Are You Still Looking for the Golden Years?

We lost our jobs. We struggled from month to month on our skimpy Social Security checks. We battled depression, frustration, and feelings of hopelessness. We beat cancer and survived the seemingly worst years of our lives together.

It wasn’t until my husband started receiving disability benefits from the VA that we were finally able to come up for air and break free from the financial monster we faced every waking moment of every single day for three long, stressful years.

We planned many things before reaching retirement, those golden years we looked forward to spending debt free in splendid bliss traveling and cruising and collecting seashells on a sunny beach. But owing a mortgage wasn’t one of them. Nor did we plan on the tiny trees we planted to get so big and messy, and the lawn to get so bare and sparse, and the driveway to start cracking and growing weeds. Sure we occasionally stained the cedar siding and created flower beds bordered with tons of field rock we collected from a neighbor’s farm. But like a nagging shrew, a house is constantly demanding special attention and could care less if you’re old or sick or broke or if it’s too hot or too cold or if you throw up your hands and bawl your eyes out.

In a dream world, our hard-earned golden years would be having a bottomless money pit, hiring professionals to renovate the house and manicure the lawn, Molly Maid and Chief Ramsey to cook and clean and the Dog Whisperer to teach our wannabe, four-legged queens to behave.

But those are someone else’s golden-years, certainly not ours.

So, here we are, a pair of dried up bones, our house falling apart, feeling too hopeless and frustrated to do anything about it.

Still, more than the dead trees in the yard, weeds in the flower beds, and saplings growing in the gutters, we wanted that dirty, stinking, pee-stained carpet gone!

So, with a glimmer of hope, we convinced ourselves that we’re only half as old as we look, and if we want that carpet gone, we’re gonna have to get off the pot and make it happen. So, we watched a few how-to videos, high-fived each other, and with the adrenaline of a pair of goofy teens drunk on energy drinks, we decided to renovate the house.

Easy breezy, like sipping lemonade on a warm summer day by the pool.

NOT!

It’s been more like crawling across a hot desert with our shriveled tongues hanging out and furrowing the sand beneath the blazing sun.

On May 27, 2019, we began moving furniture and pulling up carpet, staples, nails, and carpet strips. Two days later while we were out, a woman ran the red light and plowed into us causing over two thousand dollars in car damages and six weeks in the body shop for repairs. Thankfully, other than being shook up and mad as a hornet, no one was hurt. It did, however, throw us off track for a few weeks dealing with insurance agents, numerous phone calls, and the rental car breaking down.

We have never laid flooring before and will never ever in a trillion years do it again. I’d rather kill a grizzly bear with my bear hands!

Being a perfectionist, having my house torn asunder with nothing in its place for weeks and weeks on end, hubby working an hour and resting four, the dogs acting stupid, and me going stark raving mad conjured up evil that would have made Charles Manson tremble in fear.

I’ve screamed, I’ve yelled, I’ve cried, I’ve threatened divorce, running away, pitching a tent in the woods, signing myself into a nursing home, seeking refuge with the homeless and hearing what they have to say about the golden years.

And as if it couldn’t get any worse, we ran into water damage and huge pee stained circles . . . lots and lots of circles like stepping stones zigzagging across the sub floor. Replacing one of those boards became a crumbled mess of sawdust like a box of Nilla Wafers smashed to smithereens with a sledgehammer.

Several grueling hours later we finally cleaned up the mess and nailed down a new sheet of ply board only to discover it was too thick. By now, we’re threatening to black each others eyes and I’m thinking of sticking a For Sale sign in the yard and moving to another planet where I’m sure the golden years must be hiding.

Then, to my husband’s dismay, I do the unthinkable. I caved in to my impulsive personality and stopped everything in midstream to refinish my grandmother’s cedar chest. I got tired of moving furniture, straining my back, and crawling on my hands and knees snapping vinyl planks together. I needed a change, a creative boost. I wanted to see instant results. After all, these are my golden years, right? I don’t have to abide by a set of rules telling me I’ll drop dead if I don’t finish everything by Christmas.

Besides, it’ll only take a few days.

Ha!

