Rearranging Deck Chairs on the Titanic

As a Christian, I was never taught it, but somehow I came to believe that God would never ask certain things of me. I assumed the Lord and I had an agreement worked out. For instance, I felt I could handle losing all my money, so if there was going to be a trial in my life, then the Lord knew that was a good one for me. It was a little game I had going with him. Lord, this trial is okay, but never THIS ONE (fill in the blank with your greatest fear).

Because of my assumed agreement with the Lord, when trial did come, as much as I should have seen it coming, I refused to believe the Lord would allow it to happen. I believed He would swoop in at some point and save the day. And He is certainly capable of that. So, as my ship was sinking, well, I was rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.

I am assuming that I’m not alone here, Christian or not. I am assuming that most of us, whether we trust Jesus as Savior, or believe that humanity’s collective consciousness is God, we all are pretty much going to do the same when suffering comes knocking–duck our heads into the sand until we are forced to accept the circumstances.

Every step of my trial was one where I prayed that God would step in and change the outcome. He did not. And, here’s what I tell people now. I don’t want another trial, but I wouldn’t have missed this one for the world.

Here’s why.

1. I found out that God is faithful to get you through it, even if he chooses not to get you out of it.

2. I found out that while the ship is sinking, God is so very present in your life its as though you could touch him physically.

3. I found out that God will help you rearrange the deck chairs if that is what you need.

All the things I was taught as a Christian, that God is faithful to us, that he never abandons us, and that we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us, well, I found out that all of that is true.

Once, in the middle of my big mess, my oldest son was home for Christmas. We had just picked him up at the airport, and he was expecting the holiday traditions he loved. We were going to decorate the tree first thing to get the festivities going, and I had everything ready to do it, but we couldn’t find my husband. When I did find him, he was in his office emailing his girlfriend, who he would later leave me for. I went into the bathroom, shut the door, and sat down. I said, “Lord, you promised you’d be here. Period. In your word, you promise you will be with us in every situation. I need you here now.”

No bright light shone into the bathroom. I didn’t see the Lord visibly (though many have). My husband didn’t end his conversation with his girlfriend or she with him. He eventually left for her and she left her husband for him. But, I came out of that bathroom able to cope, to make Christmas what it is, a celebration of Jesus’ birth. I came out filled with joy that Christ was born.

What grace.

I no longer assume that I am exempt from any trial. Instead, I know that when trial comes the Lord will be there helping me to rearrange my deck chairs until I am ready to let the ship go down.


Starbucks, Getting Rich, Good Deeds, and Dirty Ovens

Green logo used from 1987-2010, still being us...

Green logo used from 1987-2010, still being used as a secondary logo. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I have a friend who is very rich. She once said to me, “If people wouldn’t spend 5 dollars for a Starbucks coffee everyday, maybe they wouldn’t be so broke.”

Well, there you have it. The answer to welfare.

So, I think of her when I stop at Ingles’ grocery store after work, and get my daily Starbucks iced tea. A large–very large, the largest one you have please, (I generally point to the plastic cup I want)–with a little sweetener and a little lemonade.

Now, here’s where it gets wonky. I get the exact same size iced tea every day, made the exact same way. I mean Starbucks majors on that, right?  Yet, in one year of visiting this Starbucks, I have never paid the same dollar amount for my tea. It ranges in price from $4.32 (what I think it actually costs) to $2.32. Sometimes it is $3.32. I never know. Mr. Starbucks Man/CEO are you reading this? Because here’s what I’m thinking. While my friend assumes I’d be so much richer if I didn’t waste money on my daily Starbucks, I’m figuring Starbucks would be much richer if they charged the right amount for their tea, consistently (whatever that is).

But, I’m glad they don’t. That would be so boring.

Okay. On to good deeds. I did two today. One involved money. I have no idea what my rich friend would say about me giving money to a single mother who is pregnant again, and dying for some ice cream.  If they wouldn’t waste their money on ice cream?  Who knows? My rich friend is on a cruise in the Greek Isles at the moment, where the temperatures are getting close to 100 degrees, so I imagine she is throwing down some cash on her own ice cream (or iced latte).

My other good deed did not involve money. It involved me withholding judgement. It was the harder one of the two, especially since the single mom inspired me to my own Rocky Road experience, so that good deed didn’t feel too hard.

