wocket in my pocket

Looking for the unexpected in the mundane.

How I Bought a Pile of Books Without Money: The Tale of the Shuffling Rebates

Monday: The day I share with you something outside my world. Today it all connects a little, kind of like women’s brains or spaghetti.

Way back in the annals of last year I downloaded a rebate app called Ibotta. Having heard that it is one of the simpler apps to use for saving money on ordinary household items, I decided to give it a go. The nice thing is that they give a $10 welcome bonus to you as soon as you start using the app. The minimum payout is $20, and you have to have a paypal account, but that was no problem. I scored big by doing online shopping through Ibotta over the holidays, so I was getting reduced prices from the stores, plus a chunky little rebate. That is always cause for happy feelings, yes?

It took me a little while to get used to checking the offers I wanted to use before I went shopping. It’s smart to make sure you are getting the right brand of tissues for $1 off. But hey, now you can buy the ones that aren’t scratchy for the same price as the store brands. You can’t dupe the app, though. Your purchase has to match the offer, of course.  For many grocery stores, you can link your store loyalty card to your account, then Ibotta automatically credits your account with any eligible rebates. Walmart is simple. The receipts have a handy QR code at the bottom that you scan and then apply the rebates. I learned to watch for really good ones, like $1.50 off a box of tea, able to be rebated x5 on one receipt. Stock up when it’s on sale and you get a savvy shopper sticker! Toilet paper is another one I always use. We are loyal Quilted Northern people, and so far there has been a rebate running all the time. My personal favorite is the “any” category, because it is just this nice, easy bonus. Any shampoo, any produce, any milk, etc.

Ibotta makes its cut from ads on the site, as well as by directing traffic to stores online. I have learned to place my Amazon orders through the Ibotta app. Now I get a percentage back from both the Amazon credit card and the rebates. Sweet!

Not like you want to know or anything, but when I get $20 added up, I direct it to Paypal and it is there, a secret stash of mad money until I want to do, oh, something like a Thriftbooks order. The psychology behind this thrill is probably uncomplicated and even childish, but I don’t care.

Let me show you what I got in the mail last week.

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My boys took turns falling headlong into The Boys in the Boat. It’s kind of like Unbroken is the consensus. The girls and I are reading Mandy at bedtime. I really love Julie Andrews Edwards as an author. Her books are gentle, yet full of strength.

Friends, you need a Thriftbooks order coming to your mailbox. It’s February. There is time to read. You can find pretty much any book on your wishlist. I have had Jayber Crow on mine for a long time, but it was so expensive that I just savored it there, waiting. This whole stack used up my Ibotta money, but the shipping is free as soon as you get to $10, which is a ridiculously low amount to qualify for free shipping. And the first order you place through that link above will qualify for 15% off.

Now if there were some way to loop the Thriftbooks orders through Ibotta, I can see this turning into a sort of situation.

 

*These are affiliate links. If you use these sites, I get a little reward and you get a little reward. What’s not to love?

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Hebrews 11: a modern paraphrase.

 

By faith the Christians in the 21st century understand that the material world is only a screen from the real world, and they are not afraid to call it what it is.

By faith many of them endure the fiercest persecution, spending years in unjust conditions, without even the most basic human needs being met. By faith they will not deny Jesus, knowing that this could lead to cruel death at the hands of those who hate Him.

By faith they accept mistreatment and loss of position in the world, choosing rather to believe that the way of Christ is a humble way of not making any deals with the enemy.

By faith they use their gifts to further the Kingdom of heaven, striving to live uprightly in an evil age.

By faith they obey, raising their families in a counter-culture lifestyle, not accepting the status quo of ungodly poisons pumped into the young. By faith they teach their children to trust God in an era of rank unbelief, not caring how unpopular they may be in the world.

By faith they embrace sacrifice, refusing to live as though the only thing that matters is collecting more stuff and becoming more comfortable. By faith they freely share their goods with those less fortunate, trusting God to do their investment accounts in heaven.

