Monthly Archives: December 2015

Chap 1 Backstory: Part 2 of 2 – Facing the effects of our poverty

So, what events set the stage for this story to happen?

[A] Out of desperate unhappiness, I gave my heart to Jesus in April 1981. I had to hit bottom before I could look up. I was divorced in 1977, when my daughter was three; in 1981 she was seven. Her father faded out of her life in sync with fading child support. I would be the only parent Sharon had, so I set two goals that guided my life for the next 11 years.

1motherdaughterpic

  • To mature as a Christian as fast as I could. Things did not get perfect overnight after April 1981, but the unhappiness and fear were replaced with a measure of peace and joy.  I did not want to mess up this relationship with God!
  • I resolved to take the very best care I possibly could of Sharon, no matter the cost to me.

These two goals still anchor my life, although they now include my son-in-law and two grandsons.  I have never regretted one thing I did for Sharon or what I am still doing for her and her family.  It is a priceless privilege and joy, a t rue gift from God!

[B] In pursuit of those two goals, we went to a Friday night Bible study at the Wexel’s house. I never once hired a sitter so I could “go out.”  I cherished each moment of each evening with Sharon.  By going to the home Bible study with me, Sharon got to play with the two Wexel girls, and I did Bible study and made friends in a relaxed setting.  At that time, painful shyness still crippled my life.  I needed all the help I could get in making friends. I needed Christian friends to encourage me and help me grow, which was a two-way street.

[C] I “gave all of me to all I understood of God.” And I have done that ever since. I sincerely hope you will not see this as bragging.  It is simply the truth. I was VERY grateful that our lives were better and so I clung hard to Jesus and wanted to do what I knew He had said to do. So, I studied the Bible, prayed, attended church, tithed and gave offerings, and made friends with other believers.

My life verse

Many Christ followers have what they call a life verse– a verse in the Bible that they try to live by and that has shown to be true in their lives over and over.

My life verses are Proverbs 3, verses 5 through 6:

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight.” (New International Version)

[D] Through living out Proverbs 3:5-6, Sharon and I met the Wexels. As Chapter One shows, that friendship eventually nudged me to face and change my horrible attitude about our finances. By God’s grace, I began making changes so I could give my daughter the gift of an unjealous heart.

1young-girl-smiling

Chap 6, Post 1 – Finding contentment in hard times

Chapter Six

Feeling Content

The rhythm of family life           1music notes

When I think of our life together in the years of Sharon’s childhood, when the series of thunderstorms that was adolescence was a barely perceptible and muffled rumbling a great distance away, I often see us together in the car.

It is the repeated and regular comings and goings, to school, to work, or the home of a friend that establish the rhythm of family life.  That rhythm is the framework within which special events and especially memorable adventures occur, much as rhythm is the framework within which grace notes flutter and syncopation charms.  For some families, it is the coming and going to and from work and school that establishes this rhythm.  For others, it is the presence or absence of a father whose work frequently takes him away from home.  The rhythm of life for Sharon and me consisted of being home together, being away from home, or being in the car together.

Gratitude for little (really big) things

A trip in the car together meant we were leaving our precious little home and setting forth, together, into the big, wide world. The physical proximity of being in the car together enhanced the camaraderie and our sense of adventure.  So did the fact that Sharon was a fully-informed, and involved participant. She was my partner, in every outing.  It had been so since the divorce, when she was three.Then, her skinny little legs were so short they had to stick straight out in front of her as she sat on the front seat beside me and held the eggs when we bought groceries.  I called her “the best egg holder in Florida” every time.    Now, when she sat beside me, her feet rested on the floor and she often had a pad and pencil in her lap, making a list of our errands in endearing irregular and large childish print as I spelled slowly.

“L – i – b – r – a – r – y, g – a – s,…”

“Wait a minute, Mommy.”

“Sorry.  I’ll go slower.  Are you ready?  S—–t—–a—–m—-p—–s…”

Making Much of Little

Thursday was our grocery shopping and errand running day, and, as with other things, I worked hard to make the little I had to give her seem much.  During the week, I asked her to add items to the list we kept on the fridge

“Please add ketchup to the list, baby.  K – e – t – c – h – u – p.

