Posted in life

Home, Whimsical Home

When we moved back to Brazoria County in 1999, it was difficult leaving Huntsville. We hadn’t even been there three years, but we’d sunk deep roots and made dear friends. I remember driving around town in the days prior to our final departure, trying to stamp the delightfully curvy, hilly streets with charming old homes and beautiful trees on my memory. As a backup, I carried my camera with me and took quite a few photos.

I noticed a man building a very unusual looking home and pulled over to check it out. He was a friendly fellow and offered to give us a tour, and didn’t mind a bit that I asked if I could take some photos.

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You can’t see it in my photos, but he used walnut shell halves as part of the decoration around the front porch. And that bathtub is made with bondo!

How funny to see this video pop up on Zillow’s FB ad today, recounting Mr. Phillips’ continued commitment to recycling and building whimsical homes for people who can’t afford a home any other way. I find a great deal of joy in the idea of a man seeing a need and putting his own sweat and blood into the meeting of that need. While I am pretty sure he does not do this for the recognition, I am quite sure his legacy will be great in the minds and hearts of those who are blessed by his vision.

Junk Yard to Front Yard: Unique Homes by Dan Phillips

Posted in joy, life, love

My Agenda

The last few days I’ve been engaged in a debate on another blog. I’m not  going to go into the details of the debate, but suffice it to say I found myself becoming increasingly frustrated, and agitated over this social justice warrior’s inability to see the other side of things. When I asked a question that chipped a rather large chunk from her foundational argument, she responded with “This conversation is going in circles, so I’m going to step out. Thanks for the discussion.”

Which basically said to me, “I have no answer for your question, so I quit.”

And that’s fine. But it still frustrated me that so many of this particular generation base their beliefs and actions on feelings, feelings which can change with the wind, because Truth is not absolute in this day and age. There is your truth, and there is her truth, and his truth, and supposedly my truth. I don’t understand how there can be multiple truths for any given situation.

Anyway, while I was feeling frustrated and agitated and irritable about all this, my husband pointed out that he’d been much less stressed the last few days because he’d been consciously avoiding any discussions that hinged on politics or social agendas. Which reminded me of something rather important.

See the title of my blog up there? ↑↑↑

Not “A Scribbler & A Shutterbug”

Underneath that.

Yeah.

“Persistently Choosing Joy”

That one.

I think I’ve slacked up a bit in that area. And I need to refocus. On my agenda.

To persistently choose joy.

Because if I’m persistently choosing joy, my focus is on the future.

Not the past. Adios, depressing blog posts.

And not even the present. Au revoir, social justice warrior debates.

My focus is on the future and what I can do, how I can serve, to live a joyful life for the benefit of myself and those around me. Positive actions (not feelings) actually produce positive feelings. Now isn’t that interesting?

Hallo, peace, joy and love!

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Spending time with this guy definitely increases my joy meter.
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These two should be reason enough for anyone to smile! ❤
Posted in faith, family, friendship, life, thanks

A Good & Faithful Man

A good and faithful man lived in the white brick house next door to my mom. Retired, he took care of his house and he watched his grandchildren when they got out of school each day. One day he decided to mow my mom’s yard when he mowed his own. Mom looked out the window and was surprised to see him pushing his mower across her backyard. If I remember right, she opened the backdoor and waited for him to see her there — at which point she said, “Jose, you don’t have to do that! My son-in-law mows it when he can.”

Jose just smiled and nodded his head and said something to the effect of he didn’t mind helping out today.

Eventually, my husband stopped taking his mower to my mom’s because Jose never let the grass get tall enough for my husband to be able to mow. Every time Jose mowed his yard, he would just keep on going until Mom’s yard was mowed, too. It wasn’t just a blessing to Mom. It was a blessing to my husband because he didn’t have to load his riding mower onto the trailer and make the 80 mile roundtrip to mow Mom’s yard.

