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!

 

 

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Still celebrating

img_20170106_065800221My nativity set is still on the mantle. The stockings are still hung (on the back door, this year!) and my tree is glowing and adorned even as I type. I don’t always celebrate according to the actual calendar dates.

I know people who start decorating exactly “X-# of days/hours” before a particular holiday and then remove all traces of the decorations precisely “X-# of days/hours” afterward. I also know of at least one person who shall remain nameless, but who leaves a tree up year-round and decorates it differently for each subsequent holiday.

I have general days in mind about such things, but no hard-and-fast rules. This year, even those dates have come and gone…and I’m just fine with that.

I have the added–and much unexpected–bonus of a “winter storm warning” for this weekend with the possibility of snow here in middle Georgia, home of prolonged heat waves and yellow pine pollen so thick you can write your name in it! It’s a big deal to hear we might have snow down here. The local grocery stores had a run on milk and eggs, and bread yesterday and I heard that at least two different stores actually ran out of such staples early in the day…while it was still shirt-sleeve weather! Don’t laugh! It’s serious stuff down here! Why, we might get trapped inside for a whole 2-3 days with nothing to do but eat, because you KNOW we don’t have a clue how to drive in snow with icy patches on the road–and we might actually get up to 4 inches of that white stuff! (OK, you can grin a little.)

In light of this unusual possibility, I asked my husband if he would be OK with me leaving the Christmas decorations up for just a few days longer. After all, there’s nothing that says Christmas like snow–at least in most of the traditional carols, which are still playing on the CD in my truck and throughout the house, as well, incidentally. Yeah, I’m extending this holiday as long as I can this year!

I’m practicing grace with myself and enjoying this extra time with my simple decorations and soothing songs of seasonal cheer. I was needed elsewhere on the days I would have normally put things away and fulfilling those duties took precedence. Being needed is a good thing. Practicing grace is another. In the past, I’ve been better at extending grace toward others than I have toward myself. I’d guess that’s true of most of us.

This year, in what I’m calling “the year God loaded my plate,” I’m building in some protections for myself…including celebrating whenever possible for as long as possible. I’m hoping to carry this idea into the rest of my life. Order is important (especially to me), but rigidity limits flexibility and I need to be flexible right now in order to make most of this time. I don’t want to miss a thing my God is up to!

God has given me some pretty amazing opportunities for this year and I want to enjoy every bit of it. He’s in the process of stretching me and my comfort zone, which we all know isn’t all that comfortable some days. The least I can do is get ready to be stretched and practice some grace-giving in advance for those days when the practice will become the requirement.

So, Merry Christmas in January, happy extended holidays, and joyful winter storm warning…I sure hope y’all are stocked up on milk, and eggs, and bread!

Grace and Peace!

Day 16–NCN2016

1116160725-1I love my church! More specifically, I love the heart of the people and their desire to bless and serve and celebrate the One we worship in as many amazing ways as possible. Last night was just the latest in a long line of such times, so I thought I would share a little bit of Oak Hill with all of you today as a way of encouragement.

Our Activity Center was indeed a hive of activity last evening as we fit as many women as possible around 40 beautifully decorated tables to enjoy delicious food, enjoy fellowship, and begin the celebration of the Advent season. The men of our church served the tables and entertained us in song. Four wonderful women shared with us life stories focused on the traditional themes of Hope, Joy, Peace, and Love.

Each table was decorated differently–an expression of love and creativity–set with everything fine china to patriotic salute to military service. I had the privilege of decorating two tables this year and the hardest thing about doing that was deciding which of the many ones I could envision in my head should actually become reality.

1115161109I was hostess at what was definitely the most basic of the two, but my ladies were gracious and lovely. The decorations looked nothing like Christmas and I felt the need to explain, so I wrote a table legend to help them understand why I had made those selections. I was asked to share it publicly, and so here it is:

Table Legend (for Ladies Night Out at OHBC 11.15.16)

This table was inspired by a quote from Beth Moore’s latest study, Entrusted, on 2 Timothy. As she talked about theology Beth wrote, “We don’t have to have matching plates to sit at the same table as long as Christ is seated at the head.” I like that…and I’m a fan of mixing more than matching, so here we are!

