Thursday, July 30, 2009

The Day I Met God

It's an amazing thing. Meeting God. I remember the day, like it was yesterday. Have you met Him yet?

I'm not talking about the day you gave your heart to Jesus. That Sunday you walked the aisle and the preacher wrote your name in the Lamb's Book of Life. I'm not talking about confessing your sins to a priest or before a congregation. I'm not talking about that revival you walked away from, so full of hope and joy unspeakable. I'm not talking about shouting at the altar, or the day your lips trembled and your tongue got thick during a particular "come to Jesus" meeting.

I'm talking about a bonifide experience where God shows up and you know in the deepest region of your heart and soul, it's Him. The day He stepped out of nowhere and introduced Himself to me was a REAL life-changing experience. Have you had a meeting like that?

This weekend, I understand that 11,000 women (or more) are decending upon our local coliseum to listen to a few popular Christian women speakers. These evangelists, I'm sure, can lift a crowd of that magnitude to pinnicals of heart-felt glory. I've heard them speak on-line, they're really something.

The testimonies they sport on their web-sites are impressive.

The women I know who are attending are excited beyond belief. They've purchased their tickets months in advance.

Did you hear what I said? They purchased their tickets. 11,000 women at $75.00 a pop. Or more. You pay extra for your box lunch. That's a lot of money, folks. A lot. Makes me wonder. What about you?

Do you think these lady evangelists/teachers/prophets (whatever their titles) ... do you think they sell their books, tapes, cds, t-shirts, keychains, etc. at the back of the room? You bet they do.

Do they take up yet another offering during the services? (Not sure about that one, but my guess is ... yes.)

Do women really meet God there? I don't know. I hope for that kind of money they at least get a glimpse of Him.

If you're going, I hope you have a wonderful time. But I won't be there. Personally, though I am a proclaimed woman of faith, I don't do well in evangelical crowds. If you knew my history, you'd know why.

For me, I met God at the darkest hour in my life. Not in church, not in a crowd of evangelicals who all think alike, not in a Praise and Worship moment. No. I met God in a place where one would think God would not be.

Powerful does not describe it. Words have suddenly escaped me, trying to reveal the moment. To recognize Him, to see His hand moving swift and steady, it's an experience I will never forget. Never.

Miracles happen as He walks into your life, and you change as your circumstances change. For me, He revealed Himself during a great struggle. In the middle of the night. In the wee hours when silence rings so loud in your head it's disturbing. When darkness squeezed in around me so tight, I thought I would die ... when I believed my life was ending. That's when God showed up.

Now God certainly listens when 11,000 women gather together to sing and worship Him. He enjoys the praise of those who love Him. All I'm saying is that some of us are made differently. We don't need to be pumped up. An evangelist's message may be honest and pure and full of Rah-Rah Christian ladies!! But ... I do have a problem with the millions they rake in. I have a real problem with it. I suppose during hard economic times, revivals of any kind are money-makers.

It's just that I've come from a different spot. My message is different. It's not a made-for-TV message.

I'm not saying the way I met God is the best way. Maybe gathering together, listening to high-spirited messages is a good thing - for some. Maybe a few folks need that more than others. And then, maybe you can meet Him jumping for joy in the midst of 11,000 women ... but it's my belief that God doesn't charge admission.

You can find Him ... anywhere.

Everything I am, all that I know, feel, act, think or do ... changed that day I met God.

Blessings to you and yours.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Summer Romance

I'm deep into romance. A romantic novel, that is. The author writes scene by scene and ties them together with expert skill. In this case she has created one of the great love stories of our time. I'm convinced I'll never read a better romance novel. She has set the bar in the stratosphere.

I'm not one to read only romance. But hot summer breezes on my back porch demand a good love story. There's nothing better than a porch swing and a cool drink to transport yourself to another place and time. Romance novels are usually light, funny; a fast read. But not the one on my lap. It's 850 pages of intrigue and history. The love story is hot, constant, and keeps you involved. The skill of the author is consistent, her story never falls short. In other words, my eyes have not skimmed the pages to get to the next scene. Not once. I'm chewing on each word.

There's no better season than summer to immerse yourself in a good romance. Even if it is a hot, steamy novel.

Grab your book, a glass of ice tea, and a fan; come join me on my porch!

Blessings to you and yours.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Garage Sale Etiquette And Otherwise

I blog about this every July; it's my summertime passion.

