Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Monday, September 28, 2009

It's Your Choice

You don't always get what you want. You know that, right? Sure, we all know it; but we generally don't like it. I mean, we want what we want when we want it. And when we don't get it, we stew over it. We brainstorm about how we can get it. We wonder how we might manipulate the circumstances in our favor. We contemplate, fret, fantasize.... And then we stumble upon the word "contentment". Therein lies the rub. Where in the world does "contentment" fit into the picture? And how? What about hope and faith and believing for change?! How do we know whether to let it go or keep pressing in? How do we know???

There are plenty of things I don't know and many things I will never understand about this world and this life; but one thing I know for sure is this: happiness is a choice, my choice. And I choose it today--right now--for me. I choose to be happy in spite of circumstances, in spite of let-downs and disappointments, in spite of people and of 'stuff'....I choose happiness! I choose not to let a few ruts in the road deter me. I refuse to let sadness creep in and steal my joy. I snub the invitation of self-pity. I will acknowledge them, certainly, but I won't invite them in for cocktails. I choose not to stop when hurt or disappointment comes in like a flood. I will mourn my losses, my disappointments; then I will dry my tears, look up and take comfort. I will breathe in and breathe out, and I will move forward.

Am I saying that we should never strive and strain and stretch for a goal? Of course not! There is a time for pressing in; but there is also a time for letting go. We just need wisdom to know the difference. And in both cases, we can still have joy. That is our choice.

Here are the facts:
Life will let you down.
People will disappoint you.
Tragedies will come your way.
Your dreams won't always be realized.

But the Truth is:
God is always good.
Life isn't always easy, but it can always be sweet and meaningful.
'Things' don't matter as much as relationships do.
Hurts heal.
Strength comes from adversity.
True character is proven in hard times, not easy ones.
Sorrow may last for a night, but joy comes in the morning.

I have found some passages that bring such comfort to my life. They resound within me and give me amazing comfort and peace. Take them in and mull over them for a while, then look up and take comfort. Breathe in and breathe out, and move forward!

"...We know that when these bodies of ours are taken down like tents and folded away, they will be replaced by resurrection bodies in heaven—God-made, not handmade—and we'll never have to relocate our "tents" again. Sometimes we can hardly wait to move—and so we cry out in frustration. Compared to what's coming, living conditions around here seem like a stopover in an unfurnished shack, and we're tired of it! We've been given a glimpse of the real thing, our true home, our resurrection bodies!

The Spirit of God whets our appetite by giving us a taste of what's ahead. He puts a little of heaven in our hearts so that we'll never settle for less. That's why we live with such good cheer. You won't see us drooping our heads or dragging our feet! Cramped conditions here don't get us down. They only remind us of the spacious living conditions ahead. It's what we trust in but don't yet see that keeps us going. Do you suppose a few ruts in the road or rocks in the path are going to stop us? When the time comes, we'll be plenty ready to exchange exile for homecoming.

But neither exile nor homecoming is the main thing. Cheerfully pleasing God is the main thing, and that's what we aim to do, regardless of our conditions. Sooner or later we'll all have to face God, regardless of our conditions. We will appear before Christ and take what's coming to us as a result of our actions, either good or bad. That keeps us vigilant, you can be sure." 2 Corinthians 5:1-11 (The Message Bible)

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Take a Hint

Why is it that men just don't know how to take hints? I mean, you would think... a subtle (or even not so subtle) hint dropped here and there would cause some lights to come on. Oh, how I wish they would. But, no! Hint all you want, girls; you're just wasting precious time. Men, it is apparent, just don't have what it takes to "read the signs." Period. But the question that every woman keeps asking herself is, "For the love of God, WHY???"

