Monday, December 28, 2009

What is Contentment?

1Timothy 6:6-10

But godliness with contentment is great gain.  For we brought nothing into the world and we can take nothing out of it.  But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.  People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction.  For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.  Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.

What do I complain about?

Our society is geared to make me feel a need when there really isn’t one.  When things aren’t the way I want them to be, my satisfaction with life destroyed.  To determine what represents contentment to me, examine what I complain about.  What do I think is unsatisfactory?  What do I think needs to change in order for me to be content?  What do I think I don’t have enough of?

Godliness with contentment is great gain. 

Godliness is being satisfied with God.  The word for contentment has the connotative meaning of raising a barrier, setting a limit.  It refers to raising both hands in a “stop” gesture to one’s servants to indicate that you’ve eaten enough food, that you’ve had enough.  Setting limits is difficult, but if I keep setting the bar higher and higher, I’ll never be content.

But, when I’m satisfied with what I have, I can focus on growing in the Lord; then, when I get more, it’s a blessing and I can be thankful and praise God.

For we brought nothing into the world and we can take nothing out of it.  But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. 

I start my life naked and without food.  I end my life the same way.  Therefore, anything beyond food and clothing is a blessing.

People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction.  For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.  Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.

The alternative to being content is to seek money (and stuff); however, people who do so face temptation and harmful desires.  In this verse “evil” has the connotative meaning of “worthless things”—that is, when I love money, worthless things will come into my life.

The idea here is when I’m not content with what I have and my focus is on making money, I’ll be robbed of valuable things: time with my family, time with nature, and time with God.   Setting limits allows room and time for godliness.

When I have a sense of lack, it actually comes from wanting more of God, of wanting the feeling of being blessed (like Psalm 23). 

Action Items

§  Don’t buy any more food until I’ve eaten all of the food in my cupboards and fridge.

§  Don’t buy any more yarn until I’ve knitted everything I have.

§  Take note of what I complain about.

§  When I feel a lack, spend time with God.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Penny Rug and Laptop Bag

I'm halfway through the Penny Rug Purse. Now that I'm into it, it's a bit dull. Even with the frequent color changes, it's just hundreds of rows of stockinette (knit a row, purl a row). A nice little perk is that a lot of the people in my knitting group admire it and find it to be really eye-poppingly colorful.

Today I launched into another project: the Aguona Laptop Bag kit from Knit Picks. It's a challenging project in several ways. The first, is that it's knitted in the round with a fairly large stitch count (230 stitches). The second, is that the front and back of the bag are different Fair Isle patterns: one chart for the front and a different chart from the back. Finally, the bag has a very dense gauge so I'm knitting it on size 2 needles.

On Ravelry, I looked at the comment other knitters had in making this project. A lot of people griped about the gauge, so I was very careful to make a swatch (and another and another) before starting. The pattern calls for size 4 needles but--no way! I ended up on size 2's. Also, when I made my gauge swatch, I was careful to knit the swatch in Fair Isle pattern--not just stockinette. I'm proud to see how this goes.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Dealing with Medical Billing Issues

Although Aetna paid my claim for last year, an Orange County hospital continued to chase me down. Last month, I sent a little letter with my payment that was ignored. When I got a new bill this month that didn't reflect the changes, I got really angry. I find I'm a little depressed today BUT I called them and calmly went over my EOB.

They said they would correct the bill today. So, I'm high fiving me for dealing with the issue and not avoiding, and for dealing with it calmly in spite of my depression.

Penny Rugs

Today I started to knit the Penny Rug purse from Bag Style. It’s this amazing thing that uses 10 eye-popping colors of yarn. After I’ve finished knitting it, I’ll throw it into the washing machine with a hot wash, cold rinse cycle and wind up with a felted bag.

The purse’s design is based on a penny rug. Of course, I had no idea of what a penny rug was until I googled it and—wow! It turns out that women used to take worn out knitted wear, felt it, cut designs from the felt, and sew them onto a large piece of felt. Although the name is “penny rug,” they were typically used as decorative table runners. The “penny” in the name refers to the idea of using a penny as a template so that even the smallest scrap of yarn didn’t go to waste.

