

How long will You forget, O Lord? 
          (How long? How long?)
How I long to see Your face, O Lord? 
          (How long will You hide?)
How I struggle with my thoughts, O Lord! 
          (How long? How long?)
Suffer sorrow in my heart, O Lord! 
          (How long will You hide?)

How Long? 
How Long?

Look on me and give an answer, Lord! 
          (How long? How long?)
Give me light or I can live no more! 
          (How long will You hide?)
My foes rejoice when they see me fall! 
          (How long? How long?)
We have overcome and now they call! 
          (How long will You hide?)

How Long? 
How Long?

Still, O Lord, You are so good to me! 
          (How long? How long?)
My heart rejoices how You set me free! 
          (How long will You hide?)
You're the Savior that I'm hoping on! 
          (How long? How long?)
How I trust in Your unfailing love! 
          (How long will You hide?)

How Long?
How Long?


Clearly, Micheal Card has read the Psalter.  Many, many, many times, I would proffer, given that he recorded the song on several of his albums, a different style each time.  I get that ... reading and re-reading and reading once more the Psalter.  Hiding in there.

How long, Lord?

Saturday, November 29, 2014

If you rake it...


Will they come???

Raked. Puked. Fainted. But my yard (really the park strip mounded with leaves) is ready for city leaf collection make-up Round Two.

I need a better leaf plan for next fall.
One where I am not the person doing the raking.
One that is (hopefully) free.


Friday, November 28, 2014

Odd thoughts


So, well, I am having odd thoughts.  Those too-long curtains really do bother me.  So, I thought ... What if I bought a beginner sewing machine? ... but I truly struggle with understanding new things these days.

Since I moved here, I've had several folk offer to bring their sewing machine and do the curtain work for me.  Bethanie did come and was able to do most of the first floor curtains, for which I am exceedingly thankful.  She got all the ones in my line of vision.

I spent eons sewing making curtains to fit the basement windows from all the pieces I have had left from all the fitting and re-fitting of the original lace sheers I bought decades ago for my first apartment.  Amazingly so, I was able to find lengths that mostly worked with every window that needed a curtain in this house.  But those basement curtain took eons because I sewed them by hand.

The ones upstairs that need tending are almost all not lace sheers.  So, I am fairly certain they will show more of my mistakes.  Plus, frankly, I am not interesting in using my hands any more than necessary.

But a sewing machine is not a need.

I could rationalize it, fairly easily I think.  I mean, maybe I could learn to sew simple quilts or something like that and sew for shelters or something.  Or maybe I could make all my friends cloth napkins sets and bully them into not using paper napkins (I still sometimes use the latter ... sorry Becky).  Or maybe someone like Becky could tell me all the ways I could use a sewing machine to the benefit of others during my good times of the day.

But it still would be a want.

In my reading about sewing machines, this one kept popping up for beginners.  Part of me thinks it looks like something I could do, especially with a no-effort bobbin system, not that I understand what a bobbin is used for on a sewing machine.  Part of me thinks I am nuts for even having such thoughts.

Here is one argument that does weigh in my favor:  I want a weighted blanket.  There I said it.  I have been afraid to admit that for a long while, but when I pile up all three throws, the quilt, and the electric blanket on me and then Amos perches on top, I feel calmer ... more settled.  Maybe even safer.  So, I basically think that I could actually need a weighted blanket.

The thing is, weighted blankets in adult sizes are the very opposite of economical.  Plus, the cloth options I keep finding are just so very not Myrtle styles.  If I am going to pay $250-300 for a weighted blanket (not including shipping), I most certainly do not want an ugly pattern that does not fit with my house and my ... style (or lack thereof).  And, conveniently, up in my chest I have a quilt piecing that was never filled and backed.  I think it would make a most perfect weighted blanket for me.  I would back it with corduroy fabric.  [Surely there are GREEN corduroy fabrics in the world, right??]




[Amos wanted to "model" the quilt piecing.]

Actually, I would make the quilt and backing a cover, like a duvet, and make the weighted blanket out of the plainest fabric I could find so that the cover part could be washed.  I have a plan:  sew a strip of fabric on both ends on the inside of the cover that has button holes and sew buttons along both ends of the weighted blanket insert so that it stays in place.

The point is, buying the weights and the backing fabric and the sewing machine would still be much less than buying a (ugly) weighted blanket from a company.  And I could also make a weighted lap pad (for doctor's visits ... or church).

Now a sewing machines edges slightly more toward a need, right?  Or am I just an expert at justifying a purchase that fits nowhere in my budget?

Of course, the problem that remains is that 1) I know nothing of sewing machines and 2) I struggle to learn new things.

AWWK.  I really need all this onslaught of greedy consumerism to cease in the media.  Too much temptation abounds!  By the way, after seeing the commercial for the website 1,001, I went to www.bettermoneyhabits.com and watched the full main video and then all the other videos.  I happen to think it is a really good resource for budgeting and planning expenses, even if your income is low or extremely limited by an inordinately disproportionate amount of your income being allocated to medications and thus enforcing fiscal discipline.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Penurious ways...


Since the pharmacy is closed today, I went to fetch my prescriptions yesterday and to buy enough milk to get me through the Holiday shopping madness, even though my next budget cycle had not yet started.  Staring at the milk section, I wondered how many gallons I would need.  I bought three.  But I did use more of my Walmart Savings Catcher refund money.  

I also filed a damage claim with the Walmart Vision Center.  After someone asked if I had a warranty, I researched and discovered that the glasses I bought did come with a warranty and that I was still in the 365-day warranty window.  I had not gotten back my receipt when I had to have the glasses remade last January, but I had Capital One send me the specific transaction detail that showed the charge on my bill was for the glasses.  The good news is that I will get a new pair.  The bad news is that I really, really, really need a new prescription.  I am not certain if it will be better for me to get the wildly expensive lenses this calendar year or next, with regard to the medical spending.  I genuinely wish I were more of a math person.  

At least this way, I will have a better back-up pair of glasses once I get a new prescription.  Using my prior pair of glasses, I cannot drive or read or cook or do anything that requires close or far vision, only mid-vision activities.  So, even though the twisty-tie-and-tape job I did to hold the two halves together means my glasses fall off my face near constantly, I mostly am trying to get by with the broken ones.

