Friday, June 29, 2012

YOU NEVER KNOW

"How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world." ~Anne Frank

My mom was eager to bring some life back to her front deck. Empty pots sat scattered here and there, crying out to be filled. I picked her up and we headed for our local nursery. Although it was early in the day, the hot summer sun and lack of breeze made me a bit concerned for my mom. But she was on a mission, determined to return home with an ample amount of plants to liven her outdoor space.

I grabbed a cart and we proceeded down the aisles. The nursery was void of customers. My mom and I were the only people without an apron touting the store's logo. Employees were moving about, tending to the plants. As we added pot after pot to our cart, I thought it odd that none of the employees were approaching us to offer help. True, my mom doesn't look her eighty-eight years, but still, I was clearly with an elderly person, and the cart was getting heavier and more difficult to manage. When I asked one of the employees to retrieve a hanging plant that was out of my reach, he handed it to me without a word or acknowledgement. I thanked him, but no response followed.

Standing at the cashier counter was no different. A ten minute wait with adequate staff but no help was beginning to annoy me, especially with my mom at my side. After we made the large purchase, again...no one offered to help us wheel the plants and load them into the car. By this time, I was deciding in my mind to never return to this nursery. There were plenty of other places that would welcome and appreciate the business, I mused.

Later that day, I shared our experience with my husband. I expected a similar response from him. Instead, I got a valuable reminder. "You never know ~ maybe something happened. Maybe a fellow employee got sick or passed away. You never know what may have happened." I was humbled. He was so right.

You never know. That grumpy cashier? The nieghbor who snapped at you? The man who beeped his horn at you because you weren't in his hurry? You never know the circumstances being played out in their lives.

Lord, make me a channel of your grace and kindness today. I don't know what people are dealing with, but you do. Help me to see them through your eyes of love and respond to them in a way that will bless them. I don't want to react in my own limited vision anymore.

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

"Make it a practice to judge persons and things in the most favorable light at all times and under all circumstances." ~Saint Vincent de Paul

"In a world full of people who couldn't care less, be someone who couldn't care more." ~Author Unknown
  

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

SLEEPLESS NIGHTS

It's no use. Try as I might, the sleep won't come. It's not for lack of being tired. The truth is, I'm exhausted. Yet sleep eludes me. So here I sit on this familiar couch, pondering my day and the gamut of emotions it held. More than once I cried. The first set of tears came remembering a particularly sad season in life. The next round was for a friend embarking on what may turn out to be a very painful journey. The last tears I shed were through laughter and the sheer joy of being with those I love the most.

Can any good come from a sleepless night, I ask myself. I think so. The quietness of the house provides me with the perfect opportunity to think through a long and emotionally charged day. It's the ideal time to pray, and not with eloquent words. The sighs and the stirrings in my heart are prayers in their purest form, rising straight to the throne of God. How reassuring that he already knows what weighs on me.

Mostly, this alone time helps me to look back with eyes of gratitude. Yes, life can be hard. And boy, can it hurt. But in the midst of it, there is always a reason to pause and see the good that rises from the ashes. Today was a helpful reminder. Had I not walked on a particularly rough road in life, I wouldn't have been able to come along side another who may be facing a similar path of her own.

How about you? How do you cope with a sleepless night? Do you grow frustrated and annoyed? Or do you give in and let it speak to you? I hope you sleep soundly and peacefully tonight. But if you don't, I pray for a different kind of rest for you, nestled close in your Father's embrace. For he never sleeps, and his arms are always open wide, ready to engulf you. Sound asleep or wide awake, I wish you a good night.

"Some praise the Lord for light, the living spark; I thank God for the night, the healing dark." ~Robert William Service

"God's promises are like the stars; the darker the night the brighter they shine." 
~David Nicholas

"What I take from my nights, I add to my days." ~Leon de Rotrou

Every evening I turn my worries over to God. He's going to be up all night anyway."
~Mary C. Crowley

"A 'bad night' isn't always a bad thing." ~Brian W. Aldiss

"He doesn't get tired out, doesn't pause to catch his breath. And he knows everything, inside and out. He energizes those who get tired, gives strength to dropouts. For even young people tire and drop out, young folk in their prime stumble and fall. But those who wait upon God get fresh strength. They spread their wings and soar like eagles, They run and don't get tired, they walk and don't lag behind."
~Isaiah 40, The Message 
    

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

PLANTING PATIENCE

I poked around our vegetable garden with my gardening gloves and a sense of optimism. I'm not the gardener I long to be. Far from it. I read and study the advice penned by those more experienced than I in this art. Sometimes my efforts pay off; other times, all that blooms is disappointment.

The zucchini plant in our vegetable garden stands about three feet high. Its top leaves must be well over twelve inches in diameter, and lovely yellow buds add to its beauty. Eager to sink my teeth into the squash, I parted the leaves to look for hidden green treasures I was sure awaited me. All I could see were two tiny squash no bigger than my index finger. Why isn't it producing more, I lamented. I've done everything I have been advised to do. And now, I want to reap more than a pretty plant.

