Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Gotta Love Cats

You know, I never realized this until I did some house-sitting for a lady in my church, but I am a cat person. I always liked cats and dogs and have owned and loved them most of my life, but after spending the night with a couple dogs for two weeks, I realized where my true devotion lies. Don’t get me wrong, I have a Welsh Corgi, Zoe, and I love watching her kick a ball around with her nose or eating a block of ice on a winter day. But when it comes down to the animal I’d rather have at my side for comfort, I choose a cat. Dogs can be so active and dependable. Zoe will keep running that ball back to me as long as I’m still there kicking it for her, or she’ll even kick it around the yard herself to show off. Sometimes that dependability is a good thing, but sometimes they just get in the way, like my mom’s poodle. That dog will get right up under your feet and then have the indecency to yip when you step on her. One of the dogs I took care of would start to bark at me if my attention went somewhere else for too long; she was not going to let me ignore her. Dogs tend to do that a lot, they whine or bark or howl, even within minutes of being left alone. Now cats, on the other hand, are much more independent. They don’t expect you to give them constant attention and may even get angry with you if you give them too much. I’m not really a touchy, feely person, so I don’t really care to sit and pet the animals for too long. I just enjoy the presence of their company.

            Cats can also be a great source of entertainment with their quirky ways. My cat does some pretty strange things. Sometimes, in the morning, she just zooms through the house. If I walk into my room, she gets startled or something and speeds out the door. I’ll find her on the couch and try to approach her, and whoosh, there she goes again, back to my room. She also tends to disappear at times. We’ll look everywhere twice, and all of a sudden she’ll just show up in the kitchen out of nowhere. One time, she was watching a moth in the bathroom very intently. I guess she really wanted to get a hold of that moth because all of a sudden she literally jumped about 3 feet and grabbed hold of the trim on the wall. She just hung there on the wall by her front claws for about 30 seconds, it was quite a sight to see. My cat also likes to sleep in many different positions, but her two favorite seem to be lollicat, like in the picture, and the disappearing limbs position, where all her legs and tail are tucked up under her. Her tail seems to have a mind of its own, so she usually has a paw resting on top of it to keep it still. I’ve heard stories of others who have cats with strange behaviors. My coworker has a big cat that loves to eat marshmallows. I heard about someone who hung his Christmas tree from the ceiling so his Siamese cats couldn’t get to it. One of my favorite stories was from my mentor teacher during my first year of teaching. She said she had just got home from shopping and opened up her trunk to unload groceries. She came back to grab a second load, and found one of her bags split open, with a giant chunk missing from her loaf of bread, and her cat sitting next to it in the trunk. She swears that cat gave her a look of defiance as if it was her fault for not bringing home any treats.

            Cats can be comforting, too. Not my cat, she bites if you pet her anywhere but on her neck. But, my family’s new kitten likes to snuggle up. He just plops right in your lap, almost like a dog, but without the panting and licking. I had a cat in Arizona who was very sweet. She would rub up against me and purr if I was crying, or even when I made a sound like crying. She knew how to make me feel better. For all you dog-lovers, I know dogs can be comforting, too. I do have some great stories of some lovable and very smart dogs; I guess I’ll just have to do another blog about dogs sometime. But, for now, I’ll stick with the kitties :)

            I know this entry is already pretty long, but I thought you might enjoy this Christmas poem that my brother wrote. (By the way, if you would like me to include any writings in my blog, you are welcome to send me a message, or you can add your own thoughts in the comments on here or facebook. It might be fun to share and interact with other people’s writings.) Anyway, here’s the poem:

There’s a kitten in the Christmas tree
and the fire’s going blissfully--------
Snowflakes tickle the roof
I thought I saw the other kitty
But it must have vanished-poof
Probably stole an ornament or two.

Sugar cookies start to brown
Jingle Bells plays with that tingly sound
Flashing lights cast pretty hues
on a manger scene--------------
I tie my shoes
And prepare for snow-outside I go.

Crunch, crunch-the snow sounds great
To build a snowman is my fate
I roll a snowball real fat
and notice icicles hanging down
and I see through the window-that
there’s a kitten in the Christmas tree.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

A Life Worth Remembering

            This has been on my mind since my church’s ladies’ retreat back in September. The theme was “A Legacy to Remember” and each of us was asked to name someone who left a legacy in our lives. Almost half of the women present, myself included, named our grandmothers. With Christmas just around the corner, I can think of no better time to celebrate the life of my mother’s mom and remember all those childhood Christmases I spent at Grandma’s house. I was only 12 years old when she died, so I was too young to notice some of her character traits. But, looking back, I can see some of those qualities that make me wish I still had her here today.

