Tuesday, July 31, 2012

NO OTHER

"Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates." ~Deuteronomy 6:5-9

Years ago I wrote "LIFE VERSE" next to this passage. These words in the book of Deuteronomy jumped off the page and into my heart. I knew this was how I was supposed to live my life ~ as a wife, a mother, and every other role I occupied. Some days I came fairly close. But most were a far cry from how I wanted them to be.

That hasn't changed. With the empty nest season of life fast approaching, this passage takes on a more personal note. Days of raising children are behind me. But I still have much to learn about loving God with everything I've got. And isn't that what the first of the Ten Commandments is all about ~ "You shall have no other gods before or besides Me." (Exodus 20:3, The Amplified Bible) I am no theologian, but it strikes me, if I love God with all I've got ~ heart, soul, even strength ~ there simply isn't room for any other gods to squeeze their way in to my life.

So how can I accomplish this? Deuteronomy gives us directives. If the commandments are "on our hearts", they are more than just head knowledge; they are an integral part of who we are. Talking about them while we walk, lie down and get up suggests they are with us every moment of our day, ordering our priorities. "Tie them as symbols on your hands" brings them beyond our personal lives and into our workplaces. Binding them on our foreheads encourages us to fill our thoughts with God and to meditate on His word. "Write them on the doorframes" and "on your gates" establishes our homes as sanctuaries unto Him.

The abundant life I long for has nothing to do with possessions or status, and everything to do with experiencing the presence of God and living out my purpose with passion. Galatians 5:6 says, "The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love." It all begins with loving Him...with all our hearts, all our souls, and all our strength (still not sure what that last one means!). My favorite author, W. Phillip Keller put it so well, "You can give yourself to nothing or no one greater. Knowing Him; loving Him; enjoying Him; serving Him; walking with Him, is the whole end and purpose of life." This is where the journey through the Ten Commandments begins.

"When we put God first, all other things fall into their proper place or drop out of our lives. Our love of the Lord will govern the claims for our affection, the demands on our time, the interests we pursue, and the order of our priorities."
~Ezra Taft Benson

Monday, July 30, 2012

TEN THINGS

Living with purpose, passion, and right priorities...ah, the abundant life. How I long for this! I want to learn what this truly means, and make it the heartbeat of my daily life. And I don't want to take a more rugged path to get there if I can avoid it. Lift the blinders from my eyes, Lord. Unplug my ears. I am listening. Please speak to me...

Last night I opened my Bible to where the bookmark rested after my last reading...the Ten Commandments. I got to thinking about these Commandments versus the many laws that followed, laws that no longer apply. Thanks to the work on the cross, those laws are no longer our guidelines. We've been freed from all that.

But the Commandents? Different story. I began to see them in a new light. I asked God to show me what I've been missing. Sure, I know I am not supposed to kill, steal, lie, covet, etc. Then it hit me. These Ten Commandments hold a very precious key to that abundant life I long for. In this list I find direction and instruction on how to prioritize, and in doing so, live my life purposefully and passionately.

Even the order in which they are listed is speaking to me. First things first! And isn't that "key" in prioritizing and living with purpose? I have only begun this deeper journey into the Ten Commandments, but I can already see that the first four are my foundation. If I weave these into the fabric of my day to day existence, the other six will follow.

I also see that these Commandments were etched in stone because of God's immeasurable love for us. They were meant to be a blessing, not a burden. He knew we'd need a treasure map to help us find the most precious things we can experience on this earth. So He compiled a list and put it in stone, so we'd never forget.

May I just say I am bursting with excitement as I begin this journey with the Ten Commandments! I feel as if I've been holding onto a key for over twenty-five years, and I am finally realizing where it goes and what awaits me if I use it.

I hope you'll come along as I explore each one, step by step, in the order He's placed them. Priorities...purpose...passion ~ these are the things I long for, and I finally found the key.

"The rest of Scriptures are but a commentary on the Ten Commandments...Rightly understood, the precepts of the New Testament are but explications, amplifications and applications of the Ten Commandments."
~A. W. Pink

"The precepts of the Lord are right,
giving joy to the heart.
The commands of the Lord are radiant,
giving light to the eyes."
Psalm 19:8
      

Friday, July 27, 2012

SAYING GOODBYE TO OUR VW CAMPER

It's just an old VW camper that has sat in our driveway for months. When we acquired it, we had lofty ideas of fixing it up inside and out. We dreamed together about the places we'd visit in our humble abode on wheels.

