Saturday, June 16, 2012

The Red Door

"Take a right, then another right.  I'm the first house on the right; it's a two story log house with a blue door."

I said that a lot.

People found my house easily when I had a blue door.  But I got tired of it...I really wanted a red door.  But, since I have blue and white trim, a red door wasn't happening until I changed the trim colors.

I love my country but, well, that would be a little much.

As a compromise, a couple of years ago I painted my door a beautiful deep brown.  But telling people it's the log house with a brown door didn't seem to work.  I'd see them drive right past and have to go out and flag them down.

I decided this summer was The Year of The Red Door.

It kind of felt a little frivolous, painting my trim just so I could have a red door.  Then I got to really looking at it.  How did I miss how tired it had become?  The paint had actually peeled in places.  Ew.  It had to go.

Then I started looking at the posts that hold up my porch roof.   Then I noticed the deck.

Mercifully, I stopped there.

I tackled the posts  first; piece of cake.  Then I started on the deck, and I learned a little something-something.

1.  Go to a regular paint store and get the good stuff.  Listen to their instructions and follow them.
2.  If you buy water based stain at a store where the employees are clueless, you'll end up with dark lines in the places where you rolled, then stopped to paint the cracks, then started rolling again.  The good stuff is oil based.
3.  See #1.
4.  You have to bend down, sit down, and stand up approximately 2000 times when painting a deck.
5.  See #1, they'll sell you stuff that makes it easier on your thighs.
6.  A second coat of the cheap stuff doesn't really solve the problem.
7.  See #1.
8.  Make sure your back door is unlocked before you stain the entire front deck.

Now to tackle the trim. I decided it would be easier to pull my little white trim boards down and paint them separately from the main trim board.  That went pretty well on the lower roof.  However, I learned a few things when I got on the porch roof to start working up there.

1.  My son's old skate shoes do not have sufficient traction to be on a roof.
2.  Bare feet are better than old skate shoes.
3.  It's possible to break a 2x2 when trying to remove it.
4.  There are lots of crawly things on roofs.

Next, I drove to town.  I learned a few more things.

1.  The paint store employees have great knowledge about paint.
2.  The paint store paint costs a fortune.
3.  Payless Shoes has these amazing tennis shoes with gripper soles.  $27.99 is a very reasonable price when you start thinking about broken bones and stuff.  Besides,  I'm pretty sure Spiderman wears these shoes and I want to be cool like him.
4.  It's okay to go back to the coffee shop and complain if they put too much foam in your coffee.

(Actually, I already knew about #4.)

I came home and painted all the blue trim on the front of my house brown.  I also painted my arms and clothes.  I like to fully submerge myself in my work.

It's all looking pretty good, I must say.  Tomorrow, if the sun is still shining, I'll paint the little trim boards white then nail them back up.  And hopefully by tomorrow afternoon I will finally have a red door.

Then I can say, "Turn right, then right again.  It's the first house on the right; two story log house with brown trim on the front and blue trim on the other three sides.

Oh.  And a red door."

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Locked Out

It's funny how different people are born with certain affinities.  Let's take singing, for example.  Some people are just born with a pretty voice.  They didn't inherit the talent or acquire it through training, they can just flat-out sing. It's a gift.

Other people may have a talent that has a logical explanation.  My son was an excellent baseball pitcher; he pitched a no-hitter during a Little League All Star game when he was twelve.  Was his talent inherited?  Not exactly.  You see, he was a huge baby.  His hand-eye coordination was highly developed because his large motor skills...ah....weren't.  The kid was so big he couldn't move. 

It's okay, you can blame me.  I'm his mother.

Thankfully, he grew out of his chubbiness by the time he was four and now he's pretty proud of it.  But I think his highly developed fine motor skills are one of the reasons he can play the guitar so beautifully.

So, I'm wondering, why do some people have an affinity for negative things?  Like, stupid negative things?  Like, why do some people continually lock themselves out of the house?

Let me say right up front that my house key is special.  I've tried to have spare copies made but nobody has the right blank.  Apparently there are only two keys in the world like my key and they are both inevitably locked in the house when I'm locked out. 

I do try to keep one of the keys hidden outside.  Wow, I'd really lock myself out a lot if it was never in its hiding place. 

Last Friday night I decided to wear my blue coat.  I had already locked the door when I realized I left my keys in my black coat.  A kind friend came and picked me up...she was especially kind because she also took me home.  And at 10 pm she and her unsuspecting husband ended up helping me break into my house.  I'm not going to give you the specifics, but it involved tromping through four feet of snow in the dark, a pocket knife and one of us being wedged into a small hole.  It wasn't me.

I'm still feeling kind of bad about the whole thing, but I'm trying not to.  I figure there must be some fundamental reason I have an affinity for locking myself out of the house.

So I'm going to blame my mother.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Valentine's Day

When I was a kid, Valentine's Day was one of my favorite holidays.  I loved picking out my box of Valentines at the dime store. I remember the angst I felt deciding which card to give my best friend, which to give the mean kid (if any), and which to give the cutest boy in the class.  I loved bringing my stash home, opening each little envelope and trying to decide what it all meant.

