Thursday, May 31, 2012

ADVERBS AND PROVERBS ~ RESPECTFULLY

"Where there is anger, there is always pain underneath."
~Eckhart Tolle

ANGRY ~ that is how I am feeling this morning. I remember learning about this powerful emotion as a psychology major in college. One professor in particular delved into the topic regularly in his counselling courses. His message, engrained into my memory, was that anger is a secondary emotion. In order to address the anger, you've got to dig much deeper to the initial emotion ~ hurt, loss, refection, fear, and so on.

I must follow this sage advice today if I want to find a healthy approach to what can otherwise turn toxic. Why am I angry? What feeling came before the anger? What are the circumstances, and is my reaction appropriate to the situation?

I think we are given an unhealthy message if we are told to not be angry. Anger is a God-given emotion. I have read through my Bible many times, and I know based on what I read, that God got angry. Jesus got angry. And we are wired to be angered, too.

So the question is, why am I angry, and what am I going to do about it? Ephesians 4:26 says, "Go ahead and be angry. You do well to be angry ~ but don't use your anger as fuel for revenge. And don't stay angry. Don't go to bed angry." (The Message) This tells me we aren't supposed to suppress it. But we aren't supposed to nurse it either. I think we are wise to own the anger, then find a healthy way to address it once we realize its origin.

This is hard for me. I am a suppressor. My nature is to stuff negative emotions and avoid conflict. I'd much rather be the peacemaker. But here I sit, unable to move past the raw emotions. I don't want to go into detail about what got me so mad. This isn't about airing dirty laundry.

Here's my lesson for today ~ and by "my lesson", it's what I need to learn here. If you can glean something too, that's all the better. I know why I am mad. I feel hurt and overlooked by the person who means the most to me. And ironically, it'a all over a fence! A literal fence is putting up fences between my hubby and me.

Once again I see that it all comes down to choices. I have made my feelings of anger clear, but through my tone and my cold attitude. It's time to own up to my side of the conflict and respond in a healthier way. It begins with communicating clearly how I feel and why. Then let it go. And move on.

This is so hard! Even harder when I open up to others about it. But it's okay. Because I want to live my life respectfully...of others, and of myself.

"Anger is just anger. It isn't good. It isn't bad. It just is. What you do with it is what matters. It's like anything else. You can use it to build or to destroy. You just have to make the choice."
~Jim Butcher

"Do not teach your children never to be angry; teach them how to be angry."
~Lyman Abbott

"Never go to bed mad. Stay up and fight."
~Phyllis Diller

"Don't be quick to fly off the handle. Anger boomerangs. You can spot a fool by the lumps on his head."
~Ecclesiastes 7:9 (The Message)

"A gentle response defuses anger, but a sharp tongue kindles a temper-fire."
~Proverbs 15:1 (The Message)
   

 

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

ADVERBS AND PROVERBS ~ CONTENTEDLY

"Contentment is not the fulfillment of what you want, but the realization of how much you already have."
~Author Unknown

Our back yard is in grave disarray as I write this. The unattractive items that usually line parts of our fence under the coverage of trees and hedges are piled high in the center. Our property sustained significant damage during the hurricane level winds last December. Finally, we are at the point where we can replace the old, dilapidated fence. But in the process, chaos...disorder...and unsightliness reigns.

For years, I have longed for a beautifully manicured yard, free from the piles of equipment that my husband uses for work. Yes, there is an element of beauty to the things that help provide steady income for our family. But most days my scope of vision sees them as eye-sores, stealing my ability to have what I want ~ a pretty, peaceful piece of heaven in my back yard.

My husband and I realize we are approaching and perceiving the subject from completely different angles. He spends most of his waking hours in perfectly manicured gardens. Everything needs to be pristine and tidy. Aesthetics is priority. Coming home to a less than perfect yard is like a breath of fresh air...his own little piece of heaven.

But I look outside and crave order...and beauty...and a yard that doesn't cry out for an extreme makeover. I want a place of serenity where I can sit and listen to the birds chirping while I write. We are two people with two conflicting needs, and the same small space in which to meet them.

There isn't a whole lot I can do to change the fact that our back yard isn't what I want it to be. But I can change one thing ~ my perspective. I can look at the area with eyes of gratitude and appreciate the fact that we have a lovely and comfortable home in a nice neighborhood. I can gaze upon (or ignore!) the equipment scattered throughout and see it as a blessing and a reminder that my husband is a successful businessman with an abundance of work. I can be happy for him and the relief he feels when he arrives home, knowing he doesn't have to maintain the same high standards of perfection he deals with each day at work.

Yes, I have choices. And today, in spite of the disorder and upheaval in our back yard, I choose to live contentedly.

"My crown is called content, a crown that seldom kings enjoy."
~William Shakespeare

"The best vitamin to be a content person is B1."
~Author Unknown

"Contentment is a pearl of great price, and whoever procures it at the expense of ten thousand desires makes a wise and a happy purchase."
~ John Balguy

"Godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that."
~ 1 Timothy 6:6,7

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

ADVERBS AND PROVERBS ~ REVERENTLY

"The depths of our spirituality does not depend upon changing the things we do, but in doing for God what we ordinarily do for ourselves."
~Brother Lawrence

"My cup is empty, my mind is blank, and I feel like a dried up sponge without an ounce left to squeeze out of me." That is how I felt the past few days. Empty. Nothing left to give. Washed up.

