Sunday, September 30, 2012

PRACTICING PATIENCE

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

"I am running out of patience." I have blurted those words under my breath more times than I can count. But how do we "run out" of something so intangible? Money, yes. Food, yes. Even time. But patience?

This is a difficult subject to explore, because I find myself running on empty all too often. Yesterday, it took me an hour to print a store coupon on my archaic computer. I slammed the mouse down repeatedly, brewing in frustration. Then I thought about the message I'd be writing on patience. Ugh...

Once again, I look to my grandma as my measuring stick and my inspiration. Everything about her daily round was laced with a heaping dose of patience. Her life began in the nineteenth century and ended in the twenty-first, touching three centuries. My husband reminded me of a story she shared with us about travelling in a covered wagon when she was a young girl. It got me thinking, when she was my age, it was 1948. She had already raised four children amidst the challenging life as a missionary in South America, with experiences I cannot grasp in my comfortable lifestyle.

So I cut myself some slack. Because let's be real ~ in this age of fast technology and instant gratification, we haven't had the opportunities she did to grow the fruit of patience. But I cannot let that excuse me from seeking more patience in my own life.

Grandma's life teaches me it begins with the simplest of things. If she wanted jam or jelly, Grandma set aside a couple of days and went about the task of canning her own. The same was true of chili sauce, relish, apple sauce, apple butter, and who knows what else. For me, it's a quick trip to the market.

Baking a pie was an all day event for her, beginning with homemade crust that would melt in your mouth. The best pie I can produce comes in a Marie Callendar's box.

New flowers in her garden began with a little bag of seeds, which she watered, fertilized, and cared for over the course of weeks, even months. I go to the local nursery and choose a plant to place in our yard for instant color.

Her need for a new dress or quilt for the bed didn't involve an online order or jaunt to the mall (that's me). Her hands created what she wore and the covers that warmed her at night.

Although she used a washing machine when I knew her as grandma, vivid memories remain of the clothesline outside her kitchen window. Her linens and clothes swayed in the breeze until she carried her basket outside to retrieve them.

Here's the irony. For all the hard work my grandma did in her daily life, she was never in a hurry. She went about her work at her own happy pace.

Have all the modern conveniences and time-savers we insist upon having, actually perpetuate the fast-paced mentality? It's no wonder we are short of patience in today's society.

I want what grandma had. I don't know if I have to shut off devices, give up conveniences, and learn the crafts my grandma knew. If so, it won't be easy. But it may be the gentlest path to growing more patience.

Today, as I type on my computer that moves at a snail's pace, I see it as a gift on the road to developing patience. I can do this! Grandma's life tells me it's possible.

"Patience is not the ability to wait, but the ability to keep a good attitude while waiting."
~Author Unknown

"Patience is the companion of wisdom."
~St. Augustine

"Humility and patience are the surest proofs of the increase of love."
~John Wesley

"The key to everything is patience. You get the chicken by hatching the egg, not by smashing it."
~Arnold Glaslow

"One of the great disadvantages of hurry is that it takes such a long time."
~G.K. Chesterton

"Do daily and hourly your duty; do it patiently and thoroughly. Do it as it presents itself; do it at the moment and let it be its own reward."
~James H. Aughey

"God's patience is infinite. Men, like small kettles, boil quickly with wrath at the least wrong. Not so God. If God were as wrathful, the world would have been a heap of ruins long ago."
~Sadhu Sundar Singh

"Let your hope keep you joyful, be patient in your troubles, and pray at all times."
~Romans 12:12

"It's smart to be patient, but it's stupid to lose your temper."
~Proverbs 14:29

            

Friday, September 28, 2012

PLANTED IN PEACE

"Are there any of you who are wise and understanding? You are to prove it by your good life, by your good deeds performed with humility and wisdom. The wisdom from above is pure first of all; it is also peaceful, gentle, and friendly; it is full of compassion and produces a harvest of good deeds; it is free from prejudice and hypocrisy. And goodness is the harvest that is produced from the seeds the peacemakers plant in peace."
~James 3:13, 17-18

When I read these words, I can't help but picture my grandma's smiling face. The life she led was pure and peaceful, and she was a peacemaker by the way she conducted herself. There was no evidence of strife, tension, or resentment in her demeanor. She lived honestly, thoughtfully, and wisely, and she seemed to be at peace with everything and everyone.

