Joan Reynolds

Real Faith, Real Life & Real Joy
Browsing Family

Barnacles, Be Gone!

May26

I was talking to two good friends this morning and noticed I had repeated the same phrase twice, so I figure there is more than one person who needs to hear it besides me!

I was talking about going through my years of stuff, something I also find I am not alone in doing these days, and so many things no longer need to be saved. They are pictures, letters, papers relating to a me that I have outgrown. Oh, a lot of clothing goes in that category as well! Seriously, there are things that you have grown beyond, people who are no longer in your life, things that were important that have taken their seat in the balcony, or the basement.

We grow, hopefully, into the best version of ourselves over time. This requires updating, as would a previous edition of most books. A little editing, refining, making current the most important parts of our story. I referred to this refining as getting the barnacles off, as one would remove them from the bottom of a boat, so that it could skim through the water faster. That is what I am doing, scraping off barnacles for my own ease of movement to the next phase of my journey. What can I let go of that will allow me to travel easier, faster, a slimmer, more compact version of myself?

There are some parts I will leave behind. Past ways of earning a living, such as real estate and faux finishing, are probably best served traveling only as memories. They both carry a lot of weight in supplies and paperwork, past clients and information galore. I actually enjoyed the relief that followed my shredding of past files and was aware of a heaviness that lifted immediately off me. I am still wrestling with furniture, what to sell and what to give away, but that will sort itself out soon.

What I want is to take the very best, most streamlined version of my best self, pared down only to the necessities to maintain that self, and then begin my new life armed with the knowledge of who that person is, today, and what is important to her. On that I can build my best new life!

One Woman’s Faux Finish…….

May25

Another woman’s “dirty walls”?  I had a call today from a new tenant in my son’s rental property, asking permission to paint the ‘blotchy’ walls. She said she knew they weren’t dirty, but her friends thought they were. In making this her home, she felt better just painting them a clean neutral beige and wanted permission to do so.

Remembering how I had painted every apartment and home I had ever rented, only to paint it back to white before we left, I gave her permission to go ahead, and even offered the five gallon bucket of paint that had been used in several of the “clean” rooms. It made me think, however, of the interesting differences in people once again.

I had painted those walls in a Tuscan faux finish I had used not only in my own home, but I had also been well-paid to execute it on several very high priced homes in the area. It is all in what appeals to you. What looked dirty to her was the same hand-rubbed look that reminded others of old world European homes and churches. It is all in the eye of the beholder.

Instead of trying to prove that it was a valuable paint treatment, I just offered a clean coat of paint. It at least shows me that cleanliness is important to her, and that is an excellent sign in a new tenant. Also she was offering to do it herself or with paint-knowledgeable relatives helping her. It was interesting to me how easily I gave up ownership of the paint style in order to coincide with another persons vision of a clean home….every woman deserves her own view of the home she is charged with keeping clean! (unless, of course, her husband has override permission :-(

 

 

Triumph!

May18

Over fear, that is. All the things you read about feel the fear and do it anyway? They are right, but it doesn’t take away the fear….until after it’s over! Like the next day. When you realize you stood in front of a live audience and sang a song with a live band without really rehearsing and never trying out the mike, something you have never been familiar with, and totally one hundred percent terrified you will forget the lyrics!

OK, so you only lost one word, and no one would even have noticed if you hadn’t laughed at yourself. And all in all, you took a risk, and there was never going to be a safer time to do it. Now I know why comedians test out their work in comedy clubs for years…..I don’t know how my son does it. Sometimes in front of twenty thousand people with his face blown up on a huge screen and every move recorded for history! God Bless him! And He certainly has. There is no better backup than your son on sax, not for this Mom who has a song or two unsung still inside her.

Anyway, I would have told all my friends to come, but I was afraid I would feel more pressure and chicken out. I had to have an exit plan. The funny thing was the day before his gig I told him there was a song with a sax solo I thought might be fun to do together. He was all over it and we just decided to do it with little fanfare or discussion. I figured I am leaving this town shortly and nobody here really knows I like to sing, so it will be a farewell song of sorts (meaning if it bombs, they will forget quickly, or at least I won’t have to think about it). But I remembered telling the Lord last year that for my 65th birthday I really wanted to gather friends and family and see if Bob could fly East and put a small combo together and I could sing a song or two. The day before his gig I realized it was close to that birthday, and even though I was now moving West as my present, God had assembled half the people on my list and the perfect combo. Was I going to miss God’s present to me? I could have, easily. But I didn’t, gratefully. Another reason to keep our eyes open for the opportunities hidden in the fears. Don’t let anyone steal them from you or scare you away from them!

