Home is Where Your Story Begins

April 22, 2011

Let Me Serve

Filed under: Life,Uncategorized — my3daughters @ 11:13 am

I love being Anglican  I love celebrating the different seasons of the church year.  It’s the same Bible I grew up with, the same stories, but brought to life in such an awesome way.  As Father Terry said last night, we take the events of the past and don’t just remember them, we bring them forward into the present and live them again.

Last night’s Maundy Thursday service was all about The Last Supper.  How many times have I heard that story?  Yet I saw it as if it was something completely new.  Never before did it occur to me that Jesus sat down and broke bread with friends that he KNEW would basically stab Him in the back before the sun rose the next morning.  He KNEW Judas was going to betray Him.  He KNEW Peter was going to deny Him, not once but three times.  He KNEW that He would be standing all alone, that the rest would desert Him and hide behind locked doors.

And not only did He eat with them, He SERVED them.  He washed their feet, a very humbling act.  Part of our Maundy Thursday service is a Foot Washing.  While the foot washing is going on, we sing The Servant Song by Richard Gillard.  (click on the link to see a video of him singing the song)

Brother, let me be your servant
Let me be as Christ to you
Pray that I may have the grace
To let you be my servant, too

We are pilgrims on a journey
We are brothers on the road
We are here to help each other
Walk the mile and bear the load

I will hold the Christ-light for you
In the night-time of your fear
I will hold my hand out to you
Speak the peace you long to hear

I will weep when you are weeping
When you laugh I’ll laugh with you
I will share your joy and sorrow
Till we’ve seen this journey through

The words in bold italics are the ones that really jumped out at me last night.  I have a lot going on in my life right now.  Its hard to focus on the needs of others when my own needs overwhelm me.  But I don’t have more going on that Jesus did that night.  He knew what was going to happen, and it was not pleasant.  Yet He served.  Far be it from me to be above serving.


April 20, 2011

Peace in the Shelter of His Wings

Filed under: Life — my3daughters @ 10:31 pm

W hen my heart is aching, when I feel I can’t go on, I run to the shelter of His wings . . . . . . . and there I find peace.

Tonight was our Tenebrae Service for Holy Week. (Tenebrae is the Latin word for “darkness” or “shadows”)  I arrived at church with a heavy heart, tears flowing from frustration, hurt and anger.  By the time service started, the peace of God’s home had begun to sooth me.  The service lifted my spirits and gave me hope and joy.  Following are my reflections and notes of various things that really touched me.  If you would like to read the service in its entirety, please let me know and I will see that you get a copy.  Note that there were fifteen candles on the altar at the beginning of the service.  After each Antiphon, an acolyte (in this case Nathaniel who is too cute) extinguished a candle.

Antiphon 1 was Psalm 69:1-23.  I felt as if I could have written this Psalm.  It was comforting to read it and know that I am not the first person to have felt like this.

1  Save me, O God, for the waters have risen up to my neck.

2  I am sinking in deep mire, and there is no firm ground for my feet

3  I have come into deep waters, and the torrent washes over me.

4  I have grown weary with my crying; my throat is inflamed; my eyes have failed from looking for my   God.

5  Those who hate me without cause are more than the hairs of my head; my lying foes who would destroy me are mighty.  Must I then give back what I never stole?

6  O God, You know my foolishness, and my faults are not hidden from You.

7  Let not those who hope in You be put to shame through me, Lord God of hosts; let not those who seek You be disgraced because of me, O God of Israel.

14  But as for me, this is my prayer to You, at the time You have set, O Lord;

15   “In Your great mercy, O God, answer me with Your unfailing help.

16  Save me from the mire; do not let me sink; let me be rescued from those who hate me and out of the deep waters.

18  Answer me, O Lord, for Your love is kind; in Your great compassion, turn to me.

19  Hide not Your face from Your servant; be swift and answer me, for I am in distress.

20  Draw near to me and redeem me; because of my enemies deliver me.

21   You know my reproach, my shame, and my dishonor; my adversaries are all in Your sight.”

22  Reproach has broken my heart, and it cannot be healed; I looked for sympathy, but there was none, for comforters, but I could find no one.

Antiphon 2 was Psalm 70.  Again, I could totally relate.

1   Be please, O God, to deliver me; O Lord, make haste to help me.

2  Let those who seek my life be ashamed and altogether dismayed; let those who take pleasure in my misfortune draw back and be disgraced.

5  But as for me, I am poor and needy; come to me speedily, O God.

6  You are my Helper and my Deliverer; O Lord do not tarry.

Antiphon 3 was Psalm 74.  Verse 20 reads “Let not the oppressed turn away ashamed; let the poor and needy praise Your Name.”  Yeap, I’m the oppressed, the poor, the needy.  I don’t want to turn away ashamed so I need to praise His Name.

Lessons 1-3 were a reading from the Lamentations of Jeremiah the Prophet (1:1-14).  Jeremiah’s descriptions sounded as if they were describing me.  “She weeps bitterly in the night, tears run down her cheeks; . . . Judah has gone into the misery of exile and of hard servitude; she dwells now among the nations, but finds no resting place; . . . Jerusalem remembers in the days of her affliction and bitterness all the precious things that were hers from the days of old; “.  At the end of each Lesson was the line “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, return to the Lord your God.”  I personalized it to be “Dawn, Dawn, return to the Lord your God.” (not out loud of course, especially since I was the reader for these lessons)

Antiphon 4 was Psalm 2.  I liked the last verse.  It gave me hope.  “Happy are they all who take refuge in Him!” (v 13)  Although I am not one to put stock in happiness, which is fleeting, I am claiming this verse as my own.  I’m just changing it to “Joyful are they . . .” since joy is lasting.

Antiphon 5 was Psalm 22:1-21.  Could anything describe my feelings better?

1  My God, my God, why have You forsaken me? And are so far from my cry and from the words of my distress?

2  O my God, I cry in the daytime, but you do not answer; by night as well, but I find no rest.

10  I have been entrusted to You ever since I was born; You were my God when I was still in my mother’s womb.

11  Be not far from me, for trouble is near, and there is none to help.

Antiphon 6 was Psalm 27, one of my favorite Psalms.