Mom always said, “We need to do something for Jose. He is so faithful. We need to get him a gift card, bake him a cake, or something.” This was around the time Mom got sick for the last time, and we were preoccupied with doctors’ appointments, radiation treatments, and chemo pills. So we never got around to doing something for Jose.

The day of Mom’s funeral, we were so comforted by the people who came to pay their respects. The person who surprised us, and possibly touched our hearts in the most unexpected way, though, was Jose, sitting in the back row of the funeral home chapel. He smiled and shook our hands and told us how sorry he was for our loss.

Not long afterwards, my sister and I both agreed, “We need to do something for Jose.” Once we decided on selling the house, we made plans on how best to utilize the funds we would earn after the sale. At the top of the list was “something for Jose.” Our commitment to that grew even more, because our good neighbor remained faithful, continuing to mow our yard while we worked on the house.

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a thank you note for everything he’d done and my sister went to the bank and withdrew some nice, crisp bills to include with our note. We both agreed that while the sum seemed quite generous by some accounts, we wished it could have been more.

We met up at his house on a Saturday morning and rang the bell. Jose came to the door with his usual smile and we both hugged him and gave him the envelope. He didn’t really look at it at the time; we chatted for several minutes and he told us he had meant to mow the yard before the new owners moved in, but his mower broke down. I told him it was alright because my husband had stopped by with his own mower after doing some yard work for his mother in Dickinson. He just hadn’t been able to mow the backyard because he couldn’t get the mower back there. Jose smiled and said, “I got it after I got my mower fixed. I wanted the new owners to start out with a nice yard.”

After chatting a few more minutes and emphasizing how much Mom (and we) had appreciated him over the years, we hugged again and said we hoped we would see him sometime. We started walking back to our cars, and then had the thought that maybe we should tell the neighbors on the other side how nice their new neighbors were, and say thank you for being good neighbors all these years. We rang their doorbell a couple of times, but no one ever answered, so we started walking back to our cars to leave. At that moment, we saw Jose trotting across the front yard of our old house.

“You made a mistake! You made a mistake!”

Jose thought we’d accidentally put money in his thank you note that was supposed to go towards a bill! We started laughing and told him that it was for him, at which point he said, “Oh, NO! It’s too much! I never did that expecting to get paid!”

We reassured him that we knew he didn’t, that he was a good and faithful neighbor and we wanted to bless him the way he had blessed Mom and us. He shook his head, and then told us a story:

When he first bought his house, he didn’t have a mower and wasn’t able to get one. All he had was a weed wacker. So he used the weed wacker to keep his yard as trimmed up as he could. While he was trimming his yard, he said he prayed to God. He told God, “If you’ll help me get a mower, I will use it to help someone else.” He got a mower and then he said, “I had to keep my side of the bargain.” He didn’t want to ask, and he hoped she wouldn’t get upset or “call the cops” — he just started mowing a little bit of Mom’s yard, and then a little bit more, until he was mowing the entire yard.

And so that’s how Jose started mowing our mom’s yard. He did more than that, though. He kept an eye out for her. One day he saw her taking her trash bag to the outdoor can and she stumbled a little. He jogged over to make sure she was okay, and then he told her, “Just put your trash bag by the front door and I’ll put it in the can for you.” From that point on, he took care of that for her every week.

He is definitely a good and faithful man, and maybe a little bit of an angel, too.

Posted in faith, family, friendship, grace, life

Someone

I’ve been needing to write this for quite a while now. Until today, the words just wouldn’t come. The events described below occurred over the course of roughly eight years.

Have you ever been acquainted with, or even friends with, Someone who is obliviously careless in the way he or she treats people? For all intents and purposes, Someone is great — professing a love for God and people, and usually getting it right.

Until Someone gets it wrong. Repeatedly. And there seems to be no going back. No chance of recovery. Because Someone is completely oblivious to what he or she has done.