Louise Swoboda was a devoted wife. Granddaddy had a stroke before I was born, and it got to the point that Grandma could not handle taking care of him by herself, so she put him in a nursing home. Whenever I came to stay a few weeks over the summer with Grandma, she would go to the nursing home to visit Granddaddy at lunchtime, every single day. I would sit in the floor and play with Polly Pockets or explore the corridors with the nurses. Sometimes she would bake cookies for him and his roommate. I remember one time that my cousin, Susan, and I got into an argument over who would give the cookies to Granddaddy and who got stuck with the stranger. When it came to Thanksgiving or Christmas, Grandma would take Granddaddy home to celebrate with the family. I remember he slept in his old chair most of the day, but now I know that those were probably some of their favorite days, spending time at home together. Granddaddy died in July of 1996, and Grandma died a few months later. She was so devoted to her husband that she didn’t want to live without him.

Louise Swoboda cared about people. She was very giving, not only with gifts, but with her time. I got an extra aunt because my Grandma took her in as an “adopted” daughter. Mary loved Grandma as her own mother because of the care and time that she gave Mary’s family. I have almost as many memories with my “adopted” aunt as I do with my real aunt. I asked my mom about my grandma, and I found out Mary wasn’t the first. Grandma had a heart for teens and young women. She would invite them in her home and provide them with a meal and Godly counsel. I remember getting to know the small town of Globe, Arizona pretty well. Whenever I stayed with her, she would always be visiting someone. She liked to play dominoes with some ladies her age, she visited the homes of her pastor and his wife and their grown children, and she would even visit with and get to know some of the other residents in the nursing home. At home, she kept herself busy with phone calls, writing letters, baking, and caring for grandchildren. And she didn’t keep these traits to herself; she passed them on to those she came in contact with. She taught me and Susan how to decorate Christmas cookies, and more importantly, how to share with others and that giving is much better than receiving.

Louise Swoboda was a faithful servant, and her life is an example of her love for others. She was truly the matriarch who held our family together. Maybe she didn’t do everything perfect, but her love for God allowed her to become a great woman, at least in the eyes of those whose lives she touched. This will be my 15th Christmas without her, but I hope that her legacy will live on in my life.

With love to Grandma Louise (Ryan) Swoboda, you are and shall continue to be greatly missed. One day we will meet again in Heaven. Thanks for the treasured memories here on Earth.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Let Us Give Thanks

            “Give thanks to the Lord for He is good; His faithful love endures forever.” Psalm 107:1

            What better time to be reminded of thankfulness than right around Thanksgiving?  I started reading a new book at the end of October. It’s called “Preparing to be a Help Meet.” It was supposed to give me tips about attracting men…no, not really, it was about how single woman can serve God and prepare themselves to become wives someday. What I wasn’t ready for was the chapter on gratefulness I read a couple weeks ago. Since it is November, of course I was already surrounded by messages of being thankful for what I have and the blessings God gives. But that chapter pointed something out in way that finally got my full attention. I realized that just stating what you’re thankful for is not true gratefulness. True gratefulness involves taking in all the blessings God has given and thanking Him for what He has done. A few days after reading that, my pastor preached on Thanksgiving. He repeated a phrase he has used before, but I never really took it to heart until then. He basically said that if God never blessed you with anything else beyond your salvation, you still have reason to give thanks to Him. Believe me, God has blessed me with so much since the day I was saved; I probably could not count them all. After that sermon, I thought some more about the message of that chapter. It talked about negative thinking, which I had never equated to ungratefulness before. I figured my negative thoughts were just triggered by depression and the way I was raised. I blamed my family; they were usually pessimistic, so naturally, I would be too. I blamed my circumstances. It seemed everyone in my life was moving on, getting married, having kids, finding fulfilling jobs, etc. Since nothing was happening for me, I had a right to be depressed and self-pitying, or so I thought. God has something else in mind.

            Instead of trying to reword the author, Debi Pearl’s words, I’m just going to quote a section of that chapter I read: “Most women say they can’t help how they feel. This is a lie which will keep you bound to a wretched life…It is not that one woman has a wonderful life and the other has nothing but misery; it is that one sees life through the eyes of thankfulness and the other through a heart of discontentment. A downcast attitude is a dishonor to God and your husband-to-be.” Ouch! I was talking to my friend, Cynthia a couple months ago about this subject. We decided we needed to stop focusing on the negative in our conversations and thoughts. I have not kept up my end of the bargain. I remember one day in church when 2 different people at 2 separate times told me I need to smile, things aren’t that bad. I’m sad to say that that almost made me feel even more sorry for myself. It’s not easy, but a thankful attitude is a choice, not a condition. So, this is a proclamation to my readers that I need to have a more grateful spirit. No more moping around in self-pity. God has done great things for me, and I should be filled with joy and thanksgiving. As Madam Blueberry said: “A thankful heart is a happy heart, I’m glad for what I have, that’s an easy way to start.” When I get into that state of discontent again, I just need to remember to count my blessings. Let’s all take Philippians 4:11 to heart: “…for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.”

