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!)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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!

Day 4–NCC2016

IMG_20140705_141046_350Continuity. It’s an important concept. I’ve yet to meet anyone–even one who likes a lot of change–that doesn’t need continuity in at least one part of their lives in order to deal with all the change that happens around us on a daily basis.

Beginning a new habit can a hard thing. It breaks up the continuity, but choosing to break up the continuity of complaining HAS to be a better choice than keeping it in place. Just taking that statement on face value has merit. I mean, choosing to be NEUTRAL over NEGATIVE is a step in the right direction, I think, but what if we added to it? What if we pushed ourselves to go even further?

What if we, as we’re focusing on eliminating the negative, also added in a positive to fill that “void” in our thought pattern? What if we…deliberately looked for the GOOD? What if we PRAYED for that person? What if we prayed for OURSELVES in that situation? What if we–brace yourself!–chose to SPEAK WORDS OF ENCOURAGEMENT in to those situations we used to complain about? To build UP instead of tear down?  Or even just redirect the conversation?! What if we became  beacons of blessing instead of contributors to the darkness? What if we created a continuity of deliberate actions that led us to becoming a person of influence for good…and for good, as in “permanently”.

That may be a lot to take in for those of us who are still working up to the idea of eliminating the complaints, but I want us to think about it this weekend. Keep posting reminders that help keep you on track. Continuity is key! My friend Audrey looks for cardinals, leaves, and bells…and frogs, apparently. (really, 9?! ~grin~) Ron says he’s using prayer as a reminder. Our friend Betty says she intends to send out a distress call when she feels the urge to complain, so if we get a “Mayday! Mayday!” text, we’ll “know to pray hard!!” (I love that! Getting the people around you in on this will make it SO much easier!)

I’m using my bracelets (pictured above) as my reminder that I am too blessed to complain and that I need to keep asking God to “create in me a clean heart in me” (Psalm 51:10) because Matthew 12:34 tells me, “…out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.”–all the while, I’m giving thanks for Patty and Jody who gave me really great physical reminders to help me and for those of you who have joined in this challenge with me! Your involvement is encouraging! See! You’re already making a difference in the world!

For today, just keep doing whatever YOU’ve been doing so far to remind yourself not to complain, to catch yourself before you let your mind go “there”, think before you speak, or simply choose silence over condemnation. After all, it’s Friday! The weekend is almost here and there’s a lot of living to be done! No extra homework from here, just more opportunities to change the world where you really live…with the people you love.

Grace & Peace! (and NO COMPLAINTS!)

“Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.” Psalm 19:14

Waiting Game

According to WordPress, I started this blog entry 10 months ago. As you can see, the title is most appropriate. The next full paragraph is as far as I got with it before, so I’m starting again. There’s lots to say. We’ll see where it goes…

“I’ve been waiting to write this one for a lot of reasons. I wanted some distance from our beyond-my-wildest-dreams participation in observing our first ever No Complain November. I wanted to get through the holidays and I wanted to see what God was going to do. I’ve managed to do the first two things just fine. I’m still waiting on God…”

Just yesterday, my husband and I were talking in the kitchen about how time has just flown by this year. (I know. It is the conversation of all of us who are past the age of college…and then some. grin) As I looked at the calendar, I said, “Can you believe it’s been almost a year since your last day with ___ (former employer)___? It’s almost time for NO COMPLAIN NOVEMBER again, and that means in 3 days it will be the anniversary of when you lost your job! That just doesn’t seem right, does it?!”

He shook his head and then said with a small grin, “Ummm…maybe we need to skip NO COMPLAIN NOVEMBER this year…?”

“Absolutely NOT!”, I replied.

“Well, ok then, but…get ready!”  And then we chuckled…with the full awareness of all that really meant for us this past year.

Yes, you read that right. My husband suddenly lost his job on Day 2 of our first NO COMPLAIN NOVEMBER last year. It was completely unexpected, totally blindsided us, and was one of those life events that just take your breath away for awhile. It just didn’t make sense…at first. But God. Oh, how I love those two words!