I sat each morning with my journal nestled on my lap, my favorite pen in hand ~ and NOTHING to show for it. Words that usually flow out of me with such ease were being blocked, held hostage. Worse yet was the thought that they were gone, lost in what felt like the blink of an eye.

What will I do if I can't write? My anxiety over this thought only worsened the situation. As hours stretched into days of dryness, I began to realize how much of my identity is wrapped up in writing. Dozens of journals and several boxes filled with things I have written line my attic walls. They date back to my early teens, and are a testimony of the fact that writing is more than a hobby to me. It's a lifeline...a passion...a deep need in me. Writing devotionals for my little world of readers is my ministry. Writing fiction is the artist in me expressing herself. If I can't write, what will I do? This thought was sobering...and unnerving.

Today I sit with my favorite items surrounding me ~ my Bible, frayed but still readable...my journals, representing my heart...my IPad (a handy tool for finding quotes)...and the treasured pen my son and daughter-in-law gave to me. Once again, the words are flowing ~ out of my spirit and onto the pages.

The past few days taught me a lot. I need to write! It's a huge part of who I am, and who I was created to be. I am reminded that the words appearing on paper aren't necessarily my own. I have a Source that inspires me to write what is on my heart and mind. And the dry seasons ~ they have a purpose, too. They bring clarity, appreciation, and renewed determination to press on.

Whether it's penning words in my journal, caring for our home, or spending time with loved ones, I want to live my life reverently. Will you join me as I explore this sacred approach to living?

"To be wise you must first have reverence for the Lord. If you know the Holy One, you have understanding."
~Proverbs 9:10

"We seldom realize fully that we are sent to fulfill God-given tasks. We act as if we were simply dropped down in creation and have to decide to entertain ourselves until we die. But we were sent into the world by God...Once we start living our lives with that conviction, we will soon know what we were sent to do."
~Henri J. M. Nouwen    

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

ADVERBS AND PROVERBS ~ PRAYERFULLY

"There is not in the world a kind of life more sweet and delightful than that of a continual conversation with God."
~Brother Lawrence

I went on a walk by myself last night. I rarely walk alone after dark. Not that we live in an unsafe neighborhood. I've just trained myself to err on the side of caution. But last night the warm, balmy air was calling to me. I wanted to venture out alone. I threw caution to the wind and stepped out into the quiet evening, grateful for the solitude. How refreshing it was to breathe in the tranquility as I exhaled the day's accumulated stresses.

It only took a minute for me to grab hold of the fact that I wasn't really alone. My constant companion was right there beside me, keeping step...going before me...covering my back. Any hesitations I had about my evening stroll vanished with that thought. And the floodgates of communication between my God and me burst wide open. True, I did much of the talking, which is typical of my prayer time. But last night, I paused to listen ~ just listen. And what I heard in my spirit was more beautiful than any symphony. It was God's spirit speaking to my spirit in ways that are beyond description.

There is nothing more powerful or rich than a new glimpse into God Himself. Couple that with a personal side note directed solely to you, and you realize ~ you are stepping on holy ground. I don't need to share the details of my message that I heard from the throne of heaven. What's important here is that He speaks. He longs to reveal more of Himself to us, and to share nuggets of gold from His heart to ours. Are we listening? Are we willing to pause and drown out the noise of this world so we can tune into His presence...and His voice? Will we set aside our list of demands and concerns long enough to actually hear a word or two in our conversation with our Father? Sometimes I picture Him shaking His head and thinking, "If only you'd be quiet for a moment so I could get a word in edgewise. You could hear the marvelous things I want to say to you!"

I think we can sabotage our own personal growth by telling Him everything on our hearts and minds that He already knows in detail and foregoing the silent listening. In doing all the talking, we cheat ourselves out of rich and life-changing treasures.

I get it. Last night's walk taught me more than the sweet message I heard God speak to me. It taught me to quiet myself and give a listening ear to the God of the Universe. Approach Him in awe and wonder, with an open mind and heart. Then prepare to have Him bless the socks off of me.

Prayer ~ the art of listening. Who knew? I want to live my life prayerfully.

"To have God speak to the heart is a majestic experience, an experience that people may miss if they monopolize the conversation and never pause to hear God's responses."
~Charles Stanley

"To pray is to listen to the One who calls you 'my beloved daughter,' 'my beloved son,' and 'my beloved child'. To pray is to let that voice speak to the center of your being, to your guts, and let that voice resound in your whole being."
~Henri Nouwen

"The lover of silence draws close to God. He talks to Him in secret and God enlightens him."
~John Climacus

"Prayer is not monologue, but dialogue; God's voice is its most essential part. Listening to God's voice is the secret of the assurance that He will listen to mine."
~Andrew Murray

"Prayer is not a discourse. It is a form of life, the life with God. That is why it is not confined to the moment of verbal statement."
~Jaques Ellul
      

 

Monday, May 21, 2012

ADVERBS AND PROVERBS ~ WISELY

"Never mistake knowledge for wisdom. One helps you make a living; the other helps you make a life."
~Sandra Carey

When my daughter was two years old, she developed a curiosity for streets. I couldn't adequately explain to her that roaming into a street was not an option. It wasn't because she lacked outdoor time. We spent hours each day outside ~ in our garden, at one of the local parks, and on walks. The intrique of the unknowns in that forbidden territory created numerous conflicts between us. When I told her firmly, "Don't run into the street," she saw the whole scenario through the eyes of a toddler.