I don't think I ever saw my grandma worried, upset, or fearful. Things that rattle my nerves didn't seem to faze her. Why can't I have that calm assurance and peaceful spirit she possessed? But this week I have been realizing that maybe I can.

It all began with a dream. I was entering into heaven. I saw the faces of those who'd gone before me. My dad, my grandparents, and others were there, cheering me on as though I was crossing the finish line in a race. They jumped up and down with excitement, arms opened wide to welcome me. There was no thought or sadness about who I was leaving behind, because I could sense in my spirit they would be joining us when their race was over. I was overwhelmed with joy to see those I'd been separated from for so long.

After I woke up and pondered my dream, I realized it had a powerful message for me. Death, the one thing that has held an element of fear for me, no longer has any power to frighten me. In fear's place is peace. Pure, penetrating peace has flooded my spirit this week. And if I can experience peace in the one area that has always been a challenge for me, I can have peace in every aspect of my life. I want that peace, and I want to be a peacemaker like my grandma. This is the legacy I want to leave behind.

My dream reminds me we are all running a race. I don't want to get so distracted and dragged down by the things of this world that I get off course. But there's another thing. We all run different races. Some of us have only a quick jaunt until we cross that finish line. Others, like my grandma, run a long race. It's not the length that counts, it's how we run our race...and what awaits us as we find ourselves at the end of it. "Well done!" and a cheerful welcome is what I want to encounter at the end of my journey. As D. L. Moody once said, "A great many people are trying to make peace, but that has already been done. God has not left it for us to do; all we have to do is to enter into it." I think my grandma knew this. And it's how I want to finish my race.

"You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you."
~Isaiah 26:3

"I am leaving you with a gift ~ peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don't be troubled or afraid."
~John 14:27

"May the Lord himself, who is our source of peace, give you peace at all times and in every way." 
~2 Thessalonians 3:16

"Don't worry about anything, but pray about everything. With thankful hearts offer up your prayers and requests to God. Then, because you belong to Christ Jesus, God will bless you with peace that no one can completely understand. And this peace will control the way you think and feel."
~Philippians 4:6,7

 "Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as member of one body you were called to peace. And be thankkul."
~Colossians 3:15              

       

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

DRESSED IN JOY

"The art of being happy lies in the power of extracting happiness from common things."
~Henry Ward Beecher

Grandma loved to sew. If my house ever catches on fire, two of the items I am grabbing are the quilts she stitched over the course of several years. I can see the thread of joy in every stitch she made with her two hands and one heart. She lived her life much like her Creator, finding pure joy in creating things.

Most of the dresses she wore were birthed at her sewing machine. Their colors and patterns are imbedded in my memory. Grandma was a lady, and never wore pants. Even when working in her garden, she was clothed in a dress or a pretty housecoat.

Something else she wore everyday was a smile. It didn't take much to bring it out. Author Anne Lamott once wrote, "Joy is the best make-up." Grandma wore it well. And she wore it daily.

I want to know her secrets! I can find dozens of things to complain about as I go about my day. Not grandma. She took things in stride and kept a cheerful outlook. What I view as menial chores were simply a part of her daily rhythm. She was content to cook, clean, mend, pay bills, and putter in her garden. She never appeared burdened, overwhelmed, or exhausted by her daily demands.

Grandma took pleasure in the simplest of things. A smile and "Well, would you look at that," was her response to a humming bird buzzing on her patio, and the first blooms of sweet peas gracing her garden. Even a simple meal of soup and sandwich was met with a smile of appreciation. She knew how to pause in those moments and enjoy herself.