This has given me an idea of how to use all the little scraps of wool yarn I have left over from knitting projects. Yum-o-rama. I even surfed the web and found I can get large sheets of felt from here:

I'm amazed at all of the penny rugs on the web. It reminds me of what my friend said: there are all of these subcultures that exist around us every day. We never see them until we look directly at them--and then we're amazed that this whole subculture exists. (He was talking about the discoveries he made when he started to play blues harmonica.)

Dreaming future yarnish stuff is amazing for getting one through the day!

Friday, March 13, 2009

Grace of God

I'm learning so much about God's grace.

Because I had several years where…hm…I was living in God’s permissive will and struggling with mental illness, I racked up a bunch of problems for myself with the Franchise Tax Board and HOAs. I was so ashamed, I hid from the problems, so they got worse and worse.

God has graciously shown me that, because of the severity of my illness, I belong in the corporate world with structure, social interaction and benefits where I can exercise the talents He gave me.

As I’ve gotten on my feet, God has queued up each of these problems and given me the emotional stability and finances to conquer them. The more I agree with God on the things that fall short of his standards and the more I ask for help, the more grace falls and I can finally SEE and KNOW God is knitting together the dropped stitches of my life.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Adventures in Lent - Day 13

I’m happy to say I haven’t fallen off the soda wagon yet; however, I completely gave up on the T.V. fast. I probably could do it for a week or a weekend, but 40 days—oy!

On a happy note, I have been reading more. I finished “Violet Dawn” by Brandilyn Collins and “Grave Risk” by Hannah Alexander. I like them quite well as cozy Christian mysteries. I’m not sure how Christian it is to read about murder for entertainment, but I want to be more careful about feeding my mind too much dark stuff—both for the sake of depression and out of love for God.

I know it won’t make God love me any more or less if I read murder mysteries; however, he does tell us to think on things that are good, pure, true, and holy—not because he’s a killjoy, but because he knows that our minds and souls are more fragile than we know. Too much dark stuff numbs us out and damages our ability to be sensitive and compassionate to each other.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Feeding the Ducks

I needed to unwind at lunch so I went to feed the ducks at the local park. Yes, it was a little weird last week with the international festival of coots, but I knew what to expect this time.

Sort of.

Again, the lake erupted with coots when I tossed the first scraps of bread into the water. The twist this time was that there were several Canadian geese and I think what was a Snow goose. The Canadian geese sound so cool. They've got this deep, low sound.

The Snow goose was huge! Hip high. It made a terrible, nasal squeaking sound. When I would turn away to feed the coots and ducks, it would bump me with its bill or grab my trousers and give them a shake. It was an interesting looking duck with a bumped bill and a waddle under its throat. Its breast was white, its body was tan and its feet were pink. Its insistence at being fed made me laugh out loud.

As I searched for information about this goose, I learned that I'm not supposed to feed wild ducks and geese. Kind of bums me out because it's been kind of cool spending time with them at lunch.

Adventures in Lent - Day 10

Not drinking soda is easy. I'm still tempted when I go through the drive-thru, but I'm getting better at ordering milk, juice, or punch. (I still haven't gotten with the idea of a burger + iced tea.) It's not even a sacrifice any more.

So, because I don't "feel" the sacrifice, I'm planning to up the ante. Every time I would drink a soda, I'll put $2 in a "soda jar." Then, on Easter the contents of the soda jar either goes into the offering plate or to a ministry--and it stands to be anywhere between $75 and $150. So, very cool.

And now for something completely different.

I've always hesitated to call myself a Christian because my life doesn't reflect godliness.

I've always had this nagging worry that, at the end of my life, God would turn me out of heaven because I hadn't really walked with him. I buckle down and try to pray or read the Bible, hoping that it would MAKE ME LOVE GOD, but it's been as effective as dragging a child by the ear to the dinner table to eat vegetables.

To rely 100% on grace...on God's own word...that he has my back....that he's got good plans for absolutely scares the snot outta me.

And yet, today I decided to put grace to the test. I got up and said, "Ha! I don't hafta pray." And then, instead of watching TV, I ended up talking with God about work but without the veneer of holiness. I said he could be the project manager of my team.. I felt gentle instead of snarky so I prayed a little for my co-workers.

All day today, it's been effortless to work hard. I knocked through a snag I've been procrastinating about for MONTHS. My team totally gelled. They worked hard but actually thanked me at the end of the day. And some of the petty crap I've been carrying dropped away with no effort.