1  The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom then shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom then shall I be afraid?

7  For in the day of trouble He shall keep me safe in His shelter, He shall hide me in the secrecy of His dwelling and set me high upon a rock. (those of you familiar with Jan Karon’s Mitford series may recognize this as Olivia’s Life Verse)

8  Even now He lifts up my head above my enemies round about me. (to me that was an immediate victory—even now in the midst of my misery He is lifting up my head through this service)

Lessons 4-6 were a reading from the Treatise of Saint Augustine the Bishop on the Psalms.  It started out with a cry that I could readily apply to my life.  “Hear my prayer, O God; do not hide Yourself from my petition.  Listen to me and answer me.  I mourn in my trial and am troubled.”

Saint Augustine said that “Every wicked person lives either that he may be corrected, or that through him the righteous may be tried and tested.”  When I heard that I thought “I’m being tried and tested.”  A little further on Saint Augustine reminded me that “most of the time, when you think you are hating your enemy, you are hating your brother without knowing it.”  My response—Ouch.

Lesson 6 talked about the glory of the cross.  I love the line “He has conquered the world, not by steel, but by wood.”  Many times I’ve heard that the pen is mightier than the sword.  In the great game of eternal rock/paper/scissors, wood conquers all.

Antiphon 7, Psalm 54, began and ended with the entire congregation saying “God is my helper; it is the Lord who sustains my life.”

Antiphon 8 was Psalm 76.  Verse 11 told me to “Make a vow to the Lord your God and keep it; let all around Him bring gifts to Him who is worthy to be feared.”  I vow to tithe 10% and then back off when things get tight.  I vow to have daily devotions and then get distracted.  It’s time for me to make the vow and keep it.

Antiphon 9, Psalm 88, was a perfect description of where I was at when I walked into church tonight.  Literally, I felt like I’ve been crying out constantly for help and not being heard.  Many times I have thought of ending my life.  Thankfully I have friends who always seem to pop up to encourage me when I need them most.  And not just local friends who can see on my face, in my demeanor, that I am hurting.  My most supportive friends are miles away in other states and even in other countries.  I thank God that they are sensitive to the leading of His Spirit and reach out to me.

1  O Lord, my God, my Savior, by day and night I cry to you.

2  Let my prayer enter into Your presence; incline Your ear to my lamentation.

3  For I am full of trouble; my life is at the brink of the grave.

Lessons 7-9 were from the Letter to the Hebrews (4:15-5:10; 9:11-15a).  This was exactly what I was learning as I participated in tonight’s service.  “We do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sinning.  Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

Antiphon 10 was Psalm 63:1-8.  “O God, You are my God; eagerly I seek You; my soul thirsts for You, my flesh faints for You, as in a barren and dry land where there is no water.” (v 1)  This does not describe me at the moment but it’s where I need to be.  I want to be able to say, “My soul clings to You; Your right hand holds me fast.” (v 8)  (I know there’s something significant in that it’s the right hand but I can’t remember what it is.  If you’ve read this far and know the answer, please post in the comments, thanks)

Antiphon 11 was Psalm 90:1-12.  Nothing really spoke to my heart from this one but I didn’t want you to wonder why I skipped from Antiphon 10 to Antiphon 12.

Antiphon 12, Psalm 143, was again something that could have been written from my own heart.  I really don’t understand why people feel they are holier if they have “original” prayers.  Why improve on the perfection that is the Bible?

1   Lord, hear my prayer, and in Your faithfulness heed my supplications; answer me in Your righteousness.

3  For my enemy has sought my life; he has crushed me to the ground; he has made me live in dark places like those who are long dead.

4  My spirit faints within me; my heart within me is desolate;

5  I remember the time past; I muse upon all your deeds; I consider the works of your hands. (I’m counting my blessings, or at least trying to)

6  I spread out my hands to you; my soul gasps to you like a thirsty land.

8  Let me hear of Your loving-kindness in the morning, for I put my trust in you; show me the road that I must walk, for I lift up my soul to You. (and if that could be tomorrow  morning, Lord, it would be extra great, thanks)

10 Teach me to do what pleases you, for You are my God; let Your good Spirit lead me on level ground.  (please, oh please, give me some direction.  I am so lost)

Antiphon 13 was The Song of Hezekiah (Isaiah 38:10-20).  You were expecting another Psalm weren’t you?  Verse 7 is my prayer—“My weary eyes look up to you; Lord be my refuge in my affliction.”

Antiphon 14 brought us back to the Psalms with Psalm 150, the last Psalm.  It ended with “Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.” (v 6)

Remember, we had been extinguishing one candle of the fifteen on the altar after each Antiphon.  If you’ve been paying attention you will see that there was one candle left.  Remember also that this was evening in Michigan (service started at 7:00 pm) so the entire nave was lit by one solitary candle.  Actually, the lights were on very low because we still had one more Antiphon to go, Canticle 16:  Benedictus Dominus Deus Israel.  At the end of this Antiphon, the entire congregation said “Now the women sitting at the tomb made lamentation, weeping for the Lord.”  Then the remaining candle was taken from the altar and removed from sight (and the lights were turned out).

We said the Christus factus est—“Christ for us became obedient unto death, even death on a cross; therefore God has highly exalted Him and bestowed on Him the Name which is above every name.”  After a brief silence was observed, we quietly said Psalm 51.  (the rubric says to read it quietly but I think part of the quiet was because it was hard to see the words in the dark).  I like verse 9 “Make me hear of joy and gladness, that the body you have broken may rejoice.”

Deacon Bob concluded with a Collect.  In the silence that followed a noise was made (Joseph:  “What was that noise?), the fifteenth candle was brought back in and everyone departed in silence.

Hanging on by a Very Thin Thread

Filed under: Life — my3daughters @ 6:01 pm

I’ve been doing everything in my power to stay in Michigan so that I can be involved in my children’s lives.  I have no job, no vehicle and no home.  Contrary to popular belief, I am not laying around all day playing Facebook and mooching off others.  I have applied for every job opening that I am even remotely qualified for, followed up on every job lead that someone has told me about and gone on every interview I have been asked to participate in.