The vehicle had sat in storage for years. When it arrived at our home, it was filthy. Bits and pieces of trash filled the crevices; little trinkets that may have been treasures to a previous owner were scattered throughout. As we worked diligently at emptying and scrubbing, I tried not to think about the critters...spiders, mice, fleas...that may have taken residence in our "new" camper. I pressed on alongside my husband, thinking how nice it would be when it was finished.

We never progressed further than our initial clean-up. Funds intended for her makeover had to be redirected to pay for unexpected home repairs and medical bills. Clean but nowhere to go, the VW became home for all of our camping equipment. Could there be a better place to store camping gear than in a camper?

Over time, our dreams for the van faded. It became a source of frustration instead of pleasure. The fact that we'd likely never get it restored and running sank in. Gone were the hopes of taking it on road trips and travel adventures.

Time to sell. Yesterday we had an interested party come and see the camper. He wants a project he can work on with his son. I showed him the interior and boasted of our hard work in cleaning her up. A wave of sentiment washed over me. As I revisited our dreams, I wanted to cling to our VW a little longer.

I couldn't help but envision my sister in her thirty-something foot luxury motor home as I began to mourn over our paralyzed vehicle. I felt silly for grieving the pending loss of our tired little van. Once again, I pictured us nestled in the cozy little space, heating water on the burner for some tea, playing cards while we listened to the pitter patter of rain dancing on its roof. And I realized that each dream, big or small, has its own charm and gifts to offer.

Happy trails to all!

"A life without dreams is like a garden without flowers." ~Author Unknown     

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

STUFFED ANIMALS AND WEDDING DATES

"How did it get so late so soon?
It's night before it's afternoon.
December is here before it's June.
My goodness how the time has flewn.
How did it get so late so soon?"
~Dr. Seuss

I am a vivid dreamer. My mind seems as active during sleep as it is when I am awake. I don't have prophetic dreams, but some are so long and detailed they remain with me throughout the day. I am not one to go looking for hidden messages from my states of slumber. But I don't want to miss "the writing on the wall" if there is something to be gleaned.

A dream I had last week still lingers in my memory. I'd found out I had only two weeks to live. The part leading up to this discovery is insignificant. What stays with me are the events that unfolded after my diagnosis. I remember telling my family the news, and how each one reacted.  Every moment of my life took on new significance; there were so few left to enjoy.

I was terrified of being buried, and I wanted a stuffed animal in my casket to keep me company. My son took charge and drove me to multiple stores to find just the right one. Later in my dream, I realized I wouldn't be here to see our daughter's wedding. I pleaded with her and her fiance to get married before I departed. When they hesitated, I said that a pre-ceremony would be fine. I just wanted to hear them say their vows. Each person had a unique way of responding to my pending death, letting me know they loved me and would miss me.

Do I think I am going to die soon because of this dream? No. But I do believe I can learn a little about how I want to live. And therein lies the gift in this dream. It's all about the people we love. We are inundated with so many distractions, demands, and everyday dealings that have no real  and lasting value in the overall scheme of things. We spend precious time stressing over stuff that is anything but precious.

This dream wakes me up to the fact that I allow too many "killjoys" to infiltrate my day. Things that really don't matter I let dictate my mood. Like the grumpy waiter...the  abrupt response...the mixup regarding a bill I already paid. The list goes on and on. Why do I let the little things get to me? I don't want to give these "killjoys" power over me, my moods, and my precious time.

We all have an expiration date. We may not be able to change it, but we certainly have a say in how we spend each day...each hour...each moment. My dream reminds me of this truth. I don't expect to be shopping for a stuffed animal any time soon, or pleading with my daughter to move up her wedding date. But I hope I see the value in the gift of the time I have left. Whether it's two weeks, or fifty years, I want to make the most of it.

"Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom."
~Psalm 90:12

"Life is short, God's way of encouraging a bit of focus." ~Robert Brault

"I still find each day too short for all the thoughts I want to think, all the walks I want to take, all the books I want to read and all the friends I want to see."
~John Burroughs

"How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives."
~Annie Dillard

"Minutes are worth more than money. Spend them wisely." 
~Thomas P. Murphy

"That it will never come again
 Is what makes life so sweet."
~Emily Dickenson

             

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

A TEACHER'S HEART

"I wasn't ready for the real challenges of life in these mountains. I'd have given up, if not for the children. I came to Cutter Gap to teach but they show me everyday I'm here to learn."
~spoken by Christy Huddleson, in CHRISTY by Catherine Marshall

I have yet to read a book that touches the teacher in me as profoundly as CHRISTY by Catherine Marshall. Her story is a sweet portrayal of the hardships, sacrifices, and the measureless rewards of teaching in a one-room schoolhouse. Christy Huddleson is a young woman who answers a higher calling to become Teacher to a group of gangly, uneducated children of various ages and abilities. Through her many trials and triumphs, we see the impact people can have when they step out in faith, and out of their comfort zones.

Aside from being a wife and mother, my most privileged role has been as a teacher. Because it wasn't my chosen "profession", filling the shoes as Teacher has felt a bit like walking on holy ground. I know that in my own strength, I can accomplish nothing of lasting value without the hand of God in it. The love, the patience, and the passion for learning are not mine to give. I am only an instrument in my Father's hands for him to use in what I believe to be among the most honorable professions.

Christy reminds me of sage words my sister spoke to me when I began my journey as a teacher. Along with her many practical suggestions that equipped me in the classroom, the message that penetrated my heart became my goal ~ "Teach your students to love learning." She promised me success if I made this my main focus. "Make learning fun" became my mantra as I decorated my classroom and welcomed a room full of second graders. Each day I made it a point to weave activities and stories into the lessons that would put smiles on their faces.

I recently read tender words shared by a dear woman I have known for years. She gave a peek into her heart as a mother, after seeing her daughter take off for a new adventure. Kelsie is beginning her teaching ministry in the Philippines with a class of second graders. My own heart's response was one of compassion and utter joy. Is it ever easy to watch your children venture into a life so far away? And for her daughter, oh, the excitement and the thrill of the unknowns as she embarks on this new journey as a young, godly teacher. How blessed are the students who await her!

"To touch the hearts of your students is the greatest miracle you can perform." I quite agree. If teaching isn't a God-assignment, I don't know what is.

And now, here is my favorite passage from CHRISTY that sums up a teacher's heart so beautifully~
"Little Burl was not working on spelling at all, but sitting at his desk staring up at the ceiling, his cowlick standing straight up, his funny little face puckered into a look of intense concentration. Something I had said had made an impression on him; I hoped he would let me in on his secret thought.
I had reached down to get fresh papers out of my desk drawer when I felt arms around my neck hugging me fiercely. It was Little Burl. He put his bare feet on top of my larger ones, locked his two hands behind my neck, stretched his head up to look me full in the eyes. 'Teacher, Teacher, hain't it true, Teacher, that if God loves ever'body, then we'uns got to love ever'body too?'
I looked at the six-year-old in astonishment. 'Yes, Little Burl, it is true.' Forever and forever and forever.
So once I shut down my privilege of disliking anyone I chose and holding myself aloof if I could manage it, greater understanding, growing compassion came to me, more love for the children and as time passed, for the older people too."
~Catherine Marshall

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

BEAUTIFUL BEYOND MEASURE

"Nothing was a more powerful compass of my mood or a better indication of my self-worth than the number on the scale." ~Betsy Lerner

She stared into her full length mirror, carefully studying every inch of her body. She chided herself for eating the bag of chips with her lunch. Why not take the bag and tape it to her thighs, she thought in disgust. It will end up there anyway.

The bathing suit she was wearing didn't help matters. Her eyes traced the excess skin on her belly. Real attractive! She'd have to watch herself and be more careful. No more snacks. Definitely no more sweets. And only water to drink. She'd heard the buzz that even diet soda could put on the pounds. She made a mental note to pick up more sugarless gum. It helped to curb her hunger in the middle of the day.

She changed into her running gear and headed out the door. Pool time with her friends would have to wait until she toned down her waist. The hundred degree weather stung her eyes as she began her trek. Five miles. No less. She knew the route that would get her to her goal. She'd run it so many times, she could do it with her eyes closed.

