‘Tis the Season

I know I’ve mentioned this before, but I love getting mail! ALL kinds are welcome: snail mail, email, personally delivered, parcel post or freighted! It reminds me of that line from Richard Rogers’ immortal song “My Favorite Things” from The Sound of Music: “…brown paper packages tied up with strings…” (and now, I must apologize for the earworm, but I’m singing along with Julie Andrews, so you might as well do the same!)

Yesterday was a very lovely “package day” at my house! Although I’m not really into the acquisition of “things” for myself, I had mail of every kind imaginable delivered and it was FABULOUS! I opened several Christmas cards, some simple household products, two gifts I’d ordered for others, and two marvelous Christmas happies for ME from dear friends who live in different towns in Mississippi!

I also received a nice long phone call and a great text message. Actually, I had several of each, but these two were special. Why even mention them? Because almost everyone I know uses those tools every single day and somehow we don’t stop to think of them as “gifts” because they’re not generally tangible.

The content of these two communications was special to me, however, because God used them to confirm something I’ve been thinking about for awhile. They contained encouragement about exercising a gift He has given to me that I haven’t been using to full advantage. Though the messages were vastly different and neither was harsh or loud, they spoke powerfully to me about what God would have me do in the days to come. Without chiding or deriding, God chose to use the voices of friends and give me the gift of their time…and His.

I’m grateful for that. In a loving voice and the forwarding of a daily devotional , GOD showed up and spoke to me in a very personal way. The words these friends shared inspired me and reminded me that we too often forget the power of communicating with each other. We forget to give of ourselves in simple, personal ways…or we discount the idea that what we have to share might truly make a profound difference.

This is the season for gathering and gifts–whether or not you believe, as I do, that the real reason for all of the hoopla was the quiet birth of the One who came to save the world. This is just your friendly reminder that your words and your actions can be gifts of even more significance than anything you might order, wrap, or have delivered this year.

Use them wisely. Share them generously. Choose them as carefully as you would the finest present and use them to bless and not just add to the cacophony of seasonal noise. Share the thoughts, feelings, ideas, and writings that encourage and inspire YOU with others. You may never know how it can be used to influence them or be passed along to others.

Grace and Peace…and packages of God-delight for you and yours this season!

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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 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!)

On those days when nothing goes right…

On the days when nothing goes right…

You still get to choose your response, be it physical, verbal or silent.
You still get to choose your words.
You still get to decide which voices to listen to.
You still get to choose how your voice will be used.
You still get to decide IF your voice should be used.
You still get to vent to trusted friends and loved ones–and you can choose to accept their comfort.
You still get to choose, to act responsibly, to take time out to be healthy and make good choices for yourself, SONY DSCand most importantly, to praise God ANYWAY!

See! You have more control than you thought. You just have to choose. I was reminded of that today, so I thought I ought to share.

Though the Lord gave you adversity for food and suffering for drink,
he will still be with you to teach you.
You will see your teacher with your own eyes. Your own ears will hear him.
Right behind you a voice will say,
“This is the way you should go,”
whether to the right or to the left.”
Isaiah 30: 20-21

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!

Heroic faithfulness?

Our Sunday School class is in 1 Samuel right now and the lesson this week is on David and Goliath. Almost everybody knows this ancient story. Its part of our cultural lexicon and used even by people who aren’t believers in the Word. We refer to it when we face difficult situations with impossible-looking tasks or to significant victories where the little guy comes out on top even today. As I read through the material in preparation to teach, this quote made quite the impression on me, so I thought I’d share it with you today:

“Heroes do in times of crisis what they’ve faithfully done in times of calm.” *

I read that sentence, grabbed my highlighter, and then I read it again and headed to the computer. Those words speak to me. In this world of political and social upheaval, we’ve seen policemen, firemen, and other emergency personnel run toward the danger almost every day. They go because they’re trained to do so. They’ve worked hard to be ready at a moment’s notice. They go because they care. Despite the actions of a few, the majority hold the line and perform admirably every day whether they’re caught on camera or not.

“Heroes do in times of crisis what they’ve faithfully done in times of calm.” 

You don’t have to be a public servant for these words to apply. The same can be said of those who are faithful to prepare and perform any task. Not so sure about that?

  • Ask the child with the scraped knee when the parent shows up with a hug and a band-aid.
  • Ask the patient in need of pain management or just a friendly face.
  • Ask the employer who can’t get product out the door or make a living without the people who show up on time and as scheduled…and who actually work while they’re there.
  • Ask the friend in need of a listening ear and some sound advice.
  • Ask the husband or wife trading sleep to comfort and encourage–or do the dishes and laundry!– after a difficult day.
  • Ask the school without enough qualified teachers or coaches.