What Have We Lost With Instant Mail?

May3

I am amazed at how many situations are made easier with instant cell phone calls, texting and emails. Plans can be changed in a split second, people can find each other in malls, one can know immediately of one anothers needs or successes.

Again, the boxes of pictures and letters, and the endless processing. Today I grabbed one more big green plastic container that had long ago lost its lid. It has a small fuzzy stuffed bear and a string of Christmas lights and what seemed to be as stash of  very old crayon drawings from kindergarten times. I wasn’t even sure which child may have drawn them, but I determined to wade through them, just in case.

There were several stacks of things that weren’t keepers, but I put them aside for review by the child whose early efforts at artistic expression were recorded, just in case there were clues to his life that might be of interest to him. The other son had already looked through this particular box this weekend, dismissing most of it with a cursory once over.

Somewhere toward the middle I began to find remnants of a retreat called Chriseo, that I had been part of on Mother’s Day weekend in 1991. It is a Christian ceremonial tradition of a three day walk with God, the “fourth day” being the beginning of the rest of your life with Christ. One of the wonderful things they do, while the pilgrims are preparing to go on their walk, is ask their friends and family to write letters that will be given to them the third day.

Often we don’t sit down and tell people how greatly we admire them or treasure who they are in our lives. Sometimes we make reference to those feelings in a card at birthdays or other occasions, or when they are honored at a function for business or community service. For the vast numbers of people, however, those thoughts may never be put to paper until we are addressing their relatives in a sympathy card after they die. I know that it is those cards and letters, mixed in with all the other bits and pieces of my past, that have been the things I moved to a separate spot, my new box of treasures.

Here amongst the others was a hand written letter from my Dad. He began by saying he realized he had mostly put pen to paper to tell me the things that he was concerned about as I made choices about my life. They had often been harsh and full of the potential negatives that he felt I might run into, should I choose a certain path. Unfortunately those letters had left scars that, while I was certain were unintentional, were never completely healed.

This letter made quick reference to those  other letters, but went on to address all the ways in which he admired the choices I had made. He confirmed the excellent job he felt I was doing as a parent to my boys and how I provided them not only the necessities for living but an abundance of love and support for them as well as a firm grounding in the love of God and knowledge of Jesus.  He told me how compassionately and unselfishly he saw me live my life and attend to the needs of others. His pride was evident in his choice of words and especially in the ones he underlined for emphasis. That letter gave me the opportunity to let go of all the harsh-sounding words that had rung in my ears over my lifetime, condemning me to try to resist them as the truth about myself. Here, in his own words, were all the things I had ever hoped he had felt about me; here was an opportunity to erase the familiar voice of the liar who had held space in my head most of my life.

As the mailman goes the way of the Pony Express, and email cards take the place of handwritten ones, I wonder if we will ever again hold those saved missives, bearers of both good and bad tidings. Is it our loss or will the gains be worth it? Will we tell each other more often how much we love and appreciate one another, so that summing up our feelings will never be as necessary? Only time will tell I suppose. With the fast sharing of news, in less than a week we have had to process the death and devastation of horrible tornadoes, the happiness and splendor of a Royal wedding, as well as the capture and demise of the man who caused the most incredible hurt ever to happen within our borders since the Civil War. In six days that requires a lot of emotional endurance, and it wouldn’t have been possible without the rapid delivery of news, and quick sharing between friends and family of our emotions that can be facilitated today.

My prayer is that good news and loving thoughts are hitting the airwaves and bandwidth just as quickly. That an email that conveying an unmeant but hurtful message will be quickly responded to with a phone call that heals what might have become a serious wound. It is possible, if we keep our hearts alert to what is/ or is not hidden between the lines of type. I know for me those important things were often written at the very end and up around the right side of the last page of the letter. The last P.S….and then the P.P.S. If we commit to keeping our emotional databases as up-to-date as our news, we will have a wonderful, healthy world (and family) indeed!

 

Preserving Memories

April30

We never realize how long it actually takes to go through those boxes containing our past. All those seemingly random pictures, cards and letters saved, thrown into boxes, mementos of a life lived.

I think if we never allow ourselves that time to process them, we are missing out on some very important substance to our lives. It is a review of what we considered important, and a way to see if it still holds meaning for us. In many ways this can be confirming, or it can assist us in making future decisions or commitments.

