Innumerable Gifts

 

Recently, most people have been asking me the “What next?” question. You know the one. The one where it’s incredibly awkward to say, “Well, I plan to study, write, do some renovations and work out. That’s it.”

Why me? Why is my path so full of “What if?” and “What next?”s? Why do I love doing everything, and find it impossible to just stick to one vocation until I’m a pro, like some nice, normal person?

I hate not knowing what is ahead, and I hate having not having a predictable income. I hate those looming words TAXES, CAR INSPECTION & MED BILLS that seem to float through the air at year’s end, without a care in the world.

Really, I mostly just hate being out of control.

I went into a field today, and laid on my back looking at the blue of the skies behind wispy clouds, silently sad.

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And then it hit me. “Right now, I am doing my favorite thing. I am outside, alone, breathing fresh air, without a single deadline to worry about. WHY should I be sad unless I’d allowed that sneaky little seed of mistrust to grow in my heart?”

I thought of Jesus’ care for me over the past month, and how He surrounded me with wonderful friends, gave me a plane ticket to the Caribbean, and overwhelmed me with His promises at all the right moments.

“Jesus, I’m sorry. I DO trust you. Thank you for giving me freedom!

Because that really is my favorite. .

I came into the house and the first thing I heard was, “Don’t forget to put your registration sticker on before the new year.” What?? My registration?? But…. I already paid for that!”

All along I’d been preparing myself for a $200.00 inspection bill…. but… that’s not what was about to expire!  My registration had been paid for weeks ago, leaving me bill-free.

Then I realized how my Father had provided for me long before I noticed Him….. once again.

Do you think, one day, I will fully learn to trust Him?

That’s my goal.

 

 

How to make your way through a crowd of shoppers

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We’ve all been that frizzy-haired, hangry (I.E. angry because of hunger, for those of you not acquainted with aforementioned colloquialism), bone-tired shopper, frustrated with the crowds that malls and department stores attract, and wishing we could afford to patronize small, local shops alone.

Maybe these six steps will spur you on to a happier Walmart stride.

 

I didn’t say they would, mind you.

I just said…. maybe.

STEP ONE: Make a plan. Know your budget, what you need and what you could get instead if you can’t find what you need.

STEP TWO: Once in the store, choose a goal.

STEP THREE: Begin walking confidently ahead, never taking your eyes off the goal.

STEP FOUR: If you encounter a person in your path, do not look them in the eye.

Eye contact will spur a sort of “Oh, this stranger must want to dance!” chemical inside both your brains, evoking a awkward and crab-like number which will eventually end in one of you stopping or tripping, and the other awkwardly apologizing as they move ahead. Instead, slow your pace a bit and keep moving towards your goal, never taking your eyes off the goal.

STEP FIVE: If you encounter a non-avoidable roadblock…

That is non-human (I.E. a mid-aisle display): navigate around it on the path less traveled.

That is human(I.E. moms with small children, those with physical disabilities, seniors, or anyone who lacks the ability to navigate as easily as you): Stop, allow them to pass, look them in the eye as you greet them courteously, and then continue on your way. The mood-boost you get from treating another person with dignity and respect will provide you with a surge of extra strength for your journey.

STEP SIX: Arrive at goal. Seize product and beat your chest while doing the mighty jungle call. You are a winner. You have run the race, and won.

And, if our minds were feeling allegorical, we could parallel these steps in some way to another, more important journey…..

But I’ll leave that to you.

Happy conquering!

Stick-Hopping {and other winter adventures}

My adventurous friend and I tented out in the snow last night.

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We wore fleece, filled our Nalgene waterbottles with hot water and tucked them at our feet, burrowed under our sleepingbags and fell asleep to the sound of Harley’s snoring

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and the loud whine the neighborhood snowmobilers whizzing through our front yard.

My friend said that her little sister was jealous of our adventure. She said, “When I get older, I hope I can have an adventurous friend!”