Today, now that I am in my budget period, I ordered the tax software for next year because I had a $10 coupon that was good until December 1st.  Maybe if I plug in numbers to it when it arrives, I might be able to tell if I need those medical dollars in this year or not.  The whole paying-off-the-mortgage at the end of 2013/beginning of 2014 has made that 10% (so WRONG that Obamacare raised that) threshold skewed for me.  Actually, withdrawing the retirement money—albeit a good decision—has wreaked all kinds of havoc for me, tax-wise the most.  SIGH.

I feel like I ought to be all happy about owning my home.  But I rarely think about it.  All I think about is my budget and how to find savings here and there with that ridiculously expensive medication I take and how everything inches up.  My car insurance rose again.  I just don't get that, since it is 10 years old and I drive around 1,000 miles per year.  But since my Highlander would still garner a good sale price, I need the collision ... or whatever insurance it is that folk drop on older cars).  Besides, as I have written about before, you can lose your home for unpaid property tax bills even if they are less than $10.  Oh, how I fear missing a tax bill payment even though I have them automated!!

My co-pays for meds and doctor's visits are also rising in 2015, as well as the monthly prescription plan premium.  I am expecting my house insurance to rise, too.  So, I cast about for savings everywhere.  In my opinion, using that Walmart app is a no-brainer.  I've already received back just under $25.  I know there is a small cost-of-living raise for disability this year, but just the medical increases have wiped that out.

Anyway, I also ordered some much needed undergarments, which I noticed were on sale, even though buying undergarments always makes me feel like I am not spending money wisely.  And I ordered a hide-a-key thingy that I decided would be the least noticeable in my yard.  The tax software, the hide-a-key thingy, the water filter for my refrigerator, and the undergarments were all bought as separate orders on Amazon.  For each one, I gave up Prime shipping and opted for regular shipping to get the $1 digital credit.  Once everything ships, I will have $6 in credits and can rent a couple of movies.  I think I should start taking advantage of that credit more frequently.

The other good news is that I am now completely in the catastrophic coverage for Medicare.  The erythromycin was only $38!!!!!!!!!  Even most of my $10 generics dropped to $2.55.  That means I can use the medication savings for November and December to cover the new glasses.  I admit I am really, really, really tempted to spend the medication money on things other than glasses:  a movie in a real theater, a meal in a real restaurant, having my car washed, having my too long curtains that have been bugging me for nearly four years hemmed, renewing the membership to the Botanical Gardens (it was a gift), buying the four albums that go with the Michael Card Gospel commentaries, having someone other than me cut my hair, and/or buying a table and chairs for the airing porch so I can eat out/up there next Spring/Summer/Fall.  But I really, really, really do need a new prescription on my glasses.

On the way home, I used up the last of my Taco Bell gift cards.  SADNESS.  I was a bit proud of myself, though.  Whilst I have gone far too many times in the month of November, for the most part I made those gift cards last impressively long.  That's one poor person lesson I have learned: Do not race your way through Taco Bell meals when you get a gift card.  I will say that the last card would have made it to the first week of December if my regular order had not risen in price from $2.79 to $3.33 over the past year.  Not bad for birthday gifts from June, eh?

My special meal today was a $2.98 box of Red Barron's singles pepperoni deep dish personal pizza (yes, I ate both of them).  I sure do like that Red Barron's wickedness even though I very much dislike both pepperoni pizza and deep dish pizza.  It's an odd thing.  And ... drum roll, please ... I drank a Dr Pepper.  BLISS.  I miss drinking them greatly.

Amos likes those pizzas, too.  
I didn't share.  
Does that make me a Thanksgiving Humbug?

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

A good man...


A good man died today.




He was kind and generous and thoughtful.




His whole life.




He was the best brother any sister could have.  Admittedly, his sister was a difficult and, at times, mean person who did not support her brother or his wife.  And yet this man loved his sister, working hard to remain in her life.  He visited her every week she was in the nursing home save for the ones he was in the hospital himself.  Faithful to his sister her entire life until the day she died.




He also stepped in and was a surrogate father to his sister's children, when his sister's husband died suddenly at a young age, especially one of his nieces who needed him.  He loved his niece and her children and included them in his own family, filling the parental void in her life.

He was a good man.  A kind man.  A man who literally spent his entire life turning the other cheek and continuing on in love and in mercy.

Charles Carneal (1919-2014)

Friday, November 21, 2014

locked out...


At 5:00 this morning, Amos asked to go conduct his major business outside.  Since the snow makes that process stress free for him, I wrapped a thin blanket around my pajamas and waited for him at the top of the steps.  In a flash, he was back beside me, and I rather giddily walked back to the door.

The rain forecasted for tomorrow, and the warmer temperatures of course, is going to wash away Amos' beloved covering of the dreaded GREEN grass.  Conducting major business is going to become a battle once more.  I shall heartily miss the snow and find myself looking forward to the next unexpected and unseasonal snowfall.

When I tried to open the door, the latch was locked.  Somehow, the security switch fell down after the storm door swung shut behind me.  Remember, this is 5:00 in the morning.  It was 12 degrees outside, with a wind chill of 0.  I was in my pajamas and without my phone.  I tried and tried and tried to force the door to open.  It wouldn't.  Reluctantly, I went to wake up my neighbor, to whom I had given keys to my house only a couple of months ago.

She would not wake up.
My feet were blue.
My hands were blue.
My face was red.
My beloved puppy dog was whimpering non-stop.

Apparently, her doorbell does not work.  And since she keeps her storm door locked at night, I could not knock directly on her front door.  I banged and banged against her house.  I walked back over to the side of the house where her bedroom is and called her name.  I banged and banged and banged against her house.  I walked back over to the side of the house where her bedroom is and called her name. I banged and banged and banged against her house.  I walked back over to the side of the house where her bedroom is and called her name.

Over thirty minutes later, I finally woke her.  I was shaking so hard I could barely talk, but she understood what I needed.  And she asked that I bring the key back to her later ... not right then.

I need to figure out how to fix or repair the back door storm door latch.  I need to figure out how to temporarily block the security switch.  And I need to figure out how to hide a key to my front door somewhere outside.

I think a part of me is still cold.  Amos surely is.  That or he is using his frigid ordeal as an excuse to spend the entire day beneath the covers, first the bedding and now the electric blanket and quilt.  I do not really blame him.  That's primarily where I have been all day.