Grandma loved her life and the people in it. Her generosity was an outpouring of this love. She gave of her time, her talents, her energy, and her heart as part of her daily round. She didn't set aside one day a week to "give back". It was an integral part of who she was and how she lived her waking hours.

Grandma's contented spirit helped her keep perspective. She didn't allow limitations to dampen her mood or her lifestyle. Not having a car meant she'd have opportunities to see people she loved. A tight budget challenged her creative and mathematical skills. As she began to deal with health issues, she simply pressed through them and continued to do what she loved, focusing on her passion instead of her pain.

"Scatter joy," wrote Ralph Waldo Emerson. And who better to learn from than my grandma, who daily dressed herself in joy.

"I think I began learning long ago that those who are happiest are those who do the most for others."
~Booker T. Washington

"The sweetest joy in life is to love and be loved."
~Mia Rose

"I have God's more-than-enough, more joy in one ordinary day."
~Psalm 4:7

"You have shown me
the path of life,
and you make me glad
by being near to me.
Sitting at your right side,
I will always be joyful."
~Psalm 16:11
  

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

TASTE THE GOODNESS

"From the fruit of their lips people are filled with good things, and the work of their hands brings them reward."
~Proverbs 12:14

It's hard to live under a critical eye. You feel as though you never measure up. But it may be even worse for those who constantly look at people and things harshly. Do they see the good there, or just what they think needs fixing?

I cannot remember my grandma ever wearing a scowl on her face. Nor do I recall any critical words pouring forth from her lips. Maybe the genuine goodness she possessed opened her eyes to the goodness in everything and everyone around her. Perhaps it was because she was so content with her own life. She had no need to find fault in others.

The absence of a critical, complaining spirit makes her a wise teacher. And I have much to learn. I cannot control the murmurs, complaints, and critical spirits of others. But I can keep a close watch over my own words, actions, and thoughts. I can follow the advice of Paul to the Philippians, "I'd say you'll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious ~ the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse." This was how my grandma lived.

I can't help but wonder what Grandma would think if she was here, reading over my shoulder. I think she would giggle and say, "That's not me you are talking about?!" At the center of all her goodness was a very humble heart. A poem my grandma wrote makes me wonder if the only thing she struggled to see the goodness in, was herself ~
WHO AM I?
Within my earthly temple
there's a crowd.
There's one that's humble
One that's proud.
There's one that's brokenhearted
For his sins.
There's one that's unrepented
Sits and grins.
There's one that loves
His neighbor as himself.
And one that cares for nought
But fame and self.
From much perplexing care
I would be free
If I could once determine
Which is me.
~Mary Hughes, aka Grandma

"Good people bring out the good in other people."
~Author Unknown


 

Saturday, September 22, 2012

GRANDMA'S LEGACY OF LOVE

"Love is a fruit in season at all times, and within the reach of every hand."
~Mother Teresa

Everything my grandma touched was graced with a loving hand. It was evident when she puttered in her garden, created in her kitchen, and chatted over coffee. Hers wasn't a sappy, overly demonstrative kind of love. It just wove itself into everything she did.

A feral cat my grandma called BBC (Big Black Cat) saw this special quality in her too. The largest cat I have ever known, he wore his name well. An occasional visit on her patio evolved into a permanent residence for BBC. But it took time, and a whole lot of love. Grandma opened her door and her heart to this tempermental character. No one could approach BBC but her. He'd hiss and make a fuss at everyone else. But where Grandma was concerned, he was smitten.

Though it's been years, I remember the way he would stroll into the house with the regal manner that became BBC's trademark. He'd reach his front paws up onto the kitchen counter, his hind legs still anchored on the floor. His masculine meow was his way of saying, "I'm hungry." Thursdays he was all the more eager to get inside and head for the kitchen. Grandma always cooked him his favorite meal, liver. Perhaps it was the scent wafting from her kitchen. But he always knew when it was Thursday.