BUT GOD…

  • was still entirely in control.
  • had a plan that was not only for our good, but also for many others, as well.
  • descended with His unexplainable, but oh-so-needed peace and rest.
  • gave provision–on every front!–throughout the whole process.
  • gave us time to catch our collective breath and then relax in Him…for the next SEVEN months.
  • gave us a marvelously unplanned, but welcomed and much-enjoyed time together to laugh and reconnect in ways that just aren’t possible when your schedules are so tight that you rarely see each other or are too tired to do much when you do.
  • gave my husband time to recover spiritually, emotionally, and physically from the incredible stress he had been under before starting the next challenge.
  • surrounded us with encouragement from our friends and family every step of the way.
  • gave us a new appreciation for our time together and allowed us to be reminded of just how much we actually LIKE each other in addition to the great love between us.
  • gave us a heart for those whose lives have been like that for much longer than ours.
  • at the appointed time, provided a new opportunity for him that allows him to function within his area of expertise, meets his need to learn new things, and allows him to function within his spiritual gift of teaching–and all with people who are ready to learn, ready to work together, and supportive for the whole team.
  • used this as an opportunity to both grow and show our faith to those who were watching.
  • gave us an opportunity to extend NO COMPLAIN NOVEMBER into the rest of our year!

What looked like a disaster on that second day, has turned into one of our greatest blessings! Only God can do something like that! The waiting was absolutely worth it!–and so was the choice for us not to complain about it!

Throughout this past year we, along with our friends and families have faced many challenges–job loss, death, large-scale moves across country, health concerns, surgeries and hospital stays for loved ones. These things and many other life-events (large and small!)  have provided us the choice about whether or not to complain…or simply  plough forward and praise God anyway. I’m thankful to say that, most of the time, we’ve chosen the latter response…and so have our loved ones. In fact, this may have just been the most God-honoring year that I’ve ever lived through and I owe a lot of that to the deliberate choice to focus on the many reasons I have to be grateful instead of complaining about the circumstances I wish were different.

And so it is, with the knowledge that we have made it through this year with all of the hurdles we’ve cleared and those we know are yet to come, that I invite you to join us once again as we deliberately choose to celebrate–yes, CELEBRATE!–NO COMPLAIN NOVEMBER 2016.

Feel free to comment below if you want to “join in officially” or simply remain silent, but please know that you and your stories of how God uses this in your life are always welcomed here.

Tomorrow is our official kick-off day for NCC 2016, so…get it all out of your system today…or, better yet, start practicing for the the rest of the challenge! (big grin, REALLY big grin!)

Grace & 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

God didn’t make a mistake…

Mom. God did something wrong. He messed up on me because he made me brown, he did not make me white. He needs to go back and fix it so I can be white.

A friend recently posted the quote above on her Facebook page…and my heart just broke right open. She went on to tell about how she responded and how she sought help from someone else within their circle to reinforce her words and help instill pride and understanding into her precious child.

I wanted to write about it then, but it just seemed a bit out of touch for a middle-aged white woman to address such a thing in her blog. I’ve continued to think about it though, and with all that has happened in the last week or so, I know for certain that I was wrong. It needs to be addressed by ALL of us. Not addressing such a thing has led us to where we are right now…and it is beyond unacceptable for us to be where we are. But, honestly, where to start? Where to start?!

I’m so grateful he talked to his mom and didn’t just keep this to himself. This precious child who is strong and smart and handsome knows he can trust his mom with what he thinks. That’s the mark of great parenting and I’m incredibly proud of his mom and the way she walks her walk in the difficult task of raising her boys.

Because she was open enough to share it, I’ve had to think about it. It hasn’t all been comfortable. I’ve had to deliberately think through what I was taught and what I “caught” as I grew up in Mississippi in the 1960s. For the record, that doesn’t always mean what people think it does. Some of the most educated, lovingly inclusive people I’ve ever known come from the same place I do. A person can never be truly known simply by the history, actions and attitudes present in the land of their birth. The same can be said of wherever you come from, too, I suspect, and that’s part of the point of this post. We can’t change the past, but we can certainly do something about today!

Children can often get things wrong simply because they aren’t old enough to understand or don’t hear/know the whole narrative. This child got it wrong because WE as adults haven’t understood the whole narrative, so what has been passed down over the generations has led us to this toxic reality that we share today . With that in mind, I’ll start like this:

