Saturday, February 28, 2009

The Door on the Tree

Julia was able to spend about an hour playing with the some little friends yesterday afternoon. While they were playing, the 3 girls found a tiny "door" on a tree yesterday. (It was really just a place where the pine bark had fallen away.) But the girls decided amongst themselves that a fairy must live behind the door. Yet no amount of knocking, pleading and leaving of tiny gifts would convince the fairy to come out. The girls decided that the fairy must be sleeping because everyone knows that fairies only come out at night. After all, when does the tooth fairy visit ...

A little more examination around the fairy tree proved that there was a small hole on the opposite side of the tree. Again there was a flurry of excitement as the girls decided this was the back door tunnel to the fairy's home. They used little sticks to dig and pry, and finally one of them ran to get a flashlight to use to see if they could catch a glimpse of the fairy. No such luck ...

Then as suddenly as it started, the magical time was over and the girls left the tree alone. And I was left wondering at the great and imaginative play session I just witnessed. I think that being 5 must mean you live in an age of wonder ... when even the simplest thing can become something mysterious and magical.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Giving Up the Spirit

Lately, I've been dissatisfied ... in nearly every area of my life. I don't like the house I live in, or the town and parish either for that matter. I'm dissatisfied with many parts of my job. I am extremely dissatisfied with the church I attend. The list goes on and on and on, as I sit and wish for something better ... for example a better library system, or a better grocery store with more options, or a community of people with a broader mindset, or a chance to use my passport and go on an overseas adventure, etc.

This week has been especially hard, and the feeling of dissatisfaction has been nearly unbearable. I think it all started wehn the old jealousy bug up and bit me first thing on Monday morning. I'm not sure if there can be a worse feeling than jealousy! It's just yucky right to the core and it does nothing but breed dissatisfication. Well, I was already plenty dissatisfied, and so after feeling jealous all week ... anyway, I'm sure you can imagine.

Yesterday, I stopped to wonder when I decided to allow myself to become so consumed with what *I* want and dissatisfied with the way things were measuring up to *MY* standards. I'm not called to live life according to my own ideas. Nor am I to measure this world using my own standards and ideals for the measuring stick. The Bible plainly states that God's ways are not man's ways and that as humans we can't fully understand the heart of God.

Wow. Basically, it all boils down to this ... I'm not God. I'm just Paige, a woman who is blessed enough to be living out life in a very cushy situation when compared with the majority of the rest of the world. And because of that, I now have two choices. I can continue to walk down this path of dissatisfaction and grow more and more miserable with every step I take. After all, dissatisfaction only breeds more dissatisfaction. The other choice I can make is to look for the blessings that area all around me, focus on them and actively develop a grateful heart. Gratefulness grows gratefulness, as well as joy and peace and many other good attitudes. Once again the choice is mine to make, despite whatever feelings I may have.

I'm going to purposefully choose the latter, for the thought occurred to me last night that it really isn't my morning computer time that the Lord wants me to give up for Lent. He would much rather me to give up my spirit of dissatisfaction.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Considering Lent

Normally Baptists don't "do" lent. It's not something we discuss or talk about. And though I've heard the reasons why and totally get the typical Baptist perspective on the why we choose not to participate, I also wonder if perhaps we aren't missing something out on something very special

Please allow me a moment or two to think and ponder as I write ...

Nearly every Southern Baptist church that I've been a member of, and that's been quite a few from coast to coast, only take the Lord's Supper every 2-3 months. I never knew exactly why, but that was just the way it was. In VA, I had the privilege of worshipping at a Christian church for several months. There isn't a huge difference between a Christian church and a Baptist church, but one of the big ones is that in the Christian church they worship through communion at every single worship service. At first, I was hesitant. I was afraid that this special ordinance would become common place if I partook on such a regular basis. But it was quite the opposite ... instead I found that I was growing closer to my Lord and Savior. I was thinking each week about preparing my heart to take communion and my thoughts were more focused on God's ways. Even now, almost 4 years later, I miss those weekly times of communion.

So ... I wonder if pausing to reflect during the Lenten season might have the same affect in my relationship with Christ. I think I will give up my morning computer time, as well as any computer time until the kids are in bed. In its place, I will have prayer/bible study time in the morning, and focus totally on caring for my family and home in the evenings.

