Friday, July 27, 2012

On Stepping in Kung-Fu-Fu

Courtesy J. Schuler
I'm usually so careful. I counsel others about their 'snark quotient'. I don't post political articles or cartoons. I know I'm going to get on at least 50% of the population's last nerve one way or the other. I don't write social commentaries on abortion or gay rights issues even if I have an opinion. I'm a fraidy cat, and you know us. We play it safe.

Or, at least I thought I did until I hit the share button and stepped in a big ole pile of Kung-fu-fu. From the time the cartoon popped up on my Facebook wall until I had read and hit 'share' was maybe 2.6 seconds.

Courtesy B. Creasy
I was belly-laughing. It had to do with the economy and how it had gotten so tight that a certain segment of the business population had laid off some senators. What's not to laugh at? I even posted, “This is funny. I don't care who you are.” 

 I forgot that the 'who' in “who you are” might just be a hard-working family employed by that very industry – for over forty years as a matter-of-fact. My friend spoke up and chastened me. I deserved it. I offered sincere mea culpa as I gulped my heart back down into my chest. I deleted the post faster than I would have let go of a hot horse shoe.

In the intervening days since, I have thought about how one fella's light-hearted chuckle is another person's pain. When we moved to a house near a place called Strange Road, my friends got a huge chuckle out of the coincidence. We all laughed at my expense. It was safe to do so because I have it on the good authority of several medical professionals that I'm not strange at all.

Me - on dental drugs
So, what's not to laugh about when I post a comic postcard or cartoon about being crazy. After that pile of Kung-fu-fu was cleaned up as best I could, I realized I have friends who are dealing with diagnosed mental illness among close family members.

I'm thinking my echoing laughter rings kinda hollow when my tongue-in-cheek jokes bounce over to their walls. Maybe on a good day they belly-laugh right along with me. On a bad day, not so much. I'm hitting the share button a little bit slower these days, lemme tell ya. If Jay Leno and his peers have a 3 second delay, mine is more like ten times that. Oh, sure. I'll post another funny. I'll just be more mindful.

Political cartoons and discussions are all the rage as the election approaches. I'm an equal opportunity chuckler. I guess that happens when you vote a split ticket every chance you get. I laugh behind the privacy of this screen. That's as far as it goes.

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
As the political fall out of the Chick-Fil-A furor continued rising to a fevered frenzy, I thought about my pile of Kung-fu-fu. I thought about the election cycle and the endless snarky posts that circulate from both sides of the political spectrum. I thought about my silence and how that silence may echo or go unnoticed. I wondered what God required of me and knew it did not involve political cartoons on Facebook nor social media commentary.

Then, it hit me. I had been given my marching orders centuries ago:

The first thing I want you to do is pray. Pray every way you know how, for everyone you know. Pray especially for rulers and their governments to rule well, so we can be quietly about our business of living simply, in humble contemplation. This is the way our Savior God wants us to live. (1 Timothy 2: 1-3 The Message)

But he's already made it plain how to live, what to do, what God is looking for in men and women. It's quite simple: Do what is fair and just to your neighbor, be compassionate and loyal in your love, And don't take yourself too seriously— take God seriously. (Micah 6: 8 The Message)

It's easy to get caught up in the furor of the moment in this fraidy cat world. Before we know it, we've shared a little bit of hurtful humor or a whole lot of snark because we failed to activate our three, or thirty, second delay. We've forgotten that God, in his mercy, told us to be merciful and to pray
Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
God didn't invent social media as the avenue to perfect political and social commentary. His avenue existed long before the rotary dial phone, but it was always a hot wire to Heaven. It's called prayer.

So, in this politically charged season in a politically charged and fraidy cat world, join me and take a deep breath. Decide that we will not practice road rage via the avenue of social media. Let's remember the marching orders we received centuries ago. Take God more seriously. If our prayers are outnumbered by our social media rants, cartoons, and posters, we have failed in that directive.

Lord, help us live up to your high calling. God bless our leaders. Convict and direct them. Minister to and nourish them. You establish rulers. You chasten your people. May the name of the Lord be praised.

