PERSPECTIVE ON PARIS

I used to detest Paris Hilton. She seemed so self absorbed and the media was obsessed with her. I remember the days when I would watch the news and it seemed as if she was always mentioned as if she were some life-changing phenomenon.

She was strikingly beautiful, but I didn’t see anything more than that because the media made her out to be a very shallow and selfish person.

Then all of a sudden she disappeared and who comes strolling through the door of self absorption next? Kim Kardashian. Gads. It was enough to make me want to puke every day.

It was more than a month ago when my daughter slipped into my room. It was the evening and I was working on my laptop.  She asked me if I had heard about what happened between my niece and Paris Hilton?

I said, “No, please tell me.”

Apparently the nurse that is taking care of my niece, who currently has cancer, had a brother who is dating Paris Hilton. The nurse told my niece that and my niece didn’t believe her. So this sweet nurse face-timed her brother and gave her phone to my niece.

My niece got to talk with Paris Hilton! Turns out Paris Hilton is an absolute doll. Very sweet and kind. My niece and her chatted for a bit. Then Paris was amazing enough to donate to my niece’s go fund me page. It was quite a nice sum of money.

This puts my perspective on Paris Hilton into a tailspin. I realized that I wouldn’t have been near as gracious to an absolute stranger as she was and I may not have been as generous either.

Now every time I see her picture on the news, internet or in the magazine I realize one thing. She is strikingly beautiful on the outside, but that is just the tip of the iceberg as far as how deep her beauty goes.

 

MY DAUGHTER’S CAT

My daughter is living with me and has been for the past four years while she has been working to get her degree. In addition to my daughter, I have also housed her two felines.

One of her felines is a flame point Siamese cat. This cat is beautiful. He has orange highlights, set against brilliant, silky white fur and bright, sky blue eyes.

He is an inside cat, but he has an identity issue, because he thinks he is an outside cat.

This morning he flew past me as I went out to attend to things on my back patio.

He wanted to eat some grass this morning and there is plenty of grass in my back yard to eat.

Whenever I open the front door, he either sneaks around to stroll through my front bushes or he walks down the sidewalk. He likes to roll on the cement in the hot, summer sun.

Then there are the times I go to my garage and I look down at my feet and yes, he is right underfoot.

I am a bit worried that something may happen to him. We have some dogs in the neighborhood who are under the impression that cats are a free lunch. So, I try to keep him contained in my house. It can be a very time-consuming effort.

So, this morning when he slipped out my initial reaction was to run after him and chastise him while I threw him back inside. I stopped before I got to him. He was just eating grass and sometimes cats need that for their digestion. He was in the backyard and no dogs were around.

I stood there on my back patio, watching the cat and then I looked up at the clear blue sky. A few wisps of clouds hung in the air as if they had been painted on the canvas of sky. I breathed in deeply, noting no wind was trying to steal my breath. A bird flitted through the air and I inhaled the sounds of nature.

As I gazed at the expanse of the sky, I whispered “You are magnificent. You are just magnificent.” I looked at the beauty surrounding me and my heart was filled with gratitude for my God.

Sometimes worship can be in church, but I find fellowship with God is unhindered when I am in the midst of nature. Maybe that is why my daughter’s cat is always slipping outside…

A SKIN CARE MLM

I had just started doing this blog when I met a dynamic woman at a networking event. She was on fire about some skin care cream. It was associated with a MLM company. I asked her if I could have a sample? She said, “Sure!” and handed me one out of a set.

I tried it and to be honest, I didn’t think it worked with my skin type.  However, I got sucked into selling it because it was associated with a Multilevel Marketing group.

Plus, I really liked the woman who had shared a bottle with me. She was a super woman to work with.

There are several aspects of this MLM company that I had concerns about:

The thing about Multilevel Marketing groups is that you got to drink the Kool-aid.  You got to believe that the product is the best thing on the market.

This product did not have that distinction.

The next thing is that you have to be able to sell. I used to be a good salesperson when I was younger, but as I have grown older I have come to relish my solitude.

In any MLM group you pounce on your family and friends and regale them with stories of how this product has transformed your life.