By faith they tenaciously believe God in the midst of the inscrutable, staking everything on what is invisible. Knowing that it is impossible for Him to lie, they wait patiently for the better things He is preparing for them.

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Book Review: The Clouds Ye So Much Dread

I preordered this book when I got the email from Canon Press announcing a publishing date. At the time, I was fed-up with privileged “God is good” gushiness. You know, the kind  involving beautiful coffees, new cars, house remodels, dreamy vacations, and perfect children. (#blessed.) I understand that many of these #blessings are sincerely expressed from #grateful hearts. The trouble comes when we measure God’s goodness by the blessings. In my own desert place where things were not so well watered, I needed more than a great latte (although that helps) to reassure me that God is good.

The Clouds Ye So Much Dread,  highlights God’s faithful presence through the crises of life, when we are not doing well or feeling especially blessed. Yes, life doles out some really nasty stuff, and no, our prayers are not always answered the way we wish. Where can a person be safe and secure? Where can we fly in the helplessness and lack of control over the details in our lives?

There’s a chapter on fears and one on fear mongering – the unknown, our inadequacies, the obvious perils, as well as the things that come winging out of nowhere. There are a lot of references to the author’s son who battled childhood leukemia. She shares how she started seeing the clouds and the landscapes while she was driving her son to his oncology appointments, stopping to photograph and notice details during this stressful time in her life. “If there’s one thing that a period of testing can do for us, it’s to make us feel the weight of glory in all the things we once brushed off so lightly.”

Mrs. Greiser also addresses the fact that we must face our mortality and humanity- that most of life will not be amazing and “instagrammable”, that becoming entangled in food guilt, lifestyle snobbery, hoarding stuff, etc… really, these are not worries to waste inordinate amounts of energy on.

When we immerse ourselves in the fact of the Father’s faithfulness, when we remember His promises to the sparrows and the lilies, when we refuse to give in to the insidious lies that He has forgotten because “this” happened to me… that is when we start to see the mercies that come out of those clouds we dreaded so much.

Here are some quotes to whet your appetite:

“When God calls us to duties as sacrifices, or trials like cancer, that turn our paths away from the goals we had set for ourselves, it’s easy to fear that our gifts are simply being wasted. When we follow God’s call and not our own, have we truly wasted our potential- throwing it out like trash? Or have we laid it down and planted it where our heavenly Father will raise and transform it into glorious resurrection fruit?”

“Why is it so easy to forget how great God’s kindness is to His children? For us who know Him, it’s almost always a failure of memory that has led to a failure of nerve.”

And here’s the grand old hymn by William Cowper:

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Friday in the life…

…of a working mother.

Our accountant has a way of keeping up a running commentary of inane statements that mildly annoy me. When he said to Gabe, “Let’s see. You work, and she doesn’t work…” I couldn’t just sit there and smile beatifically.

“Wait a minute,” I qualified. “I work; I work hard. I just don’t get a paycheck.” He looked at me blankly, (she speaks?) then moved on and so did I, having set the record straight.

Friday is supposed to be a long exhale, right? I love wrapping up the school week, stowing the books, clearing away clutter, getting ready for rest. On the weekends that Gabe goes to work, I am often tempted not to make any special effort. There’s a little insidious neediness that lurks and says, “You deserve a break. Let the children forage, the rubble pile high, and the laundry accumulate until another day.” But I dislike how I feel when I am lazy and don’t maintain the house or invest in the children. It’s a subtle message that they aren’t really worth the bother. On a practical note, my children can eat their way through shocking amounts of snacky foods and then they are still hungry, so it’s not worth the indulgence of not cooking, not like it used to be when we could live on yogurt and toast.

