Monday, January 24, 2011

My First Cello Lesson

Last night I had my first cello lesson from my very own Yo Yo Ma (personally I think my Yo Yo Ma is much more handsome!):
After much patient instruction I was finally able to play two octaves of the C scale.  I felt quite jubilant.  I should have quit while I was ahead.  From there it was all down hill folks.  Let me just say that having as much music knowledge as I do and playing two other instruments really has little relevance when one is trying to learn a stringed instrument.  Except I can read the notes in the music.  But that's it.  For real.  Maybe someday I'll surprise everyone by whipping out a song on the cello.  But that's a ways away.  Like years, perchance even decades.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

All In God's Time!

Today God answered a prayer Will and I have had for over a year now.  If you would like to read the moral of the ensuing long narrative please feel free to scroll down to the end.  I'm sort of long winded, but I come by it honestly :-)

When we first bought our house at the tail end of 2009 we bought it partially based on the fact that we had a buyer's agreement with the owners of the 1/2 acre empty lot right next door to our house to purchase their land.  The property was being disputed in a divorce proceeding and the land went into foreclosure and was taken over by the city February 2010.  We prayed and decided to pursue the property. Phone calls flew back and forth between Will and the city who informed us that the land would be up for auction at the local land auction.  We decided to attend the auction to see if we could purchase the land that way.  

Shortly before the auction we found out that the minimum bid was for $1200 more than we had settled on in the buyer's agreement. After more prayer and discussion we decided not to pursue the lot at the auction as we felt the land wasn't worth that much money and we knew the back taxes owed on the property were significantly less than what they were asking.  We thought this might bring some closure to the situation.  That was not to be however.  I attended the auction in July 2010 with my mom to see what happened.  No one bid on the land and it was left unpurchased.  This was encouraging and we decided to again pursue the lot. 

More calls back and forth and much waiting (patiently on Will's behalf, not so much on mine) with the city led us to find out that the County Land Bank now owned the property.  More phone calls and we found out that County Land Bank was going to auction the lot off in a package of properties at an auction in Ludington at the end of October 2010.  I was upset to say the least.  I mean who sells bulk packages of empty lots at an auction?  And who buys them?  That's crazy!  While I did not attend this auction we found out that the property had again gone unpurchased. 

We continued our now tired pursuit of the lot and had the occasional thought, is it even worth it?  At this point in time even the County Land Bank wasn't sure what they were going to do with the lot.  After much discussion amongst themselves they finally determined in late December 2010 that we would be allowed to place a bid for the lot and that it would be either approved or denied at their next meeting on January 11th, 2011.  Elation!  Will talked to the county treasurer who hinted that the County Land Bank was really hoping to still get the "minimum bid price" from the July auction.  That made me nervous that they wouldn't consider any offer that wasn't at least up to the minimum bid, if not above. 

We talked and prayed and talked some more.  Then we consulted our realtor who encouraged us to give them a low ball offer (lower even then our buyer's agreement offer) as there has been no new housing construction in the city proper for several years and empty lots have been for sale for eons.  We took his advice and offered them half of the "minimum bid" which was also over $1000 less than our buyer's agreement offer. We kindly explained why we offered so little, what we would like to do with the property and that we had the cash on hand to back up the offer.  And today, joy of all joys, we found out that they accepted our offer!  I was flabbergasted!  I really thought they would at least counter offer!  But no!  We are getting a 1/2 acre of land for a pittance!  Will found out from the county treasurer and then we had the following IM conversation:

Will: so i've got some more shoveling to do.
Me: (thinking he said it because it had snowed a little that morning) how do you know?
Will: how do i know what?
Me: that you have to shovel?
Will: i know... because our sidewalk just got longer
Me: YES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Yeah, there really were that many exclamation points.  Ask Will!

So for those of you who skipped down here's the moral of my story (in which I am also long winded):  While this may seem a somewhat trivial situation there were definitely times during the process where I despaired that we would ever be able to purchase this lot.  From the very beginning I had big plans for that lot which included a nice sized garden!  So each time purchasing the lot didn't work out I got frustrated with the city and county governments, with the previous owners for not closing the deal before foreclosure started, and even at God.  I felt like at times I was almost being teased by Him as we would find out we could possibly purchase it and then be disappointed,  for example finding out the minimum bid was too high.  Towards the end there I wasn't even sure we would ever be able to buy the lot.  I had started assigning some of the money we had saved for the lot to a new car fund :-)  

I say all of that to now say, God's timing is perfect.  When we started the buyer's agreement process over a year ago I never would have imagined that we would be able to purchase the lot at such a low price.  The fact that we're going to now still astounds me quite frankly!  God's plan was much better than mine could ever hope to be and while I rarely had the patience and faith that I should have during this process I am reaping the rewards of God's goodness! While God doesn't have to prove anything to me He continues to provide me with examples that further establish His love and plan for me and for that I am so very thankful.  Hopefully I'll be more insightful next time!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Creativity Abounds (Briefly...) Part II

Today I had the day off in honor of Martin Luther King Jr.  I spent the majority of the morning and early afternoon perusing old Martha Stewart Living and BHG magazines getting ideas for the new bedroom and purging my rather large magazine collection (Will is thrilled :-)  Then I realized that I was long overdue for a wreath change.