Until I get a job, I cannot even think about trying to find a place to live. Unemployment doesn’t pay me enough even before they take half of it to give my 6 figure a year ex-husband his court ordered child support.  And before you ask, not that it’s any of your business, but I have to pay him child support because, although we have joint custody, his residence is listed as the primary one.  And no, I cannot ask for a reduction in child support because I’m on unemployment.  Michigan Friend of the Court will not even consider changing a court ordered amount while I am on unemployment.

“Surely there must be some sort of help,” you say.  “Have you gone to the Department of Human Services?  Have you applied for Section 8 Housing?”  Again, not that it’s any of your business, but yes I have.

I have commitments here in Michigan until May 22.  I had set this as my “deadline.”  The plan was that if I hadn’t found a job by then, I was going to have to leave my children and move back to Pennsylvania.  First off, I am not one of those people who had children just to say I did so.  I had children because I wanted them, because I wanted to be involved in their lives.  So moving 300+ miles away is not my idea of a good time.  Secondly, note that I did not say I was moving back to Fayette City.  Apparently, moving back home is not an option.  I can’t say for certain because I haven’t been able to get a response to my calls, emails or text messages.   I’m just assuming I’m not welcome.  Fortunately, I do have friends willing to welcome me into their home.

I honestly don’t know if I can make it another day in Michigan, much less another month.  Continuing to pick myself up, dust myself off and continue the fight is getting too difficult.  And it doesn’t help that there are so many people who seem to delight in kicking me when I’m down.  For those who look down on me because I “spend too much time on Facebook” let me say this—“Be glad that I do spend so much time on Facebook.  I have friends on there who support me and encourage me.  If it wasn’t for my constant contact with them, you would be walking around with the guilt of knowing that you were part of the reason I blew my brains out.”  Of course, you are so self-centered that you would never dream that it was your fault.  Plus you would probably agree with the family member who told me that I deserve all the misery I get, that I asked for it and that if my friends knew the true me that they wouldn’t support me (this family member has spent about 2 days with me in the past 20 years so I’m not sure how they think they know the real me).

To each and every one of my friends who has helped me keep going by encouraging me, thank you from the bottom of my heart.  If you have someone in your life who blesses you even a tiny bit as much as you have blessed me, you will be blessed indeed.

To each and every one of you who have looked down your nose at me, kicked me when I was down and basically helped to make my life even more of a living hell than it already is, thank you from the bottom of my heart.  While the right thing for me to do would be to never wish this or any misery on you, what I really wish is that you will eventually get as good as you gave.


Filed under: Life,Parenting — my3daughters @ 10:34 am

“No!”  It’s one of the first words a young child says.  It’s cute for the first two or three times then it quickly becomes annoying.  So we as parents say, “don’t you tell me that!” and break our children of what we consider a “bad habit”.  I agree that the disrespectful and stubborn “No!” of most toddlers should not be encouraged.  However, I think a lot of adults need to re-learn the word “No.”

Have you ever heard the saying “stop me before I volunteer again”?  It applies to people who don’t know how to say “No.”  They volunteer to be room parents, join the PTO, help with the bake sale, coach the team, lead the troop, provide the snacks—the list goes on and on.  ”But I’m doing it for my child,” they say.  To which I reply, “Really, and how does it benefit your child when you are too busy, too tired or too stressed to spend time with them? When you are feeling overwhelmed and frustrated and taking it out on them? When you are rundown because you can’t even find the time to eat properly or get enough sleep?”

Now, before you get mad at me for pointing fingers, know that I speak from experience.  There was a time when I didn’t know how to say “No” and my family suffered from it.  Fortunately someone wiser than me taught me to slow down before I ended up crashing.  Now I schedule downtime into my calendar every day, week and month.  I’m not suggesting you ignore your children.  That’s not healthy either.  I’m telling you that they will survive if you let someone else handle the bake sale.  Actually, they will thrive because they will have a less stressed out parent.  And you will be teaching them the value of a life that is a balance of work and play.

Not only do we need to tell others “No”, we need to tell our children “No.”  They may think they need every new toy and gadget on the market but they don’t.  I’ve had to tell my girls “No” a lot.  Amazingly, they are still alive.  I suggest giving your children an allowance instead.  Sit down with them, discuss what they will be required to spend their own money on and then help them budget.  If they really want something, help them develop a plan to save up the money.   Not only will this teach them a valuable lesson but it will remove stress from your life as well.  I know people who work two jobs just so their little prince or princess can have everything their heart desires.  Sure, everything but a relaxed and stress free parent who actually has time to spend with them.

Again, I speak from experience.  I was the only child of older parents, both of whom worked outside the home and had good incomes.  I was given everything and anything I wanted.  Imagine my shock when I had to start paying for things on my own.  It was very hard to go from having a new car, designer clothes, and the ability to eat out whenever I wanted, to driving an old car, shopping at a thrift store and considering a trip to McDonalds a major treat.  My parents thought they were being good parents, but in the long run it would have been better if they would have said “No” once in a while.  I am thankful that, while they indulged my every whim, they modeled a thrifty lifestyle.  I am able to look back now and put those lessons into practice.  Trust me; life is a lot better now than when I just had to have everything.

Not only do we need to tell our kids “No” when it comes to things that cost money, we need to tell them “No” when it comes to how they spend their time.  “No” you can’t watch TV while you do your homework.  Concentrate on your homework and get it finished so you can watch TV later.  What, do you really think their employers are going to let them have a TV in their cubical because “I can’t concentrate without the TV.”  Music played quietly (not burst your eardrums loud) is okay in my opinion.  There have actually been studies that show that certain types of music help with studies.

Here’s a hot topic—let’s say “No” to cell phones.  Now I’m not talking all the time because I would go crazy without my Crackberry.  However, I was at a party a few months ago and one of the parents commented about the girls all texting each other when they were in the same room.  Another parent pointed out that even some parents are guilty of it and used me as an example.  Yes, I was sitting there checking email and Facebook.  Thanks, friend, I appreciate your honesty and I am now very conscious of when I need to put my phone away.