A while ago, I locked myself out on the airing porch. I have now locked myself out on the back porch.  I am thinking it is probably good that the front storm door latch does not catch.  Else wise, I am most certain I would be locking myself out from there, too, in the near future.  SIGH.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Balancing the heat...


A 1,001 articles on the cold weather floating about in cyberspace all talk about winter weather.  It is not actually winter.  It is still fall, more accurately autumn.  But, hey, who cares about accuracy in reporting anymore??  Or in any sort of online opining?  SIGH.

It does matter.
At least I think it does.

Only, the hard part, these days, that unless you know things such as the proper pronouns for person nouns or solstice dates, it is rather difficult to know you are being deceived. A good reason to read both the Bible and the Christian Book of Concord for yourself.




It is very difficult to take a clear photograph if your vision is blurry.  SIGH.  Anyway, I've written about how I deal with the chipotle peppers whenever I use them, but have never shown a photo.  I think.  My rememberer is not all that good.

For the pulled pork tacos, I used the Dr Pepper to rinse off all the adobo sauce from the peppers in the can.  Then, I puree three of them in my mini chopper thingy, with a little bit of Dr Pepper to ensure they mince up well.  This way, there is never a "too large" bit of pepper in the bite of pulled pork to make you gasp and wish for copious amounts of liquid refreshment.

As you can see, with the pork, I put the peppers as a paste on top.  I am not sure why, I just do.  What I have learned is that three gives you a bit of heat, but not too much that sour cream and white cheddar cheese on your pulled pork tacos won't cool the meat off enough to enjoy your meal.  For the record, I personally do not believe in sweating whilst eating due to spices.

For the Chipotle Chicken Chili, I use the beer to rinse off the peppers.  It is harder with that recipe because you have less liquid to work with.  However, if you are careful, you can capture all the adobo goodness without killing yourself through the use of the entire can.

Today, I did not crawl out of bed until early evening.  I am just so exhausted.  Maybe all that laboring I should not have been doing is catching up to me.  Or things going wrong in my body are going more wrong.  For all his issues, Amos has adapted well to extended hours in bed.  He knows that going downstairs for his breakfast does not mean actually getting up for the day.  He will trot back upstairs as long as he sees me heading in that direction, though he prefers to use the main staircase instead of the servants' stairs that I use.  Should I start calling him Master Amos??

I have been falling asleep almost as soon as I close my eyes.  No matter how many times I get up to fetch ice packs or tend to my bodily needs, I fall back asleep directly.  I have been sleeping deeply and remember little of my dreams, which is so odd, even if not remembering the nightmares and night terrors is a blessing.  The litmus test for whether or not I get out of bed when I wake is the level of dizziness laced with exhaustion still remaining.  The time when I think that I can get up and stay up is coming later and later each day.  Today, I seriously contemplated simply staying in bed.  But that makes my back ache ... and almost all my other arthritic bits of me.

I crawled out of bed and took a shower.  Since I am a night showerer (as opposed to a morning showerer), I was all ready to go back to bed.  But I took a shower to try and wake up a bit and to put on fresh pajamas.  I put on my nice pajamas, the ones that are presentable for public ... and purple.  Then, I came downstairs, fed Amos, took him outside, languished in the GREEN rocking chair on the back porch with him in my lap for a long while after he had successfully tended his business, came inside and ate a meal, and then napped for a while.  When I awoke, I decided I would cook the pulled pork as a way of keeping myself awake, since my supply of pulled pork in the basement freezer is dangerously low.

Is is weird that, despite what I am cooking, I set out a jar of lemon chicken and a dough ball to thaw for a gyro tomorrow????

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Out of sight, out of mind...


There was this television show I watched years ago entitled "Life Goes On."  In fact, I started watching it when I came back from Africa.  When I came back from Africa and was telling anyone and everyone I could about the war zone I left.

"What war zone?" I was asked.  
"Liberia!"  
"Where?"  
"West Africa." 
"Oh, there's always fighting over there."

No one even knew what I was talking about.
And no one cared.

I simply could not comprehend that.  I mean, a pair of British missionaries were murdered, strapped to a jeep, and driven around upcountry.  Ex-patriots were disemboweled in the streets of Monrovia.  I lived on a missionary compound that was relatively safe, but every time I left to teach or shop, I would encounter soldiers with machine guns.

Terrible things happened there.
Terrible things to me.
Terrible things to the students and the families and the friends and the neighbors of those at the school where I taught.
Terrible things across the country.

A couple of weeks ago, West, Texas opened a new middle school and a new high school to replace the ones destroyed in the devastating explosion at the fertilizer factory in April 2013.  Now that that terrible event is gone from the news cycle, I doubt few outside of the state even think about the explosion, the loss of life and overwhelming destruction to that city.  Out of sight, out of mind.

There is this ... controversial ... show that I have watched from beginning to end several times:  "Amazing Grace."  If you want to learn about the effects of sexual abuse, watch it.  It is not for the faint of heart.  And whilst the theology is all off, if you watch it, you might find yourself thinking about faith and belief and forgiveness.  Especially forgiveness.

But, if you watch it, you will be struck by how the Oklahoma City Bombing might be out of sight and out of mind for most of America, it is not ... over.  So delicately woven throughout the series is the ongoing battle of loss and grief.

The fertilizer plant explosion in West, Texas is most certainly not over.  Even if the rest of America does not remember.

I was reading this article about the US Ebola Czar and it struck me that in my daily ... lengthy ... perusal of online news, I have stopped seeing stories about the Ebola Outbreak in Africa.  Today, after searching a bit, I found this really great timeline of the outbreak.  It is sad, really, to see how the World Health Organization downplayed the outbreak for so long, essentially calling Doctors Without Boarders alarmists.  As of November 14th, WHO has reported a total of 14,413 Ebola cases.  Some 5,177 people have died.

To my admittedly faulty recollection, the near hourly but at least daily updates of the death count fell off somewhere just below 4,000 deaths.  Some 1,200 more people have died without much notice by America media.  The scare on American soil is over.  Out of sight, out of mind.