So I spent the evening researching and reading more on this supposedly easy plant to grow. And there was my message ~ be patient. If you do all the right things, let time and nature take its course. The likelihood is that the vegetables will materialize and grow in abundance.

Be patient. It seems to be a common theme in my life. In fact, those two words have walked me through more stages and trials than I care to relive. But I grow tired of waiting ~ for direction...for tangible wants like an updated kitchen...for prayers to be answered regarding my loved ones...and for my garden to produce a harvest I can enjoy and share with others.

Be patient. Sometimes those words are like sand paper on my spirit. They feel rough and can wear me down. Haven't I learned enough about this virtue, I complain inwardly and upwardly.

But in my own honest reflection, I can look back and see how I received a blessing because I remained patient. The direction came...the tangible was received...my prayer got answered. And now, as I wait for my garden to flourish, I know that a little patience and perseverance is a small price to pay for the harvest to come.

Patience is really all about enjoying the journey. And isn't that what life is made up of ~ an accumulation of journeys that our life takes us on. It's not about being where we want to be, or having what we want to have. It's all about the process, the paths, and the patience that enables us to enjoy and savor the here and now.

Today I can appreciate my zucchini plant just as it is ~ a hearty, beautiful plant that is growing and thriving in my back yard. Those words ~ BE PATIENT ~ feel more soothing than rough. Each journey holds so much promise, and that's what I am going to harvest today.

"Adopt the pace of nature; her secret is patience." ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

"Patience is waiting. Not passively waiting. That is laziness. But to keep going when the going is hard and slow ~ that is patience." ~Author Unknown

"Face your deficiencies and acknowledge them; but do not let them master you. Let them teach you patience, sweetness, insight...When we do the best we can, we never know what miracle is wrought in our life, or in the life of another." 
~Helen Keller

"Let's not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don't give up." ~Galatians 6:9                     

Monday, June 25, 2012

A TREE LIKE ME

"It is difficult to realize how great a part of all that is cheerful and delightful in the recollections of our own life is associated with trees." ~Wilson Flagg

We sat quietly on the deck of the cabin, our senses preoccupied with the mountainous terrain surrounding us. The sun was playing peek-a-boo behind the pines, and I found myself drawn to these stately trees. Every which way I looked, they stood proudly, mingling with the Aspens. Their sweet scent always takes me back in time to backpacking trips and family vacations ~ all good memories.

My husband was equally impressed by these majestic creations. He commented that they all seemed similar at a glance, but in reality, were so different. We noted how each stood like a miracle, with God's signature written all over it.

In the midst of hundreds of pine trees, one tree caught my eye and held it. This tree looked as though it suffered from a severe case of scoliosis. In at least a half a dozen places, the massive trunk veered to the left...then the right...then the left, and so on, all the way up its spine. I gazed at that tree, wondering why it didn't enjoy the same straight stature of its companions. Did it have to fight harder to survive and thrive in this forest?

Today, nestled on my porch back at home, I can't stop thinking about that tree. Maybe it's because I can identify with it. I can relate to its imperfections. And I know all about getting off course, then finding my way back to the straight path that leads me upward. I have also experienced that feeling of not quite fitting in to my surroundings, and wondering if I stick out like a sore thumb. Yes ~ that tree and I have much in common.

But the more I think about it, the more peace I have about identifying with that tree. We've both pressed onward and upward, even when it was hard. We both continue to grow and thrive. We are unique. Most important of all, we are loved by our Creator regardless of our imperfections.

I think trees hold a special place in God's heart. The second chapter of Genesis tells  how He made all kinds of beautiful trees. In the middle of that first garden stood the tree that gave life. Next to it was the tree that gave knowledge of good and evil. When I searched "trees" in my Bible App, countless verses popped up. And in the end, wasn't it a tree that Jesus hung upon...for you...for me? Joyce Kilmer's line, "I think that I shall never see a poem lovely as a tree," speaks to me. I quite agree! All are masterpieces, beautiful in their own way. And so are we.

"The trees are God's great alphabet:
With them He writes in shining green
Across the world His thoughts serene."
~Leonora Speyer

"Trees are your best antiques." ~Alexander Smith

"The oaks and the pines, and their brethren of the wood, have seen so many suns rise and set, so many seasons come and go, and so many generations pass into silence, that we may well wonder what 'the story of the trees' would be to us if they had tongues to tell it, or we ears fine enough to understand." ~Author Unknown

"I never saw a discontented tree. They grip the ground as though they liked it, and though fast rooted they travel about as far as we do. They go with every wind, going and coming like ourselves, traveling with us around the sun...heaven knows how fast and far!" ~John Muir

"If you would know strength and patience, welcome the company of trees." 
~Hal Borland

           

Friday, June 22, 2012

FLIPFLOPS AND APRICOTS

"Celebrate Summer ~ Sun drenched days and starlit nights..." ~Gooseberry Patch

Two little apricots, no bigger than a walnut, sat humby in the palm of my hand. It was all that my little tree could muster this year. 'Old Faithful', my little apricot tree, is usually so laden with fruit, I have to give most of it away. Although apricots are my favorite summer fruit, there is a downside to this species. They tend to ripen all at once, and there is a only small window to harvest these gems before the sun and the squirrels take their toll.

