Words in the window

IMG_20170518_065834453This is my view today as I chop veggies to go in the freezer. There’s a scent of gardenia wafting over the freshness of the zucchini, squash, and onions simmering on the stove and the house is quiet. I’m cleaning out the fridge and preparing for a delicious casserole one of these days when I’m pressed for time and still in need of sustenance.

My cat watches my every move from his pod on top of the washer in the laundry room. It’s peaceful here today.

I had to take my glasses off as I transferred the steaming concoction to a strainer, but it didn’t stop me from reading the words on the ornament left on the window sill since Christmas, “Be cheerful and pass it on!”

I’m as struck by these words as I was the first time I saw them. Such a simple message. I originally bought the ornament for someone who has trouble being cheerful. (Subtle as a hammer, I know. grin) When I got it home, however, I noticed the ornament had a crack running through it. That’s not exactly what you look for in a gift, is it? A broken reminder to do something that’s often difficult? It just didn’t seem like a good idea to pass it along…or to throw it away. The “obvious” alternative was to place it atop a small silver cup on the window sill as a reminder to myself.

I’m convinced that’s what God wanted all along. The makers of this ornament meant for it to be perfect and to hang on a tree for a few days or so once a year. In the midst of all the other decorations of the Christmas season, this message might have gone unnoticed. But placed as it is on my window sill? Each day I see these words reminding me to spread the cheer that comes as a result of His coming among us to bring us hope and salvation. Each day I am reminded that things don’t have to be perfect for me to be cheerful and that I can change the world in simple ways just by being willing to be used in whatever way and in whatever place He chooses to put me.

Sounds like the words in the window were meant for me…and maybe, you, too. What will you do today to be a person of influence right where you are?

BE CHEERFUL and pass it on.

Grace and Peace!

 

 

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Still savoring the day

 “No distance of place or lapse of time can less the friendship of those who are thoroughly persuaded of each other’s worth.” ~Robert Southey

I’m generally on the move for most of the day and the majority of my conversations are—since I typically work here alone at the house— usually just with God and the cats. While both God and the cats are really great listeners, the audible/verbal back and forth is typically a little different and not always readily understandable by other human ears. Yesterday was another story.

I spent most of yesterday sitting down and having a conversation…with a real, live person! (grin) We had a wonderful lunch at a local bistro and then retired to my keeping room where we talked and talked and talked for hours.   It was amazing to be able to look over and see this beloved face and hear her laugh without having to imagine the way her eyes crinkle and her smile lights up when she talks about her family or the way her eyes become serious when she talks about what God is asking her to do next.

I’ve learned not to take those things for granted, you see, because this was just the latest installment of a conversation that we started back in 1989. It was also the first time we’ve seen each other in almost 14 years. Yes, 14 years…of really regular contact through notes and phone calls and emails and texts, but no face-to-face time in all that time.

It didn’t slow us down a bit.

We hugged and laughed and ate and cooked and shared and prayed and it was absolutely wonderful. She stayed for supper and it was as normal as if she was always there…except that we actually ate at the table this time.

I loved every moment of our time together, but I think my favorite part was when we prayed together and she thanked God that this time we were able to actually hold hands while we did so. We’ve held hearts and secrets and prayer requests for so long now, that we are a part of each other whether we are near or far. We are bonded by our long-term friendship, our history and our faith in God and I am so grateful for the gift of yesterday. I am still savoring the time together even now.

Who do you need to touch base with again today? Pick up a phone, send a text or a card and let someone know that you value them. At the very least, say a prayer for them. Better yet? Pray with them, if you can!  It may be just what they need to make it through the rest of the week.

“I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine making request for you all with joy, for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now…” Philippians 1:3-5

So now what?

I wrote a blog post last week that got quite a response. It garnered such response because, at some point, every single person who read it has had one of those hard days. It’s a pretty universal experience.

