My House Smells

Beautiful Young Woman Outdoors. Enjoy Nature. Meadow

I want my house to smell as welcoming as warm cookies, as sedated as clean linens, as invigorating as lemonade from the stand. Natural. Gathering my lighter to fire-up the candles, but I don’t have enough in the same scent. I reach for a cranberry/orange, and a fresh balsam, a cookie crumbs, a vanilla holiday, a pine needles, and a frosted mulberry candle. With each simultaneously glowing and scattered through the rooms—this house will smell better soon or I’ll ignite from an allergic reaction.

Yea, I know your house never suffers from this malady. Yours is more like freshly laundered sheets and orchids.

It’s not just my house. My life could use a fresh scent, only, I can’t settle on the right mix. Some days I’m as tart as apple peels, others like a zebra let loose from her stripes. An occasional moment has me reclining with a stretch a bit too reaching. I don’t know how I should smell. These emotions run together like streams converging into a river. I don’t even know what I want for dinner. You pick. But no rabbit. Or squirrel. Or chicken liver.

Have you ever wondered if God always eats oatmeal for breakfast or if He is satisfied with a bit of nuts in His pancakes? Does His world twirl as precisely as sunset and sunrise? Would He pout if I missed out on the lecture in return for a quiet conversation? Does His kitchen smell like mine in the morning?

God, my world is zips and zaps in competing twists. Today looks like rest when I need it to be a tree laden with oranges. Productive and focused. Oftentimes, I feel challenged because my world isn’t tidy, wrapped, and displayed with a pretty ribbon. And I want it to be.

Martin Luther King, Jr. once said he had a dream. I have a dream, too, a dream that I will finish all the tasks I’ve started, that I will finish well. I shudder at the mention of a wasted life, but would rather become a beacon of God’s goodness. My list doesn’t include fame, not anymore, and it doesn’t choose perfection, although I’m obligated to perform well. I want to live as if God matters, life matters, and the people He’s placed in my care matters.

How can I live without passion, but just to coast along in some mediocre posture? It’s this passion that places me in the fast lane. Always running—eager to accomplish the desires of my God-saturated heart. Ten is never enough. It must be eleven. And then twelve. I cannot stop. Or I will die a miserable old soul.

This isn’t about armpits and dirty feet or yesterday’s pot of turnips greens floating odors around the room. It’s more like cleanness in my soul, clarity of mind, and freedom to soar. I want to live unencumbered with secondaries, to live solely for the essentials, to have a house that smells good. Everyday.

Toss Them in the Bin

The newspaper LATEST NEWS with the headline CHANGE WILL COME  and coffee

Some folk like change.

They camp out all night forming lines around an entire store in wait of the newest iPhone. You’ve got to be kidding! I still don’t know how to call home with the old one.

What’s with all these setting updates? They present their new idea of the week as if it’s the best piece of technology ever shared. Do they truthfully believe this makes me happy? I’m about to take a collection to send the Apple team on a long needed vacation—preferably to a place that doesn’t have cell phone towers.

Then we have the other devices sent to torment my brain. How did typing a story onto a sheet of white paper become such a complicated mess? Now I have so many buttons on this contraption they call a computer, I want to throw it into the next world. But I don’t. It would only be tossed back. All God needs is His finger and a slab of stone.

A few weeks ago my husband Robert purchased a new car. When the salesman began showing us how to operate the navigation system we nearly croaked. Smiling, the salesman handed us a guidebook as large as the car manual, boasting about all the things this system would do.

Robert said, “All I want is to listen to the radio.”

We still don’t know how to bring up a little music.

Smashed TV Remote

The television is another matter. If I happen to get it on, I don’t know how to turn it off. It is managed with three remote controls. I’m as confused today as I was the first day we purchased this television. A few days ago I attempted to watch a movie with my granddaughters. One hour later I finally found the right button.

Change is charging life past me. Don’t these inventors understand that all I want is simplicity? I don’t require new gadgets to fill up other parts of my day.

Who has time to read an entire manual in order to call for pizza? I’d rather use my grandmother’s black rotary phone.

Advanced technology isn’t a sweet ride on the merry-go-round, keeping us all smiles and waiting for the next trip around the world. It’s viciously controlling and has us up all night fixing freezes, air printer failures, and turtle-like speed. When we think we’ve won, we discover our labor has disappeared into the unknown world of cyberspace. Ridiculous.

Simplicity. Does anyone crave for a return to family dinners without a chicken clucking at regular intervals from a phone? How about lingering on the porch swing just to inhale the scent of rain? Yes! See me as a child of nature all wrapped in dew from early walks—those walks with God bringing me back to what truly matters.

And what does matter besides the racing of media moguls? Humanity. Face-to-face time. Looking one another eyeball-to-eyeball with barely a blink as we share our heartfelt convictions. To smell the scent of someone’s labors, whether sweet or raw sweat. Speaking to God heart-to-heart rather than before an audience on social media among people who really don’t care about our sermonizing and open prayers.