As I look down at my measly two apricots, I recall the thousands of gifts it has provided in the past. It's okay. The tree deserves a year of rest. We all have seasons in our lives when we just can't produce at our normal rate. That's when grace and a little personal indulgence goes a long way.

Whatever your circumstances, and however you feel about the summer months, there is certainly something to savor here. This year, I want to walk through its warm and breezy days with a little more appreciation for all the treasures it holds. I like to start with a list of ideas ~ ways I can relish these twelve weeks, and squeeze as much pleasure as I can out of them.

How about you? Need a little jumpstart? Perhaps my list of ideas will encourage you to sit down and create your own. We can survive the summer, or we can jump in and make a big splash. Ready? Set? Go!

WAYS TO CELEBRATE SUMMER ~
1. Get out and enjoy nature. Walk, hike, go for a bike ride.
2. Put bird food in your yard and wait for the beautiful creatures to come and feast.
3. Trade in those shoes for some bright colored flipflops. Give your toes some much deserved breathing room.
4. Get an early start to your day in a favorite spot outdoors and spend time with your Creator. Worship cleanses the soul and puts things into perspective.
5. Decorate for the season with fresh flowers, sea shells, and family photos taken during summer months.
6. Go to local farmer's markets and plan meals using fresh produce.
7. Barbeque, have picnics, eat outside.
8. Putter in your garden. Take time to appreciate every flower and tree that graces your yard.
9. Take advantage of the warm evenings and do some start-gazing.
10. Attend local concerts in the park ~ a bonus is that they are usually free.
11. Find a child to bless. Buy that cup of lemonade at your neighbor's house. Volunteer at a library or summer kids' program. Offer to babysit for someone who needs the help. Invest in children.
12. Build a sand castle. Play hopscotch. Grab a hula hoop. Rediscover your inner child.
Go ahead. Have fun! Afterall, it IS summer!

"Dirty hands, iced tea, fragrances thick in the air and a blanket of color before me, who could ask for more?" ~Bev Adams

"Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes in the grass on a summer day listening to the murmur of water, or watching the clouds float across a sky, is hardly a waste of time." ~John Lubbock

"I commend the enjoyment of life, because nothing is better for a man under the sun than to eat and drink and be glad. Then joy will accompany him in his work all the days of the life God has given him under the sun." ~Ecclesiastes 8:15  
       

Thursday, June 21, 2012

SUMMER SOLSTICE

"Summer is delicious." ~John Ruskin

"I wonder what it would be like to live in a world where it was always June," penned Lucy Maud Montgomery, creator of the Anne of Green Gables stories. For decades, the endearing red-headed Anne has been one of my favorite literary characters. Her ability to recognize and celebrate her "kindred spirits" has made me love her all the more. And if truth be told, I'm quite sure that her creator must be one of mine.

How I welcome June and the early hours of summer. But perhaps it's temporary state is what makes it so appealing. Twelve months a year of June would be like eating ice cream for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. So I welcome it for what it is ~ a season to enjoy.

For me, Summer Solstice is all about celebrating what the next three months will bring. All of my favorites that I associate with summer bring a smile to my face just thinking about them. The sweet scents of jasmine, gardenia, and plumeria ~ sunflowers and red gardenias popping with color ~ Crepe Myrtles in bloom ~ waking to the choirs of birds outside my window, a cheerful replacement for my alarm clock ~ sitting on my porch on a balmy evening, waiting for the stars to appear ~ walking, hiking, and strolling ~ the abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables, especially the ones that managed to come to life in my little garden ~ reading, writing, and indulging the day-dreamer in me. What's not to love about the slower pace of summer?

"Summer afternoon ~ summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language." I quite agree, Mr. Henry James. Now...let's go out and enjoy it!

"Summer has now thrown open her emerald doors. Every part of the landscape is profuse in leaves and flowers, and 'green-robed senators of mighty woods' are clothed in their most elegant array." ~Author Unknown

"As one sits here in summertime and listens to the cuckoo and all the other bird songs, the crackling and buzzing of insects, as one gazes at the shining colors of flowers, doth one become dumbstruck before the kingdom of the Creator." 
~Carl Von Linne

"You set up all the boundaries of the earth; you created the cycle of summer and winter." ~Psalm 74:17

     

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

ADVERBS AND PROVERBS ~ SACREDLY

"Just to be is a blessing. Just to live is holy." ~Abraham Joshua Heschel

The thoughts that filtered into my mind early this morning were anything but uplifting. Before my eyelids opened and my feet hit the floor, I had to begin the process of reigning them in. Like opening up the windows in a stuffy house, I had to bring fresh air and fresh thinking into my mind.

It's a brand new day. Sometimes the simple miracle in that gift is more than I can wrap my brain around. I am given a new day ~ a fresh start ~ and I get to choose how to live it. It's not about what is scheduled on my calendar, or the tasks that need to be accomplished. It's about a mindset...an attitude...and an overall appreciation for this time that can only be spent once.

