Just for the Bargain!

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A few weeks ago, I went looking for some colorful mugs. I found my way to the Sur la Table website and fell in love the Oxford mug – it comes in many colors. Unfortunately, it was not within my price range. I abandoned my cart and walked away, which is, coincidentally, something I do in my brick and mortar life, too.

Today, in what I’m calling a brilliant marketing concept, Sur La Table emailed me to say, “We Just Dropped the Price on Something You Like.”
Yes! They did. And they dropped the price by a little more than half. I wouldn’t have gone back to the site to check; but they won me over with that email AND that price.

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I’m a happy, loyal, customer woman! And, I sent an email telling them how much I loved their idea. I will continue to shop at Sur La Table, and will more than likely abandon a few carts along the way; nevertheless, I will gladly go back for a bargain and great customer service. So thankful! #brilliant marketing

But It’ll Be Worth It

That old house smell, created from a cold, dark basement and walls that have stood for over 108 years, has been temporarily displaced. When I walk in the back door of my house in Potlatch, I breathe in fresh paint, wood shavings, and progress. The house has stood empty for almost a year now and I’m longing to walk in the back door, lay my keys on the little table – which doesn’t currently exist – and say to no one but God, “I’m home.”

Before moving back to my “happy place” I need to make a few changes. With a teeny-tiny budget and a willingness to work hard, I started on the kitchen. The cabinets and drawers are all the originals, handmade, and in really great shape, except for a few corners eaten away by a very large puppy with a bit of separation anxiety. Despite their sturdiness, the cabinets and drawers needed a face lift, so I’m adding shaker-style trim, bead board wallpaper, fresh white paint and new hardware. The backsplash and counters were beyond retro – old, old, old linoleum with a metal trim. The pattern on the linoleum was fading and thinning in small patches and long past being lovely. It’s been replaced by faux-brick hardwood primed and soon-to-be painted glossy white to look like subway tile. The flooring – an ugly, gray linoleum with a felt and tar backing – covers hardwood floors. Uncovering the hardwood is not within my skill set so I’ve opted for painting and stenciling it back to life.

There’s a limited amount of DIY experience in my skill portfolio: drilling holes, using a tile saw, tiling, hanging drywall, mudding and taping, painting, and demolition. In the last few weeks, I’ve learned how to use a jig saw, a nail gun, a random orbital hand sander, and a miter saw. The tool area of Home Depot is my new favorite place. I’ve graduated from a tool drawer to a real tool box, left behind by the previous owner of the house. Thank you, Mr. Bailey.

This project has provided lots of alone time: time for reflection and inspection. The last few months have been emotionally overwhelming and this small escape has helped me to stay sane and focused on serving God. Kitchen renovating is a lot like helping broken people. You gently tear away the old surface, wash away all the dirt and grime, sand all the rough parts, prime the surface, do some more sanding, prime again, and sand again. Cleaning, priming and sanding ensures that the new coat of paint will stick and last. If you hurry the process and don’t leave enough time for the paint to cure, or you leave out any steps, there’s a good chance you’ll have to start over or, even worse, spend years looking at peeling paint – wishing you’d done it right the first time. Hopefully, you’ll learn from your mistakes.

I’ve spent quite a few years helping to repair broken people but I’m still not an expert. Each person comes with their own set of problems and they often don’t want to remove their old surface to expose the cracks and areas that have been damaged by hurt and pain. Instead they choose to slap a smile and a new vocabulary on the surface and continue to hide behind layers of old stuff and just pretend they’re new. Life has a way of testing our durability and if you’re unwilling to be primed and sanded by a loving God, through accountability to His people, you will face some tough challenges which you won’t be strong enough to withstand.

I am thankful for Laura Storm and the Saturday afternoons she spends with me on this kitchen project. We are more than DIY buddies – I am accountable to her and she knows the best and worst of me. I am thankful to Matt Becker who always finds a way to point out the areas in my life that need to be sanded. Thank you, Bekah, for teaching me how to use the miter saw.