Well, my family wasn’t going to buy it and my friends didn’t want it either. Plus it took being very involved with strangers, which is something I try to limit outside of my working hours.

I threw one party and just a few people came to my house for the presentation. No one bought into the lie. That may be because my friends are pretty smart people. My family members had other priorities also.

So I struggled and prayed. I thought that this may be my ticket to paradise which would be to have a job that I could work from home. That way I could write more hours.

Well, this dream was never realized.

The best thing that could have happened was to develop a friendship with the lady who got me into the group.

That was impossible. I started avoiding her, because all she could talk about was this skin care cream. I wanted to invite her to some events that I had been invited to, but held back because I thought she might be offensive to other people.

I went to a few meetings with the group but soon I had returned to nursing and I didn’t have the time to be gone once a week or even an extra hour to host parties anymore.

I finally came to the conclusion that I did not have the personality for this kind of business. I am a writer first and foremost and writers are somewhat solitary creatures. So I pulled out little by little and eventually ended the relationship with the company entirely.

Every now and then I thought about this company and the people I had met through it. I hadn’t heard much about them lately. I started to search the internet for information. I realized that some of the people that were in my “upline” were getting sued by the owner of the company for quite a chunk of change.

All of the people I knew were now selling a different flavor of  “Kool-aid.” Apparently the owner did not like this so he filed lawsuits against some of the top earners. In fact, that company now has lawsuits coming and going like a wildfire in a California drought.

If I had been wildly successful in that company I may have been named in a lawsuit. Because the lady that was being sued was the best friend of the woman who got me to join.

In Proverbs 16:3 the Bible says: “Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and he will establish your plans.”

I committed my way to the Lord during this time in my life and due to His grace He allowed me to fail. We always think that success is the only path that the Lord blesses. In this instance, I believe He blessed me with failure.

 

GRADUATION

Last week was my daughter’s graduation from college. She graduated with a Respiratory Therapist degree and had a job offered to her at a hospital before she even graduated. She just started working at the hospital this weekend.

I am super duper proud of her because during high school her main subject was “socializing.” She would flit in and out of the house going from one social event to another. She was relatively popular and still has a handful of friends from those days. Her bestie and her have been tight since they were in Junior High.

I have never felt as unpopular as I did while being her mother when she was in high school. She rarely said kind things to me and the glare she could throw me stopped me in my tracks.

Through the past four years, she has been living with me and God has healed our relationship is such a miraculous way. I delight in seeing her as many days as I can. Sometimes she stays with her boyfriend in the city instead of me out in the suburbs. On the weekends when she is staying in the city it gets lonely out in the burbs.

My middle son used to be her target for bullying. She could be cruel at times to him but their relationship had also matured to a point of mutual love. He and his girlfriend were flying in to attend her graduation. When talking with him he mentioned that my daughter’s boyfriend was planning a party to celebrate her graduation.

I didn’t figure I would be invited to this party because I was the parent. So I talked with my boyfriend and we made plans to attend an event in the city.  That way we could be close by, in case anyone needed a ride home, or in any way became uncomfortable.

The week was busy and on Friday, the day of the party, I had planned on taking my daughter, my son and his girlfriend to an art museum. There was just one thing I had to do before I jumped in the car to take them to the museum. I had to check on my bill pay. Apparently, the system I use to pay bills had not processed my payments to two different credit cards. This was the third time they had messed up on my bill pay and it was putting my stellar credit score at risk.

In a bit of frustration, I quickly got on my computer to check the account I had set up to pay my bills. I made some phone calls to Discover bank which does my bill pay. I told them that because of their incompetence I would be closing down all of my dealings with them in a matter of months.

But something else happened when I was checking my bank account.When I got my computer up I saw a flash to the right side of my screen saying that I had been invited to my daughter’s graduation party! I was so excited! Her boyfriend told me later that I had been the first one on the invite list.

Although I was still upset with Discover bank over their incompetence I was thankful to God that He had allowed it to happen on that day. Without the incompetence of Discover bank, I would have missed my daughter’s Graduation party which was a lovely affair.

This brings to mind the well known verse in Romans 8:28 – “For God causes all things to work together for good to those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.”

