Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Mad Hatter

I’ll bet some of you are wondering if there is any significance to me wearing a hat in my blog photo. Why, yes. There IS a story behind that. Would you like me to tell you? Okay, I will.

Hats intrigue me although for a long time I hated ‘em. Growing up I heard a lot of dogmatic teaching on 1 Corinthians 11, which talks about hats, you know.

Did you know that a hat can be a harmful weapon? Sad but true. My own hat was used as a weapon against me one time.

The church I was raised in taught that 1 Corinthians insists women must wear hats—head coverings, whenever they are assembled to worship the Lord in a gathering of believers. We were also admonished that women must never cut their hair. One hot summer Sunday morning, as was the current fashion in 1971, I arranged my long hair into an upsweep with a curly wiglet on top. And then discovered to my frustration none of my usual hats would fit. So I grabbed a bright yellow triangular shaped scarf with fluttery fabric petals all over it, covered my hair entirely with it and tied it in a neat bow at the back. Now I’d heard a rumor that our senior elder’s wife disapproved of this type of head covering but since I thought it inappropriate to believe rumors and she had never personally told me this, I merely discounted the rumor and went off to church. I mean, my hair was completely covered, which was the whole idea, right?
           
No sooner had I sat down but I noticed our senior elder’s wife leaning over to him and whispering something to him while glaring angrily at me. He immediately jumped up, strode over to stand in front of me and in a stage whisper loud enough for everyone to hear, said, “How dare you come to the Lord’s table with such a hat on! You go home right now and change it.”
           
As you can imagine I was humiliated and mortified. And rather indignant, too! Instead of going home, I went to a nearby park and cried for two hours. My feelings were crushed.
           
I did get an apology of sorts a few days later as in “IF I offended you, sister, I’m sorry” but it was the beginning of the end for me at that church. No disclosure was ever given as to why that particular head covering was so offensive, and let me tell you, the hats worn by many of the women were by no means unostentatious.

A couple years later I left that sect and didn’t wear hats for a long time, except for my wedding. I finally realized a few years ago that hats appeal to me; hats are cute and fun, so why not wear them because my joyfulness is expressed when I wear one. And no worries about offending someone if I don’t wear one or wear the ‘wrong’ one. I’m pretty sure my praises to God are acceptable whether I’m wearing a hat or not.
           
It was really rather silly, don’t you think? Good thing there’s forgiveness for silly because I know I’ve been silly a time or two about stuff that doesn’t matter. And I’ve worked at forgiving the mad hatter as well.

And now I collect hats. Don’t have a huge collection—hats tend to take up space, you know, when they’re not covering up the space between my two ears, so I haven’t gone overboard amassing them. Only have about two dozen that I store in hat boxes. Occasionally I give one an outing. Here are a couple more photos of me joyfully doing so. 

This cute little cocktail hat was given to my daughter by an aunt. My daughter passed it on to me for safekeeping.

Although I never go out for cocktails, I feel rather flirty with the feather and veil in place.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Matter of Manners

Please.
Thank you.
You’re welcome.
Here, you can go first.
What may I do to help you?

Ah, the sounds of good manners. Of course, we can’t always use words in every situation but the attitude behind them comes through. And boy! Don’t I just want to teach some basic manners to those whose attitudes are lacking. Like out on the road. Polite just isn’t part of the motorists vocabulary, I guess.

I’ve sort of grumbled to the Lord a time or two about how mean and rude people can be. In His family even. And why do I have to forgive them when they don’t seem to be one bit sorry. Can’t I just go in there and knock some manners into ‘em? With words, of course. If you’ve read my post about the Beginning of the Shining, you’ll know how physically frail I am and how unlikely to pose any bodily threat. But I might be able to overwhelm them with words.

Oh my. Just about the time my grumbling reaches a pinnacle, I come across things like this:

“For instance, a person who has been around for a while might well be convinced that he can eat anything on the table, while another, with a different background, might assume he should only be a vegetarian and eat accordingly. But since both are guests at Christ's table, wouldn't it be terribly rude if they fell to criticizing what the other ate or didn't eat? God, after all, invited them both to the table. Do you have any business crossing people off the guest list or interfering with God's welcome? If there are corrections to be made or manners to be learned, God can handle that without your help.” (Romans 14:2-4, The Message, emphasis mine)

Still I argue. “What about how Person A ‘corrected’ Person B so rudely? Person A sure didn’t read this instruction very well, did they?”

I get a gentle re-direction to a conversation between Jesus and Peter. A concept presented while beachcombing. I can just picture them, robe hems tucked up to keep the sand from clinging. Peter picking up pebbles and chucking them out into the waves. Jesus picking up a shell, holding it to his ear, smiling. Peter telling Jesus how much he loves him. And the Lord giving him a heads up about where his head’s going to end up. Oooh. Not a fun topic. Peter looks for a diversion.

“Turning his head, Peter noticed the disciple Jesus loved following right behind. When Peter noticed him, he asked Jesus, 'Master, what's going to happen to him?' Jesus said, 'If I want him to live until I come again, what's that to you? You—follow me.'" (John 20:21-22 The Message)

Okay then. Point taken. Whenever I say, “What about THEM, Lord?” He says, “Never you be concerned about them. You and I are working on you. There’s more than enough right here for you to pay attention to. Whatever I do with them is my business and theirs. You, follow me.”