I sit on the kitchen floor admiring the progress. The drawers stand in a row awaiting the next step. They have new trim, the cracks are caulked and now they need to be sanded, primed, sanded, primed, sanded, painted, sanded, painted, sealed, and accessorized with new hardware. The cabinet doors lean against the wall, from biggest to smallest, awaiting new bead board and trim, layers of primer and paint, intermittent sanding, and cabinet jewelry.

Soon, very soon, my kitchen will be a more lovely place. It’s going to take more work than I once anticipated, but it’ll be worth it. Similarly, my relationship with Jesus is a huge project filled with little details and many do-overs. I can’t imagine a life without Him and I am so thankful He writes people in to my story that leave a dent, shake my foundation, and cause me to run to Him for comfort. This is life and loving people hurts. A little bit of sanding, some time to cure, and I’ll be good as new.

Taking Dominion: The Gmail Inbox

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Weeehooo! It’s taken me two months, but I’ve finally managed to take dominion over my Gmail inbox. The task, as I initially saw it, was nothing short of monumental. However, communication via email is necessary in my life and it’s been well worth the effort.

     In 1993, I got my first email address from AOL. Then, four years later, a colleague introduced me freedom of an email.com address and I gladly abandoned my AOL account. A few years later I got to know Eudora. Good things happened when I got my welcome letter from the Gmail team on March 23, 2005, and since then I’ve incorporated more than twelve different accounts into Gmail – from numerous providers. I still have my email.com address, though the customer service is deplorable and the cost of maintaining it is rising.

     Soooo…I know where to find stuff. Well, there are times when Gmail’s overzealous spam filters bury people in between hair loss remedies, medical miracle drugs, nursing school opportunities, and hey…I have friends in Kenya who want to borrow money. Nevertheless, I feel oddly comforted that something in my life is uncomplicated. And I’m thankful.

More Than Enough

This year is coming to an end and there’s a few details I need to wrap up. Before now, I couldn’t bring myself to do a “cancer” update. I wanted to make it through and, perhaps, even forget about it all. However, God has been faithful in so many ways and I realize I need to finish the chapter before I can move on. And, I recently learned that some friends were concerned I had died. So here goes…

The last three weeks of external radiation and chemo were difficult. When people ask me what I learned from all of it, I tell them I didn’t realize how much more I had to lose. Without going too much into the details, the two things I lost during my final weeks of treatment were my dignity and my value.

I went from eating “some” food to avoiding all food. I chewed for taste but then I lost the ability to taste. Gatorade turned against me and even water became an enemy. The diarrhea became severe and my potassium levels dropped significantly. I ended up getting several IV re-hydration treatments. At that point, I was totally unproductive and felt like I had nothing of value to offer the people around me. I stood in the margins and watched as they moved through their days. I needed to be there, to understand what it felt like to be in that place, and to be so loved by people around me that my soul found its way out before my body did.

And that’s one of the most important things I’ve learned. People get left in the margins because they don’t have anyone that holds on tight when things get messy, when life gets so complicated and there’s no hope of rebuilding, when the ladders you depended on no longer exist.

Which brings me to the last few weeks of internal radiation. I had five treatments – each one required an operating room and sedation. The actual treatments only took 15 minutes, but the preparation took hours. The IV needle became more and more difficult to insert because of the dehydration. I had one good vein left and lidocaine helped the needle make it through the scar tissue.

My champion, through internal radiation was my niece, Hannah. She hung on tightly and wouldn’t let me attempt the journey on my own. After the first treatment, I didn’t want to do anymore. I begged her to make an excuse so that we didn’t have to go back, but she insisted. And two treatments turned to four and then we had only one left. All those hours of staring at the ceiling and trying not to move began to fray the neatly tied strings holding me together. And then we were done. No evidence of disease. For now.

Some things I expected to happen…never happened. And some things were unexpected: The amount of time I’d need off work, the effects of radiation on my joints and muscles, the way I view God the Father, the mountain of bills left behind, the many people who love me. It was a journey I needed to take and I am thankful that His Grace was more than enough.

