‘Tis the Season

I know I’ve mentioned this before, but I love getting mail! ALL kinds are welcome: snail mail, email, personally delivered, parcel post or freighted! It reminds me of that line from Richard Rogers’ immortal song “My Favorite Things” from The Sound of Music: “…brown paper packages tied up with strings…” (and now, I must apologize for the earworm, but I’m singing along with Julie Andrews, so you might as well do the same!)

Yesterday was a very lovely “package day” at my house! Although I’m not really into the acquisition of “things” for myself, I had mail of every kind imaginable delivered and it was FABULOUS! I opened several Christmas cards, some simple household products, two gifts I’d ordered for others, and two marvelous Christmas happies for ME from dear friends who live in different towns in Mississippi!

I also received a nice long phone call and a great text message. Actually, I had several of each, but these two were special. Why even mention them? Because almost everyone I know uses those tools every single day and somehow we don’t stop to think of them as “gifts” because they’re not generally tangible.

The content of these two communications was special to me, however, because God used them to confirm something I’ve been thinking about for awhile. They contained encouragement about exercising a gift He has given to me that I haven’t been using to full advantage. Though the messages were vastly different and neither was harsh or loud, they spoke powerfully to me about what God would have me do in the days to come. Without chiding or deriding, God chose to use the voices of friends and give me the gift of their time…and His.

I’m grateful for that. In a loving voice and the forwarding of a daily devotional , GOD showed up and spoke to me in a very personal way. The words these friends shared inspired me and reminded me that we too often forget the power of communicating with each other. We forget to give of ourselves in simple, personal ways…or we discount the idea that what we have to share might truly make a profound difference.

This is the season for gathering and gifts–whether or not you believe, as I do, that the real reason for all of the hoopla was the quiet birth of the One who came to save the world. This is just your friendly reminder that your words and your actions can be gifts of even more significance than anything you might order, wrap, or have delivered this year.

Use them wisely. Share them generously. Choose them as carefully as you would the finest present and use them to bless and not just add to the cacophony of seasonal noise. Share the thoughts, feelings, ideas, and writings that encourage and inspire YOU with others. You may never know how it can be used to influence them or be passed along to others.

Grace and Peace…and packages of God-delight for you and yours this season!

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A rose is a rose is a…

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IMG_20171129_104111525_HDRI transplanted a couple of roses earlier this fall. Actually, I pulled up two that bloomed only once a year with little-to-no scent and replaced them with two that have a much longer blooming season, amazing scent, and a special place in my heart. The new roses have acclimated beautifully and even began to throw some blooms my way late in the season. I’ve been sharing pictures of one of the later blooms with a nearby friend. It’s been too beautiful to keep to myself. She saw it in person at about the third-photo stage.

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I told her that it would change colors as it matured, but even though I’ve seen it over and over again, I’m absolutely certain that I didn’t communicate exactly how much the change would be or how much it always delights me to see it happen.

Some things have to be seen to be believed.

This rose (“Rio Samba” by Weeks Roses) changes size, shape, color, and the scent–which they mistakenly call “light”–seems to get a little “louder” the more time it spends on the bush. (kind of like me! Ha!) The late blooming season isn’t unusual for this rose. One year, my mother and I decorated the wedding cake for my Cousin Reyna and covered it up with blooms grown at the corner of my house in Mississippi…on Thanksgiving DAY! (We had to thaw out the water they were held in overnight with a hairdryer, but the blooms–and the cake!–were magnificent!)

Just for your reference, these photos are of the same rose! The first photo was taken on November 15th of this year right after my friend Linda headed back to Mississippi. The final photo was taken on December 3, 2017, once I returned home from my last show of the season. I missed the one where it was covered with snow…because the snow melted almost as quickly as I noticed it and Georgia snow isn’t much for hanging around waiting on me to take my photo op! (grin) Finally, just today, I pulled the spent petals from the bush and flung them into the air where they landed in a perky array of color all around the mulch underneath the rose bush.

I always do that. It’s kind of like making a wish or sending a prayer for more. Flinging the spent, but still colorful petals is pointless to accomplish “the more”, but it always makes me smile…and that’s enough.

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As the petals arced upward today, I thought about my recent visit back to Mississippi to see family for an early Christmas. We missed having my husband and my brother with us, but my parents are doing as well as can be expected. It’s only been a few months since I’ve seen them, but the nephews are smarter, taller, and stronger. My sister and brother-in-law remain busy and productive. In short, things are going pretty much as they should be. We’re all getting older and, hopefully, wiser. We’re all changing…and we’re all the same. We still have things to accomplish and though we’re not as young as we used to be, we’re still busy “becoming” what we’re all called to be.

There’s something to be said for that.