Even without Googling, I would proffer that not much has changed with the egregious perfidy committed against patients in the VA system.  And I am fairly confident in saying that sexual abuse in the military, as well as suicide amongst servicemen, has not bettered.  I do know that, despite the so-called better job data, millions of Americans are still unemployed but are no longer looking for work or are being counted.  Just as, though the housing market has supposedly bettered, the number of children who are homeless are at an historic high.  All those problems, though, are not in the current news cycle.  Out of sight, out of mind.

A fallen world, a world rife with sin, full of broken and wounded people.

Another television show I have watch from beginning to end, several times, is "Battlestar Galactica."  I find it utterly fascinating to look at faith in that show.  Faith and forgiveness.  With humanity down to mere tens of thousands, folk are forced to forgive even the most egregious of sins committed against them, against others.  No matter how fiercely a person tries to hold on to hate and blame, almost all of the time, he or she is forced to forgive.  Literally, for life to go on, forgiveness must be given, shared, lived and breathed.  Fascinating.  Utterly.

Recently, I watched "Caprica," which is an uncompleted storyline set before the Cylons attacked.  Before the Cylons were created.  Now, I struggled with watching the only season available, because I cannot see how it fits with the history given in "Battlestar Galactica."  I cannot figure out the timeline.  I certainly cannot match up the young Bill Adama and his father with the same characters from "Battlestar Galactica."  But I decided I would shut the original history from my mind and try and watch the show again.

What struck me, working my way through the episodes, is how man believed in many gods, not a one true God.  When the theology of a one true God arose, the idea of such a God was seen as cruel.  What kind of God would want me not to do as I please?  What kind of love can come from absolutes, from right and wrong?  Ultimately, the only "folk" who receive the good news of this one true God are the Cylons, are the machines.  How ironic is that?

Wow.

What kind of God would want me not to do as I please?  What kind of love can come from absolutes, from right and wrong?  Those are the same questions being bruited about today by those who find Christianity a religion of intolerance and even hate.

I find it interesting that the two shows which wrestle with forgiveness in such depth are ones that are messy and brash and full of great sin.  I mean, forgiveness is not couched in the concept of a sinful race, but explored in the lives of broken, wounded people, in acts of atrocity, greed, deception, self-destruction, and murder.

I think I would be remiss, with all this talk of forgiveness in television shows, if I did not mention (again) "Doctor Who."  To me, the heart of that show is both the terrible burden the Doctor has placed upon himself and the terrible toll his 900 plus years of grief and loss has taken upon him.  But one of the major themes woven across the episodes is that no matter what sin, no matter what atrocity has been committed, no matter even the scale of it, before the Doctor ends up destroying the "sinning" person/alien/entity, he always offers forgiveness.  Few, if any, ever take it.  Pride, hubris, disbelief ... take your pick ... always manages to get in the way.

And, as I wrote most recently, there is the show "Flashpoint," in which the critical response unit, tasked with strategic and tactical response to active criminal and terrorists, the prevailing message to those miscreants is that no matter what they have done life is still worth living and their life can be redeemed.  Yes, you must face the consequence of your actions, but even if that means life in jail, the miscreants life can be something better, something more, something still ineffably valuable.  Forgiveness is not a word heard much on the show, but that is what the team members are saying.  Even the mass murderer can find his way to forgiveness and new life.

From where I stand—admittedly an extremely biased and perhaps even cynical position—it seems to me that the church would do well to teach about forgiveness not from a focus solely on concupiscence, but also from one on the effect of concupiscence in individuals, in wounds and scars, in proclivities and weaknesses, in doubt and struggle, and in shame.

When my pastor was here this past week, not only did he say that he has been thinking more deeply about faith, in part from my questions, but he also said that he was beginning to realize that he had not thought about shame enough.  Not just the shame of one's own sin, but also the shame of being sinned against.  I wanted ever so much to ask him what he meant, what he was thinking, but I did not.  I was too afraid.

But I thought his admission to be one of the most hopeful—to me—comments I have heard since I started going to that (seemingly strange) Lutheran bible study several years ago.

Yes, life goes on.  And the wounds and brokenness of those living in this fallen world may be out of sight, out of mind.  But they still exist.

One of the things that my pastor did when he was reading and singing and praying for me was to sing the Agnus Dei from Divine Setting Three (because he knows I prefer that setting).

O Christ, Thou Lamb of God, that takest away the sin of the world, have mercy upon us.  O Christ, Thou Lamb of God, that takest away the sin of the world, have mercy upon us.  O Christ, Thou Lamb of God, that takest away the sin of the world, grant us Thy peace.  Amen.

[Note:  The pronoun that is correct here, because the antecedent of the pronoun is not the person, but the thing, meaning the lamb of God.  As I have written before,  it took me years to figure out why that was the correct pronoun, why it wasn't written "O Christ, Thou Lamb of God, who takest...."]

I was surprised that my pastor sang that bit of liturgy to me, but I was oddly comforted.  And I very nearly joined him in singing the amen.  Call me weird, but that is one of my all time favoritest of amens.  It has eight notes to it, notes that are—to me—full of wrestling with darkness and light with a pause before completion.  It is an amen of daring to hope.

When I heard him sing those words, I thought ... well ... I thought that despite the lonely, isolated, and ill life I am living, despite all the fears and struggles and questions, I might not exactly be out of sight, out of mind to God.

I wish I could hear that bit of liturgy again.

Monday, November 17, 2014

The wood! The wood! The wood!


Amos has finally remembered that he likes snow!!!  Both trips to tend his major business were completed within seconds and without a single bit of cajoling on my part.  Happiness abounds in my home at the moment.




As icing on my cake that is today, Firewood Man surprised me with firewood!  Yep, my inner-pyromaniac is also rather happy right now!




Yes, I already laid a fire.  In fact, I had one going before Tim even finished unloading all the wood.  He said he was off by just one wheelbarrow load, having guestimated what I would need to fill the new rack.  Basically, he's charging me the same for two racks (plus two trips), which means I will have a bit more wood per purchase than when we were just dumping it on the old, peeling-paint topped floor.

I didn't even have to ask Tim to pulled the rack out away from the railing before loading it.  He knew that even though it is merely primed, I have no wish to scratch up the railing, just as I have no wish to mar my newly restored porch floor.   It warmed the cockles of my heart when he blurted out that the firewood looked pretty on the rack.  It does, doesn't it??

We had snow again today.  The good thing about the snow is that it is "washing" all those muddy footprints off of the porch floor.  I admit it was a bit difficult seeing it get all dirty, even though the cause for the mess was quite needful.

