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!

 

 

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Challenging

In her recent Bible study on the Gospel of John entitled Proven, Jenni Allen shares several opportunities for “experiences” to reinforce each week’s lesson. One of my favorites, so far, has been from Week One where she asked us to celebrate the fact that God is a master experience-creator by creating an experience for some of our friends or family members. Her guidelines were simple: it had to be fun, inexpensive, contain something you’ve never tried or done before, and it had to be memorable.

A couple of friends agreed to join in the experience with me and I had so much fun with it that I decided to share it here. (Don’t get freaked out because there are multiple steps! These are SIMPLE!)

Step One: Spend a few minutes telling God God all the things you’re grateful for today! (I know, a few minutes isn’t nearly long enough!)

Step Two: Choose ONE word as your “today, I am most grateful for____” word.

Step Three: Now, you get to go on a nature walk/treasure hunt around the yard or house…for items that you can use to spell out your word! I don’t care what you collect for this project, but you can’t leave your yard and you can’t spend any money.

Step Four: Now go to the Word and find a verse about the word you’ve chosen and photographed.

Step Five: Send me a picture of your “word” and your verse so I can share in your creativity and celebrate with you! (BTW, I’m happy to receive them all personally, but you might want to share them in the comments section so others can share in your fun, as well…just a thought! Either way works for me!)

Step Six: Post your word and your verse on your social media platform and share the blessing with someone else.

Step Seven (because if I’ve gone this far, there HAS to be a 7!): Spend a few more minutes thinking about how you can incorporate more of “your word” into your life this week.

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As you can see, my word was “joy” and, although it doesn’t really match the traditional colors of Autumn, it was gathered right out in my yard on October 1st! Thanks to previous owners, hot pink and purple are actually signs of Fall around here. (grin–we’d hate to be predictable, you know!)

Last week, I was given a hug by someone who doesn’t know me very well. At the end of it, she turned to others nearby and said, “You can just feel the joy in her!” That blessed me really big. While I am rarely without joy, sometimes, my serious side shows more than my fun one and I have been challenging myself to work toward being more balanced in this area. I chose this word because I know that happiness is temporary, but JOY can be permanent because of my relationship with God. I grabbed the bungee cord because sometimes joy can stretch you and you need to be flexible to hang on to it when things get a bit hard. I opted for the echinacea flower over the bungee cord because echinacea naturally strengthens the immune system and joy is a healing thing. I picked the clematis bloom because it was the biggest blooming thing on the place (grin) and because clematis is happy to send tendrils up and out into the world grabbing hold and covering whatever you’ll let it. I settled on the twig from one of the camelias in the front because it was pretty, it had fully extended blooms along with buds that signal more beauty to come…and was also easily made into a “Y”–and practicality is also part of Joy for me! (ha!)

Your choices don’t all have to have hidden meanings, that’s where my mind naturally took me on this journey. I would LOVE to see what you come up with and, whether or not you choose to participate in this one, I challenge you to find more joy in your week. Grab hold and celebrate the beauty of the season, the goodness of our God, and the fact that Autumn seems to have finally begun to arrive.

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13 (NIV)

“You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” Psalm 16:11 (ESV)

“This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” Psalm 118:24 (ESV)

Grace and Peace!

 

 

The really spectacular day…

IMG_20170527_180617889It doesn’t take much to make us happy. Well, some days it does, but it’s usually stuff like spending time together and having both of us healthy at the same time and holding hands and having our cat, Smokey, oversee our every move. (As you can see from the photo, he thinks this is HIS blog today.) We have had just such a day.

We had planned a whole long weekend at home trying to kick the yuck of the previous weeks out of our lives and I had all the food choices figured out and ready for the grill, a slew of old movies and maybe a board game or two lined up along with the knowledge that we had a whole extra day to add to the mix on Monday. I woke up first and quietly made my way into the living room to break my way gently into the day. It wasn’t long before my husband joined me with a mischievous grin on his face. I could tell he felt better just by the way he was grinning. (MAJOR praise!)

“You know what I want to do today?” he asked.