I've never once given up a thing for Christ ... well, maybe not going to a college party because I knew there would be drinking or something like that. And yet, He gave so much for me to live with joy and peace and assurance of salvation. By giving up something for 40 days, I can't repay him. But I can hopefully grow closer to my heavenly Father, as I give up an earthly pleasure in pursuit of something more lasting and eternal.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Stuck Somewhere In-Between

There's a country song by Phil Vassar and the chorus goes like this:

Somewhere in between in the middle
Of the darkness and the light
All I can see is the hazy gray
Between the black and white
I'm not laughin' - I'm not cryin'
I'm not livin' - I'm not dyin' - I'm not flyin'
And I'm not down on my knees
Until I'm over you I'm gonna be stuck
Somewhere in between

Well, I think I'm pretty much "over" Matt in the sense of wanting him to come back. I don't want that at all. I've learned to much about myself and about him to desire to go back into that kind of relationship. He chose not to grow and change with me, and while I wish he had made different choices from the start, I don't want to go back for the world.

However, I'm still stuck, living in the land of "in-between." You see, our divorce is at a stand still, and all because Matt volunteered to go back to Iraq. We are nearly at the point of being able to go back to court to have things finalized. Instead, things are on hold until Matt returns sometime in early 2010, which feels like it is forever and a day away.

Everyone tells me, "Oh, that's great! You get another year of alimony. I wouldn't be in any rush. Just keep taking that money and let him pay you. Milk him for everything you can get!" It all sounds so easy and uncomplicated, doesn't it. Go ahead and admit it ... that' s probably what your advice to me would be as well.

But it isn't easy. I'm stuck. I'm not free of him. I'm still legally his wife. And because of that, I'm unable to fully move on. It's like having unwanted gum stuck to the bottom of my shoes. Every step I take reminds me that it is there. I can sometimes sit still and forget ... but if I get up to go, I am immediately reminded of its presence.

And the truth of the matter is ... I'm tired of being stuck in-between.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Thoughts Based on a Conversation with Papaw

Last night while my children were busy at the Valentine's Party at church, I spent a long while talking to my grandfather. I decided to pick him up some supper (a chili dog from Sonic) and go visit him with my 2 hours of free time ... and I'm very glad I did.

The conversation ran from his great-grandson's birthday 1st party earlier that day to the preacher that recently left our church to friend of his that is dying ... and then finally on to Matt and why he left. It bothers my grandfather, like it bothers me. He wants to know why he was able to walk away and what would cause a man to leave his family behind. Both of us are the kind of people who want to do things "right" and to either of us walking away from a marriage is unfathomable. So last night, after the kids were in bed, I mulled over a lot of things in my head ... and one thought in particular sort of crystalized in my mind.

I have to say that I'm blessed to be a part of my family. Both my mother's family and my father's family are devout Christians who actively live out their faith. I was raised on Christian principles. Last night I realized that among the many Christian principles that I was taught was this one: doing what is right supercedes doing what you feel like doing. That's important and it bears repeating: Strive to do what is right according to God, not reacting based on what you feel.

I didn't realize until recently that this was something my parents purposefully taught me (and my extended family reinforced) all throughout my childhood. I can recall many situations from when I was growing up when my parents would instruct me to do what was right, or purposefully ask me what the Bible would have to say about my situation. The result of their efforts was that I learned that God wrote some specific instructions for us in the Bible so that we don't have to trust our feelings in order to do what is best. I've learned that my feelings will lead me wrong much of the time. After all, how many times have I reacted in a situation based on my feelings and then regretted those actions or words later? The Bible even tells us that our feelings change like the wind. (I need to look up that reference!)

Anyway, Matt didn't have this same background of faith. He wasn't taught to do the right thing. In fact, he was taught to go with your gut feeling or instinct ... not to seek out Godly wisdom. Matt's parents (who are also divorced, by the way) taught him by example that it is best to do what you feel like doing. Now I don't know if they ever said those words to him or not, but I do know that this is the way their family works in general. I've heard his father say a thousand times, "I should do _____, but I don't feel like it." I've heard his mother say, "My gut tells me to do this." Both Matt and his sister learned this lesson well, as they both live by this very principle. It makes me sad for them.

