Tuesday, January 31, 2012

OUR HOUSE IS ON FIRE!

"Life is not defined by what you have, even when you have a lot."
~Jesus, Luke 12:15, The Message

What would you grab if your house was on fire and you had one minute to get out? Let's assume people and pets have already vacated the premises. What possessions would you most want to rescue from the consuming flames?

Most of us would say sentimental items such as photos and keepsakes. Others would be more concerned with preserving important documents, records, and business transactions. An expensive jewelry collection might top someone's list. Or it could be an item passed down through the generations, an heirloom entrusted to your care to keep safe and to pass along to your own children.

Asking myself this question helps me to put my material possessions into perspective and realize what's important to me. As I look around our home and gaze upon its contents, I see items that aren't just possessions. Many of the things that inhabit our home are pieces of history that date back to our grandparents' lives. I love the fact that I have been able to incorporate so much of our grandparents into our home ~ furniture, paintings, mirrors, dishes, quilts ~ the list goes on and on. But in the event of a fire, I couldn't possibly grab all of it!

What would I scoop up in my rush to escape the inferno? Three things come to my mind ~ our photo albums, my Bible, and my tote bag of journals. The first requires no explanation. The second, some may question. Why my Bible when I could easily replace it? It's true, I could always buy a new one. But I couldn't replace the countless notes, comments, and pieces of my life that mark its pages. My Bible tells the story of my faith walk. The third item on my list is such an integral part of me, the thought of losing it feels on a par with losing a bit of myself. The words I have penned for my blogs and the book I have written are such a huge part of me.

This past Christmas our son, his wife, and our two granddaughters gave me two beautiful journals personalized with my name and my blog on the covers, along with an elegant pen. In their eyes, it was a gift that was both practical and thoughtful. In my eyes, it was so much more. These journals greet me every morning, beckoning me to pour my heart out in hopes that someone will read and be blessed. They are already packed full of my dreams...my regrets...my journey...my heart. They contain bits and pieces of my life story, and they record ways God has spoken to me. What a treasure!

Let's hope our homes are never comsumed by flames. But if they do, let's know what matters most to us.           

"So many of us define ourselves by what we have, what we wear, what kind of house we live in, and what kind of car we drive...if you think of yourself as the woman in the Cartier watch and the Hermes scarf, a house fire will destroy not only your possessions but your self." ~Linda Henley

Monday, January 30, 2012

MEANT TO BE

"With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible."  ~Matthew 19:26

Have you ever experienced or witnessed something so unlikely, your only explanation was that it was meant to be? Somehow everything in the Universe lined up perfectly for this chance event or encounter. And it took your breath away.

When I was nine years old, my dad's company offered him a job in Belgium. My parents began the process of preparing our family of five for a move to a different country. Part of that preparation involved private tutoring sessions in french.

My french tutor was an older gentleman and a survivor of the Holocaust. I cannot remember what prompted him to share a personal story, but it is one I will never forget. He and his wife had been sent to Concentration Camps. He managed to survive until the day when all prisoners were released. He had no knowledge of his wife's fate. Had she lived through the ordeal? If so, where was she?

Many attempts to find her left him empty-handed. After a period of time, he had an opportunity to come to America. Believing that his wife had passed away, he grabbed the chance.

It was years later while strolling down a rather busy street that he noticed a woman walking on the other side. She caught his attention. Her gait was similar to his wife's, and he paused to watch her. It wasn't just the way she moved that held so much familiarity. He raced across the street, eager for a closer look. He had never recovered from the loss of his wife, and the sight of this woman made him remember and long for her.

After crossing the street, he made his way through pedestrians to reach her side. He touched her shoulder and she turned to him. Their eyes locked...and he was home. Before him stood his wife, believed to be dead. It turned out that she had searched for him, too, but to no avail. Assuming that he had died, she had grabbed an opportunity to come to America. Now, there they stood, two very small needles in an immeasurable haystack, reunited.

Yes, I was nine at the time. Perhaps the details aren't as clear in my memory as they once were. But I clearly remember how he took a hanky from his pocket and dried his eyes. I had no idea at the time the suffering this man had seen and the stories that contributed to his tears. But I remember his words, "Il etait cense etre." ~ "It was meant to be."

(In case you are wondering, we did not move to Belgium afterall. As my french tutor would later say to me, "Il n'etait pas cense etre." ~ "It was not meant to be.")

"In dreams and love there are no impossibilities." ~Janos Arany

                   

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

STOLEN IDENTITY

"We're going to have to let truth scream louder to our souls than the lies that have infected us."  ~Beth Moore

It all began when I was cruising the aisles of the supermarket at a more rapid pace than usual. My list comprised of items I needed to make a meal for some friends. Both father and son were battling cancer, and I had offered to bring them a meal.

