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Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Walking On Thin Ice

“I need a camera,” I informed The Farmer last November.
“I thought you had a good camera on your phone,” he reminded me.
“I do, but it doesn’t zoom far enough. I need a camera that zooms so I don’t have to get out in the cold and take pictures. Remember last year when the cow had her baby in the snow? I couldn’t get close enough to get a really good picture.”

I’m not sure he was truly convinced, but since it was right before Christmas, I had a really good chance of getting one. And I did. Doing the research, I got a great deal during the Black Friday sales (online, by the way).

And I’ve taken some great pics. I can sit in my sitting room and zoom in on the McD’s cup that is sitting on the counter and see the advertisement on the cup.

Can you see the cattle?

I’ve also taken some wintery shots off the deck when we had all that freezing snow the last couple of months.


Unfortunately,  after I got the camera, I  lost my muse for a time, because The Farmer hadn’t been doing much around the farm. Well, he has fed hay, and scraped the feed lot, and fixed waterers, and shoveled snow, and chopped ice on the pond, but  it was too cold for me to get outside, and too far away from the porch for me to take pictures. Until the other day when he went out to spread red clover on the pastures.

We re-seed our red clover in our pastures every couple of years, because it’s the natural way to put nitrate back into the ground (nitrate helps the grasses grow). A good time to spread seed is while the snow is on the ground, and right before spring thaw. Since the weather seemed to be cooperating, you can imagine how excited I was to find out The Farmer was going to go do something I could take pictures of and write about. I was also silently hoping to take a video.

Hurrying to get my coat and boots on, I rushed out the door just in time to take a picture of The Farmer pulling away. “Click” (always take two) “Click.” 

Walking along trying to adjust the zoom, I all of sudden found myself lying flat on my back, with a cracked elbow, rattled teeth, and a throbbing backside! The only thing that I was aware of was the fact that I threw my camera as I went down. As I lay there getting my bearings, my rendezvous with The Farmer was forgotten. Completely unnoticed by him, I hobbled into the house to access the damage, and was thankful to realize that nothing was broken. Later, retelling the story to The Farmer, I was amazed to find how much concern he had for my camera. I assured him that I too had come away unscathed.     

Later, as I was again walking outside (being more watchful this time), I thought about how quickly my world was “turned up-side down.” How I was going through the motions of my day, thinking, planning, doing, and then in a split-second my feet were gone from out from under me and I was lying helpless on the ground. All my thoughts, plans, and motions had been changed to something completely different with that one small slip on the ice.

Jonathan Edwards (a 18th century preacher during America’s Great Awakening) spoke of this very thing in his well-known sermon “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.” He used Deuteronomy 32:35 as his text, “…their foot shall slide in due time.”

His sermon can be read here >>Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God , or you can listen to a reenacted version >>HERE<<. It’s a long read, but it is so worth the time it takes.

I was reminded of his key statement, “…their foot shall slide in due time.” When I slid on the ice, there was no warning, no flashing lights, no sounding alarms, and no stopping once I began to fall. My feet slipped and gravity took me down.

Edwards compares this with life on this earth and eternity. We all are walking around thinking about our plans and what we’ll be doing tomorrow and the next day, but none of us are promised tomorrow. No one is ever guaranteed more than the second in which we are living in right now.

All of us are one split-second away from eternity. And once that journey begins, all of our thoughts, plans, and motions will cease on this side of eternity. In a lot of cases, it comes without warning; a health issue, an accident, etc., and then we are on the other side of eternity.

Several years ago I made a very conscious decision to place Christ on the throne of my life. In God’s word He told me that I had offended Him; that I was an enemy of His, because I had been born into sin (we all have). And God cannot, and will not, associate with sin.

I read that God desired for me to be adopted into His family for eternity. He said that He had already paid for my sins that I had committed, and the sins that I wasn’t even aware of, because Christ took the punishment on the cross that was meant for me. And although Christ had taken on the sins of the whole world, there was still something I had to do to make this gift of salvation mine. I had to accept it. The work was done, the gift was given, the relationship between a holy God and an unrighteous people had been reconciled, but until I personally accepted His Gift of forgiveness, I could not be reconciled with God. We could never have a relationship unless I acted on His gift. And I did when I was 21 years old.