I got a big taste of reality when I was in the fifth grade.  I returned home after a fun-filled school day to find a strange man sitting in our living room.  He handed me a heart-shaped box of chocolates, and then listened with tears in his eyes as my mom explained he had run over my cat.

That's the thing about Valentine's Day.  It offers such highs and lows.

Two years ago I was walking on clouds.  I was in love and the object of my affection was a go-big-or-go-home kind of guy.  The bouquet of flowers I received was glorious; their scent, intoxicating. The guys in the office were complaining he was making everybody else look bad.

Last year I was still in love.  But instead of walking on clouds, I was nursing a broken heart.  And trying, once again, to figure out what it all meant.

You can imagine my surprise when a delivery person showed up at my office door with a huge bouquet of flowers.  I knew it had to be a mistake, but my name was on the card.  Mine.  There was no mistake.

I soon discovered that some amazing friends and family members had gone in together to send me the lovely bouquet.  They knew the day would be especially hard and they wanted me to know how much I am loved. A small bouquet wouldn't do, they wanted to make sure I understood theirs was a go-big-or-go-home kind of love.

That kind of love sustains.  And mends.

This year I'm not wondering what it all means. I know.

Happy Valentine's Day.

Thursday, February 2, 2012


The pastor of my church doesn't enjoy preaching sermons about giving.  But he teaches expositionally, so If he encounters a passage about giving in the book of the Bible he's preaching through, he can not ignore it.  He must preach about giving.

He must.  If it's in The Word, we need to hear it.  I need to hear it.

One Sunday I really needed to hear it. 

Pastor J was preaching about sacrificial giving that day, and I remember thinking, "I'm a single mom with two teenagers.  I make little money and there is simply nothing that can be sacrificed.  Nothing.  I've got this one, man.  I'm good."


 Mercifully, God only targeted one thing.  But he was very succinct.  A flashing neon sign appeared on the inside of my eye lids.  Every time I blinked I read COFFEE.

Nuh uh.  No way.  That sign couldn't have been meant for me, he must have goofed.  God would not ask me to give up coffee.  He loves me.

He does love me, but he knew some stuff.  He knew my car automatically turned into my favorite drive-through coffee shop every morning,  He knew the baristas at The Grind had my 'grande, half-caf, tan mocha with whip' made before I ever pulled up to the window.  He knew how much money I was spending on coffee every month.  It was a lot.

 God.  He's observant.  And he was serious...I needed to give it up.

The detox period was painful; the headaches lasted about a week.  The emotional detox was worse, a warm cup of chocolatey coffee is a such a comfort and I had to learn to start my day without it.  My poor co-workers, I wasn't very nice while I went through withdrawal.  Every Sunday for several months I placed the exact amount of my weekly coffee card in the offering plate.  It was important to me.  My girlfriend would ask, "Why don't you just write out a check for the whole month?"  Nope.  I refused to add it to my typical offering check. I wanted God to see that I was giving sacrificially.  I wanted him to notice.

Silly me.

It didn't take long for me to realize I felt much better without my coffee.  It was loaded with gluten and dairy...things I now know I can't have.  Eventually the sacrifice was no longer a sacrifice.  Eventually I tasted victory, and it didn't make me sick.

Eventually I realized soy milk makes a great cup of coffee. 

I haven't fallen completely off the wagon.  I only allow myself one a week.

And on Sundays, I drink tea.

Friday, January 27, 2012

The Laundry Room

Every house I've ever lived in has had a designated place to throw stuff.

Stuff.  You know, the stuff you might need someday.  The stuff you only use once a year.  The stuff your kid might want.  The stuff you can't bear to throw away.

That stuff.

There is a room in my house where my family has always thrown stuff.  It's technically the laundry room because it houses a washer and dryer.  That's what we call it, but it also doubles as a pseudo garage - our tools are kept in there.  It's a front closet - coats and shoes are stored in there. It's a pantry - there are shelves that contain canned goods and small appliances that don't fit in the kitchen cupboards.  There's an upright freezer, too.  And the room hosts access to the crawl space, furnace and hot water heater.

It's a busy place.

It's always a mess in the laundry room.  I mean, a big mess.  That's because the room isn't big enough to be a garage and it's too big to be a closet.  It's just the right size to be a big mess.  And every now and then somebody gets the urge to clean it. 

That somebody was me this week.  Technically, I'm the only one who lives here so I guess the mess, no matter when and why it was generated, now belongs to me.

I waded through a ton of stuff.  I got rid of old coats, old shoes and old...well, everything.  My car is filled to the brim with everything going to the dump, and there are bags sitting on my front porch waiting to be dropped off at Salvation Army. I can now walk through the laundry room. It feels good.

 I did find a few things I've been missing.  I found my taxes from 2010 and a borrowed palm sander I was sure I had returned.  I found the black mitten I've been looking for and the electric charger for the lawn mower.

I'm happy to have found that stuff, but if my house should burn down, I know I could live without it. Especially the palm sander.

I found a few other things, though, that I don't want to live without...

   - The pink felt Barbie skirt my grandmother made when I was seven.  She sewed tiny green leaf sequins on it.          