Cell phones have no place in school and I love that our school district has a ban on them.  I just wish the parents would step up and help enforce this.  No cell phones in school means I should not be seeing Facebook status updates during school hours.  I have a lot of kids on my Facebook and they know that Ms Dawn will say something if she seems them on during school hours.  But why am I parenting your child?  And why aren’t you one of their Facebook friends?  There’s the parent who said, “I want my daughter to be able to reach me if she needs me.”  I didn’t have a cell phone growing up and I was still able to reach my parents if I needed them.  See, there are these interesting things in the school office called telephones and if you are sick or need your lunch that you forgot, the office staff will let you use them to call your parents.  Actually, all the schools in our district have a telephone in each classroom.  Little Sally or Tommy don’t even have to walk to the office to use the phone.  Amazing, isn’t it?

Cell phones also have no place during homework time.  Exactly how can you focus on your homework when you are getting and sending text messages constantly?  You can’t.  And Facebook (or any other socializing) can wait until after homework is finished.  We weren’t allowed to play or talk on the phone with our friends (yes, it is possible to actually have a verbal conversation with a friend using a phone) until our homework was done.

So how are your child’s grades?  Not so good? Well then how saying “No” to the cell phone, computer, trips to friends’ houses, parties, dances, trips to the mall (for those of you with girls) until the grades come up?  Wait, you say, weren’t you just talking earlier about a need for balance between work and play?  Yes, and I still am.  But if your child is doing poorly in school, they should not be rewarded with “fun” activities.  They can stay home and read, play games or watch TV after they finish their homework.  This is especially true for teens.  In my experience, they will be motivated to get those grades up so they don’t miss out.  And when they get into the “real world (not the one on MTV), if they do poorly at their job, they won’t have the money to do anything “fun.”  For now, school is their job and they need to do it to the best of their ability.

I could go on and on about areas that I feel we need to say “No” to our children.  Say “No” to staying up late on a school night (on a regular basis).  Say “No” to cooking them something different if they don’t like what’s for dinner.  You get the idea.  So learn to say “No.”  Say it loud, say it proud.  It’s what’s best for you AND your entire family.

January 1, 2011

The Home of Many Blessings

Filed under: Life — my3daughters @ 12:46 pm

My home is blessed.  First off, this is a literal statement.  Walk in my front door, turn around and look at the lintel.  In blue chalk you will see the following written “+ 20 C M B 10 +”.  Each year during Epiphany, our priest comes around and blesses our homes.  And it’s there as a reminder all year that I am blessed to have found a great church to call home.

Now that you are in the door, let me take you on a little tour to show you all the reminders of the many blessings in my life.  Since we are in the foyer, we might as well start there.  Open that left bi-fold door.  See the old Apple computer sitting on the floor?  It doesn’t work anymore.  When I first moved out after the divorce, I did not have a computer.  I did have three students who needed a computer for school work.  Coach Mark Tripp found out about my lack of a computer and gave this one to me.   I’ve been told that I can sell it on eBay even though it doesn’t work.  Maybe I will actually get around to that this year.

Moving on to the living room, (the foyer is cramped for so many of us) you’ll see a brass lamp on a small side table.   The table has odds and ends in the drawer (I really need to clean that out) and all of my kid movies are in the space below.  Laura Hitt had this table in her garage to donate to charity.  I fell in love with it so she donated it to the Dawn charity.  The lamp was given to me by Peggy Patston when I moved into my first apartment and realized there were no overhead lights (why do they design apartments that way?).  I had one lamp that I was moving from room to room until Peggy gave me this one.  It’s very heavy and can double as a weapon should someone break into my home.  I’d prefer to just continue using it as a lamp.

We’ll come back to the living room in a bit (this isn’t a long tour) but let’s head down the short hall for right now.  The first door on the left is a storage closet.  It’s filled with memories and Christmas decorations (or will be as soon as I take them down).  I’m blessed to have this much storage in my apartment.  The next door on the left is the main bathroom.  As you can see, it’s decorated in rubber duckies.  Not really any blessings in here unless you count the many bargains that I found to help me decorate and stock it.  Finding bargains is a blessing, at least in my book.

The door at the end leads to my bedroom.  Don’t mind the clothes on the floor.  Most are clean.  I just need to put them away.  Again, my half bath is filled more with bargains than blessings as is my walk-in closet.  I do feel blessed to have a walk-in closet.

The first thing most people notice upon walking into a bedroom is, of course, the bed.  Bishop and Jan Fick blessed me with the mattress and box springs set and the bed frame when I got my first apartment.  I am blessed every night with a wonderful place to sleep because of them. This mattress is so comfortable.

Let’s just close the door on that mess and head back down the hall.  This door says “Caution” on it.  That’s because it’s Abbey and Gillian’s room.  My room is messy, theirs is a disaster area.  We’ll just peek in.  That’s Abbey’s bed over there.  She used to sleep on a mattress and box spring on the floor until Fr. Tim and Anna Doubblestein blessed us with a bed frame.  Gillian uses this daybed that Peggy Patston’s daughter blessed us with.  We won’t walk in and peek in their closet, but they have a small dresser in there that Laura Hitt blessed us with.

Again, this linen closet holds more bargains than blessings.  I do love my bargains.  I can’t remember the last time I paid full price for anything.

Now we are back in the living room.  The TV was a blessing from Sue Beck.  And the Wii sitting next to it I count as both a blessing and a bargain.  The girls knew money was tight for Christmas.  They asked for one thing—a Wii.  They said they would be fine with a used one.  Tom DePew mentioned to me that GameStop was the place to get a used Wii.  And when I went on the GameStop website and saw that they had a used Wii for $99, Tom rearranged his plans to take me there.  That’s the blessing.  The bargain is that I managed to get the Wii, an extra controller and 3 used games for less than the price of a new Wii.  Score!

The big black chair sitting at my computer desk is another blessing.  Nancy Beck (no relation to Sue Beck, at least I don’t think so) saw her neighbor putting it out at the curb for trash day.  She grabbed it and gave it to me.  I spend a lot of time in this chair (too much time probably) and it’s comfy.  I don’t know why he was getting rid of it.  I’ve never found anything wrong with it.