Two miles in, her head began to pound. Probably getting dehydrated, she reasoned. She opened her water bottle and took a few sips, managing to maintain her pace as she hydrated. But the pain only worsened. By mile three, she was growing dizzy. A wave of nausea rolled over her. Maybe she was coming down with the flu. That always took a pound or two off of her. Only two more miles to go. Then everything went black.

She awoke in a hospital bed. Nurses and other medical staff stood closeby. "She's awake," she heard one of them say. Why was she here? Too weak to ask questions, she closed her eyes and let the sleep consume her.

"You aren't eating enough. You aren't getting the nutrients and the calories your body needs. And you have no business running in the middle of the day in three digit temps." She listened and silently argued each sentence spoken to her. They didn't understand. She couldn't allow herself to get any fatter. She could see the way some of the girls at school looked at her. They noticed she'd gone up a size. It wasn't fair! How did they manage to maintain their size three status? She was trying so hard, but couldn't seem to break away from the sevens and nines. She'd cut the tags out of her clothes, but she knew. Everyone knew. She was fat. No doctor was going to convince her otherwise.

Does this sound familiar? When and why did we buy into the propaganda that we have to be ultra thin in order to be beautiful? Why do we women embrace these destructive lies? Ladies, we are so much smarter than this! Please tell me why we have given so much power to the fashion gurus who say we must be gaunt to be gorgeous? Why do we allow them to influence us to the point where we jeopardize our health in order to fit the skinny mold they've imposed upon us?

How about we say NO MORE! Enough is enough. We are beautiful ~ BEAUTIFUL. Beauty comes in ALL shapes and sizes. Of course, we want to be healthy too. Gluttony is not self-love either. In fact, it too is self-destructive.

It's time we start loving ourselves just as we are. We are the products of our Father's designs. He didn't make us so that we'd all fit the skinny mold. He made us unique ~ and that's part of the whole beauty package.

I doubt my message here will start a revolution. I think we've been brainwashed, and one blog won't begin to reverse the damage that's been done. But I hope I get you thinking, and I hope you start seeing yourself in a new light. YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL regardless of what any tape measure or scale tells you. Ladies, it's time to take back our power and start learning to cherish and celebrate the beautiful women God created us to be...just as we are.

"A cultural fixation on female thinness is not an obesssion about female beauty but an obsession about female obedience."
~Naomi Wolf

"Even the models we see in magazines wish they could look like their images."
~Cheri K. Erdman

"By choosing healthy over skinny you are choosing self-love over self-judgment. You are beautiful!" ~Steve Maraboli

"You shaped me first inside, then out; you formed me in my mother's womb. I thank you, High God ~ you're breathtaking! Body and soul, I am marvelously made! I worship in adoration ~ what a creation!"
~Psalm 139, The Message

      
         

Monday, July 16, 2012

DRIFTWOOD

I love the beach. Walk through our home and you will see evidence of this in every room. Seashells in all shapes and sizes mingle with starfish and driftwood we've collected over the years.

The driftwood pieces intrigue me. I suppose that's why I bother to pick them up in the first place. They have a haunting quality to them. I cannot help but wonder where they came from and how far they traveled. Surely the ocean was brutal to them. These partially decomposed fragments of wood have taken their share of beatings. Over time, they morphed into driftwood.

Sometimes our lives can appear like a piece driftwood. There's an undercurrent of sadness from storms we've lived through. People may judge us without knowing our background. Because they don't know where we've been and the rough waters we've endured, they make judgments based on appearances and their own assumptions. We get categorized as "driftwood", kind of interesting to look at, but lacking any real value or purpose.

But we aren't made of wood. We have choices in the midst of life's storms. The wood goes where the current carries it. We can choose to go with the flow as well, or we can fight the tide. We don't have to drift along and allow circumstances to pummel us and rob us of our value. Afterall, we are designed and put here for a purpose. It's a choice. Drifting may sound innocent enough, but it implies a lack of resistance. When we drift, we let whatever life throws at us sway and mold us. I don't know about you, but this isn't how I want to live. I want to know who I am and what my God-given purposes are with such clarity that I am not swayed. I want to stand strong in my beliefs, my convictions, and my callings.

