Some Assembly Required

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Tell Them They Aren't Enough

I love my house. I dare say I’m content in my home. As long as it’s clean, as long as nothing’s broken and provided I haven’t visited a cleaner, nicer, more up-to-date house this week. I’m good. Most of the time.
I love my life. I’m content. As long as I don’t read the letters from the 18-year-old me about where I’d be now or what I dreamed of becoming. As long as I don’t dwell on yesterdays and should-haves. I’m good. Most of the time.
I love myself. No, really I do. As long as I don’t drop my towel in front of the mirror. As long as my jeans aren’t right-from-the-dryer tight…I hate having to wiggle, dance and do deep knee bends just to get dressed! On the good hair, cute outfit, I’ve-got-it-all-together days, I’m thrilled with me. The other 361 days a year I don’t think about it too hard. I’m good. Most of the time.
I don’t spend a lot of time telling God the things I need. Want. Except one thing. I tell Him that daily. I ask for that constantly. And yet….
In Philippians 4:11 Paul says, “for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.” And I trip on those words. I stop to think, to mull them over and try to figure out how Paul learned that, what was the secret he speaks of (in verse 12) and why, oh, why can’t I find that?
With laptop open and Bible software cranking, I sit ready to discover the secret, to write a post, deep with Biblical insight and incredible teaching.
With the whir of the air conditioner filling up the space around me, I wait. I read. I wait some more. Surely there is a lesson in all of this that God is waiting to teach me. Something profound that I can share and breathe in and begin to apply.
In the space yet to be filled with inspiration and answers, suddenly there are elbows and knees. A sea of blonde hair and blue eyes. Giggles and excited chatter.
And there in the adoration punctuated by dimples and fluttering eyelashes is a still small voice.
“Tell them they aren’t enough.” 

In a flash they are gone again, off to spread sunshine and remove every toy from every shelf. Unaware of the moment that just unfolded. Unaware that I can barely breathe for the humbling painful reality I just inhaled.
You see, I obsess about having more children. Maybe not outwardly, but in my own head and heart, I wish. I beg. I pray. And I feel a massive loss every time I am confronted with the truth that I am the mother to only two children.
Let’s go back to Philippians for a moment, “I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.  I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” (4:11-12)
I don’t know the secret that Paul had learned, and perhaps it is a secret on purpose. A beautiful mystery. Because it is something we have to come to in Christ on our own. No one can teach you contentment. Nope, that is something that has to be inhaled. Like the delicate aroma of a Savior.
And what is the secret for me? The one that God just whispered. Contentment isn’t about the things I don’t have. Or even about the things I do have, really. It is about looking, in the face, the blessings that God gives us and saying, “You aren’t enough for me.”  Look at the sky, shake your fist and say, “You aren’t enough for me.”
Go ahead. Do it. Look at your husband who leaves his dirty clothes on the floor or might forget an anniversary. Look him in the eye and say, “You aren’t good enough.”  Look your children in the face. Stare into their eyes and say, “You are just not enough for me.” Go to work tomorrow and say to your boss, really, “This job isn’t enough for me.”
Did you do it?
No. Why?
Because we wouldn’t want to hurt people. We wouldn’t want to run people off. We wouldn’t want to risk loss. And yet, every day I look at things around me — bigger houses, nicer cars, more well-behaved children, a cuter outfit — and think, “What if?”  “If only.”  “I need that”. As if I am shaking my fist at the sky, I tell God it isn’t enough for me.
The truth is the love of Christ overwhelms me. To choose me unto death….no words.
The truth is I love our house, even if the paint is uneven, and there seems to be dog hair everywhere. This is our home where laughter rings in the hallways, where truth is taught and love is lived!
The truth is I have never been more comfortable in the skin I am in. Though I’m overweight, I am confident in my God-given gifts of encouragement and love. I have grown into the roles of wife, mother, daughter, friend, leader and more with an ease and a passion that can come only from God.
The truth is my arms (and heart) will always long for the babies I relinquished in adoption. And that the children we are blessed to parent fill my life with love, laughter, challenges, messes, crafts, games and God.
The truth is God made me to want more. More of Him. And by telling Him He is not enough for me or by trying to fill up with other things I am denying the very thing He made me for. More of Christ.
So, my friends, today as the world entices with big, better, newer, flashier, more, more, more, I pray that you and I look to the sky with open arms and say, “He’s enough for me.”