Monday, November 15, 2010

Fasten Seatbelts, Please

 “Be still and know that I am God.” Those words from Psalm 46:10 have always made an impact in my life, and most of the time I never realized it. I can’t remember when I first learned that verse, but it has come back to me at many of the toughest points of my life. Over the past few years, the impact of those words and their meaning has impressed itself upon me. It usually happens when I start getting worked up and worried. I over-think everything going on in my life and start asking all those “why,” “how,” and “what if” questions. I finally drive myself to a state of total confusion and frustration, and that’s when God reminds me of His Word. He said, “Be still.” Calm down, breathe, let go of those anxious thoughts. And here’s the best part: “Know that I am God.” No matter what I’m going through, whatever is troubling me, God is there. He knows everything that is going on, and He is in control. Knowing that really does bring me back to a sense of peace and comfort. Here’s another way I look at it: I have no idea how to fly a plane. I could sit in the cockpit and mess with all the buttons and knobs, but I doubt I’d get anywhere without a real pilot in control. Life can be the same way sometimes. It’s better to sit back and enjoy the ride instead of trying to rush to the front of the plane and fly it myself at the first sign of turbulence. I just got to trust that my pilot (God) knows what He’s doing and I could really crash and burn if I try to take matters into my own hands.

            There are times when we become overwhelmed or fed up with the circumstances we’re in and frustration and worry begin to overthrow our emotional state. If we remain in this state of imbalance, where anger or depression rules, we can end up making rash decisions, saying things we don’t mean, or worse, becoming apathetic toward God. I’ve been there, and believe me, it is much better to capture these thoughts before they lead you down the road of depression and self-pity. So, with God’s help, I remind myself of the words He gave us to comfort us and bring us peace in the midst of trials. There are many verses in the Bible that talk about dealing with trials because the authors of those words had trials, fears, and worries just like us. Here are some other verses that have been particularly meaningful to me in times of trouble:

*"So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand." (Isaiah 41:10)
*"Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths." (Proverbs 3:5-6)
*“Cast all your cares (anxiety) on Him because He cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:7)
*“But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed.” (James 1:6)
*“In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps.” (Proverbs 16:9)

Sunday, November 7, 2010

God Bless America!

Since we are coming into November, right between Election Day and Veteran’s Day, I thought this would be a good time to post this poem I wrote a while ago. I would like to dedicate it to the soldiers and veterans who have defended this country and protected the freedoms that we hold so dearly.

Poem for US
Oh say can you see, by the dawn’s early light
Oh Lord, may this country not forget all its night
Night of toils and hardships and sorrows we bared
Oh Lord, may this country not forget how it cared
It cared for the wounded, those that had fought
Oh Lord, may this country not forget what it sought
It sought freedom and liberty and Biblical laws
Oh Lord, may this country not forget all its flaws
Flaws that threaten to break us, to tear us apart
Oh Lord, may this country not forget to take heart
Take heart that you’re with us as long as we fight
For Your truth, the foundations that gave us this right
Oh Lord, may this country not forget there’s a light.

            Over the past few weeks, I have started about 3 or 4 entries; I just haven’t gotten around to finding a good way to end them. So, hopefully, I will get back to my original plan of posting an entry once a week. The ideas are all there, it’s just a matter of putting them into words. Don’t forget our veterans and soldiers this Thursday, November 11! Thank them for the sacrifices they have made and pray for their protection and strength.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Beauty is Pain!

This morning I pulled out 54 bobby pins from my hair. I am typing this right now with the $30 fingernails that are really starting to get on my nerves. It’s amazing how hard everyday, simple tasks become when you have an extra bit of nail sticking out that you’re not used to. Oh, the things we go through for beauty…My brother said it quite well yesterday: “There’s a reason why vain and pain rhyme.” The things we do to make ourselves look pretty can be physically painful sometimes. My nails are still throbbing, I got burned on my scalp with a curling iron, and my feet hurt from wearing 3-inch heels today. It’s a mental pain in the time we put into it. When I really try, which is less often than I’d like, it takes me at least 30 minutes to dry and style my hair, 20 minutes to decide on which shirt looks best at the moment, 20 minutes to get my make-up just right, and 5 minutes to pick out some jewelry and spray on perfume…Most days I don’t bother trying… Beauty is also painful on the budget. Think about all the “unnecessary” items we buy for our personal vanity. Eye shadow, eyeliner, mascara, lip sticks, lip gloss, blush, foundation, perfume, scented lotions, curling irons, hair dryers, hair serums, hair spray, jewelry, too many pairs of shoes, wrinkle creams, zit zappers, manicures, pedicures…how many other hundreds of items am I missing?

