For the Love of Charlie Cat

Charlie“Cliff, do you have a burning desire to know what our cat is trying to tell us?” I asked nonchalantly while I flipped through a magazine. “Here’s an article to enlighten us on Charlie’s behaviors.”

Cliff leveled a skeptical look over his readers at me.

I took that as a ýes’, because after 30 years together, he knew I would tell him anyway. “Like if Charlie were to ever rub his head on us, that means he’s happy and is showing his joy by spreading his scent on us.”

“Then he must not be happy often. Does it mention him head butting us?”

“No. It does talk about hissing,” I volunteered.

“Charlie doesn’t hiss. He grumbles.”

“So true. Änd I can’t find a thing about him attacking your hand when you try to pet him”.”

Out of the corner of my eye, I caught movement. Our little angel, who appeared to be a dead ringer for the cat in the article’s photo, was pulling a pair of sewing shears out of a basket by his teeth. He dragged it a couple of feet away and proceeded to gnaw on the orange handles like a teething puppy. Crazy cat.

Cliff added, “Whoever wrote this has never met Charlie.”

Aside from his assassin skills when it comes eradicating mice, most of the time, Sir Charles thinks he’s a dog. He tags after us in the yard and will voluntarily load up in the pick-up to go for a drive. He loves to leisurely lay in the rain–if you can ever catch him being still. Most of the time, he’s running laps through the house and would be a fitness drill sargent, if P90X existed in a kitty edition.

At other times, he is just weird. He mutters and comes to tell us if anyone is out the door. He doesn’t meow–ever. He taps our calves with his paws–sometimes with claws slightly engaged–to get our attention. Cuddling is a love of his, but don’t try to stroke him or you will pull back a bloody stub. On these occasions We scratch our heads and wonder why we put up with him.

But there is no use understanding him. He’s simply Charlie. His uniqueness is why we put up with his not-so-adorable quirks. Other cats have come and gone, more for necessity of living in a vintage house, but Sir Charles we love because he doesn’t fit into a normal cat mold.

Do you supposed that’s why God loves us so much? Maybe he formed us all with such unique characteristics so we stand out in a myriad of ways to capture his heart? The older I get the more I understand and embrace that I am who I am with talents, gifts, graces, and interests sometimes quite different than those around me. And that is what God intended all along.

Not only did he plan for us to hit the scene even before the foundations of the world were laid, he formed us down to our tippy-toes and he perceives our deepest thoughts. (Psalm 139)

And despite the claws of our sin attacking him on occasion or our aloofness to his affections, he continues to love and delight in us. Who can understand why?

But I’m so glad he does, don’t you?

The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing. Zephaniah 3:17

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Grabbing the Manna While It’s There

“You are only given a little spark of madness. You must not lose it,”~Robin Williams.

Boy, how I wish I would have heeded his warning (minus the Mork suspenders) more often than I can recall.

You see, I’m trying to reconstruct scratchy rememberings from what was destined to be my most brilliant writings. How those pieces promised to a dazzle with amazing insight and revolutionary wisdom! Oh yes, they would have surely warranted being engraved on indestructible stone tablets or at least embroidered on pillow tops.

But alas, they are forever lost, simply because I failed to grasp the gifts with return addresses straight from heaven.

Whether it concerns writing, or life offering the chance to extend a kindness or a ministry opportunity, can you relate to not have not taken advantage of the moment because we’re frankly too busy? Most of the time I chose to check Facebook for ‘only a couple of minutes’ or vow to fight through the tenaciously curled throw-paper to search for something of worth. After 22+ years of it showing up in the yard every Wednesday, there has yet to reveal anything newsworthy. 

Or what about the times we’re just not in the mood’ to do whatever we’re being nudged towards? 

Or sometimes my bed is too warm and has me hugged in too tight to sprint with the glorious revelations that try to elbow through the thick veil between sleep and awake. They are so cutting-edge that how could I possibly forget these ‘ta-da’ moments in my clearer hours?

But regardless of our seemingly wonderful reasons, they are on a timer and vaporize into a ‘you snooze, you lose’ experience. The results being us wandering aimlessly in a desert without so much of a crumb of direction, and we sink up to our knees in drifts of frustration?  ‘Why won’t God talk to me?’ and ‘what am I supposed to do next? If He’ll just point me on the right trail,’ we lament.

But we aren’t alone. Isn’t it funny how when we focus on the children of Israel’s desert jaunt, we zone in on the greedy Guses, who snagged more manna than they could handle with the excess turning to worms. (At least, they could  rifle through the Fear Factor Cookbook for a hearty maggot stew, if needed.) But not one word is said about the ones that were too busy, or tired, or not in the mood to get their homers out the door before the sun evaporated it.  There is nothing to tell. 

When we don’t dash Indiana Jones style before the blessing door slams, we are just as guilty. To be obedient to those flickers, there is an attitude required.  It moves past the warm covers and the thought, “If I get up and lose sleep to do this, I will pay for this in the morning.”  Or ‘this will put me behind.  It’s not on my to-do list.’  Or  ‘I’m just not feelin’ it right now.’  Or any excuse we can conjure up.

You see, when we are obedient, either God works out the kinks for us or, at some point, gives us the grace to trust that it was worth the effort. Yes, we must grab the manna while we can.