My friend Mary's husband brought me tostada shells, since I haven't been able to find them.  He actually brought me a ginormous stack of them.  Being me, I put them away in the kitchen cabinets and then promptly forgot that I finally could have chalupas again.  When I remembered, I forgot where I put the shells, since the package is a different configuration and size of the brand I used to be able to purchase at Walmart.  I finally found them, had chalupas, and forgot about them again.  Tonight, I remembered.




I decided to beef up my refried black beans before making the chalupas.  Now, La CosteƱa is the only brand to buy.  But I wanted a bit more flavoring.  So, I opened up my spice cabinet and started pulling out jars.  I liked how the mixture turned out, but I wish I had a lime (or three) instead of only a refrigerator full of lemons (for my cucumber lemon water).  We will not discuss how much softened butter I added.

[Yes, I actually added cinnamon to my refried black beans.]




I ate two (actually three) chalupas and apportioned out the rest of the enhanced refried black beans into freezer containers.  That way, I will remember that I can make chalupas whenever I go shopping for meals in the basement freezer, as I did tonight.  The top shelf of the kitchen freezer is once more filled with meals.




Doesn't my freezer look practically empty?  Don't you think that I should do a bit of cooking??

I thought about trying to use a warm cloth to melt the frost off of the top shelf.  I am not sure why that it the only one to accumulate frost.  However, it is such a small shelf and is my bacon shelf.  Maybe bacon needs frost ... or inspires it.  Anyway, instead of laboring on defrosting, I remained in the GREEN chair, pulled close to the fireplace, and concentrated on keeping Amos company.  He was a bit lonely today.

Firewood Man has such a pokerface when he is twitting me.  Today, he told me that he was planning on bringing this battered plastic bin he found over and putting it on the back porch.  He said that way I could keep it filled with the kindling he slivered for me.  I told him that I had a bin in the house next to the fireplace, and the rest is just fine in those ammunition boxes serving as shelves in the garage.  He kept telling me that the garage was too far for me to walk when it is cold out and that's why he bought the plastic bin for me.  I was getting all hot and bothered about not messing up the beautiful visual rest I had achieved on the back porch when he suddenly burst out laughing.

The Rat Bastard.

Bettina is also most excellent at twitting me.  Today, she sent this text:

Two boys, one who ate the cake, are outside. Whom is going to the park? The award goes to whoever wants it. George, whom was the first president, likes apples.

Dunce here could not figure out she was letting me know she read my plea to the world.  Silly friend!!

Last night, when the snow was falling, I sat out on the back porch with Amos for about an hour.  When the humidity gone and the wind quiescent, the temperature was almost pleasant.  Amos is a wonderful lap warmer, and we were both bundled up with coats.  I also had gloves, a scarf, and a hat on, as well as a blanket around my legs.  

Watching the snow slowly make their way to the ground was rather peaceful.  There was this strange space of quiet during which no cars passed or trains whistled or neighbors hollered.  All I could hear was the snores emanating from my beloved fluff ball.  That free rocking chair is surely one of the greatest gifts I've received.  I can hardly believe that it is mine and that the seemingly-never-ending can of GREEN paint gave it new life.  

You know, if I were not already fairly set on being cremated, I would tell Bettina to have me buried upright in the rocking chair ... by some moss.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow...


The mowing and leaf-raking and wood-bringing help did not come this week, so I was left to rake the leaves in front yard to the park strip, since this is our week for pick-up.  Of course, the minute I started raking (and ultimately fainting), it started to snow.


Seriously???




I persevered and finished.




Yet I fear all that labor was all for naught, because it kept snowing and snowing and snowing.  I am, however, inordinately pleased to be able to report that the front steps were not slippery in the least.  They might not look ... pretty ... but they are now finally safe in inclement weather!




Did I mention that it kept on snowing?  Can you find Amos??  He's forgotten that he actually likes snow, so my beloved fluff ball has been holding his bowels all day.  Neither one of us is happy about that.




I thought the snow on the magnolia tree was particularly beautiful, but I should have tried to take the photo with a regular camera.  I was ... of course ... too tired.  A slightly blurry photo will have to do.

Yesterday, I was so tired that I did little all day.  Very, very, very little.  I also only woke three times last night even though I slept 14 hours.  Today, I did the folding, stuffing, sealing, and labeling for the monthly mailing I've been doing for b.  Only, even with wearing the compression gloves, the pain in my hands was almost unbearable.  The folding is the worst.  I think, despite the great need for money given my too expensive medications, I will need to find someone else to do this job.

I struggle with that thought.  I do.  I mean, it is only once a month for a few hours.  Surely the pain is worth having some extra money, right?  Or is it?  I ... I just do not hurt any more than I have to in the future.  And I am not sure if doing a monthly mailing is a have-to.

Other than the mailing and the leaves, the other laboring I did today was to put out two more bags of mulch, almost all of it on the raised bed.  I did that first, before the raking.  I did not know it was going to snow.  I would have, had I looked at the forecast.




[Look at next Friday!!]

But something impelled me to stop putting off the task of covering the raised bed with mulch.  I admit that I was considering not trying to save the three herbs left in there and just replacing them next Spring.  However, I had the mulch on hand and there are those garlic cloves to consider.

After mulching around the completed porch and today's tending of the raised bed, there are three bags of mulch left in the garage.  There is no way ... absolutely no way ... that I am lugging them to where they go.  But maybe someone will come along who wishes for the bushes I replaced out front to have a thicker covering of mulch for the winter as much as do I.

Anyway, after the mulch was laid, I set to raking and the snow set to falling.
And falling.
And falling still.

I don't think the snow knows that winter solstice is still many weeks away.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Dear world...


Dear World,

A noun is a part of speech, representing a person, place, or thing.  A pronoun is a word that takes the place of a noun.  However, there are rules for how pronouns can be substituted for the noun.  Despite all evidence to the contrary, those rules STILL EXIST!

Please.
Please use them.

They are very, very, very simple rules.  If you are using a pronoun for a place or a thing, your two options are that and which.  The rule of thumb is to use that for restrictive information (clauses or phrases) and which for non-restrictive information (clauses or phrases).  Grammar Girl makes it simple.  If you can leave the information out without changing the meaning of the sentence, use which.