To combat the blah feeling of wishing to just quit, be done working already, I did something different this afternoon. When our school was finished, we shelved it all away, then I gave myself an hour to read. I dozed off in the chair, but the idea was nice. Then I spent an hour clearing out some of the corners that just pile up stuff. It’s my pet peeve and it makes no sense to curate the clutter until we decide it is time to put things away. I repeat myself so often to the children, “Just 20 more seconds gets the laundry into the drawer. Don’t stack it on top of your dresser!” Sometimes my spaces become just as disastrous as theirs do. I don’t know why it happens… That little pile of hairbands and the brush outside the bathroom door, the empty jars at the top of the steps, the pile of socks that didn’t have mates, the library books on end tables, the shoes stacked beside the door… gah! We cleared them all away. I have started getting rid of things that don’t have anywhere to belong. I put some books into the attic today and found a round hatbox for the embroidery projects to be stowed in. That made me feel much better, and I took another hour to relax. The accountant would have felt vindicated with his assessment if he had looked in just then.

We ate leftover chicken and rice for supper, then I went to the basement to play with my clay. One mug, one bowl, and three mash-ups later, I washed up, directed the children on a final clean sweep, and here we are, ready for the weekend.

Long exhale…

…and a little gratuitous pep talk that I need myself to hear.

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Asking For It

This came to me in response to my own shoulders shrugging off what I knew God wanted to do in my life. I felt like an adolescent who says, “Don’t touch me,” even though what I really needed was some discipline and direction.

 

Ps. 138:8

“The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me:

Your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever.

Do not forsake the work of your hands.”

 

Ooh, I want your purpose. I want steadfast love. I want forever.

“Girl, you just asked for it, big time!”

Isaiah 64:8

“But now, O Lord, you are our Father,

we are the clay, and you are our potter:

we are all the work of your hand.”

 

I love being the work of your hand. That is just an amazing thought!

Wait! What is this pounding and wedging, this dizzying spin on a wheel, the heat of the furnace?

This… is steadfast love?

Ow! I didn’t sign up for this!

Oh, yes.

I guess I did.

Stop resisting the Potter, girl.

“Do you want to fly off the wheel into the uselessness of the repurposing bucket?

“Of course you will get another chance, but it won’t be easier or feel better than this one did.”

And now they quote Romans 8: 28 for me.

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”

And that’s where they stop quoting, but what is this purpose really? I am not feeling it at all. Let me see what the next verse says.

“For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers?”

Really? All those things that are supposed to work together for my good..?

It sounds like he is doing it on purpose to make me look and act like Jesus… like this was the plan from the beginning of the world.

Hmmm, apparently being in the family is more than a sweet thought in God’s mind, more personal than a name on a family tree. This sure feels personal anyway.

I am not getting the idea here that he says, “Oh, I just cannot resist your cuteness,” and then gives me everything I want. I have actually been kind of bratty and rebellious.

I guess God takes family resemblance pretty seriously. I guess love looks a little like training, just like he promised.

It’s not that I don’t want his hand on my life, it’s just that I like to complain when it’s uncomfortable and I don’t get my way.

“Girl,” he puts his hand on my shoulder again, “you have my steadfast love. You asked for it. I will not ever forsake the work.”

And look at this. Here’s the best part in verse 31:

“What then shall we say to these things?”

If God is for us, who can be against us?”

 

Wow. I guess I will quit whining now.

 

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What do you mean, “Rejoice”?

Repost about an event six years ago… I still haven’t learned to rejoice right away when yucky stuff happens. I want this to be my default mode, but I need to be reminded so often.

As a family, we are memorizing I Peter 4:12,  Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.” It goes on to say, “But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.” I am not good at that: rejoicing-in-hard-stuff.

Gabe and I took a weekend off to celebrate our tenth anniversary (3 months after the fact) at a friend’s cabin. We had a nursling to take along, and my husband had such a severe Crohn’s Disease flare that he could hardly carry our luggage or the fat baby. It was raw and damp outside, brown dirt and chopped off cornstalks lining the driveway, a steep slope up the ridge begging to be hiked. I had packed the most tempting foods I could think of, and I grilled and cooked with care. He wasn’t hungry, picked at a few bites, and left the rest for me. We built a fire, played a game of Canasta, then he was tired. I put the baby down for a nap and tramped outside, my heart heavy with forebodings, my spirit rebelling against these circumstances. This was supposed to be our tenth anniversary celebration, after all! 