Wendy Blackwell

Thursday, November 24, 2011


(Because of “technical difficulties” [translated “my ignorance”], I cannot send you the blog from a young friend of mine that I promised.  But it’s a great piece, and as soon as I can figure out this one little hitch, I’ll get it to you.)
I find it very interesting that we go from a season of giving thanks to a season of give me more.  One day we're sitting at a beautifully-set table loaded with food, thanking the Lord for "this our bounty," and the next day--literally--we are out there fighting the crowds for more "bounty"--more stuff on Black Friday.  That is, typically, the biggest shopping day of the year in America.  It is referred to as "Black Friday" because many businesses operate in the "red" (debt) most of the year, and it is not until "Black Friday" that they become profitable (operate in the black).
I've included below something that my favorite co-blogger--my husband--wrote, and I thought it was appropriate because it is his take on Americans and our "stuff."
I am amazed at America!  The financial picture is miserable, and Americans are in horrible financial shape with a gloomy financial forecast, according to the experts and the news media.  If that is true, how do we explain all the STUFF that we own?!
            I remember when I was in grammar school.  My parents purchased our first house with a real garage.  In prior years, our family car had sat out in the yard or the driveway.  But even after we got a garage, the car was not kept in the garage. (Read on to find out what happened to the garage.)
            As I began to grow a little older, still in grammar school, times began to get better, and people began to have a little extra money.  So what do you do when you find you have extra money after the bills are paid?  You find some STUFF  that you’ve been wanting, and you buy it.  People began buying new STUFF and extra STUFF.  Then they needed a place to put the old STUFF because it was “too good to throw away.”!  They didn’t throw anything away because it was still good STUFF, and the adults remembered the tough times of the 30’s and 40’s.
            So—some smart person began manufacturing small metal buildings that you could buy, assemble, and put in your back yard.  It had no flooring—neither concrete nor wood.  You had to stoop over to enter to store your STUFF or retrieve it on the rare occasion that someone wanted to borrow something that you had stored.  You rarely went looking for the STUFF on your own because you had all new STUFF and didn’t need the stored STUFF.  However—you had it whether you needed it or not!
            Then—some genius began manufacturing the little metal storage building with (get this!) flooring!  Plywood!  Now you could store your STUFF and not have it sitting on the dirt.  As time passed, the economy began to boom, and we began buying more and better stuff.  This trend was within the reach of most people because Sears initiated a layaway plan that you could use, or you could buy and buy and continue to buy, using (drum roll!) your very own SEARS CREDIT CARD! 
            But our little backyard storage buildings became too small and not quite good enough for  our good STUFF.  So—another genius began manufacturing (Are you ready for this?)  larger backyard storage buildings that came with (Ta Da!) a floor attached to the building.  This dude was framed out with wood studs like an actual house that we lived in!  It even had, of all things, roofing shingles just like our house as well as a window and a house-style door!
            As I mentioned earlier, I remember the first real garage that our family ever had.  It had a concrete slab, with wood studs, a shingled roof, and double doors on the end where you drove in on the concrete driveway!  Talk about “movin’ on up”!  But guess what!  Our car never—never ever—got parked in that garage.  Guess what was housed in that nice garage.  A metal, twelve-foot fishing boat and outboard gas motor for that boat—plus the rods and reels, tackle boxes and lures, and boat paddles—STUFF! 
            As time passed, kids grew up and got married, moved out, and then there really was money at the end of the month!  Guess what came next!  You got it—more new STUFF  to go inside the house and more good STUFF to go into the garage or the new improved, floored, house-doored, windowed, shingle-roofed outside building in the back yard.
            As we continued to buy more STUFF, the good STUFF that had to be put into the storage building got to be too good and too valuable to be put into the back yard storage building.  Then—yet another genius decided that there was an enormous number of backyard storage buildings in the back yards of America.  Sooooo—this genius decided that there had to be a market for people to store their really good STUFF in a commercial, guarded storage facility.  That’s when we began seeing rental storage buildings springing up near every subdivision. Apartment buildings, condos, and townhouses began springing up faster than rabbits on steroids, and it became even more evident that people needed some place to accommodate all that great STUFF that had to be stored in a better and safer environment. 
            Then—another genius (or maybe it was an older form of the genius that created the commercial storage building in the first place) decided that there had to be a dire need for “Climate-Controlled Storage units” for all that good STUFF that needed to be stored in a heated/cooled space.  After all, this is great STUFF that we will dump pass on to our kids one of these days when we’re dead and gone.  And the kids will probably be grumbling the whole time they’re  having to go through all of our junk great STUFF  because they’ve had to take days off from work for this little chore, and none of this great STUFF is anything that they can/would use in their own lives.    So—much of our great STUFF that we have lovingly preserved for years will find its way to the nearest trash dump!  Appears to me that there’s something just a little wrong with this picture, but it seems to be the “American way.”
            GOD BLESS AMERICA!!  And God bless those natives in the darkest, poorest parts of the world who labor every day for just the basic necessities—no vacations, no coffee breaks, no cruises, no shopping trips, nor the financial means to buy STUFF.  Makes me wonder—are we really better off than they are?!  Hmmmm! 

Saturday, November 19, 2011

But you know--it doesn't even matter.