The monitor sitting on the desk is another blessing/bargain combo.  I had a little extra money and my computer monitor was going.  I knew the guys were at the church doing tile work so I stopped by to ask them where I should go to get a monitor and what kind I should get.  Bishop Fick said he had a monitor I could buy and he gave me a great price.  I had also hoped to afford a printer and happened to mention it while I was at the church.  The printer on the bookshelf is a blessing that resulted from that conversation.  Fr. Terry and Nancy Moore had an extra one. It isn’t working right now but I think it just needs a new ink cartridge.  It’s on my shopping list.

Just one more thing before we move into the dining area.  This couch is another blessing/bargain combo.  I needed a couch.  Salvation Army was having a sale and I liked this couch and the price.  However, there was no way I could get it in my vehicle.  I asked Jeremiah Fick to help me get it home in his truck.  Not only did he haul in his truck but he convinced me that, yes I could help him carry it up the stairs.  And it’s a sleeper sofa so it’s heavy.  Every time I look at the couch I not only remember that Jeremiah helped me get it up here (and that Trish loaned me Jeremiah on a busy weekend) but that I helped get it there.  The gift of self-accomplishment is a wonderful blessing.

The dining area is tiny and again holds bargains instead of blessings.  The kitchen is the same way, except for two things.  The first is the microwave.  Again, Coach Mark Tripp found out I wouldn’t have a microwave and so he gave me this one.  I’d be lost without it since I do more heating up than actually cooking.  My Aunt used to say that Ashley’s first word was microwave.  I think she was mistaken.  I believe microwave was Ashley’s second word.

Look next to the microwave on top of the refrigerator and you will see the final blessing on this tour.  No, it’s not the empty bottle of sangria (I just liked that bottle) or even the George Forman grill.  It’s actually the drip pan for the grill.  I found the grill at the Salvation Army (where else do I shop) but it didn’t have a drip pan.  I mentioned to Susan Corey that I loved my George but that I had to fashion a drip pan out of foil.  Susan had two drip pans and gave me her spare.

Here we are back in the foyer.  Before you leave, let me explain about one more blessing.  The fact that I have an apartment and things in it is a blessing.  I moved into an apartment after the divorce.  I had bitten off more than I could chew rent-wise and I got evicted.  My neighbors across the hall helped me pack up and move my belongings into a storage unit when I got sick right before I had to be out.  Sadly I’ve lost touch with them.  I spent almost two months living on friends’ couches or in their spare rooms so that I didn’t have to leave Michigan and my girls.  That was a blessing.  And when I finally found an apartment that I could afford, Bishop and Jan Fick rented a truck to get my belongings out of storage.  They, along with Jeremiah Fick, Fr. Tim Doubblestein and Harry Smith moved me into my apartment.  When I moved into this apartment, I rented a small truck and paid two of Ashley’s co-workers to move most of my things.  But the truck was very small and they were somewhat slow and lazy.  I still had items to move.  Matt Beverst helped me pack up the last of the apartment and he figured out how to pack my van to make the move in the least amount of trips.

I’m facing possible eviction again.  It’s rather difficult to pay the rent when you don’t have a steady job.  I’ve already had several offers of spare rooms or couches, unfortunately none are in Michigan.  So I’m going to try to find a place here so I can stay by my girls.  I’ve also had offers of help packing and moving.

So you see, it’s not just my home that has blessings, it’s me.

December 30, 2010

Shut Up Already!

Filed under: Life — my3daughters @ 12:36 pm

2010 was an absolutely horrible year for me.  I will be so glad for 2011 to start.  I’m hoping it will be better, much better.  Looking back, I would say that I learned two things in 2010—that someone always has it worse than I do and that complaining and whining really don’t help the situation at all.

I am truly tired of hearing all the whining and complaining.  No, I’m not going to offer you some cheese to go with your whine.  That would be encouraging you to continue.  And I’m not going to call you a waaambulance either.  That would give validity to your belly aching.  What I’m going to do is tell you “Shut Up Already!  You don’t realize how good you really have it.”  But if you have the guts to continue reading this blog, maybe you’ll get some idea.

You complain about your car.  It’s too big, too small, too old, too ugly.  I say “Shut Up Already! Just be thankful you have a car.”  I had a nice car the whole time I was married.  I got a new 2006 Buick Rendezvous the same week the divorce was final.  In February of 2008, I had to surrender my lease because I just could not afford the payments.  I was blessed with an easy-to-pay-back loan from my employer that allowed me to purchase a 1995 Ford Windstar.  It wasn’t new but it ran.  Heck, the driver’s side window didn’t work.  But it was what I could afford.  And I was able to cut my insurance costs in half.

In April of 2010, my divorce lawyer decided to seize my van so he could sell it and put the proceeds towards the balance I still owed him.  So I was without a car again.  I’m still waiting to see the credit for the sale on my account, but that’s a different rant altogether.   I walked or begged rides for about a month.  Then I was blessed by friends who paid big money to get their extra car running and loan it to me.  But they needed it back in November so I’m without a car again.  This is the longest I’ve been without a vehicle since I got my driver’s license in August of 1981.  I’m back to walking or begging rides.

I’m not telling you this to solicit your pity.  It is what it is.  God will provide me with another car in His time.  I’m telling you this because I’m sick of listening to you complain about the vehicle that you are blessed to have.  If that vehicle makes you so unhappy, give it to me.  Not everyone gets to have their dream car.  But any car can be your dream car if you have the right attitude.  I have a friend whose driver-side door doesn’t work on her car.  To get in and out of her car she has to crawl over the console.  I don’t think I’ve ever heard her complain about it.  Sure she’s said she’d like to be able to afford to get it fixed.  But she’s not moaning about her less than perfect car every time I turn around.  That’s the attitude that I’m talking about.  You may not be happy with the vehicle you have but at least it works.  And at least you have a vehicle.

You complain about your job.  This is one I have struggled with in the past.  Your boss is mean, your co-workers are lazy, you don’t get paid enough.  I say “Shut Up Already! Just be thankful you have a job.”  Do you have any clue how many people don’t have a job? Do you know how many businesses the banks are closing down?  If you have a job that pays the basic bills of shelter, power, heat, water, food and, if you have school-aged children, the internet, then you have more than a lot of people.  Notice that I did not include telephone or cable in that list.  More than one telephone is not a necessity.  When I say one telephone, I mean a land line or a mobile phone. Trust me, you don’t need both.  Cable is a luxury, nothing more.  If you have children in school, it’s tough to be without the internet.  I know my girls have assignments that require them to go online or even submit things online depending on the class.  And since it’s difficult for me to get to the library daily without a vehicle, I consider basic internet a necessity for job hunting.  But that’s basic internet, not the fastest downloads in the west (or east).