It’s all too rushed, too crowded, too overdone. I’m eager for a drink of sugar- saturated lemonade, a long swim in the cool creek, a moment to think about my day among the roses. I want to sing a song to Jesus from the depths of my soul without caring if it’s off-key.

In the meantime, I’ll hang onto this phone, this computer, this television. Perhaps someone will stagger pass in great need of my silly electronics, and I’ll offer them at a reduced price.


The Perfect Woman (part 2)

Outdoor portrait of pretty young girl riding bike in a forest.

The perfect woman came to my house. I was merely attempting politeness when the invitation was sent. Really, she shouldn’t have come. This was supposed to be a lovely evening. Yet, in she floated like a ballerina on opening night in her fitted ivory pantsuit.

In one glance she eye-slid me. For clarification, this refers to someone who runs an eye up and down a person’s body and smirks. I peeked down at my blouse—it looked like I dragged the thing from the bottom of last year’s mission barrel. I especially liked this shirt, before tonight.

She roamed the room in a single glance, as I followed her eyes. Suddenly cobwebs burst from the ceiling and out from under the chairs, while the carpet displayed shadows of last year’s spills. My favorite designer chair looked like it arrived on the Santa Maria; the drapes I’d made a few years before seemed as though constructed by a novice.

I didn’t want her to enter the kitchen, but in she waltzed to congregate with the women who I thought were my friends. They should have halted her passage and eased her out the doorway. She offered polite conversation to those gathered while she scowled at the maple syrup drizzled down the cabinet. Why hadn’t I seen this earlier? Lemonade punch littered the counters and stuck to the white floor leaving a trail of footprints.

Pinterest offered an adorable swirly design for my cupcakes, yet now they were dry and a bit dull. In fact, this entire meal tasted like a bite of brown paper. The party ended at her entrance.

When she should have inspired me, she wilted me into sautéed spinach. For years I had contemplated her power over me. Not just her, but every woman who was polished, well educated, and widely traveled. They deflated me even when I wore my best jeans. But then something happened that forever changed me.

My transformation didn’t occur like Scrooge’s all-night drama. It was a slow slide into freedom. More like daily walks with Jesus. And listening. Listening with a heart eager to know myself and my Savior. Without Him some parts are missing. We continually struggle as seemingly perfect people rip the joy out of our heart.

Eventually, I became the gal who felt comfortable with my own imperfections. This is freedom when I can be real without fear of rejection, and accepting of those who are smarter, prettier, and thinner. This also leads to embracing those who wish me misfortune.

Jesus removes the cobwebs from our corners and brightens our favorite blouse. He takes our junk and converts it into treasured pieces that evoke our deepest gratitude. We eventually see people as just that, people—people on a journey.

I’d like to wrap this up with a fairy tale ending, but we all know life isn’t neatly packaged. We have those days when we’re in our own ivory pantsuit. Days when the president could eat from our kitchen floor and his dog drink from our toilet. But then there are those times when the perfect woman knocks on our door.

The Perfect Woman Came to Stuck (Part I)

Beautiful Young Woman Outdoors. Enjoy Nature. Meadow

We live in a town of Strawberry queens. I’m attempting to become a lady, but occasionally severe failure has greeted me in unexpected moments. Just when I think I can slip in the corner market for a tub of butter without makeup, there’s Miss Perfect in the dairy section.

The perfect woman never needs to apologize because she never says anything stupid. She doesn’t color her hair because it’s naturally the angelic shade of dripping honey. With her, there is no need to diet because she’s been the same weight since puberty. Her nails never crack, peel or split. The word “worry” isn’t in her vocabulary. She has flawless faith.

She never burns a roast, slices her finger with a steak knife or trips over the same footstool. She never sweats when she jogs and her feet never smell as if they’ve walked through a cow pasture. She never utters an unkind word, never forgets a birthday, and never, never, never forgets to return a call. She promptly answers every email as if she’s internally wired by her Internet service. Her Christmas decorations are in the attic long before January 2nd and dead azalea blooms are never found on her bushes.

Her windows sparkle when the sun’s glorious rays shine into her breakfast nook. Pollen doesn’t collect on her lawn furniture or dust on her furniture or germs on her toilet. Her photographs are creatively arranged in her scrapbook albums with cute little labels on every picture. She doesn’t know what it means to scramble for a pen when the caller wants to leave a message.

She shops at Lowes in Cinderella shoes and arises at the crack of dawn to prepare her husband’s favorite breakfast. When she bakes she doesn’t require extra ingredients because they’re always in her cabinet. The doorbell rings and she’s always prepared to answer—no quick clothing change, make-up repairs, or scattered items to shove in the closet.