  • Oh, sweet child (and adults and everyone in between!), God is never wrong. He is perfect.  “As for God, his way is perfect…” Psalm 18:30 (NIV) 
  • Because He is perfect, we can assume that we are not mistakes. He made us on purpose and He made us ALL different. There is no wrong color and no right color because God apparently likes them all or He would have already stopped making people of all different shades –and height and weight and every other physical characteristic you can name.
  • God made each of us on purpose. Psalm 139 is clear about that. He carefully created us and planned out our lives in order to bless us. That’s really great because it tells us that the things we can’t change about ourselves (our parents, the place we were born, and our genetics–including our skin color!) are things that God chose individually just for us. HE thinks that’s the best way for us to be. Yes, He could have created you differently, but God decided that YOU would best glorify Him by being just the way He made you–and He is never wrong.
  • The things we can change about ourselves (our thoughts, decisions, actions, and attitudes) are the things over which He gives us free will. These are OUR choices so it is up to us to make the most of them so that we can glorify Him and honor those around us as fellow creations of a loving and almighty God.
  • When God’s Word tell us something and the world around us acts like something else, you can take it to the bank:  it is the WORLD that is wrong. People are the problem, not God. That’s always the case whenever there is hate, discrimination, and bigotry–and a whole lot of other ugly words I wish you would never have to learn about first hand.
  • The decision to elevate one skin color (or any other physical trait!) over another is a sin. It isn’t a cultural issue. It isn’t a pride issue. It isn’t “the natural order of things” or any other phrase that’s used by those who practice it. It is sin.
  • The only cure for sin is Jesus. That’s why every single person on the planet needs Him.
  • The only way we can change our society is by accepting Christ and then acting like Him. We need to be “Jesus with skin on”–no matter what color our skin is!!– for everyone we meet. We will still mess up and we will occasionally be wrong in really big ways because we are human, but if we are consistently trying to be like God tells us to be in His Word, then we’ll be way ahead of where we are right now…and our world NEEDS us to be like He tells us to be. It is the only way some of them will ever hear about Him.

Hear me well, please. Wherever you are, whoever you are, or whatever you look like, God loves you! Be proud of who you are! He designed you on purpose for great things–the best of which is to be like His Son. You can only do that if you choose to accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior and walk out the rest of your days according to His teachings in Scripture. It isn’t always easy, but it is definitely worth it.

Now. How will you choose to walk out and talk out today? Your choices matter…to all of us.

Grace & Peace!

self-limiting

 

cropped-heartThis post isn’t so much a rant as an observation.

We had a wonderful service at church yesterday. The kids were in charge. Well, actually, there were adults who were in charge, but the kids were the main ones on the stage. They sang and acted and led us in worship. It was amazing…for some of us.

I loved it! The kids were happy and energetic. They sang beautifully and the motions they had learned at Worship Arts Camp the week before will help them remember these songs forever. Several times during their program I had to wipe away tears because the message in the songs was so powerful and the image of the kids as they sang with gusto was just too precious for words. I noticed that my husband was similarly affected–and we don’t even  have children! We talked about it on the way home…about how God uses music to touch us in places we might not go to as often as we should, about how song lyrics can allow us to express things publicly that we might never bring up on our own, and about how wonderful it was that these young children were being taught such deep truths in a way that could really stay with them. We had worshiped and it was a blessing.

Not everyone seemed to have the same experience. I know that because there were people around me holding up cameras and phones, looking through tiny screens, hitting their rewind buttons and changing their lens focus…and getting frustrated when it didn’t work like they thought it should. I know, I know. I can’t begin to judge what was in their hearts and how their spirits were affected. I get that, but at times their frustration was palpable enough to be visible and that made me sad for them.

I also get that this is something that our culture is more and more prone to do: we make records of what’s going on around us instead of actually entering into the experience of it. I think that we’re missing out when we do that. Certainly, take a photo–or several!–but don’t miss out on actually participating in life by limiting yourself to what can fit on a tiny screen that you probably won’t watch that many times after it is recorded.

Take time to actually SEE the JOY around you and add some of your own to the mix! Head down, staring at a palm-sized view of the world is not the way to live. Kick back and actually WATCH the fireworks–or shoot them off yourself, if you’re so inclined! Play a game that doesn’t require a remote controller. Read a book together! Have conversations about IDEAS and CONCEPTS–or even politics, if you’re desperate!–and not about people you will never meet who just hired really good publicists. Build relationships, not miniature video libraries! Enjoy the NOW. It’s the only thing we really truly have for sure. Don’t waste this incredibly valuable God-given NOW by self-limiting behaviors and then find yourself unable to share your heart with those people on the tiny screens because you were too busy recording the moment to actually have the moment with them. Shared experiences will beat a shared video any day…and maybe twice on Sunday.

Observation over…for now. There are flowers to be picked and conversations to be had!

Challenge for the week: See if you can put away your phone or computer after your work hours are over and play a board game, work a puzzle, or go get an ice cream cone with someone you love…and have a conversation. It doesn’t have to be long or deep, but you just might be surprised at the benefits!

Grace & Peace!