So. It's like a terrifyingly scary little miracle.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Adventures in Lent – Day 5

I made it through Day 4 with no soda. I got another lemonade but didn’t even finish it. Fortunately, today is a gray day so I’m not jonesing for soda the way I was during super sunny Saturday.

I’m continuing to memorize Psalms on the way to work. I’ve struggled with this. Part of me says, “It’s just works.” But, part of me says, “Hey, Jesus, the prophets, and the apostles all could quote scripture.” So, even on the days I’ve gotta force myself, I’m continuing to creep through.

So far, I’m on Psalm 4. And, even though I’m kind of “force-feeding” them to myself a lot of the time, they kind of come back to me:

Psalm 1: Imagine being like a tree planted by a stream of cool water. They’re so lush. In the Sierras, the oaks that are planted by the water have such amazing color. In Japanese gardens, when willows are planted by a stream, they grow so luxuriantly that their branches dip into the cool water.

Water is used in baptism to signify death and resurrection. Jesus’ baptism is one of the few places where Bible references the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as all present at the same time.

Our bodies are mostly water. Our planet is mostly water. When Jesus’ side was pierced, both blood and water flowed from his heart.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Adventures in Lent - Days 3 and 4

Okay, so a bit of the soda lust kicked in and I still haven't done any serious fasting from T.V.

Yesterday, I was late getting my lunch. I drove through
Boston Market for one of their $5 favorites. Immediately, I was faced with the temptation of having soda with my meal. But, I remember that they serve yummy Minute Maid lemonade. It was a minuscule sacrifice though, as I'd really, really, really wanted a coke.

Later that day, the Coke craving kicked in again when I went to do my errands. I was sorely tempted to pull into a gas station for a quick soda fix; instead, I splashed my thirst with a bottle of Crystal Light fruit punch. Still, my soda tooth ached for a 20-ounce
Coca-cola over ice with a nice fat straw.

Today, I grabbed a burger after church. Again, I was faced with avid soda lust. Oy! I've gotten in the habit of having soda for lunch, dinner, and with an afternoon snack. But, again, I resisted and went with a carton of OJ instead. But, even as I write this, I'm longing to lose myself in sticky-sweet, carbonated soda-soda-soda.

Part of me thinks that, perhaps I'm even cheating by having OJ or lemonade or iced tea. But, perhaps, sacrifice is one step at a time.

On the good side, my depression has lifted. It had been dogging me for weeks. I'd tried going to bed sooner, but I tossed and turned or woke up at 4 a.m. I tried taking Benadryl, but it only allows me to sleep for 4 hours and then *bong* I'm awake. My NP has prescribed 3 mg of Melatonin. I'm getting a bit better, but still having a hard time falling asleep, sleeping deeply, and getting more than 5 hours of sleep. She advised me to up the dose to 6 mg tonight. We'll see how that goes.

In the past, I've taken Ambien but, the more I read about hypnotic sleep meds, the less I want to take them. And yet, I know that when my sleep cycle breaks, my depression comes roaring out like a lion.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Adventures in Lent – Day 2

I think that giving up soda may have been too easy of a challenge. I’m well into Day 2 and have no cravings whatsoever. It doesn’t feel like a sacrifice at all.

I didn’t do so well at giving up television. I have some alternatives planned but I rationalized, "I'm so tired from work. I'm depressed. I'll start tomorrow. I want to finish watching the series." I'm glad Jesus didn't rationalize.

And yet, I DO want to finish watching the series. So, I'm going to watch the final 5 episodes and then begin my TV fast.

Alternatives: knit, go for a walk, go to the gym, read, do the stuff I always put off

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Feeding the Ducks

It's a beautiful sunny day so I decided to have a flashback to childhood and went to feed the ducks at lunch.

I found a nice bench by the lake. I envisioned a leisurely time of tearing small chunks of bread and tossing them out into the lake while a few ducks dabbled around.

Boy did I ever have it wrong.

After I tossed the first chunk of bread in the water, the lake erupted with COOTS. Dozens and dozens of them surged towards the little scrap of bread. Others ran toward me, honking and screeching, beaks questing for the next slice.