The reason for all this good deeding on my part is church. The pastor keeps yammering on doing them and so finally, I thought, what the heck I’ll a good deed a try. I will admit to feeling like the Lord should reward me “just a tiny bit.” He did not. Here’s what I got for my good deeds.

After being oh so noble, and helping others or withholding judgment, I decided to cook for my evening meal. For the enormity of that statement, read this. I roasted vegetables that I bought at Ingles’, right after purchasing my Starbucks tea (today’s cost: $3.32). I put them in my 350 degrees oven, grabbed a quick shower, feeling amazingly organized, and then when I reached in the oven to pull them out, I flipped over the roasting pan, and well, potatoes, zucchini, squash, kale, all ended lying in a olive oil heap on the bottom of the oven, smoldering.

At least there was no fire.

I considered eating them, anyway. When was the oven last cleaned? I couldn’t remember if it had ever been cleaned. Wouldn’t that just make them char-grilled? Then, I remembered my good deeds. Hey what happened to that? Where’s my reward? On the bottom of my dirty oven, that’s where.

So, instead, I had Rocky Road ice cream for supper with my Starbucks tea. I am poorer to the tune of $3.32 for the tea, but I am not sitting in 100 degree temps, and somewhere there is a single, pregnant mom eating Rocky Road ice cream with her six-year old daughter who likes Belle from Beauty and the Beast. My granddaughter likes her too.

Sometimes All You Can Do Is Lay On The Floor (epic failure)

I work hard, as in I never stop working. Literally. I work 7 days a week, and I start at 7 a.m. and finish up around midnight.

There are several reasons for that.

1. I can. I have no family or husband or lots of friends (I just moved) or a church or any organization I belong to. I truly have no other requirement of my time. So, work gets it.

2. I am on a steep learning curve. At 54 (that’s me) most people are pros at their jobs. They’re now the consultants. I am just starting my career as a horticulturalist and so, the learning curve is large. I have a lot of catching up to do.

3. It feels good. It gives me something to do. When I come home in the evening, I come home to an empty house. I could watch tv or work. I work. (Side note: the tv is currently broken so that makes the decision to work even more obvious.)

4. I am terrified I won’t be able to work in five years, or ten years or however many years. I know 60 is the new 40, and I am in good shape (well, all things considered), but I do know that 50 hit hard and it hasn’t stopped hitting. I don’t know if I’ll be able to work five years from now. Who knows what state of health I’ll be in? I know that sounds all grim, and like I have no control over my health, but seriously, aging is not for sissies, and you do gain a new respect for what your body can and cannot do. With that knowledge, I work hard now.

5. Money is a necessity for all of us and I am no exception.

But there is also this:

I want to succeed at something. I have had some epic fails in my life and honestly, I hate that word, but it fits here. (The hashtag phenomena has ruined some perfectly good words.) So, now I have this over-arching desire to succeed at ANYTHING. But mostly, I want to look back at my career and say, I did good.

Okay. So, no big news there. People want to succeed in life. But here’s the clincher.

I want to succeed to make up for the epic fails. Oh, that takes a turn, doesn’t it? Let’s follow that path and see where we get.

Here’s how I learned this tidbit about myself. This morning I did on-line church. The Pastor’s sermon was about finishing the race strong (the journey of faith in Christ, he meant, for my non-believing beloveds). My reaction to his sermon was an over-reaction in the biggest (can I say epic?) way. I wanted to call the man up, and scream at him, “What the heck do you think I’m doing over here?” I wanted to murder the man. I wanted him hung in the town square and spit on by passersby. It seemed he was saying, “Cinthia, you aren’t doing enough.” I jumped up, off my couch, and screamed at my IPAD, “For pete’s sake, what else do you want me to do?”

Then, I laid flat out on the floor because for me, my posture before God helps me to hear God better when I pray. I told God, “That man is MEAN. Strike him down hard, Lord. He is hateful and MEAN.” (I can be bossy with my prayers.)

And, here’s what God said. Nothing.

And, here’s what happened. My soul was restored, renewed, comforted, and quieted. And, in that quiet Sunday space, I realized why I was really working so hard. I was ashamed of the epic failures.