Courtesy B. Creasy 2010
2 Chronicles 2 Chronicles 7: 14 (Amplified Bible)
If My people, who are called by My name, shall humble themselves, pray, seek, crave, and require of necessity My face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven, forgive their sin, and heal their land.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Spreading a Little Sunshine

It is almost the end of two arduous weeks with an even more arduous one looming ahead. The heat wave undulating over the earth has left me feeling like I have been through a pasta maker. Picture Flat Stanley's grandmother. My heart and soul feel even flatter. I know friends, faithful friends, far and near are praying for me.

I messaged a friend about the prayers going up and how I needed to hear from God. Even as we typed back and forth, a note was landing in my email inbox. A note from a stranger. I'll tell you more about that note later. I have to percolate on it a while longer.

As I was absorbing the message from the stranger, I saw a friend's name pop up on my sidebar. Oh! She had a new blog post up on her site, Journeying Sue. I hit on it faster than a fly on watermelon at a picnic. 

A friend had nominated her for a Sunshine Award which is awarded to “bloggers who positively and creatively inspire others in the blogosphere”. My friend Sue and I met at the conference I mention so often (Titus 2:1). I mention it frequently because it has been pivotal in my life. Sue is one of those pivots. Meeting her was to experience instantaneous and permanent friendship. She is the definition of sunshine, and I smiled thinking how fitting for another friend to label her just so.
Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative

Award winners are asked to nominate ten other bloggers who inspire others. It's a fun way to create a blog roll when you get right down to it. I was excited to see who would inspire my inspiring friend. Are you laughing already? Yes. There was my blog listed among her top 10 faves. I just LOL'd. Not to be cliché.

You see, she is an army nurse practitioner that has served 'in theater'. That's fancy talk for in a combat zone. She has 6 kiddos and a spouse still on active duty. She homeschools, and she blogs. She is in triathlons for goodness sakes! She is an iron woman to my fraidy cat. How in the world I inspire her is anybody's guess, especially mine! But, I love her to pieces and can't thank her enough for being the 1-2 punch of encouragement in my life today.

Let me introduce you to MY favorite blogs worthy of the Sunshine Award in their own rights. The weekend is coming. Stay in out of the heat, and peruse my little neighborhood of the blogging universe?

  1. Learning Table is presently nominated by Circle of Moms as one of the top 25 Teacher Moms of 2012. (Drop by and vote for her?) She is my IRL friend and sister of the heart.
  2. Eternal Instants is one of the sweetest blogs I've seen. One look at her photography and companion blog posts and you'll be hooked! 
  3. The Daisyhead is one of my blogging mentors. You won't want to miss her series, Our Sick Babies. She blogs about crocheting, green living, homeschooling and more. She's like the Target of blogs - so much under one roof! She taught me how to compost the lazy way!

  4. Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
     Deeper With Jesus in Rhode Island is the reason I nearly quit blogging. Lori's words are so compelling I feel there is simply nothing left to say. If you need to drink deeply from the well of living water, she has the cup.
  5. The Budget Maven is a young lady who ignored the differences in our ages and adopted me as her friend. Her blog has won awards two years in a row at the Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference. For good reason, I'm sure you'll see.

  6. Beth Pensinger is another young lady who stole my heart when she compared me to her beloved aunt. She has a heart for young 20/30-somethings and is working on a book that will speak to many. 
  7. Amber Howard Massey has a heart for horses and the people who ride them. She is working on a devotional book, derived from her blog. I love her concept of teaching spiritual lessons via her riding experiences. 
  8. Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
    Meet Penny is another of my blogging mentors. She is a tour de force of homsechooling info, couponing info, freebies, ebooks and too many more projects to name. She is both a Pinterest and blogging award winner. 
  9.   Lovin My Crazy Life details the ups and downs of life as a mom. She maintains a vibrant sense of humor despite the challenges of  her son's autism and related learning struggles. 