But as her mom, I knew that in order to maintain life (hers!), there had to be certain limitations. I could see the dangers and possible outcome when all she saw was a street just waiting to be explored. I had to persist with my "Don't"s until she came to the realization that I wasn't going to back down. Only then did she begin to listen to me.

Are we any different? Our Father sees the possible fall-outs of choices we are making. He knows the outcomes if we continue to do certain things. So he offers a road map ~ a guide book ~ to help us avoid tempting but perilous roads. He warns us of activities we shouldn't engage in, because he sees that they will pull us off the path to the abundant life he longs to give us.

The Book of Proverbs is laden with messages from a loving Father to his children about living wisely. Among the "Do"s are many "Don't"s. We need to embrace the whole package if we want wisdom. The "Don't"s aren't there to steal our joy. They are there to protect us and keep us moving in the right direction. It may seem like a hefty price to pay to acquire wisdom. But the longer I live, the more I come to realize that the cost is so much higher when we turn a deaf ear and live to please ourselves.

If I want to live wisely, I need to stay in step with my Father  ~ much like I told my daughter when she was anywhere near a street! I also need to listen, pay close attention, and heed the instructions. If I am not listening, how will I know what my Father is telling me to do (or not do)? I won't. I've got to do my part and wholeheartedly pursue this treasure called wisdom. Chapter Four of Proverbs is such a powerful illustration of this. And the benefits it refers to ~ protection, honor, a crown of splendor, longer life, a steady path, better health, knowledge, and direction ~ are just a handful. Wisdom leads to LIFE in its deepest, richest form. I want that. "Though it cost you everything...", I long for it. Because in the end, the rewards I will reap far outweigh any cost to me now.

A proverb a day ~ a cry out for wisdom ~ my eye on the prize. I want to live wisely!

"A wise old owl sat on an oak
The more he saw the less he spoke
The less he spoke the more he heard
Why aren't we like that wise bird?
 ~Author Unknown

"Let your eyes look straight ahead;
fix your gaze directly before you.
Give careful thought to the paths for your feet
and be steadfast in all your ways."
Proverbs 4:25, 26
      

Sunday, May 20, 2012

ADVERBS AND PROVERBS ~ SELFLESSLY

"Nobody knows you as well as your spouse. And that means no one will be quicker to recognize a change when you deliberately start sacrificing your wants and wishes to make sure his or her needs are met."
~Stephen Kendrick

There are many moments in my life I am not proud of; all seem to have a common thread. That thread is SELF ~ self-absorption....self-centeredness...self-serving...selfishness. It's an ugly thread, trying to mask itself as self-nurturing. But the former produces discontent and alienates people; the latter is a healthy decision to take care of yourself.

Whether we are aware of it or not, we choose the threads we use to weave the canvases of our lives. True, circumstances...people...emotions...and a myriad of factors contribute to the choices we make. But at the end of the day, the healthiest thing we can do is to take ownership of these choices, and strive to reach for some better threads in the future.

My husband and I went on vacation recently. We spent a week in one of our favorite spots ~ a rustic, off-the-beaten-path avocado ranch that belongs to my husband's best friend. It's a sanctuary ~ a place of peace and quiet and beauty where we go to unwind, relax, and just be together.

But our week away didn't begin so idyllically. We arrived mid-afternoon on a Monday and were greeted by our friend, who was on the ranch tending to his avocado trees. My husband was overjoyed to see him, and asked if he could tag along in the orchard and lend a hand. I thought ~ great! This will give me an hour to unpack and get us settled. I sent him off with a kiss and "have fun".

But five o'clock rolled around...almost two hours since he'd taken off. Then six o'clock, and six-thirty. My growling stomach seemed to echo in the silence of the empty house. I wasn't worried. I was annoyed. And feeling neglected. By the time he walked through the door beaming ear to ear from his afternoon with his friend, I was mad...really mad. My expression must have clued him in. "What's wrong?"

"Where have you been? I've been sitting here waiting for you and I'm starving. I can't believe you were gone that long and just left me here."

The smile on his face disappeared, replaced with a defeated expression and slumped shoulders. I had sucked all the joy right out of him. True...he'd been gone a long time and I was very hungry. But right then, I realized how selfish I was acting.

We went to get some dinner, but the evening had a solemn tone. My outburst had left a cloud of mixed emotions hanging over both of us. To make matters worse, I was too proud to apologize and admit I'd blown it.

Why am I sharing something about myself that I am ashamed of? Because I want to tackle this selfish  monster that can lurk within me. And I am thinking that there may be someone out there who feels the same way, too. I have learned that if I keep it hidden inside of me, I will remain under its influence. So I bring it into the light, because frankly, that's not who I want to be.

I want to live my life more selfLESSly. This doesn't mean self-neglect...just the opposite. I think it means nurturing and caring for myself enough that I don't have to give in to the selfish behavior. If I'm taking responsibility for my own self in healthy ways, the uglier side of self can be put to rest. The outcome will be that I'll be freed up to nurture, care for, and uplift others...even put them before my own wants.

I wish I could re-do that week away. What I can do is hold on to the lesson learned. And hopefully next time, I will be the one to put a smile on my husband's face instead of being the one that wipes it away.