Change doesn’t have to be scary. The same God who was in control at Creation is still busy creating. He’s still giving us opportunities for growth and watching over us as we deepen, unfurl our petals, and find our voices. I see the physical changes most in my parents and the nephews, but I know it’s happening in all of us.

Lest you know them and become alarmed, rest easy. The parents are still lively and hysterically funny. They work together to accomplish what needs to be done and continue to bless and encourage others along the way. It’s just easier to see the changes when we’re all seated at the same table these days. Each of us still has work to do and we’re going about it the best we can. The start of a life, the middle, and the winding up of it are all a part of the Plan and the Planner.

No matter what stage you find yourself in today, I hope you’ll join me in praying the verse that’s been posted around our home for over a year. It’s over the sink and on the lamp, by the desk, and in my heart:

“And let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us, And establish the work of our hands for us; Yes, establish the work of our hands.” Psalm 90:17

The sticky notes and the one in my head are from the NKJV translation, but I also want to share the AMPC version with you, as well.

 

“And let the beauty and delightfulness and favor of the Lord our God be upon us; confirm and establish the work of our hands—yes, the work of our hands, confirm and establish it.” Psalm 90:17 (AMPC)

I hope you view these photos of the changing rose and see some of the same parallels I do with whatever season of life you’re in right now. It’s ALL beautiful! May the beauty, the delightfulness, and the favor of God be rich within you and evident in your own life as He directs the work of your hands today.

“The grass withers, the flower fades, But the word of our God stands forever.” Isaiah 40:8

Grace and Peace!

NCN 2017–Day 30

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Today is the last “official” day of our NO COMPLAIN NOVEMBER challenge, but it doesn’t have to be the end of this practice in your life. I hope that you’ve had some fun and learned a little more about yourself… like, maybe, that you’re stronger than the circumstances that surround you and that choosing to be positive is something that can make you happier…and even healthier. I hope it helps you to look for the good in life. I hope it makes you look for GOD in life!

I’m a ginkgo fan. I look for these gorgeous fan-shaped leaves wherever I go. They remind me of the many wonderful friendships I made in college at Mississippi University for Women. Some of the most important relationships I have in this life are from there. I even planted a tiny little ginkgo here in the yard the first year we lived here as a reminder of those friendships.

Relationships are important. They can influence us in all kinds of ways. The best ones happen when you find “your people” in life. I found many of mine years ago on a beautiful campus under the cover of ancient ginkgo trees. These women have pushed me and challenged me, comforted and cared for me. They insist on the best for me and aren’t hesitant to say when they know best or expect differently. I like that. I depend on it. I depend on them and their prayers. They’re the reason for this challenge, so…in a way…they’ve become your friends, too.

They make the world more beautiful. They’ve certainly made this past month more bearable and, like some of us, they’re ready for their next challenge. I don’t know what that will be, but I’m absolutely sure that they’ll succeed with that, as well. These women are kind and funny and generous and they push me to know God more deeply. Mere words are enough to say how much I love them, but I think they know.

Yesterday, our friend Audrey (hey, 9!) shared with us how she’s made it through this month. When asked how things are going, her reply has become, “I can’t complain!” It’s both a reminder and a declaration…and I think I’ll make it mine.

Maybe you should, too.

Grace and Peace!–And NO Complaints!

 

 

 

 

NCN 2017–Day 29

 

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Against the backdrop of fog this morning, the Japanese maple in the back walkway bed still shines like a beacon. It’s the same one that was all lit up in red and gold in yesterday’s sunny post photo, but the surroundings are a little different today. There’s a stillness to the air that replaces yesterday’s lively bird chatter and the air is a little bit cooler without the obvious rays of the sun. It is no less beautiful a day; it’s just different…

Kind of like this month has been for some of us. Sunshine and shadow, good days and bad, we’ve made a concerted effort to reduce the negativity in the world by…oh my goodness! Imagine this!:  placing limits on ourselves! We’ve chosen to speak the positive things and not the negative ones. We’ve CHOSEN to control what we can…or rather, WHO we can.

Truth be told, it’s all we can do on any given day, not just the ones in November. Remembering that can make all the difference going forward.

For the past few days, I’ve had a song in my head. An old hymn has run through the night and been with me almost constantly. These words, originally published in 1752, still seem most appropriate for us today and for the days going forward, as well. I hope you’ll see the connection and embrace the choice to continue our challenge long past our month of NO COMPLAIN NOVEMBER.

Be Still My Soul

Be still, my soul: the Lord is on thy side.
Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain.
Leave to thy God to order and provide;
In every change, He faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul: thy best, thy heavenly Friend
Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.

Be still, my soul: thy God doth undertake
To guide the future, as He has the past.
Thy hope, thy confidence let nothing shake;
All now mysterious shall be bright at last.
Be still, my soul: the waves and winds still know
His voice Who ruled them while He dwelt below.