I, along with many other people, love HGTV—for a variety of reasons.  I’ve always enjoyed the show “House Hunters,” and a year or so ago as I watched a family of five that had outgrown their current home search for a newer, larger house, I had a real “ah-ha moment.”  They were being shown a very large, beautiful home of 3600 square feet, but the mother was bemoaning the fact that there were only three bedrooms and three bathrooms.  This house simply would not do because the children would have to share bedrooms and a bathroom, and the parents did not want that for their children. (I could get on a real soap box here and preach, but I will resist the urge.)
It was the sort of thing that just hit me in the face—such a blatant picture of the attitudes of so many Americans.  We want ALL the stuff, and we don’t want to have to share it!  For some reason, we occasionally have the attitude that we deserve all the stuff or that it’s our birthright to have all the stuff.  Where did that come from?  It’s amusing (and sometimes irritating) on “House Hunters” that young couples looking to buy their first house want the kind of  house and belongings that they are leaving when they move out of  Mom and Dad’s house.  It took Mom and Dad a married lifetime to accrue the things that they have, yet these newlyweds want it all, and they want it now.   They don’t want a “starter home” from which they will work up to a better house later as their parents did.
I’ve heard missionaries talk about living conditions in some foreign countries.  One man, in particular, talked of  ten people who all lived in one apartment that was perhaps 10’x10,’ including a hot plate for a kitchen with no means of refrigeration.  They shared a bathroom down the hall with the residents of three other apartments.  That could mean one bathroom with at least 20-30 other people.  And for most of these people, transportation meant bicycles.  And these were the fortunate people, the well-to-do of the commoners.  Can you imagine what the aforementioned “house hunters” (with five family members) would have said and how they might have reacted if they had been shown that kind of living condition as a possibility for their family?
What would the ten people in the one apartment in a foreign country think of a house that was large enough to contain 36 apartments the size of theirs?  Those ten people would not be able to mentally grasp the fact that only five people would live in that house of 3600 sq. ft.  Plus, the lawns of the homes on “House Hunters” were large and magnificently manicured, often having an in-ground swimming pool.  And, of course, those homes usually had a minimum of a two-car (often three-car) garage because everyone of driving age had his/her vehicle.
As I stated earlier, I’m not saying that any of this is bad, in and of itself, but I think that with Thanksgiving and Christmas coming up, we all need to be more aware of how truly blessed we are and what our responsibility is to others who are in need.  Another reason that I think it is important that we think about the “stuff” in our lives is that sometimes the “stuff” becomes the focus of our lives, and we ourselves may start thinking that the “stuff” is important because it  defines who we are.
Again referring to the book I mentioned in my last blog,  Gracia Burnham’s To Fly Again; Surviving the Tailspins of Life, Mrs. Burnham asks, Who are any of us down deep inside, minus the accessories of modern life?  If some force vacuumed away our many possessions, what would be left? (p. 32) Think about that for a minute.   Minus the newer car, the cell phone (and all the varieties thereof), our nice clothes, our beautiful home and all its decorations, maybe even a beach house or home in the mountains---take away all of that, and what would other people see when they look at us?
Some cultures emphasize the importance of a man’s having a son.  Not to have a son is considered a disgrace.  We (Americans) find that strange, even illogical.  But is it any different from our own penchant for defining ourselves by our wealth, our neighborhood, our zip code, our gold (if not platinum) credit cards, our ethnic heritage, our church affiliation, or our possessions? (p. 33)
The more we center ourselves on our true definition in God’s sight, not the possessions we have been able to gather or the esteem that others have given us, the more stable we will be in good times and bad.  What other people think of us—and the artificial scales on which they rank us—is beside the point.  They can make us neither better nor worse than we already are at our core. (p.37) 
An article in the 9/4/2005 edition of the Shreveport Times quoted a 20-year-old woman who, with her boyfriend, had fled to a Shreveport shelter to get away from Hurricane Katrina:  I never thought we’d be thought of as refugees.  We used to be popular.  We had all the new clothes and new stuff, and now, look.  But you know--it doesn’t even matter.
Indeed, it does not!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011


