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.

IMG_20180602_185143192

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!

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NCN 2017–Day 22

Psalm 100 (NLT)

A psalm of thanksgiving.

Shout with joy to the Lord, all the earth!
    Worship the Lord with gladness.
    Come before him, singing with joy.
Acknowledge that the Lord is God!
    He made us, and we are his.
    We are his people, the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving;
    go into his courts with praise.
    Give thanks to him and praise his name.
For the Lord is good.
    His unfailing love continues forever,
    and his faithfulness continues to each generation.

On this day before Thanksgiving, I pray that you won’t wait to enter His courts with praise! I hope your preparations go smoothly and your people arrive safely. I ask God to bless you and your families whether or not you are together this holiday season and I can’t wait to hear how He does that.

IMG_20170518_070436983I’ll be getting into the kitchen and having some prep fun all on my own later this morning after I talk with my mama. I’ll be remembering all those Thanksgivings at my Grandmother’s house with tables groaning from the food overload, but even more filled with love and hugs from my amazing family. I will pray through the family as I cook and be grateful. I will give thanks for my precious church family and our new pastor, for those who have poured their love and knowledge into my life, for friends across the world and for those who join me here. I am, indeed, the most blessed person I know.

I hope you think you are, too.

God is GOOD and there is no room for complaining over here.

Grace & Peace!

Day 30!!–NCN2016

34777“NCN has been so much better this year. Can’t say I haven’t whined at times but the Holy Spirit has used the exercise to at the very least make me aware. Can’t believe tomorrow is the last day I’ll actually pen the words, no acronym I needed to write it out to live it out!!, on my daily to-do list. Thank you for starting and continuing NO COMPLAIN NOVEMBER! Looking forward to next year. I love you.”

These were the words that came to me yesterday from my lovely cousin Leigh. I wasn’t surprised by them. She’s always encouraging and I loved that she shared this spontaneously. It DID, however, cause me to prompt some responses from a few others that I knew had made the NO COMPLAIN NOVEMBER journey with us by sending the following:  what’s your evaluation of NCN and how you observed it/what did you learn? 

Here is a sampling of what I received in response:

“I honestly think some people are complainers by nature. And I might be one of them!  This has been a great tool for bringing that awareness to me! Seriously…my husband…doesn’t complain. In fact, he rarely says much. LOL. I find this personality-flaw cruel and unfair.

And during the first 5 minutes of breakfast I might have been “explaining” my use of said husband’s Fitbit charger cord and all the reasons mine was unavailable to me…when he sweetly asked, ‘Is it still November?’

Wow.”

 

“…I have to admit I wasn’t as diligent as I should have been toward the middle to end of month. So much going on I fall back into bad habits. I will say, however, that my priest’s homily Sunday evening revved me up again. He spoke about the beginning of the advent season and how we should all make an effort to honor the season and prepare for Christs birth. He talked about how small efforts every day add up and put us on the right track. Made my mind up then to make more of an effort to be positive and take NCN into December. Kind of my way of making up for all of the Days timeI messed up in November!”

 

“First answer: I refuse to answer the question on the grounds that it might incriminate me.

Second answer: while I wasn’t very successful, NCN and your blogs brought me back to the right head space, at least for a few moments.

Third answer: I’ll catch up with you in December.”

I love it! See! I have something to anticipate! (grin)

I chose these responses deliberately because they all have a theme. In fact, it might as well have been the theme for the entire challenge: NO ONE is going to do NO COMPLAIN NOVEMBER perfectly! That’s not a complaint. It’s a fact…and I’m more than ok about that. I knew going in that this would be a challenge and the whole point of a challenge is to IMPROVE a performance.

I agree with Leigh. It WAS easier for me this year, but I’ve spent the past 11 months trying to keep it going from the last NCN, so that was to be expected. In some ways, it was also more difficult because of all that was going on politically, but I thought that just made it better in some ways, as well.