There are pieces on this table that were created over 100 years apart. Whether we are new to the body of Christ or have been with Him for years, we are still created to perform an important function: we are vessels to be used by our Creator. By ourselves we cannot feed the souls of those around us, but we can be used to showcase the Bread of Life and share the Living Water. Together, we can be a display of harmony to a world that is even more powerful because of all of our differences. The dishes don’t all match. Nor do we…and that’s a good thing, because although we share a common goal, we have individual callings and personalized giftings in this life.

1116160707a-1On the rim of the white plates and, as part of the rim on the 1116160709a-1Blue Willow, you will see one of the most important symbols in ancient Greek society: a Greek key design, representing the twists and turns of the River Meander. For this table, it represents all of the twists and turns it took for each of us to arrive where we are tonight. Each journey is different, but our destination should still be the same: to be like Jesus.

The interlocking part of the key design represents friendship. For this table, it signifies that we are united in Christ.

Each place card is topped by a sprig of fresh rosemary positioned across each name. Rosemary is the symbol of remembrance. Its pungent fragrance is a reminder that that we are to change the flavor of the atmosphere around us and be the aroma of Christ wherever we go. For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing.” I Corinthians 2:15 (NIV)

Each name is individual and represents someone created on purpose, known, and deeply loved by God. You are special. Don’t ever lose sight of that.

It is my prayer that this evening will be the start of your best-ever holiday season as we continue our journeys, deepen our friendships, remember our mission, celebrate our differences, and choose to join in celebrating His coming to save those He so deeply loves.

Welcome to the table.

Grace & Peace (and NO COMPLAINTS!)

(Oh! And for your entertainment today, I hope you’ll check out the Oak Hill Women’s Ministry Facebook page, see even more gorgeous photos of our evening–and make sure you click on the video of Oak Hill’s “Eleven Men of Christmas” from last night…https://www.facebook.com/Oak-Hill-Womens-Ministry-570212709733326/?hc_ref=PAGES_TIMELINE)

 

Coffee candles and bad apples

breakfast  Good morning and welcome to breakfast with Becky! (No, I’m not really that peppy or even that awake yet, but the fruit/granola/yogurt mixture will fix that up for me in just a little bit…well, that and the smell of coffee…but I’ll get to that in a little bit.)

I’ve read  at least 3 different blogs within the past 24 hours that apologized for their lengthy absence and vowed to try to do better. I guess this at least means I’ve got a club I can join…if I were the club-joining type.

The fact of the matter is this: life is sometimes hard and messy and complicated and busy and as much as I would love to blog every single day, there simply isn’t enough time to do that. Sometimes there is time, but there aren’t words that will go into an order that won’t alarm the general populace or make any sense to me, much less to those of you who meet me here. Sometimes, silence really is golden…and necessary.

Right now, I’m typing this on a desk that is so pile-filled with paperwork that I’m actually having to steady the keyboard and I’m using the back-button A LOT so that typos won’t drive us all to distraction. I’d move the piles, but then I’d have to start over and reset them later today and so, for now, this will have to do.

Our week started off with a trip to the ER. We left our house before 9:30 AM on Sunday morning and arrived back home just a bit before 1 AM on Monday. We are blessed. God provided up to and including chairs that were far out into the waiting room hall so that we weren’t surrounded (read TRAPPED!) in the midst of all the flu victims as we waited for my husband to get his turn for medical care and his issue should be able to resolved without further invasion. Unfortunately, the start to this week has felt a lot like the last couple of months and yet, I know it still…God is good.

My husband has returned to work and is, even now, being used of God to provide for us and I am grateful. I’m also grateful for those who have checked on us and prayed for us and loved on us in all manner of ways. I’m particularly grateful for my friends Kelley and Marsha, who have been so diligent to check on ME as well as my sweet hubby and join him in a united insistence that I take some time for myself…so I’m blogging about it. This is my ME time for today.

Yesterday was quiet and I was under specific orders from my husband to take some time to rest, so I turned on the TV to listen to old NCIS reruns (love that show!) while I cleaned out kitchen cabinets and linen closets and did laundry and bathroom chores…in my nightclothes…until 4 pm. It was great. Not, perhaps, YOUR idea of a day off, but the normalcy of it (although I do not generally do these things in my nightwear!) was a balm straight from Gilead to my soul. The ordering of life in small doses and the putting right that which has need of order is spectacularly gratifying when so much is beyond your control.