When my divorce became final in 2006, I went from being a stay-at-home mom for thirteen years to having to provide for myself.  I left one job because I found a better paying job closer to home.  In January of 2009, my hours were cut at that job due to a lack of work.  I finally found another position in October of 2009.  I lost that job due to a lack of work in February of 2010.  Since then I have worked various assignments for a temporary staffing agency but I’m still waiting for something permanent and consistent to come along.  My parents encouraged me to get my bachelors degree so that I would “have something to fall back on.”  Yeah, that’s not working.

Again, this isn’t a pity party.  I’m stating the facts.  I know that God has employment in His plan for me.  His timing is perfect.  But I’m not alone out there.  There are way too many people out of a job.  So if you are so unhappy with your job, one of us will take it.

I don’t have a vehicle which makes finding a job difficult.  I won’t start on the crappy public transportation this area has.  That, again, is another rant.  I get just under $900 a month in unemployment.  Not bad until you consider that I was making around $1600 a month while I was working.  And it gets worse with the fact that Friend of the Court takes almost half of that for child support.  Yes, I pay child support to my ex-husband who has a six figure income.  No, the courts will not even consider a reduction in my child support while I am on unemployment.  Again, these are two more rants that I won’t continue with for the time being.  I’ll just continue on with the rant about whiny people.

You complain because your home is less than perfect.  You don’t like your neighbors, the carpet in your dining room or the size of your bedroom.  I say “Shut Up Already! Just be thankful you have a roof over your head.”  I spent most of the summer of 2007 camped out on friends’ couches and living out of my car.  This was my fault.  I had misjudged how much I could afford.  I got through it and moved on.

Now I’m faced with being homeless again and this time I don’t even have a car to live out of.  I tried to get assistance from the Department of Human Services and was denied.  They said my rent wasn’t affordable.  Well, duh, if I could afford my rent, I would have paid it and wouldn’t need to ask for help.  They also didn’t have an answer for my question of “what would you consider affordable?”  I truly detest having to deal with DHS.  But, due to my financial situation, I had to swallow my pride, bite my tongue at their rudeness and navigate the complicated and confusing process of applying for assistance.  My children need food and the courts require me to carry insurance on them.  Now I’m waiting to hear from Community Service.  If they are unable to help me by tomorrow (the deadline set by my apartment complex), I’m going to be evicted.

There’s still no pity party going on.  God has a plan for me shelter-wise too.  I’m not the only one in this situation.  The last couple of times I picked up the Macomb Daily on a Thursday, there was a special 60-page section for Macomb County foreclosures.  That’s 60 pages of tiny type listing home after home and business after business that the banks are taking.  So stop complaining about what is lacking in your home and appreciate the fact that you have one.  There are plenty of us out here who would gladly take it off your hands.

I’m hoping that, if you’ve gotten this far, you are starting to appreciate how blessed you are.  I’m also swallowing my pride and putting this out there because you may know of a vehicle, a job or a place for me to live.  I’ll do whatever I need to do to survive.

I’m tired of hearing “I’m broke.”  I say “Shut Up Already! You have no idea what broke truly is.”  If you have money in a bank or credit union, you are not broke.  If you have a credit card for emergencies, you are not broke.  I am broke.  I have $5 in a credit union savings account because that’s the minimum balance required to keep the account open.  I don’t have a checking account or a credit card.  You go out to eat, take trips, go to the movies.  That’s not broke.  Money may be tight, but you aren’t broke.  Broke is considering the items on the dollar menu at McDonalds a special treat.  Broke is buying all your clothes when they are on sale at Salvation Army 5 for $5, not because you want to be smart with your money but because that’s all you can afford, literally.

And you get no pity from me if you are “broke” because you have to have a new car which means you pay higher insurance and have a car payment every month.  When you are “broke” and can’t pay for your zillion cable channels and super-fast internet.  When you are “broke” because your clothes have to have a certain label or come from a certain store.  My $12 Thrift Store coat keeps me just as warm as your $175 name brand one.  And let’s not forget one relevant to the season—you are not “broke” because you have huge credit card bills to pay in January due to the fact that you “had” to spend several hundred dollars on each family member for Christmas.  I spent about $250 for Christmas this year.  That included gifts for all three girls, myself and several close friends.  Christmas still came and my kids survived.  They had one joint gift, one individual gift and a stocking to open.

I think the Whine Subject that annoys me the most is the one where you complain that your spouse or significant other doesn’t spend enough time with you.  I say “Shut Up Already! Just be thankful you have a spouse or significant other.”  They may not be by your side 24/7, but when they walk out the door, you know they will be walking back in it again.

You are not alone.  You may be separated from your special someone due to work, them spending time with friends or even because they have to travel with their work.  But they are coming home to you eventually.  Their chair at the table may be empty because they’ve chosen to have dinner with a group of friends.  You may go to bed alone because they are traveling.  But it is a temporary situation.  I sit down to a solitary dinner most evenings.  I go to bed alone every night.  This is not a temporary situation.

I was talking with a young couple just the other day.  They each have interests that they share and interests that they don’t share.  They understand that this is healthy, that balance is good for a relationship.  I was impressed by the fact that they don’t begrudge the other time spend away from them.  They understand that time apart just makes the time together more precious.  If you have to be the center of your spouse or significant other’s world, you need to get a life.

As a former professor used to say, “I said all of that to say this”.  Appreciate what you do have instead of whining about what you don’t.  Whining doesn’t change your situation and it usually annoys those around you.  You may think your situation is bad, but, trust me, someone else has it worse.  Don’t get me wrong.  I have my “woe is me” moments.  I just do my best not to let them overwhelm me.  What works for me is to set a timer, yes an ordinary kitchen timer.  When the timer goes off, I have to “Shut Up Already” and get on with my life.  If I can do that while living the situation that I have described in this blog, so can you.