The post was shared and passed around and commented on and several people who love me reached out to me asking how they could pray for me after they read it. I can’t tell you how much that touched me. Truly, the fact that they were praying was the most helpful thing they could have done at the time, but honestly, I couldn’t share many of the details that went into the need for writing that post. Why? Because a lot of it just wasn’t my story to tell…and that’s still the case today.  Here’s what I can tell you:

Those stories belong to the families of the four (yes, 4!) people who died within 48 hours of that posting and the six (yes, 6!) personal relatives who were dealing with painful, life-threatening or life-changing health issues…and the multitude of friends and family members who were joined in prayer across the globe for each of them. That’s a lot to deal with and although none of it happened in my house, the calls for prayer came in here and the needs were felt here because I love each and every one of those people who called or emailed or expressed their pain or loss in person.

So now what?

I’m a bit analytical (yes, I just heard the snorts of laughter from several friends) and I serve a God who does nothing without purpose (yes, I just heard that bunch of amens, too!), so I started looking for what I was supposed to learn in all of this world of hurt that happened. Here’s what I know for sure about why all of that pain and loss was necessary

 

(silence…lots of silence…crickets chirping in the background kind of silence…and then more silence…)

 

Nothing. Just like Sergeant Schultz, I know nothing. I have absolutely no clue why those lives were lost and why that kind of pain was necessary. God didn’t share any of that with me. So now what?

Here’s what I saw when I started looking at the lives that were lost:

I knew two of the people who died personally and had close relative or personal friend accounts of each of the other two lives and I found that they all shared two common bonds. They all loved Jesus and they all loved their families…passionately. Their loss was felt so keenly because that’s the way they had lived their lives. That’s pretty important. Each of these four people hadn’t done life perfectly, but they had managed to get the most important question—what are you going to do with this Savior, this God who loves you more than you can ever imagine?–answered correctly…and they had managed to live lives that reflected that answer as they shared His love with those closest to them.

By the way, those six relatives of mine who were dealing with those painful life issues…they’ve all made the same choice, as well.

So now what?

Those people who died last week? Those lives aren’t truly lost. God knows exactly where they are…because they’re with Him and they are reaping the rewards of their choice right now.

Those people who were in physical pain? Well, some of them are better, but most of them are still hurting. They’re healing, but they’re still hurting right now. The exact same thing can be said of those whose loved ones lives weren’t truly lost last week, as well.

So now what?

Those of us who are left still have questions to answer and lives to live. If you haven’t already decided what you’re going to do with this Savior, this Jesus the Christ, this God who loves you more than you can imagine and came to earth so you could be with Him forever, then today can be your day. Choose Him. He’s already chosen you.

If you’ve already made that decision, then you have a life to live well. Live it as passionately as Christ loves you. That’s going to look differently from person to person because God has such a creative streak, but make sure you tell those around you about Him and make sure they know that you love them…even more…because you know what it is to be loved by Him.

So now what? Jesus said it best:

“I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

Paint fumes and memories

My house smells like paint right now.  That’s because I’ve been painting.  Isn’t it amazing?  We tolerate all these tiny imperfections in our homes–tiny paint nicks and too many nail holes from moving art around with the seasons, blinds that need cleaning and dust hiding in places we never even think about looking at…until it is time to sell.

Suddenly, we’re consumed with making the house perfect for strangers as if they are somehow more worthy of the effort that we are.  It is wrong.  Wrong, I tell you!  (yes, the paint fumes are taking over!)

What I’ve found particularly amusing today is the way that different paints smell.  That’s NOT the fumes talking, now, I promise!  I opened up a can of deep red wine-colored paint and was immediately transported to the first time I ever used that color on a wall.  I still love it.  I’d forgotten the smell of it–deep and rich–almost as if the color came directly from a real wine.  The heady memories in this can…in this room…under these lights:  the laughter of friends and family, the smell of really good food and the joy of knowing such love to surround us.  I love the warmth of this color and I’ve loved the warmth we’ve lived out in this house.  Nephews playing chase and hide-n-seek, chalk drawing contests out on the driveway along with countless games of Monopoly at the table and croquet in the yard…there are lots of great memories here.  I’ll pack them with me when I go and they will all be colored in this amazing shade of love.

Standing on a small chair once used in the elementary school where my father attended, I painted out the tiny imperfections over the arch and I noticed that a small drop of the paint had descended from on high to land on the chair.  The deep fabulous color streak stands in stark contrast to the weathered wood.  I plan to leave it there.  When the chair and I leave this place we’ll take a memory with us of good times and continued usefulness…and I, for one, will be grateful for it.