I shredded the entire loaf as quickly as I could but--golly--I could scarcely shred and toss quickly enough. The boldest ones gathered around my feet, snatching at the scraps I dropped. I feared they would snap up one of my toes. Some of them were so close, I could literally put the bread in their mouths.

It took less than 10 minutes to go through a full loaf of bread. It was as invigorating as a 10-mile march.

Although it wasn't the leisurely activity I was looking for, it still was sort of nice. So, if you ever feel unwanted, just take a loaf of bread to the nearest lake. You'll feel like a movie star in no time.

Adventures in Lent - Day 1

Depression is on the rampage today in this brain o’ mine. Even though I’ve prayed the sinner’s prayer and offered my life to God, I never quite feel saved.

I don’t see that my life has radically changed. Even before I became a Christian, I’d never been one to take drugs or swear like a sailor. I’d already gotten to the point in my life where I didn’t get drunk or sleep around. And yet, I still felt lonely and sad.

When I moved to a new town, I decided to get involved in the community by going to church and volunteering at the local library. I enjoyed volunteering at the library. And, after a few times of going to church…I felt so sad…I remember sitting in the back row, wearing solid black and praying, “God, I can’t make it another day without you.”

For awhile, I was really focused on prayer and going to church…but after about a year or so, the pastor did a lousy thing and my church imploded with grief and anger. The pastor was kicked out and a new pastor took over.

The whole drama shook me so hard. I fell into the deepest depression I’d ever known. I was hospitalized for a few weeks, but it was months before I was functional again.

I’ve stumbled around for years…dropping out of my career, following a new master that let me down, going to a different church…but after about 6 years, returning to my original church.

The things that make me feel unsaved is that I don’t have a deep desire to pray or read the Bible or tithe and I feel guilty when I don’t do it and that I don’t have the desire to. It’s not easy for me to go to church, that is, I don’t go “woo-hoo, it’s time for church!” I often drag myself there. Currently, I’m forcing myself to memorize Psalms. There’s no joy in it though.

I feel trapped in no-man’s land. Not finding the peace of God or peace with God. I want it, but it’s so elusive. Today I told God that I give up. I don’t want to, but I just don’t feel the fruit of the Spirit. I don’t see/feel the action of God in my life. Maybe I’m ungrateful or something. I don’t want to be, but I just am.

I was memorizing the Psalms because I thought it would cure my apathy.

Today is the first day of Lent. Even though I’m “giving up,” I thought I’d still “do Lent,” by giving up soda and TV.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Sneaky Pete and His Walking Bananas

Today I broke up with my friend, Tom. We've been friends for nearly 20 years. I broke up with him because he's only around when I fall apart.

About 20 years ago, we worked together at Kendall McGaw Pharmaceuticals. We had a boss, Letty, who was an absolute nightmare.We wrote reports to get IV solutions approved for the FDA. Letty would review our reports, praise us like crazy to our faces,and slash us to ribbons when she presented the reports to her boss.

Tom had worked there way longer than me. His confidence had deserted him. He didn't even try to leave. One of the managers at Kendall knew how crappy our boss was. She turned me on to a job at Allergan. I told Tom about it and teased him, saying I knew I could get the job but he never could. His competitive spirit kicked in and we both went for the job, full blast. (In the meantime, I also applied to a job at a software company.)

We both interviewed at Allergan and they narrowed the field of candidates to two: me and Tom. We went for our final interviews.I hated the guy I interviewed with; we didn't click at all. The next day, they awarded the job to Tom and I got the job at the software company. (Tom won the job fair and square, on his own merits.) Together, we handed in our resignations and escaped the evil witch.

We were really close friends for a long time. For a very short time, we flirted with the idea of a sexual thing, but we both been pretty messed up from other relationships. We would have
destroyed our friendship if we went down that path. But we stayed friends, having coffee, going to movies and always joking. I think we were such good friends because we love language and have a twisted sense of humor.

But our lives gradually took different paths. We dated other people, got more involved in careers and hobbies. The intensity of our friendship faded, but we still emailed, talked on the phone, and sometimes had lunch or coffee.

About 10 years ago, Tom started dating a women, Nadine, who was horrifically jealous of all of Tom's friends. She'd monitor his phone calls and basically forbade him to have contact with us. When he tried to break up with her, she'd threaten suicide, he'd rescue her and the cycle would start all over again.

