Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Never give up




"One day Jesus told his disciples a story 
to show that they should always pray 
and never give up."
 ~Luke 18:1 (NLT) 


Sometimes I feel like giving up.  That's the honest truth.

Praying is hard work.  Praying when you don't seem to receive the answers you're hoping for, that's exhausting.  Praying for things that are far away, things you can't see, things that are mysteries to you, things you have no way of monitoring (let alone controlling) -- it can be excruciating.

Sometimes I drop to my knees, feeling the stiff numbness of lupus spreading into my slightly swollen toes and ankles, and my heart hurts.  "I can't do this anymore, Lord Jesus," I say.  Tears sting my eyes.  I've forgotten my reading glasses somewhere, and I can't see to read my Bible or the selected verses I've printed out for my prayer time.  How can the prayers of a messed up, discouraged, disorganized person like me have any effect?

But Jesus tells me to persevere.  Jesus tells me to keep praying.  Jesus tells me not to give up.  Furthermore, Jesus tells me that it is not about me or the power of my prayers.  It is about Him and His infinite power, His perfect wisdom, His incontestable dominion, His unfailing love.

I can rest in Him because it all rests on Him.

“Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest," Jesus says.  

"Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls," Jesus says.

"My yoke is easy, and my burden is light,” Jesus promises.  His yoke is easy because it rests on Him, so I can rest in Him, next to Him, but in Him.

Jesus walks with us through our dark times.  "I will never leave you nor forsake you," He says.  Immanuel.  God with us.  He is here.  He is near.  He is constant.

Jesus sits by the side of His Father's throne and intercedes for us.  The Holy Spirit also intercedes for us, with groanings too deep for words, the Bible says.  If God is for us, who can stand against us?

And the miracle: our prayers rise to God and become like the fragrance of incense in His holy nostrils.  Our fearful, fretful begging and pleading is miraculously turned into a fragrant offering as He listens and attends to our needs, our broken hearts.  How can He be so unfathomably good? 

I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, says the Lord.

I do not willingly bring affliction or grief to anyone, He explains.

He will not coerce anyone to follow Him (oh how I sometimes wish he would), but He finds no joy in watching the rebellious reap what they sow.

For God so loved the world, He gave His one and only Son that whoever would believe could have eternal life.  He gave His own Son, His own life, to purchase our deliverance.  This mission has already been completed.  It is finished, Jesus said, and it was.  It is.

He is not willing that any should perish, and so He waits, patiently, graciously, extending opportunity after opportunity, orchestrating circumstances, shining the light of His Spirit into the corners of this darkened world.  To all who will receive Him, to those who believe on His name, He gives the right to become sons of God.

His desire is that all men would come to a saving knowledge of the truth.  The Bible tells us this in 1 Timothy 2:3-4.  I remember that now, because the numbers go 1-2-3-4.  As simple and straightforward as counting, God yearns to save humanity from sin and destruction.

This is my hope.  He is the saving God, the God who has always planned and executed everything for the salvation of His people.  He saves, rescues, delivers, heals, restores.  This is His character, His nature.  He is kind and gentle, and He longs to take us into His arms, feed us real food, clothe us in clean linen and wipe away all our tears.

Because of who He is, because the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases and His mercies never come to an end, because of His unfailing love, His almighty power and His lovingkindness, I must not give up as long as there is life.

Even if death comes, there is still hope, because even at the last moment, a heart can turn, as the heart of the thief on the cross turned (Luke 23:40-43).  The owner of the vineyard (Matthew 20) paid the same rate to those who came at the last hour as he paid to the ones who had worked all the day long.  There is hope to the very end, no matter how bleak things appear.

I must always hope, always pray and never give up. 


 

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Economics . . . and my healthcare plan

Today on Facebook, I saw something that said, "I think a man with a helmet defending our country should make more money than a man with a helmet defending a football."

Well yes, of course.

But.

"Should" is a tricky sort of word.  There is the way things should be, and then there is the way things simply are.

Obviously we ought to have more respect and honor for a man who puts his life at risk to defend our country than for a man who plays a game.  But "should make more money" is a pipedream.