Well, I've been giving this a lot of thought recently, and I've decided that there surely must be some logical explanation for a man's inability to 'pick up' on things a woman is clearly trying to say. Hummmm.... I've come to a semi-rational conclusion that might be helpful to the female population. Here's my theory:

After much observation of the male species, I have reason to suspect that there is a chemical missing in a man's brain that blocks his ability to take hints. After all, what is so hard about this process? A woman of any age can take a hint--even the slightest one--without the tiniest bit of strain. I would even go so far as to say that women are (at times) guilty of "reading into things". But rarely--practically never--will a woman be accused of not taking a hint. I think we can all agree on this fact.

Also, it has come to my attention that men do not, cannot, and will not take hints, even blatantly obvious ones. Thus, it has become clear to me, ladies, that from this day forward we must take a different approach to making our feelings, thoughts or wishes known to our men. From this day forward, all hints are null and void, out, kaput, gone baby gone! I have overwhelming evidence that overt communication is the only thing that will work effectively.

Ladies, beginning today, we must actually be willing to say what is on our minds, since sadly, men cannot read them. (Shocking, I know.) We must spell it out, girls! Lay our cards on the table, make no bones about it, tell it like it is, leave no stone unturned... (You get my drift.) Then, and only then, will the men in our lives fully understand what is floating around in our heads. Weird, isn't it???

Monday, September 14, 2009


I have words. OK, I said it and now it's out there. It's true. I have words and lots of them. The problem, however, is that they don't always find their freedom. They usually stay locked up in a prison, longing to be released--in a smooth, unending flow.

Since desperate times call for desperate measures, I've come up with a plan--a way to liberate said words. I must, I've decided, emancipate these precious words before they die alone in their cages.

"The freedom plan," though quite simple, is one that will (if carefully and strategically executed) unshackle my pent-up words and allow them to leap forth with vigor and potency, engage in meaningful conversations, and finally find full expression. Oh, joy!

So, the plan is this: I will take my words, once bound, out on a weekly excursion to mingle with another freedom-seeking-word-carrier. I will strategically and purposefully choose a time and a place where we can sit and drink freely of each other's words. We will take turns pouring and drinking, pouring and drinking, pouring and drinking...until our thirsty souls have been satisfied and our words have begun to wane. I will call this day "Thirstday".

I am very eager to put my plan into action. My words are stirring inside me at the thought! They've already begun to ask, "Will two hours a week be enough?"

"Probably not, but it's a start," I reassure them.

Relationships take time and effort to build, and my lonely words and I are ready to take our first Thirstday trip. The exact date and time for the rendezvous has not yet been set, but I'm working on it; for in the background I can hear my desperate words dragging their cups along the bars of their cells as they cry out, "Free us! Free us!"

And I reply, "Hang on, my words, Thirstday is almost here!"

Saturday, September 5, 2009

You Inspire Me

Long time no write. Hummm... Guess I need to give myself a little pep talk and get back at it while the gettin's good, as they say. Actually, I've been so inspired by some of my blogging friends out there in cyber world (you go, girls!) that I'm shamed..uh..inspired to add a new post.

So... what will it be today? Well, I was thinking about how much we actually do influence one another...to do things, to say things, to believe things...by something very simple: our words. It's true! Words have much more influence than one would suppose. For example, I recently posted on facebook that I had baked some homemade banana nut bread and wa-la! Not only did I have several requests for the recipe, but two people actually wrote back and said they'd tried the recipe!

Wow...the power of words. They're pretty amazing, don't you think? Words have the power to inspire, influence, encourage or, sadly, to tear apart, demean and devalue. The Book of Psalms says that the power of life and death is in the our tongues (pretty potent, eh?) So, I am planning on creating something wonderful with this little muscle in between my teeth today. I want to offer words that will challenge, motivate, encourage, inspire and influence. I want to speak life to the lifeless, hope to the hopeless, peace to the restless, and joy to the sadness. And...I invite you to do the same.

Let my words stir in you this challenge: taste carefully your words before you share them with others. After all, you would never share a recipe for banana nut bread that you hadn't tried yourself, right?