One of my friends who responded above also sent me an article the other day about a woman who had blogged about trying not to complain for a whole day. I chuckled. Apparently, we are over-achievers, and yet I still applaud the effort to reduce anyone’s “complaint footprint” on this earth! It is a worthy goal.

As we come to the end of our challenge–don’t give up! We still have this one last official day of NO COMPLAIN NOVEMBER to conquer! I hope that we will ALL be conscious going forward about reducing our own complaint footprint in our respective environments. Thank you for sharing this challenge with me, for sending me your texts and emails about your successes and your “almost made its” along with your complete melt-down failures. In every single case, you challenged me and encouraged me to do better and know that I was not alone in my attempts to get it right–along with giving me good company in which to repent and try again when I got it wrong.

You have blessed me and I am grateful. I have NO COMPLAINTS about my companions in this challenge for you are a valiant lot and I’m proud to know you–even those I’ve not yet met.

I can’t wait to see how you make this world a better place!

Grace and Peace! (and NO COMPLAINTS!!)

Banging the drum you’ve been given…

I am determined to be more “present” (no pun intended!) during this year’s Christmas season. For some reason, it just seems more personal and important this year.  To do that, we’re making deliberate decisions to celebrate the season. As part of that, we’ve been to a wonderful Christmas program by the Griffin Choral Arts group here in our area, I’ve driven by the city’s Christmas light display (multiple times), we’ve celebrated each nearby small town’s lights as they’ve gone up on the poles, smiled as the neighbors have begun to light up their homes and yards, discussed the pros and cons of a real “live tree” to our mix this year (we’re a “yes!” on that), and cleared the regular house music selections to play only Christmas carols.

This morning, I woke up early and watched the last part of a sweetly sappy Hallmark Christmas movie, got the laundry going and then turned on the carols as my fabulous husband worked noisily away in the kitchen to prepare us breakfast…and I was grateful. That word actually sounds so very small for all that flooded my heart and rolled liquid down my face.  Grateful.  It’s a lot bigger deal than it sounds.  You have to choose it sometimes and I think that makes it even more of a big deal.

As I savored my hot breakfast in a bowl and listened to the carols (Kenny G, this morning), I was once again struck by the song entitled, “The Little Drummer Boy”, composed by Katherine K. Davis, Henry Onorati and Harry Simeone. I have to admit that it’s never made my top 10 (or even, perhaps, my top 20!) favorite carols list, but this year has been different. God just keeps putting this one in my ear and every time He does that, I find myself worshiping in a brand new wave of appreciation.

I think the part that’s sticking with me the most this year is the idea that, while we may not feel that have a lot to contribute at times, we can make the decision to give the best that we do have to those we love…and to God. It reminds me a lot of my friend Judy, who is lovingly gifting me with some of her handmade kitchen washcloths this year.

I didn’t actually intend for her to do that. I’ve had two of her washcloths for some time now and there’s something wonderfully substantial about the feel of them in my hand that just makes me like the process of cleaning the kitchen a little bit more…and seriously, if you can do that, you’re golden, right?! Anyway, I’ve absolutely loved them and so I decided that I would get rid of the “cheapies” in the drawer and give myself the gift of a whole stack of these wonderful little things. I called her the other day to see if I could place an order…and she wouldn’t let me. She insisted that she wanted to make them a gift—and wouldn’t even hear of me paying the postage! (Yes, I know! I DO have really cool friends!!)

Judy’s reasoning was that she wanted to “contribute something to people I love so much and no one ever lets me do that.” I didn’t want to argue with her, but the truth of the matter is that Judy gives to every single person who knows her. She’s been an incredible example of loving mother, devoted wife and caretaker, cheerful friend and contributor to the Kingdom of God her whole life. She has donated countless hours of time, effort, talent, energy and cheerfulness to every church she’s ever been a part of and she’s shared the bounty of her blueberry bushes, tomatoes and the happiness of her home with me on multiple occasions. She prays for people and she lives a life that is the very essence of the grace of Christ and His faithfulness. She inspires me more than she has any idea about—and I’m not alone in thinking that. (Right now, when she’s reading this, she’s probably bawling and saying something about how I shouldn’t have done this and how she hasn’t really done very much at all.) I know her, so I know this will probably make her cringe just a bit, but she is actually pretty amazing– she doesn’t always give herself credit for that.