Football players make more money than soldiers for a reason: because people like to watch sports and are willing to pay money to do so.  Additionally, when sports are televised, advertisers are willing to pay lots of money for commercial slots to sell their products to the large audience tuning in for the game.  Football raises a great deal of revenue; therefore, football players make a lot of money.  National defense does not raise a lot of revenue; therefore, there is not a pile of money accumulating for the soldiers to split.  Whether or not this is "as it should be," is rather immaterial.  What are you going to do?  Force people to watch the news about military skirmishes around the world, and prevent them from watching football, in order to generate higher prices for ad space during the news, and then somehow send the extra revenue to the soldiers' families?  Even if that would work (and it would not), it would violate all kinds of freedoms and rights of the public.

There are no money trees.  The government does not generate money.  The government only takes money--through taxes--wastes a bunch of it, and then redistributes what is left.  All the money that exists is only around because someone worked to earn it somehow, originally through providing some sort of real goods.  Money can then be traded for services, or even stolen--or taken by the government in the form of taxes--but at the beginning, it has to be derived from some real resource.

This is why I think health insurance is unethical and should be phased out.

Health insurance is a business.  It exists to earn a profit.  In other words, the people who run health insurance companies run them so that they can make a profit off them.

Insurance is like a gamble, a lottery; except to win, you must get very unlucky.  In other kinds of insurance, we understand this.  We pay for car insurance hoping that we never have an accident.  Many, many people drive and have no accidents or only very minor ones.  They pay far more into their car insurance than what they ever get back out of it, but they have it so that in the event that they are very unfortunate and have a catastrophic accident, there is financial coverage for the damages.  Because there are relatively few catastrophic accidents, car insurance companies can sell their product at a profit and still keep enough in the coffers to pay out in a bad year of accidents.

The same holds true for homeowners' insurance.  Most of our homes do not burn down, but we pay into the system just in case.  For those whose homes do burn down, there is enough there to cover their damages, and the insurance companies still operate at a profit because of all the payees who did not have a tragedy.

Health insurance should, similarly, exist to cover catastrophies when an illness or injury would otherwise wipe out a family's finances.  It used to be more like this, and it used to be called, "Hospitalization."  But somehow, health insurance broke somewhere along the line.  Somehow, health insurance started paying for people's basic health care rather than traumatic health catastrophies.  And then, when that proved not to be viable, the rates skyrocketed out of the stratosphere. Think about it: how could health insurance possibly work?  Car insurance and homeowners' insurance work because not everybody suffers calamities in these areas; in fact, a relatively low percentage of people do.  That's why the insurance model works--lots of people pay in, so that there is coverage for the unlucky few.  But almost everybody gets sick at some point.  How can you possibly insure against that?

Health insurance companies, because they are companies, operate at a profit.  So, if they are taking money from you and paying out for your healthcare, in order to produce that profit, they are going to charge you more than what the healthcare costs in the first place.  It's not a good deal for the consumer.  That's how they make a profit.  They take in more than they pay out.  It's very simple. This is also simple and obvious: we would be better off without them, because we would rather not be forced to pay for our healthcare plus a surcharge so the health insurance company can make a profit, rather than paying for the healthcare alone.  This shows up in crystal-clear obviousness if you have ever been without dental benefits and have considered the financial efficacy of purchasing a dental insurance plan on your own, as opposed to paying out of pocket.  It is much less expensive to pay out of pocket.

Case in point:  we bought one of the original Obamacare Marketplace Health Plans.  It cost us $1000 per month in premiums, and there was a $12,000 family deductible that had to be paid out of pocket before any coverage even began.  This means that between your monthly premiums and your deductible, you are guaranteed to spend a minimum of $24,000 in a year if you are to receive any benefits.  If you don't spend out your entire deductible, you might spend less than $24,000, but the insurance company will pay out nothing in that case.  Except, a free yearly physical was supposed to be included in that, but the physical would be qualified as "not covered" if you actually discussed any new or pre-existing health issues with your provider.  Basically, you could have a free blood pressure check and cholesterol screening, along with a professional weighing and height measurement and perhaps a bit of nutrition and exercise counseling.  Period.  Seriously.  Even if I paid out of pocket for my yearly physical along with the rest of my medical expenses, is it doubtful that even I--with the expenses incurred by lupus--would exceed $24,000 in doctor bills in a given year (in doctor bills alone, if I didn't have insurance premiums to pay).  This is what I am saying: insurance companies take in more than they pay out, so they can be profitable.