            I have kept gratitude journals on and off for years, and now I wish that I had been more consistent about it.  This time of the year always makes me aware of how blessed I am in every area of my life, and even though I didn’t join in with those who are so consistent about their lists on Facebook, I love the fact that so many people are daily sharing their blessings with the Facebook world.
            Even though I haven’t had a blog for you in a while, please don’t think that I haven’t been writing because for the last nine or ten months, it seems that I have been made extra aware of how we as Americans have been blessed (overly blessed?)  We have so much “stuff” (for lack of a better word), and that awareness has resulted in a couple of blogs that you will be receiving soon.  My prayer is that we will all see how we have been blessed as far as material things go.  We have so much when so many in the world have nothing or next to nothing.  I think that behooves us to take care of those around us in need.  One of my former students posted something on Facebook recently that caught my attention, and I haven’t been able to get it out of my mind.  It’s a quote by Martin Luther:  God doesn’t need your good works, but your neighbor does.  Hmmm!
            The first Thanksgiving blog is included below.  You will receive a second one entitled “But You Know—It Doesn’t Even Matter” around November 20.  Then on November 23, you will receive a beautiful piece written by a special young friend of mine entitled “Tell Them They Aren’t Enough.”    On November 25 (Black Friday), you will be blessed by my favorite co-writer (my husband) who will share his thoughts on “Stuff.”   I understand all too well that this is a very busy time of the year, but please take just a few minutes to read the blogs as you get them and ask God to teach you what you need to know.    
 Truer  Words  Were  Never  Spoken
I was sitting at a traffic signal, waiting for my light to turn green.  For some strange reason, I started noticing something that had never before caught my attention.  I watched as vehicle after vehicle made a left turn coming onto the street where I was waiting.  That was when I realized that most of those vehicles were relatively new—no old junkers.  Hmmm—very interesting!  This incident happened probably ten or eleven months ago, but from that point on, I was hooked! (I hope that you start noticing, also!)   Every time I am caught by a light now, I watch as the turning vehicles pass by.  I have become more and more amazed, not only by the newness of the vehicles but by the fact that the majority of the drivers are using cell phones at the time I see them. 
So I did a little “research” on the topic.  For those of you who tend to lean a little toward legalism occasionally, I do realize the many flaws in the “test” that I did, but I do think that, as skewed as the test may be, it still proves something about us as Americans.  I threw a poll out on Facebook, asking people to give me three pieces of information:  1) The number of licensed drivers in their household  2) The year that each of their vehicles was made  3) The number of telephones in their house, including cell phones. 
It was a real eye-opener, even to some of the people who responded.  For instance, some had never realized the number of telephones to which their families had access.    Here are the results:  39 households responded, representing 78 licensed drivers and 83 vehicles.   This averages out to each licensed driver having his/her own vehicle.  We can “reason” that out if we wish—talk about why it’s necessary in America for every driver in the household to have his/her own car, but I still think it is a lot higher percentage than most other countries.  54 % of the vehicles were made in the year 2005 or later.  The average year that all the cars were made was 2003, meaning that, on average, we all drive cars that are eight years old or newer.  I’m not saying this is wrong;  hey, we have a 2010 and a 2011 at my house!  I just want us to think about a few things!  The really, really surprising statistic (even to me) was that for 39 households, there were 162 telephones.  That figures out to 4.15 telephones/household. 
To help you see the comparison, let me tell you about a book I recently read.  The title is To Fly Again; Surviving the Tailspins of Life by Gracia Burnham.  She and her husband were missionaries until May, 2001, when they were kidnapped and  held as hostages in a jungle in the Philippines for one year (That’s 12 months; 365 days—in a jungle!!)  She was eventually rescued, but he was shot and killed in the rescue attempt; it was finally determined that he was killed by “friendly fire” (That’s got to be an oxymoron.)  If  you want to read about two people having strong faith in their omnipotent God, this book really is a must-read! 
Some of the statistics in this book are mind-boggling in contrast to the numbers I’ve just given you about America.  According to Mrs. Burnham’s research and data, 80% of the world’s population has never made a telephone call—not one—ever!! (p. 35)  Unbelievable!!   And here in America, we have 4.15 telephones per household.  (If they wouldn’t know what to do with a telephone, imagine their reaction to a computer!) 
She also points out that less than one-fourth of the world’s population sleeps in a bed at night.  (I don’t know about you, but I am thrilled to be in that 1/4!)  Three-fourths sleep in a hammock of some kind…or a mat on a floor…or on a floor with no mat…or on the plain dirt.  She goes on to point out that,  Obviously, even fewer have a bedspread that matches the curtains, or a TV across the bedroom with a remote control to turn it on and off from where they recline.  The belongings that matter to many of us are beyond the comprehension of at least three billion other people on our planet.  (p.33)  (emphasis is mine) 
Our daughter, Kristy, and her daughter, Erin (who is 10), were blessed with the opportunity to go on a mission trip to El Salvador this past summer.  Kristy had been there before, but it was a first for Erin—a real eye-opener because of the desperate living conditions and general poverty of the people there.  Before the mission team had left the United States, Erin (with the help of her mom) had made and sold ribbon bracelets to help pay her way to El Salvador.  She had some of the bracelets left over and took them with her to give to the young girls at one of the schools they visited.     Kristy said that when the little girls saw what Erin was doing, they rushed her, all wanting the little bracelets—made out of ribbon, glue, and the pop-top rings found on canned cold drinks!  They were thrilled with their gifts from America.  I had to wonder what little girls in America would have done/said if they had been given one of the simple little bracelets.
In preparation for the trip, Kristy had gone to one of the local dollar stores and bought several small photo albums with plastic sleeves that would hold 4”x6” cards.  Several women helped her find Scriptures that would be appropriate for evangelism, and then she had someone translate the verses into Spanish to be written on the cards.  The cards were put into the small albums with a few blank pages so that the women could perhaps add their own favorite verses.  Kristy said the experience of giving these little gifts to the locals was amazing and very humbling.  Most of the women cried and were overwhelmed that someone in America had actually taken the time to make something especially for them.  Kristy relates how one woman clutched the book of Scriptures to her heart, teared up, and said, “This is the best gift anyone has ever given me.”
Truer words were never spoken!