Before I pried open my eyes this morning, I made a decision. I want to live out this day with a sense of sacredness. Sacred isn't something we find in a building, and it isn't reserved for Sunday mornings. Sacred resides in our hearts and our minds. It's the realization that I am standing on holy ground and living out my holy purpose because my God resides within me. If I seek Him and His plans, my day becomes a sacred art. Is there a greater privilege than that?

Sacred living transforms everything. People you run into become opportunities to serve. Your hands become the hands of God, ready to reach out to others. Chores are no longer drudgery when tackling them with a focus on God. Just the thought of Him standing in my presence as I fold laundry and scrub floors gives a sacred element to the ordinary. Worries, fears, and negative thinking lose their power. No circumstance or concern can compare with the presence of God. Moodiness dissipates, drowned out by the awe and wonder of knowing that my Father is right here beside me.

Today is sacred. It is holy and set apart. I choose to live this day fully conscious of God's presence, right here...right now. My home and every place I go is holy ground because I realize the Holy One is with me.

Does this sound appealing? Or unnerving? Maybe a little of both. I can't help but notice that "sacred" and "scared" are just rearrangements of the same letters. The thought that God is always here with us can be a bit unsettling. I know because I've felt it. But today, I choose to cling to my God and to bask in His presence. I want to live this day sacredly.

"We inhabit ourselves without valuing ourselves, unable to see that here, now, this every moment is sacred; but once it's gone ~ its value is incontestable." 
~Joyce Carol Oates

"When we acknowledge that all of life is sacred and that each act is an act of choice and therefore sacred, then life is a sacred dance lived consciously each moment. When we live at this level, we participate in the creation of a better world."
~Scott Cloud

"Love's greatest gift is its ability to make everything it touches sacred."
~Barbara De Angelis

"Anybody can observe the Sabbath, but making it holy surely takes the rest of the week." ~Alice Walker

          

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

THE BUSINESS OF LIVING

"It doesn't matter where you are, you are nowhere compared to where you can go."
~Bob Proctor

I sat alone in our living room, allowing the peace and quiet to envelop me. I'd been wrestling all day with a nagging stirring. In the past, this feeling has led to some serious life changes. The drone of the dryer humming in the background was the perfect accompaniment for the emotions that churned inside of me. Nervousness...about what it meant and where it would lead. Excitement...thinking of the possibilities. Even a little sadness...ending a chapter to begin a new one is usually bittersweet.

So I pause...and seek direction...and listen. I don't know where my stirrings will lead me. But I know the One who has it all mapped out. He knows the best paths for me to take. What's more, he goes before me, clearing the way, trailblazing so I can see which way to go.

One thing is for sure ~ if I want to follow His lead, I have to step out of the comfort zone of my living room.  Trading comfort for the unknown doesn't come easily for me. And there's no place on earth I love more that my own home. But I have to ask myself ~ what good is a living room if it keeps me from actually living the life marked out for me?

It's time to step out in faith and open myself up to whatever this new chapter holds. A new job? Perhaps. I won't know until I get there. Yes, it's time to step out of my living room and go about the business...and pleasure...of living.

How about you? Are you in a season of change? Let me encourage you today to embrace the unknown...and be open to change. Author Dodinsky says, "Change may come to you in trinkets and I hope it adorns your life gracefully." This is my prayer for all of us. 

"All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy; for what we leave behind us is a part of ourselves; we must die to one life before we can enter another." ~Anatole France

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

"Our only security lies in our ability to change." ~Author Unknown

"Change always comes bearing gifts." ~Price Pritchett

"Nobody gets to live life backward. Look ahead, that is where your future lies." 
~Ann Landers

"Don't ask yourself what the world needs, ask yourself what makes you come alive. And then go and do that. Because what the world needs is people who are alive." 
~Howard Thurman
           
"Trust God from the bottom of your heart; don't try to figure out everything on your own. Listen for God's voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; he's the one who will keep you on track." ~Proverbs 3:5,6 The Message

Monday, June 18, 2012

DADS AND HUSBANDS

"What do I owe my father? Everything." ~Henry Van Dyke

I greeted my husband with a "Happy Father's Day" card. He'd requested no gifts, but I had to do something. If I couldn't celebrate him in some tangible way, my mind and my heart would spend way too much time wandering to my own dad...and words I left unsaid before he passed away. He's been gone for almost three decades, but I still feel a twinge of sadness on Father's Day. Because I still miss him. And I don't think I really appreciated him when he was alive...which also makes me sad.

I don't think I am alone. Most of us don't recognize and appreciate what we have until it's gone...or we become parents ourselves. Looking back, I can see the hard work, the sacrifices, and the unconditional love that my parents poured into us kids. I wish I could turn back the clock and tell my dad how grateful I am for all that he did for me. But I can't. So I put my focus on my husband, and pause to thank him. Our kids may not see all that their dad has done for them over the course of their lives, but I know. My husband has been a great dad to his children. Not perfect...no one is. But he has always been there for them ~ loving each of them with all of his heart ~ working tirelessly to provide a comfortable life and a good education ~ ready and eager to be their helper and friend at a phone call's notice. Our kids are so blessed, and the longer they live, the more they will realize what a wonderful dad they have.

