God’s Still Workin on Me

Whew!  Made it through the first month of 2011 – using NO credit!  It was not easy.  Kind of like when the power goes out and you don’t realize how dependent you have become on outside sources… couldn’t heat up lunch, couldn’t open the garage door, couldn’t make hot tea, couldn’t see to read…

With the credit card, couldn’t order the usual things I’d done before – natural household goods, a tempting book, a class, a nice office chair I had to sit in when I went shopping with a friend, a bicycle trainer (set in the bike and train in the house during our fun blizzards), and well, you get the picture.  The thing is I didn’t get any of those things, and I’m still living (smile) and doing fine.

And – either a first time – or first time in a long while – I had a couple of bucks left when the month ended!  I think I’ll stash my one dollar bills in the bank and see if I can add to them next month.

So how did I entertain myself with all the time remaining from NOT shopping?

  • Got an E-book almost finished (a graphic artist friend is designing the cover and page illustrations).
  • Found two new magazine submission sites, got one article accepted at one and am working on another.
  • Read 8 books and reviewed two others.
  • Sent in 4 devotionals, an article and a column.
  • Posted read books on paperbackswap and sent out 4 of them
  • Prepared envelopes for pictures to send to family and friends (now for the note that goes with them…maybe YOU have been selected to receive…)
  • Cleaned out the kitchen cupboard of all those recipes I tear out of magazines and print from online, intending to use.  They are now being sorted into test, share and toss piles. Just found a request on RacineFreecycle for cookbooks.  Yea.  Think I’ll contact her and get rid of a few of those.
  • Researched at a medical library – it was so much fun it was almost like sneaking chocolate.  I love researching natural, alternative and integrative health topics.
  • Rearranged the living room.
  • Finished three Bible Study chapters
  • Fed my husband who can never see anything in the refrigerator (personally think it is a fake excuse to get me next to him in the kitchen)
  • Took a few dancing lessons, practiced what we learned
  • Shopped with two girlfriends and watched them spend their money.
  • Cleaned and rearranged four cupboards in the kitchen – hubby made extra shelf for one, so things are better organized
  • Got rid of four bags of clothing and household items
  • Finished David’s tract and got them printed
  • Tested several new recipes: Beets in orange sauce – delicious, Homemade Cracker Jacks – surprisingly close to the real thing, Greek Quesadillas – hubby is hooked on them – sauteed chicken in avocado oil and orange-mango juice – mmmm only very slight sweet tang with juicy tender chicken. Served over rice noodles and chicken sauce. Figured out how to make creamy raspberry vinegrette dressing

Three more months to pay off one bill, then the rest of the year to complete another.  That will be a celebration for sure.

Did you know 45% of those who made New Year’s resolutions have given up already?  Praise the Lord, I’ve made it this far.  God’s still workin’ on me and I appreciate your prayers and encouragement as I reach toward the goal of living without two big bills.  It WILL be worth it all. It will.

Phil. 3:14 I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back. –  Translation from The Message of this familiar verse about the ultimate goal:

Phil. 3:14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (NASB)

Be Centered

Several years ago I “flunked” a class on “centering” which was supposed to make us more productive employees.

He who trusts in the Lord will mount up with wings like an eagle...,

I admit I was a rebel as we went around the room

supposedly breathing in deeply, and “feeling” the center of ourselves, “getting in touch” with ourselves, focusing on ourselves.  Prior to the class I’d discovered it was to my detriment to focus on myself, and had spent at least two decades retraining myself NOT to focus inwardly.  So while the time the teacher went around the room asking each of us if we’d got in touch with our best self and found our goal, I had to decide if I was going to get through the class or walk out. Reviewing the methodology of this centering, I felt it could relate to what I needed to be doing spiritually, and chose to focus on Christ, the new center of my life.

That class came to mind today when I attended the funeral of a decades-long friend.  Bev courageously and confidently lived every last day and hour focused on the privilege of serving the Lord and serving her family – including the last five years of a cancer journey.

Her husband shared how at the end the pain is so intense the medication is increased and delivered on need.  To ascertain when it is needed, and to not overdo, so the person is still able to communicate, they ask a series of questions.  The questions sounded to me a lot like the psychological questions doctors ask seniors to check for dementia…things like Do you know where you are?

One of the last times she was being cared for her answers to the questions were all over the map, and her husband began to wonder if she was having difficulty processing both his questions and the anticipated answers to his questions.  So he decided to let her ask and answer her own question.  He gave her a paper and pencil, as the tumors affected her breathing and speech.  Then he told her to forget his questions and just write how she was inside.