In the beginning, I thought I was at fault because I was putting too much value on things. It started with a table that I’d donated to a cause — a piece of furniture that had been in my family for decades, but for which I had no room. All seemed well, until one day I noticed the table sitting outside the building, the mid-century formica curled up by the recent rainstorm, ruined beyond repair. It made me so angry to see the table misused and cast aside — wasted. I regretted donating it, but then I told myself, “You don’t know who did this. And it’s just a THING. It’s not worth getting so angry.”

And so I tried to let it go.

A couple of years later, Someone asked if they could borrow my “old” camera to take some family portraits. It was not my primary camera any longer, but it was still a good camera, one my daughter was beginning to use. I took joy in passing it down to her, and I asked her before loaning it out, since it officially belonged to her. When the camera was returned, I didn’t think to inspect it, but the next time my daughter tried to remove the memory card, the eject button was broken and I had to pry the card out with my fingers. Upon closer inspection, I discovered the contact pins for the memory card were damaged. The camera was ruined. And Someone didn’t say anything. Again, I stifled my anger and reminded myself, “It’s just a THING. Maybe it was an accident.”

And so I tried to let it go.

Most recently, though, the carelessness has had nothing to do with things, and everything to do with people. Someone promised to be there for one of MY people. To fill a parental void left by an absentee parent. Someone made promises. Promises to go visit my person at college and to stay in touch. To step in where the absentee dad had left a void. Someone broke those promises. And my person was left yet again with a wounded heart.

It was getting harder to let it go.

Another one of MY people went through difficult times a couple of years ago. I’m glad to say my person is on the backside of those difficult times and joy fills her face more often than sorrow. But in the dark days she sought counsel from Someone she should have been able to trust. Someone broke her trust because she did not follow Someone’s timeline — she did not heal in the way, or as fast, as Someone wanted.

It was getting much harder to let it go.

Someone else claiming to be her kindred spirit, her soulmate, told her with all seriousness she was going to hell for things done in the dark days, and then turned around and did similar things, if not worse. All the while, Someone else pretended to be one thing around one group and another thing around another group. My person struggled to be transparent, to stop being all things to all people — she finally sought to discover who she is in Jesus Christ. In the discovery of who that is, she opened up her heart to forgiveness and reconciliation. Someone else gave her hope, and then snatched it away, telling her their friendship was ended, that they would never be friends again.

Suddenly all the pieces began to fit together for me. The carelessness with the things. The carelessness with the promises. The carelessness with the confidences. The carelessness with the “rules” — “it’s okay for me, but not for thee.” The carelessness with relationships.

And in that moment, it became easy to let go. To leave those someones behind, to realize that maybe these things happened for a reason because that place, those someones, were not where I (or we) belonged.

Each and every time I think of those someones, I try to ask God to help me forgive the hurts inflicted, however obliviously, on my loved ones and myself. I try to remind myself that those someones probably have no clue how their actions hurt me and mine. And I remember that I am someone, also — to make every effort to treat others with care and loving kindness.

 

Posted in duty, politics

Sister, Don’t Preach

A couple of decades ago Madonna released a song called Papa, Don’t Preach. The lyrics talked about a young girl “in trouble” who decided to stay with her boyfriend and keep her baby. She kept asking her father to not preach at her, reassuring him that they would be okay, even though they had to sacrifice their youth to become a family.

So in scrolling through Instagram pics earlier, I saw a post promoting a clothing store in Austin, Texas. Liberal “Keep Austin Weird” Texas. That geographic region of the Lone Star State, where Democrats congregate and castigate the rest of us for not sharing our “wealth,” for not caring enough about our fellow man.

The items of clothing I saw were a frumpy bit of plain sewing. A quick click to their website, and I was treated to a poetic explanation of their “process” from design, to production, to sale. There was some mumbo jumbo about multiple fit sessions to ensure the proper fit. I’m looking at these photos of a simple crop top and a shirt dress that have virtually no shape — how poorly must the designer be that requires multiple fit sessions to make sure a shapeless dress fits?