THE NIGHTMARE OF GUILT

The nightmare exploded onto the scene of my life about 7-8 years ago.

The dream occurred  soon after I had decided to rewrite my entire novel.

In the nightmare I had died and there appeared to be some mystery as to the cause of my death. I was looking down at my lifeless body lying on a table and they were about ready to cut my spinal cord open.

I remember thinking,”Ouch, that is gonna hurt!” Then I thought, “Wait a minute, I am dead I can’t feel anything.” And then in the afterlife I giggled a bit at the absurdity of my thought process.

The next realization dropped into my consciousness like a bomb. I had failed to accomplish what I had been placed on earth to accomplish. I had failed to finish my novel and this was of great chagrin to my God.

I can not tell you how heavy the weight of eternal guilt is but it is far more than I can bear.

That nightmare has been like a ghost haunting every second that I live. I have already written  400 pages of the rewrite.

I have shared parts of it with a dear friend of mine who has eaten up every word as if it is a delectable dessert.

I have told other friends of mine about it and they have begged me to finish it yet it still remains a work in progress.

Each day I wake up knowing that I have a calling from God, which I have not fulfilled.

It is a horrible reality to live within the crushing presence of guilt. So I brought this to my heavenly Father. I confessed that some days I just didn’t feel like writing.

I didn’t mean to be rebellious.

I can easily blog every day, but writing a novel is entirely different.

Blogging is like learning how to skip through a meadow. Writing a novel is similar to learning how to dance like a ballerina… on a stage of hot coals.

Besides, if this dream was prophetic and I wasn’t going to finish the novel, then why was I even trying?

I begged God to give me understanding and He took me back in the vault of my memories to what happened soon after this dream.

In close proximity to this dream I encountered the most vile attack of the devil.  I had my finances destroyed, my heart broken and some very special relationships almost completely severed. It was such a horrific battle that I contemplated forsaking my God. I also considered taking my own life.

The only thing that kept me tethered to this life was my unfinished novel. I knew I could not commit that horrible act of rebellion against God because I had not fulfilled my calling to finish this novel.

Yet it has been seven long years that I have been working on the rewrite and ten years working on the original manuscript.

Surely God is upset with my delay….

No, He isn’t.

Just this last week, He confirmed that He was fully in step with me on this journey. In Bible study, my good friend, David Roberts, threw out a morsel of wisdom. He mentioned the fruits of bitterness which gave me an idea as to how to better describe one of my characters.

There have been some other changes which the Holy Spirit has thrown into the mix also. I believe that God does not want me to carry guilt every day, although that is the first thing I clothe myself with every morning.

I think He enjoys working with me on this project and doesn’t need it to be rushed.  Something about eternity renders impatience an impossible characteristic to grasp.

The nightmare accomplished its purpose. In some strange way it gave me resolve to keep fighting to win the battle that had been set before me.

It is ironic that the novel I am penning has to do with spiritual warfare. In the process of sharing how my character won the battles that she encountered I,too, am learning how to win mine.

 

CHANGING MY “CRAZY”

Through the grace of God, I have attained a very successful career as a home health nurse. I have also raised three children with the guidance of the Holy Spirit. These three children are all in college or have recently graduated and they are all working. God provided for my needs while raising my children, to the extent that I never took one penny from the government to assist in their care. The Lord gave me wisdom and strength not to align myself with a man who would verbally or physically abuse me. I am still a single mother 20 years after I separated and divorced my children’s father. I have had men who begged me to marry them, but I chose not to, because I did not see it as a move which would  draw me or my children closer to God.

Basically, God has put me together fairly well.

Yet when my air conditioner breaks down in the middle of the Texas summer I have the tendency to go “CRAZY.”  I do this on a normal basis when there is something presented to me which I have no mastery over.

My “Crazy” usually involves copious amounts of tears, going into the “victim” room of my heart and screaming at God.

It is a horrible thing to play the victim role. It strips you of all strength and ties your heart and mind up with ropes of helplessness. Of all roles in my life which I have played, the victim role is the one which I detest.

At times I will dissolve into a puddle of profanity also. Which there is really no excuse for.