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not condemning the practice of beautifying ourselves, because I love the way I feel when I look nice. It makes me sing (in my head): “I feel pretty, oh so pretty, I feel pretty and witty and gaaaaayyyyy (happy)…” I guess I’m mainly complaining about all the effort and/or expense it takes to feel that way. I wish it was easier to do. The worst part is when you try to use your looks to impress a certain man in your life, (oh, don’t look at me all shockingly, you know we all do it ;) ) and he doesn’t even seem to take notice (does he realize what I went through for all this?!). But, it does go beyond trying to impress someone, I like to dress up, it makes me feel more vibrant, womanly, and youthful. It does make me think of a verse, though, “Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting…” It doesn’t last. All that remains of my bridesmaid updo from yesterday is some residue in the shower (and 54 bobby pins). Makeup and perfumes have to be constantly replenished, and acrylic nails eventually grow out or break off (ouch!!). Then, eventually, we all get older and start to feel less beautiful as the years go by. But wait, not all hope is lost, let’s look at the rest of Proverbs 31:30: “…but, a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.” Physical beauty may fade away with time and age, but we can always feel pretty on the inside if we allow God to make us beautiful. Now, I don’t know if everyone reading this right now has a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, and if you don’t, I would highly encourage you to develop one. I’m speaking to myself right now when I say that time and effort spent in prayer and Bible study is worth a lot more than time spent on ourselves. So, go ahead and pamper yourselves, feel good about how you look, just don’t overdo it. Save some time to bring out your true beauty, maybe start by reading Proverbs 31:10-31. Anyway, I hope this all makes sense (I had a long week), if you have any questions, feel free to send me a message. And if you are a man who has read to this point, shame on you…no, I’m just kidding J But, I would encourage you to show your appreciation for the women who are important to you (wife, girlfriend, sister, mom, etc.), and don’t always let our effort go unnoticed.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Writer's Block

Wow, I have already let two weeks go by without posting a new blog. They went by in such a blur, I don’t know where all the time goes…I did write a silly little poem last week, but I it was too short for a blog entry. I’m not feeling particularly inspired at the moment. I guess my focus is still a little off, and I can’t seem to put any of my thoughts together into words. So, I thought I’d post a couple poems I’ve already written.

Here’s the one from last week:

Busy, busy, busy
Run, run, run
So much work to do,
There’s just no time for fun.
We go and go
But not too slow
And nothing’s ever done!

I wrote this one a few months ago:

The Adventure
The journey’s not always easy, but the adventure’s on its way.
God has a plan for me, and His love is here to stay.
Sometimes it seems that life is forever standing still,
But I know that He will guide me onward to His Will.
He’ll take me through the valleys if I choose to follow Him,
He’ll hold my hand and dry my tears when things seem rather grim.
Life may not go my way, not according to my plan,
But God’s vision is far greater, it holds a wider span.
Sometimes things might look up and bring me inspiration,
Reminders that God is my true motivation.
I’ve got to keep going; continue pressing on,
For someday this momentary life will be gone.
The journey’s not always easy, but the adventure’s on its way.
God has a plan for me, and His love is here to stay.

Anyway, I hope next week my mind won’t be so jumbled up, and I can find my words again. Until then, pray I can find some encouraging moments to help inspire those words.

By the way, it's 10/10/10...just thought I'd point that out, it is somewhat fascinating, isn't it?

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Brought to you by the Letter F