Anyway, as I sorted and assembled piles for throw away and take away/donate yesterday, I decided I’d use the new-to-me-but-really-actually-from-the-1930s/40s glass coffee container in my kitchen. I’ll post a picture of it later, but, for now, just know it is really cool. The problem is that we aren’t really big coffee drinkers. Friends and family generally bring their own stuff when they come because we’re more a juice/water/milk household here…but this jar was too cool to leave where I found it, so I brought it home. I cleaned it up and started looking for coffee to put in it. I found some, but it was pretty evident that I’d had it awhile (think: it moved from MS with me over a year ago now old!) and so I searched on. There in the back of the cabinet was a brand new unopened bag of coffee…with ancoffee candle bad apple expiration date that had passed several months ago. Well. What to do now? I wouldn’t want to drink it, but it still smelled amazing, so I made a quick decision and grabbed a vase and a candle from the back porch stash. I poured the coffee into the vase and set the candle in on top and voila! I now have an amazing coffee-candle-vase-thing that looks great and smells heavenly. It was such a pleasure to walk out this morning and inhale that wonderful aroma that I almost understand all of you people who can’t seem to start your day without drinking a cup…or twelve (yes, I also have those friends.)

 I took a photo for you to see and I really wish we had smell-o-vision for this one because it would be great! I downloaded the picture and then I noticed it…one of my apples has a bad spot on it. UGH! Well, in the interest of making the post pretty and, of course, making all of you think that I’m still that person who has it all together (HA!!) I ran back out of the room to rearrange the fruit and took another photo (see it over there? It’s the second one that looks almost like the first one!), because, seriously who wants such a great  celebration of my totally unexpectedly great coffee crafty thing to be ruined by a bad apple?! And then I started laughing at myself, because truly…who cares? The coffee candle crafty thing still smells amazing and this just tells me that I’ll be cutting off the bad spot and adding in a few others to make a nice baked apple side for supper tonight. How terrible can that be? The house will smell like coffee and baked apples tonight and all will be well…because here’s the lesson of the day:

God is good even to those of us who are control freaks. He is good to those of us who are tired and in desperate need of normal days where something–anything, please!–goes like we planned it. He is good to those of us who look like we have it all together, but really know it’s all in how you arrange your fruit and take your shot. He is good to those who will know what I’m talking about and to those who have no idea and to those who will think I’ve finally and truly lost it this time. God is just good.

 

 

Weekend challenge…

I was up until 2 AM this morning…changing things around in my house for fall.  Yes, I know.  It is crazy.

But I love it!—and I look forward to “doing the change” every single season in my house.  Art pieces get moved to new locations, different linens make their appearances, accessories are swapped and—while most of the furniture stayed in the same place this time—the house suddenly looks new again.  Fab-u-lous. This makes me happy. Every. Single. Time.

This year I’ve been waiting to make the changes and get the heirloom pumpkins and the little tiny gourds that I usually use as my finishing touches.  I like to have everything all cleaned and in place before I go pick them out and I like to pick out ones with “character”—kind of like the Charlie Brown Christmas tree-type character. (grin)pumpkin2 I thought it was just something that entertained me—and that’s totally worth it—but this week I learned that it also entertains my husband!  I was talking about how I loved the fall season Tuesday night when my husband asked when I’d be picking up some pumpkins for the season. I told him how I’d gone and looked at some that very day, but then I said, “But, I’ve been forcing myself to wait until October, you know, so they’ll last longer here…maybe even into Thanksgiving.” He just looked at me and said, “Honey, October starts TO-MOR-ROW.”

I felt like an idiot at first, but then I got really excited!  I could go get my pumpkins!!  Well, that didn’t actually happen until today, but last night I just couldn’t sleep because I wanted to make sure that everything was ready for the pumpkins…and more importantly, for my friend Jody who will arrive later today.  I get her for just a couple of very short hours on her way to see her precious daughter!!  JOY!!!

Normally, my weekend challenges involve something about making the people around us a little happier, but this week, I’d like us to focus on making ourselves a little happier.  Do something that is fun for YOU! In case it’s been so long that you’re a bit rusty on this, pumpkin3I’ll share a few things on my list for this weekend:

  • Decorate for the season—no matter what hemisphere you happen to be in at the moment!
  • Plant some new pots for your porch or your kitchen window—something you’ll see coming and going over the next few weeks!
  • Make a big pot of chili or red beans and rice and call in some help to eat them!
  • Watch some college football! (SEC is best, but make do with whatever is closest to you! HA!—that little zinger was for my Ohio State friends!)
  • Make time for a chat with a friend. It’s even better if she brings lunch and you can curl up in big comfy chairs to catch up afterward! (Go ahead and ask me how I know this!  Thank you, Jody!!)
  • Take some time to read a book or make some new art!
  • Have breakfast with someone special—and go somewhere new or unusual.