Yet God does not protect me from these things which force me into the victim role. I wonder why not?

A couple of days ago, my daughter crawled into bed with me in the middle of the night saying in a sleepy voice. “The air conditioner upstairs has stopped working and it is too hot to sleep upstairs.”

This has become a summertime tradition in my home, but it usually does not happen until Independence Day in the blazing July sun.

I immediately started sprinting for my “victim” room. I told my daughter it seemed as if we were the only ones on the face of the earth which had continual air conditioning problems.

She said, “No, I have heard that a lot of people have air conditioning problems,” and rolled over to go back to sleep.

Wait a minute. I had to stop in my sprint. You mean others have air conditioning problems too?

Yeppers.

Probably not as much as me, but I am kind of “special” in that department I guess.

So instead of bursting through the door of my “victim” room, I stopped in my tracks, turned around and walked boldly into the arms of my Saviour, Jesus Christ. I climbed on his lap and snuggled in his embrace and said,”I got air conditioning problems again. Could you please help me to walk through this without going “CRAZY’?”

Somehow the intimacy I feel with Jesus helped calm my CRAZY down. I have a home warranty company who paid for some of the cost and was out less than $200.00. My upstairs is now cool.

When I thought about my “CRAZY” self, I considered how Jesus must have felt when he left heaven and humbled himself to become a servant to us. To leave heaven and come to earth knowing that he would be crucified would have been sufficient reason to go all out “CRAZY” in my book. To have befriended twelve men who each betrayed him at his greatest hour of need would have locked me in my “victim” room with no hope for release.

The strength and power of Jesus, in addition to His love and humility, makes my “CRAZY” seem idiotic.

Yet when I drew near to him and asked him to help me with my air conditioning issue I felt such love.

It’s like I felt Him say, “Ahh, so you have air conditioning problems again, sweet Child of God? Why don’t you grasp my hand and let me walk you through this so that the devil doesn’t force you to go “CRAZY”.”

I love my Jesus so very, very much and I praise Him for all that He has done for me. Considering He helped create the world, conquered death and sits at the right hand of God, I don’t think he should even care about my “CRAZY.” Yet, I feel as if he cares more than anyone. What a love He is.

A BELATED MOTHER’S DAY WISH

Hey there! I feel like a bad blogger for not wishing all of my single Mom’s a Happy Mother’s Day. So here it goes, I hope you all had a super duper fantastic day. HAPPY BELATED MOTHER’S DAY

I had a wonderful day. Actually, it was more like a wonderful few days.

My daughter graduated from College last Wednesday, so my son and his girlfriend flew in from Florida on Tuesday evening.

He is moving to Maryland in June to start working at the NIH. Then in August he will be moving to Baltimore to start his doctorate studies at the John Hopkins University.

I am very stoked about this, but the only downfall to this is that his girlfriend won’t be moving up there for a year. He is kind of like me in that he is highly intelligent but cannot, on a normal basis, find his keys. His girlfriend, on the other hand, always knew where his keys were. Love that girl! (Don’t know how that boy is going to survive without that girl by his side.)

I got an awesome T-shirt from this son, saying that I was a John Hopkins University Mom. Looking forward to wearing that soon!

Then I had an unexpected present from some of my daughter’s friends. Her sweet boyfriend threw a huge party for her to honor her for graduating from college. Some of her dear friends caught my ear and whispered “Thank you so much for raising Natalie. She is so sweet.”

I was so honored by that. My daughter is not only sweet, but it is clear that she is a champ when it comes to picking great friends. In addition, her boyfriend is so beyond perfect, it is unreal.

On Sunday my daughter invited me to a church I had not attended before and I enjoyed doing that with her. Then we went to lunch and to the Botanical gardens. It was a beautiful day.

I also got to speak with my youngest son on the phone. He is going to Louisiana Tech for Industrial engineering and is suffering through finals this week. For him to take the time out to call meant a lot. I didn’t expect anything else from him and when I unexpectedly received a card in the mail the day after Mother’s day I was surprised.

I opened the card and in it the card said I was “the biggest blessing in his life.” That made me feel so good. It was the most heartfelt and wonderful card I have ever received.