However, if God would not have sustained me, if He would not have had mercy to keep my feet on solid ground, if I would have slipped into eternity before I had accepted this Gift, my eternity would have been full of darkness, agony, and total separation from God.

Being a Christian is more than a religion to me, it’s the fulfillment of my purpose in life. It’s the reason I was created, and it’s the reason I wanted to share this with you. I’m not being trite when I ask, but have you been reconciled to God? Have you made a choice to follow God’s law and trust in His gift of eternal life made available to us through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ? I truly hope you have.

When I had questions about eternity, I found my answers in God’s Word. Reading the books of John, Romans, and Psalms answered a lot of my questions. I hope it helps you, too.

“…God commendeth (demonstrates) his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us…being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. 

For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life…

We also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement." 
Romans 5:8-11

Thursday, January 30, 2014

I Miss You In The Ordinary

Recently, my mother-in-law passed away after a short bout with cancer. Up to that point in her life, she had always been healthy. At age 86, she didn’t take any medications, and she would walk 2 miles a day—Monday through Friday (on Saturday if the weather was really pleasant).

Often her daughters would come over and walk with her, and she would always encourage me to walk with her, also. Being her next-door neighbor was a good enough reason to do it, but I always had an excuse: I was too busy, too tired, too grumpy, too lazy (probably the real reason). At one point I justified not walking with her because I didn’t want to get too attached to her.

Judge me if you must, but this reasoning came after her sister had passed away. For years, every morning between 7:00 and 7:30, she and her sister would call each other just to talk and check up on one another. After her sister passed, I saw the pain and loneliness that my mother-in-law had felt for her sibling, and I made a conscience decision that I didn’t want to suffer that.

Knowing that she was a bit older than I, I assumed she would go before me and I was preparing myself emotionally (some psychologist out there can work on that if they need to). But when I began to reason within myself, I saw this for what it was…just another excuse (a twisted one perhaps).

Eventually, I began to walk daily with her. She encouraged me, prodded me on, and took it easy on me those first few days while I adjusted to her walking pace. Actually, she was just recovering from a cold that she had harbored for several weeks, so she was only walking one mile a day in the beginning, and I was able to keep up with her (wow, that’s pretty sad, since I’m 43 years younger)

After several months of walking, talking, griping, and laughing together, she found out that she had a very aggressive form of cancer and was given 4 to 6 months to live. But like everything else she faced in life, she stayed strong, faithful, and level-headed. She got her house in order and began telling her kids how she wanted everything done. She planned out her own funeral, took care of all of her financial business, pretty much decided who was going to get what, and assured us all that she would be okay, because she had accepted Christ as her Savior and she knew her final destination (although we already knew this, because it showed in her everyday life).

My mother-in-law was many things; loving, giving, faithful, energetic, stubborn and proud. When she became too weak to walk with me, she still encouraged (and threatened) me to keep on walking for my health. And I did, mainly because there was a need for someone to stop in each day and help her with some meds (it kept me accountable).

She was a strong woman and wasn’t used to being helped out. But eventually, the cancer made it impossible for her to be by herself. We kids began taking turns staying with her, and my fear of becoming too close became my reality. We spent weeks doing ordinary stuff for her; talking with her, reminiscing with her, eating with her, watching TV with her, and just being with her.

And now I find myself missing her in the ordinary—when I walk past her house, Sunday afternoons, eating candy bars and drinking sodas, watching Matlock, and a hundred other things that became daily routines. So many things, that I couldn’t begin to list, and no one else would understand, because they are just my memories.

I Miss You in the Ordinary
I see you in the ordinary,
In the things that happen day-to-day.
I see you in the ordinary
As I’m walking along life’s way.
I miss you in the ordinary,
In the things I daily do.
I remember you in the ordinary,
And realize how much I miss you.

In the commonplace of living
You have affected all of my days.
I miss you in the ordinary-
I miss your extraordinary ways.
“Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.”
Psalm 51:10

Monday, January 20, 2014

An American Dream

An American Dream

I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.’

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream to day.

I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with is vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification; one day right there in Alabama, little black boys and  black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today.

Martin Luther King, Jr., of course, delivered this historical speech on August 28, 1963, in the middle of one of the most turbulent times in America’s history.

There is no denying that racism and prejudicial treatment was rampant in parts of the United States, and there was a need for change. Martin Luther King, Jr. was a successful leader in bringing about a lot of that change for our nation.