If your dad is still alive, how blessed you are to have the chance I long for. If you have a husband who has been a good father to your children, is there a better gift he can give you? I don't think so. Let's tell the men in our lives how much they mean to us, and how thankful we are...for everything. And let's not wait until the third Sunday in June. Let's strive to tell them everyday.

"The imprint of the father, remains forever on the life of a child." ~Roy Lessin

"Dad, for all those times I left it unsaid...Thank you. Thanks for being there for me...For showing me the way...For being patient with me even when I made it difficult for you...For believing in me and encouraging me to dream...and being such an inspiring presence in my life." ~Author Unknown

"A good father is one of the most unsung, unpraised, unnoticed, and yet one of the most valuable assets in our society." ~Billy Graham

"God took the strength of a mountain,
The majesty of a tree,
The warmth of a summer sun,
The calm of a quiet sea,
The generous soul of nature,
The comforting arm of night, 
The wisdom of the ages,
The power of the eagle's flight,
The joy of a morning in spring,
The faith of a mustard seed,
The patience of eternity,
The depth of a family need.
Then God combined these qualities,
When there was nothing more to add,
He knew His masterpiece was complete,
And so, He called it...Dad."
~Author Unknown
    

        

Friday, June 15, 2012

HAVE A LITTLE FAITH

"Every tomorrow has two handles. We can take hold of it with the handle of anxiety or the handle of faith."  ~Henry Ward Beecher

It was the ideal morning for an adventure, the perfect time to push my self-imposed boundaries and venture out. The overcast skies meant a much cooler temperature. I leashed up our Shepherd mix Scout and headed north of our home. Though the foothills above us are residential, they are also populated with natives that occupied this territory long before we did. Coyotes, foxes, bears, wildcats, and rattlesnakes are just a few of our neighboring species. I have had more than my share of close-up encounters with some. So I rarely walk deeper into the foothills alone.

But today I had my trusty companion Scout at my side. He seemed equally eager to take a different path on our morning jaunt. My pepper spray in one hand and Scout's leash in the other gave me a tangible sense of security. As we travelled higher into the hillside, I thought about another Companion. Even though I cannot see or feel him physically, I know he is right there beside me. He is my true source of security. But I have to admit, it was reassuring to have a dog by my side who I believe would give his life to protect me. 

As I pressed on in my walk, my mind wandered to concerns that have been weighing on me. There are so many unknowns right now. I thought about my husband at work, even though he'd made the decision to take Fridays off. Incoming bills and too many uncertainties bring out the "provider" in him, determined to take care of his family. I found myself crying out to God in my spirit. I feel so weak...inadequate...ill-equipped. Do I dare believe that lifelong dreams will come to fruition? Do I really believe we can change the path we are on? But there was that thought again ~ He is with me...with us...always. Whatever road we are walking, he is keeping step with us. When we feel like we are barely treading water in turbulent seas, he is right there, too.

Our weaknesses, shortcomings, failures, and unknowns are a part of the way he designed us. He knows that if he equipped us to be all things at all times to all people, we wouldn't need him. It's those moments when we feel we are lacking that he comes along side us and fills in the gap, empowering and strengthening us. I think he longs to equip us to be who he created us to be, doing what he called us to do. "Have a little faith," I hear him whisper to my spirit. "Trust me."        

Scout and I found are way back home safely from our morning trek. Both of us were a bit winded, but smiling. No bears, coyotes, or snakes this time. Just Scout, God and me, enjoying our local hillside. I couldn't ask for better companions while I exercised my body...and stretched my faith.

Need a little faith-building? Here are some of my favorite quotes:

"Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God."  ~Corrie Ten Boom

"Faith is putting all your eggs in God's basket, then counting your blessings before they hatch." ~Ramona C. Carroll

"You block your dream when you allow your fear to grow bigger than your faith."
~Mary Manin Morrissey

"Faith isn't the ability to believe long and far into the misty future. It's simply taking God at His Word and taking the next step." ~Joni Erickson Tada

"Faith is: dead to doubts, dumb to discouragements, blind to impossibilities."
~Author Unknown

"Faith is the spark that ignites the impossible and causes it to become possible. When a person's faith is activated, it sets in motion supernatural power that enables that person to do what he normally would never be able to do!" ~Rick Renner

"Faith is like a bird that feels dawn breaking and sings while it is still dark." ~Scandinavian Saying

"To one who has faith, no explanation is necessary. To one without faith, no explanation is possible." ~St. Thomas Aquinas

"The simple truth is that if you had a mere kernel of faith, a poppy seed, say, you would tell this mountain, 'Move!' and it would move. There is nothing you wouldn't be able to tackle." ~Matthew 17:20, The Message

Thursday, June 14, 2012

ADVERBS AND PROVERBS ~ FRUGALLY

"It's not how much you make. It's how much you save." ~Author Unknown

"I am not going to spend money I don't have to this summer." Those words I had spoken to my husband days earlier resonated in my mind as I stood in line at the Bath and Body store. My feelings were mixed. I'd overlooked the scented candles and didn't even bother with items in the store that weren't marked down. Still, did I really need the four bottles in my hands? With six people in front of me waiting to pay, I had ample time to mull over my purchases and deem them worthy of the twelve dollars they would cost.