 

Anyone care to venture a guess on how many greenbacks each of these items will set you back? Hmmmm?

You can be the proud owner of a boxy top that resembles a short hospital scrub shirt, or the gym top my sister wore with culottes at the church school she attended in junior high for the very (un)reasonable sum of $150.

If you are more interested in the 100% cotton buffalo plaid shirt dress that looks like something my grandmother wore to clean house in, it will only set you back $268.

The Bible teaches us to be good stewards of that we’ve been blessed with and that which we earn through our labors. Part of our motivation for doing so should be our increased ability to help others with what we do not need for ourselves. If I ever plunk down $268 on a

sleeveless shirtdress that’s meant to be your summer staple. easy to throw on and dress up or down with slides or strappy clogs

please take me out to the woodshed and give me a good whipping for being so self-indulgent and wasteful.

As for those of you who don’t see anything wrong with this kind of wasteful spending, don’t preach to me about my fair share and what I owe my fellow humankind. Is it any wonder that government assistance programs are so woefully inefficient when people think it’s okay to spend almost $300 on a potato sack dress?

Posted in faith, family, life, remodeling, renovations

Coincidence? I think not!

There’s a cliche that goes something like this: “The devil is in the details.” When googling the quote I discovered there’s also a version that states “God is in the details,” and today I found this to be exceptionally true.

A few months ago, a dear friend, Sonja, called me to ask for details regarding the house we were preparing for sale. A young woman had come into the office where she works, along with her mother, and in the course of their conversation my friend discovered the young woman was looking to buy a house in Alvin. I remember my first reaction was, “Oh, we are NOT ready!” So with the disclaimer that we still had a good bit of work to do, I gave her the address to pass along to those who inquired.

With so much left to do on the house, I didn’t really think about it anymore. My sister and I kept working on the house and finally listed it with the realtor. We had a false start the day before the house actually went on the market — a young couple expressed interest in it, but in the course of walking through the house, a problem was discovered with the brick walls: they were a little loose with age! We immediately contacted masonry companies for repair quotes and hired a company to secure the walls around the entire house. We were relieved that the repair was not horribly expensive, but still well done. By the time the work was done, however, the young couple had moved on to another house.

I don’t really know the order in which things happened after that — my sister had more contact with the realtor during the sales process than I did. But I do know that in a very short period of time, we had two offers made on the house. One was our listing price and the other was several thousand dollars less. We were thrilled to have two offers and it didn’t take long to agree to the best offer. After inspections, some minor repairs were indicated and we offered a repair allowance which was accepted and we had a deal.

So today we met at the title company in Pearland to sign all the papers. We found out for certain that our buyers were twin sisters, one of whom had been the young woman who inquired about our house when talking to our friend, Sonja! They were absolutely delightful young ladies — hardworking nurses who’ve been raised with a view to the future. In visiting with their mother, who came with them, we learned at the age of 24, they decided they wanted to invest in a home, rather than throwing hardearned money away on rent. And here’s the crazy, “oh my gosh, it is such a tiny, tiny world” bit of the story.

We exchanged our stories — where we were from and what we did. I mentioned I live near Lake Jackson, the mother mentioned her son worked at Brazosport College. I said, “Oh! I teach photography there in the Community Education department!” She gasped and exclaimed, “My oldest daughter is in your class!” I asked if her name was Angela, and “Yes, yes it is!”

So several months ago, this very sweet young lady called me to ask about what kind of camera she needed and told me how much she was looking forward to the class. Several months ago, her mother and one sister walked into my friend’s office and mentioned they were looking for a house to buy in Alvin. And today we discovered all these paths that seemed completely separate were actually very close indeed.

I would definitely say God is in the details. I take a great deal of joy in knowing these sweet young ladies, fellow Christians, will be making their home and memories in our childhood home. I am pleased that such good people will be the new neighbors of the neighbors we have been so fond of for so many years. 

I think our mother would be so happy. I know she would. I know I am.