Dr. King fought for human equality. His famously orchestrated March on Washington had a big impact on our country. While quoting from The Declaration of Independence, King encouraged our leaders to be mindful of the statement that all men are created equal. And this declaration goes farther than King quoted. It goes on to say, “…that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

As a nation, we have come a long way. We now have laws that prohibit racial discrimination in employment and have ended racial segregation in our public schools. We have a president sitting in the Oval Office that would not have been able to be there 50 years ago. Other discrimination barriers have been broken also. If you are an American, no matter what race or gender, it is possible for you to rise to the pinnacle of government or private business. You can own your own business, work for someone else, or run for any office in the country. You have the liberty to pursue your own happiness.

Unfortunately, there are those who think that the liberty to pursue happiness, has become a right to be happy. Just like money can’t buy happiness, neither can handouts. People who are given things without working for them tend to become ungrateful and dissatisfied (just take a look at your kids at Christmas time).

This nation was set up in a way that everyone could have the opportunity to make a living by human ingenuity and hard work, and then be able to prosper through modest spending and wise investments—not on race or gender.

In fact, I think we need to change the way employers hire their employees. Can you imagine going in for an interview and the potential employer not having you fill out a resume that asks for your race or your gender, but instead has questions about your morality, your loyalty, and your attitude. Wouldn’t it be great to be chosen for a job or position based strictly on your ability, intelligence, wisdom, or endurance level? My! People may actually begin to appreciate their employment, while employers may actually be able to hire and fire according to performance. (wonder why no one has thought about that?)

Unfortunately, as sinful human beings, there will always be some prejudice. It’s hard to see things through other people’s eyes. Prejudice is not a political issue, it’s a heart issue, which can only be altered by Divine intervention.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

The Re-Arrangement

“Mom! I can’t believe this! How could you?”
I hear my daughter’s panicked questions coming from the other room.
“What happened? Why did you do this? You’ve got to put it back!”

Rolling my eyes and laying down my laptop, I get up and go into the kitchen, knowing what the problem is before I even walk into the room. There I see my 16 year-old daughter standing with all the kitchen cabinet doors flung open. The bewildered look on her face and the hands flailing about her head, tell me she is not happy with what she sees.

When she notices that she has my attention, the shrills begin again, “What have you done? This is no good, no good at all! You can’t keep changing the cabinets. The cups don’t go near the plastic bowls, and all the plates are suppose to be on the same shelf! Please tell me you haven’t changed the stuff in the drawers. Aagh! You moved the silverware! Change it back! Change it back!”

Oh, brother, I think to myself, and then reassuring her I say, “It’s fine. I just moved around some things to make it more convenient for me.” Rolling her eyes, she takes her Oreo and leaves the room. This is a familiar episode we go through any time I decide to rearrange the cabinets, or the furniture, or if I turn the kitchen table in a different direction. My kids act like I have committed some heinous crime. What’s that about?

Is their childhood so unstable that they have to hold on to every steady fixture or utensil that has ever crossed their paths? I don’t believe it is. We have lived in the same place for 25 years, we’ve been going to the same church for 10 years, their Dad has had the same job for 35 years, and they’ve attended home school all of their life with me, their stay-at-home mom, as their teacher. How much more steady could their lives be?

Regardless, this is my kitchen; I do all of the cooking and most of the cleaning. The only time my kids like to come into the kitchen is when I am fixing them something to eat and they are waiting on me to fill their plates.

I used to be more sympathetic. I didn’t want to damage them in some way that would cause them to fail in life. But now seven of my nine kids are grown, and I decided it really doesn’t matter how careful you are with their psyche, they all turn out a little screwy anyway. (hee, hee... oh wait, maybe I am the problem)

I’m just kidding on that point. I know that parents are responsible for some of their children’s idiosyncrasies (hopefully, we are their biggest influence, after all). And I think it’s obvious to this self-proclaimed doctor of psychology, that children are affected by change. However, when that change is done in my domain, they need to be able to accept it.

I do not go into their bedrooms and make them change them to suit me. There are some requirements of keeping a half-decent room, but other than that, they are free to arrange and rearrange their rooms any way they would like.