We all teared up as he told us the three words she wrote:




That was Bev.  Always centered on Christ – focusing on the bigger question and not the “little things” in life.  Around the entire perimeter of the room where we greeted the family were evidences of her centering techniques.  Copies of Bible studies, thoughtful answers, notes and personal ways she intended to apply those teachings to her life.  Accountability assignments of who she would report to on her progress.

If we wondered how she kept such a centered focus on God and not on the challenges and busyness of her life as she raised a family, that evidence was there too.  Prayer lists….specific needs and lacks she felt she had.  Specific heart cries for her loved ones, friends, fellow-worshipers, community members and beyond.  Verse cards that she practiced until she knew them word perfect.

Bev lived her life intentionally centered on God.  Evidence of her growth and learning being shared unselfishly was in the photographs, the personal notes and cards from different life-events, from the individuals, couples and groups she and her husband Gerry built into.

The respect and love (and laughter) from their church members brought more evidence of a life unafraid to be open and publicly experiencing God during worship. Several spoke of her dedication, labor of love and humble practice of spiritual discipline.

One of those aspects that spoke to me was amid  Bev’s zest for life, she was always ready to listen to what God had next for her.  She is one person I don’t recall ever saying “Why me, Lord?” to a difficulty of life, but almost constantly noticed every beautiful thread of God’s glory woven through the tapestry of her life.  She saw things (as recorded in her many poems) without the walls and blinders that many in the world don’t see because they are too focused on themselves.

Oh, she knew alright what was going on in ‘her world’, as well as in the worlds of those she taught and cared for.  It wasn’t that she didn’t recognize or feel the pain, difficulty, or impossible challenges that life brings. She recognized the pain because she experienced it, but she recognized it as a catalyst of  re-centering that focus. She saw the challenges, not as for her to face alone and solve, but…as opportunities for the hand of God to work.

What a blessing to have such a friend in my legacy.  Her life was like a signpost with an arrow directing others to the place of her strength.  As Bev said when planning her funeral – “It’s not about me – it’s about Christ.”

1Kings 8:58 May he keep us centered and devoted to him, following the life path he has cleared, watching the signposts, walking at the pace and rhythms he laid down for our ancestors.


I’ve actually never liked the word leftovers, and prefer to instead call food that is left over after a meal -an abundance.    Those abundances are being utilized or distributed even more carefully with my simple-down resolution.

A new recipe is a Mediterranean quesadilla.  What a yummy way to utilize the little of this and that remaining in the refrigerator.  Bits of meat and veggies are turning into salads, quiche, fritatta or soup and fruits are mixed into rich custard brulees, poured over nut tortes, or whipped into protein smoothies.

Abundances were sought recently via a call about a young family whose home was destroyed by fire. They have nothing, she said.  That happened to my niece years ago and I know how devastating that can be.  It was revealing as I looked around my home and imagined myself or my child being in such a situation, how many more things I saw that I could share.

Sharing improves one’s view of abundances, too, and brought to notice some I’ve been given that I don’t think about often enough.  My granddaughter made some suggestions for cleaning cabinets and rearranging the furniture as we hunted for things to share, and we spent the morning finding muscles long forgotten. That was greatly due to the abundance of scrapbooks we had to remove so we could lift a credenza.

Of course we began poking through some of the books which ranged from 5x5x1/2” to 14x16x6” thick!  Hundreds and hundreds of pages containing thousands of blessings of our family and friends.

As I put things into bags, I recalled where I got them, how they were provided for me to share, and was reminded again of the many blessings God has caused in my life in addition to adopting me!  Not just material things, mind you, but good memories, opportunities to share God’s love and the love of friends and family – people who know more about me than I wish they did, and love me anyway.

We plan to continue hunting for abundances – whether a shelf, a drawer, a bag or box a week, or a thought, a blessing, a joy – we’re hunting for abundances that would bless someone else.

My verses today reminds me of the words of Mordecai to Esther when he told her God brought her where she was with what she had for “such a time as this.”… Although it is natural to doubt that our small part could make such a huge difference as Esther’s life… both are God’s plan to show His love, and every bit of Him that I share has possible eternal results!

In John 10:10 Jesus said I came that they might have life, and might have it abundantly.

And 2Corinthians 8:14 at this present time your abundance being a supply for their want…

I am blessed to have His abundant life, and I am blessed to share it.