After unloading everything from the cart onto the checkout counter, I reached for my wallet. My hand emerged from my purse, empty. My heart rate quickened and I felt for it again. No wallet. I explained to the cashier that my wallet was missing, and she called the manager over. I told him my dilemma, remembering that I had added a new book of checks to my wallet while sitting in my car in the store's parking lot. Together we walked out to the car to see if I had dropped my wallet inside or close to it. Again, no wallet.

The manager asked me to walk with him along the route I'd taken through the store. When we got to the aisle with bottled water, I recalled bending over to pick up the heavy case of waters, leaving my purse unattended those few seconds. The manager pointed out that it was ample time for someone to reach into my purse and grab my wallet. We walked through the store some more and around the perimeter, hoping the thief had removed the cash and dumped it. Again, no wallet.

This is how my journey with identity theft began. Money was instantly taken from my Mastercard in the form of a cash advance at a local bank. The forty checks I had just put into my wallet would become case after case of fraud, some in other states. It became a full-time job keeping up with all the damage that was being done. People were using our information to get fake driver's licenses. I felt violated and angry. The time and money it took to restore our good name, our credit, and to protect ourselves from further fraudulent activities was grueling.

Today I listened to a speaker talk about a different type of identity theft. I think that the one she addressed is much more invasive and damaging. It's the theft that occurs when someone tells you something about yourself or your circumstances that isn't based on truth, but we listen anyway. Maybe someone said you were stupid...or ugly...or incompetent...or guilty ~ responsible for an act that you didn't commit...and you let those words sink in and take root. Before long, you were accepting and believing it about yourself. And something was stolen from you ~ a piece of your true identity was lost.

Who hasn't experienced this at one point or another? We all do. But some thefts are bigger and more damaging than others. Some of us are walking around wounded, confused, even beating ourselves up because of words that were carelessly or intentionally thrust upon us.

Here's the thing ~ we don't have to be victims. We can take a stand against these thieves and say NO MORE. We can see their words for what they are ~ injurious lies ~ and make the choice to deflect them and move on.

Some of us have been listening and believing these lies for so long that they're embedded into our beings. We have allowed them to define who we are. But we don't have to resign ourselves to living this way. With some work and dedication, we can untangle the mess of lies we've been carrying around in us, and shed them once and for all.

Are you a victim of stolen identity? I was too. I'm here to say there is a way out! You do not have to remain a victim. You can be victorious. Whatever has been stolen, you can take back. It's a choice. It's making up your mind you aren't going to let other people define you. You aren't going to listen to those voices from your past telling you you're something that you're not. You aren't going to give any more power to the hurtful, negative words that have been spoken to you.

You are God's creation, created for a good purpose. You are a child of the King. You are wonderfully made. You have talents, gifts, and strengths to offer the world. You can choose freedom today and set your feet on the abundant path marked out for you. It all begins with the decision ~ I am not going to be a victim of identity theft anymore. I am not going to believe the old lies I have been fed, or listen to any new ones. I am not going to give my power away to thieves. Instead, I am going to identify every lie that has been spoken to me and cast it out. I may have to dig deeply to do this, but I know it's worth the work involved. I'm done letting others steal my identity...my purpose...my joy.

Once the lies are dealt with, I am freed up to see myself as I truly am and move forward. This may sound scary to some, as we tend to cling to what's familiar. But believe me when I say IT IS SO WORTH IT! I know. I speak from experience.

Take a stand. Don't back down. Excavate and discard every lie spoken to you. Let the healing begin. Acknowledge and celebrate all the good that God has planted in you. Begin to embrace these things. Ask Him to show you who He created you to be. Seek godly counsel if you need to. Lastly, forgive those who have stolen from you. I know it sounds difficult, but it's a must if you truly want to be set free.

Are you with me? It's time to take our identities back!

"When we realize we've believed a lie, our bonds lose their grip." ~Beth Moore

"Stop determining your worth and value by what other people say. Be determined by what the Word of God says." ~Joyce Meyer

"I learned that what happened to me did not have to define who I was. My past could not control my future unless I allowed it to." ~Joyce Meyer

"Let your only evaluation of worth derive from the awareness of God's love for you. All other measures leave one in a state of delusion."  ~Anonymous            

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

LIGHTEN UP!

"I have seen what a good laugh can do. It can transform almost unbearable tears into something bearable, even hopeful."  ~Bob Hope

"A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit saps a person's strength."
~Proverbs 12:22

"Lighten up!" I speak these two words to myself often. I can get so caught up in the seriousness of my daily responsibilities and concerns that my whole body tenses up. When this happens, I am more prone to headaches...backaches...stomachaches...even heartaches. My mood matches my physical condition, and another precious day goes down the drain, unlived and unenjoyed.