I have found letters I thought I had thrown away, as well as some I never remember receiving. Like the one from my brother-in-law, mentioning that nothing was more important than my choosing Jesus in my life, and that everything else would fall into place after that. He was praying for me that day as he wrote. The date on his letter was Dec 9th, 1983. I ran from the garage to the house to check the bookmark in my Bible. It commemorated the day I had asked Jesus into my life. A single mom from the church I was attending had come to my home that day and cleaned for me while I was taking care of a newborn son. She asked me at the end of the day if I would like to ask Jesus into my life and when I said yes she prayed with me. She gave me that bookmark to remember the date. When I pulled it from my Bible, it confirmed exactly what I had thought, Dec 9th, 1983.

My brother in law mailed that letter that day and I received it three days later. But God didn’t wait on the mailman, He responded immediately to his fervent prayer and sent an angel immediately to my home. I found that to be an amazing testimony to His loving attention to our requests. I will now keep both together in my Bible.

We need to take time, and spend time assisting our older relatives, to process those memories. They hold a lot of good information and clues to a persons life. It is too difficult to do at the same time as we are trying to move someone out of their home, or after they have died. How much better if we make time to sit with them once a month or even once a year helping them preserve those treasures by scanning photos and letters, taking pictures of furniture that might be willed to family and making notes about its history while the person can still tell the story about it.

A gift of time is indeed a gift of love, and as in the instance of the mom who came to clean my house almost thirty years ago, or my brother in law taking time to write and pray, it may be the most important gift a person ever receives!

 

Foster Care For My Furniture?

April21

I am sorting through the past forty-five years of my lifetime in bankers boxes of paperwork, along with the furniture I have purchased and accumulated through ten homes, plus that for which I have assumed responsibility from my Mom, and it is a most interesting process.

Initially I had trouble deciding whether to sell the furniture (to help pay for my move) and be able to get what I will need on the other coast, or to store it here for a year until I see where I land and what I need and/or might want to have at some point. Hating to be an Indian giver, I resisted asking my family if they wanted anything, not knowing if I might want it back.

The idea of garage sales brings me nothing but headaches, and I find them to be largely a waste of time for me. I have found that donations are a better solution for most things I would consider garage sale items. I also realized I would rather someone in my family was enjoying  a favorite item, rather than realizing I had sold it for about one eighth of its cost to me, and missing the value that just seeing it once it enjoyed and used provided. It also seemed like such a final decision when I really can’t possibly know what my life may look like a year from now.

The most interesting thing that I have noticed was the fact that what I really wanted was more what the furniture represented than the item itself. I had asked for the dining table and eight chairs that represented all the holiday meals we shared when our family gathered at holidays. Having the table didn’t give me the gathering nor the large family it could seat. The memories were already in my mind. Truly the table was more a sad reminder that I mostly ate alone, so passing the table on to a family member who might actually have those gatherings was a much better solution than keeping the table.

In the same manner, I realized I have bought over fifty cookbooks and carried them around for years. While I often take them out and look at the pictures, envisioning meals and lingering conversations with others, I almost never cook for more than myself and rarely get together with friends, except at restaurants for lunch when our schedules and wallets permit. The cookbooks merely represent the desire of my heart to eat with others more frequently, not the desire to cook or to eat the foods I pick out in the pictures.

After several weeks of indecision, I have decided to take digital pictures of my furniture and ‘valuables’ and send them online to my children, siblings, nieces and nephews, and after that perhaps to my close friends. I will seek foster care for these items for the next year or two. I am really looking for someone who would really enjoy my things and would care for them as though they are their own (as they may well be in the future). It is preferable to putting them in storage for a year or more.  I may ask for a small deposit(or donation) which I will refund should I later request the return of the items.  That would give me a start on helping me purchase the basic necessities when I get to my new home.

At least for now, that is my favorite plan. What I take with me is the courage to find new friends to eat with, a sense of community that embraces me, and more opportunities to linger over coffee with friends and family. A tiny studio with basic necessities will be more than enough room to house the things I really need to sustain me.

People Who Love Shelter Dogs

February11

There is something I have noticed over the years about the way people choose a dog to join their family. There are some who prefer pedigreed animals, those who come with a long line of traits characteristic of their breed. The new owner is promised the dog’s behavior will be similar to those who have gone before, within certain limitations. They usually pay quite a lot of money for those expectations, and may be extremely disappointed if they are not fulfilled as the dog grows up.

Then there are those of us who take our kids, or ourselves, to the nearest humane shelter for abandoned animals. We may go back more than once, knowing that when we see the one that is right for us we will just know it. Having had dogs before, we may prefer a certain breed, as two good friends of mine do, and then we go to a rescue for that particular breed. At least then, we are assured of some of the characteristics we are fond of, even though the one we bring home may have been a little off the pedigree charts or even abused in some way.