I truly hope that all of my readers who are Mother’s had a fabulous day. I hope your children honored you for the way you raised them.

TO CHANGE SOMEONE

The ability to change someone to become a better person is many times an elusive and frustrating feat.

Recently I became aware that I desired a change in my daughter’s cleaning habits or lack thereof.

She has been pursuing a college degree and working. She has been extremely busy for the past 3-4 years. She slips in and out of my house like a Navy Seal on a stealth mission.

I have been patient and kind regarding the disarray that has overcome her room. I keep telling myself, “she is busy and what she is doing is much more important than her having a clean room.”

But the other weekend I happened to walk into her bathroom and I was a bit frustrated because it looked filthy. So I chided her and told her that “this was unacceptable.” I went on to say that it looked worse than most bathrooms I had seen in my career and it could devalue my home.

Then I started praying.

I hate putting more pressure on my daughter than what she already has. But I also need to set a standard for her, so that when she is in charge of her own home, she will have an acceptable level of cleanliness.

Yet when I looked in my own clothes closet, I saw a fairly disorganized mess also. So I buckled down and went through all of my clothes and cleaned my own closet. I usually do this two times a year to coincide with the neighborhood garage sale, but I had failed to do it last fall. So it was a mess.

After I chided her, she cleaned her bathroom.

I snuck up there when she was not home and she did a really good job, but missed one area, so I cleaned that.

Then I happened to take some laundry up to her bedroom and while I was doing that I noticed that there was very little space which was not covered by clothes of some sort.

I started praying with more fervor.

I come from a long line of women who have nagging as a second language. My natural instinct was to nag her to clean up her room. But something kept holding me back.

I was still praying, but I was praying with the desire to nag.

Then on a Sunday morning I was looking for a notebook to jot down notes while at church. I happened across one of my journals from when my children were young. In this journal I had written about how disturbing it was for my mother to come visit me. All she did the entire time was nag about my carpet and how much I needed to get new carpet.

My mother has made most visits with her very difficult due to her constant criticism and nagging. I don’t want my dear daughter to regret the time she spends with me.

So I prayed some more, thanking God for the reminder of how I felt when I was a young woman.

Then a miracle happened. My daughter’s schedule lightened up and she went to town on her bedroom. In addition to cleaning her room, she deep cleaned two closets upstairs for me also. I didn’t even ask her to clean the closets and she did a super fantastic job.

It was such a relief for me to be able to praise her, instead of nagging her, because I am by nature someone who edifies others.

I am no self help guru, but as I reflected on this story I realized that there were certain steps that I took to achieve the change in my daughter which I had so desired.

The first step was to understand where she was at in life.  Being a college student is hard enough, but doing it while you are also working a job can at times be overwhelming. To nag at her about her room would have added unneeded stress.

The second step was to acknowledge my own shortcomings. I was very frustrated with my own closet. I needed to take care of that before pointing the finger at my daughter’s room.

The third step was to set appropriate boundaries. I needed to make sure that my daughter’s bathroom was cleaned on a regular basis to decrease the chance of mold. Mold can significantly affect the resale value of a home. Thank God she cleaned her bathroom before it got to that point.

The fourth step was to praise her for the successes I saw. People rarely change from criticism, but if you provide encouragement they are more apt to change. People and animals will work hard to receive a reward, but stop dead in their tracks if there is punishment ahead. Think of praise as a reward and criticism as punishment.

The fifth and final step is to PRAY CONTINUALLY WHEN YOU ARE TRYING TO CHANGE SOMEONE ELSE. God created us all in a unique and special way and sometimes we just need to chill and accept our differences.

BIRTHDAY DINNER

Last week when my middle son was at my home to celebrate his sister’s graduation from college, there was another special day that required a celebration. It was his birthday that Saturday.

I asked him which cake he would prefer for the celebration and he chose the Oreo cake.http://www.snackworks.com/recipe/chocolate-covered-oreo-cookie-cake-90307.aspx

I discovered this cake a few years ago and it became a favorite of my sons.

In addition, I needed to find something which I could prepare in advance for the birthday dinner. That way  I could spend the majority of his visit chatting with him and his girlfriend.