And now, before I embarrass her so much she never gets over it, I’ll move on to the point of this blog post:  God isn’t asking for monumental sacrifices every day. He just wants all of you…and all of me. He wants us to go about our regular schedules and live lives that resonate Him into the hearts of those around us by the way we live. He wants us to bang the drums He’s given to us and let Him orchestrate the rhythms that come out of it. For some of us, that means serving as missionaries in foreign countries, loving on babies in a preschool or creating beautiful art to inspire those who wish they could draw/paint/sing/dance/sculpt/garden/decorate/cook like that. Some will feed and clothe the hungry in the neighborhood or around the world and others will make a grocery run for a shut-in or cut the grass for a neighbor whose schedule is too tightly packed these days.  (Thank you for that blessing, dear neighbor!) For others of us, it means helping the vertically-challenged  people at the grocery store reach the items on the top shelves, doing our work cheerfully and being respectful of the lives God has placed around us. Some of us will administrate large financial legacies and others will show up to do the too-often-thankless and under-paid tasks of educating children and protecting the public. Some will do surgery or change soiled bedding and some will crochet amazing dishcloths and send them to friends. Some will pay for the coffee or the meal of the person behind them in line and others will take center stage and sing beautifully for all the community to hear as we celebrate this season dedicated to the birth of our Savior…

and the truth of the matter is that no matter what drum we’re banging today, we need to make sure we take time out to do it deliberately for HIM.

 

“The Little Drummer Boy”

Come they told me, pa rum pum pum pum
A new born King to see, pa rum pum pum pum
Our finest gifts we bring, pa rum pum pum pum
To lay before the King, pa rum pum pum pum,
rum pum pum pum, rum pum pum pum,

So to honour Him, pa rum pum pum pum,
When we come.

Little Baby, pa rum pum pum pum
I am a poor boy too, pa rum pum pum pum
I have no gift to bring, pa rum pum pum pum
That’s fit to give a king, pa rum pum pum
rum pum pum pum, rum pum pum pum,

Shall I play for you, pa rum pum pum pum,
On my drum?

Mary nodded, pa rum pum pum pum
The ox and lamb kept time, pa rum pum pum pum
I played my drum for Him, pa rum pum pum pum
I played my best for Him, pa rum pum pum pum,
rum pum pum pum, rum pum pum pum,

Then He smiled at me, pa rum pum pum pum
Me and my drum.

What will you do to make Him smile today?

The Mississippi Road Trip Brain Dump

MS Road trip Brain dump (in no particular order)

