We Give

When I was growing up, my mother did most of her grocery shopping at a BIG STAR grocery store. At the end of her purchase, she usually received  some change (cash, you know!) and a run of sticky-backed green paper stamps. That didn’t seem odd at all to me since people regularly looked for stores that extended paper stamps to their customers as a bonus for shopping with them. The stamps were a way for the customer to purchase additional “premium” items not found in the store that extended the stamps. In that way, it was a bit like our modern-day fuel points at Kroger, except that the  stamp-purchased items could be anything from a crystal candy dish to an appliance and were most likely ordered from a catalog or redeemed from a small separate Stamp Store where people went with excited eyes and their carefully collected books of stamps to see what they could choose as their reward for spending hard-earned cash on the staples of life.

S&H GREEN stamps and the small books they had to be carefully pasted into are a vivid memory from my childhood. It was a big deal to finally be trusted to wet the sticky back of the stamps and place them into neatly covered rows–and that was IF my mother didn’t claim that privilege for herself. (grin–We had such simple privileges back then!)  I remember going with my mother to redeem her books of Green stamps and it always reminded me of Christmas just for her. She looked forward to finally having enough to purchase an item or pick out a new one to begin saving toward. I wasn’t a fan of going grocery shopping, but going to the stamp store? Well, that was a bit like getting to shop inside the Sears Christmas Catalog! (For those of you too young to remember, the Sears Christmas Catalog was our paper-bound version of Amazon in life long before the internet…as long as you didn’t mind waiting and waiting for things to arrive after you ordered them. And, yes, I am way older than I feel! LOL!) It was a sad, sad day when the S&H store finally closed its doors in our home town.

ANYWAY! Over the door leading from my dining room area to the screened back porch there hangs a metal sign with big black and white outlined letters on a background of gold.  It is a vintage sign, not a reproduction, that once was part of a grouping of multiple metal signs hung on the side of stores that gave Gold Bond Stamps instead of the Green Stamps of my childhood. I don’t know where it originally came from, but I spotted it several years ago hanging on the side of an antique store/picker barn in rural Georgia. When I asked if it was for sale, then owner looked a bit surprised and began to explain that it wasn’t a “complete” sign since he didn’t have the rest of the signs that originally hung together.

It didn’t matter to me. I just wanted that sign. With the bonus of being painted in the colors of my high school alma mater, the bold message it proclaimed was more than enough.

It simply says, “WE GIVE” and, from the moment I first laid eyes on it, I took it as more than a written tenet of my faith; it became a mandate, a reminder, and a challenge.

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After detaching it from the weathered side of the barn, I loaded it up and brought it home to hang over the door we and our guests most often use to enter and leave the house. I don’t know that it really “goes” with anything else in that room–because it was certainly never intended to end up in a dining room!–but it still speaks to me every time I look at it. It matters to me that the sign is original, because our giving should be original and it doesn’t matter to me that it sometimes tilts just a little bit off center because of all the coming and going through the doors because our giving should be active–and it sometimes gets a little off center, as well. (grin)

Over the years I’ve stared up at that sign and thought of all the different ways I could finish that sentence. WE GIVE…

  • love
  • joy
  • praise
  • forgiveness
  • grace
  • hugs
  • presents
  • food
  • friendship
  • acceptance
  • appreciation
  • worship
  • shelter
  • more than we “have to”
  • less than we ought to
  • because we GET to
  • because we’ve been given so very much
  • because we serve the Giver of life and all good things…and because we get to be HIS.

It is that last one that struck me first and strikes me most often still. So many times we think only in terms of money when we consider giving. To be certain, it is often more convenient and far less “risky” than to be involved, to care, to show up, to reach out, or to simply be available for others, but isn’t giving supposed to be personal? I struggle with this as I want to stay hidden and content to do my own work and create my own circle and yet, God continues to prod me into discomfort, at times, so that He can GIVE me the experience of giving HIM to those around me. Money can create distances that isolate and insulate us–and, don’t get me wrong! I’m a fan of both the money and the insulation! In fact, I am perhaps too fond of them, particularly the latter–BUT God didn’t just call us to isolation. We are an important way He shares Himself with the world every single day. IF we refuse to give Him to those around us as we live life together, we become hoarders of the Blessing…and that’s no way to live.