    1. Jennifer A. James is one of the kindest, most thoughtful people I've met. Her blog echos hear heart as she encourages homeschooling moms.
Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
Now for 10 things about me: My favorite color is blue. My favorite animal is the leafy sea horse. I have no favorite number. (Who makes up these Q's???) If you know me, you know my favorite drink is hot chocolate...even when it is 107F in the shade. Facebook over twitter any day. Good movie vs good book unless I have downtime. My passion – to be God's head cheerleader. Getting vs giving gifts bcz I find it hard to receive. Favorite day is any day I do something out of the ordinary and get out of the house. Hey, I homeschool. I don't get out much! ;-) Favorite flowers are hydrangeas, calla lilies, and zinnias.

Courtesy B. Creasy 2010
I am so grateful for you, my fraidy cat friends. I am equally grateful for my blogging community. Every time this fraidy cat gets ready to throw in the towel, one of these bloggers comes to my rescue. I hope you'll thank them for encouraging me to keep doing what I do . . . even when I'm not sure you are out there! Love you long and strong. See you soon?

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Attacking the Financial Fraidy Cat

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
You know fraidy cats are easily overwhelmed. It should come as no surprise to learn I often cower in the shadow of someone who demonstrates finesse.

It's a good thing I met my friend, Tabitha Philen (aka Not Penny), when we were both a bit out of our comfort zones. We were at Dulles waiting on a shuttle to take us to the Titus 2:1 Conference. I was shivering out of fear. She was shivering because a cold wind was cutting us in half. Shivering is a bonding thing, let me tell you.

Thus it was, I felt comfortable in her presence. True confessions: I was so relieved to find a fellow traveler I nearly wrapped myself around her like one dying starfish clinging to another. (How I know they do that is another story for another day.) Had I known she was a tour de force, I would have hidden under the bench and pretended I wasn't there. Ignorance can be beneficial bliss when a blessing arrives in an unassuming package.

Tabitha, as I was to discover, excels at blogging, couponing, and Pinterest inspiration. And, she homeschools. Her blogging roots are in couponing.  What's not to love once I get over fainting? She is who I want to be when I grow up. 

Courtesy D. Scott

I have been a reluctant couponer. Another true confession: I have felt like a loser because I have friends who are far better couponers than I. While none of us add extra rooms on to accommodate excess, by the time I met Tabitha, I felt like an uber-loser because I don't need an extra room to store my stash a la the TLC reality show.

Imagine my surprise when Tabitha asked me to review her ebook, Advanced Penny Pinching. My initial reaction? I was a-skeert! I could see myself awash in a sea of TMI unable to absorb her wisdom as coupon-panic ensued. Much to my delight, she set my fears at ease before I had time to work up to a frenzied sweat much less full blown panic attack. I went from gingerly peeking at the pages to voracious reading within a couple of minutes.

In a refreshing juxtaposition to the un-reality of the TLC reality show, Tabitha takes the readers on her own journey of discovery. She details how she and her husband found themselves deeply in debt and maps out the path they took to financial freedom.

Her pointers are clear, simple, and easy to implement. In thirteen short chapters, covering seventy-nine pages, she outlines:
stock pile in the making
*healthy shopping habits
*basic and not so basic couponing
*wholesale and drug stores strategies
*marketing ploys to watch for
*extra resources like points programs and Upromise
*charts to help you map out your strategies. 

My favorite sections included her information about stockpiling and savings strategies for basic food groups and household supplies.

This book is simply a must have/must read for any young couple or ready-to-launch single who is part of the 'gotta have it now even if I have to charge it' generation! Because it is an ebook available for Kindle and Nook, it will make a great 1st apartment, graduation, shower, or wedding gift for the younger crowd.

Whether you are new to couponing or couponing with a vengeance, Tabitha offers information that will provide the 'a-ha' moment you are looking for. If you share my coupon-panic, you will find that her easy approach is encouraging as well as informative. If you are deeply in debt and afraid, you will find hope as you implement her ideas.

So . . . fraidy cat, whatcha waitin' for? Click the link and hop on over. Meet my friend, Tabitha, and discover why I call her 'Not Penny'. You'll have to figure out why she calls me Pistachio. Once you read the book, why not leave a review so that o
thers will know about this jam packed, easy to implement how-to book? 
Courtesy J. Schuler

PS..other than providing a free copy so I could review the book, I receive no affiliate compensation for this review. Just so you'll know. :-)

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Words to Live By

Courtesy M. Horrocks
We met by happenstance. Looking back, I felt robbed because our paths crossed for so short a time. I saved her business card. Over the next year, I sometimes picked it up and turned it over and over in my hand. Oh, if only we could have been friends.