$250.00 Frye Boots for an amazing $7. Cool-looking boots that some man wore only three times. Four beautiful sweaters for me - $1 a piece. One like-new couch (like never sat on) - $100. (Four decorator pillows thrown in for free.) One Lazy-Boy chair, in great shape and the perfect color - $20. Gorgeous antique side table - $5. Stemware; water goblets, wine glasses, juice glasses, and drinking glasses, service for eight, in perfect condition - $4. Hallmark Christmas ornaments - 50 cents each. L.L. Bean like-new jacket for Mike - $1. Tommy Hilfiger shirts in new condition - 50 cents each. Depression-glass antique plate - $1. Antique mirror - $2. Liz Claiborne purse and matching wallet, never used - $3. Hushpuppy winter boots, again, never used - $1.

Do I have your attention?

Never-used power and garden tools, great books, lovely jewelry, never-used purses, nice stock pots, awesome antique clock, clean rugs, spotless tablecloths, vintage linens as seen in Southern Living Magazine, to-die-for quilts, valuable framed artwork, pretty vases, plants and patio furniture, etc. etc. etc. ... all bought for REAL rock-bottom prices over the years.


Garage Sales. Yard Sales. Barn Sales. Estate Sales. Moving Sales. Sidewalk and Parking Lot Sales. Flea Markets.

I NEVER pay retail price for anything in my house. Well, maybe my TV, my computer, my mattresses, and my underwear. But I guarantee you, they were on sale for at least 50% off or more. So listen up! I've got better news for you than Fox, CNN Headline, and Nancy Grace!

Due to the economy, sell-your-first-born sales are in abundance this year. Hurrah for me! Hurrah for you! It's back to basics. An honest-to-gosh stimulus package for our finances - finding what we need (and sometimes what we want) at neighborhood garage sales.

Therefore, now more than ever before, it's time to lay down the rules for these sell-my-crap-to-pay-my-rent sales. If you're thinking about hosting a garage sale, you need to know the rules. If you're contemplating a sneak peak at your neighbor's garage sale, you still need to know the rules. The "nicer" neighborhoods are getting into the act this summer; more than ever before. Those folks, especially, need to know the rules. To get the most bang for your buck, everybody needs to know Garage Sale Etiquette. It's a must!

It seems everybody is hurting in the wallet area today. Making a few extra bucks these days is a great mood booster, agreed? Beginners are chucking their pride (please God don't let my Country-Club friends see my garage-sale signs) cleaning out their attics, basements and closets, and hosting an I'm-in-a-money-funk-so-I'm-selling-my-junk sale.

Well now, I've been hosting and hunting garage sales for over twenty-five years. (Mainly because I've always been in a money funk.) Rising at the crack of dawn every Saturday, summer-after-summer, throwing on pants I paint in and a t-shirt with holes, pulling my hair into a greasy pony-tail, and trudging across hundreds of dew-soaked yards to get to the first table of junk, I dare say that I'm a veteran. I know whereof I speak. Inevitably over the past few decades, I've learned a thing or two about garage-sale etiquette.

Here's the deal, folks -- you really do need to know the rules.

Rule #1. You can't charge RETAIL prices for your junk. Prime Example: Yesterday, a neighbor at the end of my street (in a pricey neighborhood) tried to sell her Longaberger basket collection for $35 per basket and up. Ha! Now I know they're collector baskets and folks pay $100 or more for just one of these "designer baskets" at Longaberger HOME PARTIES. BUT, you're not having a home party. You're having a GARAGE SALE! Oh yes, deary, there's a difference.

Note to Newbies: I've found Longaberger baskets (in like-new condition) for $1, $2, and $3 per basket at garage sales.

LEARN THIS HARD-FAST RULE: If you're hosting a garage sale to make a bunch of money, you're doing it for the WRONG REASON. (Unless for charity.) If you think your "stuff" is worth more than a few bucks, then you need to take your "stuff" to a consignment store, or sell it on e-bay. I don't give a flying flip if you were stupid enough to pay $200 for your designer purse or $50 for your pretty rug. I'll give you no more than $5 for it at a garage sale. It's as simple as that.
Remember this: Garage-sale hunters need a real bargain. Otherwise, they'll go to Walmart. Get it?

THE PURPOSE OF HOSTING A GARAGE SALE, is to clean out your closets! To rid your house of crap you don't want, and in the process you stick a few extra bucks in your pocket. That's it. There's no other reason to host a garage sale. It's BONUS money!

Therefore, Miss-My-Shit-Don't-Stink-First-Time-Garage-Sale Hostess, sell your precious Longaberger baskets to get rid of them or stick them on e-bay. (By the way, for the fun of it, I went back to her sale hours later. Every retail-priced Longaberger was still baking in the hot sun. Still beautifully displayed on her pretty table collecting dust. Along with the rest of her pricey junk. Still not sold. Shocker.)