It doesn’t have to be complicated. As we start this brand new week, what will you choose to give to those around you? Could it be a smile, an encouraging word, the gift of a chore done so they won’t have to, an unexpected treat or adventure, a meal, a shared time of prayer, a time of listening, a hug, a paid bill, or a sticky note left where they can see it and be reminded of your appreciation? The opportunities are limitless…and so is the effect…for all of us.

Give some kindness this week. Give something of yourself and the One who created and blessed you so well.

WE GIVE…because we CAN.  WE GIVE…because we GET to do so!

Grace and peace!

“Yours, Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the splendor and the majesty, for everything in the heavens and on earth belongs to you. Yours, Lord, is the kingdom, and you are exalted as head over all. Riches and honor come from you, and you are the ruler of everything. Power and might are in your hand, and it is in your hand to make great and to give strength to all. Now therefore, our God, we give you thanks and praise your glorious name. But who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to give as generously as this? For everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your own hand.”   1 Chronicles 29:11-14 (CSB)

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Changes in atmosphere

40469This week has been one of change. On Monday, I was pulling grass out of the back garden flower bed when tiny drips and drops of liquid sunshine began to fall all around me. There was no need to stop doing what I had started because the drops were gentle and sporadic. My work continued.

Within thirty minutes the drops had increased in both frequency and intensity, while the sky remained full of light. Still, I moved toward tasks that could be done indoors.

As I dug into the recurring efforts of maintaining order and folding clean clothes inside (yes, I know: definitely first world issues!), the sky opened up outside and dropped an upturned bucket-load of rain all around us. I watched puddles form in the driveway and then watched them connect with others out in the yard to create a mini-moat around the front of the house.

My neighbor called a little bit later to tell me that his rain gauge indicated we had received a little over 2 inches of rain in less than 30 minutes…much faster than our ground could absorb in that amount of time. He also called to ask if I was interested in having fresh pears. The answer was an enthusiastic “yes!”–even before he sweetened the offer by saying that HE would have them picked and delivered to me early the next afternoon.

Now, seriously, who could say “no” to that?! (And, yes, I DO have the best neighbors!!)

As I pondered this latest gift from God–because my husband had just been talking about wanting some pears this past weekend!—I also thought about some of the other changes going on in my life right now. I’m a bit over half-way into this year of adding more Margin to my life and I’m beginning to see some significant benefits emerge. I’m also beginning to see that this may not just be limited to a one year search for me. Already, the changes have been quite profound.

  • I’ve noticed that while I still haven’t lost all of my impatience with area traffic conditions, I’ve also made room for being nicer while I’m being affected by them. I can now foresee the possibility of having a ‘church sticker’ on my truck, which I have previously avoided because I tend to be impatient and there was just NO reason to tick people off about church because they got ticked about my impatience behind the wheel. (yes, really.)
  • I’ve become more aware of the times I’m tempted to walk in and take over, and I’ve begun to step back and allow other people to “figure it out” for themselves…and I’ve TRIED to offer advice only when asked…or when I see a fatal flaw…ok, maybe this one still needs some work. (personal eye roll)
  • I’m learning to include some time for me in my week that doesn’t involve “just getting it done” all the time. It turns out that this actually makes me happier to go along with other people’s schedules when needed…who knew?!
  • I’m spending even more time talking with God and I’m finding a deeper love of His Word. That’s something I’ve been asking Him to help me with for quite awhile. It turns out that I am enjoying the challenges of the Word more now that I’m not taking on ALL the challenges thrown my way by the world!
  • I’m finding that while the work doesn’t go away, sometimes I need to. Choosing to find a stopping place and walk away may seem like a no-brainer to most of you, but that’s a hard one for me. I’m not in any danger of becoming a slacker (grin), but I am choosing to heed what my body, mind, and spirit are in need of instead of just being hyper-focused on accomplishing the task no mater what the cost. This may just be the biggest change of all for me so far!

Like the rain on Monday, these things started out slowly and have built in momentum over the past 8 months, but they’re picking up speed and forming new connections with  thoughts and goals that have been put on the back-burner for longer that I can remember.

I’m becoming more creative and discovering the idea of “play” again–and just the idea of that makes me a little emotional. God certainly intends for us to work and do good while we’re here on the earth, but He is no hard and crushingly demanding taskmaster…despite my own previous behavior toward myself. Choosing to take  time to enjoy the opportunities God has placed in front of me has a new dimension now. While I have long enjoyed God, now I find I am approaching the tasks I’m assigned with a much more relaxed attitude and finding ways to make them even more fun instead of just getting them done and checking them off like so many items on a chore list. Like that rain, this idea is both refreshing to my soul and producing growth in other areas of my life.