I’ll get this place about where I want it…just in time to turn it over to the next owners.  They will no doubt make lots of changes and wonder why I bothered to color in the nicks…if they even notice it at all before they open their own can of paint and begin to create their own memories.

As for me, well, I’m already looking forward to feathering the next nest…after all, there’s no place like home.

People watching and a what-if list

I love to watch people.  I like to sit back and just enjoy the hum and flow of several conversations going on simultaneously and watch people and their reactions to what is being said.  I know.  It makes me a bit of a voyeur, but it still amuses me…and since it is a relatively benign form of entertainment, I’ll probably continue doing it…although I may have to be a bit more surreptitious after this posting.

This past weekend, I had the ultimate opportunity to people watch:  a tailgate party at a college football game.  (For those of you who are unfamiliar with this term—and even those of you who are!—check out the official Wikipedia definition here:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tailgate_party )

Now that you have that definition in your mind, let me tell you about tailgating here in the South.  A tailgate party is the ultimate people-watching extravaganza!  There are rarely actual tailgates involved.  There are often entire parking lots filled with huge campers and trailers—some painted in school colors or at least sporting multiple team logos.  At least some of these come complete with their own matching decked-out golf carts to go from place to place.  Then there are those who bring multiple tents which spring up like small tent-cities.  There are tables with color-coordinated cloths/napkins/plates & cutlery, elaborate lighting and team memorabilia.  There are tables loaded down with exotic Southern foods like boudin sausage & hogshead cheese…and more humble fare, as well—I brought chicken salad, fruit & veggies.  There is a dessert table…a very full dessert table.  There are fans (of the cheering variety) and fans (of the wind-moving variety).  There are often TVs—large and small–complete with satellite hookups and fancy remotes so that the group can watch other sporting events as they wait for theirs to begin.  There are large grills—really large grills–filled with delicious burgers, BBQ and veggies.  Our group had shrimp…imported from Louisiana…and fresh banana pudding.

There was no alcohol involved.  There were, however, well over 40 people in attendance—just in our group!–and others who strolled by and stopped in to chat for a bit, have a small plate and then move on through.  It was pretty amazing.  Our own three-tent event was surrounded by ones both smaller and larger with simpler and fancier set-ups.  This isn’t the main competition of the day, but it is an event all on its own.

Friends invited friends who brought relatives.  It was an ever-evolving pageant and a whole lot of fun.  Pockets of conversations filled the air and people moved from group to group bringing laughter and chiding, serious and silly all out into the open.  Friends caught up on one another’s lives, were introduced to strangers and cheered loudly together with adjoining tailgaters while watching other teams play.  There were card games and cornhole games, pompoms and…in this instance, lots and lots of cowbells.

There is a camaraderie about these events that defies our societal norms.  For instance, our group came without the TV hook-ups, but had groups on either side with elaborate big-screen set-ups.  When it was time for the game at our location to start, some of us remained behind to chat and enjoy each other during game time.  As the group on our right had some of the same intentions, they weren’t surprised or concerned to see some of our people turn their chairs to see their TV and join in the game that way.  As the entire group on our left headed toward the stadium, they left behind the remote and a casual, “Turn it off when you’re done” instruction to those of us who were still trying to catch the ending of a different game.

People don’t usually walk off and leave their valuables in the control of strangers…anywhere but here. These people also left an entire birthday cake.  Intact.  They weren’t worried that it would be cut or defaced in any way upon their return.  They just entrusted us with it all…and they didn’t know a single one of us prior to setting up earlier in the day.

I watched all of this and I loved that race and creed didn’t matter.  I loved that pure fun was the goal and that people were smiling and talking with those they didn’t know.  I loved that there was a common bond—even with people who cheered for opposing teams.  I loved that—in our group, at least—conversations were caring and blessing and as much about God as they were about ourselves.  There were hugs and handshakes and smiles.  Welcomes that extended past our regular comfort levels and lots and lots of laughter.  In the midst of all the chaos of thousands of people doing it “their way” was the acceptance of others who did it differently in an effort to advance the same cause.  Call me crazy, but it seemed like a little bit of heaven…Southern-style, of course.

