Day 23–NCN2016

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving and as much as I would love to think that this blog would play a major part in a world-wide celebration of it (grin), I am realistic enough to know that it won’t–and smart enough to be grateful that we will ALL have more to do than write or wait to read a blog post over the next few days.

This is a time for family and friends and food and football (LOL! A lot of my favorite things start with the letter “F”!) and lots and lots of gratitude for all the
blessings we have–those we know about AND those not yet in evidence. I plan to  rejoice and spend some time telling God “THANK YOU!!!” even though this will be the first time ever that we’ve celebrated Thanksgiving without traveling to see family. We are looking forward to a quiet restful time together here at home. I pray that wherever you find yourself and regardless of how your plans unfold, you will be full of gratitude and know that you are loved by God in amazing ways.

Each year since I began the blog,grandmother hodum thanksgiving poem I have 1122160901shared the following poem. My Grandmother Hodum used to recite it for us each year as we gathered at her house and I simply can’t imagine Thanksgiving without it. I still miss her terribly even after all these years. I treasure the copied words in her handwriting–and I hear her voice in my head as I read it every time– but I know you can’t really have the benefit of that. (and I really hate that for you! She was wonderful!) It is difficult to read her handwriting if you don’t already know the words, so I’m also sharing them below.

“Thanksgiving Dinner”

I don’t believe in eating much

of turkey, pumpkin pie and such.

It make me dream bad dreams at night

and then, besides, it’s not polite.

So I’m not going to stuff and stuff

and act like I can’t get enough.

For me a turkey leg will do

with just a slice of breast or two,

then some liver, gizzard, and a wing,

Lots of dressing, that’s the thing!

Mashed potatoes to make me grow

Squash and cabbages, they’re fine, you know,

And I must have some cranberries, too,

And layer cake–two pieces will do.

Then of pumpkin pie so yellow–

One piece, because I’m a little fellow.

With nuts and apples I shall quit

and not ask for another bit.

For it isn’t good the doctors say

To eat too much on Thanksgiving Day!

See you in a few days! And until then, remember this: Moderation in all things (grin!) and HAPPY THANKSGIVING!!!

Grace and Peace! (and NO COMPLAINTS!)

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Away with friends…

Right now I’m away with friends. This is the “mumble-something-th” year” we’ve done this since our college graduation from our beloved Mississippi University for Women.

There are just seven of us on the retreat this time due to jobs/moving and family health concerns. We miss those who aren’t here, but we are valiantly “retreating” just the same. (…and hoping they can come to one in the fall…if we can manage another quick one…in the fall? We’ll talk…)

The food is abundant. The laughter near constant. The joy of being together deeper than we’ll ever be able to vocalize or write. All these years together mean there are few silences and even fewer topics off limits (are there limits?) in our fellowship. We’re here to see, to shower with love, to lift up and empower.  We’re here to be reminded of who we REALLY are in a world where we each wear many hats…and, though we’re grateful for each hat, when we’re together, the hats come off and years fade…and we are just US.

Us-ness in a world seemingly committed to uniformed individuality. Celebrating our uniqueness and also our chosen togetherness is a marvelous gift we give to each other. No pressure to conform, but encouraged to be who we were created to be by the One Who loves us best…the One who has a way with friends who are away with friends.

Grace and Peace!

God and His “new things”

cropped-heart“Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.”  Isaiah 43:19 (ESV)

I did something different this morning. I made a big breakfast and sent my husband off to work. Y’all, that is cause for serious celebration around here! (grin) It may not sound like a reason to party for most of you, but I haven’t done that in 192 days. For those of you who are counting, that’s over 6 months–over half a year!! For those of you who are really counting, that says that on Day 2 of our NO COMPLAIN NOVEMBER, my husband lost his job…and that God can have a really odd sense of humor when He decides to see if you’re serious about such a thing.

It was a shock to us. Nothing could have prepared us for the sudden and drastic change in circumstances. A business decision–nothing personal, but with no warning–suddenly severed a situation that we had come to count on for over 16 years. I guess God had decided to remind us that all we can really depend on in this world is HIM…and He’s taken His time and done that in spades.

As we’ve walked through the past few months we’ve discovered (or maybe RE-discovered!) some things about our God and about ourselves. I’ve been quiet here about them as they were happening because some things are just holy in the moment and I didn’t feel like they were really mine to share yet. Some of those things are still so intensely personal that I’m not sure if I’ll ever be able to tell them (and certainly not without tears!), but here are just a few of the highlights:

  • God loves us far more than we can ever imagine. Sometimes He loves us enough to send us through things we’d rather not go through in order to show us that His love is constant, without reservation, and that He has no limits to the lengths He will go to prove that–as if the cross hadn’t already proven it!
  • God is indeed Jehovah Jireh—my Provider–and YOURS! He is MORE than ENOUGH no matter what circumstances He chooses for us because He orchestrates every single day so that we can see Him in action if we will but open our eyes.
  • He is charge and He knows EXACTLY what we need…even (especially?!) when it seems like a hard thing and doesn’t make a lot of sense to us on the surface. He is more than able to meet every single need we will ever face and we can never predict how our answers will come because our God is without limits and unfathomable in His ability to surprise and delight us with when we seek HIS answers, HIS timing, and HIS glory.
  • God’s people are AMAZING!! In our initial shock and throughout our “I don’t even know what to call it because it was hard and such a blessing all at the same time–thing!!” people we didn’t even know very well went to their knees on our behalf and showered us with encouragement, while those who know us best were unbelievable in their support for us.
  • We are still a great team. We’ve always known it (HA!), but it’s still nice to see our marriage work the way it is supposed to and we are grateful for the opportunity to spend over half a year together—even as unexpected as that opportunity was for us! We made the most of it and actually had a lot of fun in the process.
  • After over 23 years of marriage, we still LIKE each other and we know how to laugh together!
  • We were, are, and will always be “the most blessed people we know” because we CHOOSE to be. Circumstances cannot affect that. We belong to God and He is the Source of all blessing, so there’s that.

There will be more to share, but for today, did you read that verse at the top? Everybody likes “a new thing.” It’s really great to be in on the new thing, but sometimes we forget that one of the most exciting things can be to actually see God make a way in wilderness and rivers in the desert…and to see those things happen, you have BE in the wilderness and in the desert. If that’s where you are today, please don’t give in to discouragement. PLEASE be open to the new thing God has planned for you and know that I can and WILL pray with you for eyes to see the new things getting ready to spring up in the midst of your hard thing.

And now, there’s just one more thing to say: “GO, GOD!!!”

Cumulative

“Is it cumulative?” Not too long ago a friend surprised me with that question.

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“I mean, all of the hard things y’all have gone through…does it feel cumulative?”

“Well, no… I don’t think so. I guess it probably would if I was trying to do it all on my own, but that’s God’s job, so I guess I just never think of it that way.”

We went on to talk of other things, but that little conversational snippet has stuck with me. In fact, I’ve given it some rather serious thought over the past several weeks.  I’ve even shared it with several others, as well.

Last week was a tough one. Taxes, travel, to-do lists…those things might be trying enough, but we also learned about the passing of several friends, of heart-breaking medical news for some, of difficult personal tragedies for others, and we’re still in the waiting phase on several personal fronts. I’ve thought back to that conversation and wondered if I might have to give her a different answer if we’d had it last week, because to be completely honest…it was starting to feel cumulative…and I wondered how much more I could take. Oh, I realized that most of the difficult news we were privy to wasn’t actually OURS, but it was still very personal because it was happening to people we love and value…and I’m a fixer…and I couldn’t fix a single thing.

God wasn’t a bit surprised.

In fact, He knew I was supposed to teach Sunday School this past week and He’d already set it up for us to be in Matthew, Chapter 11, which starts off with John the Baptist in a really tight spot–prison!–and how John sent a couple of people to check in with Jesus and ask that really big question: “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?” v. 2 (HCSB) Can’t you just hear the frustration in that question? I can…and I can relate. I’ll bet you can, too, because sometimes things are just so hard that you want to ask God where He is in all of it and why He isn’t fixing it…like, right now.

Jesus replied to them, “Go and report to John what you hear and see:  the blind see, the lame walk, those with skin diseases are healed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor are told the good news.  And if anyone is not offended because of Me, he is blessed.”  Matthew 11: 4-6 (HCSB)

Well, would you look at that? There were some good things happening, too…right at the same time as all of those bad things. It’s that way today, as well. We have just have to look harder for them some days and not get distracted when things start to feel cumulative.

My favorite part of Matthew 11 comes close to the end, however. It’s verse 28.

Come to Me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. “

Oh, how I LOVE this!

  • “Come to Me”–not to a religion or a mantra or a set of rules. Come into a personal relationship with the God of the universe! What an invitation!
  • “all of you who are weary and burdened”–who isn’t that? or hasn’t been that? or will be that again? That’s ALL of us!
  • “and I will give you rest.”–verse 29 spells it out even plainer, “you will find rest for your souls.” Soul deep, abiding, permanent rest IS possible, but only when we go to Him.

And this week? The hits have just kept on coming for several of the people we love…and it’s still hard, but I’m also remembering all of the miracles in my life–and in theirs, too. I’m remembering all of the blessings because I CHOOSE TO DO THAT and because there are far more of them than there are difficulties, so they’re easier to count. And you know what that means?

They’re cumulative.

NO COMPLAIN NOVEMBER: Day 25

grandmother hodum thanksgiving poem

I shared this poem back when I started the blog in 2012. My maternal grandmother would recite it during our family’s Thanksgiving celebration every year when I was a child. At some point, my Cousin Suzanne had the foresight to ask Grandmother to write it down, so now we have a copy of her recitation in her handwriting. That’s a precious thing to me. I can still hear her voice as I read it…and that is even more precious to me.

I’m sharing it again this year in hope that it will make you smile and encourage you to enjoy some of your own family traditions this holiday season and, maybe, you’ll want to get something handwritten for posterity in your family, as well!