It's true, driftwood can be beautiful. That, too, is an encouraging thought. Just because we've been through some rough seas doesn't mean we're washed up. Our lives can take on a new beauty and more glorious purpose.

Most, if not all of us, have had seasons of drifting. It's a natural part of the ebb and flow of life. But at some point, we have to learn to stand strong ~ and hold fast ~ or we will just keep drifting. Driftwood may look nice on my mantle, but that doesn't change the fact that it's dead wood. As much as I enjoy the driftwood we've collected over the years, I don't want to be like it ~ interesting to look at, but void of purpose and real life.

"Like the winds of the sea
Are the waves of time,
As we journey along through life,
Tis the set of the soul,
That determines the goal,
And not the calm or the strife."
~Ella Wheeler Wilcox

"It's never too late to be what you might have been."
~George Eliot

"Our background and circumstances may have influenced who we were, but we are responsible for who we become."
~Barbara Geraci 
    

Sunday, July 15, 2012

LESS IS MORE

There is a deep longing inside of me for less. Less possessions. Less debt. Less square footage. Less expenses. Less time-wasters. Less spending. Less clutter. At the same time, my heart cries out for more. More simplicity. More time for things that really matter. More peace of mind. More of God in my daily round.

My husband found me sitting quietly in our bedroom yesterday. "What are you doing?" he asked, puzzled by my inactivity. "Day-dreaming about the life I want," I responded. That got his attention. "What?!" he replied with a tinge of panic in his voice. I could see where his imagination was going, so I quickly explained. "I'm dreaming about a simpler lifestyle ~ no mortgage, freedom from all this stuff we've accumulated. Just a cozy, warm home with a little place to garden." His expression told me he got it. He understood. And he sighed, because he dreams about it, too.

Why do we have these strivings for less when the world around us seems to clamor for more? I don't know. But I am open. Because I think we are embarking on a lesson in life that less really can be more.

We have yet to find our path that will get us there. But I am so drawn to a peaceful retreat that doesn't deplete our wallets and our time. Rustic, wholesome, earthy, comfortable, calming, easy to maintain, welcoming to guests ~ these appeal to me more than the images society promotes in the magazines and on television. Heaven on earth can come in all shapes and sizes. It's just a matter of finding the right fit, then wearing it well.

"A simple life in the Fear-of-God is better than a rich life with a ton of headaches."
~Proverbs 15:16, The Message

"The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak." 
~Hans Hofmann

"The consumption society has made us feel that happiness lies in having things, and has failed to teach us the happiness of not having things."
~Elise Boulding

"What a unique treasure are the things we have learned to live without, for no thief can take them from us."
~Robert Brault


        

Thursday, July 12, 2012

PLEASANT PLACES

"Lord, you have assigned me my portion and my cup; you have made my lot secure. The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance." ~Psalm 16: 5,6

The bill that sat opened in my hands had sucked the joy right out of me. It's been nine months since my surgery. We thought we had paid our share of the costs. But the statement in front of me said otherwise. Not only do we still owe money, the bill in today's mail is the largest one we've received.

I spent the better part of the day trying to come up with a plan how to pay it. With only one income right now, money is tight. But it's always been tight for us. We've dealt with hefty medical expenses for most of our married life. So it was easy for me to get upset. I thought this one was behind us. I felt guilty that my surgery is still draining our wallets.

By late afternoon, I decided I'd had enough of this pity party. Maybe our financial picture isn't the best. It isn't the worst either. And the things in our lives that are good far outweigh the bad.

Like our health ~ yes, we've poured a lot of money into maintaining it, but here we all are ~ healthy, strong, and able to do what we enjoy.

Like our home ~ yes, we still have a mortgage that we may never pay off. And true, it's not a showcase. But it's home, and I love it.

Like our family ~ we aren't perfect. But we love and respect each other just as we are. We walk through the good and the bad together. And we know we have people in our lives that would drop everything in a heartbeat if we needed them.

I could go on and on. Yes, the boundary lines have fallen for me in very pleasant places. Medical bills or no medical bills, life is good! I think it's time to turn my pity party into a celebration.

"Everyday may not be good, but there's something good in every day." 
~Author Unknown

"I've decided that the stuff falling through the cracks is confetti and I'm having a party!" 
~Betsy Canas Garmon

"Got no checkbooks, got no banks,
Still I'd like to express my thanks ~
I got the sun in the morning and the moon at night."
~Irving Berlin

"To be upset over what you don't have is to waste what you do have."
~Ken S. Keyes, Jr.