Pressure Reliever

I am an achiever.  I like to accomplish things and get frustrated if my list is not complete, or if a goal gets interrupted.  I have lists of lists to check off so each day I can see what I have completed.  Achieving is actually a strength, and I’ve been studying the personality strengths.

An ironic thing is that every strength needs a balance.  Sometimes the very strength that attracted us to someone becomes an irritation when we experience it 24/7 or when it is not in balance.  Over-achieving or more likely over-committing would be an example that could be a danger for me – and not the best way of utilizing a natural God-given strength.

Thinking about my strengths being a gift from God, and a ‘natural’ strength which I can build up, ignore, over-use, or under-nourish, gives me a perspective, and also a reminder that something that a natural strength is something I enjoy.  That is a gift in itself.   Discovering teaching and ways I can ‘work-out’ those strength muscles and develop my gifts to better communicate the gospel is always exciting to me.   There is always temptation for an achiever to feel like I missed the mark if my view of completion does not occur.  The realization that my achievements are MEANT to be incomplete – is another gift.

This prose  by Catholic Archbishop Oscar Romero from Sydney, Australia  says it so well:

No statement says all that could be said.
No prayer fully expresses our faith.
No confession brings perfection.
No pastoral visit brings wholeness.
No program accomplishes the church’s mission.
No set of goals and objectives includes everything.

This is what we are about.
We plant seeds that one day may grow.
We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise.
We lay foundations that will need further development.
We provide yeast that produces effects beyond our capabilities.

… It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way, an opportunity for God’s grace to enter and do the rest.

We may never see the end results but that is the difference between the master builder and the worker.
We are workers, not master builders, ministers, not messiahs.

1Corinthians 3:6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth.

It reminds me that my efforts are supposed to be incomplete, but a part of the bigger picture eternally. This is an awesome pressure reliever.

Before you buy the ticket, know the ultimate destination.

Doesn’t that just describe to a “T” the spontaneous,  emotional decisions that got so much of the world in debt or overweight!

I know I’ve been there.

A couple of days ago I thought man, I’m halfway through the first month of living without credit – how am I going to last a whole year.  But, we will.  Each day brings little decisions that have to be rethought from the former automatic, ‘get out the plastic’ reaction.

I loved the title quote – from a study in Proverbs and am determined to follow the suggestion and examine the ultimate destination before every financial decision.  Although finances are what Proverbs is talking in this instance, it is set in the middle of a discussion about purity and encourages us to stay in the Word so we won’t commit spiritual adultery.  Now there is a destination I’ve seldom thought about when making spontaneous decisions.  Asking how this purchase, this decision, could affect my relationship with the Lord and where the ultimate destination this decision would take me should surely slow down my reflexes to jump into things and regret it later.

As a couple we already have a plan to discuss any decision over a set amount, because without those parameters the ultimate destination is at the least a disagreement, at worst a long-term struggle to undo a hasty decision.   We’ve learned that the hard way, and so decided not to ‘jump into’ the out-of-our-budget dance lessons.

As often happens, God blessed that decision and our “revised ticket” came via email today – an announcement of local dance lessons that we could afford. and recommended by someone we trust. We’ve signed up and will start Feb. 2 – just enough time to recover from the other little ticket I shouldn’t have bought….


But that’s another story.

Luke 14:28  “Is there anyone here who, planning to build a new house, doesn’t first sit down and figure the cost so you’ll know if you can complete it?

Let Him Lead…

This might be the closest I’ve come to learning to let Ken lead…and come to think of it, Ken was learning to let me let him – lead I mean.

He was only there – private dance lessons, due to a Christmas gift with a catch (required participation) but he was game and accepted the challenge.

Ken is such a gentleman that I always feel like a Cinderella when we go out.  This was no exception but the teacher (young and dark, with a fair Bandaras accent) spotted the challenge right away.  He greeted us with something like ‘Oh, good, I have the most fun teaching a couple when the woman has a strong personality.’

What?  I cannot imagine what gave him that impression.  Type A Sanguine – me?

Well, anyway, we loved our lessons and then found we hadn’t thought any further than the gift certificate.  I should have known we – or at least I – would want to continue dancing… and that we could not afford it.

The temptation was to let Ken please me and “find the money” by breaking our budget, but I just could not do that.  I compared other area private lessons (not much available) compared prices, and tortured the budget most of one night trying to tweak out enough.  It wasn’t happening.  But Ken still said he wanted to do it “because I know you really enjoyed it.”  I spent another hour pondering the lesson and benefits of letting him lead.

