Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The Tale of a Nosy Neighbor

Max and I live in a duplex. I’ve had interesting neighbors over the years. When Carol and I lived there, we were certain that the young wife was beating her husband. He was such a nice guy and she was a shrew. There have been quiet neighbors and noisy neighbors, bu all in all, it’s not been too bad. Until now.

The worst thing is, the landlord spent 3 years fixing that side of the duplex, so it was empty and Max and I really got used to having a lot of freedom. But, last August that all changed. A woman and her daughter and maybe her son moved in. She was unfriendly to say the least. She avoided eye contact always and the few times I was able to catch her eye and say hello, she would grunt and rush to her car. Then, a man entered the picture. He just showed up one day and over the course of several months began moving stuff in.

My landlord emailed me to tell me that the woman was complaining about my dog barking. Interesting. I live right next door and she won’t speak to me first. Ok, this is not going to be easy. Max and I bought a snow blower last winter and offered to let the guy use it if he wanted. That actually wasn’t accepted with a normal amount of thanks. Another grunt. Hmmm…

Other weird things have occurred over the last months, but this past weekend began an entirely new portion of entertainment. Max and I had an old 1989 Mazda van that we’ve been trying to rid ourselves of for months. I finally called a company who would haul it away for scrap metal. On Sunday, when I drove in the alley after church, this couple and their son were outside messing around and the guy was IN my van! Hmmm…that’s weird. We’d emptied everything out, so there was no reason for him to do this.

As I exited my Jeep, he had gotten out of the van and closed the door, acting as if nothing had happened. I kind of walked towards him and he began asking questions about the van – if it ran, what the issues were. I finally told him that if he wanted to do something with that van, he needed to let me know because I had someone coming to haul it away. No, ever his helpful self, he was just being snoopy.

Monday morning, the salvage company came to haul it away. I had to go back inside to get my driver’s license to make the sale. Out came Jimi, flying up from his basement lair. He began babbling at the driver and when I came out, he was asking pointed questions about how the van worked. The driver finally called me away from him so that we could finish the transaction. No, the car isn’t drivable and these guys don’t care. Stop interfering, you weirdo.

Later on that day, Max came home, and took the laundry out of the house to the Laundromat. He’s done this every week, but it seemed important that Jimi again come flying up from his lair to accost Max and ask about our washing machine. How in the heck does he even know we have one? I’m a little creeped out by the question.

The last time I spent an extended period of time at Bell’s Dell, Jimi asked Max if our Jeep had been in the shop. Umm … no. As I left yesterday, I let the back door slam while I dragged my luggage, etc. to the Jeep. As soon as I got to the door of the Jeep, he again came flying up from the basement to watch me pack up and leave. I am pretty certain that he will ask Max where I’m going for such a long period of time. I can’t wait.

Max and I talked about it while I was on the road. Maybe he could tell Jimi that I was an undercover agent, gone for days at a time protecting the world. But, now that Max had told him that, he would actually have to kill him. We worked through a few scenarios until Max had the perfect response. “I’m sorry, Jimi, I’m not at liberty to divulge that information.” Oh yah … that’s it. I can hardly wait.

There is going to be plenty of fodder for entertainment with this strange couple living next door to us. Max and I are just going to have to work on our backstories a little bit more so that we can at least have some fun with this!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Pour Out a Blessing - July study

It's certainly taken me awhile to decide what to study during the month of July. I didn't think I wanted to do something exceptionally heavy, but I'm not sure that there is really anything 'light' in scripture.

There are a couple of New Testament books that I don't know terribly well, one of which is the letter to the Hebrews. No, I wouldn't call this light reading, but I look forward to reading and studying Paul's encouraging words to the children of Israel.