For the rest of us, though, we are pretty much open to the ‘love at first sight’ philosophy. It may be a matter of the purse, as these animals have usually had their shots and even been neutered. Often I find it is a matter of conscience. These dogs are not bred for our enjoyment, but rather the products of two other dogs not very closely watched by their owners, perhaps let loose to roam the neighborhood at large. They come with a bit of a stigma as to their “parentage’ and their lineage?…well, you can pretty much forget about tracing their family tree!

On the other hand, they teach those of us who have them a great deal about keen observation, and learning to read body language. I have noticed that Gypsy, for instance, has a much greater aversion to my taking a white kitchen trash liner in or out of its container, than he ever does to the vacuum cleaner being turned on. I assume there was a very bad price to pay from a run in with some kitchen garbage in his past, one that he will never forget.

I also notice how he behaves around certain people, trying to pick up on the signals that make him feel safe, rather than nervous and fearful.I notice how he does stupid things when he is uncomfortable and trying to fit in….even though his antics usually bring him the exact opposite results and get him temporarily removed from the party. I often wonder if I do the same thing around people with whom I don’t feel I fit in? Do I tell jokes, act too loud, call attention to myself?

I believe that people who love shelter dogs can become pretty adept at reading humans as well. Perhaps because of our own wounded backgrounds, we feel an instant affinity for animals who did nothing wrong except be different than expected. I often notice that the single moms I have known almost always have a shelter dog in their family. We are often people who seem to be able to accept what  life handed us, even though it might not have been exactly what we expected. What I have noticed is that most of us have a natural tendency to love God fervently, perhaps because we feel He accepts us exactly the way we are at this moment, band-aids and all. We know He still sees the original as His pedigree and will continue to love us unconditionally and protect us until we come to  see it too…. and that’s exactly the way I feel about my Gypsy.

I may have said it before, but dog is God spelled backward,  and for some of us a constant reminder of His comforting presence in our daily lives.

P.S. Cat lovers please read comment below. It is excellent and makes the same point for those who rescue cats!

A Column For Older Christian Singles?

January10

I am remembering Dear Abby, and all the others who gave us their take on this or that social dilemma growing up, where there seemed to be a correct answer to handling a social situation between people. Today there is so much information available, it is mind boggling, and yet it seems we still struggle with how to be appropriate, how to handle social interactions, how to heal without hurting others.

I am struck at this point in my life at how differently I look at the dating scene than I did the last time I tentatively passed through. Perhaps this has to do with having fully surrendered my life to Christ, not just in word, but in deed. I can quickly process through inquiries on a website, because if they don’t list a relationship with God, or attendance at a church and/or Bible study as important to them, I know that they would not be the people God would be bringing into my life for any long term purpose. Even ten years ago, this would not have been a problem or even a part of my sorting process. I would have thought that I could bring that spiritual dimension into someone’s life. No longer do I feel that way.

I am too far gone to go backward, even for the sake of someone else and their journey. Not that I am not supportive; I will do anything to offer God’s love and encouragement to another on their path to knowing Him intimately. It is just that once you have known Him as brother, friend, Father, provider, and husband in your own life, it would seem worse than divorce or death to leave Him out. Fortunately, for the way He presents Himself in our lives, He can and is an important third party in any relationship going forward. To have Him in common brings an instant knowing and sense of family to people who have just met, who  may have very little else they would normally share as like interests.

I was struck today by two friends my age asking for my help in their relationships with the opposite sex. How to address people in their dating lives in words and yet not say anything hurtful or misleading. I think that as Christians, it is even more difficult to navigate the dating waters, because we are so conscious of acting in His name, and wanting to represent Him well. I have a few concerns about the church and its approach to older singles. I feel they often ignore them. I feel they are missing a golden opportunity to provide a safe and comfortable arena for older singles to meet each other on non-dating terms, without the fear that they may find someone who is actually leading them away from Christ rather than toward Him.

I believe, and have for twenty years, that there are ways to facilitate this process and keep the hearts and mind of those precious people safe. I believe they are just as important to Christ as are His youngsters stepping out for the first time into the arena of love and relationship. In some ways, it is even more critical that we do not get hurt or lose our way, as we have already found what is most important. I do not believe that God only wants for us a life of serving and showing up to fill the many volunteer capacities that a church always needs filled, for which  older singles  always seem available.