This is how I am attempting to train my thinking when it comes to spending money. Do I really need this? Is it a good value, or can I do better? I also want to bear in mind the fact that my home is overflowing with STUFF. In fact, there is so much of it, it's hard for me to keep track...stay organized...and remember what I have and where I put it. That said, do I really need more?

With a daughter's wedding looming on the horizon, and a one hundred year old home in need of some costly repairs, I have to put a halt to the spending. Enough! My cup more than runneth over. Our well-stocked kitchen tells me we won't go hungry any time soon. My closet, crammed with clothes, is a daily reminder that I have plenty to wear. The books, movies, puzzles, and games occupying space in our house shows me I have an abundance of things to keep me entertained.

"I'm not going to spend one dollar that I don't have to this summer." This time I am speaking to myself. For this season ~ and hopefully longer ~ I want to live frugally.

"By showing frugality we reap liberty, a golden harvest." ~Agesilaus

"A bargain ain't a bargain unless it's something you need." ~Sidney Carroll

"Beware of little expenses; a small leak will sink a great ship." ~Benjamin Franklin

"A fool and his money are soon parted." ~Thomas Tusser
       

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

SIGNED, SEALED, DELIVERED

It had been an ordinary day ~ uneventful, bordering on dull. She looked out the window longingly. "Alone" was an understatement for how she felt. Isolated and cut off from loved ones left her feeling worthless and unloveable. Why was she even here? She plunked down on her all too familiar couch and sighed. Reaching for the remote control, she turned to the only friends she had. Those faces on the TV screen didn't judge her. They joined her everyday, filling her empty hours. If one of them said or did something she didn't like, a push of the button removed them from her presence. There were countless others to take their place, just waiting to be watched.

The chime of her doorbell caused her to jump. It was an unfamiliar sound. Probably someone who wanted something from her. She sighed and rose from the couch, rehearsing her emphatic "no" to whatever they were selling. A man dressed in a well-tailored suit stood on her porch holding a large envelope. "May I help you?" she asked the gentleman. Perhaps he had the wrong address.

"I'm here to deliver this envelope. Would you please sign for it?" He handed her the item along with a piece of paper and a pen. She looked down, expecting to see someone else's name...maybe a neighbor's. No, it was clearly for her. A flicker of fear ignited inside of her. Who would be sending her something that required a signature? This couldn't be good.

Once inside, she sat back down on her couch and began to open the envelope. Her curiosity was building, and she tore at its edges to see what awaited her. Please, no more bad news, she thought to herself.

Inside was a beautiful document, etched in gold, with an elaborate seal at the bottom. At the top of the page, "DAUGHTER OF THE KING" was written in the loveliest scroll she'd ever seen. And there, right smack in the middle of the paper, was her name...in full...written in crimson red. Her hands began to tremble. Could this be real? Was it some cruel joke? No, it couldn't be. It looked too authentic. She held it to her heart, then gazed upon it once more. "DAUGHTER OF THE KING". She was royalty. And all this time she'd felt so worthless.

She reached for her remote and silenced the voices streaming from her TV. She didn't need them anymore. She'd been adopted into a new family ~ the royal family ~ and suddenly, her life had value. She wiped away a tear working its way down her cheek and stood up. A shout for joy poured from her lips. DAUGHTER OF THE KING. Life as she knew it was over. And a new one was just beginning.

And so it is with us. We are daughters and sons of the King of Kings. All we have to do is respond. If you don't know him yet, he's waiting...pen in hand...ready to welcome you into his royal family. Don't hesitate. Answer his call. Your life will never be the same.

"Every happening, great and small, is a parable whereby God speaks to us, and the art of life is to get the message."
~Malcolm Muggeridge

"To fall in love with God is the greatest of all romances; To seek him, the greatest adventure; To find him, the greatest human achievement."
~Raphael Simon

"Being included in God's family is the highest honor and the greatest privilege you will ever receive. Nothing else comes close. Whenever you feel unimportant, unloved, or insecure, remember to whom you belong."
Rick Warren            

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

ADVERBS AND PROVERBS ~ OPENLY

"Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending."
~Maria Robinson

"Now what do I do?" The house was all too quiet. For the past few years, Mondays have included three teenage boys tackling their independent studies at my dining room table. Not this Monday. Their high school years have come to an end, and all I have to show for it is a stack of their books and supplies waiting to be picked up. As I dusted the empty bookcase that housed their school work, I couldn't help but feel a sense of loss. My day ahead felt much like that piece of furniture ~ too empty ~ waiting to be filled.

The subtle changes in my home reminded me that another chapter in my life has ended. But there's another one, just waiting to be written. What will it look like? Who will the main characters be? Will it be filled with tears, laughter, suspense? Will it read like a classic...a mystery...a comedy? I don't know. I'm just the co-author. How reassuring it is to know that the true Author of my life already has the storyline in front of Him. Nothing takes Him by surprise. No stretches of writer's block leave Him stumped, wondering if the story will come together. I'm just a willing participant, waiting to see what direction we will take together.