Tom also suffered from terrible depression. I fell awful because, at the time he was suffering most, I told him to pull himself up by his bootstraps and snap out of it. He took medication and did counseling any way and got better. He tried to get help for Nadinet hrough counseling, but she rejected it. All in all, they were together about 10 years.

Eventually, Tom became so well that he broke free of Nadine. I think it's not only because he became healthy but because he met a cool woman, Lily, who liked him. She shares his interests, loves his hobbies, and really loves him. She's his equal. He had been so screwed up by Nadine--she's the kind of woman I'd hoped he'd find.

When I went through my own battle with depression, Tom floated me financially and helped me keep my house. Later, he helped me fight a battle with the DMV to keep my license.

But, I broke up with him today because he's only there for me when I fall apart. There's something yucky in having someone who only wants to talk with me when I'm broken. I can't remember the last time we had *FUN* like coffee or lunch or even talked on the phone for more than 10 minutes. I let him go today, not because I was mad, but because it started to feel like shit when, on the rare occasions I would call him, he'd always say, "I've gotta go and meet Lily at the gym, at the pool, for dinner, etc."

In the past, I've screwed myself up by pretending that a relationship was something it's not--that sex was love--stuff like that. The truth is that I DID sometimes want to talk or hang out with Tom and he didn't need me at all any more.His priorities had shifted--and it's cool that he found a loving relationship. It's something I'd prayed for him for a long time. But,I also didn't want to feel like shit on the rare occasion that I called him.

I know I'm a jackass because he really did help me save my life. But, I also need a friend who wants to know me when I'm strong.

When I broke up with him, he offered to do lunch next week, but I know it's a lie. We'd have lunch, I'd be placated and, when I called two or three months from now, he'd say, "Gotta go..." And I'd feel like shit again. I can't change him and I can't change what the rejection feels like. So, the only thing I could do is to let him go.

I'll miss him...or the idea of our friendship. He's irreplaceable and I'll never know anyone like him ever again. Even now, I feel like I made a mistake, but you can't fake reality.

Grief fades but doesn't disappear

It's coming up on the one year anniversary of Mommie's death. It still makes me cry when I think of her.I can't shake the feeling that I murdered her. This year, I want to do something to memorialize her insome way.

I've almost forgotten the details of her face and her questioning trill. I still sometimes sing the nonsense song I sang to her:

Mommie Loo, I love you.
I really do, O Mommie Loo.
Mommie Cat, I love you
and that is that, O Mommie Cat.

It's not as though I don't love my trio of tabbies. It's not as though I don't have a cool, full life, full of things I love. I just sometimes still miss her.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Knit the Stash

I had the opportunity to do a kindness for a fellow knitter. She confided to our knitting teacher that she might be losing her house and it make her a nervous wreck. The only thing that comforts her is knitting.

I know the feeling of being "way out there in the blue, riding on a smile and a shoeshine." So I dug into my stash for a way of giving her a yarnish hug. I found a skein of ice blue Kashmir Aran by Louisa Harding, suitable for Fetching gloves, 4 skeins of red Rowan Tweed suitable for a fabulous scarf, and a skein of alpaca sock yarn.

Because I'm shy, I gifted her secretly through our knitting teacher. I happened to be there when my fellow knitter received her yarn and crowed happily as she dug through the bag. I felt so grateful to be able to pass along kindness.

What my fellow knitter doesn't know, is that I benefitted from digging through my stash and UFOs.

I found some Noro Taiyo and am considering an entrelac pillow. I also found some Noro Cotton Hill and am considering what to pair it with to create a beret or scarf. Boucle gives me hives, but maybe something cute can happen with it.

I discovered all of these odds and ends of Encore so I decided it was time to try magic ball knitting. I'm tying together lengths of tropical colors into one skein--enough to make a funkadelic hat. I also have a stash of pinks and heathered gray that can become...something. Fun!

As for UFOs, I restarted my Fair Isle Book Bag (from Bag Style) and promptly messed it up. I also started my third Monteagle bag (from Mason Dixon Knitting Outside the Lines). and it's crusing along nicely. I messed up the right crosses and had to rip back, but I'm not sending it away for a time-out.

I need to give my 2nd sock, 2nd sawed off mitten, and Lizard Ridge square some attention, but they'll have to until this weekend.

O knitting!