Sunday, October 9, 2011


            My blogsite has been up and running for about six months, and I am having a great time with it!  I’ve learned a lot in this time, and one of the things that I’ve learned is that my readers often have a lot to say but no place to say it. Since the publication of my last blog (Bob—the Lizard), I’ve received a couple of comments letting me know that Earl and I aren’t the only incompatible spouses when it comes to working on household projects, and that really helps my feelings a lot.  I’ve heard about some of your memorable Christmas experiences, especially in the “Some Assembly Required” area.  And, yes, as I knew would happen, I have even heard from a couple of people who like lizards.
            During the next couple of months, I would love to include some of your stories in this space.  You may not consider yourself a writer, but that really isn’t necessary for you to be able to share your experiences. I would especially like to hear about your family’s traditions—Thanksgiving, Christmas,  New Years—whatever.  If they are special to you, we will enjoy reading them, so I’m giving you the venue to share those special times.  Send me what you want to share and be sure to tell me if:  (1) you would prefer to be published anonymously.   (2) it’s okay for me to edit if necessary.
            Now, listen---don’t flake out on me!  I have so enjoyed what you’ve written thus far, so let’s get those “cards and letters” (e-mails) coming in!

Monday, September 26, 2011


          My husband and I have rarely worked together (successfully) on projects around the house—for a couple of reasons:  1) He doesn’t always want to “waste time” reading the instructions.  2) I, on the other hand, would read every instruction in the book if it weren’t for the fact that most of the book is in Spanish, French, and some language that I don’t even recognize. (God has such a sense of humor in how He pairs us, doesn’t He?)  Over the years, Earl and I really have tried to work together, but all we would accomplish would be getting into an argument or I would get my feelings hurt, so for the benefit of our marriage, we stopped trying years ago---until recently.
          You’ve probably heard someone say something like, “We live in our kitchen,” meaning that’s where the family gathers and spends the most time.  For us, we “live” in our study. There’s a large desk there, a telephone, a CD player, a laptop for each of us, and quite a few books. (Okay, okay—so most of the books belong to me.  I’ll admit it:  I’ve been a bibliophile all my life—love, love, love books and all the info they provide for me.)  But—I digress!  Our study is not a large room, and since we spend so much time there, it usually has that “lived-in” look.  It’s difficult to keep it under control (if you know what I mean) so that’s been my project for a while now—cleaning, discarding, rearranging, etc.  I ordered a new file cabinet—wood, cherry finish, very pretty—and a book case to match that and the other bookcases in the room.  The only hitch was that they both came in relatively flat boxes—too flat to be the pieces of furniture that I ordered.  You get my drift? 
          Yes—this furniture came unassembled, and I knew that when I placed the order, but we really needed the furniture, and it’s a lot cheaper that way.  So I had ordered our unassembled furniture.  Now—if you read the first paragraph of this blog, you know where I’m headed with this, don’t you? 
          Earl had had a rough day at the office, and I was rather tired myself, so it was not the most opportune time to collaborate on a project.  But my wonderful husband, knowing that I was chomping at the bit to get that new furniture into the study, suggested that we put at least one piece of the furniture together that night.  I have to admit to you that fear struck my heart!  Oh, me of little faith!  How often had we been at this very same kind of juncture, and it hadn’t turned out well?  But I said a quick prayer, and we began—by looking at the instructions?  What?  I wanted to put my hand on his forehead to check for fever but thought that might be misconstrued as a little tacky, so I resisted the urge, and we began.  I couldn’t believe it:  we were so focused!  And, fortunately, the instructions were pictures!  We worked slowly, consistently for probably 40 or 45 minutes with great success.  The frame of the bookcase had gone together rather easily even though it must have had a bazillion little nails and screws.  We did not have to un-do and re-do one single thing.  That is a record for us!
          Then it happened.  Earl heard a noise outside, and, being the kind of person who just can’t miss anything even a little out of  the ordinary, he opened the front door and stepped out onto the front porch,  leaving the door ajar about 8-10 inches.  Now, mind you, I’m still sitting on the floor with the book case when I notice movement on the top edge of the door.  Only when I hear a light thump on the carpet beside the door do I realize that a lizard had ridden in on the top of the door only to plunge over the door to the floor and, I hoped, to his death.  No such luck! (My apologies to all you critter-lovers!)
          I yelled for Earl as the lizard skittered to the corner of the room (not far from me!) behind a large piece of furniture, but I was keeping an eye on that little rascal.  Earl instructed me to get the broom, hoping that he could catch the little green guy down in the bristles of the broom long enough to get him out the front door.  Long story short—we chased that poor critter back and forth into the corner, out of the corner, back into the corner, etc. for at least three or four minutes.  That may not sound like a long time, but let me assure you it can be if you and the lizard are both scared silly.  Somehow or the other, Earl finally got the critter close enough to the door to sweep him out, and as he did, we discovered that during the scuffle, the lizard had been de-tailed.  And I don’t mean like you have your car “detailed”; I mean--he lost his tail.  Of course, Earl couldn’t resist the temptation for a little humor (very little humor):  he had to give the green critter a name.  He said that since the poor little guy ended up with a bobbed tail, he should be given the name Bob---Bob, the lizard.  Personally, I didn’t care what he was called as long as I could call him gone! 
          Needless to say, we had lost our focus on the bookcase, and, unfortunately, in all the running around that Bob and I were doing, the instructions had disappeared.  Earl and I looked all over the living room, to no avail.  Since we had only the five shelves left to install, Earl figured we could handle that easily—“no problem.”  Again—fear struck my heart!  Things had been going so well until Bob, but now-- well, I didn’t even want to think about it.  Long story short—it took us longer to install “just five shelves” than it did to put the entire frame of the case together.  Even the simplest things were botched.  For example, when we finally got the first shelf in and stood back to admire our work, we realized that we had put the shelf in backward.  The finished edge of the shelf was toward the back of the case, and the edge that faced out (and would be seen) was raw and unfinished--our first (and only) un-do and re-do.  We finally finished the bookcase in two hours and 15 minutes—not including the time for the scuffle with Bob. 
          Have you ever noticed that life is a lot like that?  Everything will be going along  great--(suspiciously) easy—so easy, in fact, that you might get just a little paranoid, wondering when the “other shoe will drop,” so to speak.  Then along comes a “Bob” that totally upends everything, and you struggle with all that’s within you to get things back under control.   Even when you finally start to see that the chaos is ebbing, things may still be difficult.  It can be so irritating, and it is such a temptation to lose your temper over whatever “Bob” has happened that caused you to lose control.  One of the really neat things that I learned from having cancer is that very few of the “Bobs” that happen in our lives are really worth the irritation, the aggravation, and the agitation that we allow to tie us in knots and probably ruin our day.  Don’t let a little “Bob” steal your happiness!  When a “Bob” happens, just remind yourself that it isn’t cancer and that “This, too, shall pass.”   
I must tell you that the bookcase looks beautiful in the study and is being put to good use.  However, if you were to visit us today, you would see a large, heavy box (with a picture of a wooden, cherry filing cabinet on the side) still on the living room floor where the UPS man left it—a couple of months ago.  I just haven’t had the nerve to point that out to my husband!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