Monday, June 8, 2009

Nip it in the Bud

I'm new to this gardening thing so I don't really have a green thumb...yet; but I want one, so I'm working on it. I really need one, too, since I am the proud caretaker of 105 Indian Hawthorns, 11 Sago Palms, 8 Boxwoods, 5 Camellias, 4 Gardenias, 3 Lantanas, 2 window boxes (that contain a total of 10 flowers), and 26 potted plants. Whew! How did all this happen to someone without a green thumb, you might ask? Well, let me clue you in on how this whole thing got started....

Back in 2004, my husband and I bought a home to restore. It was a lovely old place ("old" being the key word here; circa 1890) that needed much tender loving care. Anyway, after five years of tender loving sweat and hard work, the house was finally finished. But one thing was missing: plants, flowers, bushes... So after much discussion about what, when, where and how, I suddenly became a gardener. Yep, I went from zero to 60 (or 172) practically over night. The house and yard looked awesome! But, man, was I in for a rude awakening.

At first I thought the watering routine was going to kill me. Ha! Now I laugh at watering. Pshaw! That is probably the easiest thing about taking care of all these guys; and now, maybe the most enjoyable. There are soooo many more aspects to keeping my plants looking alive and adorable than just watering. Some of the details are pleasant, others...not so much. To date, I've discovered that pruning is my least favorite activity, though perhaps the most productive. It is a backbreaking chore that takes several hours. But in the end, it produces good things, better things.

I recently discovered that my Indian Hawthorns were being infected with a fungus called Entomosporium Leaf Spot. (Sounds pretty bad, huh? I know!) This fungus spreads from plant to plant when water splashes on an infected plant and carries diseased spores to a neighboring plant. WHAT?! Remember... I ONLY have 105 of them! So... this weekend I went about purging them from the dreaded spot. It took several hours of bending, examining, snipping and pinching to rid them of the infected leaves--and any that looked like they might be infected. I know that if I don't get rid of "the spot" while it's only on a few leaves, it will continue to get worse until it kills the whole plant. And, I'm not willing that any of them should perish! Hummm... reminds me of a Bible verse....

Anyway, it seems that the more I've tended my plants, the more I've learned about LIFE. Pretty cool, huh?

In the Gospel of John, Jesus says it like this: "I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more."

In the Book of Mark He also said, "If your hand or your foot gets in God's way, chop it off and throw it away. You're better off maimed or lame and alive than the proud owner of two hands and two feet, godless in a furnace of eternal fire. And if your eye distracts you from God, pull it out and throw it away. You're better off one-eyed and alive than exercising your twenty-twenty vision from inside the fire of hell."

Now I get it! I want my plants to be healthy and beautiful, so I'm willing to sacrifice the diseased leaves to produce a much stronger plant.

“Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing. Anyone who does not remain in me is thrown away like a useless branch and withers. Such branches are gathered into a pile to be burned. But if you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask for anything you want, and it will be granted! When you produce much fruit, you are my true disciples. This brings great glory to my Father."

Way cool.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

A Letter to My Siblings

Let me begin by saying I love you. I love you unconditionally and unequivocally. No one has the power to choose family; but if I could, I would have chosen you. I think you are remarkable, amazing, gifted, brilliant, funny and fun. You are my brothers and my sister, my blood, and I love you very much. I am far from being a perfect sister. (But then again I don’t have to tell you that, do I?) At any rate, though not faultless, you can know with certainty that I have a flawless love for each of you. I would fight for you, defend you, stick my neck out for you, take a loss for you…. I don’t always say the right thing or do the right thing, but I want you to know that my heart is right toward you.

How do I explain this next part???

I have experienced such incredible pain over the past two years that at times I thought my heart would really and truly break in half. And yet…I’ve experienced a level of grace that is equally as deep. How can I have grief and joy at the same time? I’m sure I don’t know. My emotions have reached highs and lows that I never imagined possible. And through those moments, I have grown. God has done--and is still doing--an extraordinary work in my life. I can’t explain it. It’s like everything goes through a different filter now. I guess my perspective has been morphed into something unexpected yet wonderful.