I was mad. Why weren’t our prayers answered? A whole year of nursing school yet… how could it possibly be better that my husband be sick? While the baby napped, I clawed my way up that steep ridge, tears stinging my eyes, self pity washing over me. What are we going to do if he never gets better? What if we will never be able to make plans again without adding, “If Gabe feels well enough”? How would we support our family if he can’t work?

The angry questions kept swarming, all the way to the top of the ridge where the turkey trails came out of the woods into the corn field. I stood there, my hands clenched, my heart screaming for answers. I felt the bitter core swelling inside me. “WHY, WHY, WHY?”

Did you know that God’s children can be incredibly rude and demanding sometimes, desperate, afraid, and He doesn’t ever turn His back on them? As I looked up into the solid grey cloud cover, my faith was so small it was hardly measurable at all. Miserably I waited for some reassurance that everything was going to get better, that life would be good and become easier. Nothing. No wash of love came over me. But I sensed this fact: No matter what (insert worst case scenario), He is there. Slowly my hands unclenched as the truth settled my soul. No, I didn’t understand, but I gave up trying and I believed. Slowly my heart softened in worship as I relinquished the control I didn’t have anyway. I threw down my worries with my drenched tissues in that forsaken turkey grazing field. They were biodegradable anyway. 

Maybe that is what it means when it says, “Rejoice.” Maybe it doesn’t mean, “Feel good.” Maybe it means, “Be glad that you don’t have to be big enough to handle this all by yourself.”

This is six years later. Gabe had an emergency bowel resection about a month after the anniversary celebration I was referring to, and has been dealing with the issues that brings up ever since. I want to say just this: God really has been with us, the entire time. I feel completely safe to stake eternity on that faithfulness.

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Tuesday in the Life…

All was very quiet and a bit dark yet when I got up. The boys were out cold from a late night of skiing and the girls must have been worn out from their embroidery marathon last night, because it stayed quiet for an hour.

I picked up my phone, read a blog post in my email feed, then mentally slapped my hand and put it down. It is hard to break bad habits, you know? I am training myself for better phone usage and I need so many reminders. Check the weather, see a notification, fall headlong into an interesting wormhole on the internet, and there went the precious first part of the day.

This month I am reading through the book of Jeremiah. It is doleful reading, all those dire predictions and the rudeness of people who decided to dig a pit and drop the messenger into it rather than listen to his message. These are the same people who traded their treasures and heritage for high places of sin and a life of slavery. And yet, through it all is the relentless pursuing of a God who is jealous of their loyalty and wants nothing more than to restore them to righteousness and justice in the land.

I had just finished chapter 23, where Jeremiah prophesied about a Righteous Branch who would be coming in the future when Gregory showed up with his mug of tea. Time for breakfast. He and Olivia are on kitchen duty this week. Normally they are the early risers who make pancakes or creamed eggs or something ambitious, but this morning they pulled out cold cereal because the family was late to bed and late to rise. I fixed a protein shake for myself because I didn’t want the cereal shakes at ten o’clock.

The girls wore their new matchies today, thanks to $1 clearance at Walmart. I suggested that any grumpiness would be terribly inappropriate in these shirts.

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While the children cleared the table and gathered up the laundry baskets, I lovingly crafted the coffee for us. I do mean lovingly, because those fresh beans from Honduras are worth the full attention of the coffee brewer.

Olivia and I spent some time compiling a photo collage of places she has visited in our state, and a page of places she would like to visit. Then we stumbled across this picture and drooled about stepping out on the deck, but there was a little too much snow for our fantasy.

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After she had her Spelling Power words done, I got her started with her Arithmetic lesson on the computer, knotted Addy’s embroidery thread for her, and went to the basement to check on the boys.