Over time, BBC became an affectionate cat, but only with Grandma. During her afternoon rest time, he'd climb up onto her chair and plop his large, heavy body onto her soft and welcoming lap. Siesta hour was often spent together.

BBC saw the love, the patience, the kindess, and the gentleness that was my grandma. And he drank deeply of her good fruits. If a feral cat can grasp the treasure of who my grandma was, I know I can too. As I tap into our family's memory banks, I know I will stumble on many examples of how she lived her life so authentically, beautifully, and lovingly. Even though she is gone, I believe the world still needs my grandma. It's an honor to share her with you.

"I am not sure exactly what heaven will be like, but I know that when I die and it comes time for God to judge us, he will not ask, 'How many good things have you done in your life?' rather he will ask, 'How much love did you put into what you did?'" 
~Mother Teresa

"Spread the love of God through your life but only use words when necessary."
~Mother Teresa

"The deeper we put down our roots and become established in His love, the stronger our branches become to bear His fruit."
~Karla Dornacher

   

Friday, September 21, 2012

GRANDMA'S FRUITS

"Eliminate the unnecessary so the necessary may speak."
~Hans Hofmann

My day began sweetly. Before my eyes even opened, visions of my grandma filled my thoughts. I lay there in the silence, picturing her just as I remembered her. I saw her face so full of expression. I heard her voice talking about her plans for the day. I smelled the aroma of breakfast that filled her home in the early morning hours. I tasted her apple butter, heaped generously on a slice of sour dough toast. And I missed her.

She's been gone for over ten years. But she lived such a long, rich life. Not monetarily. Her wealth was in things more lasting...her investments in lives, not bank accounts. Perhaps it's my recent studies of the fruits of the Spirit that brought my grandma to mind. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control ~ all of these describe who my grandma was and how she lived her life.

Grandma's life was a beautiful example of simplicity, order, rhythm, and balance. It wasn't cluttered with busyness. She didn't struggle with too much stuff or too much space. She knew the secret of being content. For her it meant living simply and having order in her day. It also meant no more and no less than what she needed, and what brought her peace and joy. She didn't strive for more things, more time in her day, or more meaning to her existence.

As I reflected back on her life, I realized there isn't a life I long for more than hers.
Perhaps my recent feeling of emptiness is really a case of "too much". Too much stuff to manage, organize, deal with, long for. I've lost my balance, my rhythm. Though I desire order, I can't find it amidst the disorder around me. And I see I want less of what I have, so I can have more of what she had.

And the best part? It's attainable. It doesn't have to mean a shift in houses or neighborhoods or professions. It's only a change in perspective, priorities, and attitude. Simplicity, order, rhythm, balance. People over things. Generosity with time, energy, and resources. These were my grandma. And they are the stepping stones I want to take in my own path to a life well-lived.

"Everything we possess that is not necessary for life or happiness becomes a burden, and scarcely a day passes that we do not add to it."
~Robert Brault

"Material blessings, when they pay beyond the category of need, are weirdly fruitful of headaches."
~Philip Wylie

"The sculptor produces the beautiful statue by chipping away such parts of marble block as are not needed ~ it is a process of elimination."
~Elbert Hubbard

"A devout life does bring wealth, but it's the rich simplicity of being yourself before God. Since we entered the world penniless and will leave it penniless, if we have bread on the table and shoes on our feet, that's enough...Pursue a righteous life ~ a life of wonder, faith, love, steadiness, courtesy."
~From 1 Timothy 6, The Message
   

         

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

THE COMPARISON GAME

"We will not compare ourselves with each other as if one of us were better and another worse. We have far more interesting things to do with our lives. Each of us is an original."
~Galatians 5, The Message

"Please don't compare me to other people," I replied. His comment, though not intended to be hurtful, still stung. To make matters worse, he was referring to something that was locked in the past. Even if I wanted to (and I did!), there's no way to turn back the hands of time for a do-over.

Most of the words he speaks to me are uplifting and full of praise. But they all fade into the background when he compares me...or us...to other people.