"Giving yourself some loving attention is not selfish. It is sensible. If you feel loved and cherished ~ even if it is only by yourself ~ then you will have more love to give to others, too."
~Penelope Quest

"Where there is selfishness it mars joy. One selfish soul will destroy the sweetness of life in any home."
~J.R. Miller

"Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves."
~Romans 12:10

 
           

Saturday, May 19, 2012

ADVERBS AND PROVERBS ~ PASSIONATELY

Today we had the pleasure of watching our future son-in-law graduate. He finished well, graduating with honors. Before we know it, we will be seated in a church watching our daughter and her fiance begin their married life together ~ two simple words, I DO, will usher them into the start of their own family.

There's so much I want to say to them. DREAM BIG, and don't ever give up on your dreams. FOLLOW YOUR PASSION ~ it's part of who you are. Treasure each stage of life. They rush by so quickly. Make each other your priority. A happy marriage and a happy home are worth far more than anything you can acquire or achieve. Be kind to each other. Say I'm sorry, and forgive freely. Enjoy each other. Have fun! Work through your conflicts. Don't stay angry. Picture the kind of life you want to have together, then give it all you've got.

I can see that you already have a firm grasp on the practical side of day-to-day living ~ handling money, making decisions, working toward a common goal. I am so proud of the wisdom both of you possess at such a young age.

My prayer is that you will live your lives passionately ~ from careers, to childrearing, to creating a home. It can be drudgery or it can be an adventure. Most days will be a little of both. But I pray that each day you will see the good in all of it, and will one day look back and say, it's been a life well-lived.

I know there are a lot of "unknowns" ahead. But these "unknowns" are really "possibilities". From where I stand, your future together is incredibly bright. As you move forward, know that you always have our blessings, our prayers, our support, and our love.

DREAM BIG ~ LIVE PASSIONATELY ~ LOVE EACH OTHER EXTRAVAGANTLY ~ and ENJOY THE RIDE!

"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the tradewinds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover."
~Mark Twain
       

Friday, May 18, 2012

ADVERBS AND PROVERBS ~ DILIGENTLY

"Consider the postage stamp; its usefulness consists in the ability to stick to one thing until it gets there."
~Josh Billings

A few years ago, my father-in-law handcrafted a sign for our garden that read "GARDEN OF WEEDIN". It stated the obvious, but it was a fun artifact in our yard that sparked numerous conversations with neighbors and visitors.

These past couple of weeks we've been at it again ~ tackling those pesky weeds that seem to pop up overnight. My husband says our property is a weed magnet. I agree. Without a gardener to tend to these unwelcome intruders, we periodically set aside time to power-weed our garden. Each time we find ourselves pulling up these green monsters, I chide myself for not being more diligent. Why do I let it get to the point where I find myself knee-deep (okay ~ not literally, but close!) in weeds? Wouldn't weekly maintenance and care on my part be the better way?

But diligence doesn't come easily for someone like me who struggles with a bit of ADD. My mind tends to wander in a thousand different directions throughout the day if I don't reign it in. The weeds are only one of many things that go unaddressed until it gets to the point where I can't take it anymore. I have to tune out the rest of the world and throw myself into the task at hand.

My frustration with focus and attention is one of my biggest stumbling blocks. I long to be able to go about my days more diligently. Whether it's scrubbing the bathtub, working on my novel, or planning a party, I want to know the peace and satisfaction that comes with tending to my daily round diligently.

Perhaps carving out a simpler life will help me with today's aspiration...living diligently. Simplify ~ create order out of chaos ~ scale down ~ all are stepping stones to a more diligent lifestyle.

"Patience and diligence, like faith, remove mountains."
~William Penn

"When you discipline yourself to do what is hard, you gain access to a realm of results that are denied everyone else. The willingness to do what is difficult is like having a key to a special private treasure room."
~Steve Pavlina

"If you want to get somewhere you have to know where you want to go and how to get there. Then never, never, never give up."
~Norman Vincent Peale

"She's skilled in the crafts of home and hearth, diligent in homemaking."
~Proverbs 31, The Message

"The greatest oak was once a little nut who held its ground."
~Author Unknown        

Thursday, May 17, 2012

ADVERBS AND PROVERBS ~ FREELY

She was in prison. She sat alone in her small cell, day after day. Her only companions were her thoughts, her regrets, and her fears. Her head hung low with shame. She figured she deserved to be there, and she assumed her sentence was permanent.

One day, she heard a voice whisper her name. Curious, she looked up. The door to her cell was wide open. Next to it stood a man dressed in white. He spoke her name again.

"Who are you? How long have you been standing there?" she asked, not quite sure if she believed what she was seeing.

I'm your Liberator. I've been here since the day you arrived. I've been speaking your name, but this is the first time you listened." He smiled at the woman, and gestured for her to join him outside the cell.

"You've been here all along? I'm confused. Why didn't I see you until now? How is it that I didn't hear you? Are you telling me I get to leave?" As she spoke, she thought perhaps he was a figment of her imagination. Maybe she was going crazy.

"You didn't look up, so you couldn't see me. And you were too preoccupied with your thoughts in your head to hear me. But I've been waiting...waiting to set you free." He held out his hand.

She stood up and walked slowly toward him, weak from her confinement. "Why didn't you come in and get me? I've been sitting here a long time."

"You weren't ready, or you would have looked up and seen me. If I came in and got you, you would have ended up back in this cell. Today you are ready to be free...really free."

She took the hand he offered her, and together they walked out of the dark and confining space. The sunlight was bright, but felt so soothing and healing on her tired, weary spirit. "Thank you!" It seemed inadequate, but she had no other way to show her gratitude.

