Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Five Things I'm Good At......

Some things I do better than others.  It's usually much easier for me to notice and, sometimes, to obsess about the things I need to improve.  So, just for the simple fun of it, I thought I would put into words five things that I do well.  Just in case.....

ONE - making my bed.  Well, maybe not just the art of making my bed (although it does look nice) but more the habit of making my bed.  In truth, I would like to make the bed as soon as I'm out of it and upright but I'm afraid that would make me seem obsessive.  But within thirty minutes, I have the bed made.  The day just goes better if you start the day right and a day does not start right until the bed is made.  I know those who would turn around and head twelve miles back home if they forgot their watch, or earrings, or (heaven help) their phone!!  Me?  Would totally turn around if I forgot to make the bed.  But that would never happen.

TWO - organizing.  It really does not matter if it is kitchen cabinets, closets, junk drawers, spices, office files, old photos or the recycling...I can organize it to a thing of beauty!  Ok, maybe not the recycling.  Not only does the finished product make me happy but the entire process just makes my heart sing.  A friend once told me that ironing did the same thing for her.   (I don't even know what to say.) Give me a pile of tax receipts to organize and file any day!

THREE - throwing things away.  This is tied closely to number two.  It is so much easier to organize anything if all the extraneous is thrown away - and I don't have a problem letting go of anything. Admittedly, this has gotten me into trouble once, or maybe twice but, when it doubt, I'd much rather take the risk and throw it away.  I think this one is a genetic thing I get from my mother.  I learned very early if you left it lying around, it would most likely be thrown away.  School research papers included.  At least I can say, I never did that!

FOUR - planning.  Maybe this is really more organizing but I love event planning.  I love creating the idea, the thinking through of the details, making phone calls and coordinating all the pieces that come together to make the event happen.  Except for weddings.  Wedding planning is a thing all of itself - and just not my thing.  I think being an event planner would be a dream job.  Then again, if it were "a job" it might not be as much fun!

FIVE - driving.  I know just about everyone thinks they are a good driver.  At least, everyone I've ever asked.  But let me just say - not everyone is a good driver!  (In fact, most of the people I see driving desperately need more driver's ed.)  But, I really am a good driver. There isn't a way to measure that or for me to prove it, but you can take my word:  I am a (pretty good) driver!  Sadly, I do not enjoy driving.  I really don't enjoy being in the passenger seat either. Makes for super long car trips!

Friday, August 11, 2017

Preparing My Place

I'm joining the Five Minute Friday fun again this week.  The writing for (only) five minutes has definitely been challenging.  The writing freestyle and without overthinking - even a bit more challenging  The un-editing part - just about impossible!  But, nevertheless, here it goes.  This week's prompt:  PLACE

GO... "In my Father's house are many mansions:  if it were not so, I would have told you.  I go to prepare a place for you.  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also."  John 14:2-3

The Lord once told Joshua that "every place that the sole of your foot shall tread upon, that have I given unto you,"  (Joshua 1:3)  That was a powerful promise for Joshua.  God did not promise that the days and events ahead would all be easy, and the land would be given without work, challenge and in their own strength.  In fact, He repeatedly told Joshua to be of good courage.  God knew what was ahead - but He promised Joshua the victory and He promised to be with Him in the process.

In the same way, God has promised us (His children) that He is coming again.  He has gone away to prepare our new place.  Our new, forever, home in Heaven.  And when that place is ready, He is coming back to take us there.  That promise is as sure as the one He gave to Joshua.  God is a keeper of all promises.

Until He returns, not every day will be easy - without tears, heartache or difficulty.  But I know that He is with me just as sure as He was with Joshua.

STOP.  Join the others at FMF!

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Three Lessons (I'm Still Learning) From Grief

"That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ:"  I Peter 1:7

I claimed this verse during the very early months of my grief and it has very often given me a small, but needed, answer to the why's my heart cried.  Even if I truly never understood all the why's, my mind could hold onto a sense of purpose.  And, if Christ is to be honored and glorified, there are lessons to continually be learned, no matter how many years I have been living with grief.  Most of the lessons mentioned here, I have learned at least once, if not several times, over the last eleven years but I found myself learning them again the last week or two - so, I thought they should be shared.

ONE - There is no rule book for grieving.  How many times have I wished for a rule book?  Not only am I rule-follower but I am a rule-loving girl.  Rules give me order.  They establish boundaries, balance and a sense of stability.  If I follow the rules, my boat stays upright and can weather even the strongest storms.  When grief completely overturned the boat that was my life, I was desperate for any type of stability. I was desperate for anyone who could just tell me the "ten steps to surviving grief."