I don't want to focus on the loss today. I want to dwell on the possibilities. I want to open my heart and mind and my daily life to what God has planned for the next chapter. Expect the unexpected. Embrace the unknown. And trust God for that happy ending.

"Your life does not get better by chance, it gets better by change."
~Jim Rohn

"When one door closes, another opens; but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us."
~Alexander Graham Bell

"It's incredible to realize that what we do each day has meaning in the big picture of God's plan."
~Bill Hybels

"The one supreme business of life is to find God's plan for your life and live it."
~E. Stanley Jones

  

Thursday, June 7, 2012

ADVERBS AND PROVERBS ~ THANKFULLY

"Do not take anything for granted ~ not one smile or one person or one rainbow or one breath, or one night in your cozy bed."
~Terri Guillemets

Tragedy struck our sleepy hillside community in 1994. A father and his nine year old son lost their lives while hiking the local mountains of Bailey Canyon. There was no warning as a ten to fifteen foot debris flow came surging down the canyon. Witnesses who were there and managed to scramble to safety said it sounded like a train approaching. There was little time to react as the ground beneath their feet began to soften and give way to the mud.

Three other lives could have been lost that day. Only moments before it happened, they had been enjoying a leisurely afternoon together at the same spot where the two were killed. But the other three lives were spared. Because one of the sons remembered there was a basketball game scheduled, the three cut their outing short and headed for home. If it wasn't for that game and the son's recollection that he had somewhere else to be, three more may have been added to the obituaries. And countless others would have been heartbroken in the aftermath. How do I know? The other dad is my husband, and the two boys (now men) are my stepsons.

Why did my loved ones leave only minutes before the tragedy hit? Why didn't the other man and his young son make it out safely? I don't have answers to all the "whys". I am still saddened when I think about the family who lost two precious loved ones. And I'm still bewildered by the turn of events that brought mine home safely. Mostly, I am thankful ~ for each day they've been given since that March in 1994.

I cannot tell you how many rough days have been softened by the memory of that fateful day. Moments when I wrestled with discontent or petty frustrations gave way to appreciation when I looked at one of those three faces...and remembered...it could have been them, too. But it wasn't.

How many other near misses have we lived through? Who knows. The point is we have so very much to be thankful for. And that's how I choose to live my life ~ thankfully.

"I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought; and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder."
~G. K. Chesterton

"If you want to turn your life around, try thankfulness. It will change your life mightily."
~Gerald Good

"It isn't what you have in your pocket that makes you thankful, but what you have in your heart."
~Author Unknown

     

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

ADVERBS AND PROVERBS ~ TIMELY

"Time is the coin of your life. It is the only coin you have, and only you can determine how it will be spent."
~Carl Sandburg

"Where has the time gone?" If you are like me, you have spoken these words on more than one occasion. Nothing makes the rapid speed of time more real and tangible than looking into the faces of our adult children. I don't care what anyone says ~ it WAS only yesterday that I was changing their diapers...reading them bedtime stories...and filling in for the tooth fairy.

The swiftness at which the days in my hour-glass have slipped by is a wake-up call. I want to make the most of this precious commodity. I don't want to waste another minute of the time I have left. Of course this doesn't mean I am going to spend every waking hour accomplishing tasks. We all need down time. And time off can be as critical as time spent working...maybe more so. But I don't want to whittle away valuable time looking backwards. The memories from the past that can weigh me down are time-wasters. Being present in the moment, and being hopeful and excited about the future are much better uses of my time.

The Bible tells us to number our days. But God doesn't live within the confines of time. This is a difficult concept for me since I've never experienced it myself. While He isn't limited by time, I think He wants us to hold fast to the truth that we are. We have a beginning and an end; what counts is what we do with the in-betweens. I want to live being mindful of the fact that my days are numbered, and to see each day ~ even the bad ones ~ as a gift.

"Time stands still for no one." Isn't that the truth! So I make the decision to slow down my own pace and focus on what matters most to me. I want to invest my time wisely in the things and the people that are near and dear to me.

None of us is here at this point in time by accident. Esther lived out her life with purpose, knowing it was "for such a time as this". We can too. Let's make the most of it.

"Since time is the one immaterial object which we cannot influence ~ neither speed up nor slow down ~ add to nor diminish ~ it is an imponderably valuable gift."
~Maya Angelou
      

Monday, June 4, 2012

NOT AN OPTION

The news of a suicide had me tossing and turning during the night. I didn't know the man that chose to end his own life, and I don't know the family that was left behind in the aftermath. But someone near and dear to me knew him.

The truth is, I don't need to know the family personally to envision what they are going through. I can see the long road ahead of them. I know what they are facing because I lost a family member to suicide. I am all too intimately acquainted with the endless barrage of questions. I know all about the misplaced guilt the survivors can carry. The emotional tsunami that follows such a horrific event is cemented in my memory.