"Lighten up!" I tell myself. Worrying NEVER accomplishes anything. And the tension in my body and mind aren't going to move mountains either. But a warm smile, listening ears, a tender heart, and an open home can change the world...one person...one encounter...at a time. The only way I am going to be freed up to live my life like this is to lighten up.

For me, this means taking it (whatever "it" is) to God's throne and leaving it there. It means breathing deeply with a grateful spirit for all that is good and right in my world. It means pausing to reflect on all that God has already done on my behalf. It means breaking out of the isolation and reaching out to others.

Sometimes, the best thing I can do is to have a hearty laugh. The Bible says that laughter is good medicine. Scientists now back this up with evidence. Chemicals are released in our brains when we laugh that help us to de-stress and feel better. Funny TV shows and movies work well for me. A favorite of mine is the silly sitcom, Home Improvement. I will put a DVD on while I clean, do laundry, exercise, you name it. When the news gets too depressing or I feel myself getting worked up over it, I switch the channel to something funny.

"Lighten up!" It's a beautiful day and I can choose to make the most of it. Sure, there's bound to be bumps in the road. But I can take them to God's throne. I can breathe deeply and choose gratitude for all that is praise-worthy. I can call a friend or family member and put my focus onto someone else. And if none of these lighten my spirits, there's always an episode or two of Home Improvement ready to tickle my funny bone. Life is just too short not to lighten up!

"Laughter is the shock absorber that eases the blows of life."  ~Author Unknown

"A good laugh and a long sleep are the best cures in the doctor's book."
~Irish Proverb

"What soap is to the body, laughter is to the soul." ~Yiddish Proverb

"Laughter is an instant vacation." ~Milton Berle

"I am thankful for laughter, except when milk comes out of my nose." 
~Woody Allen        

Monday, January 23, 2012

EVERYTHING CHANGES

"Change always comes bearing gifts."  ~Price Pritchett

"There's far more than meets the eye. The things we see now are here today, gone tomorrow. But the things we can't see now will last forever." 
~2 Corinthians 4:18, The Message

This year is ushering in many changes for me and my family. Normally I am a girl who loves change. To get my needed "fix" for a little change, I will rearrange furniture or get a new haircut. Sometimes the change is more dramatic. Although the whole process is a bit grueling, the truth is that I love to move. A change in address thrills and excites me. It bombards my senses with the views from the windows, to the squeeks of its floors, to the scent of each room. 

I suppose it's a blessing that I love change so much. Let's face it ~ change is the one thing we can expect as we journey through this life. Some changes are gut-wrenchingly painful, and we avoid them at all costs. But others can enlighten, invigorate, teach, and motivate us to reach new heights and explore new territories.

Like I said ~ this year is going to be packed full of changes. I find myself excited, but also a bit anxious. How will I feel as I watch our only daughter enter into marriage and a new life, possibly far away from here? What emotions will I wrestle with when we talk on the phone and she has had a bad day? What will it be like to walk into her room to face the emptiness and the quiet? I don't know.

As our daughter moves away, we will likely face the same experience ourselves. As we gear up for a possible move of our own, I will spend the next year sorting, organizing, and paring down on our possessions. This too will be an emotional journey as I reminisce over items saved since our children were little. How do I part with their artwork...their gifts and cards to us...their favorite toys?  

As I bring my years of teaching and tutoring to a close, more attention will be given to my writing. This is a positive change, but also an emotional one. Writing is never simply about putting words onto paper. For me, there's always an emotional component involved.

They say too much change at once ~ even good change ~ can be very stressful. So I take in a deep breath and remind myself that whatever the changes bring, one thing always remains constant. This is my lifeline...my strength...and my hope. Without a close walk with God, I think that the changes on the horizon would overwhelm me.

Whatever unfolds in the coming year, I know that the most important thing I can do is to stay focused on Him. As a ship captain focuses on the lighthouse that's guiding him rather than the choppy seas surrounding him, I must do the same. If I don't, I may find myself drowning in the emotions that the many changes will bring.

Whether we like it or not, change is inevitable. Everything changes...except Him. And there lies my greatest peace.

"Continuity gives us roots; change gives us branches, letting us stretch and grow and reach new heights."  ~Pauline R. Kezer

"If you're in a bad situation, don't worry it'll change. If you're in a good situation, don't worry it'll change."  ~John A. Simone, Sr.