That little project took three long weeks of stripping paint and sanding and re-sanding and sanding again before it was ready to be stained. Then we did the blanket chest. Then I painted hubby’s computer desk. TWICE! I didn’t like the first color choice; it didn’t go with the furniture.

Obviously, we charged into this renovation with our eyes squeezed shut. We knew it wouldn’t be easy, but we didn’t know it would be like wrestling a thousand pound bull to the ground. And we had no experience or help from anyone other than Almighty God. I’ve fallen, banged my head, bruised my knee, scraped my elbow and bled on our new vinyl floor. I’ve questioned God, fought with my husband, hated the grimacing old woman in the mirror, and feared that I’ve gone totally mad. I’ve crumpled to the floor sobbing and feeling sorry for myself, envying those enjoying the golden years with their manicured homes and lawns and long, luxurious vacations. I’ve cursed myself for not planning ahead for the future and succumbed to feelings of shame and regret, and wishing for someone else’s golden years.

And here we are, at the end of August, celebrating our seventy-third birthday’s still pulling up carpet, counting the weeks when we’ll finally get finished and wondering when the golden years will suddenly appear.

Yet, through it all, God is teaching me more about Him and reminding me that life spent in His love and care and protection are the golden years. We don’t have to wait till a certain age to lounge in His comforting arms, travel the heights of joyful bliss, and sip the nectar of His eternal love, peace and comfort. Life is never gonna be what we expected it would be and many never live to get a mere glimpse of the golden years and those who do often feel cheated and disappointed. So, I’ve decide to paint each precious moment, each precious day, each precious year with gleaming joy and love and happiness and claim them as the golden years.

 

 

 

 

My Grace is Sufficient

I AM A GOD WHO HEALS.

Those are the first six words I read from my daily devotional, Jesus Calling by Sarah Young.

And they got my attention.

But what awakened my spiritual slumber are the words in the last paragraph: I rarely heal all the brokenness in a person’s life. Even my servant Paul was told, “My grace is sufficient for you,” when he sought healing for the thorn in his flesh.” 2 Corinthians 12:9.

Wow! So that must mean that no matter how mighty our faith or how shiny our halo, we’re not always gonna get what we ask God for.

As a kid, I had faith; lots of faith. Or, at least I thought I did until a boy accidentally broke my glasses as we were horsing around on the church bus.

Great! What am I gonna tell mom and daddy who can barely put food on the table let alone buy another pair of glasses? What am I gonna do? I’m as blind as a bat without them.

So, with all the faith a ten-year-old could muster, I pressed my glasses together, squeezed my eyes shut, and prayed,  “Lord. You gotta fix my glasses. You can do it! I know you can!”

You can imagine my disappointment when I opened my eyes and realized my glasses were still just as broken as they were before I asked God to magically put them back together again.

As a child, it didn’t matter that it was just a pair of glasses. They were broken and I knew and believed with all my heart and soul that God had the power to fix them.

But He didn’t.

And when the family walked side by side with my sister down the church aisle to pray for her healing, we had faith that God could do it. Yet, cancer claimed her life anyway.

But God healed my brother years ago from a heart condition caused by rheumatic fever and my baby brother from a bowel obstruction immediately following the pastor’s prayers when he came to the house. He even healed my mother right before she was wheeled down to surgery. The X-ray proved the mass was gone!

I don’t know the mind of God; why He heals one person and not another. But I do know that no one has the right to tell anyone that healing doesn’t come because of a person’s lack of faith.

I saw this happen once when a group of Christians gathered around a young woman with MS slumped in a wheelchair, scolding her for not having enough faith to get up and walk! And I was so proud when our assistant pastor marched his small, indignant frame toward the holier than thou group and boldly put an end to their vicious bullying.

In my own life, like those broken pair of glasses, God doesn’t magically put my brokenness back together. It’s been a long, painful, drawn-out process of anger and frustration, of jerking away and running back. A roller coaster ride of failures and victories, tears and laughter, sadness and joy. Walking the green mile through depression, anxiety, and fear. A never-ending cycle of I’m okay, I’m not okay and maybe I’ll never be okay.