When I was younger, I was blessed to have an adventurous friend right within my family. She was Laura, my sister.

Slender and spunky as all get out, she was the one I was most likely to cajole into playing with me. And I was the one she could convince to aide her with her latest brainstorm. Between the two of us, we came up with many grand schemes.

In the winter, we would zip into our neon full-body snowsuits, and swish down the lane with the dog at our heels, all three of us looking for an adventure. One side of our lane sloped into the marsh, and had a steep tree-lined bank.

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We sat down at the top of this bank, and slid bumpily down on our bottoms, right into the marsh. In that frozen marsh, below eye-level of most of our property, we created adventures in our own little world.

Our first step was to each find a strong, tall branch.

This was our “hopping stick” and we used it to swing ourselves across expanses of mud or parts of the stream that were too wide to jump. Pretty impressive, our stick-hopping was, now that I actually think about it. And a pretty funny sight we must have made, two little neon dwarves swinging through the “wilderness”–for that’s what it was to us–on our tall sticks.

We loved to wander across the swamp, exploring the flora and fauna of a world we never ventured into in the summer.

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Tall brown reeds rattled in the wind, teasel swayed against the deep blue of the sky and tiny green things did their best to grow by the gurgling stream.

Dry grasses bent under their weight of snow to make little mouse hide-outs that the dog loved to shove her nose into. She always brought it back out snowy and looking incredibly mischievous, panting with pride because we were laughing at her.

The snow and ice made cool curvy ledges along the stream, and we loved to see how close we could get before the ledge broke, plunged into the water, and swooshed swiftly on, out of our sight.

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We found a clay bank, and took some home, but were too lazy to make anything out of it. Later, I went back to the spot with my neighbor friend, and we painted our faces to look like Indians.

One of our favorite games to play was Snowball Racing. We each made a snowball of the same size, packed it as solidly as we could, and put it in the stream at the same spot. The goal was to see whose snowball would travel the farthest downstream before it melted. We could each poke our snowball 5 times with our trusty stick, if it happened to meet up with a stick, or got stuck, or just needed a helping hand. My sister usually won.

When we got cold and hungry, we clambered back up the path towards home, washing the mud off of our swishy suits with mitten-fulls of snow.

Those were the best of times.

Is there another snow storm headed your way? Don’t despair! Capture winter’s last fling in the most memorable way you can. Live a little!

Drink tea and make plans for spring if you can’t go out. Spring WILL come.

It always does.

If you can go out, DO! Make a desperate snowman. Watch the snowflakes sift over the trees. Actually look at your surroundings. What you find may surprise you.

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Like these frost-flowers I found on one bitter outing this winter. If I’d have come an hour later…..

they’d have been gone.

48 Hours of Head-In-Sand Syndrome

I started a new job yesterday. The people are wonderful, but it was a hard day.

First days usually are.

I wanted to say and do all the right things, but it just didn’t work out that way. Sometimes self got in the way and sometimes my mind was just plain blank. And then I felt bad.

I couldn’t understand the baby. I thought she was saying “Go away!” when I put her to bed, so I went. It turns out she was saying “Do, Re.” which meant she wanted me to sing another song.

I tried to iron some shirts, but the harder I pressed the iron against them, the lower the starboard end of the ironing board tipped towards the floor. To this day, I’m not certain how to get it to latch.

I tried to make dinner, but it took me 30 minutes to think of one last place where the potatos might be found.

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When I did make the soup, it looked like a watery mess. And when I walked out the door to go home, I realized that I hadn’t even tasted it.

Those poor people.

I went to a Bible Study to learn about proper financial management, and instead managed to disrupt everyone within 3 rows of me.

I couldn’t help it that the teacher kept saying, “It doesn’t matter whose money the pocket is in….” Somehow it just struck my funny bone. I can’t even type it without laughing, which is probably a significant sign of my mental stability, or lack thereof. What really got me, though, was when a very diligent attempt at laughter suffocation turned into a snort-ish choke, and my sister had to leave the room before she lost her dignity as well.