"Change is inevitable ~ except from a vending machine."  ~Robert C. Gallagher

"Jesus doesn't change ~ yesterday, today, tomorrow, he's always totally himself." 
~Hebrews 13:8, The Message

Sunday, January 22, 2012

MY SISTER, MY FRIEND

"`To the outside world we all grow old. But not to brothers and sisters. We know each other as we always were. We know each other's hearts. We share private family jokes. We remember family feuds and secrets, family griefs and joys. We live outside the touch of time."
~Clara Ortega

I was thrilled when my niece shared that her second child will be another little girl. My immediate thoughts were of her daughter Annie Grace, and the gift she will be receiving. Is there any relationship like the one between sisters? Sure, they can drive each other crazy at times. And what sisters haven't had their share of fights? But in the long run, a good sister is a rare treasure...more precious than gold.

I know. My sister is living proof. Although there is a five year gap in our ages, people have often asked us if we are twins. We walk alike, we talk a like...sometimes we even think alike. We look alike and we dream alike. We share many of the same interests and passions. While this can create a tone of strife and competition in some sibling relationships, that has not been our experience. Just the opposite ~ my sister is my dearest friend, my closest confidante, and my sage counselor who I can call 24/7. She cheers me up, hears me out, and calms me down. She inspires me to be my best ~ to think...to grow...to learn...and to face any challenge with faith, hope, and courage.

My sister is my biggest source of unconditional love and acceptance. She knows all of my deepest secrets, my greatest regrets, and my many flaws. Yet she is always there for me, embracing and supporting me. On a lighter note, my sister brings out my silly side. No one can make me laugh to the point of tears like she can.

My sister is also my faith-sister, a gift I cherish. Her prayers have moved more mountains on my behalf than either of us knows. Her daily round is a powerful testimony of what it means to walk closely with God, and she challenges me to do the same by how she lives her own life.

If you have a sister, I hope she means as much to you as my sister means to me. If you don't have a sibling you are close to, I hope you have a friend who's as close as a sister. As for me, my best friend and my sister are one and the same.

"A sister is a forever friend."  ~Author Unknown

"A sister shares childhood memories and grown-up dreams."  ~Author Unknown

"In the cookies of life, sisters are the chocolate chips."  ~Author Unknown

"There is no better friend than a sister. And there is no better sister than you."  ~Author Unknown         

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

MY DIET REVOLUTION

"Life expectancy would grow by leaps and bounds if green vegetables smelled as good as bacon."  ~Doug Larson

For a long time, chronic pain had me in its grip. The constant achy fatigue that consumed my body and controlled much of my life was a strong motivator. Five years ago, I revolutionized my relationship with food, desperate for a reprieve from the pain.

An acquaintance of mine shared her close friend's experience with treating fibromyalgia through diet. I was intrigued. I had firmly resisted my doctor's nudges to begin a pharmaceutical approach to treating  my condition. I didn't like the idea of putting unknown chemicals into my body. The possible side effects sounded worse than the actual condition!

But a diet I could do ~ especially one that held the possibility of allowing me to live pain-free. I won't go into great detail here about what the diet entailed. For the most part, it was an organic, unproccessed diet that removed sugar, white flour, red meat, alcohol, most dairy, carbonation, artificial sweeteners, and any form of hormones. The premise was to get more of a balance between acid and alkaline intake. Most of what we consume is acidic in nature. Reducing this level and raising the alkalines is believed by some to promote better health.

The first week on my diet was a blur. My body and mind experienced withdrawal as my body continued to produce a high level of insulin that my previous diet had required. This insulin overload had me spinning ~ literally! I was shaky, disoriented, weak, and very sore.

Things began to improve after the first week. It was a slow process, but gradually the fog began to lift. After about eight weeks, it vanished, and I began to feel like a new woman. Within six months, my aches and pains were gone. My energy was at an all time high. I could think more clearly. My mood was brighter. I was able to do things I had avoided for years. And my immune system was vastly improved ~ colds, flus, etc. that used to frequent my body became a thing of the past.

I stayed on this diet faithfully for two years. At that point, I was told I could begin to re-introduce certain foods, one at a time. I continued to enjoy the same good health even though I was introducing different foods back into my diet.

Today I find myself back at that place of achiness, fatigue, and a foggy mind. I realize I have let myself slip back into unhealthy eating. It's time to re-address the whole food issue, and return to my good-health diet.

Why do I think I am rewarding myself when I reach for the cookie tin...or the piece of bread...or my favorite ~ the frapuccino? I am really sabotaging my own health. That is no reward! In fact, it's self-injurious.

If you are my friend, will you please be a friend and help hold me accountable? I've got this one life, and I want to enjoy it to the fullest. For me, that's not about feeding my cravings and indulging ~ it's about loving myself enough to take good care of my body so I can live with less pain, more energy, and a more joyful spirit.