It's hard enough to rein in my own struggle with comparisons. I can be brutally hard on myself. Why can't I accomplish what she does? I could fill an entire journal on the ways I've played my own version of the comparison game. And I never come out of it winning.

So please don't compare me to others! Because I'll never measure up. I can only be the best version of myself. And the comparisons imply it's not good enough.

And let's not compare our lives to other people's. We all have unique circumstances, histories, and perspectives. No one else walks the exact path we do. We cannot take little pieces of their lives and superimpose them onto our own life picture. They won't fit. They will only frustrate us.

Today I challenged him to put to rest the comparison game. I challenged myself, too. How about you? Are you in need of this challenge? Rather than comparing ourselves or a loved one to another person, let's redirect our thoughts. Focus on the good stuff! Celebrate the accomplishments. And say no to the comparison game.

"Comparison is the thief of joy." 
~Theodore Roosevelt

"Do not underestimate yourself by comparing yourself with others. It's our differences that make us unique and beautiful."
~Author Unknown

"Never compare yourself or others to other people. Everyone has their own struggles,own fights, and a different path that they chose to get to where they are. Everyone is who they are for a reason."
~Author Unknown

     

Monday, September 17, 2012

THE WAITING ROOM

"Teach us, O Lord, the disciplines of patience, for to wait is often harder than to work."
~Peter Marshall

The minutes felt like hours as we sat in the hospital waiting room. What was taking so long? I silently prayed the same words I'd been repeating since we'd arrived. "Please be with her. Let everything be okay."

I have never been good at waiting...at least, for the things that really matter. I can be patient when it comes to trivial stuff. I've stared at the same broken window in our kitchen for over a decade. And the new paint of coat our bedroom has been crying out for since we moved here fourteen years ago remains unanswered. These things may annoy me at times, but I can wait for them.

It's the deeper longings that exhaust me in the wait ~ the healing touch a family member needs...the mending of a rift in a relationship...a job that will help us pay the bills. But when I look back on my periods of waiting, I see how they held a beauty and purpose all their own. And I chide myself for making such a fuss during the stretches of uncertainty. My impatience got me nowhere. I wanted the process to hurry up, and I often created more problems than solutions when I pushed things on my own timetable. The times I did choose to wait patiently, my answers came. Once it was over, I could catch a glimpse of the bigger picture. And I know I appreciated it all the more because it didn't arrive quickly or easily.

Once again I find myself in a waiting room ~ waiting for my next "assignment"...waiting for my husband to ease up on his work load...waiting to see where life will take us and what it will hold. The shifting moods and unwelcome feelings that waiting triggers are still alive and well. But I know there's a bigger picture. And because my faith has strengthened over the years, I believe it will all turn out fine.

"Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord." (Psalm 27:14) Isaiah 40 tells us, "Those who wait upon God get fresh strength." I have found this to be so true. I can let my feelings weigh me down, or I can allow myself to be strengthened as I wait for Him.

How about you? What does your waiting room look and feel like? Do you find yourself in a season of uncertainty and "what next"? I'm right there with you. Pull up a chair and join me. We can wait this one out together.

"Waiting is not just something we have to do until we get what we want. Waiting is part of the process of becoming what God wants us to be."
~John Ortberg             

Thursday, September 13, 2012

WEATHERED WARDROBES

"Why worry about clothes? Look how the wild flowers grow. They don't work hard to make their clothes. But I tell you Solomon with all his wealth wasn't as well clothed as one of them."
~Matthew 6: 28, 29

I watched from our back room as the crew of men tore down the five layers of roof on our old bungalow home. The cloudy skies were an ominous backdrop to the day. Though there was no forecast for rain, I could feel the moisture in the air. And it took me back twenty-five years to another September afternoon...with no roof...and gray skies.