Sigh…..

I did apologise to the teacher afterwards. He understands the fragility of women’s emotions. I’m very grateful for that.

Today I got gas.

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Yep, an entire $5.00 worth.

I was very embarassed to hand the clerk a crumpled bill and say, “Put this on pump #2, please.” I tried to say it with a dignified air, but I really think the effort was lost because the clerk was distracted and embarrassed on levels beyond his present surroundings, and hardly saw me. How nice of him. 

I guess something from budgeting class stuck, because this afternoon I was determined to buy all of my  Wal-Mart groceries with only the sack of change I’d been collecting.

One thing that I think is incredibly cool about my local Wal-mart is the coin changer slot in the self checkout line. It looks like a mini version of the circular tray you’d see on a Coinstar machine, only there is no $0.09 charge per dollar. I think of my pennies and nickels as ‘non-money’ (how irresponsible, I know), so whenever I buy groceries with only this small change, I subconsciously think, “Woohoo! I’m practically getting this stuff for FREE!”

I trotted to the self checkout with full confidence, and scanned a bottle of Coke first. I had a coupon to get it free, but the machine wouldn’t accept it. I guess the dear clerk knew I wouldn’t want the Coke unless it was free, so she finally came over and helped me out after I’d scanned the bar code multiple times.

Next,  I started shoving fistfuls of pennies into the coin slot, but they all continued to fall right back out into the change dish. 2013-01-17_16-33-57_478The helpful clerk noticed my distress, and showed me how to feed the pennies in one by one. I managed a feeble laugh, and thought, “Well… maybe this isn’t so much like a Coinstar experience, after all.”

About five minutes into the one-penny-at-a-time process, two college students ambled up, and scrutinized my robot-like routine as if it was a self-help column. “See, this is what I was telling you about!”, the girl squealed.

The young man nodded to the affirmative, but soon seemed uncomfortable and wanted to talk to the clerk.

Finally, many minutes later, the screen read: Amount Due: 0.00. I staggered out of the store with my groceries, trying to avoid eye contact with any of my rather interested fellow-customers, who were doubtless quite tired of the monotonous clanking and groaning of my Coinstar-wannabe and quite possibly also wondering why I wasn’t on welfare.

When I stopped by a little store right down the road from my house on my way home, the clerk eyed me with an unmistakable mix of curiosity and concern. I think she was remembering the last time I came in, and my scandalous attire, and the scandalous behavior of my dog in the parking lot.

But today I smiled sweetly at her, and wryly reassured her in my mind, “Don’t worry. I won’t be performing any preposterous stunts today. I know my pride needs regular trimming, but I think the events of the past 48 hours have filled my quota quite sufficiently.

Sufficiently for THIS week, at least….”

In which I practice chilling out

It was a Friday morning, and I was moving back to my hometown with a new dog, a mountain of boxes, an 18-month internship under my belt and the last check I would ever cash until who-knows-when in my hands. It was the first time since highschool that I ended a position without starting another one the very next week.

It was a Friday morning, and I had no coffee.

Which is why it was shocking that I actually remembered to use my 3-cents-off-per-gallon-of-gas rewards card.

Normally, when asked to produce my loyalty identification, I smile sweetly and glibly state that I don’t have one, while the hapless clerk stares confusedly at the unmistakable key fob dangling from my lanyard. But this, this fine morning, I remembered, and produced the card with flourish and a knowing smile.

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Turns out, I produced it at Hess. My rewards card was for Turkey Hill.

Gah! I knew that!

That is, I knew it after staring dumbly at the gas station sign for 39 seconds while the clerk waited in apprehensive anticipation of my next brazen demand. Stinkin’ sign-replacement-people. What business do they have switching gas station signs at random, anyhow?

Sigh…..

If only it was that simple.

This has been a withering week for my pride.