Maybe I should inform them that if they want to help more in the kitchen, then I would allow them to have an input into the way it’s arranged or not rearranged. But since that’s not going to happen, I will continue to move things around the way I like them. And I’m sure they will continue to complain about where things are…or aren’t. 

Monday, January 13, 2014

Smartphone Plans Starting At $5 Per Month

Has the high cost of living made an indention into your budget lately? It has ours. We have had to plan a budget, re-plan that budget, and then tighten it up just a little bit more.

Between Dishnet, Apple, Nintendo, and Sony, our budget had just about become unbudgeted!

So I had to get busy and find some way to save some money. One of our greatest expenses is the cell phone. When we first got a cell phone, I was the only one that needed it. We got rid of our home phone, which we couldn’t seem to get below the $30 mark (for local calling only), and used my cell phone instead.

But alas, as a frog being boiled, I got used to the convenience of the cell phone, and the luxury of became an expected need. It wasn’t long until I was lured into the seductive power of the Apple iPhone. What style! What ease! What power! I went from talking to family and friends on the phone to being able to map out a long trip, or look up an elusive meaning to any word I came across, not to mention when Siri came along. With these smartphones, we hold the world in the palm of our hands. (Ahh…I digress.)

However, as the kids became teens, they thought they needed phones too. Son #4 was able to purchase his own phone. He too started out with a nice convenient cell phone, but was quickly caught up with the whole fandomhood of Apple I-Phone-itus. Looking at the family plan, he could get an iPhone fairly reasonably, as long as he gave them two years of his life. And we soon found that two-year commitment had become very costly with purchasing the data plan, paying overage costs, and a little mishap with a river excursion. Fortunately, he was financially independent from us. J

Daughter #4 was next. For a short while, she was satisfied with a $20 phone and that cost us $10 per month. But she quickly found that wasn’t sufficient for her. She now has Virgin Mobile prepaid, but it’s still quite a bit more than our budget likes.

So I got on the WWW and began to search “cheap smartphone plans”. I just couldn’t go back to a dumb phone. I tried to use The Farmer’s phone and didn’t even know how to operate it anymore. It didn’t do anything when I touched the screen. And all those push buttons just had numbers on them…it was so confusing!

Fortunately Daughter #1 lives very frugal and she told me about a site called mrmoneymustache (highly recommend you check him out). On his site I found a company called Republic Wireless.

Republic Wireless is a company that started a beta phone service in 2011. The way I understand it is that their phones use existing free wifi service to make calls. Unlike the big boys who use the cell towers and charge you an arm and leg, this company makes use of free wifi hotspots that you find everywhere. I have used free wifi from McDonalds, Lowes, Starbucks, Target, and my favorite car dealer, Chris Auffenberg Ford, in Washington. And of course I use the wifi I have here at home.

However, Republic Wireless doesn’t only rely on free wifi, their phones also use the cell towers. The default setting for their phones are free wifi, and the backup for the cell phones are the cell towers.

When I first began to look into it, the only phone they had was their beta phone—Motorola Defy XT. And the only plan they had was $19 a month for unlimited text, data, and talk (a lot cheaper then I was paying for that same service). So using Daughter #5 as a guinea pig, we purchased the phone for her and I tracked her activity for that first month.

She got great reception, always had service, and never missed a call (well, except when I would be calling her to check to see if she had finished her chores while I was away—not the fault of the phone). So when my servitude, I mean contract, with AT&T ended I switched to Republic Wireless.

Unfortunately the beta Motorola Defy XT was not available, but fortunately they offered an awesome Android phone, the Motorola X (and I could purchase the white color for the same price as the black-can’t do that with the iPhone). I love it! With a little bit of a learning curve, I find the Moto X as appealing to me as the iPhone.

Now here’s the best part (well another best part), Republic Wireless offers smartphone plans starting at $5 a month! The plans range between unlimited talk, text, and data (wifi only) for $5/month up to unlimited talk, text, and data (wifi and 4G) for $40/month. There are other plans for $10 and $25 per month.

I have had Republic Wireless for 1 ½ months, (Daughter #5 has been with them for 4 months) and I highly recommend their company. If you would like to look into what they have to offer, here is my affiliate link. Just link on the image.

Seriously, I will be saving $480 a year using Republic Wireless instead of AT&T.

That’s just enough money to go on a 7-day Caribbean cruise!