Rule #2. Don't worry about displaying everything as if you're running a store. Put price tags on whatever you can, or have dollar tables, 50 cents tables, etc. And get up EARLY. Open your garage door by 7 am. That's the typical time a sale should begin. Don't be dragging things out of your shed, house, barn, or bedroom closet at 9 am. You'll lose a lot of sales. Be prepared.

Rule #3. Get a garage-sale permit if your town requires one. Be respectful of local ordinances.

Rule #4. Always say "good-morning." Or "how-ya'll-doin' ?" Be friendly. That way, if you ask your host to lower their price on the Phalscraft lamp you have your eyes on, you'll stand a better chance of getting it for $5 instead of their $8 asking price.

Speaking of bickering for a better price, it's perfectly acceptable to wheel and deal at any and every sale. Period. Some beginner hosts are rather taken aback when approached, but they get the picture after the first few garage-sale veterans rummage through their precious "stuff."

"Will you take $5 for the whole set of dishes?" A good garage-saler will never pay the asking price on anything marked over $1. Especially at the end of the morning. Prices go down as the day wears on, just so the host won't have to haul it inside again. But please remember, anything under $1, just pay for it and be thrilled you got a vintage linen tablecloth for a buck. (Which I have done.)

There are enough garage sales every Friday and Saturday, that if hosts aren't willing to wheel and deal, you can move on to the next.

And remember to say "thank you" and "have a great week-end." It's the gracious thing to do.

Rule #5. Television sets, irons, toys, anything that must be plugged in to work, ask to plug it in. Check it before your purchase it. Don't be shy, just ask. If it doesn't work, they shouldn't be selling it. UNLESS, they post a sign on it, "Doesn't Work." Common sense stuff.

Rule #6. Use cash only. Enough said. And all sales are final. Don't ever return a garage sale item. It's tacky.

Rule #7. If you host a sale, PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE take a course in proper signage first and foremost. Use large white or neon poster board folded over and write with a big, thick magic marker in HUMUNGO letters.
(draw an arrow pointing to the sale)
ALWAYS use arrows pointing in the right direction. Make it clear. ALWAYS USE THE DATE. NEVER list items you have for sale. It's too much to read for the garage sale hunter, and we don't care. DON'T nail your signs to a telephone pole. Use two sticks and pound the sign into the ground. Or use a metal frame from a real estate sign you may have lying around.

Make your sale easy to find. Post signs at all major and minor roads leading to your home. And for cryin' out loud! ... TAKE YOUR SIGNS DOWN AFTER YOUR SALE! I can't tell you how many sales I've searched for weeks afterward, only because some lazy garage-sale host didn't take her sign down.

Rule #8. If you don't live on a street where folks can park and get to your sale easily, then don't have one. Or find an empty parking lot somewhere and pitch a tent.

Rule #9. You don't have to list your garage sale on Craig's List or even in the newspaper. I rarely refer to them. There are enough garage sales every Saturday that if you just get out early and drive, you’ll find them.

Rule #10. Finally, make it fun, make it a treasure hunt. Somtimes I drive slowly past a sale, see that it's mostly all baby stuff, kids clothes, toys, (stuff I'm not interested in) and I don't stop. Sometimes even when I stop because I think it looks like a great sale, it's not. The stuff is dirty, broken, and should've been taken to the dump. Often I hit four or five bad sales before finding my treasure sale. The sale to beat all sales. Then the fun begins.

Last month I found a piece of Italian porcelain, over 75 years old at a yard sale. The host thought her inherited piece was ugly. She hated it, even though it had belonged to her great-grandmother. I bought it for $2. I can tell you it's worth much, much, much more than that. (Giggle.)

The thing is -- you never know. The old cliche' - one man's junk is another man's treasure - is true. You have to give up a few dollars of gas, a few hours of sleep, and a Saturday morning, but you may find the treasure of a lifetime. I think that even if I had all the money in the world, I'd still treasure hunt at garage sales. I'd continue to find what I need for pennies on the dollar, not because I'm cheap, but because it makes sense.

Just use proper etiquette to do it.

Here's to a successful garage-sale summer! Mike and I just might see you out there!

Blessings to you and yours.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

The True ART Of Writing

Writing is an art. Don't let anybody tell you different. You're either gifted with this talent, or you're not. That doesn't mean you can't develop your talent; taking it from beginner to advanced. Talent given to artists, it seems to me, is awarded in varying degrees. I think God expects that once we discover our talent we must do something with it.

Yes, yes, like wine and cheese, a talent often requires that we age a little. A few decades of hard work to bring out the "Michelangelo" in some of us is a good thing. But what I'm wondering is, why are there so many published authors out there who continue to write one bad book after another? Is their fan base that strong? Are their stories so fantastic that the quality of writing is overlooked?