“You want to go out for breakfast.”

He shook his head from side to side and began to spill out his plan for the day. Just the idea that he felt up to it made me want to join in the fun, so we made quick work of our morning chores and off we went. It took us off our beaten path and it was worth every single second.

When we arrived at our destination we giggled like school children. We held hands as we crossed the parking lot and shared one last (really big) grin as opened up the heavy doors and stepped inside…and then we parted ways. You would have thought it was Disney, but we had just entered the hallowed space that is the Barnes and Noble.

Let me pause here and let you exhale that great big breath you’ve been holding, ok? I know. That probably wasn’t even close to what you were expecting, but believe you me–it was a big deal to us. Even better? We made a pact to split up and go whichever direction we wanted and stay as LONG as we wanted…just because we could! Outside of a public library or a botanical garden, there’s just about no other place I’d rather spend some time than a room full of words all put in different orders and ready to share something new and pertinent with you if you just pick up the ones written in the right order to appeal to you.

We had traveled over an hour just to get to this one. Oh, there’s one about 20 minutes closer, but THIS one has a P.F. Chang nearby…and that cast the deciding vote on the matter. When our adventure–and yes, it qualified because we braved Atlanta traffic and survived all sorts of perilous drivers on the road there and back! In fact, I am actually the only one who made all the right moves on the entire trip there and back, y’all! It is harrowing to know that that many people who can’t drive actually do so!…ANY WAY!… When our adventure was complete, we each had a bag full of books and magazines with hours and hours of fun, entertainment, learning, and mind adventures just waiting to be started. We made another stop on the way home to get some minor fixes made to a recent purchase and then, to top it off we made a stop by the Sonic on the way home and purchased TWO Route-44 Fresh strawberry slushes…and if that doesn’t sound delicious to you, then we’re not sure you’ve really lived. (grin)

We heated the PFC left-overs from lunch while we got in our comfortable clothes. Actually, that last sentence should be more accurately translated into, “We then got into our pajamas at about 4 o’clock in the afternoon and settled in for the long duration!” Now that we’ve made sure Smokey has properly settled in for appropriate oversight and the delights of Crispy Honey Chicken with brown rice and the egg rolls have been consumed, it is here that we find ourselves…hoping and praying that one day you’ll manage to have such a splendid outing with someone you love this much and that you won’t let things like being over an hour away and not being on the schedule or feeling silly that if you’re going to go to all that trouble it better be something more spectacular than a bookstore and some really upscale Chinese food. (Fried green beans, y’all. Fried green beans. It would have been worth the trip just for the appetizer!)

The moral of this story is this: don’t wait to have a spectacular day until you can pay big bucks and do something stunningly grand to impress people. The little things actually make the bigger impact when you consistently fill your life with loving people, delicious food, and good words all written out in a way that makes you smile…and maybe even ones that will inspire you to get out and do something that wasn’t on your agenda at the beginning of your day, either.

Grace and Peace, y’all! I’ve got a stack of books to dig into right now! (happy dance, happy dance!)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spring cleaning

It seems I’m finally getting around to doing some spring cleaning. As God and I have cleaned out my schedule a bit over the past few weeks, there is suddenly time now for activities that I–with my slightly OCD brain–have actually been looking forward to for months. I’ve been sorting and organizing and I actually have a book that I’m reading for pleasure/instruction! I may even pull out the paints or that sewing machine before long and do something creative around here! But first, there is a bit of work to be done. I was taught to work first and play later. It’s been a good rule for the most part, though I have struggled on those occasions where the work never seemed to end and the play seemed more and more unobtainable. In part, I guess that’s what has made me be able to focus so intently and be productive when needed. I’ve also come to realize that what I see as play…others may see as work. (smile) Whatever works, right? Best of both worlds.