If you would like to invite someone to join us, please feel free. If they would like to receive an email reminder each day, just send an email to nammynools (@) cox (.) net and I will get them on the mailing list. Otherwise, they can 'follow' the Pour Out a Blessing blog or subscribe to it in an RSS Reader. I'm just glad to be able to share my thoughts with everyone and it's quite exciting to discover information within Scripture on a daily basis. I learn so much as I do this!

Join us in July and invite someone else to begin studying scripture daily as well!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Sunday morning randomness

I have a few minutes before I have to leave for church, so I figured I'd spend them flinging words at my computer.


Sometimes it's tough being a girl. I get tired of all of the responsibility of putting myself together so that I can be in public. This morning I was putting on mascara and managed to poke myself in the eye. Well, of course that caused my eye to convulsively slam shut and spread mascara all over myself. Fortunately, it's not waterproof mascara and I got the cleanup done in a relatively reasonable amount of time.


My Blackberry is back. Well, it's new and it's back. At least I'm connected again. So, I can text and email and message and Twitter and Facebook with the best of you again. Whew! Actually it was one of the first things I did on Friday when I drove into town. I didn't want to waste any more time on that stupid, cheap Nokia phone that I had purchased in Des Moines.

Now really, though - that phone is way cool for what it is. $20.00 at Walgreens and you can get yourself a phone number and a chance to talk and text. Buy minutes for the thing and it will do all that you really need. I'm going to leave it in my car and have it available for the next emergency. What a great idea.


I'm speaking this morning at Living Grace Lutheran again. I really enjoy this kind of teaching. I learn plenty and I enjoy sharing what I learn with others. Today I will use Exodus 3 as the scripture. When God calls us and we don't feel like we can do what He is asking us to do, this chapter reminds us that it's not about us - it's all about God being the "I AM."


My friend, Alison's father died on Friday. The funeral is on Tuesday. Death is such an interesting transition. We dread the loss and anticipate the freedom from suffering. As Christians, we have so much comfort in knowing that death is not the cessation of life, but simply the step that takes us into eternal life. I can't imagine living any other way.


Having a Kindle is probably the coolest thing I have EVER done. I downloaded a bunch of free books yesterday. Science Fiction writers figured it out pretty quickly. If they can hook you with a free book that is the beginning of the series, they have a really high probability of getting you to buy their next books in the series.

I wish that non-fiction authors would figure out that they need to be just as erudite in their writing and make things interesting for people to read. I downloaded a couple of books for information's sake and sometimes it only takes a few pages for me to want to nod off and go to sleep. But, I want the information so I plow through. I just can't believe that it needs to be boring just because it isn't fiction.


Alright, I've spent enough time here, I need to put my shoes and socks on (my socks and shoes on?) and get going.

Friday, June 12, 2009

I Love Bell's Dell

Ok, first off, the week was wonderful. Even with the Blackberry fiasco.

I don't know that I learned or did anything terribly profound. It's just really relaxing to be at the cabin and I did A LOT of that. Napping, reading ... wandering around. Napping, reading ... wandering around. But, then there were trips to Des Moines to try to deal with the telephone and those tended to take time and thought processes.

The one thing that I know happened to me on this trip was that it simply renewed the incredible desire within me to spend more time in this wonderful place.

Not only is it beautiful, but my family's memories are wrapped up in Bell's Dell.

Dad had only been married for 5 years and had been in the ministry for just under that and had his third child on the way when he knew without a doubt that he needed something a little more permanent for his family. A Methodist preacher lived in church provided parsonages at the time and until they retired never owned a home. Most pastors were fairly itinerant and never settled down into one location. Consequently, their families never had a 'family home' or a location that they could call that ... home.

We made our home wherever we landed. Mom would encourage the unpacking to happen as quickly as possible so that we could settle in immediately and begin feeling as if we were in a home, not a house. I think one year I had everything of mine unpacked within a few hours and the rest of the house was fully unpacked and ready to go within 3 days. We just couldn't afford to wait.