In my quest to succeed at the next thing I was doing (work vs. marriage and family), I hadn’t dealt with the failures. Or rather, I hadn’t taken them to God to deal with. Sometimes, all you can do is lay on the floor, and scream. And, that’s a good thing.

Final side note: I did apologize to God about the mean preacher man. 🙂

Old Woman With Her Butt in the Air=Dog Pose

I glanced in the mirror to see how I looked doing dog pose. Well, let’s just say that Mariel Hemingway can keep her job as poster girl for yoga. But it felt like I was SO IN THE POSE. You know how you’re walking down the street and you’re thinking, wow, I look good today. You’ve got on your adorable, new brown sandals (they are brown in this scenario because I did just buy a cute, new, brown pair–picture to come), and you’re wearing your skinny jeans and then, bam, you see yourself in the window of a building and you’re kinda shocked because, when the heck did you get that old?? Or that fat?? Or that whatever? That ever happen to you?

After glancing at myself in the mirror at Cindy’s studio–which, correct me if I’m wrong, but I swear the place is all mirrors–I wanted to crawl under a rock. I know Cindy, my yoga teacher, would say to thank my body for supporting me in the pose, heck, for supporting me period. She’d say to do the pose my body will do. That it isn’t a competition, and so forth. She’s fairly guru about the whole yoga thing–and I’m fairly North Carolina and Southern–but she is sincere, so I stay and try to focus, and try not think about how I look like an old woman with her butt in the air.

The rest of the class did not go well.

Anyway, I drove home determined never to do yoga again, never to go to a yoga class again, and to become an old lady who lives in her garden clothes, and never cleans the dirt out from under her fingernails. Okay, so that is actually me already. I was going to embrace me, how’s that?

But then my dog, Platypus (Platy for short) got up to greet me, doing his dog pose first to get the kinks out. I watched him stretching his front paws out, his butt up in the air, and he looked so happy, and because he’s two feet tall and four feet long, his dog pose is a looooonnnnngggg pose.

So, I kicked off my new brown sandals, and did dog pose on my kitchen porch. Here’s what I have to say about dog pose when you’re not glancing in a mirror to see if you’re Mariel Hemingway’s new buddy. DANG I LOVE DOG POSE. It feels so darn good. I pushed up through my arms, stretching my back upward–really getting my butt up there–standing on my tip toes and then, when I had stretched up as far as I could go, I put my heels down. It was amazing. I stayed there for almost five minutes playing with the pose while Platy ran under me, sniffed my nose, licked my ankles and generally went nuts because he wanted petting.

I told him, “Give me a minute Plat dog, I’m doing dog pose, buddy.”

I know if I had glanced in a mirror again, I would have seen an old lady with her butt up in the air, but I didn’t care. My body was supporting me, and I was treating it with care. I’m getting a little weepy thinking about it so I’ll end here.

Everything is Okay (until it’s not)

Everyday, I bring my thoughts back to one point. What is my life? And, how do I live it? Of course, like everyone, I see myself as something special, i.e. I am always anticipating my life to change and suddenly be spectacular. Like, before I know it, I will be making be-coups of money. Or, I’ll wake up skinny. Or I’ll go on a missions trip, and save the world, and people will write books about my life. Or, maybe I’ll just travel in the South of France. Although, my friend, Kristi, says it is horrible there, so maybe not. But you get the picture.

I wonder sometimes, if this hovering idea that my life will take a sudden change for the dramatically fantastic, is simply hope. All of us work,  dream, hope, for the betterment of our lives, and if we have them, our children’s lives. So, perhaps that’s all it is. But, I have a feeling it borders more on the delusional.

Well, that gives us something to ponder.

My faith, through the words of Scripture, tell me to learn contentment in all circumstances. Notice, oh ye skeptics, that it does not say I cannot improve my circumstances. It simply says that learning contentment is great gain. Whether in need or in plenty, learning to be satisfied is good. Here’s the thing: life can turn on a dime. So, even if I did have a suddenly spectacular life, how long do I keep it? There’s the rub. There are so many things we don’t have control over, and when those things rear their heads, there isn’t always a fix. This is the part where we examine what life looks like now, and live that. We might look for our new lives among the rubble, but where else are you going to look?

