Joan Reynolds

Real Faith, Real Life & Real Joy
Browsing Finances

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 :-(

 

 

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.

A Good Steward(ess?)

February6

It has been over 40 years since I got my wings and finished training in Dallas/ Fort Worth to become and airline Stewardess for American Airlines. I left college after two years, not finding my purpose there and not wanting to waste my father’s money (perhaps somewhere knowing that I might need his help more later down the line, as I spent twenty-five years as a divorced single parent). Anyway, after working in NYC at Bloomingdale’s for a season, my Dad mentioned something about stewardess being a good job, and somehow my heart leapt at the thought. I immediately sought out the two best airlines, in my estimation, and set up interviews.

While TWA wanted me to come back for a second, then a third interview, American said we have a class starting next week and we want you to be in it!There was something about them recognizing me as their type of employee, it seemed almost a spiritual match, like when you find a sorority in college that feels like a lot of people very similar to you and you instantly feel a part of the whole. It seemed a good sign and I was ready for change and off I went.

As with many things in my life, at first I didn’t seem to fit the teachers molds, and some doubted my sincerity in being there. I remember being chosen song leader of my graduating class, and of being the only one who cried at our graduation. I was probably the most sincere, but I had an aloofness that at first sight might make you think I didn’t care. I was always afraid of rejection, and always held myself back in groups until I got the feel for where I fit in.

As I was driving home from Publix today with groceries I hoped would last the month, I prayed that God would help me to be a good steward of the food I had just purchased. I realized that sometimes I bought things knowing exactly how I was going to use them, but after I put them on the shelves or in the refrigerator, I later forgot what my intention had been. I hated throwing out food that I had forgotten to use before it expired or went bad. It seemed like being such a bad steward.

What came to me as I prayed was the word stewardess. Somehow that brought a smile to my face and always will. It reminded me of times where even though the flight might look like the same one I had made many times before (say NY to Chicago), there was something different about it each time . In fact, the thing I remember most about being a stewardess (yes, they are called Flight Attendants now, but back then we were all women) was that every time we boarded a leg of a flight there was something different. If not all new, there were always additions and subtractions to the passengers, even though some were going through with us to the next destination. There was a different meal to be served (yes, we still served full course meals then :-). There might be an addition to our crew if the flight was full. Even if I was going from the same place to another place I had been many times  before, the people I was going with were entirely different.

This was the way God encouraged me today. Simply by adding ‘ess’ to an old word for taking care of what the Lord gives you, I was changing the way I perceived it completely. I now smile and think of myself in my uniform with a red, white and blue bow in my hair(It was the sixties!)and I can give myself another chance to do things differently.

I am grateful for His sense of humor and for the constant ways He gives me a second chance to see what He wants me to see. He knows just where to go in my old picture albums in my mind. May I learn to be a good stewardess of what He gives me today.

Feed My Lambs, Feed My Sheep!

February3

I am back in the Bible study, trying hard to hear God, and yet not believing what He is saying, although I am getting confirmation so fast it makes my head spin sometimes. Today I was reading in John 21:15-17, the part where Jesus is telling Peter what to do. Peter is being questioned about his love for the Lord, to which he replies of course, you know that I love you, but the Lord is commanding him three times: then Feed my lambs, Shepherd my sheep, feed my sheep.

He has given me a ministry to be an advocate for working Christian single moms. They are His heroines, and He doesn’t want them forgotten, as they go about their daily struggles, rarely asking for any help besides prayer, relying on His provision for their needs and those of their children.

Meanwhile, I am still trying to figure out how I proceed with what He has asked of me, worrying about providing for my own bills and obligations and needs. He keeps impressing on me to step forward and do what He has asked, even though I cannot see how that helps my circumstances in the least. The drum in my head only beats louder. Follow me!

Sometimes, and frequently in the past, I must admit, God’s instructions have seemed crazy. They would seem to make me look irresponsible to others. He continually brings me back to “why do you care how it looks to others? I want you to see how it looks to me. I don’t have a back up plan. You are it! If you don’t put your puzzle piece down on the table, no one else can come and attach theirs. You will never see the whole picture if you don’t begin with the piece I have given you!”

Please don’t think He is yelling at me, because He isn’t. Like a parent who has reaffirmed the same thing several times to a child, He is only being firm, and perhaps a little frustrated. He knows I know better. I have already seen His provision for over 27 years of my life raising two children. I know His timing is perfect and He will never abandon me. So what am I waiting for?