As much as I wish this weren’t true, I know that in the future there will be times when I will hurt your feelings. I'll say or do something that will cut you to the quick. Words are such a double-edged sword. They can wound or heal. They are arrows that can pierce or liberate. And I pray that the words I speak to you will always bring healing and freedom. But can I just go ahead right now and say “I’m sorry” for the things I am sure to say that will not? Is there such a thing as “pre-forgiveness”? If there is, I’m asking for it. I’m asking for it because I know I will need it, as will you. And just so you know, I’ve already forgiven you for anything you might ever do to hurt me. Forgiveness brings healing. It brings freedom. And I choose forgiveness.

The past is something we don’t have the power to change. And should we if we could? It has molded us into who we are. The road we’ve traveled until now has shaped our character. It has forced us to make choices. It has offered us heartaches and adventures. It has challenged us and stretched us. And as I look back over my shoulder at where I’ve been, I have a tear and a smile. The three of you are there, making me laugh and cry. I’m so glad you are there.

The future is right out there somewhere…“the unknown”…daring us to enter. Challenges, choices, heartaches and adventures…. They’re all up there, too. I know I won’t always make the right choices, but I’m hopeful. I’m terrified and excited. I’m shaking with fear and trembling with excitement. I’m anxious and confident. Grab my arm so we can walk together. Then maybe it won’t be so scary. Then we can lean on each other if we get tired or all laugh when it’s fun.

In case I haven’t said it lately, thanks for making me laugh and for propping me up when I was exhausted. You have brought much joy into my life and I LOVE YOU.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

How I Miss That

When my husband and I first started dating, he would hold my hand so tightly that my fingers would go numb. Seriously! He was always holding my hand, even if we were just walking around inside a store or riding along in the car. After several minutes I would unhinge his fingers from mine, shake some blood back into them, and then give him my hand again, smiling.

This trend didn't slow down one iota even after we got married. Oh, no! Hand holding was just something we did--all the time. And no matter how many times I would laugh at him and say, "You're squeezing them too hard!", he never got it. He just loved holding--squeezing--my hand.

I was just thinking the other night about how much I miss that....

You see, two years ago, he was in an accident at the oil refinery where he worked. His job was to climb 123 of those huge tanks (the big white ones with the winding staircases that go around the sides) and gauge their oil levels. That fateful morning, he climbed to the top of a 36 foot tank, opened the hatch, leaned over, and took a deep breath of nitrogen gas--something that shouldn't have been there. He immediately passed out and fell headlong 26 feet down the ladder. When he woke a few minutes later, he didn't realize that he was already paralyzed from the chest down.

It's been 812 days since he grabbed my hand and squeezed my fingers until they got numb. How I miss that....

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Mowing the Lawn

I think mowing the lawn should not be allowed until the temperature is warm enough that you don't have to wear a jacket. There's just something about mowing with long sleeves on that's not right. If I have to spend half my day sitting on a big machine, going back and forth, back and forth, getting dust in my ears and eyes, at least I should be getting some rays, don't you think?

The trick to mowing, I've discovered, is working the yard down to a neat little (or not so little) square. Once I've gotten the "rough edges" taken care of, I don't mind the going back and forth part so much. In fact, it's not bad at all. It gives me time to think--uninterrupted time. So I figure I might as well take advantage of the roaring of the engine, which seems to lull out the rest of the world. Come to think of it, I suppose I do need some time to sort out my thoughts... Deeeeeeep thoughts... problem-solving thoughts... rehearsing conversations I would like to have... or replaying ones I wish I'd never had... ahhhhh, the fresh scent of cut grass... don't run over that dog poo... watch out for that muddy spot... Yes, there must be a million zillion thoughts running around in there, free at last.