We were newly married, living in a Craftsman home we were quickly growing out of. With my husband's two young sons, and a baby on the way, we began a second story addition to double the square footage. The day our house was roofless, unseasonable clouds blew in. We reasoned it was only a marine layer. Rain in September in our pocket of Southern California was so unlikely. Until we felt the first drop. And then the skies opened up. It didn't just rain. It poured.

The clothes closet was our biggest casualty. But the image of wet clothes didn't worry me. The next day I began pulling out the garments. I was in tears. Two of my silk blouses ~ one red, one blue ~ had sleeves extending the entire width of my wardrobe (don't ask me how!). Every garment was permanently stained with a red or blue streak depending on where in the closet it had resided. And all of it was ruined.

This was my beloved wardrobe. I had spent years meticulously building it before our wedding. Being a former model, my mom had taught me well. She had helped me assemble a collection of beautiful pieces that worked well together. Every season and every occasion was covered, and I treasured all of them. Being pregnant, I couldn't wait to get back to my original size again (it was my first baby ~ I was a bit naive). But now it was gone.

Remembering that experience, my mind wandered to my closet and the clothes that now line it. It is evidence I never recovered from that loss. With four kids in just over two years of marriage, my priorities shifted. I found it much more pleasurable to shop for one of my kids than for myself. I have a collection of tired clothes to prove it! "It's always the badly dressed people who are the most interesting." (Jean Paul Gaultier) If only this was true!

The inflow of fall catalogs beckon me to peek and tempt me to buy. Believe me, my wardrobe could use a hefty makeover. But times are hard for many of us, and a new wardrobe isn't in the budget. Especially with the unexpected expenses we've had the past year with a one hundred year old home...like a new roof.

Unless of course a freak rainstorm should appear while we are still roofless...and wipe out my entire wardrobe once again. One can hope!

"Of all the things you wear, your expression is the most important."
~Janet Lane

"People seldom notice old clothes if you wear a big smile."
~Lee Mildon

"If honor be your clothing, the suit will last a lifetime; but if clothing be your honor, it will soon be worn threadbare."
~William Arnot

"Be careless in your dress if you will, but keep a tidy soul."
~Mark Twain
              

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

FICKLE FEELINGS

"Trust in the Lord and do good;
dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture."
~Psalm 37:3

I found myself in a funk as the new school year began. With nowhere to go and no one to teach, I felt lacking in purpose and value. I spent an entire day paralyzed by my feelings. Sitting in a thick fog of self-pity, I was unable to focus on anything else.

The following day, before my head left the pillow, I determined to do something productive. I cleaned. I scrubbed. I organized. I even managed to get some writing done. But I still felt robbed of my purpose. Anyone can do what I am doing, I mused.

My entire week was dampened by feelings of uselessness and self-imposed guilt. Why didn't I find a job? Why weren't families approaching me to teach their kids? Even my own kids don't need me, I thought with a heavy heart. What purpose do I now serve?

Looking back, it seems a bit silly. But I don't think I'm alone in having passing moments of self-doubt. At the time, it was so consuming. If I hadn't forced myself to get up off the couch and do something...anything...I think I'd still be sitting there idly, immobilized by feelings of worthlessness.

I had to have a shift ~ in focus and in activity. I had to stop dwelling on what was lacking and how I felt, and change my thinking and my attitude.

I love this verse from Psalm 37. It gives me such practical advice. "Trust in the Lord." It all begins with taking my eyes off of poor little old me, my problems, and my feelings...and planting them squarely onto the Lord. Over the years I have come to know God as my ultimate source of provision, guidance, and protection. He has shown me time after time that I can trust Him. When I lose sight of this, I make myself vulnerable to fickle feelings. I forget that my true value is in Him and how He chooses to guide and use me.

"Do good" encourages me to put my focus onto others. It drains my energy when I give in to sadness and self-pity. Channeling that energy into other people's lives not only blesses them, it opens my eyes to the reality that I am not so useless afterall.

First Chronicles 16:27 says, "Strength and joy are in His dwelling place." I like the sound of that! Why dwell on what's lacking in my life? Do I want to dwell in His presence, or on myself and my problems? Curled up on the couch and cloaked in self-pity is pointless. Not when I can be walking closely with the One who longs to provide, guide, and protect.