Embrace the rain today and make the calls. Start the newsletter and let Him bring others to help complete it. I am beginning to think it may rain for forty days and forty nights if I don’t start right now! I am remembering Jonah on the ship and the high seas that nearly overtook them. He finally said to the sailors, its me. I am causing the trouble by not being obedient to what God has asked of me.

Lord knows, I sure don’t want to come face to face with my own big fish!

Are We Plugged In?

January23

I recently had occasion to visit a friend at their home several hours from here. This friend is very much a Christian, and attends Church on a regular basis.  Bible study is also a part of their weekly practices. This person is very careful about their finances, and it brought up some interesting points for me to consider.

There is careful, and there is stingy. Which one, if either, represents our stewardship of God’s money? I believe that while this is very much a matter of our own personal relationship with God, we must be careful that we also represent the way other perceive our faith and reliance on God. On the other side of this coin I have Christian friends who are way too generous with what God gives them, and never worry about taking care of themselves, being very willing to take care of others. Which is a better advertisement for our Lord, or is either one really accurate?

Another thing I noticed about this particular friend was how they unplugged every single lamp or appliance in their home when not in use. This supposedly conserved energy and also cut way back on the electricity bill. What I noticed, as a guest in their home, was that when I awoke early and wanted to read my Bible study for the day, I was bumbling around in the dark, trying to find not just a light that could be plugged in, but also an  outlet to source the power to it.

It occurred to me that this way of conserving power and currency was also a way I perceived this person’s faith.They would ‘turn God on’ when they decided they needed to. Certainly not in every situation, nor one where they had their own agenda for how things were to go. They would ask God’s blessing on their food, and thank Him for His provision. When it came to how to spend or how to choose most things in their life, they were very much OK with the way they personally decided to do it.

There is something about being poor enough to have to turn to God for almost every provision in your life. It becomes more of a habit. When you cannot afford to make a wrong choice, you really want God’s help in making the right one. This isn’t always the one you expect or even want, but if it is in the direction He is taking you, then you might as well get on the train going to that station as on one going the other direction. In the end, there is so much more ground you have to recover if you went the wrong way!

Many of us have found this to be true and as a result have found the older we get, the faster we turn to him for directions. Unlike my GPS system, I have rarely found God’s directions to be incorrect. I have never thought He got it wrong. Also unlike my GPS, I have yet to end up on a dead end street going “What???” I usually go “Ah ha! That’s why you sent me this way instead of the way I was going to go!”

I see so many friends struggling with directions for their life right now. I am right there with them. The only difference is that some of us are actively seeking God on a daily basis to see if we should “Turn right, then stay on the motorway.” Sometimes His directions are only given one step at a time and we don’t have anything that will show us how many miles we have to go or time until we reach our destination.

The wonderful thing is, we will never regret those moves that had everything to do with Him and His plans for our life. I ask the question, are we plugged in to the source all the time for our marching orders, or only when we feel lost or in unknown territory? Are we bumbling around in the dark when we have total 24/7 access to that source? And are we conserving His energy for when we need it more? If so, why? Did He ever tell us there was a limited supply and we need to conserve it?

Like God’s love for us, the more we turn it on, the more there is to give away. The more we accept and receive, the more we have to give willingly and freely to others He puts in our path. He is the source who never raises His prices nor looses His power. Our light will never be turned off…. unless we do it ourselves. So my question remains, are we plugged in?

The Lost Week Of The Year!

December29

This has always been my favorite week of every year. It is the one most people take off if they can, but rarely has it ever been vacation time for me. It was just a week that no one thought about buying a home, or selling one. Since most people were dismantling their Christmas decorations, no one thought about painting their home either…until the first week of January when they noticed how empty and colorless it looked after the decorations were removed. Anyway, no one ever really needs me for anything during this week, so I am left to deal with myself and the things I never get to do for myself (read, I welcome those excuses and there are none to be found).

It always gave me  a week with no income, to think creatively about how to start out the coming year adding sufficiently to my next year’s income. To do this correctly involved a review of the past year as well. I spend most of the ‘lost’ week trying to sort out last years financial information. I have found that if I get it to the point where I can hand it over to my accountant in January, it is a very good start to the year. If I don’t get it to that point, and instead start the year with one foot in the previous year, I will be dragging it all the way through April 15th, and possibly through an extension into July as well. Instead of flying into the new year with great ideas and hopes, I will feel like I am trying to run with cement Ugg boots! This is one of the most debilitating ways for an entrepreneur to start their new year that I can think of, and yet it is already weds of that week and I have yet to start my financial adventure.