If someone were to contract cancer, that would be no longer be the case, and by getting unlucky in life, he would get lucky in the health insurance lottery, but nobody really wants that.  The crazy thing is (I noticed this when shopping the exchange for health insurance plans): Plans don't always cover cancer or major injuries anymore.  You often have to add special riders to get that type of coverage.  I do not know how many consumers are reading the fine print to realize this.

Recently, my insurance company denied a standard blood lab run with a general physical.  Over the course of trying to figure out what was going on, I was told many different stories:  It is covered, but coded incorrectly.  It is coded as preventative but needs to be coded as diagnostic.  It is coded as diagnostic, but needs to be coded as preventative.  I should be covered.  Oh, nevermind.  It's not covered.

I submitted a formal written appeal and received back a letter with the word DENIED, all in caps, just like that. Somebody enjoyed writing DENIED, I am quite certain.  In the fine print, the letter stated that under the Affordable Care Act, "the frequency and eligibility of services is subject to change."  Well now.  As you might imagine, this statement did not increase my feelings of happiness, security, affection for President Obama or respect for insurance companies.

At the end of the day, this is what we need:

1.  We need to phase out insurance and go back to a fair fee-for-service medical system.

2.  We need billing reform.  Doctors are currently forced to inflate their bills to protect themselves from insurance companies adjusting allowable charges down to where the doctors could not remain solvent.  This should be easy to fix if we phase out the insurance altogether, but doctors and labs will need to reduce their rates.

3.  We need tort reform.  People should not be able to sue doctors the way they do.  Incompetent doctors should be barred from practicing, but good doctors should be protected from frivolous lawsuits.  Life is messsy and people get sick and die.  Doctors cannot prevent this from happening in every situation.  Indeed, every person who has ever been born either already has or will at some point die.  Doctors can't stop this.  Doctors are not God (and even God has His sights on the next life, not this one).  Doctors usually do the best they can; doctors usually honestly want to help people.  If they wanted to be rich, they would be insurance company executives, not doctors.  If we stop suing doctors for every uncontrollable negative outcome, they will be able to stop purchasing expensive insurance against lawsuits, and that will also allow them to reduce their rates.

4.  If we are concerned about access to healthcare for people in poverty, we should develop community clinics, free and open to the public, that would provide a basic level of healthcare to all citizens.  This would include physicals for children, services for injuries such as stitches and bone-setting, education on nutrition and hygiene, maternity care and delivery services, and medications for common illnesses and infections.  These clinics would be funded by the government and staffed by government employees, similarly to the way public schools function.  The buildings could even be annexed to public schools.  Each clinic would have one or two doctors for oversight, but they would be predominantly staffed by NPs, PAs and nurses.  They should be open 24/7 and take the burden of the uninsured off hospital emergency rooms.

5.  Health insurance--if it survived at all--would function more like other insurances: people who could afford it (or whose companies chose to offer it) would have health insurance in place to cover health emergencies and catastrophic illnesses.

6.  People with the money to do so would be able to purchase whatever health services they desired, outside of a health insurance system, and costs would be lower because health insurance would not be around giving doctors cause to increase fees.  In fact, doctors' fees would decrease, because in a more organic fee for service system, doctors would experience the need to compete for patients. Insurance companies would no longer dictate which doctor you could see!  Besides driving costs down, the competition would motivate doctors to provide the best services possible, weeding out incompetent doctors.

7.  We should encourage medical professionals themselves to design concierge service clinics, where patients could pay a monthly rate to receive whatever services they need over the course of a year.  In essence, instead of paying $1000-$1400/month to an insurance company for possibly no benefits, you would pay $1000-1400/month to a medical group that contracts to provide services for you as needed (no high deductible).  Let me tell you, you'd get a ton more for your money, and you wouldn't have to worry about pre-authorization or surprise claim denials.  Large companies could contract with these concierge clinics, or even design their own for their employees.  The clinics could contract with hospitals.  This is a fabulous healthcare option, but it is rendered impossible by President Obama's current healthcare laws, which were written by the very insurance industry that profits most from them (and from blocking creation of a system that would allow people to circumvent insurance).

8.  We should encourage and incentivise medical research to develop less expensive treatments for conditions like diabetes, so that they could be available to the poverty stricken.

9.  We should use a system of vouchers for healthcare, whereby everyone would receive vouchers to be used at government healthcare facilities.  Over the course of treatment, people would either receive more vouchers--as they complied with their treatment plan, or have vouchers revoked, if they refused to take responsibility for self-care.  People who lost all their vouchers due to non-compliance would then have a choice between giving up their free healthcare opportunities, or giving up their personal freedom and being institutionalized in a state-run infirmary where compliance would be enforced.  People who purchase private healthcare on their own would have freedom to chose and follow whatever treatment plans they wish.