The calendar did what it does and carried me along. The connection began to fade. I prepared to return to the writers conference where we met. The morning before I left, I thumbed through last year's business card collection. Who would I see again? Who had moved on to greener pastures? Would anyone care that I was back again?

There she was on that little square of paper. I was almost afraid to hope. Since it was not a photo card, I closed my eyes and tried to recall her face. Nada. Nothing. If she came again, would I even know her? I breathed a prayer. Truth be told, it was fleeting and without much hope.

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
This year, I managed not to lock my keys in the car upon arriving. I was patting myself on the back as I returned the luggage carrier to the lobby. An energetic young couple was heading for the elevator, so I held the door. They tumbled in a little breathless from the heat and effort of the day. Her eyebrows lifted as if in excited recognition. “Hey!” Her husband's reaction affirmed that he thought she was greeting an old friend.

“Hi! How are you?” The greetings flowed like sweet tea and soothed like water in the desert. Then, we each looked a bit taken aback. Why such a heartfelt greeting as if we knew each other? We shied away. Probably just the contagion of excitement in the air.
Polite and more restrained mouth noise followed as we cast nervous and puzzled glances back and forth.

Was it another happenstance of life? Our rooms were right next door to one another. We saw each other coming and going, but warm greetings did not slow our paces. Until they did. The elevator doors closed against the frenzy of the conference. “I have this weird feeling every time we see each other. Like I should know you. Did you come last year?”

She agreed that our connection seemed oddly familiar, and, yes, she was an attendee last year as well. So, I asked, “May I have your card? Here's mine.”

Courtesy D. R. Ahola
In my palm lay a replica of the card I had pulled out and turned over and over so many times the preceding year. I tried not to cry. Recognition dawned on her face as well. We stood amazed. It all made sense now. We did know each other for those few, fleeting moments in time.

All I needed was to prove I was an unbalanced stalker while we were in an elevator with closed doors. Geez. I tried to keep my voice from wavering as I told her that the last thing I did before I left home was hold her card and ask God to cause our paths to cross. 

God did what I feel he so rarely does in my life. (Note: I said it's what I 'feel'. I am hoping I am just a slow learner with poorly corrected spiritual vision. I hope I will one day look back and see many things I cannot see about his work in my life right now.) He heard the cry of my heart and answered. In that instant of recognition, I rejoiced in his provision, uniquely designed for me.

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
We spent breakfast together. Before we knew it, the cafeteria had grown quiet. In our absorption with the commonalities of our lives, the world had fallen away. We laughed and ran. Life. Always, always moving us along at a hurtle. This year, we made a promise. No more losing each other. And, we've kept it. More visits are in our future. Truthfully, time drags between visits. 

I received a note from her a few days ago. The news was not unexpected given what was transpiring in her life. She is leaving a career of twenty-two years to become a full-time writer and speaker. But, oh, her words. How they pierced my heart and still do. With her permission, I share a portion of them tonight:
Courtesy H. Wills

I am extremely sad to walk away from a profession that I love, yet I am deeply joyful and humbled that the God of the universe has spoken to me so intimately and so clearly. He has been holding my hand confirming this next step over and over again. He is too good, and I trust Him too much to resist His leading. 

I jotted her a note tonight. Last year, I turned her business card over and over in my heart. This year, I turn this paragraph over and over, again and again. He is too good, and I trust Him too much to resist His leading. Oh, the agony of soul. When last we sat face-to-face, I grasped her hand and said, “I want to know him like you do. I want to know God the way you do. I want to be able to say exactly what you've said.
How do you spell Providence?

I sit here tonight in the quiet and wee hours of the morning. My soul cries out to Jackie's God. Please. And thank-you. She is iron sharpening my iron. Help me live with that much faith. Help me to know you and declare you as she does: too good and too trustworthy to resist your leading. Here I am, Lord. Pick me?

For Jackie: the gift of iron to a rusty soul.

As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another. Proverbs 27:17