Yes, the struggle is just too much at times. But, it’s through the grueling struggles, not the instant healing that God reveals His endless love and care and mercy toward me. It’s through my quiet times with Him and the tears rolling down my face, and His light shining in the dungeon of darkness, revealing my weaknesses, my stubbornness, my fears, anger, and rage; all the prickly, painful thorns that keep me dependent on Him. Without those struggles, I may never know how much God wants me for Himself. I may never know His love and protection. And I may die not ever knowing a father’s love.

So, the way I see it, healing is not healing if it separates me from God; If it causes me to develop a doctor-patient relationship where the doctor heals and the patient doesn’t need him or her anymore.

It’s horrifying to think that everything I ask God for would sever our relationship if He gave it to me!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To Go to Church or Not Go to Church

It’s Sunday morning. A few years ago, I would be putting on makeup, fixing my hair, slipping into my Sunday best, grabbing my Bible and heading out the door for church.

But, like I said, that was a few years ago.

As a kid, mom never had to fight with me to go to church. I wanted to go. Like, taking a bath and washing behind my ears, it’s what I did. It’s who I was. Besides, anywhere my mother went is where I wanted to go. I even begged her to let me go with her when Oliver Green https://en.wikipedia.org held revival tent meetings in our community, promising to get up in time for school the next morning.

I got saved when I was five. Got baptized when I was seven in a freezing cold creek on a freezing cold Easter Sunday morning in Landenberg, Pennsylvania. Jokingly I tell people my sins were frozen when I got baptized.

I can’t remember a time growing up that I didn’t go to church or Bible School or Christian Camps or revival tent meetings. Regretfully, for reasons unknown, I never got to go with mom to the Billy Graham Crusade back in the ’50’s.

Yet, here I sit this cool, Sunday morning, drinking coffee on my messy, cluttered back porch having church. In my pajamas. No makeup. No spiffy outfit. No congregation. No choir. No entertainment. No preacher behind the pulpit. No Bible on my lap. Just me and God and the birds and the squirrels.

And God spoke to me. He told me stuff about myself that I didn’t want to hear. He broke my heart. He made me cry. He made me see into the depths of my soul. And there I sat, coffee cup in my hands, tears streaming down my face, seeing and hearing and surrendering my stubborn will to God.

I could give you a million reasons why I stopped attending church, but that would only open a can of ugly worms and be seen as blasphemy in the minds of many. And nothing anyone can do or say will ever change the way I feel and perceive the church today. And the last thing I want to hear is that you have to go to church to worship God or to even get one little toe into heaven. That kinda limits those who are bed-ridden in nursing homes, or hospice or an iron lung, don’t you think?

So please, don’t question those who don’t attend church. Question those sitting in church whenever the doors are open. Question their motives for being there. Watch what they do. Hear what they say. No one is what he or she wants people to believe they are; especially in church.

Things happened in the church I attended for over twenty years that after four years, I’m still working through the hurt, anger, and disappointment. Things that opened my eyes and made me question, made me think, made me wonder why I didn’t quit attending church long ago before it finally crushed my spirit.

People will argue that I need to be in church to connect with other Christians. Well, that’s funny because most of the time I felt as connected sitting in church as I did walking through a crowded mall.

So, there fly’s that theory out the window.

I’ve heard all the arguments, I’ve weighed all the pro’s and con’s, and I’m over feeling guilty for the choice I’ve made. I feel happy and free from the hypocrisy and pretenses I observed and adopted over the years. It’s like my brain went through a deprogramming process of what I once perceived as truth and discovered that much of it was a lie. Especially all the rules and regulations made by the church to keep its members on the straight and narrow and making a good appearance.

So today and the next day and the next, my church is my heart; the Holy Temple of God. As broken and screwed up as it is at times, it’s where God really wants to be. I think He enjoys cleaning and redecorating as much as I do. Anyway, He kicks off His dusty sandals, pulls up a chair and makes Himself at home there. And if He sees a crooked picture on the wall or dirt on the floor, He doesn’t shake His head and wag His finger in disgust, He helps me straighten it and clean it up. Best of all, I don’t have to dress up, primp up or put on my Sunday-best behavior. I just have to be me. Raw and naked, honest to the bone me.

So tell me, why should that offend anyone?