I believe that God wants to partner some of them and use them even more effectively as couples, people who have testimony to share, to offer hope for how God heals and provides and blesses, even after tragedies have separated them from the path their lives were originally taking. I am confident that He is beginning a new work, where the churches will begin to step forward into an incredible opportunity to minister to those who already occupy their pews every Sunday, who for the most part would never think of asking anything of their church for themselves. It is just the way we were brought up, and it is something we would probably see as a selfish request. If asked we would answer, “I’m OK, God is good, He is taking good care of me, I am fine”. But my question is, is that really God’s Best for that person? Would  even some of them find a more complete healing and wholeness and ability to serve Him if they had a supportive partner for this unique time in their lives. It is a time they have so much wisdom to offer, and yet are so often burdened by just accomplishing the everyday tasks and finances alone, having no one to share that journey with, yet never wanting to burden their children or their church with their happiness and health issues.

Is it possible for me to eat alone almost every meal of my life and be grateful? Absolutely. Is it God’s best for me? I won’t believe so until He personally informs me. As of yet, I have not heard that still small voice saying anything of the kind. I am listening, however, and I hope He will give me direction for something that weighs heavily on my heart, because I know that I am not alone in this feeling. It is the burden of the others that He has placed on my heart that makes me speak up where I would normally push my own feelings aside.

I have some ideas for ways to address this within our churches, how about you?

I’ve Found My Way!

January7

When  my sister sent an overnight refrigerated package to my Mom at Christmas, we were all anxious to see the contents. Fortunately she said refrigerate immediately and eat as soon as possible! So we dove into what turned out to be two packages of cheese curds. Now I don’t personally ever remember having these, but this particular sister has an amazing memory for things involving our mother, and so I am pretty sure there is a story behind it somewhere. In the meantime, I enjoyed tasting the soft and funny shaped cheese that was a by-product of some cheese making process, but when I talked with my sister, I of course said but now that I have my curds, I still can’t find my whey!

She laughed, but the nursery rhyme (who was that eating her curds and whey?) stuck in my head, and later that week when I was back home, I was shopping in Costco and stumbled across….you guessed it, Whey! In fact such a huge bag of it, it will take me a year to drink it all. However, I was surprised to see it had amazing amounts of protein and muscle builders and who knows what else, in a chocolaty powder you mix up with water.

So after I brought that home, I could not help but go around the house singing “Ive found  my way”….which was naturally followed by “love came just in time, you found me just in time, and changed my lonely life that lovely day!”

How funny if that puts a new energy into my christian dating scenario, giving me a renewed vision for the possibilities if I can manage to stay focused. I have decided to be looking for a good grandfather for my  pre-conceived grandchildren. That gives me a better and once removed way of looking at potential dates…would they make a good grandfather? That is an easier concept than would they be right for me? My standards for my yet unborn grandchildren are bound to be higher than anything I think I could put up with myself, so I think I will give this one a try!

Certainly takes the heat off me  for the time being, while God is still working on that.

Of course, after I consume all this whey, I may just be a huge muscle mass and not very attractive to the good grandfather prospect!

I Can Do Anything Good!

January1

This morning I woke early to start on the completion of my one New Year’s resolution…to log in a budget and get my financial info online so I can see it and use it (no more missed bills?). So that next year, doing my taxes will be easier, and instead of spending three days (as I just completed during the Lost Week…yeah for me!) as I just did, or dragging it into April or even July as is most often the case for me, I will just pull up the figures from one spot! That will give me three extra days, and untold anxiety-free hours I wasted procrastinating, to put toward something new and different in my life!

There is a video I go back and watch when I need a little extra fuel to get something done (filing, cleaning the refrigerator, etc.) that my niece put on her face-book page. I am trying to get it here as my first venture into adding videos to my blog (another unfulfilled resolution last year). If it is here, I have succeeded. Thanks to my son sending me a course in word-press email, that I just subscribed to this morning ( I won’t tell you how many months ago that email is dated!). I just watched the one on adding videos…so easy, I can’t believe how long I feared it and let it sit unwatched in my inbox.

Jessica has more raw energy than I can get from anyone my own age. When I watch her, I remember being a kid and I rewrite my history with Jessica’s theme. Instead of beating myself up remembering failures, I just absorb her attitude and go out to greet the world today. Who knows how much time I can make up for with that positive courage!  Lookout world, here I come!

it took several tries, but I did it before the day was over, Yeah for me (and thanks, Jessica)! Happy New Year! Be sure to cut it off after jessica…I think it links endlessly to who knows what…that wasn’t in the video cues I got, how to stop it!

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