We may not automatically think about people performing mundane tasks as preparing to be heroes, but perhaps we should. Heroes-in-the-making are everywhere, quietly going about the business of living faithful lives. We need to be reminded to say “THANK YOU!”–BEFORE the need is great and the response is required. We need to show appreciation for those around us who do their job and show up consistently to make our lives better.

You know what this means, right? It means you need to be reminded that someone is counting on you today, too. They may not call you heroic and they might not throw a parade, but you matter more than you think you do. Your work ethic matters. Your attitude matters. Your presence matters. Your faithfulness matters.

Yes, your faithfulness matters…and so do you.

Thank you.

Grace & Peace!

 

*Explore the Bible Leader Guide HCSB, Summer, 2016. Eric Geiger, General Editor. Lifeway, One Lifeway Plaza, Nashville, TN 37234.

 

 

 

 

Learning New Old Things

As odd as this sounds, I think I may have grown up a little bit this past week. A few of my friends are snorting hysterically right now because they think  I may or may not have been “born old” and, maybe (again, Ha!), I’ve acted like that ever since.

I was (AM!) the first-born. A daughter.  A responsible one. The oldest female of the second set of grandchildren on both sides of the family—after a few years break—so I got plenty of attention for just by showing up in the world. That attention came with a lot of expectation, as well, because they seemed to think I could do anything and everything well and, with that much focused attention and instruction everywhere I turned, I learned a lot and I learned it fast or I kept at it until I was satisfied. Sometimes that took awhile, but I’m also stubborn, so that time element never really got in my way other than making me impatient with myself, because—truth be told?—my own expectations for me were even higher than theirs for me.

Knowing how to do things made me more independent and made them excited to see their instruction pay off, so it was a win-win situation for all of us. I just automatically assumed it was my job to keep on meeting  those expectations as I got older, and so I did so…on the surface, at least. I’m grateful for those expectations. Personally, I think they were good for me. I KNOW that the people who expressed them love me and are good for me and that was enough to make me just go DO whatever goal was set… sometimes without even thinking about whether or not it was I really wanted to do or something they had suggested for me.

On the inside, I wondered sometimes what it might feel like to not have those expectations, but then, I’d usually pick up another book and lose myself in the words and find new worlds to conquer and new things to learn and more expectations from myself that came with having all that information up in my brain. You can see where this is going, can’t you?  I come from a long line of seriously capable people and I suspect this pretty much describes their path, as well.

Stubborn, firstborn, introverted-yet-over-achieving female with a large built-in encouraging support system…yes, I was born old…and that’s not a complaint for me, just a comment…and more of a blessing than I’ve given it credit for being until just recently.

I’m not the smartest person I know—not by a long shot!—but I can hang in there with them for awhile and finding out what I don’t know has been as valuable to me as gold over the years. That information helped me focus on what I wanted to learn next, do next, be next.

In fact, I’ve often been so focused on that “next” part that I ignored the “now” part of life. That has been a mistake. I don’t often admit to making those (Mike, quit grinning!), but that’s one of my biggies. All of that go and learn and do has gained me skills, but often left me wondering what I planned to do with all of that…and feeling more than a little frustrated when I couldn’t fill in the blanks for those questions. I still don’t have all those answers.

This past seven months, however, of having the most definitely unplanned luxury of being with my husband and choosing to slow down and enjoy our unexpected time together has taught me a lesson I hope I never forget:  how to just BE in the moment.  I realized just this week that I’ve finally learned that those skills and that knowledge don’t have to be put to work every single second. There are times when you just need to breathe, times when you can fill a whole day (or weeks or months!) with counting the blessings God has poured into your life, times when gratitude for every single thing—good AND bad–about your life needs to consume you and put you on your face before God.

I don’t want to lose that knowledge going forward! I don’t want to go backward and be so determined to know and go and do that I forget to just BE God’s grateful child. I’ve always said that being stubborn was both my worst characteristic and my best—especially as it pertained to my faith!—but now, I want to apply it to this filling gratefulness; this drenching awareness of the goodness and grace of my God. I want to be stubborn about holding on to and living THAT out for the rest of my days.

I almost wrote that I wish I’d learned this lesson earlier, but on second thought, I realize that God’s timing is always perfect. All the steps that led up to now and made me who I am today give me an amazing list of things to be grateful for right now. I may have been a little bit slow (it’s only taken me over 50 years!), but as for tomorrow, well, I plan to know more then, so I expect to be more grateful then…and I plan to be stubborn about that in the future, as well.

“Praise God, from whom all blessings flow;

Praise him, all creatures here below;

Praise him above, ye heavenly host;

Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Amen.”

                                                                         ~Thomas Ken, 1674

(1674! And still worth singing.)

Go, GOD!