A rose is a rose is a…

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IMG_20171129_104111525_HDRI transplanted a couple of roses earlier this fall. Actually, I pulled up two that bloomed only once a year with little-to-no scent and replaced them with two that have a much longer blooming season, amazing scent, and a special place in my heart. The new roses have acclimated beautifully and even began to throw some blooms my way late in the season. I’ve been sharing pictures of one of the later blooms with a nearby friend. It’s been too beautiful to keep to myself. She saw it in person at about the third-photo stage.

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I told her that it would change colors as it matured, but even though I’ve seen it over and over again, I’m absolutely certain that I didn’t communicate exactly how much the change would be or how much it always delights me to see it happen.

Some things have to be seen to be believed.

This rose (“Rio Samba” by Weeks Roses) changes size, shape, color, and the scent–which they mistakenly call “light”–seems to get a little “louder” the more time it spends on the bush. (kind of like me! Ha!) The late blooming season isn’t unusual for this rose. One year, my mother and I decorated the wedding cake for my Cousin Reyna and covered it up with blooms grown at the corner of my house in Mississippi…on Thanksgiving DAY! (We had to thaw out the water they were held in overnight with a hairdryer, but the blooms–and the cake!–were magnificent!)

Just for your reference, these photos are of the same rose! The first photo was taken on November 15th of this year right after my friend Linda headed back to Mississippi. The final photo was taken on December 3, 2017, once I returned home from my last show of the season. I missed the one where it was covered with snow…because the snow melted almost as quickly as I noticed it and Georgia snow isn’t much for hanging around waiting on me to take my photo op! (grin) Finally, just today, I pulled the spent petals from the bush and flung them into the air where they landed in a perky array of color all around the mulch underneath the rose bush.

I always do that. It’s kind of like making a wish or sending a prayer for more. Flinging the spent, but still colorful petals is pointless to accomplish “the more”, but it always makes me smile…and that’s enough.

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As the petals arced upward today, I thought about my recent visit back to Mississippi to see family for an early Christmas. We missed having my husband and my brother with us, but my parents are doing as well as can be expected. It’s only been a few months since I’ve seen them, but the nephews are smarter, taller, and stronger. My sister and brother-in-law remain busy and productive. In short, things are going pretty much as they should be. We’re all getting older and, hopefully, wiser. We’re all changing…and we’re all the same. We still have things to accomplish and though we’re not as young as we used to be, we’re still busy “becoming” what we’re all called to be.

There’s something to be said for that.

Change doesn’t have to be scary. The same God who was in control at Creation is still busy creating. He’s still giving us opportunities for growth and watching over us as we deepen, unfurl our petals, and find our voices. I see the physical changes most in my parents and the nephews, but I know it’s happening in all of us.

Lest you know them and become alarmed, rest easy. The parents are still lively and hysterically funny. They work together to accomplish what needs to be done and continue to bless and encourage others along the way. It’s just easier to see the changes when we’re all seated at the same table these days. Each of us still has work to do and we’re going about it the best we can. The start of a life, the middle, and the winding up of it are all a part of the Plan and the Planner.

No matter what stage you find yourself in today, I hope you’ll join me in praying the verse that’s been posted around our home for over a year. It’s over the sink and on the lamp, by the desk, and in my heart:

“And let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us, And establish the work of our hands for us; Yes, establish the work of our hands.” Psalm 90:17

The sticky notes and the one in my head are from the NKJV translation, but I also want to share the AMPC version with you, as well.

 

“And let the beauty and delightfulness and favor of the Lord our God be upon us; confirm and establish the work of our hands—yes, the work of our hands, confirm and establish it.” Psalm 90:17 (AMPC)

I hope you view these photos of the changing rose and see some of the same parallels I do with whatever season of life you’re in right now. It’s ALL beautiful! May the beauty, the delightfulness, and the favor of God be rich within you and evident in your own life as He directs the work of your hands today.

“The grass withers, the flower fades, But the word of our God stands forever.” Isaiah 40:8

Grace and Peace!

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NCN 2017–Day 29

 

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Against the backdrop of fog this morning, the Japanese maple in the back walkway bed still shines like a beacon. It’s the same one that was all lit up in red and gold in yesterday’s sunny post photo, but the surroundings are a little different today. There’s a stillness to the air that replaces yesterday’s lively bird chatter and the air is a little bit cooler without the obvious rays of the sun. It is no less beautiful a day; it’s just different…

Kind of like this month has been for some of us. Sunshine and shadow, good days and bad, we’ve made a concerted effort to reduce the negativity in the world by…oh my goodness! Imagine this!:  placing limits on ourselves! We’ve chosen to speak the positive things and not the negative ones. We’ve CHOSEN to control what we can…or rather, WHO we can.

Truth be told, it’s all we can do on any given day, not just the ones in November. Remembering that can make all the difference going forward.