He smiled at her. The look on his face spoke volumes ~ he was just as excited as she that this day had finally arrived. He had longed to liberate her since the moment she was imprisoned. And now she was free ~ truly free.

Yes, this is a story. But it's also true. Many of us remain imprisoned by regrets, self-doubt, worry, loneliness, anxiety, discouragement. The list of things that can paralyze us is endless.

But there's a Liberator. He's standing at the door...whispering our names, waiting patiently until we are ready to look up and respond to his voice. The door to our freedom is wide open. All we have to do is walk through it.

Freely ~ this is how I choose to live my life. How about you? There's a beautiful world out there, just waiting for you. Take his hand, and step into freedom.

"When the Son sets you free, you are free indeed."
~John 8:36

"Wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom."
~2 Corinthians 3:17

"If you want to be free, just start doing what God wants you to do, one step at a time, and you'll eventually walk out of your messes."
Joyce Meyer

"Today expect something good to happen to you no matter what occurred yesterday. Realize the past no longer holds you captive. It can only continue to hurt you if you hold on to it. Let the past go. A simply abundant world awaits you."
~Sarah Breathnach
     

ADVERBS AND PROVERBS ~ ORDERLY

"Order is the shape upon which beauty depends."
~Pearl S. Buck

I had a dream that I was on a journey, travelling to some unknown land. While I was thrilled to be visiting new places, I was equally frustrated by all of my luggage. I had brought so many things with me, much of which I knew I wouldn't need or use. But there it was, my constant companion ~ slowing me down, demanding my attention, causing me grief. I remember at one point, looking at all of the stuff piled next to me in utter frustration. I wondered anxiously how I'd ever get it checked into Baggage, and how I'd deal with it upon arrival. I was too exhausted and drained by my possessions to enjoy my getaway.

When I woke up, I was relieved to be occupying my own bed, with no luggage to wrestle onto a plane. But as I got up and went about my morning, the dream followed me. Everywhere I looked, I saw items that I didn't need, things that required my time and attention, but gave little back in return. Sure, some were nice to look at, and others had served a purpose at one point. But now, they were a haunting reminder of all the unnecessary luggage I'd been carting around in my dream.

I'm not one to look to dreams for insights or revelations, but I'd be amiss if I didn't see the clear message here. It's time to clean house, time to scale back and bring order to my surroundings and my life.

Where and how do I begin to clear out all the unnecessary? A room? A closet? A cupboard? A drawer? Frankly, I just want it gone. If only I could wiggle my nose like Samantha on Bewitched and voila ~ it would disappear. Instead, I have to find a way to joyously jump into the task of sorting and giving away, with my eye on the prize ~ an orderly life that's freed up to spend in new, more exciting ways. Does it really matter where I start? I don't think so. It only matters that I begin the process and then persist on my path to an orderly home ~ and orderly life.

"Order is the sanity of the mind, the health of the body, the peace of the city, the security of the state. Like beams in a house or bones to a body, so is order to all things."
~Robert Southey

"What a gift of grace to be able to take the chaos from within and from it create some semblance of order."
~Katherine Paterson

"Order is a lovely thing; on disarray it lays its wings, teaching simplicity to sing."
~Anna Branch

"For He is not a God of confusion and disorder but of peace and order."
~1 Corinthians 14:33

     

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

ADVERBS AND PROVERBS ~ KINDLY

"Treat everyone with politeness, even those who are rude to you ~ not because they are nice, but because you are."
~Author Unknown

Until last night, I was a bit blind to how lacking I am in this subject. I enjoy doing random acts of kindness. And I try to live by the golden rule. But last night it really sunk in how unkind I can be, especially in my speech.

My husband was sharing about an experience he'd had at work with a customer. He was explaining in detail to my daughter and me how the enounter had played out. To refresh my memory about similar conversations he'd had with this person, he retold events I could clearly remember. I rather impatiently rolled my eyes as if to say, "Come on, come on...get to the point."

"Geez Mom. That was rude!" I was busted. I didn't intend to be rude...or unkind...or impatient. But that's exactly how I was behaving. When my husband looked at our daughter with a big THANK YOU written all over his face, the truth sank in to my head, then down to my heart. I was acting unkindly, and I got called on it. It didn't feel good at the time, but I am so glad she opened my eyes up to how I was coming across.

I've been thinking about it all morning. The bottom line is this ~ I want to go about my days living kindly...especially with the people who mean the most to me. Why is it that the people we love the dearest often get the worst from us??

I don't think I will have a magical tranformation overnight. But I can say that my perspective and attitude about acting kindly has evolved overnight...thanks to my daughter who loves me enough to call me on it when she sees something in me she knows I don't like.

Today, I am going to pay close attention to what I say and the tone in which I say it. I'm going to try to be aware of the expressions on my face and the body language I am using. And maybe, just maybe, today I will live my day a little more kindly.