If you use which, then you use a comma before it (and one after if the which is a part of a phrase in the middle of a sentence.

However, that and which ARE NOT proper substitutes for a person or people.

NEVER is it appropriate to say, "The people that go to my church are the salt of the earth."  Instead, say, "The people who go to my church are the salt of the earth."

For the most part, the world, including professional writers, understand how and when to use first, second, and third person personal pronouns:  I, me, youwe, us, she, her, hehim, they, them, and it.  The possessives of these (my, mine, yours, his, hers, theirs, ours, and its) are also generally used properly.

However, it seems that the pronouns who and whom have been abandoned by those in the media, professional writers, and even educators.

Please.  Please bring them back.

They are your friends.  Use of them raises your perceived intelligence.  And figuring out which one of them to use is easy peasy:  you use whom if you could substitute him, otherwise use who.

Now, if you would like more lessons about pronouns, I'd be happy to oblige.  But this is less about pronoun rules and more about my utter commitment to never, ever, ever abandon who and whom, as has much of the rest of the world.

I hope you will join me.

Fervently,
Myrtle

Thursday, November 13, 2014

The comfort of consolation...


When I went to take the recycling to bin a few minutes ago, I struggled to breathe in the cold air.  I had not thought the temperature was low enough yet to worry about that asthma trigger, but I think that having the cold has made me more susceptible.  I admit that I find it rather dweeby to walk outside with a scarf wrapped around my face so that I can breathe.  So, I rarely do.  However, tonight, it felt like knives were stabbing me each time I tried to draw a breath.  I wish the snow had at least remained.

Amos, well, he objected to the cold grass.  He's added cold to his list of objections.  Dry grass.  Wet grass.  Leaf-covered grass.  Cold grass.  So, he spent quite a bit of time tip-toeing around the brick edging of the beds until he found a spot to hang his backside over the grass.  All four paws on the same brick whilst conducting his business and my puppy dog avoided a face plant.  His fears are impelling him to acquire interesting skills.

My pastor came to visit today.  To bring the Gospel.  And the Word of Absolution.  I think that I might have been better at speaking clearly of my anguish and fears.  He very clearly has upped his listening game.  He brought me a bit written about faith to parse together, read Matthew to me, sang to me, prayed for me, read a psalm to me, read to me from Gerhard's Handbook of Consolations, and talked to me about my spiritual fears. Not in that order, but all of those good things God gifted me.

Having such rich thoughts to ponder, I decided to plumb the depths of cookie mix wickedness.  If you would like to do so, too, I would highly recommend that you buy a box of Pillsbury Carmel Apple cookie mix and a bag of Kraft's Caramel bits.  Once you have beaten the egg, butter, and mix into cookie dough, add half the bag of caramel bits.  Bake.  Try not to eat too many in one sitting.

"What rich thoughts are you pondering, Myrtle?"

"Well, sometimes I am fearful of reading things, so I have not read the consolations.  The one my pastor read seems to have been written just for me.  And has this thought about not losing faith in sleep that is a bit of a spiritual lifeline to me."

19.

QUESTIONING THE PRESENCE OF FAITH

       TEMPTED.  Not only is my faith weak, but there are times when I feel no faith in my heart at all.  Nor do I call upon God with the intensity of spirit that is able to penetrate the clouds.  I fear, therefore, that my faith has indeed perished and is utterly extinct.  If my faith is extinct, what hope or salvation shall remain for me?  I examine myself (2 Cor 13:5) and, behold, I feel no faith in my heart. Among the reprobate, therefore, shall I be numbered.

       COMFORTER.  At such times as these, the Spirit helps us in our weakness and places His hand, as it were under us, for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words (Rom 8:26).  There are times when we know not what or how we believe, but the Spirit fosters and preserves faith in our heart.  Just as a spark may lie hidden under the still ashes and not appear to us outwardly, so too faith may at times dwell in the inmost recesses of the heart and, like that spark, not be perceived by us. Although you feel no faith, do not conclude that your faith is wholly dead and extinct when you yearn, groan, and will believe.  That yearning, groaning, and willing proceeds from faith.
       Moreover, it is one thing not to feel faith and another to be altogether unwilling to believe.  The former is a sign of lament and the latter of stubborn pride.  Truly, Christ dwells in your heart through faith, even if you do not clearly feel that indwelling of grace (Eph 3:17).  Likewise the Holy Spirit, that internal comforter, has a holy habitation in your heart, even though there are times when it feels that He has withdrawn such consolation from you.  As Abraham, the father of those who believe, believed in hope against hope (Rom 4:18), so you ought to trust in the Word rather than your feelings.  Just as we must take every thought captive in the obedience of faith (2 Cor 10:5), so also you must take captive unconscious faith by faith.  That is to say, receive the Word into your heart and steadfastly cling to it.
       The seed lies hidden and concealed under the sod of the earth, even though it does not as yet protrude with even the smallest evidence of growth. Similarly, the seed of faith lies hidden in the heart, even when its fruit does not as yet appear plainly and abundantly.  When you sleep, you do not feel your faith.  But who would argue that faith has perished at such times?  So in this temptation our soul is oppressed, as it were, with a certain sleep.  Although you feel little movement of your faith, do not, for this reason, think the faith you so long for is extinct.






Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Being female, being dismissed...


All my laundry is done, folded, and put away.  Laundry joy is having all your socks matched up at the end!




I coiled up my new basement laundry lines and put them in the laundry supplies cabinet in the basement.  See, holding on to some pretty purple rope for a couple of decades and still having office supplies on hand can come in pretty useful!




I have been doing a good job of eating down the food in my freezer, but that also means that I have filled up my mason jar drawer!  I do have plenty of food to last through November, still.  And I suppose I could line up the jars on the basement counter, but wouldn't it just be better to cook up some more tastiness than empty the freezer?  When I am more rested, after many more naps are under my belt, I should figure out what I can make with what I have on hand. I miss cooking.

I thought about going down and seeing just what meat there is in the basement, but then I thought napping was more important.  Poor Amos needed extra napping, too.  You see, every time I sneeze, he leaps away from me in terror.  Every since he came to live with me, sneezing has frightened him.  It was his one fear before the pit bull attack.  Weird, eh?