   - My daughter's collection of 9/11 newspapers and magazine articles.

   - My son's "Bears" baseball cap.  The Bears were undefeated the summer he was nine.

   - Candles from my daughter's wedding.

   - The recipe box my sister made me as a Christmas gift.

   - A medal my grandfather won at an art show in 1956.

   - An old dog collar that still has the name tag on it.

   - The plaster handprint my son made when he was six.

I'm really glad the laundry room is nice and clean.  I can't guarantee it will stay that way; historically it doesn't have a terrific track record.  But for now, I'm happy.

I've found so many things I need.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Moving Rocks

Weary.  Bone weary.  Even worse, soul weary.

That’s where my prayer journey had taken me.

I was well over a year into my quest to become a prayer warrior and I was being beaten up.  Negative thoughts were battering my mind, convincing me I was unlovable, worthless and foolish.  My mind would be circling the drain before I even realized I was being pummeled.  Though I continued praying, my knees became a scary place.  An emotional place. A battleground. 

I’m not even exaggerating. 

Before I left to spend Christmas in Oregon I asked God to intervene…in a big way.  I knew I could not come home and continue interceding without having a complete meltdown or losing my sanity. 

It was pretty bad.  

It was so like God to meet my needs in an unlikely way.  

My daughter and her husband hosted a party Christmas Eve and I got to chatting with one of their friends.  He had come to Christ at the very beginning of a twelve year prison sentence; he’s been out for less than a year.  He spent those twelve years getting to know Jesus and sharing the gospel with others.  I asked him if we could talk about prayer and began to share what I was going through.  His insight was remarkable, his wisdom life changing. 

I hope it changes your life, too.

First, prayer is hard because it’s beyond our senses.  We typically don’t hear, see, taste, touch or smell anything in response to our prayers.  We are acting on faith that is beyond our senses as well.  Prayer is other-worldly, it’s outside of our realm and in God’s realm.  Realizing that has made a huge difference to me, it frees me from expecting it to be different.

When we pray for someone faithfully, we don’t just sympathize with them; we begin to empathize with them.  We actually begin to feel what they feel…fear, despair, sadness, confusion.  That’s where the emotion comes in.  I want to be empathetic, but I need to be aware and not let the emotion master me, not let it sink me.  It totally can so I need to be careful.

My new friend told me a story about a man who came across a huge boulder in the road.  God instructed him to push the boulder.  The man spent the first day pushing with all his might; at the end of the day his strength was utterly spent.  The next day God again told him to push the boulder and the next and the next.  Finally, in frustration and exhaustion the man yelled out, “God!!  When will I move this boulder?”  God replied, “I didn’t tell you to move it, my son.  I simply told you to push it.”

That’s what intercessory prayer is.  Pushing the boulder.  It’s God’s job to move it, not mine.

Ephesians 3:20 says God is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine.  I believe that for those I pray for, but recently I’ve begun to realize I need to believe that for my heart, that he can do amazing things IN ME.   My friend assured me God will answer that prayer.  I began that night to open up some places in my heart I was holding back.  It hurts.  But I’m ready for healing.

I'm ready to keep pushing.       

And when the time is right, I'll be ready to watch the boulder move.


Monday, December 19, 2011


I used to have a problem. 

It was an insidious little only showed up once a year.  It wasn't something diagnosable, no medication would fix it.  I suppose therapy could have helped...but I didn't want to tell anybody the symptoms I suffered.  So I kept my problem a secret and endured in silence, unable to share the pain and guilt that came from my clandestine behavior.


I was a peekaholic.

I just couldn't stand the suspense of not knowing what I was getting for Christmas.  I'd shake and rattle each box, then, when no one was home, I'd find a sharp knife and carefully slit the tape.  I'd take a look inside and then tape things back up so well nobody ever knew. 

Or so I thought.  One year I figured out a way to open my new Barry Manilow album and keep it accessible; I could slide it out and play it whenever my mother left the house.  My sister and I knew all the songs by Christmas morning.  I remember coming up with some lame excuse why that was...but I'm not a very good liar.  Then or now.  Mom got suspicious.

The following Christmas I found three piles of presents hiding in my mom's closet.  None of them had nametags on them, but it was pretty easy to figure out which stack was mine.  By the time I was done I not only knew what I was getting but I knew what my siblings were getting, too. 

I know.  I was sick.

My mother used to say I was only hurting myself by peeking.  If that was the case, I was very willing to hurt myself.  It was far less painful than living with all of those mysteries under the Christmas tree.

The cure to my peekaholism seems to have been, surprisingly, age.  I remember some pretty significant peeking episodes when I was in my twenties, but things have settled down considerably.  I spent years coming up with splendid surprises for my kids.  That kept me distracted.

Yikes.  What if peekaholism is hereditary and they were faking their surprise all those years?

I suppose that would serve me right.

Now that my kids are grown, I find I'm very willing to relinquish my roll in their lives as the major Christmas surpriser.  I will gladly hand that off to their spouses.

And I'm no longer distracted.

And my friend just brought me a Christmas gift.  It's in my purse.

Wanna know what it is?