She Still Can't Read

            Our youngest grandchild, five-year old Catherine, had watched over the past couple of years as her mother had daily prepared and packed a school lunch for Catherine’s older sister, Madeleine.  At long last, Catherine was about to start K-5; she would wear a uniform like the “big kids,” and she was getting a brand-new backpack and a wonderful, new lunch box.  Finally, the day arrived when the new backpack and the lunch box were delivered for her as well as for Madeleine. Mom (Lori) had the backpacks and the lunch boxes monogrammed, both in cursive writing because Catherine had insisted that hers be in cursive just like her big sister Madeleine’s.   Catherine was so excited that she insisted on packing her own lunch box (and her mom agreed) even though it was still three or four weeks until school would actually start.  Needless to say, after a couple of days, the lunch box had to be emptied and cleaned in preparation for the day that it would really be time to pack a lunch.
            The night before Catherine’s first day of school, she informed her dad that she would pack her own lunch.  Since the requested sandwich for the day was PB&J, Dad (Michael) offered to help by fixing the sandwich, and then she could put everything into her lunch box.  The next morning, they arrived at school and before they got out of the car, Catherine had one more request of her mother:  write a note to be put into her lunch box.  You see, Catherine had often watched as her mother wrote a sweet I-love-you;-have-a-great-day kind of note to be put into Madeleine’s lunch box.  And just to be sure that her mother did it right, Catherine dictated the note for her mother to write. Oh, and, of course, she wanted it written in cursive. We figured that she did that so that at lunch she could “read” (from memory) to her friends the note her mom had written.
            Eager to find out how their first day had gone, Lori was at school at 3:00 sharp to pick up the girls.  Catherine was not nearly as excited as her mother had thought she would be, but she rattled off a few things about her day when her mother inquired.  Then, looking a little irritated, she said, “But I still can’t read!”  Obviously, her first day of school had not quite lived up to her expectations.  Not only had she expected to learn to read on her first day, she had expected to learn to read (cursive)--by lunchtime!  That’s why she had requested the lunchbox note be written in cursive.  Whereas we had thought that at lunch, she would “read” (from memory) the note from her mom, she had thought that she would actually be able to read the note (in cursive!) from her mom. 
Poor Catherine--the first of many expectations in her life to be shot down, and she was not a happy camper about it!  She didn’t realize that there was so much to learn before she could read cursive writing, so many skills she had to master; all she knew was that she wanted to be able to read cursive now!  She reminded me so much of her Aunt Kristy (our other daughter) who, as a young child, didn’t want to learn to do anything (like roller skate); she wanted to just already know how to do everything.  It was a real challenge to explain to her that things don’t just automatically happen; she would need to be patient and keep working on her skills.  (Even though she has improved greatly, patience is still not one of her strong points---but her mother loves her anyway.)
            We can probably all relate to Catherine’s dilemma—expecting something to turn out better than it does, not getting the raise that we deserved and asked for, praying for a specific outcome in a health situation and not getting it--so many other expectations in our lives shot down.  At some time or another, God must surely look at each of us as a little “Catherine” or a little “Kristy,” not wanting to wait but wanting to have our wishes fulfilled yesterday.  He must look at us sometimes and think, “You’re not ready for that; you’ve still got some growing to do” or “There are so many things you must learn before you can advance to what you’re really wanting to do” or “That’s not what I want for you; what I have for you is so much better” or “I know you don’t understand now, but this will work for good” or “You’ve got to learn to be more patient.”   
For me, personally, sometimes it comes down to one little word—Faith.  Do I really, truly, completely trust God in every area of my life?  I have had a little sign on my desk for quite some time.  Based on Matthew 9:29, the sign reads, “Whatever your faith says God is, He will be.”  I’m a little slow sometimes figuring things out, but I finally realized that what that sign means is that sometimes I hinder God from doing what He wants to do for me because of my lack of faith.   Shame on me!  