"Enjoy safe pasture" is the outcome of this shift in focus. He doesn't want to steal our joy. Just the opposite! Instead of it being a legalistic and confining path, it is one that leads to freedom...and sheer joy. In fact, it is the ultimate enjoyment to be right next to Him as I go about my day, whatever it may hold.

What a concept ~ He not only invites us, He longs for us to accept that invitation. A couch of self-pity or a pathway to joy? I think this teacher has learned her lesson.

"If you don't manage your emotions, then your emotions will manage you."
~Doc Childre and Deborah Rozman

"Feelings are much like waves, we can't stop them from coming, but we can choose which one to surf."
~Jonatan Martensson

"Get up everyday, love God, and do your best. He will do the rest!"
~Joyve Meyer

         

Monday, September 10, 2012

WHY I PRAY

"Heaven is full of answers to prayers for which no one ever bothered to ask."
~Billy Graham

You will never convince me otherwise. I am living proof. The act of prayer changes things. Because it welcomes in the One who can change anything.

This weekend my husband and I drove over two hundred miles up the coast to be with some dear friends. It's a drive I have done at least a hundred times. "Four hours to enjoy the scenery and converse with God," I thought. With my list in hand, I lifted up people (you may have been one of them!), problems, and praises. When we arrived, I was refreshed, unburdened, and ready for the weekend.

Our trip home was also a time of prayer. But this time, I prayed with more urgency and less verbiage. I found myself behind the wheel after dark. For me, this is not a good thing! I don't see well on the freeways once the sun goes down. The headlights from oncoming cars distort and limit my vision. But I had no choice. While we were away, my husband hurt his back. He was in too much pain to drive. "Get us safely home," was my constant internal prayer as I clutched the steering wheel and strained to see the road amidst the constant glare.

There is power in prayer! Not because of the words themselves, but because prayer plugs us into the greatest power source. Prayer changes things. Not because of the eloquence of our words, but because we are speaking with the One who has omnipotent ability to change anything and anyone.

Prayer ushers in healing. Sometimes it's physical. But often it's a deeper healing that involves our emotional and spiritual well-being. Prayer dispels fear and anxiety. Not because of some magical element to our expression, but because we are releasing these toxic emotions to our wise and all-knowing Counselor.

Prayer sets our priorities in order. It reminds us that God and people are what truly matter most. Prayer strengthens relationships. Whether we are agreeing in prayer with another person or praying on our own, it opens our eyes and softens our hearts to someone else's journey.

Prayer draws us into the presence of God our Creator. It gives us glimpses into His character. If that isn't reason enough to pray, I don't know what is.

Life throws many things at us that are difficult to process, deal with, and understand. In the midst of all our tragedies and triumphs, He is there, longing to commune with us. And the best part ~ He is only a prayer away, eager to guide us safely home.

"God does not stand afar off as I struggle to speak. He cares enough to listen with more than casual attention. He translates my scrubby words, and hears what is truly inside. He hears my sighs and uncertain gropings as fine prose."
~Timothy Jones

"Prayer does not fit us for the greater work, prayer is the greater work."
~Oswald Chambers

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

Thursday, September 6, 2012

SWEET MEMORIES

"The best thing about memories is making them."
~Author Unknown

It has been a grueling week. Along with some very emotionally charged moments with relatives and friends, I have done attic combat. Hear me out. Then you can decide if I am worthy of a purple heart.

Last December's hurricane-force winds took with it a large chunk of our roof. We live in a one hundred year old house. Like other "projects" done to our home over the years, previous owners didn't tackle re-roofing properly. We have not one, but four roofs over our heads, all needing to come down in preparation for the new one. Because of the incalculable weight of the four roofs, the rafters have taken a beating, and they also need attention.

All that to say, EVERYTHING in our attic must come down ~ at least, the things "we care about". Our attic runs the entire span of our home. And what did we do with all that space? We filled it, of course!