We can’t bring back those we’ve loved and lost, but we can share our fun memories and make brand new ones with those God has gifted us with today. I’ll be doing just that for the rest of the week, so I’m leaving you with a smile. I’ll be back to blogging here in a few days with lots of great memories of family, friends, amazing food…and no complaints.

You are loved and prayed for today! Have a marvelous Thanksgiving celebration wherever you are!

“Thanksgiving Dinner”

I don’t believe in eating much

of turkey, pumpkin pie and such.

It make me dream bad dreams at night

and then, besides, it’s not polite.

So I’m not going to stuff and stuff

and act like I can’t get enough.

For me a turkey leg will do

with just a slice of breast or two,

then some liver, gizzard, and a wing,

Lots of dressing, that’s the thing!

Mashed potatoes to make me grow

Squash and cabbages, they’re fine, you know,

And I must have some cranberries, too,

And layer cake–two pieces will do.

Then of pumpkin pie so yellow–

One piece, because I’m a little fellow.

With nuts and apples I shall quit

and not ask for another bit.

For it isn’t good the doctors say

To eat too much on Thanksgiving Day!

NO COMPLAIN NOVEMBER: Day 16

It’s Monday again and, as much as I would like to do otherwise, I’d have to say that this one is living up to the traditional reputation of Mondays. That’s not a complaint, so much as an observation. (grin)

News continues to trickle in from Paris and other parts of the globe–and not much of it is uplifting. I have friends who’ve buried husbands and sisters within the past few days and, though the news here in our house hasn’t been heavy on the joy side of things, I have talked to God and I’m aware that I am blessed. Most blessed. So are you.

IMG_20140705_141046_350We are what we choose to be.

What will you choose?

And yes, it is that simple and yes, it is that complicated. It is a process–I’m talking about a long-term strategy!…and those aren’t always easy. We have to choose. Then, we have to choose again and again until the choice to be grateful and to recognize the blessings becomes our first response instead of our last resort.

Imagine if that was the first response around the world? What if we recognized that our “light and momentary afflictions”–regardless of how heavy they seem in the moment!–are not the end of our blessings? What if we recognized that bad day, the bad news, or the bad attitude was simply an interruption–an aberration!–in the midst of our blessedness and not the end of it? What if we could see to the other side of the battle and have an awareness that there’s some glory on the way?

No matter what you’re facing today:  Consider yourself so informed. Consider yourself so challenged. Consider yourself SO blessed.

 “For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison,”  2 Corinthians 4:17

Grace & Peace!

NO COMPLAIN NOVEMBER: Days 11 & 12

Well. Hello, again! Apparently, I’m on a streak for blogging every other day now! (But No Complaining, riiiiiight? ha!)

God is good. All the time. I’m not sure what it is that you’re facing, but I am certain that God is good. I know that choosing to participate in NO COMPLAIN NOVEMBER didn’t suddenly mean that all of your other life challenges suddenly disappeared. In fact, for some of us, it seems that those challenges have suddenly been magnified.

All of that doesn’t change the fact that God is good. I know that because I’ve spent a good bit of the last few days talking with Him. I’ve needed to talk with God! There’s still some pretty hefty “LIFE STUFF” going on around here! I’m not alone in that, either! My email and text boxes are full of examples of that pretty hefty life stuff is happening where you are, too.

One of my favorite texts, however, contained the following update on the prison nurses who’ve joined us:

…she says the nurses found it frustrating not to complain. …as the nurse station is THE place to vent after dealing with the patients/prisoners…the  supervisor even got on board.  At end of shift some big shot came through and thanked the staff for a great shift as it had been a rough traffic one…they got recognition from a higher up…and a “thank you” can sure fuel people.  They will keep trying to keep complaining at bay…

I love that! “They will keep trying to keep complaining at bay.” That’s really the whole point, you know. NO COMPLAIN NOVEMBER isn’t about ignoring/refusing to see the hefty life stuff. It’s about choosing NOT TO ADD TO IT! Oh, yeah, and can I make a suggestion about that “thank you” thing? It’s real. Give it a shot when your first instinct might be to complain and see what you can fuel to change the circumstances around you! Whether or not you can manage a “thank you” right now, just making the decision to not linger in the yuck is an amazing step toward dealing with your life in a more positive way.

Golden canopy

Of course, for me–and a whole lot of others–the absolute best way to move through the yuck is to keep our eyes focused on the positive…and the most positive thing I can tell you is this: You are loved more than you can ever imagine by the One who imagined you from the very beginning. Think about that! God deliberately chose to imagine YOU…and then He shifted into making you a reality. Pretty sweet, right? Don’t lose sight of that in the face of whatever you’re dealing with this month–or EVER. The One Who imagined you also knew exactly what you’d be facing this week…and He knows how it will all work out, too. Trust Him. With every single thing. There’s nothing better to help keep the complaining at bay.

“Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. How precious to me are your thoughts, God! How vast is the sum of them! Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand—”   Psalm 139: 16-18

Grace & Peace!