If you're curious about my diet and want to know more, let me know. I will happily share it with you!

"The best six doctors anywhere
And no one can deny it
Are sunshine, water, rest, and air
Excerise and diet.
These six will gladly you attend
If only you are willing
Your mind they'll ease
Your will they'll mend
And charge you not a shilling."
~Nursery Rhyme quoted by Wayne Fields

"Doctors are always working to preserve our health and cooks to destroy it, but the latter are more often successful."  ~Denis Diderot

"In order to change we must be sick and tired of being sick and tired." 
~Author Unknown         

Monday, January 16, 2012

MY BROTHER'S GIFT TO ME

"As long as I live, I'll hear waterfalls and birds and winds sing. I'll interpret the rocks, learn the language of flood, storm, and the avalanche. I'll acquaint myself with the glaciers and wild gardens, and get as near the heart of the world as I can."
~ John Muir

I love the great outdoors. From the imposing rugged mountain peaks to the golden coastline, nature speaks to me a language all its own. It draws me in and challenges me with its raw and ever-changing beauty. It calms my spirit when I am weary and troubled. It refreshes and invigorates me when I am feeling weak and unmotivated. It renews my hope when I am having a bad day.

When I am outside, I long to soak it all in. My senses come alive. I love the feel of the warm sunshine on crisp winter days. There is so much to see and meditate on. Every day my eyes fall on a new beauty just waiting to be recognized and celebrated. I NEVER take music outside with me, and honestly, I cannot understand those who do. There is a chorus of music playing sweet tunes if I will only pause and listen. I love that I can hear the birds greeting the day with song as I open my eyes and do the same.

Today I celebrate the person from my childhood who helped me develop and nurture my love for nature ~ my brother. So many of my memories growing up were of him instilling in me an appreciation and respect for the great outdoors. What a gift he gave me! It is an integral part of each and every day ~ whether I am able to get outside and revel in its glory, or simply watch out my window. I am always drawn...intrigued...and blessed to be a witness to the greatest show on earth.

And to my brother I speak a thousand "thank you"s. What a treasure you gave me when you shared with me your own love for the great outdoors. It's the gift that just keeps giving as I watch my own son embracing the same passion for nature and all it has to offer.

Time for a walk! The beautiful day outside awaits me. I think I hear it calling your name, too.

"Everybody needs beauty...places to play in and pray in where nature may heal and cheer and give strength to the body and soul alike." 
~John Muir

"Those who live at the ends of the earth stand in awe of Your wonders. From where the sun rises to where it sets, You inspire shouts of joy." 
~Psalm 65:8      

Thursday, January 12, 2012

KILLJOYS

"Be joyful always." 1 Thessalonians 5:16

"Never let anyone steal your joy." ~Mike Richards

It should have been an insignificant moment in my life, yet I remember it like it was yesterday. That's pretty amazing to me, because it took place over twenty years ago. It was the month of December, and I was having a rare moment of solitude. My husband had taken the kids out, and I was home alone decorating our Christmas tree. I was relishing the moment when the phone rang.

A very angry woman who I barely knew was on the other line. She told me that I was thoughtless and flaky, and it got worse from there. I tried to defend myself, but she wasn't about to listen to a word of it. Instead, she hung up on me. I was crushed. It seems so silly now, but at the time, her words were like an unexpected slap in the face.

As unaccustomed as I was to such rudeness, I couldn't let it rest. I dialed the woman's number, determined to straighten out the misunderstanding. When she realized it was me calling, she said she was a busy woman and didn't have time for flakes like me. Again, she hung up.

A lump the size of a golf ball formed in my throat, and the tears started streaming down my face. I continued to place our ornaments on the tree, but by this time my vision was clouded by my sobs.

Here's the worst part ~ until this past year, I have let the memories of that awful encounter haunt me. Every time it came to mind, I'd get that same wave of pain wash over me. I couldn't stand the fact that this woman I barely knew thought so poorly of me based on her skewed perceptions of what had taken place.

I let this woman be my killjoy. When I ran into her at the market, my day would be a little less joyful. For several years after the incident, I couldn't decorate my Christmas tree without recalling her harsh words. One of my favorite activities lost a bit of its joy.

Here's the thing ~ I let her do this to me. By allowing her words to crush me...to haunt me...and to affect me the way they did, I was giving her permission to take away my joy. I don't know what changed, but something inside of me said "enough!" and I put an end to giving this woman the power to upset me with her words.

Today, I can honestly say I don't care one iota about the way that woman treated me or what she thought of me. In fact, I hope that she hasn't carried the incident with her as long as I did.