10.  We should set up a special non-partisan task force of highly experienced doctors, medical researchers, medical ethics specialists, hospital administrators and economists to study what exactly could be reasonably covered by the government in public community health clinics.  We should shelter this group from lobbies and other outside influences. We should strive for compassion while being realistic about what medicine and the government can and cannot achieve.

The fact that we currently have laws that force citizens to purchase health insurance from companies run by the same people who wrote the laws, who are rich and getting richer, whose only purpose is to run a company that makes a big profit . . .

This is ludicrous.

This is unconstitutional.

This is not freedom.

This is an egregious abuse.

This must come to an end.

Economics are economics.  Money doesn't grow on trees.  The government can only do what it can do; it is not omnipotent.  People get sick and die sometimes, and this cannot always be slowed or prevented.  All babies are not born perfect.  We need to be both realistic and compassionate as we figure out how to live within the limits and constraints of life in a very imperfect world.


* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *


This would be a viable solution to the healthcare crisis we are experiencing.  The trickiest part is figuring out how to phase out the health insurance industry without throwing our economy into a crisis.  Nearly 500,000 people make their living working in the health insurance industry in the USA.




Thursday, August 25, 2016

Politics, etc.



Gmail is freaking me out lately.

Today I was reading an email about some meeting dates and times, and I noticed that gmail put in a prompt called, "Add to Calendar."  I clicked it, and it did add the date to my calendar.  Then I added the location to the calendar item, and gmail automatically mapped it for me on google maps.  This is convenient but invasive.  I've also received notifications on my phone telling me that I am late for an appointment or need to get on the road to an airport to make my flight.  These have been based solely on emails I've received, and not even calendar items.

Shawn says we don't have to worry about whether Hillary or Trump becomes the next president, because Google--having total access to our "privacy"--will be the government before anybody knows it.  Shawn (although he might have been joking) is generally right about these things.  He said that the whole Y2K thing was ridiculous and would amount to nothing, way back from the very beginning, when everyone was panicking (and even his own wife bought a few furtive gallons of water to hold in reserve).

We watched a documentary on George H. Bush last night, and I teared up remembering what a dignified president he was, motivated for the good of our country and the good of the world, making decisions based on sound reason rather than personal gain or party politics.  Unfortunately, that seemed to be the undoing of the Republican party.  I guess the Republican party didn't appreciate being disregarded in favor of sound reason.  Newt Gingrich saw his chance and leapt upon it.  I think GHB's biggest mistakes were in trusting his party to support him, and in granting too much credit to the masses, believing that they would be able to understand what was best and vote accordingly.  He was a good person, and he mistakenly assumed that the majority of people are motivated by morality and reason, as he was.  He didn't realize that people are selfish, lazy and greedy.  They are.  We are.  This is the problem with every political system.  The sinful nature of man wrecks every social system from socialism to capitalism.

Capitalism works a little better than the other systems for awhile, because it is actually based on the premise that man is greedy and will be driven to attain for himself.  So it starts out realistically.  But then it implodes, because the reality is sordid.  In a vicious Darwinian pattern, the strong gain power over the weak, the weak become bitter and hostile, and class wars ensue.  This becomes a pathological situation when democratic voting is supposed to make the decisions.  Factions are pitted against one another, resulting in anger, hatred and violence.

Democracy is also flawed by the fact that, in a voting environment, the people who promote themselves as politicians are never the solid, quiet, humble people who would be best qualified to serve.  This played out in living color in the Republican primaries, where a host of arrogant, aggrandizing adversaries all competed for the nomination, and none would back down for the good of the nation, or even the party.  The end result has been disastrous.  It was already broken anyway, but just like President Obama did with healthcare, the Republicans took the broken machine of their party, dropped it into a pit, and ran a tank back and forth over it a few times until it became an unrecognizable heap of rubble.

I guess the good point about a monarchy is that, being born to the position, a king doesn't have to campaign for his office, and therefore doesn't necessarily need to be brash and boastful.  You could get a humble and wise king, once in awhile.  Maybe.