 

 

 

 

Look What’s Happening Behind My Back!

As some of you know, my husband, Buck and I have been ripping up carpet and laying vinyl plank flooring throughout the house. Thankfully we have a small house but it seems to be getting bigger and bigger. I guess that’s why it’s taking us so long to get finished. Not to mention that we don’t move as fast as we used to. https://sandistatondigitaldesigns.com/2019/05/24/golden-years-where-are-you/

Before we started this mammoth project back in May 2019, I had all my yard work done. No weeds. No honeysuckle chocking the Azaleas. No limbs all over the yard. Even the lawn was mowed.

Then we tore up the house.

Then it got hot. And humid. I don’t like hot and humid and sweat burning my eyes and the sun blistering my crepey skin. So I barely stuck my head out the door. 

So while we were busy with the floors, mean, hateful weeds snuck into my flower beds and took over. Now they’re laughing at me and sticking out their tongues.

Then Buck forgot how to operate the lawnmower. And the weedeater.

And the grass began to grow.

High.

Really high.

Then arguments sprouted. Big fat, ugly arguments with tongues of raging fire and hearts of unbendable steel.

Then I wanted to move to the Netherlands.

Buck said he’d help me pack.

But, here it is, three months later and we’re still living under the same roof with the same number of teeth we started with. Together. With our two loving, nerve-wracking, confused mutts.

 

Then we began tearing up the house. 

 

Making some headway.

 

Now the den.

 

And now this!

 

I’m not complaining.

Well, maybe a little.

Okay, I’m complaining.

A LOT!

But I’ve learned something about myself during all this mess. Something that many people don’t like and has tried very hard over the years to destroy. Something for which I have felt guilty for possessing because it terrifies people and even myself at times.

And that something is inner strength. That strength that makes me get back up again no matter how many times I fall and feel like staying on the ground drowning in my tears. That strength that lets me know I’m still alive in spite of all the cuts and bruises of life.

Yes, I’ve cried. I’ve screamed. I’ve threatened to burn down the house, but I got over it.

Eventually.

So there you have a panoramic view of my crazy world. If you liked anything at all, please click that little LIKE button and post a comment. And thank you for stopping by. Next time I’ll bake a cake. 

 

 

Never, Ever Quit!

My son gave me permission to share this. He is a strong leader in our family and puts his heart and soul into everything he does. He never complains. He never feels sorry for himself. He never quits. But today, he is feeling very discouraged. He has MRSA. Not just one pustular bump, but twelve; the worst case his doctor has ever seen.

So this is what he shared with the family today:

Hey family, hope you all are doing good.  Just sharing my heart about not quitting. 

First, there is no failure in being tired, exhausted, having difficulty accomplishing a task, event, or mission and feeling like giving up or quitting.  Failure is simply quitting when you know you can do and endure more, but you trade short-term relief for long-term regret.  Quitting is the acceptable norm for our modern, mentally weak, soft, and sensitive culture–Christians included. 

I’ve trained for nearly an entire year for the GORUCK Selection. https://www.goruck.com › I have pushed my body and mind into very dark places filled with short-term pain in hopes to develop a greater threshold for the pain and suffering ahead–not just for GORUCK, but for life. 

Honestly, there have been two occasions I have felt like quitting and not attempting Selection due to all my travels and the recent infection with MRSA.  I can quit and my family will think no less of me.  My culture would say, “It’s  okay, you had good intentions, there’s always another time.”  I can quit–my body is constantly sore, at times I can barely walk, I don’t always feel like doing a 3-4 hour routine.  Sore.  Tired.  Beat down.  Mentally fatigued. 

So why do the event to begin with?  Why put myself through that much pain?  Simple:  I said I was going to do it no matter what when I registered for the event one year ago.  No matter what happens.  No matter what obstacles surface.  No matter how plausible it may be to quit.

What’s at stake if I quit now?  My word, my character, my integrity, and my own personal self-respect.  For me, if I quit, what example do I set for my family and others who believe in me?  Finishing Selection is not the ultimate goal for me.  Victory is overcoming every obstacle and opportunity to quit before the event even begins. 