"It isn't our position but our disposition which makes us happy."
~Author Unknown
     

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

ALL DIFFERENT, ALL UNIQUE

The personality profiling class being offered online intrigued me. I clicked the sign-up button when I realized it was free. Within seconds, my first 30-minute session arrived in my inbox.

I wasn't disappointed. The teaser that had hooked me was just a taste of what proved to be a fun and eye-opening five day course on personality types. I walked away with a better understanding of how I am wired. It even helped me see that some of my "weaknesses" can become strengths if I honor and channel them in healthy ways.

It wasn't just my own personality that I identified and learned about. By the second day of the course, I was beginning to take the information and start applying it to the people I am closest to. I got a peek into how they are designed, and why they think and act the way they do. And their areas of perceived "weakness" began to take on a whole new beauty.

Since finishing the course, I find myself seeing everyone in a different light. I'm not as easily frustrated. I notice I am cutting myself and others more slack. Who knew a free online course could equip me with a deeper understanding and appreciation for who we are created to be... all different, all unique.

The course has triggered some lively conversations in our household. My husband is "earth" ~ the stable, solid, reliable of the four types. Because he is wired this way, he tends to see things in black and white. This influences how he conducts himself. On the other hand, I am "water" ~ the soft, flowing, sensitive type. I see things in various shades of gray. We balance each other out. And now, thanks to the course, we are able to get a glimpse at how different our perspectives can be. We can respect and honor them instead of getting annoyed because we see some things so differently.

We are all beautiful in our own way. We all have gifts and strengths to share with each other and the world. We also have areas that some would label "weaknesses". How inspiring to know these weaknesses can be channeled into strengths.

We can respect our differences. We can balance each other out. Whether seeing the world in black and white or multiple shades of gray, we all have much to contribute. And we are all treasures in God's eyes, the handiwork of his marvelous design.

"Our similarities bring us to a common ground; our differences allow us to be fascinated with each other."
~Tom Robbins

"Men go abroad to wonder at the heights of mountains, at the huge waves of the sea, at the long courses of the rivers, at the vast compass of the ocean, at the circular motions of the stars, and they pass by themselves without wondering." 
~St. Augustine       

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

GIFT FROM THE SEA

It's that time of year again. Time to grab one of my favorite books and head for the beach. There's no better place than a seaside beach chair to digest and ponder this timeless treasure. I wonder if Anne Morrow Lindbergh had any idea of the gift she was imparting on the world through this short book. It has spoken to women and men across the globe and exercised its therapeutic wonders on millions of us. Who knows how much money she's saved us from spending on counseling sessions we no longer needed, thanks to her sage and transparently honest words.

If you have not read this gem, I urge you to get a copy of Gift From The Sea. Summer is the ideal time to read it, though it can speak to us anytime of the year. If you live close enough to the ocean, I suggest you find a quiet spot along the shore. Let your feet sink into the warm sand as your heart absorbs her journey revealed so openly on those pages. But don't let a lack of beach time deter your from reading this book. Anywhere will do, as long as it is quiet enough to ponder and reflect on her thoughts poured out lovingly for you.

I have my favorite copy in hand as I write this. My mom gave it to me on my twenty-first birthday. I have no idea how many times I've read it ~ too many to count. Parts are underlined, and there are notes scribbled in its margins. In a few hours, I'll be nestled into my beach chair. The sun, the sand, and the sounds of the surf will be my companions as I once again reacquaint myself with my dear friend Anne.

I hope I've inspired you to drink deeply of this beautifully written book. If you've already had the pleasure of reading it, why not pick it up again and see how it speaks to you today. If you have never opened its pages, I wish you a wondrous journey as Anne lets you peek into her spirit in a way so few have the courage to do. "Patience - Faith - Openness, is what the sea has to teach. Simplicity - Solitude - Intermittency..." Anne learned these the hard way. But we can glean from her life story. Happy reading, my friend.