The only down side to mowing (besides having to do it wearing long sleeves, of course), is the nagging premonition that it's going to have to be done all over again in a few days, and probably at an inopportune time. Well, I can always use a couple more hours to unscramble the problems of the world--or at least, my world.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Piano Lessons

I was just thinking about those awful piano lessons I used to take as a kid.... I absolutely hated them! Looking back, it's no real surprise as to why I loathed them so. The fact is, I never actually took the time to practice the songs in between lessons. So when "piano lesson day" arrived, I wouldn't know how to play the songs I should have been practicing all week and, therefore, perfected. Panic would hit me about 30 minutes before we headed to Mrs. Powers' house. So I would sit down at the piano, yank open my "John Thompson" book, and for those precious few minutes, try to decipher what the notes should sound like. Never seemed to work though. "Looks like you need to keep on practicing this one," she would say. (No big surprise.)

But, oh! The worst thing about piano lessons was... (you guessed it) the dreaded piano recital. I didn't just hate them. I was terrified of them! How was it that I was always the kid who got stuck with something really hard?! Seemed like all the other kids got to play "The Spinning Song" or "The Entertainer", while I got stuck with "Etude in E Minor". What kid in their right mind wanted to play "Etude in E Minor"? After all, I didn't even know what an "etude" was, for Pete's sake! There was one recital in particular, though, that took the proverbial cake. The memory itself still gives me a shiver....

I'd been practicing my extremely difficult piece--a piece that no child should ever be forced to play--for weeks. When the day arrived, I tried to calm down the herd of butterflies in my stomach before heading over to the always-icy-cold municipal building. For some reason I felt like I needed just a few more weeks of preparation, but it was too late for that now. Soon my name was called and I nervously walked out toward the giant piano that sat arrogantly in the center of the room. (I tense up even now as I imagine the sound of my shoes click, click, clicking across the floor toward my doom.) There they all sat: endless rows of proud parents. What felt like a thousand eyeballs glared at me, silently waiting--not so much interested in hearing "Etude in E Minor", but rather "The Spinning Song" or whatever it was their child was going to play. But first they would have to endure my piece.

I took a deep breath and placed my quivering hands on the keys. I played a couple of bars and started to loosen up. "I think I'm gonna make it...." And then it happened. About half way through the etude, I hit some bizarre chord that is unknown to anyone in the music world. The sound of it made my whole body cringe and my heart freeze. "What was that?!" I thought. So I went back a couple of measures and tried it again. "CLANG!"--another wrong chord! A knot formed in my stomach, sweat beads popped out on my head, and my mouth felt as dry as a desert. What to do now?! Back two measures... "CLANG!" ... "Oh, my gosh! Get me out of here!" My mind was totally blank and it was as if I'd never played the song in my entire life.

Thirteen horrifying times I went back two measures before hitting yet another wrong chord. (I didn't even know that many wrong notes existed.) Time slowed to a drip and the etude seemed to have dragged on now for at least an hour. I don't remember how, but I finally ended the wrecked masterpiece, took a small curtsy and made a dash for the side door.

Humiliation can't begin to describe how I felt in that moment. I just thought I hated piano lessons before that day! Suddenly, I didn't care if I ever played another song as long as I lived. Do I have to tell you that I quit taking lessons shortly after the recital? I didn't think so. If only I'd had a love for the piano way back then like I do now... Perhaps I would have approached it a whole different way. I like to think so, anyway.

Surprisingly, I eventually did take up the piano again--many, many years later. I'm quite sure I owe many thanks to my old piano teacher, Mrs. Powers, and to Mom for dragging me over there week after week. I'm just glad I will never, ever have to play at another one of those gut-wrenching piano recitals again as long as I live.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Wasting Time

Some days I feel like such a time waster. I piddle around doing a little here and a little there.... nothing really. I get on the pc and the next thing I know it's four hours later. Who does that??? I have great intentions, but time just seems to slip right past me like sand through my fingers. It's not that I don't have anything to do--quite the contrary! But yet I get caught in cyberspace and float out there somewhere into a timeless zone. And when I 'come to', I realize that the day is almost over and nothing has been accomplished.