  • I think I may need one of those Star Trek devices like the Captains always had for their logs. I’d really love it if I could simply speak the words, “Becky’s log” and then begin my brain dump of brilliancy (ha!) without a break or having to stop driving, pull out my computer or anything. (And no, I am not a Trekkie, but that device always intrigued me because I wondered if everyone on the ship had them or if they were simply the province of the Captain…) (Also! I love that when I misspelled Trekkie, the auto-correct gave me an alert to suggest the “true” spelling! How funny! LOL!)
  • I tried to create my own version by choosing the microphone option for dictating things on my phone as I drove home. I’m apparently not as fluent—or as intelligent-sounding!–in my native language as I had previously thought. I sounded pitiful. Pi-ti-ful.
  • Thanks to God and the DOT divisions of Mississippi , Alabama and Georgia, I had reasonably decent roads to travel and some amazing color on the trees that lined the way to and from on this trip. The weather was fantastic and the autumn colors on the trees blending in with the evergreens made me wish to stop and take pictures…but I drive with too much determination to get where I’m going on trips like these, so I just took “mind photos” and it will probably be awhile before they’re ready for publication…especially since I’d really rather work on that Star Trek captain’s log thing before I start on the mind photo printer.
  • I may have the coolest nephews on the planet. No. Actually, I do. (I’m sorry if that was news to any of you.)
  • They (the nephews) may or may not have the cutest dog in the universe. Uh…no, actually, they do. (I know some of you thought that you did. Again, sorry about that.)
  • I have a really entertaining family.
  • My parents have been married for over 50 years now and they are absolutely hysterical to watch—and listen to!–especially when they’re just being themselves.
  • I finally got to have really good Chinese food again! Many thanks to my sweet friend who joined me and let me get all up in her business. (I have really cool people in my life.)
  • The number of Mississippi State signs, tags, clothing and memorabilia in Starkville and Columbus combined has passed the ability to be numerically counted. These people are so excited about this year’s team performance that it might be possible for team members to retire on the public giddiness alone! It is fabulous to see and I wish them well…right up until they play Bama. (grin…but y’all know I’m still serious about that. I will say, however, that if Bama can’t win it all, I certainly hope Mississippi State can.) RTR!
  • My Christmas shopping is pretty much done. Don’t hate me. That’s mainly because I won’t be back in MS for the holiday, so I had to get that portion completed before/during the trip so they would know that we love them when it comes time to open presents. HA!
  • My mother still makes excellent fried chicken. May that talent be ever with her…and her with us.
  • I love that my mother’s brothers and sister still get together regularly and talk on the phone regularly even though they are a bit spread out geographically. I’m sorry I couldn’t have stayed for the fun…and happy that my sister was going to get to go for a little bit.
  • I loved the way it felt to stand in my mother’s kitchen and hug each other while my father prayed over our breakfast yesterday and how he prayed for our safety as we went our separate ways.
  • I love the way my father saves the scraps as he processes deer to feed the just-this-side-of-feral kittens that live out in the yard and how they run up when they hear his voice as he calls his “babies” and how they love to sit on anything that has his scent on it, but still won’t let him pet them.
  • I love that he won’t give up trying to pet them.
  • I love that he prays for people while he processes their deer…and I’m glad that he passed that on to me. (the praying while you work part–definitely not the processing thing.)
  • I have friends whose children are newly married and some who are currently planning weddings. That is really strange to me since these kids live in my mind forever frozen at about age 4.
  • I love having friends who will join up for coffee and hot chocolate and bare their souls for 3 hours so I can stay current and we can pray together when I drop into town for short visits.
  • I think that praying for someone may be one of the most amazing privileges ever.
  • I love that my husband beat me home yesterday and made supper, that we sat to chat over more hot chocolate and watched a sappy Thanksgiving movie afterward. He is the best.
  • I love that my cats ran to greet me upon my return and that Lewis (the youngest one) finally got over his pouting and let me pet him before he had to go to bed.
  • Yes, my cats go to bed when I tell them to do so. (And it makes my friends laugh when they see it.)
  • It’s good to be home.

Weekend challenge…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grace & Peace!

It’s not about the okra…

   “In every encounter we either give life or we drain it; there is no neutral exchange.” ~Brendon Manning

Judy's Okra!

Judy’s Okra!

I’m not sure about the year, but I remember exactly where I was standing when we learned that our friend Judy had a new super-power:  she fries the world’s best okra.  (Seriously, you have no idea how good her okra is!) From that point on, however, we haven’t gathered together without making certain that Judy will be there and that she fries the okra.

This year was a little bit different. They were coming to my house and she couldn’t find okra where she lived, so it was going to be up to me to make sure it was available. I checked with my local veggie source and was assured that he’d have some when they arrived.  Problem solved…except that we got busy that day and didn’t make it by his stand until after he had already closed.

