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!

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Kicking off the heels…

I used to love wearing high heels. I can close my eyes and still smell the brand new leather as I opened the box…oh my…wow…yes, moment of silence for that. And, since we have LONG since established my little bit of OCD-ness, I can admit that opening closet doors to see all the boxes lined up with their labels facing outward…

(Ok, I got a little lost there for a moment. Suffice it to say that I loved that image.)

Image. That says something to me about the heels, as well. As a teenager, they said I was growing up. As a college student, they said it was time to dance. As a young professional, they said I was making it on my own. Quite the talkative things, my shoes…and they always came with a lot of attitude–some of it good and some of it not so much.

After I got married, my husband was surprised to learn that he had to move a whole refrigerator box full of shoes to our new home. Work, church, and in between, I had at least several pair to choose from and I couldn’t imagine life any other way. I had other styles, too, of course, but the heels always made me feel special…almost like social armor, which really isn’t often necessary when you’re almost 6′ tall and know who you are. (grin) Well, maybe I just thought I knew some things back then.

I pared down over time. Styles changed. Life changed. I bought more flats, wedges, tennis shoes, and fewer heels, though I always kept a few in the back of my closet. In fact, I’ve had three pair that have survived the multiple purges over the past several years as I’ve gone from acquisition mode to the search for space and the peace of “less.” At first, I stopped wearing heels after I took a tumble down some stairs and needed some recovery time. After that, I just never went back to them. I found other options that suited me…and weren’t as perilous.

That’s not all that’s changed over the years. You know, Saul’s armor didn’t fit David…and not because it was too large, but because they had different battle styles. That’s true of me, as well, now. I’m still me, of course, but my life is different and my current battles aren’t the same ones I used to fight. That means some wardrobe changes are in order. I’ve decided I no longer need to hold on to things that don’t fit the life I’m living now, so I’m finally letting go of those last three pair of heels…and a whole lot of other things like attitudes and life strategies that haven’t always served me well. I’m a lot less rigid these days, a lot less judgmental, and I’m a lot more at peace. I find I laugh more–mostly at myself!–and I like me a whole lot better, too–and that is really saying something. (Ha!) I’m free to be ME: the one GOD knows and loves, and I can rest in that a lot more than I used to. I find I’m less concerned about any images that might be held in other places when I focus on HIS image of who I am. I’m more grateful for little things and I’m more aware of my gifts and limitations without being hampered by either thought. God is good and I am His. It is enough.

Oh, by the way, I tried those 3 pair of shoes on and I loved the way they looked. I almost put them right back in the closet! They felt ok on my feet and I found I could still walk in them just fine…for a little while. Then I tried on a few other styles–and my back gave an almost audible sigh of relief and my feet did, too. There are better things out there for me than the things I once held onto “just in case”, you know…so I’m making room for the now and finding that memories take up less room in the closet. So, out go the heels–gorgeous as they are –along with a pair of Keds and 2 pair of flats! Today, you’re more likely to find me in tennis shoes and they suit me just fine…in fact, it’s a lot easier to kick up my heels than ever before.

Question of the day:  What are YOU holding onto that you need to let go? Make room for the life GOD wants for you now. You just might be amazed at how great it can be!

 

 

Away with friends…

Right now I’m away with friends. This is the “mumble-something-th” year” we’ve done this since our college graduation from our beloved Mississippi University for Women.

There are just seven of us on the retreat this time due to jobs/moving and family health concerns. We miss those who aren’t here, but we are valiantly “retreating” just the same. (…and hoping they can come to one in the fall…if we can manage another quick one…in the fall? We’ll talk…)

The food is abundant. The laughter near constant. The joy of being together deeper than we’ll ever be able to vocalize or write. All these years together mean there are few silences and even fewer topics off limits (are there limits?) in our fellowship. We’re here to see, to shower with love, to lift up and empower.  We’re here to be reminded of who we REALLY are in a world where we each wear many hats…and, though we’re grateful for each hat, when we’re together, the hats come off and years fade…and we are just US.

Us-ness in a world seemingly committed to uniformed individuality. Celebrating our uniqueness and also our chosen togetherness is a marvelous gift we give to each other. No pressure to conform, but encouraged to be who we were created to be by the One Who loves us best…the One who has a way with friends who are away with friends.

Grace and Peace!

Learning New Old Things

As odd as this sounds, I think I may have grown up a little bit this past week. A few of my friends are snorting hysterically right now because they think  I may or may not have been “born old” and, maybe (again, Ha!), I’ve acted like that ever since.

I was (AM!) the first-born. A daughter.  A responsible one. The oldest female of the second set of grandchildren on both sides of the family—after a few years break—so I got plenty of attention for just by showing up in the world. That attention came with a lot of expectation, as well, because they seemed to think I could do anything and everything well and, with that much focused attention and instruction everywhere I turned, I learned a lot and I learned it fast or I kept at it until I was satisfied. Sometimes that took awhile, but I’m also stubborn, so that time element never really got in my way other than making me impatient with myself, because—truth be told?—my own expectations for me were even higher than theirs for me.

Knowing how to do things made me more independent and made them excited to see their instruction pay off, so it was a win-win situation for all of us. I just automatically assumed it was my job to keep on meeting  those expectations as I got older, and so I did so…on the surface, at least. I’m grateful for those expectations. Personally, I think they were good for me. I KNOW that the people who expressed them love me and are good for me and that was enough to make me just go DO whatever goal was set… sometimes without even thinking about whether or not it was I really wanted to do or something they had suggested for me.

On the inside, I wondered sometimes what it might feel like to not have those expectations, but then, I’d usually pick up another book and lose myself in the words and find new worlds to conquer and new things to learn and more expectations from myself that came with having all that information up in my brain. You can see where this is going, can’t you?  I come from a long line of seriously capable people and I suspect this pretty much describes their path, as well.

Stubborn, firstborn, introverted-yet-over-achieving female with a large built-in encouraging support system…yes, I was born old…and that’s not a complaint for me, just a comment…and more of a blessing than I’ve given it credit for being until just recently.

I’m not the smartest person I know—not by a long shot!—but I can hang in there with them for awhile and finding out what I don’t know has been as valuable to me as gold over the years. That information helped me focus on what I wanted to learn next, do next, be next.

In fact, I’ve often been so focused on that “next” part that I ignored the “now” part of life. That has been a mistake. I don’t often admit to making those (Mike, quit grinning!), but that’s one of my biggies. All of that go and learn and do has gained me skills, but often left me wondering what I planned to do with all of that…and feeling more than a little frustrated when I couldn’t fill in the blanks for those questions. I still don’t have all those answers.

This past seven months, however, of having the most definitely unplanned luxury of being with my husband and choosing to slow down and enjoy our unexpected time together has taught me a lesson I hope I never forget:  how to just BE in the moment.  I realized just this week that I’ve finally learned that those skills and that knowledge don’t have to be put to work every single second. There are times when you just need to breathe, times when you can fill a whole day (or weeks or months!) with counting the blessings God has poured into your life, times when gratitude for every single thing—good AND bad–about your life needs to consume you and put you on your face before God.

I don’t want to lose that knowledge going forward! I don’t want to go backward and be so determined to know and go and do that I forget to just BE God’s grateful child. I’ve always said that being stubborn was both my worst characteristic and my best—especially as it pertained to my faith!—but now, I want to apply it to this filling gratefulness; this drenching awareness of the goodness and grace of my God. I want to be stubborn about holding on to and living THAT out for the rest of my days.

I almost wrote that I wish I’d learned this lesson earlier, but on second thought, I realize that God’s timing is always perfect. All the steps that led up to now and made me who I am today give me an amazing list of things to be grateful for right now. I may have been a little bit slow (it’s only taken me over 50 years!), but as for tomorrow, well, I plan to know more then, so I expect to be more grateful then…and I plan to be stubborn about that in the future, as well.

“Praise God, from whom all blessings flow;

Praise him, all creatures here below;

Praise him above, ye heavenly host;

Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Amen.”

                                                                         ~Thomas Ken, 1674

(1674! And still worth singing.)

Go, GOD!

NO COMPLAIN NOVEMBER, anyone?

SONY DSCA few weeks ago I had the pleasure and the privilege of hosting a group of friends from college for a few days. It was our second gathering within the past few months and, while we had a couple of differences in attendees, it was still such a precious thing to have them here with me again so soon. Normally, we have to wait a whole year in between these gatherings!

When we are together, years melt away. We are temporarily no longer wives, mothers, employees, or any other label that we normally embrace on a regular basis. We are simply US.  We pile on furniture together and we stay up late and we laugh and eat amazing food together. We invade small businesses (wherever we are) and we get all kinds of looks from people in restaurants and even just passers-by on the street. (Seriously, at one restaurant there was a man who just gave up eating AND all pretense of ignoring us and turned his whole chair to watch us like we were a TV show! HA!) We are loud and, even if no one but us gets it, we are hysterically funny!

Our topics are like free-range chickens ducking in and out of hiding, small clusters of whispering voices morphing into a cacophony of high-energy, hand-gesticulating oratory on everything from religion and politics to oddly-shaped gourds and from trials to treasures and triumphs since our last togetherness. There is no substitute for the love and encouragement, the prodding and accountability level these beautiful, educated, highly-intelligent-but-oh-so-different women provide for me. I am better—by far!—because they are in my life. Gratitude for them both corporately and individually is beyond words. Splendid, I tell you! These women are simply SPLENDID!!!

I am always better after spending time with them. This time of visitation was no exception. As we shared our hearts and laughter, Jody (#3!) kept a running written list about our topical adventures to share with our friends who couldn’t join us this time. Anyone else who reads the list will believe we are either speaking in code or insane. One-liners, memories, questions, phrases, locations, product/book/movie/entertainment choices,  recommendations/reviews/warnings…it was an extensive list.

During one of our “sessions” (where we solve all of the world’s problems!) we wandered from intentional living into the topics of deliberate thankfulness, complaining, and how we deal with these issues in our “regular” lives. One friend had spent a whole year focusing on joy awhile back, a couple of them had joined together to reduce their consumerisim of various items by deliberately choosing a year of month-long fasts of all kinds of things from crackers and chocolate to clothes. One of us told about her deliberate choice to give up complaining for a whole month.

We kept talking, but I think we were also marinating in the scope of that endeavor. It’s pretty big. Choosing to curtail your personal freedom of expression is actually pretty monumental. At least it is for us. We rarely find a subject about which we ALL do not have opinions and we also feel pretty free to share those opinions with each other—and anyone else within auditory range. Agreements are optional for us. Unity, however, is a given. We are undeterred by our differences and, in fact, we often celebrate them. Having recognized the worth of each individual so long ago, how could we possibly go back on that now?

Once everyone returned home, Marsha (our #12) wrote a fabulous email compiling all the list points for those who couldn’t attend and sent it to the entire line as a reminder. That email started a whole chain of emails and our #2 (Hey, Patty!) announced, “…in November I will be intentionally trying not to complain.” I think most of us have jumped on the bandwagon with her and we’ve made our determination to try and have our first annual NO COMPLAIN NOVEMBER. (yikes! That sounds suspiciously like we might repeat it annually! I didn’t consult them on that! We may need to see how it goes! HA!!)

We’ve already been talking about being personally responsible for what we put out into the world, about possible reminders that will help us focus, about verses to inspire and instruct us, and—of course—we’ll be reporting in to each other as we go along.

Our goal is NOT just to be intentional about monitoring our negative verbal impulses, but to be intentional about deliberately choosing to be positive, as well. Again, that’s big. Really big. It has the power to change us and to change those around us. IF we get into the habit on a regular basis…well, who knows how big the ripples could get, so I asked if they would mind if I shared this here. They’re all on board, so far, so here it is:

You—Precious YOU!—are hereby officially invited to join me and my most marvelous friends in our NO COMPLAIN NOVEMBER! I’ll be checking back in with updates and, probably, some shared stories or suggestions as we seek to improve the world right where we are.

Question:  Aren’t you happy I gave you a whole day to think about it before it starts?!

And, more importantly:  Will you join us? (and if you don’t get to read this until after we’ve already started? Jump in where you are! As Patty says, “The more the merrier!”)

“Do not let unwholesome [foul, profane, worthless, vulgar] words ever come out of your mouth, but only such speech as is good for building up others, according to the need and the occasion, so that it will be a blessing to those who hear [you speak].” Ephesians 4:29 (Amplified Bible)

Yes! We CAN do this!!

Grace & Peace!

So when did THAT happen?!

Well, it was bound to happen sooner or later, right? There comes a time when you realize that you’re now the age that you never thought you’d reach. For me, I guess that one is happening this year…50…and it is happening in just a few weeks. I mean, actually, it’s like a goal–only no one I know really talks about it very much. No one says, “Oh, boy! I can’t wait to turn 50!” and yet, it shouldn’t be a surprise when actually happens to you. Right?

It’s a bit strange, really, I mean it’s not like I didn’t know I was actually headed there (and I’m hoping to go a lot further, thank you very much!), but at the same time, fifty?! Shouldn’t someone about to turn 50 feel older than I do right now? Maybe even a lot older?

I’ve never been a math whiz, but I can manage a checking account and I can make change at art shows and I can even do most sales percentages in my head while I’m shopping, but for some reason I’ve always had to stop and actually do the math when someone asks me how old I am. I usually take some time before I respond to that question…every single time. I guess I could put it off to being stunned at the very rudeness of being asked (ha!), but honestly, it’s not that at all. It’s because I actually have to stop and count. Yes. Every single time.

For years, I was stuck at the age of 18. It was just my “go-to” age when someone asked. Then, it became 23. Some time after that it became 30, then 35, and then…well, I just forgot to think about it anymore until I turned 40. Incidentally, I’ve been 40 for almost 10 years now. (grin) It’s not that I hate birthdays. In fact, they were always a cause for celebration when I was growing up and I still like having them, but I guess I just forgot to think about the fact that I was actually getting older and that number was climbing right along with me.

It crept up on me recently. Someone I know and love–who I always think of being about the same age that I am–casually mentioned that they were going to be 53 years old this year and I very quickly did a head-shaking double-take and became very, very grateful that we were on the phone instead of face-to-face right then. Additionally, there’s been a serious rash of “look at my really gorgeous new grandchild!”-photos (and they are ALL gorgeous, people!) on Facebook recently…from children I remember being behind me in school–you know, those who are WAY younger than I am. Again, not a judgement call, just a wake-up call!

A couple of weeks ago now, I posted an anniversary message to my husband of 22 years and out of the many voices giving us congratulations came two lovely ladies from my childhood who started talking about how they remembered when I was just a little thing and how they couldn’t believe that I could possibly have been married for that long and I was like, “Seriously! Right?! How could all this life I’ve lived been happening while I wasn’t actually aging?!”

The government has recently decided to help me remember that I’m having a milestone birthday this year, however, by sending me their latest estimate of my Social Security benefit estimations (Personally, I think they’ve over-estimated that it will still be around when I’m actually old enough to get them, but whatever!) and two days ago, I got the requisite AARP card information with a list of discounts that I will soon be eligible for…and, once again, there’s the gray hair thing.

When I decided to stop covering up all the gray that’s actually been with me and multiplying since grad school, I forgot about what that might do to those who never actually knew that about me before. I like it. My husband likes it and I’ve gotten several compliments from those around me here who only know me like this. My mother-in-law says she likes it, but actually, she just stares at me intensely like she’s trying to figure out if that’s really me every time she sees me now before she says something sweet about how she just loves my hair now.  (big grin!–actually, that makes me laugh every time it happens!) I was getting it cut again today and sharing that with my hairdresser when I suddenly remembered that my own parents have never seen me with gray hair and no attempt to color it. Since I’m heading back to see them in the next few weeks I decided that I should at least give them a bit of time to prepare for it, so today I told my mother that I have gray hair. Talk about a milestone!

Her response: “Really?!

“Yes,I just thought I’d better let you know before I headed home again…and, by the way, I’ve got WAY more than Daddy does, ok? It started in grad school and I just decided that I was tired of covering it up.”

“Well, that’s ok,” she said. “Mine started when I had you.” (I guess that should have told her a lot, right?)

We laughed about it and I decided right then that I’m not really that old, after all. I’m still my mother’s baby, it’s only 50, and I plan to live forever. I’ll start thinking about getting old when I get to be my mother’s age…and I’ll still probably have to stop and do the math even then.

 

cropped-heart Grace & Peace!