So next to my bed, I have my lighted pen ready. I truly hope Cliff has to sleepily question by the blue glow of the computer screen, ‘why are you up?’, and that napkins and scraps of paper litter my pockets and purse with quickly jotted insight.  And that someone can say, ‘that Mrs. Long took the time and was kind today when I lost my Science homework,’ or ‘Kelly stopped and prayed for me.’ Oh Lord, let it be so!

“But Samuel replied, “Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the Lord?”

*Since we all struggle in this, help us out with what handy tips you can share on how to be obedient to His voice?

Proclaming 2013 ‘The Year of the Mental Pause’

Twelve years ago today, after a death defying hysterectomy, my surgeon told me, “I left an ovary. It looks healthy and should have a good 10-15 years left on it.” After having my insides rotated and my oil changed with 2 pints added, I have been zooming down life’s road without a care. (see The Day That Almost Did Me In)

Well, the test of time has proven the good doctor correct. Of course, I knew he would be. I put my confidence in a guy who could not only wrangle a renegade artery rupturing, but could diagnose which was the best cow to cut from a herd of pesky bovines. But, I guess I figured the clock wouldn’t gallop faster than a runaway steer.

While I have only heard rumors of the joy of hot flashes, here is what has started popping up somewhere between becoming a grandma and the half-century birthday.

1. My rememberory delights in going on vacation. I can’t remember the stupidest little things, like the person’s name I just met. Or wait, did I actually meet someone new, or was that someone already I knew, but can’t place how I knew them? And did I put them in the refrigerator, where I left my keys last night?

2. Weird stuff is going on with my hair. I can handle the really , really ‘blonde’ hair coming in at my temples, and look forward to that promised ‘crown of splendor’ that the Bible promises of a life well lived. Besides I like the idea of matching my prematurely gray husband, and I figure I’ve earned every single one of them. But what is with the texture? It’s doing a bristly curl thing I don’t know how to deal with.

3. Which brings up the attack of blotches and Sahara Desert skin. The ghost of wonderful Kansas sunburns past are coming back to haunt me and leaving me a connect-the-dot motif no concealer is prepared to cover.

4. Panicking and over-thinking the littlest insignificant things. Yes, Miss Go-With-The Flow has turned into Battan-Down-Every-Hatch-and-Some-That-Have-Yet-To-Be-Built Crazy Woman. ‘Quit wringing your hands! Just make a decision already and move!’ is the pep talk I use to bust up the Anxiety Party. (I swore I’d never be that prancing in place gal.)

Most of these things have been taken care of with vitamins I’m sure were touched by the hand of God just for me—except for the beauty issues and I have a whole cabinet of stuff for that.

But there is one symptom that makes me just want to bawl and bawl and not stop bawling.–the flood of tears. My stars I have to up my fluid intake to keep from dehydrating,, and rumor has it that the Dollar General in town had to increase their shipments of Little Travelers tissue packets.

I’ve always been a soggy one and a sucker for those old Folgers Coffee Christmas commercials. The brother coming home to surprise his family for Christmas got me every time. From being banned from watching Lassie when I was young to getting misty as an adult watching Bambi and Beauty and the Beast, no one in my family is shocked that Mom is sniffing in the dark. When I went into bellowing sobs during the grown-up Peter Pan movie, Hook, because I was convinced I had lost my imagination along with Peter, ok, my family did want to lock me up on that one.

But now it is worse than the holiday special of Call the Midwife. I have no control whatsoever of when the rainclouds will descend. That’s what makes me mad. There are times I feel it crucial that I have to have it together. Like in front of a crowd or a few times on radio when my throat got thick and warned me not to push the weak spot in the dam. And in my stubbornness, I convince myself I could shove it away. Wrong.

Or when I am so mad and want to get my point across. Gusher time. Or life’s big events like graduations and weddings. I know I’ll get teary, but will I go into rafter shaking sobs? Or sometimes for no clear reason at all, but usually it is in front of half the world and everyone want to know ‘what’s wrong.’. Which makes me as mad as when my kids snicker and say ‘Mom’s doing the menopause thing again.’ And if you see me with my hair smoking and looking charred with a nervous tick, it’s because I can’t write for long on the computer without risking electrocution. Not handy when trying to polish up a novel for submission.

A friend told me that when she was going through this a guy reminded her of a bible verse. “You know, Jesus wept. But it does not say ‘he wept and wept and wept.” Fortunately, she thought it was funny. I did, too, but now, I would have hit him. Hard.

To me, tears carry the definition of weakness. And whose life has had a lot of room for that luxury? Maybe you are like me and is the one who takes the dog to be put to sleep? Or have you had to go where angels feared to tread with family or a dear friend? Have you had to be the protector, provider, or parent to those you never dreamed of being in that role for? Or have you had great loss? Or times you don’t know what is wrong, but it feels like something is trying to crawl out of you? I’m sure you can add volumes to this severely incomplete list.

It’s okay. You are not alone, and every tear shed is of value to the Lord. Psalm 56:8 says “You have kept count of my tossings. Put my tears in a bottle. Are they not in your book?’ Oh, they are of great value for those humble tears glorify the Lord, and he records each one. Can you imagine the bottle of the woman who wet Jesus’s feet with the offering from her tear ducts? Yes, God gives grace to the humble. (James 4:6)

Enough grace to get us through the moment, the day, and 2013.

Hmmm…..As weepy as I’ve been lately, I have to wonder how big of bottle does God have handy?