"The sea does not reward those who are too anxious, too greedy, or too impatient. To dig for treasures shows not only impatience and greed, but lack of faith. Patience, patience, patience, is what the sea teaches. Patience and faith. One should lie empty, open, choiceless as a beach - waiting for a gift from the sea." 
~Anne Morrow Lindbergh

     

Friday, July 6, 2012

FREEDOM

Every year I look forward to the arrival of summer and a favorite holiday, the 4th of July. My unhurried nature loves the relaxed atmosphere and the feeling of small-town America it triggers. There's no big meal to plan and prepare...no hours standing in the kitchen, hoping all turns out well. I don't feel any pressure to scrub our home. We'll be outdoors anyway, so what's the point?

Decorations are simple: red, white and blue, and American flags scattered throughout the property. The simplicity affords me the time to dig deeper and give serious thought to the heart of this holiday...and the heartbeat of our country...freedom. When I look at our flag waving proudly throughout our neighborhood, or gaze upon the dazzling fireworks display at our local park, it's what I see...and hear...and feel. Freedom has got to be one of our most valuable blessings, yet it's so easy to take for granted. What if we were to lose it? And what if we haven't really grasped it in its truest form?

There are so many dimensions to freedom ~ freedom of speech, religion, assembly, pursuit of happiness...and so on. I'm so grateful for all of these. But there's another freedom I've only recently grabbed hold of ~ the freedom from needing approval of others. Until recently, I didn't realize this was an issue for me. But looking back, I can see how it's been a crack in my foundation for a long time. Trying to fill my dad's shoes in the business world after he passed away...striving to be a good wife and stepmom when I got married...longing to be a successful mother, homemaker, and teacher. I've been hungering for the approval of others my whole life.

Perhaps it's one of the treasured perks of being fifty-something. Or maybe it's because I've progressed through those roles, and no longer find my identity in them. Or could it be that I am finally able to embrace myself just as I am, and put my need for approval to rest? Maybe it's all of the above.

How about you? There's One who came to set us free. How much time do we give to that truth? Are we walking that path to freedom He laid out for us? If not, what's holding us back? "If the Son sets you free, you are free indeed." Those are more than just words, my friend. That's freedom in its truest form. And it's ours, if we want it.

"Freedom is not won on the battlefields. The chance for freedom is won there. The final battle is won or lost in our hearts and minds."
~Helen Gahagan Douglass 

      

Thursday, July 5, 2012

SWEET JULY

I couldn't help myself. Lingering under the covers on this unseasonably cool and overcast morning was just too hard to resist. My doxie Maggie seemed to agree. She remained burrowed inside her sheet, perfectly content to put off her early morning rituals.

It's sweet July ~ time for some of us to take that vacation we've been saving up for all year...time to read the novel everyone has been ranting and raving about...time to indulge ourselves with an afternoon nap on the backyard lounge chair.

For me, July is my "re" month. It's my season to relax, rest, recreate, retreat, reflect, reconnect, remember, reach out, re-organize, re-read an old favorite, and rejoice in the midst of it all. The year is half over. It's the perfect time to get some fresh perspective, put an old habit to rest, and look around at all that is good.

July is about finding balance. It's about making the choice to appreciate and enjoy life as it is in the here and now. It's about re-charging my batteries, up-ing my energy level, and delving into some personal dreams that seem unattainable the rest of the year.

But today, those things can wait. Because July is also the sweet month to celebrate our glorious freedoms. And the memory of last night's fireworks was fresh on my mind when I awakened. The coziness of my bed in the early morning hours was the perfect time to practice one of those freedoms, the freedom to relax.

The to-do list that was written in the back of my mind can wait. The furniture doesn't have to be dusted simply because this is the day of the week I normally dust. Leftover food in the kitchen will make a more than adequate meal tonight. And those weeds that seemed to appear overnight will still be there to greet me tomorrow. There will always be things to accomplish. But how many mornings will I set aside for savoring the moment? Not nearly enough. So today, I dug my feet a bit deeper under the covers and breathed in the freedom of this morning. It was the perfect way to celebrate this season called July.

How about you? If work and other demands force you out of bed at the crack of dawn, I hope you find a window of time that you can open up for renewal, and exercise your freedom to enjoy this sweet season.