Socialism and communism are doomed to fail before they begin.  You just can't realistically throw a bunch of unredeemed people together and expect that they will all cooperate and share for one another's best.  Even in churches, which are supposed to function this way (see 1 Corinthians 12:12-31), where the bulk of the people are supposed to have been redeemed and to have begun the process of being sanctified, where they are supposed to esteem sacrificial love above all else, selfishness still rears up and wrecks things.

So yes.

When I was a girl, washing dishes in the kitchen sink, my mother used to come up behind me and say, "Don't waste water.  There will be a day when you will wish for clean water from a faucet.  Mark my words, the persecution is coming."

Seems she might have been righter than we'd hoped. But the Bible does tell us there will be tribulation, and the forces of evil will conquer the saints on earth (Revelation 11:7, 13:7).  Of course, this is only on the current, fallen earth.  There is still our sure hope in the new world to come, the new, redeemed creation of God, the eternal kingdom where we will enjoy everlasting life.

Thus, with Google tracking everything, here is my manifesto:

I am a Christian.  I believe the Bible, and I worship the God who created the Universe and revealed Himself through the Bible.

I believe that there will be no other remedy for the sickness of sin in the world than the remedy of Jesus Christ's redeeming death and resurrection.

I believe that the cleansing forgiveness of Christ enables us to receive new, God-infused hearts, placed in us by the power of the Holy Spirit.

I believe that our hope is in the coming of a New Heaven and a New Earth where God Himself will care for His people and reign in incorruptible righteousness and power, forever.

My hope is in the unfailing love of God and His promises of full redemption, salvation and glorification for those who put their faith in Him.

Hard times will come, but for those who persevere, the end will bring deliverance and joy.






Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Peace about the big questions



Big Questions:

(1)  Why would God ever create the Universe, when He knows everything, and He knew sin would come in and wreck it, and He knew He'd have to send a Redeemer to die an excruciating death to restore it?

(2)  Since God is sovereign, almighty and in control of everything, how do our choices play into our destiny?  Where does responsibility lie? 

(3)  If God loves the whole world and has compassion on all He has made (as the Bible says), if He desires that all men come to saving knowledge of the truth (as the Bible says), if He is not willing that any should perish (as the Bible says), and if He is also sovereign, almighty, perfect in power and able to do whatever pleases Him (as the Bible also says), then why doesn't He save all men?

These questions roil around in my mind.  I don't have good, solid, tight answers for them.  I have some raw ideas about them, thoughts about the non-coercive nature of God, thoughts about whether or not every human is called by God, thoughts about the necessity of contrast for definition.  Half-baked, unsatisfying thoughts.

Sometimes I almost figure something out, but the answer isn't simple.  I read a book that explains things, but when I set the book down, I can't remember the explanation.  The same perplexing questions surface again and again.

A hostile person asks me, "Why does God get credit when we do something right, but it's our fault when we do something wrong?  How is that fair?"  I think that in this case, it comes down to the origin of all things and the difference between a Holy God and a sinful mortal man.

God, the Creator, made all things good.  Every wrong thing is a result of the entrance of sin into the world, and humanity (at the urging of Satan) brought sin into the world, where it now pervades and perverts God's originally good creation.  No longer is anyone ever born good (except Jesus).  All humanity is born into sin, in need of a Savior.  In our flawed flesh, we naturally sink to do the wrong thing, every time.  Whenever anyone does the right thing, it is a miracle of God, overcoming the evil that besets all creation.  This is true whether the person knowingly obeys the Lord or not.  God allows His beauty--in physical nature and in the hearts of men--to surge forth and remind us that He is real.  So I guess I do have an answer for this particular question, although the hostile person is not open to it.  Also, I understand his struggle with the paradox.  It hinges on being able to comprehend that we are not on an equal footing with God; He is God, and we are not.

How do we find peace in a Universe that is too huge, too paradoxical, too frightening and confusing and beautiful and complex?

I read Psalm 131:

O Lord, my heart is not lifted up;
    my eyes are not raised too high;
I do not occupy myself with things
    too great and too marvelous for me.

But I have calmed and quieted my soul,
    like a weaned child with its mother;
    like a weaned child is my soul within me.

O Israel, hope in the Lord
    from this time forth and forevermore.

(ESV)  

Friday, August 19, 2016

Exploding tea bags and Aldi's gluten free bread

It's been an intense couple of weeks.  We had an unwilling house guest.  He is gone now, leaving a bare refrigerator and a sense of empty quiet, contiguous peace, and impending dread.  Not quite relief, but I suppose I can try to see it that way.  Schubert stands bewildered in the upstairs hall, lonely.