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

"Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see."
~Mark Twain

"Wherever there is a human being, there is an opportunity for a kindness."
~Seneca

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

"How beautiful a day can be when kindness touches it!"
~George Elliston

"It's nice to be important, but it's more important to be nice."
~Author Unknown

"Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience."
~Colossians 3:12

"Worry can rob you of happiness, but kind words will cheer you up."
~Proverbs 12:25

"When she speaks she has something worthwhile to say, and she always says it kindly."
Proverbs 31:26, The Message
       

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

ADVERBS AND PROVERBS ~ EXPECTANTLY

"Do not earnestly remember the former things; neither consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs forth; do you not perceive and know it, and will you not give heed to it? I will even make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert."
~Isaiah 43:18,19

Life feels like a flurry of changes right now. Some I am smack in the middle of; others I can see looming over the horizon. CHANGE ~ I usually love that word. I thrive on changing little bits and pieces of my life...rearranging a room, tackling a project that is way out of my comfort zone, even moving to a new home excites me. Then there's the inward change. I am always humbled and so grateful when I reflect back and see how I have changed, hopefully for the better. I know I cannot take credit. I am only a willing participant in the hands of the One who can change anything ~ even me.

The downside to change is that it's often accompanied with painful goodbyes. This is the type of change I can find myself dreading. And this is the change that awaits me.

I love it when I am given a passage of Scripture more than once in the course of a day. It's like a treasured gift that I hold close to my heart, certain it was written with me in mind. When I fell upon the words from Isaiah 43 the other day, they jumped off the page and into my soul. Since then, I have stumbled on them two more times. I get it...I am listening.

This season feels like a walk in the unknown wilderness. I feel as if I am beginning a long hike through a dry and scorching desert wasteland. I find myself mourning what used to be. I shake my head in wonder at how fast it went by ~ those sweet memories of carpools, and park days, and bedtime stories make me yearn to turn back the clock.

In the midst of my sadness and uncertainty, God whispers, "It's okay." He tells me to stop dwelling on what used to be; stop living in the past. He's creating a new chapter in my life. He is nudging me to open my eyes and look around. It's right in front of me.  And those places that feel so barren are just temporary. He has already gone ahead of me, paving the way through the rugged wilderness and the stretches of desert that lay before me.

My husband often warns me about self-fulfilling prophecy. He says I bring to life my own worst fears when I expect bad things to happen. I agree. From here on, I want to live expectantly ~ believing that our future is bright and expecting wonderful things to unfold. This trek in the wilderness, this parched desert season won't last forever. God is doing a new thing! Therein lies my comfort...and my peace.

"There is abundant reason to believe that optimism ~ big, little, and in between ~ is useful to a person because positive expectations can be self-fulfilling."
~Christopher Peterson

"Excellence is the Result of Caring more than others think is Wise, Risking more than others think is Safe, Dreaming more than others think is Practical, and Expecting more than others think is Possible."
~Ronnie Oldham            

Monday, May 14, 2012

ADVERBS AND PROVERBS ~ CREATIVELY

"The creative is the place where no one else has ever been. You have to leave the city of your comfort and go into the wilderness of your intuition. What you'll discover will be wonderful. What you'll discover is yourself."
~Alan Alda

Before there was Martha Stewart, there was my mom. When it came to creative homemaking, there wasn't anything my mother couldn't accomplish. No job seemed too daunting. Our home was a reflection of her passion and talent for bringing beauty to the ordinary. She wore her measuring tape around her neck like a scarf, always handy for whatever projects the day held. If it wasn't furniture, it was new curtains...or a quilt for one of the beds...or a hand-stitched item to hang on the wall. But it didn't stop there. She spent countless hours producing pieces of art to donate to church and school boutiques.

I inherited my love for change from my mom. When I felt the itch for something different, my mom would let me pick out new colors for my bedroom. Then she'd paint the walls and complete the look with her flair for fabrics. If I wanted a dress for a special occasion, she'd ask me to describe what I had in mind. With her handy tape measure, she'd size me up. Days later, my new dress would be hanging in my room, a perfect fit and exact replica of my description.

Our garden showed evidence of her loving touch as well. There always seemed to be something in bloom for her to pick to grace our dining table. Presentation was a priority at mealtime. She loved to cook, and every night our table looked as if company was coming.

Despite her love for artful homemaking, my mother hated to clean. I suppose that's why I have so many memories of weekends spent cleaning our house. It also explains how I learned to love the instant gratification that comes from cleaning anything.

But how I long to be more like my mom and tap into the creative side of me that gets neglected. Especially now, in this transitional season of life, I want to explore and throw myself into creative endeavors.

Some say that life is an art. That thought inspires me. I long to excavate the creative girl in me (I know she is in there somewhere!). From cooking to gardening to decorating (and yes, writing), I want to stretch myself. I want to develop new skills and interests, and live my life creatively ~ like my mom.

"Creativity is inventing, experimenting, growing, taking risks, breaking rules, making mistakes, and having fun."
~Mary Lou Cook

"The ordinary arts we practice every day at home are of more importance to the soul than their simplicity might suggest."
~Thomas Moore

"Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that. Don't be impressed with yourself. Don't compare yourself with others. Each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you can with your own life."
~Galatians 6:4,5 The Message

"Creativity is...seeing something that doesn't exist already. You need to find out how you can bring it into being and that way be a playmate with God."
~Michele Shea           

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

ADVERBS AND PROVERBS ~ JOYFULLY

"Joy springs from within. No one makes you joyous; you choose joyfulness."
~Author Unknown

Call it a good cry...an emotional explosion...a sob fest. Whatever you name it, I had a full-blown one recently. All of the built-up stresses, worries, and negative emotions I was harboring broke free. I cried harder than I have in years. I moaned and wailed. And there was nothing I could do to stop the outburst. I wondered what the neighbors must be thinking, for surely the volume at which I was crying had to penetrate the walls and enter into their realm of hearing. When I was done, a blanket of damp tissues surrounded my exhausted body. But I was free.