Wading in the Water

Untitled-3 Well, that was an interesting week.  It’s now the middle of my third week of chemo and radiation. I’m happy to say I’m doing well. I still have my hair and no nausea. I only have two more weeks of chemo treatments. Weeehooo! It’s getting a bit more difficult. The combination of therapy is rough at times, but I’m managing it and working around the hard parts. The radiation treatments are daily, so there’s no break from the torture. This week will actually be my first full week of radiation. With each spin of the x-ray machine I ask God to protect my organs and that the radiation will be effective where it needs to be.  As the radiation accumulates, the lining of my intestines gets torn up and, well, stuff happens. It’s awkward and uncomfortable, but it’s temporary. Thankfully, all the tissue will regenerate over time.

     Eating is a bit difficult. My new diet consists of Greek yogurt, hummus, beets, peanut butter, bananas, cheese, deli thin turkey, naan and pita. Gatorade is my new BFF. Thanks to my niece Hannah, who has arranged and army of people to care for me – including herself -I have iced cold Gatorade all day long. My potassium levels are low and the Big G meets that need. Water tastes awful and caffeine is my temporary enemy.

     More than likely, I will need to start working from home a few days a week. The day after my chemo treatment is difficult. I get really bad headaches that cause dizziness and pain. And my gut doesn’t appreciate the dual day of treatment, so it likes to beg for attention. It’s just better for me to be at home and close to my bathroom on Wednesdays. Thankfully, my boss is a gem and she encourages me take care of myself. I actually forgot this was an option.

     Last week was difficult. We took my Dad to the E.R. where they determined he had crushed two vertabrae. They transported him to St. Joseph’s in Lewiston where he underwent a procedure to insert glue into the vertabrae to relieve some of the pain. It worked! (Insert Hallelujah here!) They kept him at St. Joseph’s to treat his wounds and help him stabilize. His nurse, Karen, was a blessing beyond our wildest dreams. She was kind to us and helped us understand how to get my Dad the care he needed.  We received several visits from Joe Rosales, who prayed with us. This was a gift that we needed more than we knew. I am so thankful for Rachel and Joe for their kindness to us these past few weeks.

     It was a difficult week for my Mom. We traveled back and forth to Lewiston every day. Fortunately, my radiation treatments were in the building next door, so we combined our efforts and got it done. On Tuesday, St. Joseph’s released my Dad. My Mom and I transferred him to Good Sam’s, as they were unable to pick him up. Unfortunately, my Dad had to sit in the car for almost 45 minutes while the staff located a wheel chair. Not a good moment. I ended up late for my chemo treatment and just about lost my mind. It worked on my Mom’s last nerve, too. I hated seeing her like that. But we all survived and my Mom can drive over and spend time with him whenever she wants to. She sits with him for lunch and dinner and gently reminds him that food is necessary. Her nights are lonely and her days are complicated. She could use some TLC from anyone who cares. I would love to have her come home to a bag of groceries on her doorstep, a loaf of tasty bread, a card with kind thoughts, and any little acts of kindness that would say, “We know this time is difficult for you and we want you to know we care.”

     This phantom verse, “God helps those who help themselves,” is attributed to Ben Franklin and to Hezakiah 6:1, which is not a book of the bible. In fact, it’s not even biblical. Proverbs 28:26 tells us that, “He who trusts in himself is a fool.” Been there…done that. Toss this one out. And then there’s this little gem: “God will never give you more than you can handle.” Ummm…Yes. He will. Who started that nasty rumor? The truth is, God wants you to trust in Him, to lean on Him, to let Him carry your burdens. And He comes to you, as the body of Christ, and helps you. The difficult part is when the body of Christ doesn’t pay attention and fails to care. This is a huge failure on the part of the church – to bear one another burdens. And when we need help, we don’t ask for it, mostly because there might be a little voice in our head that says, “Everyone has excuses, just like me, and they don’t really want to help.” And if people are unloved inside the church, that means the people living outside in the margins, the people who have no support system in place, no family to care for them, no Jesus to visit them, are often devastated when God doesn’t show up to help. We need to get better at this.  We need to find time in our lovely, perfect families to look around and carry the burdens of others. All it takes is a willing heart. And sacrifice. And time. And…less excuses. Pull together your resources, open up your arms and invite people in. If we can create shalom – allowing people rest and restoring people to flourish – we will be more like Christ to a hurting world.

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