I also purposely involved her in decision making.

“What flavor of jelly do you prefer, sweetie, and what kind of snack cake do you want for after school this week?”

And, of course, I talked about our weekly shopping trip both before and after it happened.  When I took her to school on Thursday morning it was, “Don’t forget, we get to get groceries tonight!” and on Saturday morning, “I’m glad you wanted to try a different kind of jelly this week. You picked out a good one. This sure tastes good! ”

Our monthly adventure into true thrift

Our monthly trek to the u-pack-it bulk grocery, however, truly was an adventure.  I didn’t have to work at making it seem so.

Jewel-T was on the other side of town and any trip beyond the sphere of our little suburb was unusual enough to feel special with a capital S by virtue of that fact alone.  But not only that, for our monthly grocery stock-up trip we left early on Saturday afternoon with an empty car and we returned home with our car interior as well as the trunk stuffed with enough canned and boxed imperishables to feed us both for the next month.

1groceries

It is truly hard to say who enjoyed the whole process more, Sharon or me. In childhood innocence, her smiling face and the twinkle in her eyes told me she felt we were rich to be buying so much food.  As for me, having that much food stored up comforted me in a way so fundamental that I nearly cried each and every time, simply out of gratitude.

Chap 1 Backstory: Facing Poverty – Part 1 of 2

Major Benefit of This Blogged Book

One benefit of this blogged book is that it gives you proof.  I have lived out these principles, or guidelines, for overcoming the effects of poverty for the last 33 years.  My simple story shows they work!

Timeline

As the foundation for the backstory, here is a timeline of how this book came to be:

  • 1982 – As a new Christ follower, a mature Christian couple took my daughter and me under their wing. (This is the “Wexel” family in the book–not their real name). That was the first time ever  I was befriended by someone I considered wealthy.
  • 1985 – I began writing this book (originally entitled “The Happy Have-Not”.) During three years of close friendship with the Wexels, God helped me change my attitude toward having and having not.  This in spite of the fact that we still were, most definitely, living through hard times.
  • 1999 – A Christian movie producer, who saw an article I had written that summarized “The Happy Have-Not”, called to express interest. Needless to say, this was a HUGE pat on the head from God for me.   The producer said things were better for authors to get the book written first.  So nothing happened – except I tried to finish writing it ASAP although I was working full time and going to school half-time.
  • 2001 – I finished the manuscript and a proposal the same year I entered graduate school. I mailed it to a publisher but then stopped trying after two rejections.  School consumed the next four years, then I worked full-time from 2005 through 2012.  In 2012, I relocated to Texas to be with my daughter and her family.
  • 2015 –After three years of delightedly devoting most of my time to helping with my two grandsons, I began this website and my other one http://fredafarmer.net

And here we are, you and I, on this journey together.  I’m having fun and being so blessed in the process – hope you are, too!

Comparing. . . Grasping a Grenade

Comparison and gratitude cannot coexist.

Last October, I attended a class reunion and saw some childhood friends I I had not seen for over 30 years.  Mingling has never been easy for me, but I did mingle (at least some!) because I wanted to know how people were doing.

As I looked around me and saw faces from high school, I began the habit of thought I had had way back then – comparing.   As a teenager, I had felt inferior in just about every way, though in fact me and my family were not. Painful shyness had accentuated that feeling.

As I stood among my former classmates, I began thinking.   What would they think of my 325 square foot apartment, my thrift store decor, and my meager annual income?  Never mind that  I was blessed to have retired early so I could relocate near my daughter and her family.  Never mind that my current economic status was my choice, that I had resigned from a well-paying job on purpose.  Never mind that I had overcome the habit of comparing ages ago and was even blogging a book about it.  That old habit just reached up and grabbed me!

Trusting God stops comparisons

Then, thanks be to God for a truly  changed heart, common sense surfaced.  The gratitude and joy of this life God has led me to bubbled up from within as I recalled that true riches are intangible.

True riches are available, even in poverty.