Bell's Dell allowed us to have a permanent family location. Every summer we spent several weeks there and as often as possible, Dad would take a few days off so that we could be at the cabin. We were up there in the fall, winter and spring to take advantage of the beauty and the solitude.

Because Dad's job as a pastor required such a huge investment of himself in the people of the church, he was emotionally exhausted much of the time. Getting out of town to head to the cabin was a miserable experience for all of us. He wanted to ensure that we forgot nothing and would spend weeks planning his trips. After barking at his family and terrorizing us, we would finally pile in the van and head out. His temperament relaxed as each mile melted away. Within 20-30 miles, he was laughing and enjoying the trip.

Each summer we tried to spend two full weeks at the cabin. The first Sunday, the family would have our own church service. We'd all walk to the top of the hill, at the top of our land. There was a small clearing there. Dad would bring stumps out for us to sit on and have a guitar and a bible. We'd sing a few songs, read a Bible passage or two and then do some sharing. The next Sunday we would head into Webster City to worship in the Methodist Church. I loved sitting in the balcony, except when Dad would sing. His great, big, bass voice would ring out over that congregation and invariable, everyone turned around to see who the new guy was.

The good news? Now, I'm the one with the big voice and just like he never cared whether his singing embarrassed me (and oh, it did) I don't care about anything except singing when I'm in worship.

The three of us kids roamed the entire 17 acres, making it a playground for our imaginations. There was a hill with gold clay. We called it the 'gold hill' (duh), but to us, it was real gold. We had a lot of adventures with that 'gold.' The ditch off the road was filled with pure, white sand and we were never sure what we would find under the wet leaves in the deep ravines. I loved walking among the trees picking up acorns.

At Christmastime, Mom always insisted that Dad dig up the Christmas trees we had in the house rather than chopping them down. Two of those were later planted at Bell's Dell, but were two of the most malformed pine trees you ever saw. I think they were both finally taken down. They'd died miserable deaths.

A neighbor kept his cattle on the land, but would pull them out while we spent long periods of time there. This ensured that the brush and grass was cleared out of the hillside wooded area and that there were cattle paths to follow through the hills. Dad poured a concrete cattle trough in the meadow and after scrubbing it out, it became a wonderful place for the three of us children to play in the water on hot days when mom or dad couldn't monitor us in the river.

We fished that river, swam in that river, found parts of an old mill race and worried when it overflowed its banks in the spring.

Bell's Dell is not only absolutely beautiful, but is filled with my family's memories and is filling up again with memories as our extended families find joy there as well.

Over the years we have had numerous youth, family and prayer retreats at the cabin. I doubt that anyone who has ever been there walks away without being inspired in some way. God filled that valley with beauty and I'm just so thankful to be a guardian for a time.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Things I've Discovered

Things I’ve noticed while traveling through Iowa.

* The speed of my driving is in direct proportion to my level of frustration. As I drove to Des Moines to try to deal with my Blackberry Breakdown, I discovered myself driving across Highway 175 at nearly 70 mph. I generally try to stay within 5 miles of the speed limit, yet I ouldn’t bring myself to slow down. I was fortunate that the roads were clear. By the time I got to I-35, I simply set the cruise control at 74 mph and forced myself to calm down.

* A “Prairie Area” in Iowa is not a rest area, even though the signs are similar. The sign said, “Rest Area – 2 miles.” I was focused on other things (broken Blackberry – yes it was predominantly on my mind) and took off at the next exit wih a blue directional sign. What? No bathrooms? No telephone? No wireless internet? Umm .. I don’t really want a walking trail – what the heck? Ok, now Iowa has designated “Prairie Areas.” This has to be something new. And while it is cool, it was a little startling. And the rest area was up in another mile or so.

* Iowa is seriously spending money on road work. WOW! Orangecones everywhere. There arecompanies that make these things that will not go out of business soon. And if you want a good job, I’m betting you can find one there. Interstates are under construction, state highways are under construction. I also have to say that there are very interesting people working on the construction crews in Iowa. If you’re one of them and take exception to my comment, then I need to escort you to Highway 175 and allow you to spend time with some of the strange men and women I encountered while being the only driver waiting for the Pilot Car to escort me through the construction zone.