I'm done giving away my joy over silly misunderstandings. I am saying "no" to the killjoys who make snap judgments and misread me. And I am watching my own words...and thoughts...and judgments, determined to never lash out and stomp on someone else's joy.

"No one can make you feel inferior without your consent." ~Eleanor Roosevelt

"We cannot cure the world of sorrows, but we can choose to live in joy." ~Joseph Campbell    

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

ENJOYING THE RIDE

"Life isn't a destination, it's a journey. We all come upon unexpected curves and turning points. Everything that happens to us shapes who we are becoming. And in the adventure of each day, we discover the important things in life and why they are important."
~Author Unknown

"Life is like a rollercoaster. You can either scream every time there is a bump or you can throw your hands up and enjoy the ride."
~Author Unknown

I am not a fan of roller coasters. The rush of speed and unexpected turns that used to thrill me and leave me breathless only makes me queasy and shaky in my older age. So I avoid them at all costs. No amount of coaxing can entice me to put myself through this unwelcome experience.

This truth makes the roller coaster I have found myself riding all the more unnerving. For the past year, I've been on a ride called "Hormones Gone Awry" that has put my patience, my sanity, and my relationships to the test.

An unknown tumor didn't help matters. It only added to my symptoms and the overall drama, at times making it nearly impossible to leave my home for days at a time.

This is where the miracle of modern science stepped in. My surgery last fall freed me of my annoying, painful symptoms that were telling me something was wrong. At the same time, the procedure robbed me of the part of my anatomy that produces the hormones my body was craving more of.

Again, modern science rose to the occasion with a small patch I can wear topically. This patch, which I wear faithfully, provides me with the hormones I have been needing. Slowly, I find my patience...my sanity...and my relationships being restored.

Here's what this journey has taught me ~
~ our bodies, minds, and spirits are very intertwined...when one part is out of whack, the other parts suffer
~ I need to be careful to not react to others who are abrupt, or impatient, or unfriendly...they may be dealing with something similar and I don't need to take it personally
~ I have to take care of myself...if I don't, I am no good to anyone else
~ I need to listen to my own body and to other people when I get the message that I am not myself and that something is not right
~ compassion for others...and myself...is key, and I now have a heartier dose to give!

Thanks to the gift of modern medicine, the ups and downs and unexpected twists and turns have calmed significantly. And when they do hit, they don't pack the devestating punch they used to. I now go through most days with a restored sense of well being and my moods reflect it. The steady pace of "It's A Small World" has replaced the "Space Mountain" ride I was on.

What ride are you on today? Maybe you are on an unwelcome rollercoaster like I was. Maybe your ride is scary, or packed full of adventure. Maybe it seems more like a spectator sport. Whatever it looks and feels like, my hope is that you learn...and grow...and stretch yourself...and get help if you need it! And ultimately, I hope that you are enjoying the ride.

"Life is good when you see the good in life."  ~Author Unknown

"Life is a ticket to the greatest show on earth." ~Martin H. Fischer

"The truth is you don't know what's going to happen tomorrow. Life is a crazy ride."
~Author Unknown
  

       

Thursday, January 5, 2012

IT'S JUST A CAR

"Don't be yourself ~ be someone a little nicer." ~ Mignon McLaughlin

I was running to the market to pick up some soup for my daughter who was sick. I pulled into the store's parking lot, eager to make the purchase and get back home. Before I had a chance to claim a parking space, I felt the impact and heard the crunch of metal. I looked to my left and saw the car that had hit me. I took a deep breath and pulled into a parking spot.

Getting out to assess the damage, I was met with the older woman who had hit me. "I am so sorry! I guess I didn't look carefully enough." She was visibly shaken. She immediately took complete responsibility, apologizing profusely.

"It's okay. Accidents happen. Neither of us was hurt. It's just a car." I tried my best to reassure her.

We did the responsible thing and exchanged our information. She pulled a camera out of her glove compartment and told me she didn't know how to use it. She said that her husband had told her to take photos if she ever got into an accident. I offered to help, and took several pictures of both of our cars for her to take home to her husband.

In the back of my mind, I kept thinking about my daughter at home, feeling poorly and waiting for her soup. As much as I wanted to get done with the inconvenience of our little accident, I also felt compelled to spend some time with this woman and help calm her down. I knew what she was experiencing, as I'd been there before. I know that overwhelming feeling of regret, guilt, and self-abuse. She kept chiding herself, then asking me how I could be so nice to her after she'd hit my car.

I drove away from that meeting with regrets of my own. I should have told her that it wasn't in my nature to respond kindly, especially when I am in a hurry. I should have shared with her that it was God speaking through me, and softening my heart towards her. To be honest, this was my only explanation for why I reacted the way I did.