I found myself very distracted in church this morning, and it seemed that whatever was distracting me was one out of four “f” words (no not that “f” word). My mind kept wandering away to family, friends, future, or facebook. I started my drive to church thinking about my future, where my life is going, where God wants me, and when I’ll finally get married. These thoughts continued on into Sunday school. As the prayer requests were brought up, I began to drift into thoughts of my family and their needs. Then, I started to think about my friend, Shannon, and her upcoming wedding...which brought my thoughts back to the future and what I’d do in planning my own wedding. I started off the worship service thinking about facebook. I wondered whose birthdays were coming up, and I thought about how I needed to send an email to my cousin who decided to delete her facebook account. Then, my mind wandered on some more with my family, friends and future. Finally, I realized how I was letting myself drift away and was not paying attention to the message being preached. What did I do with this realization? Well, I thought of a fifth “f,” my followers on this blog. I came up with the idea for this entry and how I could put it into words. There are many other “f” words that tend to take our minds away or use up our free time (don’t worry, I thought of these after church): food, fun, failures, feelings, fantasies, fads, functions, Farmville…the list could go on and on and this is just one letter! Now it is kind of funny how I’m writing about how distracted I was, and even most of this very writing before your eyes was concocted within my distraction, but at the same time it reminds me of an “f” word I should have had a grip on. Focus.
Sometimes, or rather most of the time, it seems that I do find myself distracted by the worries of everyday life. I get so caught up in the wonderings and the wanderings of my circumstances that I forget about where my focus should be. God is just waiting for me to lift up these concerns and questions in prayer and let my mind rest in Him. Now, there’s nothing wrong with these “f” words, but when they take over your (my) priority list and leave God at the bottom, then something definitely needs to be fixed. I’ll leave you with some fitting verses I found…
“So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:18, NIV)
“Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:2, KJV)

Sunday, September 19, 2010

The Beginning of a Writer’s Journey

I went to the ladies retreat with my church this past weekend and I came across this sudden inspiration to write. I guess in God’s eyes, it’s not sudden at all, He knows all the seeds He has been planting over the years. I think the very first seed was planted back when I was in 6th grade in Arizona. Through my class' writer’s workshop I first learned about the writing process and different types of poetry, and I found out that I really liked writing. During jr. high and high school, I didn’t get the same enjoyment from writing for my classes, except in my 11th grade English class with the writing portfolios we kept. I did start keeping a diary on a semi-regular basis during high school, and have written in it on and off since then. Those were more seeds for my inspiration. In college, writing became more of a chore, there was always something that needed to be written about in every class, and even many of my exams were essay tests. I started to get tired of writing so much and began to, as they say so nicely, “BS” my way through many of my reflections and reports. Despite these strained feelings toward writing, seeds were still planted from others. My professors would remark on how thoughtful and well-written my reflections were. There was a fellow student who asked me to help write a skit for a group project because she heard I was a good writer. My friends sometimes commented on my cards or emails being inspiring. But at that point in my life and even up until about 2 years ago, I didn’t feel like an inspired, good writer.

Part of my inspiration to write comes from reading good, engaging books. A couple years ago, I hadn’t read anything for a while, and I decided to start back up again. I picked up one of Karen Kingsbury’s books at the library and had no idea what I was getting myself into. For those who haven’t read her books, Karen takes you into her stories in a way that makes you feel like you’re a part of them. I feel like the Baxters are real people who I know personally. There are many other good authors, but the reason I was drawn to Karen’s stories was because those were the types of stories I wanted to write back in the 6th and 11th grades. Realistic fiction: that was the genre I was drawn to; inspiring stories of things that could happen in everyday life. Reading her books revived my desire to write. I started collecting ideas for books or stories by making lists in notebooks, on my computer, in my phone…I had so many ideas floating around that I became overwhelmed with them and had no idea where to begin. So I procrastinated and still did not feel motivated to write, at least not publicly.

Finally I find myself back where I started: with the retreat (everything written beyond my first sentence above was just background information…) The theme was “A Legacy to Remember.” Beforehand, I didn’t really feel like I had a legacy to leave, and being without a husband or children, I had nobody to leave it with. But, God was already preparing my heart for what I’d learn over the weekend. I read a devotional story right before I left on Friday. It was about a girl’s grandmother who wrote thousands of letters to her children and grandchildren throughout her life. It says, “Part of Gram’s legacy was how she lived her life, but part of it, too, was the words she left with us all—words that became an extension of the woman who penned them.” I reflected on the fact that this story mentioned a legacy, which just happened to be the theme of this retreat I was about to leave for. I also began thinking about how much I would love to write more to encourage my friends and family. During the retreat, so many women talked about the legacies that have been passed down through the generations of their families. But, what I noticed the most was the many times writing was involved. Twyla read a story she wrote when she was younger; Darla mentioned the importance of keeping a journal of your thoughts and reflections; Sara brought journals from her experiences in Germany and Mexico. I came to the realization that maybe writing could become my own legacy. After all the encouragement and inspiring moments over the years, my spark was finally ignited. So, I am beginning a journey, one that I plan to share with my friends and family. I don’t really know where this journey is taking me, but I know that I plan to continue on. I want my words to leave a legacy in someone’s life. I don't know if my writing is really that good or not, but I hope these writings are uplifting to those who wish to bear with me through these beginning steps.

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