The other night, whilst washing my hair, I got to thinking about just how thick it is once more.  For a long time, this blog was filled with entries about losing my hair.  It got to the point of not wanting to step into the shower at all, because clumps were coming out right and left.

I brought a rather full ziploc bag of hair to several doctors, as an example of just how much hair I had lost.  Because my hair is very, very, very thick, though really, really, really fine, all the doctors I saw told me that my hair was fine.  Nothing was wrong with me.  It was just stress.

Just stress.  That's the ultimate rejection of your well-being by a physician ... especially if you are a female.  Oh, how hearing that "diagnosis" wounded me!  Several years later, a doctor treated my very real physical symptoms, instead of writing me off as a head case, and the hormones added to the thyroid medication I was taking resolved the imbalance within my body that triggered the hair loss ... as well as the constant bleeding and a host of other uncomfortable symptoms.

Michelle wrote on her dysautonomia blog this really great post about how being female can be a barrier to getting medical care.  It is a rather powerful presentation of how, especially with dysautonomia, females can become labeled as a mental patient, rather than one suffering from physical problems.  I believe that it is especially powerful, given that Michelle was a practicing psychiatrist before falling ill.

Having it arrive in my inbox was especially great timing for me.  I am still struggling with how that neurologist treated me (mistreated me/did not actually "treat" me) when I went for a dementia assessment.  The assessment (or lack thereof) is on my mind, today, because I gave someone a spreadsheet to modify so that I could work on a distribution list and I received the altered data back in a Word document.  The sad truth about the decline of my brain is that I simply cannot compare the two documents and find the corrections I need to make.

When I first started noticing that I could not longer make such mental adjustments, I would get back comments such as "You're still smarter than me!"  That is not helpful to hear.  At all.  I was trying to talk about both another loss and my frustration in not being able to complete a task.  A comment such as that is dismissive of both.  Is dismissive of me.

Battling being dismissed and battling assumptions are two of the things that trigger rather strong reactions in me.  My friend Mary, rather gently, always manages to point out my own assumptions, which has helped me to temper those strong reactions.

But I still have them and I wrestle with wanting to speak against assumptions when I receive them personally.  For example, I read a post about singing in church and how not singing is, essentially, not serving your neighbor.  Another failure.  SIGH.

The other thing that I do that startles Amos greatly is sing.  So strange, really, if you think about the fact that I've been singing since high school.  I sang in a group that toured North Carolina in graduate school.  Back then, I could never imagine a time where I didn't sing.  But I don't ... not anymore.

The Monday night services at my church are abbreviated, with just a single hymn.  Even if I knew the hymn when there, I no longer would sing the whole song.  In a full service, I could not sing the entire liturgy and the hymnody.  When I sing, I cannot breathe.  When I sing, I can faint.  Stopping singing was one of the hardest "letting go" experiences I have had.

I no longer try to stand for even part of the service, because I know the price I pay for standing still, where the effort of standing is concentrated on just a few muscles (as opposed to walking about some).  Just like I gave up kneeling at the altar, because the pain was just too great, as was the risk of falling whilst trying to rise.

I miss singing.  I miss it the way I miss teaching.  But where I still slip in a bit of teaching here or there, I do not sing.  A note or two in the shower.  Not much elsewhere.  Not even in the shower.  If I sing, I struggle with breathing and can start coughing.  If I start coughing, I can trigger my asthma.  And I can no longer take the emergency asthma medications.  I still do not have a plan for the next bad attack.  So, I avoid all the triggers I can.  Even the one I love.

A long while ago, someone wrote about empty pews, making negative assumptions about why folk were not there. I tried to offer an alternative assumption, one where folk wanted to come, but struggled for one reason or another.  My comments were dismissed.  Those folk, they are not the norm... was the rejoinder.

However, if you actually read the Christian Book of Concord, you will find repeated references to the anguished soul, to the burdened conscious.  I wish I had better words for the thoughts I have, but all I can think to say is that folk talk about the church being made up of sinners, however those same folk don't seem to acknowledge that the church is made up of broken and wounded folk struggling to live in a fallen world, a world where they live in a constant battle with the devil, the world, and their own flesh.

I think the church dismisses the spiritually wounded, passing them off as mental cases in need of psychological care.  I also think that the church dismisses the genuinely mentally ill as in need of psychological help more than spiritual care.   I think that the church looks for the easy answer as to why folk are not in a pew or not singing or whatever judgement-masked-as-assumption is made.  Even though, at the moment, I am opining, I think the church spends far too much time opining about others and/or itself rather than speaking of Christ crucified and sharing His gifts of Christ.

Whenever I read the Book of Concord, I am comforted. I am comforted because the struggling mess that is me is not abnormal in that book of pure doctrine, in that exposition of the Living Word.  It is the same comfort I find in reading the Psalter.  The struggling mess that is me is not abnormal in that collection of prayers God wrote for us to pray ... for me to pray.  When I read Michelle's blog, I am comforted because the struggling, medically dismissed and neglected mess that is me is not abnormal.

Wounded folk are everywhere.  Every two minutes another American is sexually assaulted.  One in four Americans struggle with mental illness.  Drug, alcohol, and gambling addictions are rampant in all age groups ... even children.  Theft and identity theft have become the work of seconds.  This world is rife with the effects of sin and teeming with folk bearing wounds from those effects.

Were my friend Mary listening to my thoughts, she would say, "Come Lord Jesus.  Come quickly!"

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Little by little...


Last night and long into the wee hours of the morning, I had dire thoughts and did not believe I could bear the pain in my body a moment more.  But I did.  And as the day wore on—assisted by copious amounts of pain medication—I knew that I would ... one day ... be better.  Pain medication and lots of naps.

Aside from resting and resting and resting more, I continued to work on the laundry that I had started.  It helped to move a bit.  And I felt less like a slug.  But, mostly, I also needed socks.

Along with the laundry, I also did a bit of home improvement.  My folding laundry rack is still filled with almost dry herbs.  A while ago, Becky told me that she had laundry lines in her basement.  Ever since then, I wanted to make some.  I just didn't want to cut the rope I have.  It's purple ... and pretty.




But I did.

I used four book rings and two lengths of rope to create laundry lines that I can put up whenever I need.  You see, the rafters of my basement ceiling have millions of nails driven in at an angle.  For months, after moving in, I kept finding more and more things tucked up in the ceiling.  Then, I was rather irritated.  Now, I am thankful because it made hanging the laundry lines easy.