I'm taking the day off.

To that end, I stayed in bed until nearly noon, reading and journaling and reading old journals.  Also praying, if that redeems the fact in any way.  At one point I went to the kitchen and ate a bowl of sliced peaches in yogurt (plain yogurt made from whole milk).

Eventually I took a long bath, dumping in a double portion of Epsom salt and sprinkling the surface of water with many droplets of lavender essential oil.  It's a fairly hot day, so I ran the bath just on the warmer side of lukewarm.  At lower temperatures, I can stay in longer without getting woozy.  I soaked for a very long time, even after my timer signaled that twenty minutes had passed.

In the spirit of taking the day off, I will write a vapid blog post about food, because food is a surprisingly neutral subject, at least when it is primarily tea and toast.

I've been meaning to make a public service announcement about gluten-free bread for quite awhile.  I'd all but given up gluten-free bread, because it is nearly always profoundly disappointing.   

My Aunt Marilyn once hosted us in her home and provided a most delicious gluten-free brown bread, which she toasted for me for breakfast.  This was by far the best gluten free bread I have ever eaten.  She said it was from Costco, and we do not have a Costco.

Outside of Aunt Marilyn's delicious gluten-free bread, Udi's is supposed to be good.  Everybody says Udi's is the best.  People I meet proclaim its praises, and reviews I read analyze its virtues.  Not me.  I don't care for the stuff.  Once, I will grant you, I had the stomach flu, and after the major purging was past, and I just wanted a plain old piece of white toast, nothing else, I remembered an ancient, rejected loaf of Udi's in the back of the freezer.  I asked someone to toast and butter a slice for me.  At that point in time, in that circumstance, I was grateful for Udi's.  However, I cannot say that it is good.

As I mentioned, I had all but given up on gluten-free bread.  Still, a person needs a slice of toast, or even a sandwich, once in awhile.  So I'd taken to buying Aldi's bread now and then, not because it was good, but because it is fairly inexpensive, and it serves a purpose in a pinch.

Aldi's "whole grain" gluten-free bread is a pale brown color, and quite brittle and gritty with black specks in it.  The main ingredient is brown rice flour (I believe).  It's pretty horrible.

One day I was shopping late past the noon hour, becoming pathologically hungry.  I realized that it would behoove me to pick up fixings for a quick sandwich upon my arrival at home.  Aldi's was, however, out of "whole grain" gluten-free bread.  The only gluten-free bread available was the white bread.  Desperate, I grabbed the tiny loaf.

Upon arriving at home, I quickly made a sandwich to assuage my hunger and can I say... can I just say... the Aldi's white gluten-free bread is totally different from the "whole grain" gluten-free bread.  For one thing, it is quite elastic.  It bends without breaking, like a normal piece of bread.  It has a pleasant texture and even a fairly nice flavor.  The slices are very small, yes, but they are good.  Absolutely palatable and very decent.  A grilled cheese sandwich made with Aldi's gluten-free white bread and Aldi's sliced Gouda cheese is literally delicious.  I think even a person who was not forced to eat gluten-free would find this sandwich to be delicious.  The bread also makes very good toast; I prefer it with almond butter.

Here is another brand of gluten free bread.  It was more expensive and from a fancier store.  The loaf was larger than Aldi's loaf.  I thought I'd try it.  I was sorry.  It tastes like lightly sweetened play-doh.  Do you know why I bought it?  Because Aldi was out of gluten-free white bread when I last went there.  Apparently other shoppers have discovered what I discovered. 

I've also discovered something about tea bags.


We'd been having a great deal of trouble with our tea bags exploding when we made our tea.  It's disconcerting to near the end of your mug of tea, and inadvertently suck in a mouthful of floating tea leaves.  On a number of occasions, I've had to catch myself to prevent reflexively spewing the contents of my mouth.  Even our premium tea bags were bursting routinely, much to my chagrin.

We finally figured out what everybody else probably already knew.  You have to add the tea bag to the hot water after you've poured the water into the mug or teapot.  You should never pour the hot water over the teabag.  Pouring the hot water over the teabag makes the teabag burst.  I'm sure you already knew that.  It took me a long time to learn, but I'm grateful to know it now.