* Wind Turbines. Theseare going up so quickly you can hardly breathe! Every single time I have been on the Insterstate, I have seen the arms for these turbines traveling throughout the state. Whilemany may question the need for these, I find them incredibly fascinating and cant imagine that they aren’t good for what is going on in our world today. This comment does not require a discussion …

* Casey’s is everywhere. I remember when these first started popping up in the 70s. I think it’s pretty cool that the company is still around and has continued to invest in the communities in Iowa. It’s nice to know that I can drive into a small town, find a clean bathroom and get a bottle of water to go. Unless, the bathroom has an Out of Order sign on the door. Then, I am simply frustrated.

* I love watching the different products crossing the state on semis. I love seeing the different branded trucks as they haul products from place to place. Sometimes I get a little frustrated when I am the only passenger vehicle in a long line of vehicles … they are all bigger than me and it’s a bit intimidating. But, for the most part, it’s good to see the rigs on the road.

* I love this state. I love the small towns, I love the beauty of the fields and the rolling hills. I love driving on highways and having everyone offer the “Iowa-wave.” Whatever hand is at the top of our steering wheel, lifts in a small wave to acknowledge that both of you are in the same place at the same time.

* I love being away from the city, leaving the crime and the crazy busyness of that life behind. I thought for years that I was made to live in the city, I had forgotten what my life was before I got there. I was made for small-town Iowa and I will find my way back there one day.

Diane, Where Are You?

I’d like to say that I’ve been incredibly holy and attuned to God while spending these last few days at the cabin, but I’d be lying to you.

Let me just describe SOME of the insanity in which I’ve managed to place myself.

I left the house on Tuesday morning filled with anticipation for a glorious week spent in peace and solitude. I would occasionally get to a Wi-Fi network and upload my blog posts, and I would be able to maintain a minimal level of connectedness with my friends through my Blackberry which showed hopes of retrieving a signal in the valley that the cabin resides. It was going to be beautiful! The weather showed promise, the place is always stunningly gorgeous and I would be alone.

Alone – really alone. No one needing me for anything, not even my dog! I would be able to simply sit by myself and enjoy the peace of this eautiful place. Could anyone imagine anything better?

Oh, I was filled with anticipation on the drive up.

I unlocked the main gate, drove in and chained it closed behind me so that no one would bother me while I was here. I drove down to the cabin and began unpacking the stuff I brought with me. I tossed everything from the front seat of the Jeep into my purse and headed in. I opened up the laptop and reached into my purse to begin relieving it of its contents.

Uh oh. Why are things damp … ummm … nope … WET! I quickly began pulling everything out. Things didn’t look too bad, the Kindle was dry, my wallet and moleskins were dry. Everything except my Blackberry. Oh … what happened? Yes, the cap was on the Diet Mt. Dew bottle that I had tossed in, but I hadn’t manaed to seal it tightly. Which is weird, because I do that all the time due to concerns over spilling pop on electronics.

Argh. I pulled everything apart on the Blackberry and began a slight panic. But, maybe not. It didn’t look too terribly wet and maybe, just maybe it would be fine. Within ½ hour,I realized it wasn’t going to be fine and I needed to deal with this. I hadn’t told anyone I was here yet and since I tend to be the one that demands I be told when my friends arrive at their destinations safely, I wasn’t about to not make people aware.

What in the world was I going to do?

I was going to drive to Des Moines. Surely, there would be an Alltel store in Des Moines. I packed enough stuff up to make the trip down and headed out. I got there, pulled into a Panera, got a bagel and hit the internet. Alltel directed me to Verizon for Des Moines. Ok, I think I know where there’s a Verizon store. And off I went. I just KNEW they would rescue me.