This lesson from the movie Take the Lead (starring Antonio Bandaras) Mr. Dulaine: The man proposes the step.It is the woman’s choice to accept by following. Now, to follow takes as much strength as to lead.

I’ve always said that no woman looks for a wimpy guy.  We want a man who will lead with confidence.  Yet we also want a man whose confidence submits to love.  I certainly have that and have struggled at times to make sure I don’t take advantage of that affection.  I am strong-willed.  I am fairly self-centered, especially when my emotions are involved, as they are with dance. Ken says he likes my strengths (good thing) and all things considered, he would say it probably takes MORE strength for me to allow him to lead. Still,  it was evident I knew what I had to do. I had to let the Lord lead, so I could let Ken lead.

Ken was pleasantly surprised the next morning when I told him I wanted more lessons, but agreed we should be able to pay for them before we signed up.

And oddly, I think, I feel good about not taking the lead in this decision.  We both felt sad when we left the dance studio, until Ken reminded me that he wanted the same thing I did – besides our budget goals, to enjoy this hobby together and to seek the higher road by either finding, earning and saving the money or by accepting that seemingly un-American phrase “we cannot afford it.”

Together we agreed to sell, search and save.  We canceled some things today that give us $25 a month to start toward the lessons.  I have two boxes of stuff I will put on Ebay tomorrow.  They are small starts, but with determination we can save enough and then get the lessons with no regrets.

Gained:  a new excitement for our weekly dance-at-home practice as we got a few more steps figured out.  Gained – a new determination – I am willing to wait for this purchase, to save for it.  The original 2011 goal, to stick to our budget, to pay off two large bills, and make it through the year using no credit, has not been compromised.

Anyone need a like-new waffle iron, a white fur coat, a black curly lamb jacket, some adorable miniature lamb figurines, a precious moment figurine….?


I did something wacky when I was uploading pics from my SD card to the computer.  Panic ensued for a while.  No photos on the SD card and no photos on the computer!  Tried everything I knew (that didn’t take long ha ha), then tried the internet. Found the answer and it was a quick fix after all.  Got the SD card and photos restored.  Such a little thing and such a relief to figure out what I did (tried to delete photos from the SD card while it was in the computer instead of from the camera).

Some of my – uh – adventures – are bigger and I am unable to fix them on my own. Usually if I cannot figure out how to un-do my own destruction I am able to call in Mighty Man (Husband), Mighty Tech (Son), or Mighty Woman (Daughters or Daughter-in-law).  Think of it – my very own restoration team!

I’m so thankful that all I have to worry about are the little things – and that I have a Mighty God to handle the Big Deal – How to restore ME.  It’s so calming to know that God wants to and can restore all of me – mentally, emotionally, physically, spiritually.

1Peter 5:10 – And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.

Jeremiah 31:25 – I’ll refresh tired bodies; I’ll restore tired souls.

Deuteronomy 30:3 GOD, your God, will restore everything you lost; he’ll have compassion on you; he’ll come back and pick up the pieces from all the places where you were scattered.

Now there’s comfort for the long haul.

Be a friend, Today.

I was sharing with someone recently about how angry I was right after I became a new believer when I found out that some people I’d been ‘attracted to’ were Christians. They had a store downtown in Racine and I went there almost every day from work for about 6 months just because I wanted to be around them.  Why was I upset?  Because they never said a word about the Lord, a scripture verse, invited me to church, nada.

Some say we should be upset if we weren’t ‘told’ … their lives did tell me something but I never knew what….Others say it was a layer of God’s plan like the seed, the weeding, the watering etc.

Today I read this poem – and wonder if it is possible for this to really happen – for someone that wanted to know not to find out…ever.


My Friend –   Author Unknown

My friend, I stand in “The Judgment” now, And feel that you’re to blame, somehow. On earth, I walked with you day by day And never did you point the way.

You knew the Lord of truth and glory, But never did you tell the story. My knowledge then was very dim, You could have led me safe to Him.

Though we lived together on this earth, You never told of the second birth. And now this day I stand condemned, Because you failed to mention Him.

You taught me many things that’s true, I called you friend and trusted you. But now I’ve learned that it’s too late, You could have kept me from this fate.

We walked by day and talked by night, And yet you showed me not the light. You let me live and love and die, And knew I’d never live on high.