So, back to the first thing I said. This is the life I’ve been given. How do I live it? You can argue with the word given because sometimes we are living the life we got ourselves into, or the life someone else devastatingly left us with, or the life we felt we had no choice about due to poverty or ignorant parents or whatever. And, all of that mixed up together in a bag and tossed around like salad is true. But, it doesn’t change the fact that you still have to live the life you have each day. Regardless of how you got it.

Okay, you’re getting the point. I don’t need to go on. The life you have is the only life you can live. So live that one well, until it changes. And, it will change. Then live the new life well.

I heard a guy sing a song he wrote the other night titled, “Everything’s okay, until its not.”  Not, “Everything’s okay until its better.” The not better is far more likely than the better. So enjoy the better before its not.

You’re Just the Prettiest Thing

Angelina jolie

Angelina jolie (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

People are always telling each other how pretty they look or how beautiful they are in that outfit, etc. Well, men don’t normally go around saying things like that, but women do that a lot.

And, here’s what I wonder. Really?

I hate to say it, but most of America is not attractive, and I am including myself here. My son and I were people watching the other day and well, it was not a pretty sight. There wasn’t one person I’d have walked up too and gone on and on about how good they looked. Not one. (We were on the streets of Brevard, not a metropolis, but very busy-tourist in the summer time.)

So, that got me to thinking. When we say things like that to one another (and I am the worst for it), are we sincere? Are we just talking and not thinking about it, like on auto pilot? Because I can hear myself saying that right now. Do I mean it?

Well, yes, I do. That’s when it hit me. We walk around with veils over our eyes. Veils of love, like, admiration, respect, joy, laughter, you name it. We do mean it when we say that because when we see a person we see THEM, not just what they look like. Some of the people in my life that I deem the prettiest would not win any beauty contest, yet to my eyes, they could. We’re seeing the light in their eyes, the laughter in their hearts. And, thank God for it because after my day of people-watching, I am like WOW NELLY.

But, it continues (I know, I know). We see ourselves as attractive too. Even if, we know that technically we are not Angelina Jolie or whomever fits our bill of prettiness. Even if we are super aware of our flaws (bow-legged, thank you) or our short-comings (shortest one in my family), we are able to look past all the aging, and awkwardness that our looks can sometimes bring us and believe that actually, we’re not that bad. And, what a blessing, because if we believed the media we’d all stay home and never show our faces.

So, then I started thinking even more (yep, she never stops). What if our ability to see into someone’s heart and see them and not the flesh and blood they walk around in, is a glimpse of heaven? What if we’re seeing what that person will look like in eternity? I mean, Scripture says we will have resurrected and perfect bodies. So, what if those perfect bodies are what we see now through the eyes of love?

How cool is that people?

Rainbows, Boring Days, and Women’s Roles in Church

I am feeling particularly healthy after last night’s sad tale of a meal. Today I ate a pint of blueberries and a bag of low-sodium almonds. And, I had a Starbucks tea with only a little sugar, and a little lemonade. I feel a Blizzard coming on after such a healthy day.

It was a rather uneventful day. I went to church. It was boring. But, I’ve already noted my thoughts on church, so I won’t get too far into that now. We’ll just leave it with boring. And no women served in any position AT ALL.  I was going to leave that comment out of this post, but well, here I go. So, what’s up with that? I mean what century are we in? Listen, I’m not all about women being pastors, mainly because I never felt called to be one. So, in typical Cinthia fashion, if it doesn’t affect me then I just can’t get interested.

But, come on. I mean a church full of suits running the show? There were no women greeters, no women taking up the offering, no women handing out the programs, nothing. I have to admit I got out my Windows phone out, and checked my hair dresser’s facebook status to see if she is headed back to work anytime soon. She just had a baby, and I am dying over here. Turns out she was in church having her little one baptized. I am thinking my hair was not on her mind.

Then I ran through my Twitter feed to see if anything interesting was going there. There wasn’t. Then, I decided that I was sitting in church, I should listen. But, I got distracted by the lady in front of me whose hair really looked good, and I considered texting Anna about my hair. Scoff if you like, but Anna would have understood and likely responded back if she had not been dealing with a toddler and an infant in church. And, probably tons of family who came for the baptism. See why she’s my hairstylist? She gets it.