My husband thinks its because they wrote and published their first works way back in the 70s or 80s, and some in the 90s. When the competition wasn't like it is today. When publishers published anybody with a pulse and a half-way decent story. Over time, they developed a platform, a fan-base, that never went away. These writers didn't have to worry about a pristine-perfect query letter; marketing and promotion; 225 rejection letters. I can't tell you how many "mistakes" I find while reading published books. Mistakes that these authors get away with, while the rest of us unknowns would be rejected for. I think these authors continue to rest on their laurels. Well, some of them.

Others, mind you, deserve their good fortune. They paid their dues. I applaud them. The few of them.

At this moment, I'm heavily entrenched in reading. I'm deep into two novels at once. Actually, I'm studying the writing. Asking myself, why these writers? What is it about their work that makes them a success? These two well-known, New York Times bestselling authors have sold millions of copies.

The first writer, I'm concluding, is brilliant. Her story is mind-blowing. Though a very, very long book, I find she captures and holds you for ransom, insisting that you read well into the night. The depth of her research rivals that of any scientist, I assure you. Along with her millions of fans, I find myself lost in the made-up world she created by what else? Her talent.

The second writer, well-known, her work is seen on retail shelves in every state. Bookstores, grocery stores, and otherwise. (No, it's not Danielle Steele. They can't give "her" books away at fire sales in my neck of the woods.) No, the author I'm talking about, her work is full of air. That's my best description for it. Hot air. The reading is easy, true enough, you can fly through a 300 page novel. But the stories are surface. Flat. There's no depth to them. As if she wrote it quickly. Didn't take the time to have it edited for content. I'm skimming through chapters. On top of that, the story is not plausible. I hear myself saying, "Yeah, right. Like that would happen!"

Thing is, the first author writes about time travel. It's far easier for me to believe her story than that of the second author who simply wrote about a rich woman waking up one morning and finding herself destitute. Her adoringly-rich husband, whom she has loved with all her heart, has died and left his billions to his mean and horrible siblings.

I think it all boils down to one thing. Talent. How they tell the story, draw you in, hold you captive.

To write well is to allow the story to boil over and spill into your hands as you type or print. It's feeling, no- I mean really feeling what your character is experiencing. Can you pour yourself into another body? Are you able to transport yourself to another place and relay it, in all its beauty or horror to your reader? Can you write a great story and make me want to devour every word as if my life depended on it?

Can you?

That's the true art of writing.

Blessings to you and yours.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

37 Years Ago Today I Married The Wrong Man


July 1, 1972. I was 17 years old; what did I know? I'll tell you what I knew.

Not much.

It was a beautiful day. I was a blushing new bride who took hold of my daddy's arm and walked down a fifty-foot aisle to a young man in a crushed-velvet tux with two dollars in his pocket. He carried me across the threshold of our $100 a month rented trailer.

Of course, I'm sure he would relay pretty much the same thing, that we knew nothing about how to make a marriage last. Very few high school sweethearts stay together forever. Or were meant to. We, like so many others, just simply grew in two different directions. For seventeen years we drifted further and further apart, like two continents divided by one big ocean. Unlike my parents, or his for that matter, "for better or worse" didn't mean a damn thing.

Some say you need God in your marriage to make it last. In our case, there was too much "God." Too much religion, not enough love.

A couple good things came out of it. Two fantastic kids. A few good memories, (sigh.)

But now all these years later I look back at the bliss and the horror and find it tangled in my memory like some nasty vine that needs cut and trimmed back, making way for air and light to get to the buds. Thank the good Lord, time slapped salve on the worst of it and I've allowed myself to go on. I'm so glad I did.

Thirty-seven years later and six and a half years into my marriage with Michael, I wish I could wrap up what I know now and sell it on the Internet. I look back through time and see a foolish young girl. I wish I could talk some sense into her. Make her see her mistake. But all that's left is this middle-aged woman, in the youth of her old age. No, you can't go back. That's for damn sure.

Many times Mike and I look at each other and say we wish we could've met way back then. Back in our youth. But time has made us both different. Life's worst moments made us who we are today. They strengthened our resolve and created a love with bonds made of steel.

I suppose some marriages last a lifetime, while some drift along for twenty years before crashing into the rocks. A few long marriages should've ended decades ago, giving way to healing and a better life. And yet, I'm a strong believer that marriage is forever.

My forever had an ending.

I'm more than glad. Because sometimes you have to go through the fire and the flood to find the love of your life.

Blessings to you and yours.