Now, if we could only do those same things during the week!  What could we accompllish for the cause of Christ if our worship was as loud and enthusiastic as our cheering for our sports teams?  How many could we reach for Christ if we recognized that our way isn’t always the only way to tell them about a Savior who loves them enough to give up His life for them?  What if we looked past color and social rules and just saw people who need God to show up…and realize that WE are there to represent Him to them?  What if we could harness the work ethic that goes into making everything “just so” for a tailgate event and turn that into provision for those who are less fortunate?  What if watching people led to helping them?

For your weekend…

It seems a bit counter-productive…this decorating for fall when I’m planning to move before long, but I’m having too much fun to stop and I decided to share a few glimpses into some of the things that have me smiling around here…

SONY DSC SONY DSC SONY DSC SONY DSC  SONY DSCWho and what are you surrounding yourself withSONY DSC to make YOU smile this weekend?  Make it beautiful!  Make it… comfortable!  Make it fun!

Remember that all of this life is worship.  Our focus determines whether we are worshiping God, ourselves, our careers, other people, places or things.  Take time to worship God well this weekend!

Grace & Peace!  (and lots and lots of smiles!)

Amazon Prayer Warriors and other gifts

I was headed west last Saturday surrounded by friends whose laughter and our common histories bind us forever.  We were headed toward the Mississippi Delta for a day of B.B. King, mile-high coconut pie, gourmet food and shopping.  We found all of that…and more.

When we’re all together, we have quite the talent for having several conversations going and still being attuned to those others around us.  It’s not unusual for someone to suddenly jump into a conversation being held across the room…and then hop right back into the one they were originally participating in at the start.  Our conversations were wide-ranging and often hysterical.  We really crack ourselves up.

Since our time together at Mississippi University for Women, this has been a very tight-knit group.  We’ve made it a point to maintain our relationships and we do that by getting together at least once a year “just us girls” and, if we’re fortunate, we also come together at least once with as many accompanying husbands, children and friends as can make it.  The “kids” range in age from 21-12 and act like they’re related even though there isn’t a speck of shared blood in the whole group.  They, like us, pick up conversations in mid-stream…left over from the last time they saw each other.  In another odd twist, they’ve often been the ones to insist that WE were being too loud!  That always makes us laugh…and then we get louder.

This year, due to multiple schedule conflicts, our long weekend together turned into a day trip.  Although small in number this year–only four of us–we carried the hearts of a much larger group of women, and our conversations naturally included various updates about the rest of the line.  The members of the line are numbered 1-12 and we go by our numbers as much as by our names.  I am #7.

In one of our conversations, my #12 and I talked about our gratitude for the strong women God has placed in our lives.  Far from being intimidated, we’ve learned to welcome women with opinions and a strong sense of self.  We value the strength that comes from life experiences…some of which match our own and others that do not.  We spoke of how grateful we are that God has surrounded by these friends from our college days and also by others who have many of the same characteristics and strengths.

I’ve thought of that conversation a lot this week.  You see, I’ve been particularly blessed by the number of strong women in my life.  These are women of Godly character who are not afraid to love and live out loud wherever they find themselves.  Although I may not see them with regularity, I am always aware that they are a simple phone call, text or email away.  These are the women God has given to me as gifts during different portions of my life.  They have been through the fire and they are strong.  They are survivors.  They are humble and yet they are like amazing Amazon prayer warriors of the highest order.

According to Greek mythology–which doesn’t have a whole lot to do with Scripture! (grin)–the Amazons were a nation of powerful warrior women.  Like those mythical warriors, these strong women in my life are the ones to have on your side whether you’re in the midst of a trial or in need of a really good laugh.  They are the women to do the faith life with in style.  These are the ones I know will pray for me and for my family.  They will even go to battle in prayer for those they do not know simply because I ask.  Israel’s King David had his mighty men of valor…and I am graced with these warrior women of faith.

For these strong women of faith and the many gifts that they have added to my life…I am filled with gratitude.  I am amazed by their friendships and blessed by their lives.  I am the most blessed person I know…wow, God!  What abundance you have given to me!