And, if you’ve made it this far into this post, then congratulations, because really, how random can you get? This is why I love blogging. Nobody would publish this mind-numbing diatribe, but here it is posted on the internet for all the world to read.

So, onto the whole women in the pulpit thing. I realize that Scripture does not sway too much in the direction of women preachers, and I am a Scripture girl, but I also know that several people I respect (Anne Graham Lotz) and my friend, Karen, who is now a pastor, have studied the Scriptures and determined that Scripture supports women in that role. So, I’m going with them on this one. And, I like seeing women in leadership roles at church. It makes me happy. All those men in gray, drab suits put me to sleep. They look like they belong in the mafia.

I felt like I was ten years old again watching the men in my home church pass along the offering plates, open the doors at the end of the service, shake hands all around and generally run things. I didn’t like it at age 10, and I don’t like it now. It isn’t because I have an issue with men. I don’t. I just prefer to see church all mixed up. Women, children, men, people of all persuasions and race. Church should be a big rainbow of people, not men in gray suits. At least, that is my version of happy church.  I like it when we’re all worshiping together equally. This place felt like a man’s club that allowed the women in for this one day out of the week and we best behave while there. I found myself whispering to the other women.

I really do believe that every denomination has it a bit right, and every denomination has it a bit wrong. The church I attended today, I believe, has it a bit wrong on the issue of women in church roles. They did, however, nail the music.

And, in the spirit of oneness–no names regarding which church it is.

Squirt of Ketchup Anyone?

A box of Cheerios breakfast cereal.

A box of Cheerios breakfast cereal. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Here’s what I had for dinner tonight: a few handfuls of stale Cheerios out of the box, a couple of olives out of the jar, and a couple of squirts of chocolate sundae syrup from Nabisco’s’ new no-mess squirt container. I topped it off with a glass of OJ, no pulp. My talent for whipping up a meal knows no bounds.

I did study the refrigerator to see if there was something palatable for dinner. Here’s what I found: 3 Coronas and an old, dried up lime, a cored pineapple in a round, plastic container that was molding in its juice, an assortment of dried up breads, and some romaine lettuce–the kind you can grill, which I really want to try, but do not own a grill.

Now you see why I stalk this woman’s blog, Everyday Occasions. I want her to make avocado and tomato flowers for me, too.

Remember the new pope recently saying that it should be a criminal offense for people to throw away food? Well, that is one crime I am not committing. Wonder what he had for dinner?

Here’s the deal. I live alone. Well, the 19 year old lives with me, but he’s never here, and he always eats with his girlfriend’s family. Which sometimes I handle very well. Other times, not so well. I secretly think he prefers eating with them because they’re still a family, and at least he gets to be part of their family since his family is kaput. And, even though everyone says you’re still a family when you get a divorce, here’s what I have to say about that. They don’t know what they’re talking about.

But mostly, I am just glad the 19 year old is eating somewhere, and I don’t have to cook.

My friend, Kristi, is a vegan. A very serious vegan. She knows things about food you do not want to know. It is horrifying. If I told you, you’d never eat again, and you’d have nightmares for weeks. I’ll spare you. But on my new journey to somewhere (I don’t know where yet), I imagine myself a vegan. Because it makes me skinny. And, because I really don’t like meat anymore. When I eat it, I just feel like ICK.

So, I picture myself all healthy and bright-eyed because I eat this strictly vegan diet, and I am really, really smart about the whole thing. Like I know why I am not eating soy. Which I thought was healthy for you until Kristi said no, it is  not, but I have already forgotten why, though she was quite eloquent on the subject.

So, I see myself eating vegan, and being divorced, and moving forward in my life (which in my picture is pretty glamorous), and everyone being secretly jealous of me because I’m vegan and skinny, and don’t have to cook for a husband who only eats meat and starches. Or, worse, I’m not cooking for a husband with high cholesterol. Try to figure out something healthy that guy will eat, right?

So, I know what you’re thinking, WELL THEN DO IT. I tried. But Kristi refused to cook for me every night. I blame her for the squirt of chocolate, three olives and handfuls of Cheerios. I mean, shouldn’t those who can, feed those who can’t? Doesn’t Scripture say something about feeding the least of these? Kristi, are you reading this?