Yes. I called you friend in life, And trusted you through joy and strife. And yet, on coming to the end, I cannot now call you … My Friend!


My assumption is that if someone is searching for the Lord with their whole being, they will be found by Him.  Some of us might miss the opportunity to share with that person, and miss the resulting blessing, but God will bring the truth through someone else.

That’s no excuse a failed opportunity or a never-completed mission.  It’s just a good reminder to me that when the Spirit tells me to be about God’s work, I need to obey immediately.

2Corinthians 6:2 God reminds us,

I heard your call in the nick of time; The day you needed me, I was there to help. Well, now is the right time to listen, the day to be helped.


A recent medical review required a stress lifeline.  This involved drawing a line representing my life, then marking  peaks and valleys of good and bad stress in my life.  Abuse, graduation, marriage, car accident, birth of children, miscarriage, etc.  It is amazing to then check one’s medical records and see how illness or inflammation coincided with and followed the bad-stress events.

The exercise helped me recall when I first became a Christian and someone asked me to create a spiritual lifeline.  I’d been resentful that in the religious setting of my childhood, I’d not been told the whole gospel, and a very wise pastor showed me through the lifeline that it was in that very setting I’d been taught some of the foundational truths that prepared my heart for the complete gospel.

Now I want to complete the course – making an emotional and a mental lifeline as well.  I’m sure on the emotional lifeline, I will meet some of the dear friends reading this who greatly influenced various areas of my life.  I fondly recall some teachers (not all in schools) who will appear on the peaks of my mental lifeline, along with many authors.  The valleys on all of the lifelines, it seems, we have no trouble filling in with incidents or names, and yet we have to be careful not to label all of those with only negative influence.

Just as I discovered what I thought was a negative spiritual influence was actually a preparation for the complete truth of salvation I longed for, many of the difficult valleys of life also teach us, strengthen us, and prepare us for the next mountain top.  The comments on our lifelines can reveal those events and things that have and could again tempt, weaken, or encourage and raise us above worldly worries to recognize what God has done in our lives, what He wants to do, and what we need to do to allow Him to work in us again.

Grab a piece of paper and make four horizontal lines – one apiece for physical, spiritual, mental and emotional.  (of course for guys, that last one will likely look radically different than ours, gals!)  Seriously though it is no test and no results are right or wrong – but the lifelines are revealing and you may even find yourself doing what I did – thanking God for all the blessings I could see in the valleys as well as the mountain tops.    Who could help but praise when you can see God in your lifeline!

Little Victories are really…

I’ve been celebrating little victories.    Getting a nice phone call from my Mom.  Having her say love you before I did. (I’ve been saying love you before hanging up for four years!) Figuring out a computer problem.  Saying yes Lord to turn from discouraging thoughts.  Completing a few articles without interruption.  Finding a couple of new markets.  Getting a refund. Organizing my time.  Meeting a goal.  Creating a meal from food on hand instead of taking the easy way out.  Deleting a tempting ‘buy-now’ advertisement.  Tossing out treats leftover at church on New Year’s eve instead of taking it home and ending up eating it all….so many little victories…

But I’ve been wondering… Is there such a thing as “little” victories?  Romans 8:37 says that …” in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.”

More than conquerors.  To me that means, I don’t just return home from the battle.   More than that, I don’t just return from the battle declared the winner, the ‘top dog’, the prizewinner.   A conqueror is a victor.  One who experiences victory.  An overcomer.  But it doesn’t say we HAVE more because we won this victory.  In some cases that may be true, but it seems unimportant and is not even mentioned. Rather this portion of scripture says we can be more than victors through Christ.

I love investigating the original language of words to glean the real meaning and I find that more in Hebrew doesn’t merely add a title but says that because of the battle, from the battle, out of the battle or by reason of the battle we ARE more than we were before.


For God to work in my life… for Him to make me to be more than I was before… is no little victory!  It’s


By the way – web-dictionaries say roots of the word have been defined as: super- “above”, cali- “beauty”, fragilistic- “delicate”, expiali- “to atone”, and docious- “submissive/obedient”

Rough translation:  “Extinguishing guilt and redeeming submissive obedience through delicate beauty.

Perfectly explainable 🙂 with a verse for this year:

Psalm 27:4      One thing I ask of the LORD,
this is what I seek:
that I may dwell in the house of the LORD
all the days of my life,
to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD
and to seek him in his temple.

and thus – To be more than conqueror through Him who loved us.

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