After searching the internet for a bit of time I decided on Chicken and Spinach Lasagna, http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/chicken-and-spinach-lasagna-recipe/

I made a few changes in this recipe to kick it up a notch in the deliciousness and then put the Chicken and Spinach lasagna in the oven to bake half way through.

I was excited. I have always enjoyed hosting my children and their friends for big lavish dinners and my son had invited a friend of his over that evening.

My sons friend is Jewish so I was even considerate enough to use kosher cream cheese for the lasagna. I truly thought I had done an awesome job only to find out when my son arrived that the lasagna was not kosher. A kosher diet does not allow meat and milk products to mix. My bad.

My son said he would really rather go out to eat with his friend.

WHAT?!!

I mean we didn’t even know how strict this guy was in relation to his kosher diet.

He kept insisting that they go out.

I shed a few tears. I had already gone to so much work for this and I had no idea what I was going to do with the large 9×13 pan of lasagna.

So they went out and I started brainstorming about who I could share my lasagna with. For the record, they did come back and have some cake and ice cream. But not a bite of lasagna was to be had.

“Well,” I thought, “My boyfriend is having company coming from out of town. I will just give him the big pan of lasagna to share with his company.”

We picked up his friends at DFW airport Saturday night. This was after my boyfriend and I  had dropped my son off at the airport. We ate dinner at the Pecan Lodge and they rode all the way back to my place. I gave them a tour of my home. Not once during all of this time did it occur to me that there was a lasagna that was waiting patiently in my fridge to be eaten by them.

I didn’t remember the lasagna till the morning of Mother’s day. That was when I cried out to God. “PLEASE help me know who you want me to share this lasagna with.” It clearly did not have my son or my boyfriend’s name on it.

Then the thought occurred to me that I could share it with my friend, Kathy. Her and her husband, Darwin, have been such amazing friends to me. They have done so much to bless me and are so generous with me. This would be a wonderful opportunity for me to return just a smidgeon of the blessings I have received from them. So I texted Kathy and asked her permission to share.

She had actually been bed bound for three days with an exacerbation of lymphedema and she said she sure could use it. So I made a salad to go with it, along with some french bread and gave them some banana bread muffins for the next morning, along with 2 pieces of birthday cake.

They invited me to eat with them and I did eat a little bit. It was yummy, but even yummier because I was sharing it. This thought, which was obviously a God thought, just totally kicked my Mother’s day into a truly over the top amazing day and because of my children it had already been a fantastic day.

A MOMENT TO TREASURE

My son is in from Florida. He came with his girlfriend to attend the college graduation of my daughter. In June he will be moving to Maryland to start working at the NIH. In August he will be going to the John Hopkins University to work on his Doctorate in medical research.

The boy has God given brilliance and ambition and he wants to find a cure for cancer. I have no doubt he can accomplish this task.

This morning he and his girlfriend came down for breakfast and we started to contemplate the ailments of society. He is pretty far left and I was too, at his age. As I have matured, I have leaned more to the right in my political preferences.

As we were discussing life and the complexities of such, I realized that this was a moment I wanted to capture and tuck away in my memory vault.

There have been many moments in my life which have been painful. When I was a little girl I trained my mind to capture those moments so that I could cry myself to sleep. I didn’t want to give my mother the satisfaction of her knowing that she had hurt me. So I learned at a very early age how to wear the mask of a smile while harboring memories which could cut through my heart like a dagger.

As I grew older I have become more selective at which memories I treasure. I try to captivate all of the wonderful times I have had recently with my daughter. I love to revisit memories of being with my sons also. I realize that my mother did as best as she could and I don’t believe she realized how deeply her critical nature wounded me. I also relive each and every precious moment I encounter with my boyfriend.

It is a choice what memories we choose to treasure, but those which are filled with pain and anger have the potential to grow roots of bitterness which can strangle our heart. If we choose to treasure memories of happiness, we make the choice to nurture the fountain of joy which God instills in our hearts.

I still have to make a conscious choice as to what I keep in my memory vault and sometimes I realize I have to refile the memories in a different folder.