Oh, yes, that’s when I started the laundry humming along. Normally we do all our laundry on Monday with Tuesday as our day off, but we had an optometrist run yesterday, so we saved the washing for today. I like to do the weekend sorting because I don’t like when dress clothes get mixed in with a load of blue jeans, accidentally like. The children can take it from there with some oversight, although today I did the loading and unloading and loading and unloading… Let’s see, something like 9 times. All permanent press clothes got hung on hangers while still damp, and the folding of the rest is looming over the young fry by the basket full. I love folding laundry, but I crucify my desires because I want my children to learn responsibility. That is a true story, believe it or not.

Gregory is now learning about differentiating adverb and adjective phrases and is irritated at my enthusiasm for these lessons. “The fields and gardens beyond this mountain must be irrigated.” He thought that phrase tells “where”, therefore it is an adverb phrase and I insisted it modifies the subject, thus it is an adjective phrase. So that brings up the burning question of 13 year-old boys everywhere, “What does it matter?” I am not sure what to say to that, but I do think it matters, so just do it for me, son, okay?

At eleven o’clock I suddenly considered that the rest of the family would be getting the cereal shakes quite soon, not being fortified as I was, so I got out some frozen hamburger with plans for taco stacks at lunchtime. At last I settled in to write out lesson plans for Gregory’s February, with him on my left and Rita at her desk on the right, doing her spelling words and language lesson. Addy decided to come downstairs to practice cursive writing just because it is better to breathe the air where everybody else is if you are Addy. Alex was working independently on his lessons after having done the critter chores in the barn.

“What’s for lunch?” he asked, out of the blue. “Hmm, I will make tacos when it’s time,” I replied. “But it is lunchtime,” he pointed out. And it was. It was 12:02. The thing about having a hungry teen around is that they will be glad to shred cheese, open chip bags, and set the table while you fry ground beef and make your main course.

Gabe was home today, working on the bills and the taxes. I admired his work and slunk away quickly, grateful that he just submitted an assignment last night and the next course isn’t available yet.

After lunch the middles did dishes while I read a story to Addy and nearly fell asleep. Most days she does fall asleep, but not today. When we got up, we found that Olivia and Rita had set up handmade dollhouses on the kitchen table, with clothespin dolls inhabiting them. Nevermind that they went to the attic for boxes, walking past 3 other dollhouses, one wooden, one cardboard, and one punched out of heavy cardstock.

I spent an hour practicing songs for choir, then another hour advising Gregory on places to look for his history textbook. He loses books, on average, about 4 times a week, but in the case of a textbook, the rule is No Free Time Until Found. Eventually we all felt sorry for him, wandering around flashing a light into corners where no history book would go, so we started helping him look. “Oh,” Addy suddenly leaped to life, “is it this one? I put it in here last night when we cleaned up.” And there it was in the yarn bag. Gregory, for once, had not lost his book. But neither had he put it away. He was very grateful, at any rate, to have permission to watch his TED talk on ignoble prizes, now that business was taken care of.

In other news, today I noticed a sales flyer from the local grocery store advertising these special filled doughnuts for Fat Tuesday. What? So I looked it up and found that the day before Ash Wednesday is Fat Tuesday. Apparently one stuffs in order to survive all the fasting and sacrifice during Lent. In all my life I have not heard of this day before. I haven’t observed the season of Lent, either. Hmm. I wonder whether I should give up something as a discipline until Easter… Have you ever done this?

I will wrap up the day, even though it is not over, because tonight will be choir practice for Alex and me and right now it is time to make supper. Rita wrote a true story about me yesterday. “I love Mama becase she is vary, vary, vary nice. She makes all our melles! I love Mama.”

It is good to be loved.

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Praying Hands

Praying-Hands-Image

Over 500 years ago, Albrecht Durer, a German painter and engraver, was commissioned to paint an altarpiece, and as part of the work, he painstakingly sketched a person’s hands raised in prayer. The sketch was done on handmade blue paper and the original still survives today, an image that is recognizable to most people.

There is a lovely tale, whether fact or legend it is hard to tell, about Albrecht. The story goes that he came from a large family, with no means to study art, although that was his deepest wish. Eventually he did start studying and painting. In order to survive, he and a fellow artist, possibly one of his brothers, decided to pool their resources and share living space. The two became so impoverished that they decided one of them would give up painting for a while to do any manual labor he could find in order for the other to have time to master his art and be able to sell his work.