You know, I think I can see to follow Him a whole lot better when I’m not glaring over there at those ill-mannered in-process-with-Jesus-and-none-of-my-business folks.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Stolen Identity?

Spotlight over here, please. Right here, down at the bottom of this chapter. Yep, that’s what I thought it said. I’ve read it, oh, who knows, a hundred times? Today it applies to my thoughts about where I find my worth. I’m talking about verses 22 and 23 in the third chapter of the book of First Corinthians.

Paul was writing to his friends in Corinth. They seemed to be all in a dither. One bunch was saying, “Hey, we’re buds with Paul. He’s our man.” Another clique said, “We cheer for Apollos so we are all that!” I’m not into sports but it sort of sounds like what goes on in ‘discussions’ amongst fans of ball teams. Which makes me roll my eyes. Until I look at how I’ve done it myself.

Yes, I admit it. I’ve been there, done that. With ‘church’ people. To my chagrin and pain. The trouble with lining myself up with another human being is that he or she is just that, another human being. As trustworthy as many are and can be, and I’m thankful for that, I’m learning that my ultimate trust for my own worth is to be in God. For me, seemingly faithful relationships crumbled and the fallible failed when I had different preferences in where I chose to worship the Lord. And by the level of my devastation over betrayal and loss, I realized I’d put my reliance on people for my own identity.

The phrase that spotlight picked out this morning (from the New Living Translation) is “Everything belongs to you, and you belong to Christ, and Christ belongs to God.” It accentuates the concept I’ve mused on for the past few years, that I belong to me. My thoughts, my preferences, my feelings, my choices, my central identity. It’s my responsibility that I don’t give anyone else charge over that. Except for, if I read the rest of that verse, Christ, who belongs to God. Who, by the way, according to what I’ve read in His word, is my Creator and thus calls all the shots. But anyone else who tries to take over is trying to steal from God. Not that they can, because, you know, God being God, I don’t think anyone can actually steal from Him. And I can’t lose my identity when I find it in Him no matter what opinions others have about me.

That being said, words of affirmation are still like music to my ears! J It’s a song I like to sing to you too.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Beginning of the Shining (not to be confused with the movie of the same name)

Although this is not my first blog post, I feel like I’m groping around in the dark. What kind of luminary is that? LOL! Okay, so my first two posts were just about learning to blog—they still count. My groping now is about where to start with the light shining thing. At the beginning? Well, there’s an illuminating thought. And wouldn’t you know, I was asked recently to share something about my beginnings—with a group of friends in a book discussion club. They expressed they found it inspiring so I’m thinking this blog is a good place to share it as well. You’ll get to know a little bit about what makes me tick and I’ll have gotten one more blog post under my belt. Woohoo!

So here’s what I shared:

As some of you may know I express myself best through writing. Plus I can spare you the rabbit trails I’d take you on, and make sure I get to my point, if I stick to reading it. Hopefully you won’t mind.

As soon as I got the email from Kerry, my mind immediately went into gear, wondering what to share, how much, what aspect, etc and my heart prayer was for God’s direction. A story I wrote about my childhood for faithwriters.com in 2009 entitled Accidents Are Not Born came to mind. Within a few minutes of letting Kerry know that I was willing to share, she wrote back with the words, “Praise God from whom ALL blessings flow…you are one!” That confirmed for me God’s direction to share from that part of my life.

By the way, I didn’t start reading One Thousand Gifts until after I’d finished writing out what I’m going to share with you today. But once I started reading it, I felt confirmation there as well.

One might think, “A dairy farm, what a safe and pleasant place to grow up in.” That, I’m here to tell you, is a somewhat na├»ve illusion. Rural living, yes, can be pleasant but it can also be dangerous. I will tell you about a few, but not all, of the accidental injuries in my life that occurred down on our farm in the Pacific Northwest.

When I was born in 1953 I joined two brothers and one sister. My brothers, Larry and David, were six and five years old. My sister Debby, a beautiful blue-eyed blonde with naturally curly hair, was eleven months and about three weeks older than me so we spent ten days each year being the same age. But only for three years. She passed away in 1956 just a month after her 4th birthday. That’s a whole ‘nother story I won’t go into today.

To just briefly round out the family history, my precious sister Robyn came along when I was five years old and the tag-along brother Brian arrived when I was almost fourteen.

Now the first dangerous incident I’ll tell you about might not meet the definition of an outright accident. It involved my oldest brother who experienced oxygen deprivation during birth which led to brain damage. His mental ability was too impaired to know right from wrong and likely his action in this wasn’t intentional—thus an accident.

Every summer my father baled hay in meadows through which an icy creek meandered straight from the Cascade Mountains. To cool off from the sweatiness of loading hay onto the wagons, also known as ‘bucking bales’, Dad and my brothers and the crew of local farm boys often took a dip in the creek. Someone decided damming the stream at a wide spot where the banks were high would create a swimmin’ hole worth diving into. That engineering feat accomplished, much refreshment ensued.