This message is for anyone out there who is, has, or will consider committing the act suicide. It's also for those who are like me, walking that rugged path toward healing. If suicide has ever sounded appealing, please listen up and take careful note to what I am going to share. Suicide is NOT an option. If you could get one glimpse into the destructive impact it would have on the people closest to you, it would be enough for you to see it's not the solution. Though it may seem like a quick exit for you, it will produce an ongoing path of pain so far-reaching and widespread, it's unimaginable.

Listen up ~ suicide for those left behind is relentless. It haunts you. It beats you down with guilt the survivor was NEVER meant to bear. It's like blowing out a match of problems in your own life, and creating a bon-fire of injury for those who love and care about you. Take it from someone who lost a loved one to suicide. After almost twenty-eight years, there is still some residual pain...still unanswered questions...still lingering moments of guilt that I know isn't mine to bear. It's the fallout of someone else's choice. Although it's over and done for him, the path toward healing remains a slow one for me.

I urge you, please determine in your mind and your heart to NEVER take this path. Get help. Realize the pain you will create and leave behind. Spare those who love you. Make the right choice. Choose life. 

Now, a word for those who have walked in my shoes, who have lost a loved one to suicide. Will you please consider that maybe it's time to make peace with the fact that we may never have all the answers to the questions that linger. It's okay to tell yourself to let go of the pain and the haunting memories. Most importantly ~ I encourage you to embrace the TRUTH that this is NOT your fault, my fault, or someone else's fault. We the survivors are not to blame. Period. We cannot assume responsibility for their actions. And if anyone has told you differently, they are WRONG. Suicide is the ultimate selfish, desperate act. They made the choice; it wasn't ours to make. But we can make a choice...a healthy choice ~ to let it go...and to let them go. If you haven't been able to move forward in your own journey to healing, I encourage you to get some help. Today is the day we can choose to walk into freedom.

"Nothing hurts more than someone you love ending their own life. Nothing compares."
~Author Unknown

"Rock bottom is good solid ground, and a dead end street is just a place to turn around."
~Author Unknown  

Friday, June 1, 2012

SO VERY HAPPY

"Love one another and you will be happy. It's as simple and as difficult as that."
~Michael Leunig

I lived in an idyllic little cottage that was bursting with charm. I rented my little haven from my brother who owned this enchanting spot. The garden was as appealing to me as the house itself. Trees that had stood proudly for decades shaded much of the property like a protective covering. The rose garden in the front yard was my favorite feature, and made the house feel like home.

One weekend in June I had a garden party. I strung outdoor lights, and made every nook and cranny of the property as welcoming as I could. A fun mix of people were invited, and to my surprise and delight, almost all of them showed up. Except one. My date for the evening had met someone else, leaving me dateless at my own party.

There was a man who was invited by mutual friends of ours to come and join the festivities. He had two young sons, and one wasn't feeling well. He also had his young niece in tow. At first, he declined. But his mom stepped up and insisted he go. She even offered to care for the kids. Our friends' final nudge that there would be single women there, coupled with his mom's generous offer, brought this man to my doorstep.

Walking onto the property, he noticed me and asked his friends who I was. The husband of the two replied, "She's the one having the party. She lives here. She drives that new BMW. You don't want her...too high maintenance for you."

At about the same time, this man caught my eye. As he walked down my driveway, all I could think about was how incredibly handsome he looked. He was older than me. Clearly out of my league.

As the evening progressed, I became more and more drawn to this mystery man. He was gorgeous...and fun to talk with. I was struck by how someone so attractive could also appear so genuinely nice. His age and the early signs of grey near his temples intrigued me too. I'd never dated a man more than a couple years older than me.

As the party ended, I had only one thing on my mind. I was captivated by this man...and relieved my date had cancelled. The next day I found out that he'd asked for my phone number. I couldn't believe it. He was interested in me too.

That was twenty-eight years ago today. After our first date two weeks after we met, I told my dad, "That's the man I'm going to marry." My dad, always the protector, said, "No dear, you can't marry him. Date him all you want. But no marriage." My dad was looking past his good looks and kind spirit, and seeing the whole package. A man ten years older than me, divorced with two young children....and he wanted to shield me from so many possibilities that were playing out in his head, things that weren't even on my radar.

But two years (to the day) after we met, we were married in the same garden, surrounded by the roses in full bloom, under the covering of the beautiful tree where we'd first met. His two sons were by our side, and our family was born.

As it turned out, my husband and I had been following each other for most of my life. It began when I was two and he was twelve, and we lived across the street from one another. While I attended Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, he was living minutes away in a small town called Cayucos. We both resided on the same street on more than one occasion. Our lives seemed to have shadowed each other's until the timing was just right.

Happy Anniversary, honey. It's been a wild ride! But the best ones usually are. We've walked through so many seasons and stages together, along paths that have gone from peaceful to treacherous and everything in between. We've wrestled and we've compromised. Some of it has been breathtaking. Other parts have been excruciating. But through it all we've managed to hold on to the most important part ~ the thread that holds it all together and makes it all worth it ~ our unwaivering love and devotion. In the end, that's all that really matters.

Here's to the years we've shared, and the ones we have yet to spend together. "You've made me so very happy...I'm so glad you came into my life!"

"Grow old along with me! The best is yet to be."
~Robert Browning