It was decided that Albrecht’s friend would take first turn at the work, since Albrecht was more advanced in skill. For years he cheerfully did anything he could turn his hand to in order to keep the two supplied with daily needs. At last the day came when Albrecht had passed his teachers in skill and his woodcuts were selling for nice sums. The rent was paid for a considerable length of time, and it was now the friend’s turn to study painting.

Alas, he soon found that his hands had become too damaged by physical labor to perform the detailed brushstrokes of a master artist. Albrecht was filled with sorrow and gratefulness for the gift of great love that had come at the sacrifice of his fellow artist’s skill.

Some say that the famous praying hands are the same hands that worked so hard to care for the artist’s needs in his youth, and this is why Albrecht Durer put such painstaking detail into a preliminary sketch. Five hundred years later, we do not know who modelled the hands, but I love the story anyway.

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A Prayer for Today

prayer for Grace

 

“Deliver me, Jesus,

From the desire of being loved;

From the desire of being honored;

From the desire of being preferred to others;

From the desire of being consulted;

From the desire of being approved;

 

From the fear of being humiliated;

From the fear of being despised;

From the fear of suffering rebuke;

From the fear of being forgotten;

From the fear of being wrong;

From the fear of being suspected;

 

And Jesus, grant me the grace to desire

That others might be loved more than I;

That others might be esteemed more than I;

That in the opinion of the world,

Others may increase and I decrease;

That others may be chosen and I set aside;

That others may be praised and I unnoticed;

That others may be preferred to me

In everything;

That others may become holier than I,

Provided that I become as holy as I should.”

 

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Strangers and Sojourners

Michael O’Brien’s Strangers and Sojourners spans the lifetime of a lady named Anne Delaney during the twentieth century. As you might expect, it is a long book, a tome of 546 pages, but it was well worth the time to read, even though it took me a few months to finish.

The story is built around Anne’s emigration from a highly educated, refined life in England to live as a frontier schoolteacher in a bush town in Canada. She eventually marries a reclusive backwoodsman farmer, a man of deep faith, while Anne battles intensely with doubt and self-recrimination. She faces the narrowing of her abilities into one small sphere, keeping her home. She senses the death of her personal grandiose dreams as she cooks the porridge and weeds the kitchen garden. Her children grow strong and stand upright, mostly unaware of the lifeblood their mother is pouring out for them. Her husband remains a bit of an enigma to her, a man who has great respect for dung and dirt, “Out of it comes the garden and the pasture and our lives.” But Anne hates it and the fact that their life is far from clean and neat. She wishes only to be able to cleanse away every trace of repulsive stink, despite the gentle reminder that Jesus was born where the smells were not polite.

Eventually Anne does get to pursue some of her dreams, among them editing a provincial newspaper. She continues to be haunted with questions as to the meaning of life and all man’s striving. Toward the end of her own life, when cancer is eating away at her vitals, it all narrows down to what really mattered all along. At death’s door, Anne receives clarity and grace. The struggle and fear are replaced with triumphant courage. She sees that God was at work all along, making something out of her nothing. As her husband sits beside her bed, watching her life drain slowly away, he sees…

“…that she had already laid down a large portion of her life long ago. Piece by piece she had given it away as she wrestled with existence, as her self was absorbed as nourishment into his life and the life of the children and the community. And laid down most piercingly, as she abandoned, one by one, the shapes of the dreams she had planned. Only to take them up in other forms.”

(excerpt from page 546)

O’Brien wrote this book in the third person omniscient point of view, giving us details from the heart of each main character, their thoughts and intents. While this can be tedious, he does it well, illustrating how attitudes and actions can affect an entire life, an entire family, even an entire community. I was inspired by Anne’s life, encouraged that the things I do today are long term investments. Though they may be small things, such as deboning a chicken or folding some towels, the world is nurtured through the countless small kindnesses of those who are willing to lay down their lives for others.

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