The day to day stuff of life can take its toll. If you are like me, you can keep it locked away for days...weeks...months...even years. But I certainly don't recommend that. Stuffing the toxic emotions can zap our ability to experience joy. And who doesn't want a more joyful life?

From now on, I'm giving myself permission to have a regular weep session. As much as I hate the swollen eyes and congested head that follows, I want to start seeing this as a healthy release and detox myself of the junk that's built up inside me. For me, this also means a complete surrender to the One who longs to carry my every burden.

The thief comes to steal, kill, and destroy ~ and guess what he's after ~ our joy! I don't want to be robbed of that pleasure anymore. I want to live my life joyfully ~ moment by moment, day by day.

Let's take a stand against this thief. Yes, life is going to have its rough spots. Some will be downright painful. That's okay. It's a part of life. But when they hit, we can take the path to freedom. We can let it all out...surrender it to God...and move on to all the good that awaits us. Just knowing this gives me reason to jump for joy.

"Joy is not the absence of suffering. It is the presence of God."
~Robert Schuller

"You have to sniff out joy. Keep your nose to the joy trail."
~Buffy Sainte-Marie

"Joy is untouched by circumstances."
~Author Unknown

"Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning."
~Psalm 30:5

"In Your presence is fullness of joy."
~Psalm 16:11 

      

Friday, May 4, 2012

ADVERBS AND PROVERBS ~ GRACIOUSLY

"We labor to make a house a home, then every time we're expecting visitors, we rush to turn it back into a house."
~Robert Brault

For years, I have longed to possess the gift of hospitality. In my mind, I pictured visitors pulling up to our  home, greeted by an idyllic setting, and a cool and collected hostess who had created a beautiful meal. I could visualize the stunning curb appeal awaiting their arrival. Flowers blooming in the garden and our porch laden with plants and whimsical artifacts would scream a hearty welcome. Once inside, the aromas of a home cooked meal would waft throughout. Everything sparkling clean and in its place would help set the tone for a relaxing evening. Soft background music and moments of laughter between friends would fill our home. If the weather permitted, a fire would be crackling in the fireplace. If I was entertaining in summer, the windows would be open, welcoming in the evening breeze, the sweet scent of jasmine, and the last chirps of the birds before they settled in for the night. Our conversation would be sweet, edifying, and all would walk away from the night more content and at peace then when they'd arrived.

Is it any wonder I can get tied up in knots when company is coming? I have created a scenario in my mind that is simply unattainable ~ at least, for me. What's more, I realize my focus has been all wrong. If I am going to be real, I have to acknowledge the fact that I've been too self-absorbed in my attempts to be hospitable. So much of my time and energy goes into MY house, MY garden, MY meal. I lose sight of the most important aspect of hospitality ~ the guests! There have been days when I've run myself so ragged trying to live up to my image of a perfect evening, I have little to give of myself to the dear people who came for a visit.

I am not proud of this ~ in fact, I am embarrassed. But I want to change. And the first step is acknowleding what needs changing. I do this publicly in hopes that others will forgive my past blunders, and even coach me along as I learn what it means to live graciously in our home among friends and family.

I think it's okay...even good...to want my home to be clean and welcoming and to have a nice meal prepared. But it shouldn't be my primary focus. I want it to shift to the people who we are blessed to know and share our lives with. I think this is the heart of living graciously.

"The ornaments of your home will be the guests who frequent it."
~Author Unknown

"We dare not trust our wit for making our house pleasant to our friends, so we buy ice cream."
~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Thursday, May 3, 2012

ADVERBS AND PROVERBS ~ SIMPLY

"I believe we would be happier to have a personal revolution in our individual lives and go back to simpler living and more direct thinking. It is the simple things of life that make living worthwhile, the sweet fundamental things such as love and duty, work and rest and living close to nature."
~Laura Ingalls Wilder

Simplify ~ it's one of my themes for this year. I don't think I'm alone. Many of us are realizing we've allowed our lives to become far too complicated, cluttered, and overbooked. Simplify ~ that word flows through me like a breath of fresh air.

I long to get to the place where the things I possess, don't possess so much of me...where I'm freed up from many of the daily demands on my time and my wallet. Too much of what consumes my hours and my dollars doesn't mean all that much in the long run. So I press on in my goal ~ simplify.

One of my favorite vacations is camping. I know...some of you hear that word and immediately you cringe. You think about the dirt, the climate, the hard ground to sleep on, public restrooms, no showers, and a host of other unpleasantries. I get it. There's a lot about camping that can turn many people off.

I think it's the part of me longing for simpler living that finds so much to love about pitching a tent in the great outdoors. For me, camping is the epitome of living simply. When I am camping, the things of this world that place their demands on me fade to the back recesses of my mind. The beauty of my surroundings dulls the worries and cares of my daily existence. It's a time for quiet reflection and wholesome adventure. I find myself redefining what I want versus what I need. I am removed from the hustle and bustle, freed up to relax. My senses come alive. Everything tastes better. I can abandon my daily rituals of showers, clean clothes, and make-up. Comfort overrides style.

Unless I want to begin a nomadic life (and some days I do), I need to find ways to tap into these blessings in my own home. I shouldn't have to make a reservation at a National Park and load up my car with my camping gear in order to enjoy a simpler lifestyle.