Thank you, God, for the idea of Margin, for including room for play in your plan, for being patient with me while I stubbornly clung to the idea of accomplishing much with great effort instead of doing so with great joy, for choosing to bless me in spite of my mistakes and frustrations, and for loving me enough to send me pears before I even prayed for them. You are good…and I am grateful.

Grace and Peace!

 

Weeks of water and wonder

God’s been on a mission around here lately. He’s been answering some prayers and watering my plants–and everyone else’s!–with abandon…for days and days.

As He’s done so, that low place in the driveway filled up and made a spectacularly large birdbath delighting me and the birds who have taken full advantage. The hard Georgia ground has softened up to accept a few more new plants so I could take advantage of a break in the downpour and finally get around to planting some iris rhizomes that were gifted to me at the beginning of April. (Yes. April! I know. Blessings on you, Cyndi, and please thank Will, again, for his patience about returning his bucket!) Though I won’t see anything from them this year, they’re already holding a promise for the Spring–and isn’t it just like God to use something we normally complain about to help us become more pliable and full of beauty for the future?!

As we’ve watched the waters fill up buckets and overflow rain gauges, God has also filled up our home with guests and laughter. He sent us out to minister to others and helped us enjoy seeing that adding margin to our own lives can actually become a blessing to those around us, as well.

Our guests have been delightful and nourished us much like the rain has blessed our plants. We’ve seen some incredible growth in both plants and relationships–and both are beautiful. I’ve lost count of the number of hydrangeas arrangements have left this place to find new homes and, hopefully, give cheer in their new locations.

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It seems that nature has used this rain to fullest advantage…and now we have a new, though unplanted crop being enjoyed by our local squirrels. Although their abundant presence in our yard often annoys me as I work to stay ahead of planted nuts growing into trees in all sorts of odd places, I laughed to see how the squirrels have nibbled all around the edges of a string of mushrooms all lined up like a buffet. I guess God thought He would provide for those guests, as well.

As I wandered through the yard this afternoon, I couldn’t help be be reminded how blessed we all are and along the way, I found a few more things to share. For those of you still asking after Grace, I’ve included a picture of her below. She’s showing out these days…just like God.

I’m looking forward to seeing what God does next…and to home-grown tomato sandwiches and a caprese salad or twelve, as well. In the meantime…

Grace and Peace!

Quotidian praises

I love finding new words. Of course, they may not actually BE NEW words, but when they’re new to me, I take great delight in them, just the same. It’s kind of like an odd little  present from God. It doesn’t cost anything and most people would probably skip over them and move on, but I feel compelled to look them up and find a use for them so I won’t forget them.

I’ll bet you can see where this is going, can’t you? ( Want to take a wild guess at what my latest one was? grin)

I’ve always loved words. I think they might just be one of God’s best gifts to us–and I love to see Him at the heart of making sure we have even more new words as evidenced by the Scriptural account of the tower of Babel. One of the side benefits of having more languages in the world is, of course, finding new ways to integrate them into our own–and mangle them in the process! Yes, I’m sure that God knew that would delight me and annoy others in equal measure, so I’m particularly grateful to be on the delighted side of that one!

IMG_20180416_212228055_LLFor years, I’ve made a habit of looking up words as I came across them in my reading. My old red hard-backed Random House College Dictionary was one of my favorite gifts as I graduated from high school, even though I now have no idea who gave it to me. (If it was you, then THANK YOU very much!–I hope you liked the card I sent shortly thereafter as a way to express my gratitude! I’m absolutely certain that happened because my mother and Miss Manners insisted that I use some of those words for every single gift I received during those summer months between high school and college!) My shiny new red dictionary joined the Roget’s College Thesaurus from Mrs. Coffey’s Senior English class, and the small black paper-backed New Handy Webster Dictionary (illustrated) that I had scarfed from my father’s possession long ago as one of my most treasured possessions as I moved out into my own future…into a land that had no idea about personal computers, much less accessing websites to find out information within moments on any given topic.