Monday I grabbed the weed-eater, the riding lawnmower, and the blower and got busy uncovering my house and yard from the wildness and personal neglect of a mild winter. Believe it or not, there are people who live here and not just some derelicts who have abandoned this place! I’ve never been so happy to see a yard take shape before since…Well…last year about this time! (grin) I am fortunate that we live in a more rural area and our house sits back in the trees a bit so perhaps my yard work shortcomings take a little longer to become more obvious to the neighbors. (Maybe. I hope…) I’ve found that riding on the lawnmower is the perfect opportunity for prayer and reflection. It’s become one of my favorite things (yes, just call me Forrest… ) to do during the season when grass seems to grow whether God sends the rain or not. Yes, I uncovered more things for my “To Do” list and my forearms were a bit sore yesterday from the extra workout, but it was a beautiful day and a wonderful way to blow out the cobwebs of the mind and rejoice in the beauty being unveiled as I worked. Spring cleaning of the yard.

Satisfaction from physical labor and doing a job well are just some of the life lessons my brother and I talked about during an unexpected overnight visit from him last week. I’m grateful for those lessons and for the decision to just rest and enjoy the visit despite the state of the yard while he was here. That’s something that doesn’t come naturally to me. I’m way more Martha than Mary. It was good to switch that up for a day and enjoy the luxury of family in this place. Spring cleaning of the habit.

IMG_20170418_110322614Yesterday was supposed to be quite different, but I found myself with a completely indoor day except for my walk to the mailbox when I deadheaded the iris on my way there and back. (18 blooms already come and gone with more in full beauty and even more on the way! I knew you’d want to know. ha!) As I did laundry, cleaned and sorted, rearranged, and culled out extras I gave thanks for the life I get to lead here. Exchanging the mantel arrangement of fading red nandina leaves for one with vibrant roses and lavender was a reward for the work of the past two days and a reminder of the all the grace that covers this life I’m called to lead. Spring cleaning of the spirit.

This morning I opened the Book to the writings of John and read this:

“I write to you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for His name’s sake.” 1 John 2:12

Those words broke me in a way totally unexpected as I teared up and gave thanks over and over at the love of God the Father in sending His Son and the sacrifice it took to cover my sins. The incredible deliberateness of God’s choice to make possible a relationship with one who has so often gone her own way and chosen poorly…It breaks me and I am glad of that today. I don’t ever want to lose the wonder of that! It ought to break me…And you, too, because He didn’t just come for one of us. He came to clean all of us. Spring cleaning of the heart.

Today I am tackling the back porch with all of things we’ve dropped there on our way in over the past few weeks along with that thick layer of yellow pine pollen. I’ll probably have the music turned up and have the company of a very satisfied cat who is happy to have me consider work as play…as long as it means I remain within sight and remember where I keep the treats.

Who knew spring cleaning could be such fun?

Grace and Peace!

Lenten Light

It’simg_20170301_092915249_hdr one of the first things I do every morning. I walk into the kitchen and I turn on a little lamp that’s been with me since I was a small girl.  As I flip the toggle switch, I tell God, “Thank you!” just like I do when I turn it off again at the end of the day. This lamp, and it’s twin which resides over on the butcher block that used to be a big part of my PawPaw’s store, was a long-ago gift from one of my mother’s college friends.

Her first name was Martha, but we just called her “Harris”–her last name and the one she had been known by in college at Mississippi State College for Women (now Mississippi University for Women) in my hometown of Columbus, Mississippi. Harris was an orphan who attended school on a scholarship and she never married. Throughout her life she educated and loved on other people’s children, and although she had a few closer to her home in Louisiana, I believe my Mama’s children were some of her favorites. It’s been years since she passed, but I still think of her when I turn on these little lamps and I miss knowing she’s in the world with us.

Harris was always full of fun and laughter. She loved wearing bright colored scarves and my Mama always got excited when she received a call or letter that said Harris was on her way and would be with us for a few days. She had lots of stories about “her children” and her church family. When she got tickled at her own stories, she would giggle and say, “Oh, Jes-us! precious Jesus!”, but not in a sacrilegious way–she was just including Him in on her fun the same way she included Him in every other part of her life.