Whatever you decide, if it makes you happier, it will also make those who are closest to you happier, as well.  That’s part of the joy of sharing love and life and lots of laughter…now, don’t forget to let me know what you do! I might want to add it to my list, too!

Grace & Peace!

Brrrr!…Thank you, Lord!…Brrrr!…Thank you, Lord!

The thermometer said that it got all the way up to 28 degrees Fahrenheit today and I can’t tell you how grateful I am for that!

They said it wouldn’t happen.

They said it wouldn’t be even close to that.

They said it would be overcast and dreary and that there would be ice on the road from the rain last night and that there was the real possibility that you-know-where might actually be freezing over if it was this cold this far south. (grin)

Oh, how I dreaded this day of their predicted weather!  I sat on my sofa last night and dreaded what they said and I mourned the loss of time painting before the movers come and I dreaded that they were saying the same thing–except that it would be even worse!–for tomorrow.  I sat and I fretted and fussed inside right up until I started remembering something.

I remembered that the same God who provided the house controlled the weather.

I remembered that the same God who loved me and was in control of the weather also controlled the time and that He was well aware of all that needed doing…here in my new place and here in my heart.

I remembered that He was the same God who had provided me with Psalm 138:8 over and over and over during these past few months and that He was still in charge and that He was still in the business of perfecting what concerns me.

And guess what?  My attitude changed while I was sitting right there on the couch.  I started praising God for being in charge and for perfecting all the things that concern me (both those things that are about me AND those things that are concerning to me) and I had my own little private worship service right there in my heart and you know what happened today?

They were wrong.

The sun was out and the clouds cleared and I traveled roads that were ice-free and I traveled safely and spent the day taping off walls and baseboards and painting and rejoicing in my heart and stopping every now and then to just say, “THANK YOU, GOD!”  I completed more than I had hoped to do and still had time to do several other tasks that needed doing, as well.

Because my God is in control of everything…and He is never wrong.

Paint fumes and memories

My house smells like paint right now.  That’s because I’ve been painting.  Isn’t it amazing?  We tolerate all these tiny imperfections in our homes–tiny paint nicks and too many nail holes from moving art around with the seasons, blinds that need cleaning and dust hiding in places we never even think about looking at…until it is time to sell.

Suddenly, we’re consumed with making the house perfect for strangers as if they are somehow more worthy of the effort that we are.  It is wrong.  Wrong, I tell you!  (yes, the paint fumes are taking over!)

What I’ve found particularly amusing today is the way that different paints smell.  That’s NOT the fumes talking, now, I promise!  I opened up a can of deep red wine-colored paint and was immediately transported to the first time I ever used that color on a wall.  I still love it.  I’d forgotten the smell of it–deep and rich–almost as if the color came directly from a real wine.  The heady memories in this can…in this room…under these lights:  the laughter of friends and family, the smell of really good food and the joy of knowing such love to surround us.  I love the warmth of this color and I’ve loved the warmth we’ve lived out in this house.  Nephews playing chase and hide-n-seek, chalk drawing contests out on the driveway along with countless games of Monopoly at the table and croquet in the yard…there are lots of great memories here.  I’ll pack them with me when I go and they will all be colored in this amazing shade of love.

Standing on a small chair once used in the elementary school where my father attended, I painted out the tiny imperfections over the arch and I noticed that a small drop of the paint had descended from on high to land on the chair.  The deep fabulous color streak stands in stark contrast to the weathered wood.  I plan to leave it there.  When the chair and I leave this place we’ll take a memory with us of good times and continued usefulness…and I, for one, will be grateful for it.

I’ll get this place about where I want it…just in time to turn it over to the next owners.  They will no doubt make lots of changes and wonder why I bothered to color in the nicks…if they even notice it at all before they open their own can of paint and begin to create their own memories.

As for me, well, I’m already looking forward to feathering the next nest…after all, there’s no place like home.