Along with holding a faded flower, a letter from a former classmate, my certificate of admission to and a note card with the combination for my new mail box at Mississippi University for Women, and a few other mementos, my big old red dictionary has been held and searched by many of the children–and more than a few adults!–left in my care for almost any period of time over an hour or so. I used it the way I was taught:  “When someone uses a word you don’t know, LOOK IT UP!” Countless games of Scrabble and even general conversations required little (and not so little) hands to search the pages and then use of that new found word in as many sentences as possible so that the knowledge would stick. (Y’all are getting a whole new level of how much of a word-nerd I am, aren’t you?! HA!!)

In any case, imagine my delight when I found a new word earlier this evening! I didn’t even stop to finish the sentence before I grabbed my phone and looked up the meaning. Times and energy levels being what they are, I didn’t get out of my chair and take steps to reach for that big red book until it was time to take a picture! In any case, I rolled that new word across my tongue and around in my head as I read the definition. From an online dictionary compliments of Google, I read the following:

quo·tid·i·an
kwōˈtidēən/
adjective
  1. of or occurring every day; daily.
    “the car sped noisily off through the quotidian traffic”
    • ordinary or everyday, especially when mundane.
      “his story is an achingly human one, mired in quotidian details”
      synonyms: dailyeverydayday-to-daydiurnal

      “the quotidian routine”
      ordinaryaveragerun-of-the-milleverydaystandardtypicalmiddle-of-the-roadcommonconventionalmainstreamunremarkableunexceptionalworkaday,commonplacemundaneuninteresting;
      informalnothing to write home about, a dime a dozen
      “her horribly quotidian furniture”

 

In my delight, I immediately informed some close friends about “my new discovery” and found it was a new word to several of them, as well. That these are particularly well-educated women made my delight even greater!

Eventually, I got back to reading the sentence where I first found the word in print–and had the audacious thought that, perhaps, the quoted person should have chosen another word…just to make things clearer, you know…even though it would have made me miss out on a new word. I had to share my merriment at being particular about the use of a word with which I had been unfamiliar just 30 minutes prior. As I laughingly shared with one of my friends, “These are the things that I think must make God put His head in His hand and just sigh deeply about me.”

It’s true…or perhaps it would be, if God weren’t a spirit. Either way, as I thought more about the meaning of my new word, I decided that it actually fits the intent of this blog. In a strange way it is one of my deepest desires that I would offer praise that is so regular and so common as I go about my daily life that it becomes quotidian in the way I live my life. I certainly have the means, the opportunity, the desire, and the option of making it so.

Perhaps you’ll join me? Let’s be quotidian–in the best sense of the word!–in our praise of a God who is anything but, and yet relishes it all. I don’t think God will find that mundane, unremarkable or uninteresting at all, and I’m certain that He would enjoy the change of pace from some of us…including myself.

Grace and Peace!

My own New Year

I had another birthday recently and, as usual, began the process of evaluation for what I want to get accomplished the year to come. I’ve always ignored the traditional New Year’s resolutions in favor of starting my own New Year on my birthday. I’m weird like that. (grin)

What I found this year was a bit surprising: I don’t have as many new goals as I used to. I’m not saying that I’ve finally lived up to that “Most Likely to Succeed” superlative from high school, but I would say that I’m making progress–and most of it is in the direction that brings me joy. Hopefully, my progress is also making God smile a bit more than He used to, as well.

Sometimes we get all caught up in what other people expect from us or, perhaps more accurately, what we think they expect from us. I know I used to, anyway, but the older I get the more excited I am about my life. I’ve been blessed with a good one–despite the challenges, which we all face in one form or another. I’ve found that the best way to face them is to remember that those challenges are temporary and I am eternal, not because of anything that I have done, but by virtue of the very One who made me in His own image. By the way, the same can be said of you since the same God made us all.

34136This past year, I’ve already seen progress in some specific areas that I’ve been focused on for the last several years. I’ve exercised my “no” a little more and created some necessary margin in my life. I’ve cleared out a bunch of “stuff,” opened up my home a lot more, and made some more room for the people in my life to kick back and relax here with me. As a bonus result, I’ve been able to breathe a little better, as well. I’ve chosen to be more deliberately creative–and yes, you can do that! I’ve dug deeper into my study of what God wants for me and loved it as He has continued to turn some of that innate stubbornness into a more tenacious faith-life. I’ve prayed more with and for others and celebrated more of the small things in the everyday schedules I make for myself. I’ve laughed more this past year and enjoyed my husband and our marriage more. I’ve made deliberate choices to look past the faults of others without unsolicited commenting, but more importantly, I’ve managed to give some more of that grace to myself. To be honest, I’m having a lot more fun being me than I used to…and I’ve always liked being me. (HA!)