"Deep summer is when laziness finds respectability." ~Sam Keen

"We need society, and we need solitude also, as we need summer and winter, day and night, exercise and rest." 
~Philip Gilbert Hamerton       

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

SHERIFF ANDY AND APPLE PIE

I can picture it now ~ sitting on the porch eating homemade ice cream on a Sunday afternoon...neighbors passing by for a visit...supper cooking in the oven. Can't you just smell the apple pie cooling on the counter? The leaves rustling in the breeze are the perfect accompaniment to the sound of children's laughter as they play nearby. I don't know about you, but I could use a stroll down Mayberry's peaceful streets where a visit to the sheriff's office is just to say hello.

Was there ever a more endearing male role model than Sheriff Andy Taylor? Not in these eyes. The lure of small town Mayberry and its lovable characters have made it my favorite since childhood. I've always thought that if I could handpick a place and an era in which to live, it would be Mayberry in the sixties ~ with Andy as Sheriff, Barney as his Deputy, and Aunt Bee and Opie as neighbors.

It was more than the small town appeal of the Andy Griffith Show that spoke to me. Andy's character in that sweet series was the epitome of a true man. He was always a gentleman. He put family first. He was strong and wise, yet humble enough to admit when he was wrong. Andy was kind and gentle, and compassionate towards all. In every scenario, he exemplified courage and honesty. Even the way he conducted himself as sheriff was inspiring. He tended to see the bigger picture. He used common sense. And he had a heart for serving the people in his community. Andy gave men a vision of manliness they could aspire to become. In a way, he gave women the same thing ~ who wouldn't want a man like Andy Taylor?

In a world that's obsessed with political correctness, getting ahead, looking out for number one, and overrun with busy-ness, I think we'd be wise to revisit the good old days of Mayberry. There's much we've given up in our striving for "more". Andy, Aunt Bee, and Opie have much to teach us, if only we'll take the time to pause and listen.

As much as I'd like to, I can't go back in time to the more innocent and simple days of Mayberry. But perhaps I can bring a bit of Mayberry and the spirit of those beloved characters into the here and now. I have a porch. I have people I love. I have good neighbors on all sides. And I can certainly bake a pie (though mine aren't nearly as tasty as Aunt Bee's). A lot has changed in the past fifty years, but some things remain. It's up to us to grab hold of them.

"Enjoy yourself. These are the good old days you're going to miss in the years ahead." ~Author Unknown        

Monday, July 2, 2012

THE MODEL HOME

"It's a sad frog who doesn't praise his own pond." ~Author Unknown

I walked throughout the vast space, soon to be home to my niece and her family. I was in awe. I was also wrestling with a sense of inadequacy. Here I am, fifty-something, still occupying a cozy bungalow under 1,500 square feet. My niece's new home more than triples my residence in size.

But the feeling didn't last for more than a minute. I got to thinking about caring for such an immense place, and suddenly, my little home was the perfect fit for me. Because I don't possess the physical strength or stamina to maintain a large residence. And because I no longer need much room as my days of parenting kids at home comes to a close.

My niece is walking a completely different path than me. She is in that sweet season of babies and children yet to come. Her family is in its early stages of growth, and she is excited about having a home that they can expand into. She is young, strong, and energetic enough to tackle all that square footage with passion and enthusiasm.

It's all about the right fit. I don't think I was ever truly capable of caring for so large a house...which in part, explains why I never had one...and why I never will. It wouldn't suit me. But the place I call home now is an equal match to my need and my ability.

How about you? Do you ever find yourself gazing upon someone else's house and wondering why yours isn't an equal match? Could it be that your home is the perfect one for you? Today, let's look around our homes through lenses of gratitude, and really appreciate all of its qualities...even those that can drive us crazy at times. The more we value what we have, the more we can celebrate what others have as well ~ even if they are three times larger than our own.

"I have been very happy with my homes, but homes really are no more than the people who live in them." ~Nancy Reagan

"Prosperity depends more on wanting what you have than having what you want." 
~Geoffrey F. Abert

"The most fortunate are those who have a wonderful capacity to appreciate again and again, freshly and naively, the basic goods of life, with awe, pleasure, wonder, and even ecstacy." ~Abraham Maslow

"True godliness with contentment is itself great wealth. After all, we brought nothing with us when we came into the world, and we can't take anything with us when we leave it. So if we have enough food and clothing, let us be content."
~1 Timothy 6:6-8