Enter Mother with picnic lunch for the workers, accompanied by five-year-old me—a little girl afraid of water and with an introverted temperament, easily overwhelmed by a busy environment. When it was time to go home, I found myself on the far side of the creek—I do not remember how I got there but the creek was just a trickle in some places so maybe I waded across. Perhaps the late afternoon shadows on the water now freaked me out. In any case, whining for help went unheeded except by my aforementioned brother.

Instead of carrying me across though, he threw me into the swimmin’ hole, now about nine feet deep. I swam like a rock. My short life passed before me. Hell’s fiery flames flicked at the soles of my feet, or so I thought. It was only dead leaves from the branches used in the dam, which could’ve snagged and held me captive. One of those local farm boys dove in and saved me—my first hero. I still remember his name—Les McDowell.

Danger zone ahead: the kitchen.

My chore as an eight-year old was putting dishes from the drain rack into the cupboard. To reach the higher shelves I used a chair to climb up and sit on the counter.

Our old farmhouse kitchen’s metal cupboards had one below-counter door that never latched properly. As I dismounted from the counter rather than using the chair one particular morning, the sharp corner of that slightly open door caught at the back of my knee and dug in. I’m sorry to be so graphic but I thought the sound I heard was my dress ripping.

Thirty stitches, and fifty years later, a wide scar due to ‘proud flesh’ sews a seam from back-of-knee to bottom-of-rump and gives testimony to the fragility of skin.

At age nine I decided to try performing a gymnastics routine. We didn’t have TV so I must have seen this at a friend’s house and no one said, “Don’t try this at home.” So I attempted it with my non-athletic body. On a mattress. Trying to flip. Using my head as landing gear.

Not having that tended to properly at the time, I’m grateful to have feeling in my arms and legs but I’ve dealt constantly with pain. I know I am very fortunate in not having broken my neck.

Getting the wind knocked out of me—a recurring theme.

Jumping off stacks of baled hay in the barn into piled-up loose hay was great fun. After many jumps it got pretty packed but not so solid that landing on your feet was of any consequence. My dad suggested doing a ‘preacher’s seat’. He explained, “That’s when you stick your legs straight out in front of you and land on your rump.”

I tried it. I thought my breath had died and gone to heaven. Walking was difficult for several weeks. As was sitting, standing, lying down, turning over, and just about every position known to my body.

Again not attended to properly, my tailbone and surrounding muscles remember the injury and take the time and trouble of reminding me daily.

Another breath-taking incident occurred when my brothers wanted me to learn baseball. Instead of a wooden bat they swung a heavy metal pipe. I shudder to think how much worse this could’ve been considering what I’ve seen on the Discovery Health channel. In my case, the pipe flailed the air in my brother’s hands and connected with my mid-section. It is a most awful sensation to be unable to get air in or out, which I also experienced the time I walked behind a cow and she kicked me in the stomach and sent me flying. Crazy, isn’t it?

All of the incidents I’ve mentioned happened in the first ten years of my life. At the age of ten, I realized how close to eternity I had come on many occasions and who knew how many more might be in my future and which one might usher me into it. My little soul responded in a personal way to the gospel message I’d heard since birth. I confessed to being a sinner, needing God’s forgiveness, and I invited Jesus into my heart as my personal savior and Lord. I trusted that according to Romans 5:1, I could now say of my eternal destiny “therefore being justified by faith I have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

But for years I pondered something my mother let slip, that Anita’s birth was an ‘accident.’ There was also an impression made on my mind that with Debby’s death, it was the wrong daughter who died. Other things happened as the years went by, including molestation, that seemed to confirm that to me. I stuffed all those confused, hurt and angry feelings that were woven into the fabric of my being, and pretended I was okay. Until in my late thirties, depression and suicidal thoughts took me down.

Thank God for good professional Christian therapists. Through counseling, support groups and prayer, I finally discovered this spiritual truth in a way that I could apply to myself. Yes, life has accidents but as a wonderful surprise planned by God, I am not one of them. I love what the Psalmist says.
“You saw me before I was born.
      Every day of my life was recorded in your book.
   Every moment was laid out
      before a single day had passed.
How precious are your thoughts about me, O God.
      They cannot be numbered!
I can’t even count them;
      they outnumber the grains of sand!” (Psalm 139:16-18a, NLT)

As with the physical pain, I confess I still struggle at times with the emotional pain of feeling unwanted, but God wants me to trust Him even through that. Pain and brokenness remind me that I need Him. Another passage in Psalms that resonates with me says, “My health may fail, and my spirit grow weak, but God remains the strength of my heart; he is mine forever.” Henri Nouwen, in his book Becoming the Beloved, encourages me with this: “The most-celebrated musical composition, the most-noted painting and sculpture, and the most-read books are often direct expressions of the human awareness of brokenness.”

And in preserving me from injury to the point of death, I see God had a plan and purpose for my life. Sometimes His purpose has brought me front and center, sometimes into the background. To God be the glory.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Learning about blogging

My sister Robyn loves to show people how to blog. And I love having her show me.