True riches are the peace God gives when you are living in right relationship with Him.  True riches are the fulfillment of loving and serving those in your life and beyond, for His purposes.  True riches are the unseen things, which God says are eternal.  Love is among those things that will never die, and God sends that daily from His own tender heart,  and from family, friends and often strangers to whom I reach out.

We CAN develop gratitude

Researching for this blog helps prevent most comparisons.  I find a lot of good ideas. Author and blogger Kay Wills Wyma wrote an excellent book on this topic  – “I’m Happy for You (Sorta. . . Not Really:  Finding Contentment in a Culture of Comparison)” .   The title says it all, right?  You can purchase this life-changing book and others by Kay at http://amzn.to/1YPC7GY.   You can also follow Kay’s insightful, and hilarious, blog posts about parenting FIVE kids at http://www.themoatblog.com/

Reach out for contentment – and you will find it!

Would you reach out to grasp a venomous snake, the blade of a butcher knife or a grenade? Comparisons will  not do as much physical damage, but they will:

  • poison your perception of the good in your life,
  • pierce your heart and leave a wound that must be healed, and
  • worst of all – destroy your happiness as well as the happiness of those dearest to you.

Dear Father in heaven,

In this “culture of comparison”, please empower me to grow closer to You and to set my heart on  unseen, eternal things.  Show me how to be a good and godly influence to those You place in my path.   Thank You for your countless blessings, Lord!  Help me see them and remember to thank You, for I know all good things come from You.   I love You Jesus!

Amen.

Three Changes to Make This Site More Useful to You

Sometimes it seems the only constant is change, right?  Well, Unjealousheart.com  will  soon have three new types of blog posts.  You will continue to receive a portion of the book regularly.  However, these three types of posts will appear in addition to the story itself.

  1.  Insights and tips that are embedded in the chapter – This book was written to help others in the same or similar situation as me and my daughter. Therefore, I purposely wrote the book  so that it illustrates what helped us. But. . .  I want you to see those things clearly, so I will put them in a list.
  2. Other blog posts and related information available on the internet –  Quite a few folks are blogging about thrift and gratitude and other topics included in Unjealous Heart. I will collect these links and put them into a post.
  3. The backstory for each chapter – Each chapter has its own backstory or events that led up to what happened in that  chapter.   Including these in the story itself would interrupt the flow.  So, the backstory posts will show you what I was doing that made the story turn out like it did.   For example, since becoming a Christ-follower I have tithed (given ten percent of my gross income to God, which He says in the Bible we are to do.)  I have also given offerings above the tithe as well as “alms” or free gifts to those who were poorer than me.   That obedience is one reason God has taken such good care of my daughter and me all these years.

These posts will also be on this new tab.

That is a bit of catching up to do since we are about to start Chapter Six but I am going to thoroughly enjoy it.    I hope these additional posts will make this blogged book more useful to you!

Love to and prayers for you and all your loved ones!

Freda

Merry Christmas to you and all your loved ones!

Buried deep in my childhood memories are Currier and Ives pictures of Christmas, like the one below.  Subconsciously, I still tend to think of these beautiful scenes when I think of Christmas.

currier and ives christmas 1

That, however, poses  problems. First, Christmas is about Christ, the greatest gift  that has ever or will ever be given.  Second, pictures like that make us (me especially!) tend to want everything to be “perfect” for our family and our loved ones – and that is not reality.

Reality is that God loved the world so much that He sent His son Jesus to be our Savior and our Redeemer, to show us the way to live as God would have us live.  (That’s the famous “John 3:16” verse.)

How much better for everyone if we have a grateful heart, focused on thanking and praising our loving Heavenly Father for loving us so!

nativity

Dear Father in Heaven,

Thank You for sending Your Son Jesus into this broken world, to show by His example how we are to live.  Help me to be a channel of Your love to everyone I see.  Help me please You with the “words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart” on this, the most beautiful day.   Happy birthday, Jesus!  I love You!

Psalm 19:14 “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in Your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.” (New International Version, 1973)

Unjealous Heart, Chap 5, Post 11 – Thrift Overcame Hard Times

Gratitude Overcomes Again!