I didn’t know it then, but I was being taught some incredible lessons about love and friendship and building a vibrant faith life. Today, on this first day of Lent, I’m remembering how God chose to shine His light on us in a way we humans could touch and feel and know in a personal way. I’m also reminded that He’s still in the blessing business and there’s still plenty to say “Thank you, God!” for today…including sweet memories of those people who have shown us how to make God come home to us in ways that make us want more of that–and more of Him!–in our lives.

It may not be a lamp on your kitchen counter, but what can you use this Lenten season to remind you of Him and cause you to express your gratitude for all the blessings He’s given to you throughout your life?

Grace and Peace!

(And for those of you who are wondering, that fabulous teapot was custom made for my husband by our friends Craig and Tracy Wilson, from Poplar Ridge Pottery in Mississippi! It gets used almost every day and we just leave it out because it’s too great to hide in a cabinet!)

 

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!

ON to the next…?

I started writing an imaginary blog post in my head last night listing all of the complaints I chose not to give voice to in November. Or at least I tried to do that…but I couldn’t remember what any of them were! How funny is that?! It was a great reminder to me that watching what I say and how I express myself has more benefits than those just in the moment. If the things I’m prepared to speak badly about aren’t worth remembering a month–or even a few days!!–later, then why bother doing that in the first place?!

I soon moved on to other thoughts…like what I plan to challenge myself with in December. Actually, I’ve been thinking about this for several days. I’ve had several options that appeal to me regarding being more intentional about getting my exercise and finding a project that I could donate to as my own little Christmas gift this year. (I drink a LOT of water, so I’m exploring some options that help bring water to people and places where they don’t currently have a regular supply of water right now. More on that later, I guess.)

I’ve seen food challenges about giving up certain items for the holidays, but I’m still trying to be diligent about eliminating processed sugar–I that started in my 2015 Lenten observance and it made such a difference that I’ve tried to keep it going–and adding (or rather, subtracting!) something else food-related right now just isn’t all that appealing.

I’ve enjoyed writing regular blog posts during November, though I had gotten a bit out of practice and some days it was really a stretch for me to do it in a timely manner. Maybe I should be more disciplined about my writing?

I’ve pared down my holiday decorations over the years so that, other than the tree and the nativity set, they fit into 2 regular sized totes now. I’ve also been on a purging kick for YEARS, so I don’t really hold on to material things as much any longer.

I haven’t pulled out the paints and worked with those in awhile…and I DO love that…maybe I need to regularly schedule some creative time? (yeah! because that had always worked for me in past! NOT!)…but still, maybe…?

I wish I read more…books, instead of just internet things…

Oh, boy. Think about that for a minute. How much time do I spend on the internet each day? Well, maybe YOU don’t need to think about that, but I think I might. Yes, that might be just the thing. Ooohhhh, that’s a bit scary. Think before you commit, Becky…you love Pinterest. You love keeping up with your people on Facebook. You do a lot of research online. You love all of the different subjects you can check out. You’re pretty grateful to Al Gore for even thinking about creating the internet (giggle)…and yet…

It has become one of my pet peeves of late. I’m not talking about the internet so much as I am the societal addiction to technology…instead of actually being present and having interaction with people who are actually…you know…THERE. Yes. That might just be the thing for December.

Ok. Deep breath. Here we go. For the month of December, I hereby challenge myself (and invite you along for the ride, if you want to join me!) in putting down my phone/technology when there are people around. I spend a great deal of time by myself, so I’m going to take it even a bit further: I’m going to set a limit on how much time I spend online…for things outside research and writing and …oh, wait. I’m already waffling on this…

Nope! I’m going to stop that waffling. I’m just going to take a deep breath and do this! Phone down when there are people in the room and I’m setting a limit of 2 hours per day to be online. Given the time it takes to actually write and publish the blog, do research in prep for Bible study, etc., I’m going to have to really discipline myself to keep to that limit, but I think that is my challenge for December.

Join me? Pick your own? Either way, share what YOUR next challenge will be! I just might need another challenge…in January…

…and now, I’m out of here! I’ve got a time limit and I need to do some serious planning about what to do with all of this extra time…

Grace and Peace!