I had grand plans of dressing up in intelligent-looking outfits and descending resume-in-hand upon prospering local businesses. But not long after my gas station adventure, I found myself confined in bed with a nasty cold. You know, that disgusting sort of cold where every muscle aches and you feel like you are breathing like a dragon and your eyes are constantly watering and your nose is snotting and you generally look and feel like a character from a child’s worst nightmare?

Yeah, that kind. Job interviews were kinda out of the question. So in a burst of fever-sparked creativity, I thought to myself, “Why not make use of a bad situation by doing a benevolent deed for the good of mankind?”

Or something like that.

I drug out a sheath of advertisements, and decided to cut coupons. Before I could say abracadabra, the combination of hot tea, cheery music, and a rapidly growing pile of almost-money on my bedspread caused the thought of my shriveled bank account to become only the faintest shadow of a memory. I even managed to imagine that I could survive financially until January–for years, even. Which was a vast improvement of mental affairs.

A long while later, the coupons all cut and carefully filed away, I handed my mother a stack of good ones I had saved for her.

As she sifted through them, her chin began to quiver.

She shook her head a little. Her eyes got just a tad misty.

And she began to laugh.

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It wasn’t the fact that the coupons had expired a year ago that got me. It was the fact that I had checked the date.

So much for benevolent deeds.

I comforted myself with the thought that at least I hadn’t taken them into a store. No need for another innocent sales clerk to be traumatized….

Not twenty-four hours later, I forgot about my unfortunate experience concerning benevolent deeds and agreed to care for my friend’s pets. And before I knew it, I found myself locked quite securely inside a chicken pen.

A four-foot-high chicken pen, mind you. On a cold fall night. After dark. How was I to know that the door to the chicken pen was self-locking? How was I to know that the pen was tightly screened on top and firmly nailed and stapled on all sides?

Are chickens really that great of escape artists? 100_5173I thought all they did in life was scratch for seeds, lay eggs, and cackle. Now that I think about it, there is that story Chicken Run, where the chickens are constantly digging their way out of confinement with a metal spoon. Yes, I guess I should have known.

But I hadn’t known, so I paced and wiggled the wire mesh around the lock, and wished for a stick, and thought of how pretty the moon was, and thought of the time I spent more than six hours inside a doghouse (that’s another day’s story), and laughed at what the neighbors might be thinking of my bizarre behavior, and finally contorted my body into such an unnatural position so as to wiggle the lock open and escape. Much to the relief of a friendly dog, who had been staring at me through the gate the entire time, with an expression that clearly stated her thoughts on my mental status.

And then the end of the week arrived with a crash and a bang, and I just stared at it, and was amazed.

Every item on my ‘To Do’ list was as red and bold as ever. None of the strategic plans I had laid out for the betterment of my monetary status had been accomplished. No pieces of the picture of my future had come together. I should have known that life does not go as planned. Almost never.

I should have known to let go of my pride and just chill out. Life is more than money (a necessary evil, as some random crotchety Dickens character would probably say), anyway. I should have known that life is not about the moments in my day, but the moments that take my breath away. I should have known to sit back and enjoy the ride.

There’s nothing like imprisonment in a chicken run and a nice long bout of the flu to force a person to slow down.

There’s nothing like a few humbling experiences to encourage one to appreciate the lighter side of life. Which is very beautiful in its own right.

So today, I’m looking at the week from a new angle.I’m looking out for the most important things for today, right here, right now. I’m refusing to run my race with my eyes focused on the finish line of the race three weeks ahead. I’m doing my best to embrace a once-in-a-lifetime Christmas season, and to take the time to become re-aquainted with my neighbors, and to walk the dog through frozen fields, and to notice that it’s snowing, and to realize that my coffee (yes, I finally have some) tastes faintly of gingerbread, and see that a red-bird just flew across the lawn.

Oh, what about that perfect job interview? I’ve got some juicy leads. But I’m not gonna force it. In the words of Mr. Micawber, “Something WILL turn up!”