I will spend today trying to neaten up the room in which I will begin the process. This is a distraction, of course, and I think I would do better to grab what I can of receipts and bills and go to the dining room table. However that table holds memories of my Dad working on taxes for months at a time, and I will have to overcome that mental block first. It will remain a contest between old mental images and the new one I am trying to visualize showing a competent me overcoming the temptation to procrastinate into the New Year. If I could actually get this done in the year we are about to leave, I truly would not need a single resolution on January 1st. I would have already accomplished the most important one! Time to take out my post-it notes and plaster them all over the house where I will go to avoid the obvious. Look out refrigerator, bathroom, TV, books, here I come!

I will let you know who wins out :-)

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Mind That Car!

December23

I am visiting my Mom for the holidays in Vermont, close to its border with New Hampshire. Needlestosay the signs of New England colleges are all around us, but never so present as on the backs of the vehicles. I did notice that most of the vehicles were nearly identical, a Subaru all terrain four wheel drive version being most noticeable, due in part to the frequency of snow here I am sure. One begins to wonder if after graduation all students run out to purchase the same cars,whereby a terrible kind of group think mentality comes to mind. Certainly not what we hope for our best and our brightest.

Does one drive more carefully behind a car that says Dartmouth College than one that says New Hampshire State (If there even is such a campus, I am not sure). Is there a respect afforded the driver of a vehicle with Harvard on its rear window? Do we stay further behind, realizing the occupant may well be a lawyer who could sue the pants off us should we get too close?

I wonder. Some of those cars will be traded in one day, and will  the stickers be removed by the owner prior to the changing of title? We wouldn’t want those signs of our accomplishments driving off with some n’er do well, now would we?

I have to say, I am not that impressed. One could easily stop by any college campus and pick up a sticker that represents nothing but the fact that I know my way to the bookstore on that campus. The one I really admired was one that boldly displayed the colorful letters DD. We all instantly recognized the signature icon for Dunkin Donuts!

As we drove off at the next exit to get a warm cup of hot chocolate and a honey glazed treat, I really believe that guy had more impact on our immediate happiness and comfort than anyone in all the other cars with their impressive college affiliations. Hard to tell what all that expensive education produced in many of the vehicles, except a predisposition to purchase an identical car, but we were certainly grateful the donut guy wore his insignia so proudly!

It Is A Method!

November16

I was invited to dinner by my niece last night, and asked if we could stop and pick up a bottle of wine for our hosts en route.  I have always felt incompetent in this area and don’t have any system to follow, so I asked her how she goes about finding a wine to give to someone. What she replied amazed me.

“I look for the one that is not the cheapest, but maybe just a little above that. Then I look at the label to see which one is attractive to me…it could be its design, colors, or something on it that reminds me of the person (a frog, a rooster?). Then I decide whether white or red based on whatever I know about their taste or what they are serving.Voila!”

Having been around some fabulous connoisseurs over my lifetime, I have to say I was thrilled. This was my system too!!! Coming from a twenty-something, it certainly validated me and let me feel I hadn’t missed a whole lot by being out of the wine loop for years.

In the end we picked one with a rooster and a color on the label that matched the hostess’ kitchen…bright red! Now I wonder how that will affect all the people making those wines so worried about the aroma and all those other things that we are supposed to be looking for? It was terrific, and so was our meal….a perfect match …for the kitchen, the cook and our pocketbook!

Opportunity Knocks!

November8

How exciting to see whatever life throws at you as a constant opportunity for something new and different to arrive in your life. I just got off the phone with someone who exemplifies that, and it is such an upper to talk to someone with that attitude!

Let’s face it, life has got some curve balls that just catch you off guard. Some things you never imagined or had a backup plan for. But if you look for the silver lining, the blessing within the curse, as it were, there is a whole new world of excitement ahead. Or you can have a pity party.

I don’t know about you, but those are parties I don’t like to throw or to attend, even by phone!

I have a great friend who is very skilled at understanding the Bible and often talks about teaching A Course in Miracles. The problem, as I see it is, is that she doesn’t really believe what she would teach; her life does not resemble a course in miracles. She is, in fact, so afraid to take a risk, she never gives God a chance to step in and give her a miracle.

I have seen so many of them I have lost count! Perhaps it is because I have learned that living on the edge with God is the safest place in all the world. There are miracles happening in my life every day and I can see them. It is exciting to me to see how people behave when bad things happen, because that’s where the rubber meets the road where faith is concerned. You have to believe the safety net is there when you jump, and the more you have jumped and walked away, the more you trust it. You can spend your life trying to stay safe, or you can step out in faith and let God protect you.

Who’s that at the door?

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