Monday, August 29, 2011


After reading the blog that I wrote about our 45th wedding anniversary Saturday, Earl, my husband, said that he also had a few things to say about our “younger years,” so today I have a Guest Blogger—my sweetie, the one and only William Earl Timmons.
            It is truly a miracle that we have celebrated our 45th wedding anniversary--as Sandra and others have stated.  (And, yes, I am truly convinced that God DOES have a sense of humor.)  I believe that the Bible verse goes something like:  “Blessed are they who wait upon the Lord.”  In my awkward (among many other words I could use) way, I have waited and have been truly blessed with a sweet marriage, a wonderful lady to call my wife, lover, and best friend.  She has been my wife and lover for 45 years and has become my best friend.  I have also been blessed with a great family—two daughters that I dearly love who are both Godly women and great mothers of our four cherished grandchildren; two great sons-in-law; and a dog.  I really came to realize the fullness of my being blessed after Sandra was diagnosed with cancer.  I thank God regularly for the sweet marriage and relationship that my sweetheart and I now have.
            Now—how about THE NIGHT I RAN?  When Sandra and I were still working out being newlyweds, having the rough edges knocked off so that we could one day enjoy 45 years, we lived in Lake Charles, LA, and I was teaching school.  One night during that time, Sandra and I were having one of many spats, and I got tired of the fussing, verbal fighting, and decided that I had had enough.  I WALKED OUT one night!  Literally!  I WAS LEAVING, AND I DID!  After all, I was a college graduate, knocking down college-graduate money (teaching school in La!)  As a single college graduate, I could have a lot of females literally chasing  me.  I would not have to be fussing and fighting all the time.  I could live in the fast lane.  I could be my own man!  YEAH!  Well, just as I was thinking that, it didn’t take long:  I had my first female chasing me, and I was only a few blocks from the house, and it was at night!  Just as I had pictured it!  However, that female was a female SKUNK with babies.  I can assure you that she did not have love on her mind!  She was, without a doubt, chasing me, but I was running away. 
            After  my first female had stopped chasing me, I realized that I was a number of blocks away from our house—on foot!  I was leaving ON FOOT!  I realized that being on foot was not the best way to find women, and with the salary that I was making, I definitely could not move into a cool bachelor’s pad, nor could I afford a car note.  Even if I were to end up with the car that we had, it was not exactly a suave bachelor’s ride.  It was a tan, four-door sedan NASH  RAMBLER!  Not even a HARDTOP!
            Well, I came to my senses and WALKED back home, tired and sweaty.  I did what I should have done before I left (and had my first female chase me).  I came back to my bride, apologized, and hoped that she would again start being my sweetheart--Nash Rambler, and all.  I am so grateful; she did just that then and many, many more times.  I guess it just goes to prove that if God put us together, He can give us 45 years and, hopefully, many more that will continue to be even sweeter than the past 45 years.
The Blessed Skunk Runner

Saturday, August 27, 2011


            Forty-five years ago today, August 27, 1966, God began working a miracle that would someday prove what a sense of humor God has.  You could not find two people who were more opposite in every way than Sandra Groves and Earl Timmons, yet God brought them together to be married on that day.  He must have been looking down from Heaven chuckling, knowing how naïve we both were about all we would have to battle because of our differences.  In fact, we were so different that as we stood in the receiving line after the wedding, a family friend of many years came by to congratulate us; he looked at us, shook his head, and said (and I quote!), “It will never last.”  He knew us well!  Needless to say, we called him on our 25th anniversary to inform him that, so far, he was wrong!
People often are curious about how I ended up marrying Earl, and I tell them that I was just “young and dumb.”  In fact, we were both too young and dumb to be getting married, especially by today’s standards:  I was 19 ½ , and he was an “older guy”—21 ½ .  Very often, we have been asked how we have made it work, and while I would love to give a deeply spiritual answer, the only honest thing that I can say is that we were both too stubborn to admit defeat. 
Besides, my dad, even though he loved me, told me that once I was married, I wouldn’t be living at his house again:  when there were differences between Earl and me, we were to work them out.  And we have!  I now understand why numerous people gave us the Scripture Ephesians 4:26 as advice on how to keep a marriage going.  …let not the sun go down upon your wrath.  Earl likes to tell people that sometimes we have stayed up for days without sleep just to keep that Scripture true.
I would love to say that it has been a wonderful 45-year run with no problems.  First of all, you would know that I was lying, and, second, I would be denying the many miracles God has done for us and through us.  There have been some tough times—some really tough times;  but we have hung on and survived.   Many years later in retrospect, I know that if we had realized 45 years ago that we had so many things going against us, we probably wouldn’t have gotten married.   What a horrible thought!  Thank you, God, for my ignorance at that age.   I can’t imagine my life without William Earl Timmons!  I am a very blessed woman! 