This woman is perfect and I don’t like her because she makes me feel like Leah when I want to be the beloved Rachel. I’m afraid my husband might meet her and expect me to drag my despondent body out of bed to make him an omelet and waffles for breakfast.

I’m more likely the other woman. The one who leaves her car running for two hours while she enjoys herself at a woman’s fashion show luncheon. Or the one who sneezes when she brushes her teeth and explodes toothpaste all over the bathroom mirror. Or drops her favorite red polish on the tile floor. Or drives fifty miles to shop at a specialty store, only to forget what was needed. Or the one who has her nails painted only to smash them under the dryer before exiting the salon. Or the one who collects crystal even though she’s broken every piece of collectable item in her home. Superglue is a staple in this house.

My purse is a black scary abyss where anything can be lost from cell phone, keys, lipstick, breath mints, ink pens, and tissues. If you want to lose something I’ll help you. My socks refuse to match and my underwear drawer looks as if the FBI raided it in search for stolen merchandise. My life is more like perspiration stains on my favorite blouse, an outfit with one earring, and lipstick that sticks to my teeth.

I realize these confessions are like laying on the interstate waiting for Miss Perfect to run over me with perfect solutions to these conundrums, but today I have the “I don’t cares.” It’s a good day filled with transparency, where feeling like a failure isn’t the worst thing that can happen. I could be stuck in Stuck.

Strut out of Stuck

English front cottage with bicycle

“Stuck” is a fictional name for small town America.

I’m a southern conservative Christian from a small town. People from other places call our town Stuck. Some say we’re narrow-minded because this is what people do when others reject their ideas—they name call to advance their position, to belittle others. I’m okay with this. They can call us Stuck because I know we’re anything but stuck. We know exactly what we believe and we don’t mind talking about it to anyone willing to sit for strawberry pie.

Our town might not agree on the best recipe for chicken and dumplings, but we hold tight to our convictions about general living. We take offense to high-minded folk who walk in with fancy degrees pushing divisive ideas into our lunch box. Some people haven’t understood why they don’t fit here. Well this is it. I can run my car through a window, but stomping on the heart of our roots is a misdemeanor not easily overlooked.

Chivalry is still an important characteristic of our culture. Through the decades the meaning of the word has been lost. It refers to a feminine appreciation of gentlemanly conduct such as opening the door, carrying heavy items, and a polite rising to stand when greeting a woman. In Stuck we appreciate gentlemen. Yet, we realize some women like to blast men, therefore, we leave it to them to install their own washing machines.

We value men who repair toilets, install curtain rods, and walk up ladders so we can move onto the more important issues such as deciding which restaurant to eat at tonight. Yes, things have changed, even in Stuck. We don’t always use our kitchens, but rather depend on Aunt Bessie for the fried chicken dinners—although ultimately we cleave to the notion home-cooked is better.

I found my roots in Stuck. It was here I became comfortable in my own skin—accepted as if I’d always lived here. Their big hearts embraced me as if I were their own child from the cradle—so different from other towns where I felt like a deer in a forest full of hunters.

Big cities have big ideas. I’m for progress if it’s truly advancement and not regression dressed up like a large load of manure. Being Southern doesn’t mean stupid and simply being non-southern doesn’t indicate brilliant. Leave us to pick in our strawberry fields and we’ll let them find their produce at Wal-Mart.

Stuck’s temperament is like an extended hug. This gift requires a little unwrapping to survive in a small town. We like to pack our suitcases for brief trips outside the community, but our souls are fed in our own backyard. It’s not necessary to dream of fame beyond here because we’ve already achieved what’s truly important. God. Family. Friends. Purpose.

People from Stuck don’t complicate things that are simple.

We believe Jesus died on the cross to save us from our sin. It saddens me that this offends some folk because I can’t make this pretty. No one can. In fact it was brutal. His crucifixion represented the huge divide between the wicked and the righteous, a symbol as plain as daylight to us in Stuck.

In cities people tend to cover up their sin with arguments. It’s much harder to do in a small town.

Sin isn’t simple. It’s irrational, mean, and ambitious. It complicates lives and sends people down twisted paths piled high with dirty underwear. Nobody wants to dig in the laundry to sort it out for washing. At the bottom of the basket a woman may discover a copy of Fifty Shades of Grey, read it in the bathtub and wonder why she still feels dirty. After all, it was a secret.

We suggest a dive in the river of forgiveness staying down under until Jesus cleanses our innards.

Some of us folk in Stuck are a holy people and we’re madder than a bantam rooster at politicians, Hollywood, and the teachers’ union for corrupting our children. We care too much to just accept it. In our fight we’ll use weapons the big city doesn’t know about. We’ll fight on our knees, in our sleep, and without relenting until we defeat corruption. And it will die one day—banished from the face of the earth and we will live in peace with our Lord. Read the Bible. In the end, we win. Jesus reigns.