So, I'm off to continue enjoying my day off, with a large mug of lemon ginger tea, in which the teabag is blissfully unexploded.




Thursday, August 11, 2016

Playing in the garden

Today the heat index was predicted to be 100.

Since we planted some bedraggled clearance hydrangeas a couple of weeks ago, I figured some proactive watering might be in order.



It was already about 80 when I went out this morning, in basically the garb I had worn to bed the night before.

Back in the day, I always used to garden in the morning, in pajama-like garb.  I would feed Jonathan his breakfast, park him in front of Sesame Street, and go out to water, fertilize, weed and deadhead during the hour of Sesame Street.  Somehow, doing it before I was "dressed" for the day made gardening feel like play instead of work.  I remember working peacefully alone, feeling thankful and amazed that I had perennials and they were actually blooming.  I hummed as I toted the sprinkling can from bed to bed, front and back.  Around the time I figured Sesame Street was wrapping up, I'd head back in, and there would be Jon, usually rolling around on the floor in front of the sofa.

Then one day my neighbor, the one on the southeast side, nonchalantly mentioned to me, "Did you know that Jonathan comes over and rings my doorbell at about 8 every morning, and asks to come in for a snack?"  A lovely person, she said it kindly, perhaps with a twinkle in her eye.  "No," I replied, aghast.  "Really?"  She chuckled and said, "I didn't think you probably knew, since he usually only has his diaper on."

That put a bit of a damper on my gardening habits.

Here, in our "new" house, the gardens were rather unruly when we arrived.  We've worked on cultivating the front gardens, but over the three years we've been here, we haven't given much attention to the back, and this year they have progressed from "rather unruly" to "totally out of control."  So we started trying to tackle one bed at a time.  Our most recent project has been the upper terrace behind the garage, a shady spot with good access to a water spigot.

I'm on the lookout for a rhododendron.

In the meantime, we've put in hydrangeas, astilbe and columbine, as well as a bleeding heart.  I'm getting excited for next spring already!

But yes, right now the name of the game is to keep these little guys alive in the heat and dry weather we've been having.  They wilt in the noonday sun every day between 11 and 2.  Today I watered early, and I hope I watered well.



Besides putting in the plants, we've mulched and placed some stepping stones to help us get around in the garden and access everything.  I cannot tell you how much I love stepping stones.



This morning I cavorted from stepping stone to stepping stone, swinging a full sprinkling can, watching the water cascade in an arching spray, dazzling white sparkles of light caught in droplets dampening and refreshing my plants.  I felt like a ballerina.  I felt like a woodland fairy.  I felt like a child.  Barefoot, wearing pajama capris and a pink tee shirt, I immersed myself in water, dappled sunlight, fragrant cedar mulch and rich black dirt.

I get dreadfully dirty in the garden.

Of course I took a shower in the end.


Friday, August 5, 2016

Joy in the morning



Psalm 130 is the cry of my heart these days.

From the NIV:

Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord;
O Lord, hear my voice.
Let your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy.

If you, O Lord, kept a record of sins,
O Lord, who could stand?

I wait for the Lord, my soul waits,
and in His word I put my hope.
My soul waits for the Lord
more than watchmen wait for the morning,
more than watchmen wait for the morning.

O Israel put your hope in the Lord,
for with the Lord is unfailing love
and with Him is full redemption.
He Himself will redeem Israel from all their sins.

Here's what I noticed this time:

I wait for the Lord, my soul waits,
and in His word I put my hope.
My soul waits for the Lord
more than watchmen wait for the morning,
more than watchmen wait for the morning.

O Israel put your hope in the Lord,
for with the Lord is unfailing love
and with Him is full redemption.

Yes.  I am waiting.
I am hoping in the faithful promises of God.
I am painstakingly learning about trust in a gritty, front-line-trench sort of way.

But God is good.  He is full of love and mercy.  And He promises good things:

For His anger lasts only a moment
but His favor lasts a lifetime;
weeping may remain for a night,
but rejoicing comes in the morning.
~Psalm 30:5 (NIV)

Those watchmen and I, we're waiting for the morning, watching for the sunrise.

We wait in hope for the Lord;
He is our help and our shield.
In Him our hearts rejoice,
for we trust in His holy name.
May your unfailing love rest upon us, O Lord,
even as we put our hope in you.
~Psalm 33:20-22 (NIV)

Unfailing love.
Full redemption.
Morning joy.
Yes, please.  
Amen.