I LOVE wreaths or welcome signs on my front door.  I have such a unique looking front door that I feel it deserves some sort of decoration.  Plus there's a big ugly nail in the middle above the window that begs to have something hung on it.  Plus I feel weird having a clear glass window on my front door in which anyone from the outside could see me walking up my stairs in my pj's.  No thanks.  And I bet they feel the same :-) Plus I'd hate to have it covered up by curtains.


Remember this wreath, the product of my last spurt of creativity?

Well today it became this:

Who knows how long the needles will last but it livens up the BEAUTIFUL bureau that my dad completely refinished for us.  Sigh, I love antiques.  So now that the evergreen wreath is gone this little beauty has taken its place:

No, I didn't make this.  But someone did, so it's almost like I did.  Plus I had to fluff the bow.  So that counts. Right?

PS Does the bow look a little overwhelming to anyone else?  After seeing it in a picture I'm thinking I might have to tone it down a bit...

Friday, January 7, 2011

"...think on these things"

Recently I’ve been pondering some text that was presented at our Wednesday evening Bible study and prayer meeting a week or so ago.  Our Pastor was on vacation so our Sunday School teacher presented the Bible Study.  He spoke out of a text that is so familiar that I can pretty much recite it.  And much to my chagrin I almost tuned him out.  I’m so thankful that I didn’t because it has had a lasting (so far) impact on my daily life.

 The text was Philippians 4:8 “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.”   I’d always equated this verse with the idea that I should always try to think good things and that was that, and I would go about my day, often stumbling and not even realizing it. 

Our teacher asked us if we knew how many thoughts we had each day.  I can’t even fathom the number of thoughts I have that I remember, let alone the fleeting thoughts that I think have no effect on my actions.  That makes me wonder, how many of those thoughts are pure, just, or a good testimony?  How many are unjust, unkind, or a poor testimony? If there were some sort of mind reading machine would I be willing to let my mind be read for 24 hours and have my thoughts published on Facebook or my blog? Yeah, I’m not thinking so.  I’m ashamed to say that the majority probably belong in the negative categories rather than the positive.

In the Bible Jesus goes beyond the 10 Commandments and says that simply thinking hateful thoughts is like killing the person you had the hateful thoughts about.  While I don’t admit to having frequent hateful thoughts (that I can remember) I can think of numerous occasions where I’ve had unkind thoughts about people or their ideas, things of that nature.  In the past I’ve prided myself on not actually saying the thoughts out loud and just keeping them in my mind.  But God says that’s not good enough.  My mind should be so focused on the things of God that I don’t have those thoughts.  But because I’m an imperfect and sinful human I will likely have them, so when I do, I should replace them with something that fits within the Philippians 4:8 categories.

This aspect of replacing your negative thoughts with something pure, honest, lovely, etc really resonated with me as it's something I now realize I've been doing the past month or so.  And it's something I've really been working on in the past week.  But it’s easier said than done for sure and for certain.  I especially fall prey to this at work where I often deal with clients who have complex needs and often express feelings of entitlement with which I do not agree.  I’ve printed out this verse and put it above my desk so it’s right in my line of sight whether I’m working on the computer or talking on the phone.  This in and of itself has been a great help and encouragement to me.  Just being aware of my thoughts and knowing what I’m really thinking about has helped significantly.  I’ve also noticed that “thinking on these things”, whether it be by memorizing scripture, listening to music, or spending time in prayer, has caused me to become more content and peaceful in my daily life.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The Good Old Days...

Take a stroll down memory lane with me, will you?  Do you remember the good old days of preschool?  When learning was fun and didn't induce you to willingly pull out your hair (in hindsight that hair pulling wasn't such a good idea right guys)? Ahhh those carefree days when the teachers snuck in little bits of learning here and there when you weren't really paying attention.  I remember my first day of preschool quite vividly because there was a little girl screaming her head off.  That made me a little nervous because, clearly a place that made other little girls scream their head off couldn't be that wonderful of a place could it?  But I put my game face on, grabbed the hand of the screaming little girl, and set off for wonderful adventures.  My favorite activity by far was the rice table:
 This little table provided hours minutes of fun to my rambunctious preschool mind.  So much so that I decided to recreate the rice table in my kitchen the other morning.  No I am not joking.  And no I do not have a picture, my apologies.

The other morning I was making rice for Will for breakfast.  I know, it's kind of weird (to me at least) but he likes rice covered in honey or sugar and cinnamon with milk, sort of like how I like my oatmeal.  So I was being the dutiful wife and put a few cups of rice into the rice cooker.  Only the first two cups didn't quite make it to the cooker.  As I went to walk across the kitchen to the rice cooker (note to self, keep the rice bag near the rice cooker when you're making rice, it just makes more sense that way!) I stepped on a kitty tail and that's when chaos ensued.  

It wasn't really the stepping on the kitty tail that had me throwing rice like I was at a wedding.  It was the horrendous yowl that issued forth from my kitty's tiny little mouth.  Quite frankly I hadn't even realized I had stepped on her tail until she gave me what for.  That scared me enough to send the two cups of uncooked rice out of my hands and scattering across my kitchen floor.  And as I type this post that kitty is sitting next to me glaring at me like I had just completed a catnip intervention with her, because, I'm pretty sure she knows I'm writing about her.  I can never tell quite what she's thinking.... or what diabolical planning she has up her sleeve.  Needless to say, my wish to relive my preschool years was fulfilled as I cleaned up two cups of rice.