I was wrong. Alltel and Verizon merged in January, but the transfer of all of the accounts hasn’t actually happened yet. Alltel-Omaha and Verizon-Des Moines don’t play together yet. He couldn’t help me. And, he knew I was really annoyed. Verizon took over all of Alltel in Des Moines, but can’t actually help out of town Alltel customers. Awesome.

Now I was just ticked. Oh, I know this is my fault, but are you kidding me? Back to Panera to spend some time online letting people know that I was safe. I wrote my Pour Out a Blessing post and got it uploaded. Then, I managed to get myself to a Walgreens and voila! There is a T-Mobile Prepaid telephone. Wow … at last I can have access to the outside world. $19.99. It’s mine.

The machinations of getting that thing activated are an entirely different story and not terribly interesting, but suffice it to say, it didn’t happen until the next morning and then I have absolutely no signal on that thing in the valley at the cabin. But, at least I do have access to the world.

Well, back to the cabin. Quiet night.

Wednesday morning I left again to get some internet access and finish activating the phone. All of that happened. As I was driving back to the cabin, I talked to my brother and he told me that the plumber had actually been here while I was gone on Tuesday (didn’t notice) and was there right now. What? Grand.

I got to the cabin and sure enough, there was a man here working on the plumbing so that we can install a shower and new toilet. While this is fabulous, the guy had pulled everything of mine that was out on the porch into the cabin so that it wouldn’t get wet. Really? Leave my stuff alone. I was gone for a few hours … and rain would have to drive really hard to get into the porch here. I just laughed and laughed. You all know how I love being managed by people without any input.

He was a great guy, did his thing and charged us next to nothing. And after he finally left, I had som solitude while knowing that I could get connected to the world just by driving a few miles. Whew!

But, could I concentrate on anything? Not really. My brain was pretty much done. So, I read and I wrote my blog post, practiced my talk for Sunday and another night passed.

Now, here’s the worst part of that stupid Blackberry. It works. Except for the keys. If I power it on, it taunts me with email, texts and voice mail. But, I can’t get to it and read it. I press the keys and it laughs at me. In fact, this afternoon, I powered it on, and for a few moments it worked wonderfully! I was very excited. Then, all of a sudden, it was as if the machine remembered that I was the one that had tortured it, so it just stopped working again. Sigh …

I will be at the Alltel store on Friday before I even get home. This is just unacceptable!

Things are much better today. Maybe I’ll actually write something!

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Peace and Contentment

Things are quiet here right now. I don't even hear cars driving past on the busy street in front of the house. The trees are filled with birds chirping and singing, the fans in the house are blowing, but it's peaceful.

I spent some time at Bell's Dell this week ... the incredible peace of that place overwhelms me. Right now it is at its most beautiful, deep greens of the trees are accented by the richness of the grass and the colors of the flora. I'm going back.

In fact, I'm going back on Tuesday for several days. Leaving everything and everyone here. I want to lose myself in the beauty of God's creation and see if I can find myself in the stillness. I want to see if I can hear Him speak to me through the peace and quiet of the day with no one around and no distractions to affect me. I yearn for this.

I hope to spend a lot of time up there this summer, and much as I'd love to share it with all of you, I'm going to just go by myself. Take my laptop, my Bible and my Kindle and see if there is anything there for me to discover.

I had thought about waiting for everything to be complete, the shower and new kitchen to be installed, internet and a new electrical box and a decision about continuing to use well water or city water, but I don't want to wait. I can make do with what is there and as we add things over the summer, it will only get better. I need to be ... there.

It's amazing to me how easy it is for me to be distracted by the world. Even the things that I love and adore: my family, spending time with my friends, leading worship, my animals ... all of that. But, as I re-enter the world, I also add time away from the quietness that I need to surround myself with so that I can pray and read and write. Everything distracts me from time spent alone with God.