As I look back at that last paragraph, I see that this past year could most accurately be labeled as “a year of more.” I want to keep going in that direction in the year to come. I like what God is showing me about what He can do when I’m more focused on enjoying Him and the life He’s provided than when I’m just trying to “do the right thing,” check all the right boxes, and being too concerned about pleasing others.

As in years past, because I’m an optimist serving an Almighty God, I expect this new one to be a good one, but I am determined that it will be a more-God one. I look forward to what my new year will bring. I’m fiercely resolved to be a better steward of the life God has given to me. The following verse just feels like what I’m hoping for out of this new year:

“Not that I have already reached the goal or am already perfect, but I make every effort to take hold of it because I also have been taken hold of by Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:12 (CSB)

Perhaps I should have just started–and stopped–with that. Oh, well. I didn’t say anything about this year being less “wordy.” Looks like I’m off to a great start there, too. (grin)

Grace and Peace!

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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25

I’ve heard it said that people only put their best lives out on social media. While there may be some truth to that, I’d prefer to think that most of us are just celebrating the good parts. What many people forget, however, is that we need to celebrate the ordinary parts, as well. My husband and I recognize a lot of those, so I guess that makes us “extra” ordinary. I’ve always loved seeing those two words next to each other because they remind me that when we choose to celebrate our all of our extra ordinaries, we realize that our lives have actually become extraordinary.

IMG_20180219_120533263A few of days ago, we packed up the big red truck and drove off the mountain on our way home. We took the scenic route: farm land, forests, majestic views, patches of daffodils at places we imagined long-ago homesteads, cows, and towns small enough to pass through in under a minute. No interstates crowded with commuter or big box stores and restaurant chains for most of the way.

Like our getaway, the trip home was a reflection of who we are:  generally peaceful, decidedly ordinary…and plenty ok with it. We’ve been celebrating 25 years of marriage this week. Actually, we’ve been celebrating all along the way for the whole 25 years. We learned to do that early on in this thing when with just a few months before our 5th anniversary, we heard the dreaded word, cancer. Since then, we’ve heard other dreaded words like infertility, job loss, heart failure, death of loved ones, and so much more. That doesn’t make us that different from you, does it? It makes us ordinary or maybe, even extra ordinary/extraordinary…just like you. We decided long ago to take each day as it comes, so our lives have been a reflection of just what Scripture tells us in Proverbs 27:1, “Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring.” 

We’ve also learned a little about the flip side of that verse from Matthew 6:34 (ESV) which says, “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” 

img_20180219_120424062.jpgWe’re a lot better about not worrying than we used to be. We’ve seen God show up and show out for us so many times that even those dreaded words don’t seem to feel as dreadful as they used to. We’ve learned the joy of being together and knowing that we both belong to God. Whatever else happens, we’ve decided that those things are our non-negotiables. We’ve gotten stubborn about them and that’s ok, too. It’s good to get stubborn about the things that are most important to you. By the way, being stubborn about knowing you’re completely loved and accepted by an all-powerful and all-knowing God has led to some pretty stubborn faith, as well, and that stubborn faith has stood us in pretty good stead.

IMG_20180219_121246248_HDRSome of what was important to us at the beginning has changed over the past 25 years. We’re more apt to focus on people rather than things now. We’re still learning to be good stewards of our resources and we’re choosing to focus on more of the little ordinaries and celebrate them rather than waiting for the big extraordinaries to come our way. Those are still happening, by the way, we’ve just learned that an impromptu date in the middle of the week with friends, an unplanned side trip, daffodils blooming in February, or taking the time to just sit and look at the mountains from a peaceful place in the woods might ought to be counted as one of them.

Other things are still the same…or at least so slightly changed that they appear that way. We still crack each other up, finish each other’s movie references, and love getting off the beaten path and “eating local” when we’re out on the road. We’re aware that showing love is even more important than just saying it…and that still saying it, is critical. We still have times when we agree to disagree and when that happens, we both walk away KNOWING we’re the one who has it right and being ok with being married to the one who got it wrong. (grin) Home is still our favorite place to be…and home is generally wherever the other one is. We still value the family and friendships God has blessed us with and we’re still newlywed enough to hold hands most of the places we go together.

In short, we’ve been blessed with a most ordinary life filled with the most extraordinary gifts from an even more extraordinary God. May we all be so blessed. Here’s to the next 25!

Grace and Peace!