There are many reasons our marriage failed, but there is no doubt that this difference in the way we respond to life was a big issue for us. I can think of many instances in which Matt wanted to go with his "gut" and I wanted to do what was right. Typically, we were able to work through those issues. However, when Matt became emotionally involved with another woman (and later on physically), he was unable to force himself to do what was the right thing to do because all he knew to do was what he felt like doing. It didn't matter that he was going to hurt his wife of 14 years, his 3 wonderful children, and a whole host of extended family and friends with his actions. It didn't matter that ultimately he was going to lose his family. All that mattered was "following his heart" because surely it wouldn't lead him wrong.

Sadly, Satan convinced him to believe a very beautiful and tempting lie. Following your heart can be a very dangerous thing, and if it goes against the word of God then it is very, very wrong.

As I've examined and mulled over these thoughts in my head, I've determined that I need to be more purposeful about teaching my children (in both words and by example) to not trust our feelings, but rather to seek our Godly wisdom. Yes, sometimes our feelings will lead us right. I firmly believe that God has graciously given us a gut instinct that we can follow, especially in times when an urgent response is needed. But I also think that we need to constantly check ourselves according to His word and His ways, so that we most often respond in the right way instead of reacting to our ever changing emotions.

Friday, February 13, 2009

106 Years Ago Today ...

a baby girl was born in the Aimwell hills in Catahoula Parish, Louisiana. Her parents named her Rita Mae McGuffee. She grew up, married and had one child .... my grandfather.

Most children are lucky to even know their great-grandparents. I was fortunate to love my great-grandmother, "Ma", for 21 years. When she died on May 25, 1994, it was my first experience in losing a close loved one to death.

Ma (pronounced Maw) was a very special lady. She loved us all with a love that was deep, and yet there was a fierce sort of quality to it as well. I don't know of any other way to describe it ... I guess maybe it would help to say that I feared disappointing her even though I wasn't scared of her in any way.

Ma worked hard all of her life. I don't remember her doing anything other than working in my grandfather's hardware store, though I know she had other jobs during her life. She worked 6 days a week until she was 89 years old. Until the last 2 or 3 years of her life, I don't recall that she was ever sick.

Even though Ma never missed work or church due to illness, she complained a lot about the aches and pains of old age. I used to stay with Ma a lot at night when my grandparents were out of town. Once I talked Brooke to joining me for the night. Daddy brought us up to the "big house" and stayed to talk with Ma for a few minutes. She began going down the list of every body part that was hurting her that night and launched into her familiar routine of what I should do when I woke up in the morning and found her dead. You see, every time I stayed the night was destined to be her last night on earth. After hearing this for the umpteenth time, I was a bit jaded to any urgency in her words. I guess my dad was too, for he was totally willing to leave his daughters up there with a "dying" woman all night long. But when Daddy went to leave, we couldn't find Brooke. We searched all over to no avail. Finally my dad walked outside ... and that's where we found Brooke. She was sitting in the car, with her suitcase on her lap. No one could convince Brooke to stay with Ma and me that night ... if it was Ma's final night on earth, Brooke was determined that she would not be present. We still laugh about that night. Obviously, Ma lived many more years.

I remember so many other things about Ma with a deep fondness ...

*She had the softest hands ... until she went to give you a bath. Goodness, I always felt like she was rubbing the hide right off of me!

*She tied braids with a strand of hair that she plucked from your head.

*I remember a time when she got a surprise bedroom make-over for her birthday. I never will forget her reaction to that gift.

*She loved God more than anyone I know. She could turn every conversation back to God's word or the truth of God. I remember her sitting in the hardware store by the cash register, talking to everyone who walked in and out ... always finding a way to share God's love with them.

It will be 15 years this May since Ma went to her eternal home in heaven. To this day, there are times when I walk into my grandfather's home and expect to see her there. Just like Mammie, I'm looking forward to seeing Ma in heaven.

(I will try to post a picture of her tomorrow.)

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

The Dating Game

Not that I'm dating or anything ... just that lately I'm being reminded of just how much I have forgotten in the past 16 years.