Two stores later and in a bit of a mild panic, we walked into one that was unfamiliar to me and headed toward the produce department. Yes!  They had okra. Well, they had little bits of really expensive okra already packaged out…and we were going to need a lot more than that. (Mainly because, as a group, we stand around the kitchen and eat okra like it is popcorn as soon as Judy pulls it out of the hot oil and we keep on eating it just like that until we all sit down at the table together…and then we eat some more!)

Having worked in a grocery store before, I knew that if you ask nicely, sometimes you can get exactly what you want directly from the produce manager, so we went in search of some “personal assistance” for our mission. We found exactly what we bargained for…and more.

Our new best friend assured us that he had plenty of nice fresh okra and asked us to wait just inside the door. He brought back a brand new box full of okra and we were allowed to personally select each pod! As we sorted through the okra and chatted with him, he suddenly turned toward my friend Judy and said, “Are you married?”

I chuckled inside, but I wasn’t really surprised.  She’s beautiful inside and out—and really cool.  She told him, “no”, and he asked if she had ever been married, to which she replied in the affirmative. His face suddenly changed and he said, “Can I ask you something?” With barely a pause, he began to pour out his story:  former and recovering drug addict married to same—until recently—when she had begun using again. “What do I do?!” His whole being begged Judy to have some answer. “I love her, but I’m not sure I can stay and go through this again.” His voice was ragged and the fact that he was pouring out his heart to two complete strangers without regard to location, ethnicity, or absence of personal relationship indicated just how troubled he was about this situation.

As he reached for a paper towel to dry eyes that were suddenly full, Judy reached over for my hand and said (just where I could hear her), “You know this isn’t about the okra, don’t you?”  I nodded quietly and stood there praying silently as I continued to sort through the okra pods. Judy, on the other hand, looked him straight in the eye and began to share the story of people she loves dearly who had endured similar issues for most of her growing-up-life and how they had just celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary because one of the two had chosen to trust God for deliverance and restoration of her family…and how she stayed while she prayed.

She talked about how God had been so faithful that the marriage was now a thing of beauty, the old life gone and the new one such a blessing in the wake of all that former pain. It had taken 49 years before the man had finally allowed God to change his heart, but she believed the wait had been worth it. I saw hope start to enter our new friend’s eyes and tears rolled down his cheeks and hers. I simply asked that God would allow me not to wail like a banshee…because that’s what I really felt like doing.

We asked about his faith life and were assured that he knew Christ as his personal Savior and that he was participating in a vibrant, Bible-believing church with access to support from his pastor. Judy further counseled him that he needed to seek professional help for both of them—and that he should go even if his wife refused to do so.

As we wrapped up our okra and our time together, we formed a small circle and held hands as I prayed for God to show up and provide the answers our new friend needed so desperately. We had a big group hug;  I promised him that we would share his story with our friends and that they would add him to their prayer lists just like we planned to do. I told him that I lived locally and that I’d check back in with him from time to time. He was overwhelmed…and so were we.

As we checked out and rode back to the house, Judy and I laughed about how our friends back at the house would be jealous that they weren’t able to be with us for such a phenomenal time in the Lord.  We’d had church in the produce department!  Who would have thought?!  God. He is not limited to time or space, location or planning on our part. He is always there and He has a plan to use us if we’ll just pay attention and be ready to participate. He knew just what our new friend needed and we were fortunate enough to get to be a part of it.

Brendon Manning was right:  there are no neutral exchanges, so make sure you’re ready for them, no matter how mundane you think they will be. God has a plan for everything and everyone…even you…even when you think that you’re just out to buy okra.

“But set Christ apart as Lord in your hearts and always be ready to give an answer to anyone who asks about the hope you possess.” 1 Peter 3:15 (NET)

 

Addendum: I’ve checked back with our new friend several times since then. His eyes have been bright and his faith strong, but his situation remains largely unchanged at present. I’m certain he wouldn’t mind if you added him to your prayer list, as well.SONY DSC