The past few days I have spent upstairs  ~ sorting, tossing, and carrying endless boxes from the attic to the garage. It hasn't been all bad. In fact, it's fit in nicely with my determination to de-clutter and get organized. It's also been entertaining. Among the items I have stumbled on ~ well, some are worthy of a prize:

MOST SENTIMENTAL ~ love notes from my husband
MOST TEAR-EVOKING ~ cards made for us by our kids when they were little
STRANGEST ~ my very long ponytail from when I was 8 years old and got my first haircut...and it still has a curl in it
MOST DISGUSTING (might as well keep this real!) ~ an artificial Christmas tree with an old ___nest in it (forgive me, I cannot bring myself to use the "R" word!)
FUNNIEST ~ my troll dolls nestled in their troll house...remember trolls??
SADDEST ~ items that belonged to our beloved dog Nathan before his passing
HISTORICAL ~ the trunk my mom took with her all over the world when she was a little girl
USELESS ~ my wedding shoes, now 2 sizes too small.

In the midst of all the chaos, my husband and I exchanged frustrated words. "Why do we have to keep all this junk?" he pressed.

"Why don't you understand that these things hold meaning to me?" I answered in a less than kind tone.

But there was a tender exchange between us when I stumbled on my ponytail. As I held it up to my head to show him my treasure, he smiled and said, "Hey, your hair is still the same color!"

And that moment won for SWEETEST.

"Life is short, live it. Love is rare, grab it. Anger is bad, dump it. Fear is awful, face it. Memories are sweet, cherish them."
~Author Unknown

"Memory is a way of holding onto things you love, the things you are, the things you never want to lose."
~From The Wonder Years

"Sometimes you will never know the true value of a moment until it becomes a memory."
~Author Unknown

"Laugh your heart out, cherish the memories, and put the pain to rest, because we only have one life to live."
~Author Unknown 

     

GOOD OLD DAYS

"The 'good old days' are not coming back, but there are great new days to be created."
~Rick Marton

I have been feeling very sentimental lately. As a mom with grown kids, I can't help but let my mind...and my heart...wander back in time. I miss those days when I was up to my eyeballs in carpools, homework, soccer practices, and welcoming a parade of the kids' friends into our home and our lives. Scavenger hunts in the backyard, fishing at the local pond, and creating gingerbread houses that wowed us all ~ these are just a few of my sacred memories knit deeply into my heart.

Though it wasn't the easiest season in life, I think my favorite was when I homeschooled our kids. We had our share of fights over assignments, and we didn't always get along beautifully. And I am sure there are a thousand ways I could have done a better job. Mostly, I remember the time we were able to spend learning and growing together. I wouldn't trade those years for anything. And I'd revisit them in a heartbeat.

But this too is a rich season. No doubt I will look back in the years to come and remember fondly the time, the conversations, and the fun I am having with our adult kids right now. And once again, I'll wish I could turn back the hands of time.

It's okay to look back with fondness and relive the happy memories. But it's even better to enjoy the here and now before it turns into "the good old days".

The house is quiet as I write this. My husband, son, and daughter are fast asleep, all three with a busy day ahead. Me? I couldn't sleep. My mind kept wandering back to those homeschooling days. But as I wrap this message up, I am seeing my family in my mind just as they are today. And I know I wouldn't trade this moment in time for anything.

I found this quote and loved it. This is for all you parents who are still up to your eyeballs in diapers, trips to the playground, parent-teacher meeetings, and a never ending list of things to do...
"If I had my child to raise all over again,
I'd build self-esteem first, and the house later.
I'd finger-paint more, and point the finger less.
I would do less correcting and more connecting.
I'd take my eyes off my watch, and watch with my eyes.
I'd take more hikes and fly more kites.
I'd stop playing serious, and seriously play,
I would run through more fields and gaze at more stars.
I'd do more hugging and less tugging."
~Diane Loomans