I called her house shortly after I got home to make sure she'd arrived safely. After seeing how upset she was, I had offered to follow her home, but she'd refused. We talked briefly and set up a time to meet so her husband could assess the damage to my car. Two days later, she and her husband came to our house and met with my husband and me. After a brief discussion about the car, we began to chat, like old friends who hadn't seen each other in years. This time, when my reaction to the accident came up in the conversation, I had the presence of mind to share about my faith in God.

My Explorer has a little more imperfection than it had before we met in the parking lot that day. That's okay. The new dent reminds me that it brought me a gift ~ a new friend.

"If we should deal out justice only, in this world, who would escape? No, it is better to be generous, and in the end more profitable, for it gains gratitude for us, and love."
~Mark Twain

"To err on the side of kindness is seldom an error." ~ Liz Armbruster

"Kindness, like a boomerang, always returns."  ~ Author Unknown  
   

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

THE ULTIMATE TRAINER

"Keep yourself in training for a godly life. Physical exercise has some value, but spiritual exercise is valuable in every way, because it promises life both for the present and for the future." 
~1 Timothy 4:7,8

"All good athletes train hard. They do it for a gold medal that tarnishes and fades. You're after one that's gold eternally. I don't know about you, but I'm running hard for the finish line. I'm giving it everything I've got. No sloppy living for me! I'm staying alert and in top condition. I'm not going to get caught napping, telling everyone else all about it and then missing out myself."
~1 Corinthians 9:25-27, The Message

The balmy mid-eighties temperature of this January afternoon had me pulling out a piece of my summer attire. Although my house remains cool and comfortable, an errand prompted me to temporarily retreat back to my warm-weather closet. I pulled out a favorite tee shirt and put it on resignedly. Who wants to be clothed in summer apparel when the calendar claims it is winter? Not me.

I looked at myself in the mirror and was immediately drawn to my arms. When did they grow so flabby? My dry, pale skin didn't help matters. Neither did the large scab where a skin cancer had recently been removed. It seemed to glare at me, adding salt to my wounded spirit.

Because of a health condition I have had for two decades, I have tried to stay in somewhat decent shape. But an annoying illness, followed by a surgery two months ago, brought my workouts to a halt. My flabby arms are strong evidence of my recent sedentary lifestyle.

As if the disappointment in my flabby arms wasn't enough, I didn't stop there. Perhaps I am my own worst enemy, but my unsightly upper extremities beckoned me to check out the rest of my body. Sure enough, the lack of muscle tone in my abdomen and my legs were equally as discouraging...expecially since I had put so much time and effort into my health the past few years. In such a short time, it all seems to have unraveled, and I feel (and look!) like I am back at square one.

Here's the good news ~ I don't have to resign myself to staying unfit. I am now well enough to begin my exercise routine again. I have the time..the means...the know-how...and the motivation.

Here's even better news ~ I may be weaker on the outside, but my Ultimate Trainer has been giving me a good workout lately. He's been strengthening my inner being and opening my vision up to new and exciting possibilities. It's not easy...it's often very painful. But we've all heard the expression, "No pain, no gain." This seems to apply to our inner growth as well.

That said, it's time to get up off the couch and strengthen my outer body. To be strong on the inside and out may be asking too much. But my flabby arms tell me to give it my all. And the best part is that I can take my Trainer with me as I walk...and stretch...and lift weights...and pedal. Suddenly the summer heat doesn't seem so bad on this January day. In fact, it's a perfect day for a brisk walk.

"There's no easy way out. If there were, I would have bought it. And believe me, it would be one of my favorite things!" 
~Oprah Winfrey

"Just do it!"  ~Nike
         

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

A "GOOD" YEAR

"So let's not allow ourselves to get fatigued doing good. At the right time we will harvest a good crop if we don't give up, or quit."
~ Galatians 6:9 The Message

Yesterday my husband and I tried a different approach to New Year's resolutions. Instead of creating our own, both of us wrote out a list for each other. Our goal was to come up with resolutions that are good for the body ~ good for the soul ~ good for the mind ~ good for the heart ~ good for relationships ~ good for the home.

I was shocked (and a little concerned!) when my husband delved into the task without thought or hesitation. Clearly, he already had a list in mind...things he wanted to see changed in his bride of over twenty-five years. I jumped in with both feet as well, eager to keep up with my husband's frantic pace of writing. I put my curiosity over his growing list aside, and wrote down the first thing that popped into my mind in each of our "good for..." categories.

In only a few short minutes we both sat with our completed lists, ready to share them. My husband asked me to read my list for him first. As I read each resolution, he listened and nodded thoughtfully at my choices. Then he read the list he'd written for me.