When confronted with the temptation to quit ask yourself “what’s at stake if I quit?”  Failure is simply quitting in the face of difficulties when you can do and endure more than you think.  We don’t need courage when things are easy  . . . we need courage when things seem impossible!!

Family, be strong!  Be brave!  Be bold!  YOU can do all things through Christ Jesus who strengthens you!  Be courageous!  Fear not!  Don’t quit–Finish the goal, the task, the dream, the event, whatever it is–Don’t give up, give in, give out, or quit!! What is at stake if you quit?  The better question is, “What potential impact does my not quitting have on me, my family, others, and the Kingdom of God? Regret or glory–the choice is yours.  And for me?  I’d rather die than to quit!

 

Letting Go

Parenting is a full-time job of love and patience, teaching and learning, guiding and directing. A full-time job of trial and errors, pacing the floor . . . and letting go.

From the time a mother holds her infant in her arms and holds it to her breast, the natural process of letting go begins to unfold.

At first, we don’t see it. We’re way too busy changing diapers, filling bottles, and trying to catch a few hours sleep. The mere thought of him starting first grade is a trillion miles down the road.

Suddenly, it happens. You’re not the love of his life anymore. He’s dating. He gets married. He has kids. His kids have kids. They all have lives of their own to live and enjoy and to follow the star of freedom and independence. No one has the right to interfere with that.

Unfortunately, my mother didn’t get that. To her, letting go was like cutting off her arms. I guess through her abusive childhood and failed marriages she had lost so much already that she felt she couldn’t survive losing her kids too.

So she clung to me like clinging to the edge of a cliff.

I could write a book about the emotional damage she caused, the conflicting battles and severed relationship we had and the effect it still has on me. Maybe one day my life will be what it is was meant to be, but it may never happen on this side of heaven.

That’s why I’ve worked so hard through my fears and insecurities to set my son free. Why my heart gave him permission to spread his wings and become the strong and independent man he is today. He will not be controlled, and I will never impose my will on him; to manipulate and toy with his tender emotions. To me, that is the most deadly form of child abuse. It’s emotional rape and almost impossible to recover from. I love him way too much to slaughter his spirit.

Through a river of blood, sweat, and tears of letting go, I am reaping a bountiful harvest of joy and happiness through my son, his kids, and his grandkids. And when he takes me out, which isn’t very often due to his busy and exhausting schedule, he treats me like a queen. He warms my heart and makes every moment we spend together priceless treasures that no one can take away.

For me and my twisted emotions, letting go is not easy. But I’d rather die than sacrifice my son’s emotional well-being for my own selfish desires; to try to put him in a tiny box with no room to grow. His wings are way too big and strong for that.

 

 

 

He is All I Need

So, I’m having coffee on the back porch this morning, thinking.

I wish I had a new pair of shoes for every time someone told me I think too much. But that’s part of who I am. A thinker; just like my dad was.

Anyway, I’m sitting there, observing my dogs and thinking about life; the way it was, the way I wish it had been, and the way it is.

It’s Heartland’s fault, the TV series hubby and I have been watching on Netflix for the past few weeks. It’s happy, it’s sad, it’s funny, it’s everything I wish my family life had been growing up. The way I wish I’d had a grandfather like Jack, a crusty old man with a soft heart, who loves and encourages and fights tooth and nail for his family.

How different my life may have been had my dad opened his arms and his heart to me and if mom had talked to me instead of yelling at me. If they both had made me feel like I was the best thing that ever happened to them.

Maybe I wouldn’t have spent so much time alone trying to figure things out. Maybe I would have made better grades in school, had more courage and self-confidence and married the right man the first time around. Maybe I wouldn’t have tried so hard being what I thought everyone wanted me to be and just learned to be me.

My brain keeps reminding me that I’m a free woman. But my longing heart tells me I’m still that scared little girl behind bars; locked up with the taunting ghosts of the past. I still get depressed. I still get angry. I still feel I have to perform perfectly. I still have those tear-jerking moments when I feel I just don’t belong.

Yet, I have come a long way from where I was decades ago. I realize that freedom is a painstakingly, on-going slow process. We don’t soar like an eagle out the cage door when it’s opened. Our wings are broken; crushed by the weight of the grimacing world, and it takes time to heal. It takes time to learn and rethink and trust even good things smiling in our faces.