God never promised us a life that was easy.  He never promised us happiness.  What He promised us was that we would never be alone.  He is always there.  He allows us to have joy in the most trying times.  He gives us guidance.  But first we have to “Shut Up Already” and listen to what He has to say.

December 27, 2010

Dawn’s Little Details—The Blog

Filed under: Dawn's Little Details,Life — my3daughters @ 7:43 pm

The motto of my business is “for all the details in your life”.  These details include a few custom handcrafted items.  But the main product is something I call Elephant Bites.

How do you eat an elephant?  One bite at a time!

I’m a planner, always have been.  When I decided to start my own business to, hopefully, make some extra money, it only made sense to do something I really enjoy.  That narrowed it down to reading, eating, sleeping or planning.

So many times I have heard someone say “I wish I could _______________” or I would love to _________________”.  They are speaking their dreams.  To give voice to your dream is the first step to achieving it.  Unfortunately, most people stop right there.  A dream can’t go anywhere until you give it feet.  A dream with feet turns into a goal, a picture of the journey’s end.  But how do you get from here to there?  The journey can seem huge and overwhelming.

We traveled a lot when I was little.  My parents would decide where they wanted to go.  Then Mom would call the local AAA office and order a TripTix®.  A TripTix® was a plan on how to get to the goal.  But they didn’t just give you a huge map and say “here’s Fayette City, Pennsylvania, right here south of Pittsburgh.  And here’s Anchorage, Alaska, way up here in the northwest part of the North American Continent.   Have a good trip.”  No, they gave you a little flip book of map pages.  Each page had a map with a section (or step) of your journey on it.  Page by page, step by step, you headed to your destination.   It took the journey from an overwhelming 4,000+ miles to smaller, more realistic steps.

Preparing for the Alaskan Highway

I’m happy to report that we made it all the way to Alaska and back, as well as to many other destinations through the years.  Now I want to help others reach their dream destinations.  Plopping that giant elephant of a dream down on your plate and being told to go for it is overwhelming.  My job is to sit down with you and help you break that elephant down into bite sizes pieces.  Before you know it, the elephant will be gone and you will have reached your dream.

I’m not a doctor, a lawyer, a professional of any kind.  If you need professional advice, one of the first steps I’m going to give you is to seek out that advice.  Elephant Bites are not about me doing the work so that you can reach your goals.  That would be like both of us going to a restaurant, you ordering your favorite thing off the menu and then sitting there and watching me eat it.  At the end of the meal you would still be hungry and unsatisfied.

So think of me as your Fairy Godmother.  I’m not going to the ball for you, Cinderella, but I’m going to help you get there.

November 15, 2010

Each & Every One–Pepsi Refresh Projects

Filed under: Focusing on Others — my3daughters @ 2:07 pm

If you are friends with me on Facebook, I’m sure you’ve seen the Pepsi Refresh links I’ve posted on my wall.  Pepsi allows us to vote on different ideas every month and they support the ones in each category that get the most votes.

You can sign up through Facebook.  Just go to http://www.refresheverything.com/.  They allow you to vote for 10 ideas a day. If you don’t have a Facebook account, you can sign up directly through Pepsi Refresh.

What I do is make a bookmark folder called Pepsi Refresh.  On the first of the month I choose my ten ideas for the month & bookmark them.  Then each day I got to that bookmark folder and vote.  Mozilla Firefox allows me to choose to open all the links in any given folder at one time.  It takes just minutes out of my day.  I can so give a few minutes each day to something I believe in.

In December, my friends Gene & Sharon Nifong will have an idea up for vote.  They need each and every one of us to vote for them each & every day in December.  They run a group foster home called David’s House Ministries.  On December 1, I will post the link to their idea.  I am asking each and every one of you to commit to voting for their idea each day in December.

As for the other 9 votes you get each day–what is your passion?  Books for needy children? Military needs? Domestic Abuse? Anti-Bully?  Music?  Trust me, if you have a passion, it’s on there.  I think it’s fabulous that Pepsi not only gives back to the community but allows us to have a voice in where they help.

So please, register with Pepsi Refresh now so that you can vote for David’s House in December.  I am asking you to commit to voting for David’s House each day in December.  Gene has assigned me to get Michigan voting.  I’m going beyond that & asking everyone I know to vote, even if you don’t live in Michigan.

In addition, I’d love it if you would pass this idea on to all your friends & ask them to get involved.  1 vote in December for David’s House Ministries, 9 votes for something YOU are passionate about.  Feel free to share your favorites with me in return.  I’ve got 9 votes up for grabs in December so far.

Finally, please pray for the Nifongs and David’s House Ministries.  You can do a search on Facebook for David’s House Ministries & like them to get the latest updates & prayer requests.

October 27, 2010

Voting 101

Filed under: Life — my3daughters @ 5:44 pm

Hello Class.  Welcome to Voting 101.  I’m Ms. Dawn and I will be your instructor in this class.  I will be telling you Who to vote for, What to vote for, When to vote, Where to vote, Why to vote and How to vote.

Let’s start with an easy one, shall we:  When should you vote? The next election is on Tuesday, November 2, 2010.  Poll hours vary by location so please check with your local authorities as to the time.

Which leads us to the next topic:  Where should you vote? Locate your voter registration card.  Here in Michigan, you no longer need to present this card to vote, but it will give you the polling location you are to report to as well as information on the various districts in which you reside so you will know which candidates are the ones you should be considering.  Make sure you have a current card since this information may change.  Macomb County just did some redistricting in 2010.  When this happens, a new card is issued.

Sample Voter Registration Card

If this is your first time voting, you may be wondering:  How do I vote? This answer will vary depending on where you live.  I believe most if not all polling locations have staff in place to answer any questions you may have about voting.  They will not tell you who to vote for but they will tell you how to cast your vote.

Here’s a few things to know if you are voting in Macomb County, Michigan.  These may apply to other locations as well and discussion on this is welcome at the end of class.  When you arrive at the polling location you will be approached by lots of people asking you to vote for their candidate and handing you everything from flyers to pens to candy.  I even got a carnation once.  You can smile, take their stuff and then use it or dump it.  Or you can choose to do your best to avoid eye contact and get inside the building quickly.  They have to stay a certain distance from the entrance.  Please note that if you do take any of these items, they must be out of sight once you are in the building.  There’s usually a trashcan inside the door or put them in your pocket or purse.  Locate the room where the voting is taking place and have your driver’s license ready.  They will walk you through the rest.  Smile and be pleasant to the poll workers even if you have to wait in line.  Many are volunteers.