I am having a bit of an epiphany over here about feeding myself. I’m asking myself the question, how do I want to eat? I’ve never considered that question before, though feeding oneself is likely the most important thing we do each day. The way I fed myself previously was to eat whatever the ex was eating because arguing with him (Mr, Everything Healthy Tastes Like Stale Cardboard) was exhausting. So, I caved and ate the Kentucky Fried Chicken, Bojangles and oh yeah, the real man’s fast food, Hardee’s. I cooked what three guys would eat, and let me tell you, that is a limited palate that does not include vegetables, or as the oldest son said when he was three, “vegables.”

So, here I sit starving, and wondering what food to feed myself, and way too darn tired to fix anything after five days of work. And, there isn’t a “vegable” in the house, so I’m a long way from vegan at the moment. My guess is Sonic will win the day because I do love their tator tots, but hey, it ain’t Hardee’s.

Abraham’s Journey to Home (and mine)

English: Abraham Goes to the Land of Canaan (G...

English: Abraham Goes to the Land of Canaan (Gen. 12:1-6) Русский: Авраам переселяется в землю Ханаанскую (Быт. 12:1-6) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In Scripture, Abraham was told by God to pack up and start moving. But God did not tell him where. Instead, God told Abraham to go to “the place I will show you.” Abraham didn’t argue, although he did camp out at one place for awhile before he really started moving along on his journey. But, eventually he started walking (let that soak in) in earnest toward the “place God would show him.”

I never envied Abraham that trip. There are plenty of people I’d like to be in Scripture. The Woman at the Well comes to mind. The servants who watched the water turn to wine before their very eyes at the wedding (Jesus’ first miracle). Priscilla is intriguing. Philip, mainly because he literally got to space/time travel. But Abraham just seems old and tired to me when he begins his trek and like, he really would have been okay hanging out near the pyramids of home and simply enjoying retirement. That is exactly how I feel. Old. Tired. Ready for Retirement.

My biggest fear right now is that I will not be able to work as hard as I do for as long as I’m probably going to need too. My livelihood depends on me working. Period. From month to month, if I am not employed we don’t eat or have a roof over our heads. It is humbling.

So, while I wonder where home for me is, I am acutely aware that it might always be someone else’s home, i.e. a place that I rent.

I spent some time with a financial planner after my divorce, and we discussed whether he thought I’d ever purchase a home or not. He was very matter-of-fact about the whole thing when I mentioned the money I’d “throw away in rent.” He said, “How is it throwing money away? You need a home, and yet you can’t purchase one because you don’t make enough money. This isn’t about money management, its about staying out of the cold and the rain.”

Sometimes, a good reminder of the most basic sort is in order. It allows you to re- frame your thinking and begin to have a paradigm shift.  Abraham lived in the City of Ur of the Chaldeans. Reportedly, the place was very developed for its time. Houses had indoor plumbing and running water. There were markets and fresh produce. He had all the comforts of home. Then God said, pack it up, we’re moving, and Abraham finished out his years in a tent in the land of Canaan. Canaan would become the Israel of the Old Testament, and Abraham’s descendants would live in the land as their own.

So, sometimes the plan is less about the immediate and more about the eternal, as in Abraham’s case. It wasn’t about providing Abraham with a home. It was about bringing forth a Savior (Jesus) through a group of people whom God would build through the lineage of Abraham.

In my own trek, I am not living in a tent, but a nice rented home. Every night I thank God for putting a roof over mine and my son’s head. For paying the electric bill. For paying the internet, because my son needs it for college. For buying the groceries. For heat. For plumbing. For air conditioning. For cleanliness. For good landlords who treat us with respect.

Oh, there is a paradigm shift happening. From a home of 20+ plus years where the comforts of home were simply taken for granted, to a very real awareness of what a good thing hot water is.This type of consciousness is necessary if I am to discover my new home. I must first start to think of home differently.

Abraham followed God to unknown places, but in reading his story again, I do not see Abraham (or Sarah for that matter) all that focused on, where’s home? They seem more intent on where is the Savior (who would come through their child)? It makes me wonder if my focus is in the right place. Is it a home I am searching for, or a Savior?