Be still, my soul: when dearest friends depart,
And all is darkened in the vale of tears,
Then shalt thou better know His love, His heart,
Who comes to soothe thy sorrow and thy fears.
Be still, my soul: thy Jesus can repay
From His own fullness all He takes away.

Be still, my soul: the hour is hastening on
When we shall be forever with the Lord.
When disappointment, grief and fear are gone,
Sorrow forgot, love’s purest joys restored.
Be still, my soul: when change and tears are past
All safe and blessèd we shall meet at last.

Be still, my soul: begin the song of praise
On earth, be leaving, to Thy Lord on high;
Acknowledge Him in all thy words and ways,
So shall He view thee with a well pleased eye.
Be still, my soul: the Sun of life divine
Through passing clouds shall but more brightly shine.

*Original words by Katharina A. von Schlegel, published in 1752
Grace and Peace!

NCN 2017–Day 28

Today is Giving Tuesday and in view of that, I’ve decided to share an opportunity to give with you!

My friend  Janet Robertson (we went to the same school growing up!) has spent the past few years in Rwanda doing all kinds of things to help people. Talk about becoming a person of influence? This woman has done it! She’s taught school, worked to better the lives of mentally and physically challenged people, encouraged participation in community-building events and, honestly, I’m not sure what she could have decided to do next except help build a school…so that’s what she’s working on right now.

She needs some help.

thumb_IMG_8204_1024Actually, the KIDS need some help and so does the community around them. They have walls now, but the roof needs to be finished in this rainy season, there are mouths to feed, minds to educate, and a community to bring HOPE to by just sharing whatever amount you choose. Here’s a bit more information for you on this wonderful project in Kigali, Rwanda! (I couldn’t get the video to embed here, but I worked on this link and I DO hope it works! Copy and paste to your browser, if possible. It really is neat to see the progress and hear from people in the community!)

https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B75VXlzfLFkAUXYxSzNHMTVuWXM/view?usp=sharing

You can donate online at columbuscoc.com (drop down: Love God/Give Online and then choose Rwanda–Janet Robertson) or by writing a check with HOPE SCHOOL in the memo line and sending it to

Columbus Church of Christ

2401 7th Street N

Columbus, MS 39705

ANYTHING you can send will help make life better for these children and it will make you smile, too, I think, so it’s really a win-win! (and just so you know, the only thing I get out of this is the opportunity to share one of my happy-happy favorite things with you: helping my friends do what God has called them to do!)

Grace and Peace!!

NCN 2017–Day 27

When I was a child, my cousins and I would always go for a walk after our Thanksgiving feast. We’d kick through crunchy leaves on the ground and chatter about everything from what was going on at our schools to what we wanted to be when we got older. Those were happy times and my walk after this year’s feasting with friends reminded me of that, so I thought I’d share a few of the sights with you to start your week. Remember, God could have made everything in black and white…and I’m so glad He didn’t! Only a few more days left in this year’s NO COMPLAIN NOVEMBER! You can do it!!!

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“The smell of burning firewood and the molding of organic, earthy substances reminded her of jumping wildly into the enormous leaf piles of autumns past and she suddenly wished that it was appropriate for someone her age to do such a thing.”
― Abby SlovinLetters In Cardboard Boxes

 

OH, don’t let something silly like age stop you! Go have some fun today! Grace and Peace!

*all photos by Becky Childs

 

 

NCN 2017–Day 23

grandmother hodum thanksgiving poem

Happy Thanksgiving, y’all!  I couldn’t let the day pass without wishing you well and sharing my Grandmother Hodum’s Thanksgiving poem again this year. For those of you who are new, she used to recite this “piece” every year when I was growing up and it is one of the great joys for me that my Cousin Suzanne had the foresight to have her write it down so that we still have it in her own scratchy handwriting! I can still hear her voice…Grace & Peace, everyone!

Grace and Peace!

“Thanksgiving Dinner”

I don’t believe in eating much

of turkey, pumpkin pie and such.

It make me dream bad dreams at night

and then, besides, it’s not polite.

So I’m not going to stuff and stuff

and act like I can’t get enough.

For me a turkey leg will do

with just a slice of breast or two,

then some liver, gizzard, and a wing,

Lots of dressing, that’s the thing!

Mashed potatoes to make me grow

Squash and cabbages, they’re fine, you know,

And I must have some cranberries, too,

And layer cake–two pieces will do.

Then of pumpkin pie so yellow–

One piece, because I’m a little fellow.

With nuts and apples I shall quit

and not ask for another bit.

For it isn’t good the doctors say

To eat too much on Thanksgiving Day!