I’m sure many of you are asking:  Why should I vote? The answer is quite simple.  It is your responsibility as a citizen of the United States to make your voice heard.  And I always say, “If you don’t vote, you have no right to complain.”  If your candidate doesn’t win, you can say “Don’t look at me.  I voted for the other guy.”  If your candidate does win, you can contact them and say “Hey, I voted for you.  Now get the job done.”

I’ve left the two largest topics for last and we will discuss them together:  Who do I vote for? and What do I vote for? No one can answer these questions but you.  It is your duty to be an informed voter.  Find out if your local newspaper puts out a Voting Guide.  I recently picked up one at the library that is put out by the League of Women Voters of Michigan Nonpartisan.  Don’t stop there, however.  These are just a starting point.  You also have to remember that many of these “guides” are put out by people with agendas of their own.    They do have a few excellent purposes.  They will give you a list of everyone running.  And most will have a section that you can write your choices in, clip and take to the polls with you.  I find this especially handy if there are multiple proposals on the ballot.

sample of a voter guide

example of a clip it & take it with you

Your next step should be the internet.  Everybody including my neighbor’s dog has a website.  I can guarantee you that the candidates do.  Research those running in your area.  Vote for the candidates and proposals that match your moral guidelines.  If the candidate has been in office before, find the ones who’ve voted the way you would vote if you were in office.  Remember that their job is to represent YOU.  Watch out for the mud-slinging.  Focus on what they are saying about themselves, not about their opponent.  If you want to know about the opponent, go to their website.  And you should look at every candidate not just the party that you are registered with unless you are only allowed to vote for candidates for the party you are registered for.  It has been my experience that voting along party lines usually happens in primary elections.  However, I recently was informed that some states do this for all elections.

So, we’ve discussed when to vote, where to vote, how to vote, why to vote, who to vote for and what to vote for.  There’s one more thing that you need to do and that is stay involved.  Once that candidate gets in office, hold him or her to their campaign promises.  If they promised free ice cream on the 3rd Thursday of every month and there’s no ice cream, tell them about it.  If there is a bill up for discuss on the fact that all toothbrushes should be blue and you agree or disagree, tell them about it.  The internet is right there.  They all have emails.  If you are on Facebook, there is an application called Visible Vote.  I haven’t used it as much as I should have but it seems to be a good way to keep informed.  There is also a Visible Vote application for iPhone, Blackberry & Google Android.  

I’m going to conclude today’s lecture by addressing those of you in the class who are currently too young to vote.  You may be asking: What can I do? You can be as informed as all those 18 and older.  And you can discuss the issues and candidates with the adults in your life.  One word of caution—get the information for yourself.  I understand that many of the schools hold mock elections and discuss the election topics in classes.  However, those presenting the information to you may have different moral guidelines than you do.  Listen to what they have to say but decide for yourself.  The ability to think and decide for yourself will always be your biggest asset.

Thank you for your attention.  You are free to leave or you may stay for the open discussion portion of the class.  I have only one guideline for this portion.  This is neither the time nor the place to discuss specific candidates or topics.  This is a discussion of the process of voting.  I’d love to hear from others who live outside of Macomb County, Michigan.  How do things work in your area?  What words of advice do you have for first time voters?

October 8, 2010

Do You Know My Voice?

Filed under: Life — my3daughters @ 11:35 am

Jesus went on his way through towns and villages, teaching, and journeying toward Jerusalem.  And some one said to him, “Lord, will those who are saved be few?” And he said to them, “Strive to enter by the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able.  When once the householder has risen up and shut the door, you will begin to stand outside and to knock at the door, saying, ‘Lord, open to us.’ He will answer you, ‘I do not know where you come from.’ Then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank in your presence, and you taught in our streets.’ But he will say, ‘I tell you, I do not know where you come from; depart from me, all you workers of iniquity!’ There you will weep and gnash your teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God and you yourselves thrust out. And men will come from east and west, and from north and south, and sit at table in the kingdom of God. And behold, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last.”

Luke 13:22-30 (Revised Standard Edition)

This was the Gospel Reading for August 22 (Proper 16, Year C).  In his sermon, Father Terry explained what it meant to have the householder shut the door at night.  This wasn’t just a matter of throwing a couple of deadbolts.  The doors were shut by placing a large beam or stone in front of them.  It was a major deal to open the door again once it had been shut.  You could knock all you want, but if the householder didn’t recognize your voice, he wasn’t going to make the effort to open the door.  (I’m guessing that Judas holes hadn’t been invented yet, maybe because Judas hadn’t yet betrayed Christ?)

The question Father Terry posed to us was, “Does God know your voice?”  My first thought was, of course He does.  But then I began wondering, does He really know my voice?  And is my voice one He actually wants to acknowledge?

As the parent of teenagers, I have complained many times that my children only want me when they need something.  It’s the only time they call.  Is this what God thinks about me?  Do I only go to Him when I need something?  The voice of a whiny child is grating.  “Mommy!” followed by a list of complaints or wants.  Is this what comes to mind when God hears my voice? “Great, now what does she want?” or “What’s wrong this time/”

How enjoyable it is when my girls want to talk to me just to say hi or to tell me about the good part of their day.  And if I enjoy that, how much more does God enjoy hearing from us when we are not saying “why, why, why” or “gimme, gimme, gimme.”

If it’s going to be a huge effort to open my door, I’m only going to open it when I hear a voice I want to hear.  I’m not going to let in the voice I know is only filled with complaints or demands.  Come on, we’ve all said it “Don’t speak to me in that tone of voice.”  Well, I have to wonder, what tone of voice do I use with God?

Does God know my voice?  Does God want to know my voice?  Do I only call on Him when I need something, when I am having a bad day? Or do I call on Him constantly, telling Him the good and the bad, saying thank you as well as gimme?  What will the result be when I knock on the door?

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