The pity party, fortunately, didn’t last long.   All the months trying to be grateful and to stop worrying and focus on the positive had, indeed, become a habit.  I blew my nose and picked up one of the cookie tins we had just made that night.   Sharon had made big curling ribbon bows for each one, and the name tags were carefully lettered in her childish scrawl.   She had added a smilie face  to each one.

I sighed and took a cup of the now lukewarm cocoa.  There really was no cause for worry.  For Sharon, making the cookies was an exciting project, and she was sure people would like them.  She had decorated each cookie with a particular person in mind:  cats for Uncle Ted, dogs for Uncle Larry, the old-fashioned rocking horse for Grandmommy, and dogs for Granddaddy.

(By the way, here is are some great templates for name tags  to print on your computer http://bit.ly/1OCe6jE

While mixing the other batches of cookie dough, I had watched as she carefully, lovingly put the finished cookies into the tins, making sure each person’s tin had their specially decorated cookies and that Uncle Larry and Uncle Ted got plenty of their mutual favorite –  chocolate chip cookies.  She thought the cookies made fine gifts.  I was the one looking at them with critical eyes.

We did not have a Currier and Ives Christmas but our little home was warm and inviting and filled with love.

christmas hearth

 

When Christmas morning finally came and Sharon finally opened the presents, I reminded myself that the same principle applied to the gifts I gave her.  I alone found fault with their price, their quality, and their quantity.  She thought them charming and beautiful, from the one present I always let her open on Christmas Eve (the shower cap this year) down to the last big package she opened, the red and green wrapped mirror lying on its side behind the tree.

She was so excited that she came over and hugged me after opening each one.  Later that morning, before we left to eat Christmas dinner with the relatives, I helped her decide where to keep her shower cap, how to set up a ramp for her matchbox cars out of books and a yard stick, and how to rearrange her what-not shelves to make room for her new ceramics.

opening-christmas-gifts-27795298

            As I observed her during those blessed two weeks we had the whole day together for Christmas holidays, I began to understand that she felt, to the bottom of her heart, that she was well cared for.  She knew she was dearly loved, and she thought we had a good life together.  And that understanding was the best gift ever for me.

nativity

Unjealous Heart, Chap 5, Post 10 – From Grateful to Grinch

Our cookie backing project over, Sharon and I still had more of a wonderful Christmas Eve to enjoy.  As soon as the credits rolled for “The Black Stallion” but before the old  Bing Crosby movie started, I mixed an apple and cinnamon snacking cake.  In that pre-microwave era, a wide variety of quick-bake desserts were marketed.  Snacking cakes consisted of one bag of ingredients, to which only water had to be added, a disposable baking pan, and a foil bag of icing to be applied after slight cooling.

By the time the next movie began, the little cake was in the oven, and I was again snuggled next to Sharon on the old blue blanket on the floor.  “The Bells of Saint Mary’s” was a particularly fine example of good things about old movies.  The story was sweet, the mood sentimental, and the ending happy.  By the second commercial, our perfect little cake for two was ready.  I put two pieces on our small real china plates, and put the plates, paper napkins, forks, and two glasses of milk on top of our green and orange serving tray.

milk-and-cookies-for-santa

            “Oh, Mommy!  That’s so pretty!”  Sharon scooted over and made room on the blanket for me and the tray.  That movie and that little snacking cake were the perfect ending for our  Christmas Eve doings.  Then, we read the Christmas story from the Bible , and I sat on the edge of her bed, speculating with her about the presents might be.”

“Now, Sharon.  How late are you going to let me sleep tomorrow?”

“Oh, maybe until six.”

“What!  You can’t get up that early, you know, if you do. . .”

Finally, though, it really was time for one last good-night kiss.  I stood up and walked to the door.

“I’ll leave the door open just a crack.  I’m going to have one more cup of cocoa, then I’ll come to bed, too.”

“Don’t stay up too late, Mommy.  Santa Claus won’t come if anyone’s awake, you know.” she said with exaggerated seriousness.

In the kitchen, I turned off the overhead light, turned on the stove light, and put one cup of water on to boil.  As I stood by the stove, I inhaled deeply.  The air was rich with the distinctive smells of baking: sweetened dough, chocolate, and peanut butter.  I used the sponge to scoot a stray cookie crumb into the sink, then put the sponge in its assigned resting place, just so, to the right of the faucet.  The smooth surface of the toaster gleamed in the soft light from the stove, and the counter looked strangely empty without cookies and mixing bowl and spoons and spatulas.