For the past few days, I’ve had a song in my head. An old hymn has run through the night and been with me almost constantly. These words, originally published in 1752, still seem most appropriate for us today and for the days going forward, as well. I hope you’ll see the connection and embrace the choice to continue our challenge long past our month of NO COMPLAIN NOVEMBER.

Be Still My Soul

Be still, my soul: the Lord is on thy side.
Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain.
Leave to thy God to order and provide;
In every change, He faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul: thy best, thy heavenly Friend
Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.

Be still, my soul: thy God doth undertake
To guide the future, as He has the past.
Thy hope, thy confidence let nothing shake;
All now mysterious shall be bright at last.
Be still, my soul: the waves and winds still know
His voice Who ruled them while He dwelt below.

Be still, my soul: when dearest friends depart,
And all is darkened in the vale of tears,
Then shalt thou better know His love, His heart,
Who comes to soothe thy sorrow and thy fears.
Be still, my soul: thy Jesus can repay
From His own fullness all He takes away.

Be still, my soul: the hour is hastening on
When we shall be forever with the Lord.
When disappointment, grief and fear are gone,
Sorrow forgot, love’s purest joys restored.
Be still, my soul: when change and tears are past
All safe and blessèd we shall meet at last.

Be still, my soul: begin the song of praise
On earth, be leaving, to Thy Lord on high;
Acknowledge Him in all thy words and ways,
So shall He view thee with a well pleased eye.
Be still, my soul: the Sun of life divine
Through passing clouds shall but more brightly shine.

*Original words by Katharina A. von Schlegel, published in 1752
Grace and Peace!

NCN 2017–Day 16

It is quiet around here today. Really quiet…the kind where you can hear the clock ticking on the mantle from across the room. I am loving it.

I’ve been “peopling” a lot here lately and I have enjoyed the blessing of company and friends who love me. This quiet, though, is a balm to my soul. Even my cat is quiet right now–and that’s rarely the case. We’re both just soaking in the quiet and enjoying the vacation from sound.

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In a little bit, I’ll need to move and get busy checking items off my To-Do list (on 3 bright yellow sticky notes so far today, thank you very much, Tuesday Ladies!!). I’ll get things started and go out and “people” again, listen to music, and get things done. I’ll pray as I go and I’ll enjoy every moment…because I’ve already decided to do that. I have decided to be content today.

We can decide, you know. Some people aren’t aware of that and some have forgotten it, but it’s still true.

I pray you’ll be one of the ones who remembers it today. Even more, I pray you’ll be one who chooses to practice it today.

No matter how loud your day gets, I hope there’s a little space of quiet and contentment for you where you can rest from the noise of life and remember that you are loved beyond measure and valued for more than all you manage to accomplish today.

Grace and Peace!

“I have experienced times of need and times of abundance. In any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of contentment…” Philippians 4:12a (NET Bible)

 

 

NCN 2017–Day 14

Today is a big day for me. My friend Linda will arrive later this morning. She was scheduled to arrive yesterday, but ran into a whole host of travel issues that prevented that from happening. While I am certain there were moments when her NO COMPLAIN NOVEMBER resolve was threatened (she reports it was “broken”–lol), I loved that as we ended our day she was expressing gratitude for those very delays that kept her from arriving as scheduled because they also might have kept her safe and made today’s arrival possible.

Linda and I haven’t seen each other in awhile, so there will be lots of catching up to do as we go about preparing for this evening when we will gather with over 300 women at my church to celebrate the beginning of the Advent season. We’ll be a little early–Advent officially begins on December 3rd this year–but this is the time we have available on our church calendar, so we’re getting a head start on celebrating the coming gift of the Christ-child.

I’m pretty sure God won’t mind.

For hundreds of years, God’s people looked for their Messiah. Some got tired of waiting. Others just quit. Some, like Anna and Simeon, lived long lives in anticipation. That sounds like something that might give rise to complaint, but they somehow managed to overcome that impulse and stay alert and ready to receive their promise from God.

One of the meanings for the name Simeon is: “obedient listener,” while Anna’s name means  “favor, grace, and beautiful.”  I want to be like both of them. It’s hard to anticipate the good God has in store for us and still complain. They both exhibited lives that were the very essence of Hope, Faith, Love, and Joy.

Yes, I want to be like them: ready to hear and be obedient as I anticipate experiencing the beautiful grace and favor of God. As He makes me wait, I even want to choose to celebrate the wait and see it as God giving me more time to enjoy the anticipation of His blessing in my life. Full disclosure: I may need some help on that one, but I want to look forward to seeing God at any moment and be excited when I do.

He still shows up, you know. Most of the time He’s quieter than our complaints, so it’s easy to miss Him…

…and that’s a whole other reason to practice NO COMPLAIN NOVEMBER. I plan to listen and anticipate. How about you?

Grace and Peace!

(If you have time today, read the story of Simeon and Anna as they met God in the temple. You can find out more in Luke 2:25-38.)

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!

 

 

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!