I was reminded of that sitting there on the back porch, observing my four-legged babies. I realized that as dependent as they are on me to take care of them is how dependent God wants me to be on Him to take care of me. That, no matter how hard the struggle, no matter how tremendous the doubt and fear and emptiness I feel at times, He is all I need.

I just have to keep reminding myself of that, keep moving forward and stop flying back into that rusty old cage of sadness, loneliness, and regrets, because I don’t live there anymore.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heartland_(Canadian_TV_series)

 

Two Old People and a Hand Truck

I know it’s been a while since I’ve posted an update concerning our home improvement (demolition). The truth is, we had to take a break from it.

We began taking up the carpet on Monday, May 27, 2019.  And it’s been quite an undertaking for two oldies who have never done this before.

EVER!

To top it all off, two days into our demolition, we had a car accident.  A woman ran the red light and hit us on the driver’s side. No one was hurt, thankfully. However, It was the week of Labor Day, so it was difficult getting her insurance to follow through, leaving us without a rental for five days. At least we had the truck, or so we thought. But, it wouldn’t start.

Six weeks, and two car rentals later (the first one broke down on us and our car is still in the shop) this is the progress we’ve made:

 

 

 

 

Overwhelmed

Picture17

I should be doing laundry. I should be cleaning all that junk off the front porch. I should be pulling weeds, hosing down the driveway, picking up limbs, and watering my plants.

I should be doing a lot of things.

But, I’m retired and I don’t have to do anything around the house today. I’ll do it tomorrow. And if tomorrow doesn’t come, then I won’t have to worry about all that stuff I should be doing today.

Besides, heaven is looking better to me all the time. I’m tired of my house falling apart and bossing me around. It’s gotten way too big for its britches!

That’s why I’m sitting here with my door closed drinking coffee and doing what makes me forget about all the stuff I should be doing today . . . creating happy stuff.

Lots and lots of happy stuff!

Happy Father’s Day, Daddy

Okay, daddy. Since we never went on a coffee date before or even shared an intimate moment anywhere together for that matter, I’m taking you out. Just in my mind of course; you’d never come any other way.

So where’s it going to be, Starbuck’s? I forgot. Instant Nescafe’. Hot water straight from the spigot with creamer and sugar in that coffee-stained cup you yelled at me for washing one day. Okay then, let’s just have coffee in the kitchen in the old house where we used to live a long time ago. Doesn’t matter to me, I just want to talk to you.

I’m sorry for rebelling against you in those troublesome, adolescent years. I was just a kid and didn’t understand your cryptic silence. And on those rare occasions when you arose from the tomb, I didn’t understand your dry wit. I thought you were laughing at me because I was stupid or because you didn’t love me.

That hurt me.

A lot.

And I wanted to hurt you back.

I just wish that one time you had held me in your arms and said you were sorry for making me cry; that you had poked your head into my shattered world and seen how much I needed your love and protection. Instead, you crawled into a tomb of apathy; dead to my fears and tender emotions.

There’s so many things you didn’t know about me, daddy. Like how I wanted to be your daddy’s girl; for you to hold me on your lap and tell me that I was beautiful and smart and funny; for you to meet my first date at the front door with a Smith and Wesson, and took a ball bat to my X-husband the first time he hit me. When my tiny baby was born too early and I thought he would die, I wanted you to hold me and tell me everything would be okay.

But, you never did.

But, that’s okay daddy, I didn’t invite you here to condemn you; I’ve done enough of that throughout my life. I just want you to know that in spite of your lack of concern, I learned to stand on my own two feet. I faced the demons of anger and rage. I’ve survived the tormenting feelings of rejection and worthlessness; the stabbing pain of loneliness and grief.

So thank you for meeting with me today and allowing me one fragmented moment of the rest of your time in eternity. And before you fade into the shadows of my mind, I want you to know that I’m glad you were my dad. Without realizing it you taught me to be a mother and to love my son the way I wanted you to love me. Now, I am reaping a bountiful harvest of love and joy and happiness through him and his growing, loving family.

So thanks, daddy,

Happy Father’s Day