Today, one of my co-workers light-heartedly tried to convince me of the eligibility of a certain bachelor in our community. His name is Cooter. I'm not kidding ... Cooter is the man's name. He can't drive because he has a seizure disorder that has resulted in other mental issues as well. For example, when I had to talk to him on the phone about a 4-H issue regarding his son, he gave me a mini-lecture on the benefits of using firewood as the sole method of heating one's home. I'm still not sure how the upcoming poultry show has a thing in the world to do with fireplaces, chopping wood, heating a home and the price of gas in China. Yes, Cooter brings me to the first thing I had forgotten about dating: the main reason I didn't date in high school was the the gene pool in this tiny village is very lacking.

My options are so extremely limited. Let's see ... so far, I've had people suggest to me that I go out with an alcoholic, a good looking young man who is at least a dozen years younger than me, a man known to be a tightwad womanizer, and my first cousin (who also happens to already be happily married). Furthermore, the only single male at the church I attend is 52 or 53 years old, and has a grandson that is Joel's age. Did I mention that my options were limited?

Last fall, a friend convinced me to check into some Christian online dating services. I did it ... mostly out of curiousity and because I thought that perhaps with such limited options locally I might need to be open-minded enough to try this kind of service. Let me just say that the word "Christian" obviously has a lot of meanings. Here's who I met last fall on a "Christian dating service":

* a married man
* a convicted felon (bank robber)
* a man of a different enthic background whose first questions to me were "Are you still able to have babies? How many babies are you willing to have?"
* several men who had been married 3, 4 or 5 times already and were seeking that "one special woman" God had for them

The most normal man I met on those Christian dating sites was a man who was very, very depressed regarding some rather disturbing and extensive abuse he received as a child. As you can imagine, none of these men are the kind of man for which I am looking. And even though I'm really not actively looking for someone to date, I'm beginning to wonder if there are any men between the ages of 35 and 45 who are real Christians? Who haven't been married umpteen times already? Who don't come with a ton of baggage? And who are just NORMAL?

Thankfully, I'm not in a rush or overly eager to find a new husband. I'm fairly happy with the way things are now. Yet after talking to my teasing co-worker about Cooter today, it sort of makes me sad that there really are no options out there for me. I have to admit that it would be nice to have a dinner out occasionally.

I guess that I'll end with my favorite quote from my favorite book (Anne of Green Gables), simply because I think it sums up my feelings fairly well:

"Ruby Gillis says when she grows up, she wants to have a line of beaus on a string and make them crazy for her. I'd rather have ONE in his rightful mind!"

Two Years Gone

Two years ago yesterday (February 3rd) my grandmother died. I always wanted to be like Mammie, my paternal grandmother. Here are a few of the wonderful things I remember about this special lady who has always inspired me:

She had a ready laugh and smile. She was funny and easy-going. I remember her as a very happy person.

She never met a stranger. I remember going places with Mammie where we knew no one, but before we left she had a new friend.

She had the gift of hospitality. Everyone felt welcome in her home.

She loved to cook. Her kitchen was a warm and happy place. I loved Sunday lunches at Mammie's house.

She collected recipes, writing them on scraps of paper, backs of old bank deposit slips, on envelops or whatever other small paper she could find in her big black purse.

She sang and whistled a lot. She sang alto in the church choir. When we sing certain songs in church, it seems like I can still hear her voice.

She loved to scratch backs and stroke heads and hold hands.

She could make more juice come out of an orange than anyone I know, and as a child I simply adored her "rabbit pancakes."

Mammie worked alongside my grandfather. He paid her in dimes.

She always had on earrings.

She wore the perfume Beautiful by Estee Lauder. Last year, I bought some for myself. I wear it whenever I miss her the most and it feels like her arms are giving me a big hug once again.

Besides my parents, she loved me the best of anyone. I was her first grandchild. Even after she developed Alzheimer's and often couldn't recall my name, she never ever forgot that I was her first. The last real conversation I remember having with her, she said, "You are my first grandchild. Don't ever forget that. I prayed you here and you are so very special to me." I enver doubted that she loved me and I always felt like I was extra-special to her.

I miss you, Mammie! Can't wait to see you again in Heaven.

Both of these pictures are of me (age 3 1/2 months) with my grandmother, Juanita Joyce Terry.