Sunday, August 7, 2011


            Not that it’s a tasty temptation, but have you ever felt as if you could eat concrete?  Okay—this is where I’m coming from:  what kind of eater are you?  Authorities tell us that the reason some of us constantly fight an extra 10-20 pounds is that we are emotional eaters.   Some of us eat when we’re sad (or happy); others eat when we’re hungry (or not hungry); some eat when we’re angry (or at peace); some eat when we just see food (or if we have to go looking for it).  I consider myself an “equal opportunities eater”; I eat for ALL the above reasons.   Understand?  I’ve always known that I can be an emotional eater—to a certain extent; it’s never been a huge deal with me.  Even those times that I might splurge in the eating department, it was always in the back of my mind that I would have to fast for a day or two afterward to make up for the splurge. 

            However, I had an experience recently in which I saw myself in a totally different light.  It had been a very stressful few weeks around our house; Earl and I had both had things going on that were driving us both a little bonkers.  Then one Friday morning when Earl didn’t have to go to the office, it all came to a head, and we knew that we had to spend a few hours away from each other.  We weren’t angry at each other—just tired of the stress and frustration.  So he took off for one of his famous (infamous?) “ride-abouts.”  And I headed for the grocery store (Just a word to the wise—don’t go to the grocery store when you’re really stressed).  But I had a group of women coming to the house the next day for a work-retreat, and I needed to buy food for that.  Hence, the trip to the store!

            I’ve been stressed before in my life (more than once!), but this was the grandmother of them all!  I was so stressed that I was jittery, and by the time I got into the store, I truly felt as if I could chew a chunk of concrete!!  I just needed to eat—not fruit or the good stuff; I wanted JUNK!!  Unfortunately (Fortunately ?), I had to go down the cookie aisle, and that’s when I saw it:  that beautiful, round can from Pepperidge Farm.  Have you ever eaten their Crème Filled Pirouette Rolled Wafers with chocolate hazelnut?!!  Oh—my—goodness!  So decadent!  I buy them maybe twice a year because: (a) they’re pure sugar  (b) they’re so expensive.  But I couldn’t help myself; after all, I had women coming to my house the next day, and we would need a little something sweet, wouldn’t we?  That beautiful, round can just hopped right into my basket, and it was truly all I could do not to rip the top off and shove two or three of those cute, little pirouettes into my mouth!  (I know you’ve never felt like that!)   My next sin came on the ice cream aisle.  My husband is diabetic, so we rarely splurge on ice cream, but we had had such a rough couple of weeks that we really deserved a treat, didn’t we?  After all, he could be careful in other areas of his diet for  a few days to make up for the ice cream; so I bought each of us a pint of our favorite Blue Bell—Moollenium for him and Cookies and Cream for me. 

            As I raced to the front of the store to check out, thoughts of what to have for lunch were zipping through my mind.  Earl wouldn’t be home for lunch as he usually is, so I would be eating alone.  Aha!  Hamburger and French fries.  I could practically hear them calling my name!  Back in the car and headed for home with a slight detour to visit my favorite hamburger joint, I was almost salivating!  And the strangest thing happened:  the minute that big, pointed, orange and white striped roof of my favorite hamburger place came into view, I could actually feel myself calm down just a bit.  That’s when I started to realize how I was behaving and to feel a little ashamed of myself---but not ashamed enough to change my plans.  I got my order, nibbled on the fries all the way home, and when I got there, I immediately began eating.  Oh, my goodness—it tasted SO good!  Then, to top off the entrée, I scarfed down the entire pint of ice cream that I had bought for myself.  Wow! 

            Later in the day as I thought about my morning’s misadventures, it hit me:  when (if ever) had I been that hungry for God?  I think that question came to me because I had just gotten the book Just Give Me Jesus by Anne Graham Lotz and was convicted that I have too much “stuff,”  too much activity in my life and not nearly enough Jesus.  As I have “matured” (in age), I have noticed that I desire more than ever to know God better so that others can see something in me that would point them to Him.  But have I ever been as hungry for God as I was for food that morning?  Hmm.  I don’t think so.  Shame on me! 

Matthew 5:6—(part of  the Sermon on the Mount when Jesus was teaching His disciples)—Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they will be filled. 

Luke 6:21a—(part of the Beatitudes when Jesus was teaching His disciples)—Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied.