Anniversary

The nation is officially 242 years old today! July 2, 1776 marks the day when the members of the Second Continental Congress actually VOTED their approval of declaring themselves (and, therefore US, the U.S.) as being a separate and free–Independent!– nation.

It was a long time coming, this vote, and two days later, they would finally sign a physical document making their vote something that England’s King George III could read for himself. While the 4th of July is what we celebrate now, back then, John Adams expected us to be celebrating every year on July 2nd…because THAT was when the commitment was made.

July 2nd holds a special place in my heart, as well, and not just because of what you’ve read above, but because a mere 26 years ago, I also made a commitment. My sweet husband asked me to marry him on a beach–when neither of us are beach people!–and with Roman candles that wouldn’t fire–right up until he took out a ring and put it on my hand. THAT was when the rockets finally went off and I made a commitment to be his bride for the rest of my life.

Maybe it should have been an omen, maybe even a warning–for both of us!–but the truth of the matter is that our commitment to each other wasn’t (and still isn’t!) dependent on fireworks or favorite location which, incidentally, is next to each other and not really place-dependent at all. We made a decision to love, honor, and keep each other for the rest of our days…and that’s still going on today.

Today…when he went to work late because he took me to see a doctor and made sure I was taken care of physically before he drove off to make sure we were taken care of financially. Today…when we remembered again that the commitment we made to each other wasn’t dependent on health or wealth or personal happiness, but understood that it brings all of those things to each of us, and so much more.

Some will say this is pointed and, perhaps even a little judgmental, to write these things out loud where the world can see them and publish it when marriage has become a temporary thing to so many, but that’s not the case, at all. Far from it.

THIS is a celebration of the two of us: of deciding the course that God had chosen was best for both of us and OUR decision to follow it through no matter what. THIS is a celebration of stubborn faith and a willingness to hold hands and face whatever God has sent our way together. THIS is a celebration of love that has brought far more TO me than it has ever taken FROM me. THIS is both a benediction to the One who brought us together in the first place and a blessing to the one who shares his life with me so well.

THIS is all about gratitude.

THIS is an anniversary of being committed and staying the course no matter what even before the vows were made official.

With more love and greater grace than I could ever have deserved, God gave me you, my dear husband! For the rings we no longer wear and the vows that we have always kept, I am grateful. For the daily choosing to be the best we can be together–and the knowledge that some days will always go better than others…and for being determined that we keep on trying to make the next one even greater–I am grateful! For all the things we know and have survived–and all that is to come, I choose to be grateful. For laughing with me–and AT me, on occasion, and allowing me that same privilege in return, I am grateful. Thanks for asking the question and for living out the answer every day of the last 26 years! Here’s to many, many more. ILYM&B!!

Grace and Peace!

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Promise of Spring

Today is the first official day of Spring and the temperature where I live in Georgia was already up to 70 degrees by the time I left Bible Study. The forsythia, Japanese magnolia, and daffodils have already bloomed and gone, and the “Great Yellow Death” (aka “pollen invasion”) seems to have arrived in full force. (My big red truck has a decidedly orange cast as the colors meld across the expanse of the hood.)

Last night, the sky was filled with God’s own version of fireworks complete with thundering booms and, afterward,  torrential rain and a little hail–and, thankfully, no tornadoes near us. Today, we woke to slushy ground and mildly cleaner surfaces marred only by mini-rivers of the pollen where the rivulets of water had already retreated. All of this occurred in preparation for what we are told will be temperatures near freezing later tonight. In fact, a friend in Tennessee just texted the following:  “Spitting snow here. Not kidding.” We’re in the same planting zone.

Welcome to Spring in the South!

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I tried to let my cat out to enjoy the screened-in porch out back earlier today, but he took one whiff of the pollen and decided that was plenty for him. (LOL) It feels a little like a world gone mad, and yet on the walk out to the truck this morning, I stopped to check out the roses (yes! I already have rose buds on both of the new roses!), tried to decide about when and where to plant some new veggies, and noticed a few other things, as well. From the tightly closed roses, peony, and clematis buds to the

IMG_20180320_084312698first few sprays of dogwood and Spanish lavender blooms just in time to celebrate Easter, I was reminded of a promise God gave us way back at the very beginning:

IMG_20180320_084255910_HDRIMG_20180320_084540709“While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.”

Genesis 8:22 (ESV)

God is still faithfully keeping His promises. Who are we to complain if all of them seem to come true at once? (grin)

Have a marvelous Spring! God never does anything halfway. It’s going to be amazing!

Grace and Peace!

 

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The missing piece

My maternal grandmother loved birds. Actually, I think she just loved LIFE, but she had a special fondness for the birds. She watched them, fed them, and fussed when the “mean old blue jays” swooped in and frightened off the other ones. She couldn’t stand birds who “acted ugly.”

I still remember the rows of Audubon Society bird prints in their matching  thin black frames that hung over the sofa in the front room. I spent a good deal of time looking at those prints (kneeling because you weren’t supposed to put your shoes on the furniture! remember rules as a child? grin.) and trying to remember the different kinds of birds so I could ask her about them later, because there were always a lot of us around and it was rarely quiet. (At her passing, she had 13 granddaughters and 13 grandsons…and that number has expanded a bit since then. Yes, there were a LOT of us, so conversation with her one-on-one was something to be prized. Still, I think most of us would say that we got our share of her attention and bloomed because of it. She made quite a deep impression on each of us mainly because of the way she loved us.)

Grandmother’s Audubon bird prints were beautiful in a formal mass-produced sort of way which always seemed a stark contrast to the bedlam often happening around them and I think, even then, my internal color sense was a bit offended by the added contrast of the late 60’s-early 70’s upholstery beneath them. I kept trying to figure out why these things didn’t seem to go together…for at least a few seconds before joining in the fray.

IMG_20170125_110849382The sofa had a matching chair and that chair was always referred to as “Grandmother’s chair.” It was where she held court at Christmas when the whole family gathered around and waited to see her reaction to whatever gift she happened to be opening at the time. We all measured our growth a bit by how many of us it took to fill the seat when she wasn’t in it. I know my Cousin Bobby and I did, anyway.

After Grandmother passed, the chair ended up at my mother’s house and it sat in the back hall for a long time before I got up the nerve to ask for it. It didn’t go with anything I owned, but I had coveted it for years.  I didn’t have the money for getting it reupholstered, so I threw a favorite old bedcover across it and declared it “good enough.” Once I decided to make that project a priority, I took my time thinking about the fabric I wanted. (That chair got it’s own Pinterest board for awhile!) I settled on something traditional, pretty, mostly pink (because it was one of her favorite colors), and spiced up with a few threads of red and green and gold thrown in to deepen the elegance factor. I think I may have been trying to get it to finally live up to those Audubon bird prints. (grin)

My friend Cyndi did the job of chair transformation about a year ago and I love it! I had her marry a spare ottoman I found to the chair and threw in a little contrast fabric just on it just for fun. I have loved it, but I still felt like there was something missing.

Yesterday, I found the missing piece.

IMG_20180126_101051123It’s a crazy-patterned pillow…with some very silly-looking birds on it. It made me laugh right there in the store and I knew it had to go home with me even though it doesn’t match anything else in my house except that chair…and my amazing childhood memories. The fact that the chair is now more elegantly attired and the birds look wildly silly is a bonus for me. It seems things have come full circle. Better yet, it was on sale for $10, and my thrifty grandmother would definitely approve…and you can tell that Smokey isn’t bothered, either.

I’ve smiled or laughed every time I’ve entered the room since I put it in place, so I’d say that’s a double bargain.

Who knew I’d find margin in a silly ten-dollar bird-pillow and childhood memories about a woman who was never famous, but had so much influence on the people around her? God did…and I think He’s still chuckling with me.

Grace and peace.

God-nudges

God has been nudging me about my schedule for awhile now. I’ve largely ignored most of it and continued blithely or, actually, rather ignorantly onward…to my own peril. I knew that a great majority of what I was involved in was actually God’s doing, so I kept up the pace and chose to believe that my service was all worship and all at His behest.

I was right. I was also very wrong.

Oh, don’t mistake my meaning! I WAS doing what he called me to do…and some of what some others thought I should…or, maybe, what I thought they thought I should be doing, and what I thought would be the proper Christian thing, and what made it more convenient for some people, and many things I’m TOTALLY equipped to do, and…and…and…He continued to equip me for the work. Good things happened as a result. A lot of things got accomplished…some of them, I was even supposed to do. (insert VERY wry grin here!)

None of it was bad. Most of it wasn’t even that difficult. That’s what made it so easy to say “yes” in the first place! There was just a lot of it. AND, did you notice all the “I” words in that paragraph above. Yes. Me, too. It is possible to do good things selfishly even when that isn’t your intent. Saying “yes” can make you look good or get you praise and gratitude. Even when those things aren’t your primary motivation, they can still become powerfully addictive incentives.

Anyway, I recently ran out of steam. Physically, I just crashed and I believe God allowed that on purpose. The enforced break in routine helped me stop long enough to start seeing His fingerprints, and remembering His nudges, and commit myself to be still and listen. He’s been doing a lot of talking to me about this topic as I’ve been recovering and I’m absolutely certain He’s not through teaching me. That means you’ll be hearing more about this as I keep listening and learning and applying.

Please hear me when I say that God was gracious and kind in His nudging. Even the physical crash and resulting time of illness wasn’t as nearly as bad as it could have been. God is GOOD. Every single day. He is also extremely patient because He allowed me to keep going at a pace not His own for several years before I finally began to see how He was keeping and empowering and blessing me even in the midst of my ignorant insistence about doing it all for Him. I took those first five words of Philippians 4:13 as a personal mandate. Go ahead. Go look it up again. I’m not posting it here because I want you to go read it out loud to yourself–or, at the very least, quote it back to yourself if you have it memorized.

Grace is REAL, y’all! Seriously real.

It turns out that God, in HIS goodness has a plan for our good–and sometimes, it doesn’t look like what we expect. I think I might have written about that here before. (The eye roll here is a given.) Even writing this post now makes me chuckle with God about how He has continued to gently nudge and the number of times I continued to misinterpret so many of those messages as being for “someone else.”

His plan for us as individuals may look quite a bit different, but then, again, WE look different. We ARE different. I share my lessons–and mistakes!–here so you can learn from it and I’d love to hear what God is teaching you, as well. This is how we each become people of influence.

It is my prayer that whether it be your own schedule or any other topic God is dealing with YOU about, that you’ll choose to pay closer attention and be obedient faster than I.

This has been your free and friendly nudge from me…or, maybe, from Him. (grin)

What’s He saying to YOU today?

Grace and Peace!

NCN 2017–Days 7 & 8

I’m still trying to get my mind around it: how much God loves us. That’s easier to see some days than others. Sometimes, you just have to move forward in faith. Coming on the heels of a time of national mourning, I wasn’t quite prepared for–or, rather, I wasn’t really expecting–the blessing of yesterday.

God loves to surprise us…and, if you’re paying attention, He’s often very humorous and very personal. Yesterday was such a day.

I have the privilege of leading a Tuesday Morning Ladies Bible Study at our church. Because I know you have to know what’s in the Bible to follow it, I’ve tried to make sure that we actually get in and move around in the Word each time, in addition to any other teaching material we use. To that end, I invariably come with multiple sticky notes extended from my Bible to guide me from my study and I put small–as in it started out to be a regular sized sticky note, but I usually cut them up to make them last longer–very small sticky notes on each table listing the verses I want them to have ready to read as we go through my teaching time.

I never thought anything about it. It’s just what I do. I’m a sticky note fanatic…and I try to be frugal.

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Apparently, my ladies have noticed, because at the end of our session yesterday–the last session for the Semester–they presented me with this: (see the photo!)

You can have no idea how much this tickled me! What a delightful way to bless–it’s even better than flowers!–and I still laugh every time I look at my table or even think about it!

I share it here because it’s important to look beyond the normal ways of blessing those around you and find creative ways to share the joy of life with one another. Choosing not to complain about those miniscule scraps of sticky notes they have to decipher was a choice. Blessing me with what they think might be “5 years worth” of sticky notes (HA!) went beyond that and expressed their love and care for me in a very personal way. My Tuesday Ladies ROCK! They represent Christ well and they are loads of fun!

As we end our first week of NO COMPLAIN NOVEMBER and begin our second, I want to challenge you to HAVE FUN with this! This 30-day challenge isn’t meant to add another burden or give you another RULE to follow. It’s meant to be a blessing. Look for creative ways to share the blessing and enjoy the process! It can change your life. I know this, because it has changed mine.

And now, I’m off to try and organize the abundance of sticky note blessing from yesterday…and have fun doing it!

Grace & Peace!

“A merry heart does good, like medicine, but a broken spirit dries the bones.” Proverbs 17:22 (NKJV)

The power of connection

God seems intent on teaching me about the power of connection. Recent Bible study materials, texts, comments, and personal experiences are all aligning in such a way that it’s been difficult to ignore.

I love it when God does that.

He knows I can be obtuse…or…or…hyper-focused on other things. (Yeah, yeah, I like the way that second one sounds better than the first one…although that first one might actually be more accurate. Hmph…sigh…)

Either way, God seems to be intent on making me aware of something. Once again, it isn’t something monumental, and yet, it is: the power of a simple, heartfelt hug.

I grew up in a family that hugged, but didn’t really extend that outside of family lines. I remember our car being surrounded every time we arrived at my Grandmother’s house by people who joyously grabbed us for big hugs and exclamations over how glad they were to see us again.

I also remember my first meal at MUW (or Mississippi University for Women, for those who aren’t familiar). As I found a seat and began to eat I was suddenly struck by the number of people who were jumping up to hug and exclaim over one another just like my family did, but these people weren’t related…by blood. I remember thinking–and saying–“That’s not going to happen to me. I do not know these people and I can’t imagine being that excited by people who aren’t family.”

That lasted less than half a semester. People can become your family whether or not God gave you a common bloodline. Those women did. They still are. Even those I haven’t seen or hugged in years.

Lately, I’ve been noticing that some people seem surprised when I hug them, and then they seem inordinately pleased–some, even enough to write to me or comment on it later. Maybe I haven’t been doing it enough. Maybe no one else has, either. Perhaps, if we were all hugging enough, some of the truly horrible things that sometimes happen in our world wouldn’t, or maybe, they’d just be easier to deal with when they happen.

What I do know is this: God has been nudging me to make an effort to hug more lately, to express my appreciation more freely, to pray on the spot for people more, offer deliberate attention, to connect more, and to be intentional about doing so in His Name. In short, He’s calling me to do more of the things He’s always told us to do: to be Jesus with skin on to those we meet whether we’re related by blood, by relationship, by experiences, by time and place, or simply by our mutual humanity.

As an introvert, this stretches me sometimes. As a Christ-follower, it challenges me and it changes me. Always. It’s a little monumental thing and it’s worth a try on your end, too.

(side note: As always, I looked up a Scripture to go with my post. What I found was Romans 16:16. Most translations say, “Greet one another with a holy kiss…” Hmmm…I’m honestly not sure I’m ready to be that connected. (ha!) I think I’ll choose the NLT version that says, “Greet one another in Christian love…” for now and we’ll see if God needs me to go any further. LOL! Y’all have fun with this!–and start with a HUG, people!)

Grace and Peace!

 

 

Words in the window

IMG_20170518_065834453This is my view today as I chop veggies to go in the freezer. There’s a scent of gardenia wafting over the freshness of the zucchini, squash, and onions simmering on the stove and the house is quiet. I’m cleaning out the fridge and preparing for a delicious casserole one of these days when I’m pressed for time and still in need of sustenance.

My cat watches my every move from his pod on top of the washer in the laundry room. It’s peaceful here today.

I had to take my glasses off as I transferred the steaming concoction to a strainer, but it didn’t stop me from reading the words on the ornament left on the window sill since Christmas, “Be cheerful and pass it on!”

I’m as struck by these words as I was the first time I saw them. Such a simple message. I originally bought the ornament for someone who has trouble being cheerful. (Subtle as a hammer, I know. grin) When I got it home, however, I noticed the ornament had a crack running through it. That’s not exactly what you look for in a gift, is it? A broken reminder to do something that’s often difficult? It just didn’t seem like a good idea to pass it along…or to throw it away. The “obvious” alternative was to place it atop a small silver cup on the window sill as a reminder to myself.

I’m convinced that’s what God wanted all along. The makers of this ornament meant for it to be perfect and to hang on a tree for a few days or so once a year. In the midst of all the other decorations of the Christmas season, this message might have gone unnoticed. But placed as it is on my window sill? Each day I see these words reminding me to spread the cheer that comes as a result of His coming among us to bring us hope and salvation. Each day I am reminded that things don’t have to be perfect for me to be cheerful and that I can change the world in simple ways just by being willing to be used in whatever way and in whatever place He chooses to put me.

Sounds like the words in the window were meant for me…and maybe, you, too. What will you do today to be a person of influence right where you are?

BE CHEERFUL and pass it on.

Grace and Peace!