Clearly, this won't happen overnight. But I am taking baby steps to get to where I want to be. How about you? A simpler life awaits us if we want it.

"To find the universal elements enough; to find the air and the water exhilarating; to be refreshed by a morning walk or an evening saunter...to be thrilled by the stars at night; to be elated over a bird's nest or a wildflower in spring ~ these are some of the rewards of a simple life."
~John Burroughs

"Beware the barrenness of a busy life."
~Socrates

"Better is little with the reverent, worshipful fear of the Lord than great and rich treasure and trouble with it."
~Proverbs 15:16          

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

ADVERBS AND PROVERBS ~APPRECIATIVELY

"We tend to forget that happiness doesn't come as a result of getting something we don't have, but rather of recognizing and appreciating what we do have."
~Frederick Keonig

I sat on the living room couch, sipping a cold drink and catching my breath after a morning of working in my garden. It had felt good to physically push myself under the soothing January sunshine. But my muscles were already voicing their complaints after their workout, and I questioned the wisdom in possibly overdoing it.

My dog's frantic barking and mad dash toward our front door interrupted those thoughts. Before my very eyes, I saw a potentially hazardous scenario playing out. Our mail guy was stepping onto our porch, and the front door was wide open. To make matters worse, our screen door was unlatched. I could only imagine the fate of our poor mail carrier if our dog came face to face with his nemesis.

I reacted quickly. I jumped off the couch and raced my dog to the door. Somehow, in the chaos of the moment, I managed to trip over our doxie and fly head first into our heavy wood door. (It's okay to giggle...the picture that comes to my mind makes me laugh, too.)

The concussion I sustained was life-altering. Simple tasks became major productions. My head hurt all the time. I became very sensitive to light and loud noises. As an elementary school teacher, this made some days almost unbearable.

I later learned I was fortunate to still have my eyesight intact. A visit to the eye doctor months later showed that I had bled behind my right eye around the optic nerve. My doctor didn't hide his surprise that my sight hadn't been compromised.

The headaches persisted for years. They would come out of nowhere. One minute, I'd be fine...the next, I 'd be overcome with a new wave of pain. What lesson could this experience possibly teach me? For a long time, I drew a blank. I had no neat and tidy answer. It was a freak accident. End of story.

Looking back, I see a nugget I missed before. That experience, as painful and drawn out as it was, taught me to appreciate every good day I am given. I still succumb to an occasional headache from the incident that happened over ten years ago. But, oh, how I appreciate the days when I am free from the gnawing pain.

I could have suffered partial loss of my eyesight. I didn't. How I appreciate the fact that I can see the world around me with both eyes.

The difficult and painful seasons can give us the gift of appreciation. But we have to be open to receiving it. As I journey along my path, I want to learn to appreciate each day, regardless of what the terrain looks like, or how difficult the day's hike might be. I want to appreciate the fact that I am here...that I am free to press on...that I'm given this moment in time to live, to breathe, and to take in the view...with both eyes.

How about you? How much do you appreciate each day? Don't wait for a knock on the head to begin appreciating how radically blessed you are. Even the bad days are overflowing with goodness.

"Never let a day pass without looking for the good, feeling the good within you, praising, appreciating, blessing and being grateful."
Author Unknown

"Once we discover how to appreciate the timeless values in our daily experiences, we can enjoy the best things in life."
~Harry Hepner

      

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

ADVERBS AND PROVERBS ~ BRAVELY

"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover."
~Mark Twain

When I was eighteen, I moved two hundred miles away from home to go to college. I didn't want to go. But my parents insisted. My mom and my sister helped me move my belongings and get settled in my apartment. A couple of days later, my dad and my brother joined us. My entire family was there to support me as I began my venture into the unknown.

I was on an emotional rollercoaster. Adding to the fear component was the fact that I didn't know a soul. All of the unknowns, coupled with the fact that two hundred miles would separate me from my source of security...my parents...made the thought of saying goodbye that much harder. I didn't want my family to leave me. I didn't want to stay.

We were browsing in the college bookstore when my family announced it was time to say goodbye. Perhaps they thought that being out and around other students would help soften the blow. I remember my brother hugging me goodbye, and how I clung to him and cried. This was a big deal for me ~ I NEVER cried in public. My tears were always shed in the privacy of my own room. But that day, they had a will of their own.

So began my journey with learning to live my life bravely. I had no choice at the time. I wiped away the tears, and started to live my new life as a college student.

It doesn't matter if you are eight...or eighteen...or eighty. A prerequisite to a life well-lived is a willingness to tackle the scary stuff and learn to move forward bravely ~ especially when we are scared to death on the inside.

Someone once said that bravery is fear who's said its prayers. I like that thought because bravery isn't bravery unless fear is present. Living bravely means we press through those fears instead of letting them control us.

It didn't take long for me to get over my fears and insecurities when I went away to school. Looking back, I think that was the most life-changing lesson I learned during those four years away. I'm glad my parents scooted me out the door and two hundred miles up the coast. I wouldn't be who I am today if they'd allowed me to remain in my comfort zone at home.

The unknowns I now face call for the same quality ~ to push through the fears and the unknowns bravely. This is how I want to live my life. How about you?

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." 
~Anais Nin

"Strength! Courage! Don't be timid; don't get discouraged. God, your God, is with you every step you take."
~Joshua 1:9, The Message