Perhaps this is a "well, duh" moment, but the laundry dried much more quickly hanging on the line than it does all jammed together on the folding rack.  I've already folded and put away the three paint shirts I had gotten dirty over the past few weeks.  It is nice to know that my work clothing ought not to be needed anymore ... at least until Spring.

I admit that the daughter of an interior designer finds the laundry lines to be rather ugly in my beautified basement.  However, my practical, pragmatic, and penny-pinching self is happy to have a way to dry even more of my laundry without using electricity!

I also emptied the dishwasher, because I needed a glass. However, all the dishes from yesterday and today are still in the sink.  Maybe tomorrow.  Or the next day.  Definitely after more naps and resting and doing nothing.

Besides, the germs that were brought over here the other day have been getting worse.  First the scratchy throat.  Then the stuffy nose.  Now the fever.  SIGH.

Monday, November 10, 2014

I was so utterly wrong...


I was wrong.  The lower porch was not easier.  All I got done today was priming.  Doing so took between 7-8 hours.  I had to use three different ladders.  I stood way too much.  And I've been in the worse pain yet for the past four hours.

Tylenol.
Ibuprophen.
Heat.
And lots and lots and lots of weeping.

There's no two ways about it.  Come next spring, I just have to have help painting.




Yes, I finished in the dark.  Yes, I used the off-color house red as primer on the 2x4 that frames the top of the porch now, tying all the new porch posts to the house for extra support.  Yes, I primed the stair handrail and the lower stair posts because that wood was older and because I wanted some connectedness between the already-primed post caps.  Yes, I am a fool for trying to do this.




Even if the end result is ever so much better than where the porch started.  I was so utterly wrong thinking I could do this painting.  SIGH.




Becky sent me photos of moss to cheer me up in my agony.  Such mercy.




Seriously, one can never have too many photos of moss.




In my book, moss is one of God's greatest gifts of creation.  And its so cool.  And GREEN!

Becky also didn't admonish me for torturing myself so and getting myself into this very, very, very painful state by taking on too much.  Again ... merciful.  But I will say that the entire world has my permission to remind me ... bluntly and repeatedly ... next spring that I have to have help with the painting.  Period.




I just had to look at those moss covered tree roots one more time.

Sunday, November 09, 2014

The railing! The railing! The railing!


The last screw has been applied to all that wood I purchased and Firewood Man used to fashion two porches from one.



[Firewood Man wanted me to note that he is not satisfied with the way the gutter looks against his work and wants to reconfigure it a bit.]

It is interesting to me that the way we had thought the stair handrail would look was to come out straight from the top and then angle downward did not work at all.  However, I like this step-down solution ever so much more.




Taking that first step is like grasping the handles of a walker and then the angle down is most perfect.  Aside from the dirt all over the steps, I am just pleased as punch with the end result.

It took every inch of my will power not to spray off the steps and the porch.  I want so much to clean them.  However, tomorrow's forecast is still showing weather in the upper 50s.  I could prime and paint a solid coat on the porch posts and the porch railing.  But not if I got things wet tonight.

After tomorrow?  We are descending to the depths of arcticness.

The broken light is replaced.  The gutter down spout is back in place.  All of the debris is gone from my garage.  And, as a bonus, the hinge doorstop is properly installed on the screen door to the basement entrance.

Firewood Man was so very happy about my doing all of the returns that he sat down, waded through all the receipts, marked the items to be returned, and loaded everything into my vehicle.  All the returns have been completed.

Much to my frustration, when I went to pick up a second gallon of the outside white paint, I spent another hour and a half waiting whilst two men tried to match the color.  Again.  You see, the woman who spent all that time a couple of weeks ago trying to match the color, since Lowe's codes do not include the name of the color of the paint, failed to put the proper sticker atop my can.  In fact, neither of the two stickers on the paint can lid were the formulas for my paint.  SIGH.

I do now have a single, properly marked sticker on a card that I can keep in my house file.  And, if the weather holds, I will be ready on the morrow for paint.  I am half tempted to put down the blue tape this evening, but I don't want to jinx my chances of having an even more finished back porch.

Yes, in case you are wondering, I showed before and after photos to all the sales folk processing my returns.  Also, in case you are wondering, one of the customer service managers at Lowe's knows both my name and my phone number (to look up orders) because I've been in there so much over the past nearly four years.

And I'm utterly, totally, and completely exhausted from the stress (good and bad) of finally, finally, finally having this endeavor completed.  The airing porch was started September 18th.  The porch wall demolition began September 22nd.  I have been blessed beyond words by the safety and beauty of all that work.  But I have also been struggling with seven and a half weeks of chaos in my normally visually restful world.

Firewood Man.  Well, he almost did not make it through this help.  But who could have known that the porch supports were mostly missing??????  Today did not start well for either of us.  I barely slept wondering if he would come and if this would be completed.  But at the end of the day, it is done and Tim assures me that we are still "good."

He also asked if he could only bring a half load of wood at a time, now that I will be keeping it on a rack.  He does not mind the extra trip, because he does not want me to ever be carting wood from the garage to the back porch.  I was stunned to realize that he had already been planning to stack half the wood in the garage and then have me call him when it needed moving.  Of course, I had not thought about the fact that the rack would only hold half the wood he brings since he brings such a generous amount (far more than a true rank).  I've only been anticipating how lovely it will look in my rack.

So, my plan on the morrow is to wake, tape, fill the screw holes with Drydex, prime, go back to sleep, paint, nap, and then see if I might sneak in a second coat.  If not, I might see if I can rescue the portions of my rock river that have been smashed flat from all the foot traffic atop them.  I would also like to drag the rest of the mulch out to that area and dump them around the porch and one atop the raised bed.

[What does it mean that the garlic that I planted is already growing ... about six inches above the top of the soil???]

If I am too week in the afternoon to be dragging about mulch, I would like to try Firewood Man's suggestion for clearing out the leaves beneath the burning bushes and atop my rock river:  "Use your blower."  You know, I tend to think of the blower as a grass-clippings-on-the-sidewalk blower.  A one dimensional blower.  But Tim said, if I wanted, I could even blow clear a light snowfall, as well as leaves.

Three dimensions.
Mind-blowing.
Pun intended.