One of the nicest things about Bell's Dell has always been the incredible lack of distraction. No one can get to you without a lot of effort - and I will be closing the gate on random neighbors popping in, there has never been a phone up there and cell reception is horrendous in the valley. While there is a television, you can only watch movies, absolutely no television reception there. The most comfortable place to sit is out on the screened in porch.

If I do any writing, I'll get into town in the evenings to find some Wifi so I can upload what I've done. If I don't get any done this week, I'm fine with that ... I just want to wait on God and see what it is that He would like to say to me without anything interrupting us.

By the way, this means I will return on Friday either completely bat-crazy from being by myself, or pretty quiet and contented. We'll see what happens! If it's the whole quiet thing ... I will be returning there as often as possible this summer. I love my home!

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Tuesday morning ramblings


I could stop there and it would effectively tell you what I'm feeling. But, you know me. I have more words than that!

Cleaning and purging are the order of the day (week, month, life ... whatever) here. I just tore into a space that I haven't seen for awhile. Hauling out trash, taking stuff downstairs that will be delivered elsewhere (most to Goodwill). It's all good. I have the music cranked up so that I can hear it throughout the house. A little rock 'n roll to work by.

I am returning order to this life of mine. You know that law of entropy? Well, that pretty much defines my life. It's going to take a massive amount of energy to restore order to a house that I didn't pay enough attention to for a very long time. It's a wonderful feeling to purge stuff out. The thing is, you're probably going to hear about it for a long time ... I have several lifetimes of junk to get rid of.

The other day I was talking to my nephew, Jacob. I told him that I was cleaning the stuff out of my house because Carol has informed me over and over that she doesn't want to have to deal with this if I die suddenly. His comment? "And we thank you for this." Ummm ... yup!


We got a second car last night. Not a big deal car, but a big deal for me. Max was in Michigan for a week and a half and took a rental car. For that entire time I tasted freedom again! Now, it isn't as if I want to do a million things during the day, but wow, to be able to just leave and take care of something if I want to is an amazing freedom.

I had also forgotten how much I loved driving. I could get in my Jeep and go for a very long time before needing to stop for anything. Turn up the music and roll down the windows (and/or sun roof) and I am happy just driving. In the last 20 years, the two people in my life (Carol and Max) seem to like driving more than I (or have control issues - hehe), so I tended to just be in the passenger seat. There is much freedom and joy being returned to me with one cheap car for Max to drive to work.


Here's an interesting article about twittering from church. One of my favorite bloggers is mentioned in the article. He's got a book coming out soon and is a fun Christian humorist. But, the article intrigued me. I wonder how many of us are offended by technology and the changes it makes in things we are very familiar with. The gal who was kicked out for twittering the pastor's sermon ... because of copyright ... by the ushers. Uh huh.

Technology will continue to change. Heck, I remember hearing people freak out about electric guitars (gasp) in service and there were some churches where sound systems were frowned upon. All of that technology would distract people from what they were supposed to be doing. Heck, I used to have a little Franklin Bible that I carried in my purse. I actually had people accuse me of using it to email during worship. Really? You aren't paying attention to the service, but to me? And you have no idea what I'm really doing. Walk away from me, idiot.


Carol has been moving into her new house. She's one happy girl. I asked if it was starting to feel like her own home. Her comment was, "Diane, when I first saw the house, I wondered what in the heck someone else's furniture was doing here." Ok ... that's wonderful! The nice thing is that it's not terribly far me and so I can get up there a lot. She has a great fenced in back yard, so it's easy to take Leica up and let her loose. Pretty soon she'll recognize the trip and get excited before I even get there.


Have I told you that I am singing again ... leading worship with my friend, Jen. If you ever need somewhere to go for a great worship experience, join us at Gretna UMC - 10:45 Sunday mornings (see, you can even sleep late). Best music ever and great preaching. (I'm a little biased on the whole music thing, but I have pretty good judgment : ) )