We were a bit dumbstruck at the similarity of the two lists. We brought our pages together to create one list of resolutions for both of us to aim for during the coming year. This year, we will strive to ~
~take a day of rest each week
~open our Bibles daily
~begin each day with the prayer, "Lord help me to see everyone through your eyes."
~find a new hobby or revisit an old one
~try to do things differently, and out of the norm
~enjoy the moment...laugh more
~walk together four times a week
~go through our possessions and organize or eliminate
~be more prudent with our resources.

Is our list doable? Time will tell. I am sure we will fall short in some (or all) of these areas. But that's okay. The point is to get us thinking, and to challenge ourselves and each other. If we go through life content with "status quo", how will we learn...and grow...and realize our dreams in life? We won't. Regardless of our level of success or failure as time moves on, I believe it is going to be a GOOD year...a very GOOD year!

"A happy New Year! Grant that I
May bring no tear to any eye
When this New Year in time shall end
Let it be said I've played the friend,
Have lived and loved and labored here,
And made of it a happy year."
~Edgar Guest

     

       

MY MOM

"Pay close attention, friend, to what your father tells you; never forget what you learned at your mother's knee. Wear their counsel like flowers in your hair, like rings on your fingers."
~Proverbs 1:8,9 The Message

Today is my mom's eighty-eighth birthday. I don't think she will mind me sharing her age...perhaps because she wears it so well! For as long as I can remember, my mom has been one of those people who naturally looks and acts much younger than her actual age.

After being widowed for twenty years, my mom got remarried. She was eighty years old when she became a bride for the second time. It has been fun for me to watch her building a new life with her husband Tom. They share the same passions for travelling, horse races, and fine dining. My stepdad has taken over as head chef in their household, and he greets my mom each morning with fresh squeezed orange juice and some tasty morsels he's cooked up.

Their lives together are a gift. They are blessed with a second chance to love deeply and enjoy life together. I am blessed to watch them. As my parenting days come to a close, my mom's life inspires me to look to the future with renewed hope and joyful anticipation for all it will hold.

I am thankful that I can enter this new chapter in my life story with my husband and close companion. It makes me admire and respect my mom all the more for her own life, so well-lived, even when she walked it alone.

Happy Birthday, Mom. You have been so much more than a mother to me. You've been my mentor, my role model, my cheerleader, my teacher, my counselor, my friend. My life is so much richer because of you.

"Mother, the ribbons of your love are woven around my heart."
~Author Unknown      

Sunday, January 1, 2012

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

"Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past."  ~Isaiah 43:18

Today we welcome in a new year, putting the old one to rest. Today is the day many of us create our list of resolutions for the coming twelve months. Some scoff at the idea. Others feel a weight of discouragement over the previous year's broken resolutions.

I personally love New Year's Day. In fact, it might be my favorite day of the year. This is the day that I purposefully put to rest the things from the past year that have weighed heavily on me ~ bad decisions, personal failures, and lost opportunities. I make this day my "clean slate day". Why I do this only once a year is beyond me. But it certainly makes this day on the calendar all the more sacred and appreciated.

With the past year's failures packed away, I am freed up to ponder my hopes and aspirations for this new and exciting year. The next twelve months hold so much possibility! As I let my imagination take flight, I see gifts surrounding me and my loved ones, sent straight from the throne of God, just waiting to be opened and discovered. Some will be more welcomed than others. Some will contain life lessons cloaked in less attractive wrappings. Others will take our breath away. It's our choice whether we embrace and savor each gift or casually brush it aside.

For me, this is the time to ask myself how I'd like to grow as a person. What old patterns would I like to overcome? What characteristics would I like to develop and strengthen? I usually have at least one thing I want to focus on in the different corners of my life ~ a physical challenge like daily walks...a mental exercise such as writing...a relational goal like spending more quality time with a friend or family member...and a spiritual resolution that may involve service or more disciplined study.

This year, my husband and I have discussed the idea of writing a short list of resolutions for each other. I love this idea!! I cannot wait to see what the person who knows me best dreams and aspires for me in the coming months.

Here's to a healthy, adventurous, peaceful, purposeful, blessed new year for each and every one of us!

"The Old Year has gone. Let the dead past bury its own dead. The New Year has taken possession of the clock of time. All hail the duties and possibilities of the coming twelve months!"
~Edward Payson Powell

"We spend January 1 walking through our lives, room by room, drawing up a list of work to be done, cracks to be patched. Maybe this year, to balance the list, we ought to walk through the rooms of our lives...not looking for flaws, but for potential."
~Ellen Goodman