“Count your blessings, count your blessings,” I repeated to myself as the hot water made the instant cocoa foam to the top edge of the mug.  But my mental discipline failed me.

I sat on the good end of the love seat, put the cup of cocoa on the floor and turned to look at our tiny tree, twinkling in the semidarkness.

“It is a charming little tree,” I told myself, “and lots of people have tabletop trees because they prefer them.”   But that’s as far as my rationalizing went.  The tears came then, the tears as well as all the feelings and fears that had been bottled up for all the weeks before Christmas.

1small christmas tree

            “Surely,” I thought, “she will soon see all this as it really is.  She’ll understand how really needy we are.  She’ll see how small our homemade gifts and cookies were compared to what other people give us.   She’ll figure out that she did not really have much for Christmas, but that I had just made it appear so.   She’ll find out that her friends’ mothers don’t buy clothes from Goodwill.  She’ll be ashamed of how I look and how our house looks, too.  She’ll see past the department store improvements and start thinking about our threadbare love seat and that wobbly old rocker, and… ”  On and on went my negative spiral of woe-is-me thoughts.

grinch

Need some free last-minute gifts?

Caught with some gifts you need at the last minute?  Here are some tips from the CBS News website way back in 2010 that are just as relevant as today. http://cbsn.ws/1UYYaL9

And here is another one http://bit.ly/1Zm5Fy6

The above link  is from the DollarStretcher.com website, which I highly recommend you check out.    http://bit.ly/1YstWWl      This site is overflowing with super tips on doing just what it says – stretching your dollars.    I plan to visit this one regularly.  Wish I had found it sooner!

 

 

Unjealous Heart, Chap 5, Post 9 – Gratitude for Cookies

cookie tins 2

While she was doing the fancy decorating, I mixed up dough for the second kind of cookies we made that year, rolled peanut butter crackles.  These were great to take for kid’s parties and PTA functions because they always turned out just right, with a perfect crack across the top.  They were a homemade cookie that looked like it came from a bakery.  However, making them meant a lot of rolling out as they were a shaped cookie and had to be rolled between the palms of your hands. This rolling out was Sharon claimed as her job.

            “Hey, Mommy!  Don’t you have that peanut butter cookie dough ready yet?  Rolling out is my job, you know, and I’m almost done with these sugar cookies.”

“Hey, yourself, and don’t rush me, please.  I’m almost done and the cookie factory foreman will dock my pay if he finds out you’re ahead of me.”

In spite of her good intentions, by the time she had decorated and packed all those cookies into the right tins and then rolled out one a half batches of peanut butter crackles, Sharon’s pace was visibly slowing.

cookie tins 1

            “Why don’t you lie down in the viewing room while I finish up the cookies.  There isn’t much more to do, and The Black Stallion starts at eight o’clock.”

“Okay, but did you really read the book four times when you were in school?”

“Why, I certainly did!  I loved horses almost as much as you do, sweetie.  I read a lot of other horse books, too.  The library in our town had more of those than any other kind of story.  It wasn’t as big as our libraries in Tampa.”

In five minutes, I had almost finished the peanut butter crackles       “Come on, Mommy!  It’s starting!”

I slid the last sheet of peanut butter crackles into the oven and gratefully flopped onto the blue blanket beside a very excited Sharon.  After the shipwreck, while Alec and the Black were busy surviving on the island, I mixed the third kind of cookie dough—chocolate chip.  Fortunately, this was Sharon’s favorite kind of cookie and I made it often enough so I could mix them on automatic pilot.  From where I stood between the counter and the oven, I was as close to the television anyway as if I were in the room.  Once I had a batch in the oven, I laid down for ten minutes while they baked.    I hardly missed a word as  Henry Daily, played by Mickey Rooney, showed Alec how to “throw him away” when he gave the Black his head on the stretch.  By the time the Black had won his race and he and Alec were back home, our six batches of cookies were baked, cooled, and packed up in those tins.