There was no rule book in those early days and there are no rules for handling grief or honoring a loved one years later.  What was helpful and brought healing several years ago might not feel the same, or even be necessary, later.  And that is okay.  The first couple years after Tyler died, we would go off for the day.  Take a day trip.  Mindlessly wander a small town and look through shops.  The mindless part was good.  It kept us just occupied enough but didn't take thought.  For two or three years in a row, we came across an unexpected treasure which seemed to help mark the years.  In my mind, I made it a rule.  Each August 1st, we will take a day trip.  But the time came when it felt forced and more of a chore than any type of help.  So we stopped - and that's okay because there really are no rules.

TWO - Everyone grieves differently.  (Perhaps because there are no rules.)  This one was hard to learn in the beginning. Husbands, women, mothers, siblings, teenagers, grandparents, friends, etc. Everyone processes grief differently.  Everyone expresses grief differently.  And, after eleven years, each member of our family has a unique way to remember Tyler and to honor his memory.  That can still be challenging.  One of the hardest things about (self-imposed) rules is wanting to impose them on everyone around you.  Not only does it not work, but it is also just unfair.

THREE - I cannot depend on others, or circumstances, to comfort me or ease my grief. Again, it is unfair for me to expect family, friends or anyone else to know exactly what my heart needs.   Every year, God has used someone, or several someones, to say or do just what my heart needed to be reminded and to know how much He truly cares.  But God does that. I cannot try to make that happen.  If I will allow Him to work, and speak, and care so tenderly for me, I will never be disappointed.  Sadly, I have forgotten that truth more than once over the years.  But, He reminded me again this year.  What special surprises that only He could arrange were gifts this year.  What a faithful, loving and personal God we have!! May He continue to get the praise, and honor and glory!

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Eleven Years

Eleven years ago today.  Sometimes all that eleven years can entail is too much for my brain to process.  It can seem like a lifetime and then, other times, it feels as fresh as if it were yesterday.  But, every day, for eleven years - on the good days, the bad days and all the days in between, God has been faithful.  He has upheld me and strengthened me.  He has encouraged and wiped away tears.  He has, indeed, given beauty where I could only see ashes.  He is good!

I received a note this week from one of Tyler's childhood friends.  What a blessing just for her to acknowledge "I'm thinking of Tyler, too!"  She included this poem that she wrote several years ago.  I will let it speak for me today.  Thank you, Kimberly.

Ty, my special angel friend
I miss your curly red hair,
the smile and awkward nods,
the laughs and fake guitar.
Never to joy in throwing your cap
or walking down an aisle.
The things we value on earth 
were you robbed,
but you got the joys of Heaven.
What are earthly things
compared to that glorious place
Why should I selfishly wish you back?

Friday, July 28, 2017

July in Numbers

It's Friday - and the another month is drawing to a close.  July was quintessential summer - hot with plenty of lazy days and fun times to remember.  Here is a look back at July...by the numbers!

FOUR - the number of doors down we were from "ground zero" during the Fourth of July celebration!  We celebrated the evening with friends (celebrated a birthday - surprise style - at the same time) who live in one of the quaint historic Old Townes in our area.  The fireworks are set off at the local high school and our friends live four houses down from the school.  It was loud and it was powerful!  The windows in the house would shake and, although I've never been shot, I'm pretty sure several times that night, I felt just like I'd been hit!

SIXTY - the number of years of celebrating for my sweet friend. We were so happy to be included in this special evening.  It was a great time with her family, too cute grandbabies, friends, yes fireworks, and even homemade ice cream!  Here's to a great year ahead, my friend.

FOURTEEN - the number of Sunday School members who were able to meet for dinner - and soft serve ice cream afterward - for our class "outing" this month.  The restaurant was very accommodating and the food was uh-mazing!

TWO - the number of Saturdays and moving trucks that it took to move our daughter to her new place.  Why two?  Poor planning on the first trip.  Yes, we actually had to finish up - renting another truck - the next weekend.  Never again.

FIVE THOUSAND, FOUR HUNDRED AND TWELVE - the number of calories I burned loading and then unloading boxes from the above-mentioned moving trucks.  Ok.  I can't say that for positive - but, honestly, it was hot, both houses have multiple floors and that girl has a lot of boxes!  It might have even been more.

THREE - the number of lunch afternoons I have had with friends.  Most of my friends are teachers and/or some type of staff at our church and school - and they have the summer off!  That means lots of extra time for great chats over a long lunch!

FIVE - the number of weeks I have had a nagging and relentless cough.  Ugh.  I went to the doctor once.  She said both of my ears were infected.  Really?  Do middle aged women get ear infections? Not to mention, I was there for my cough.  The antibiotics did nothing.  And, so I cough.

FOUR HUNDRED AND EIGHTEEN - the number of times I cough in a day.  Again, I might be guessing and/or slightly exaggerating here - but, just ask my family and it really does seem like that many!  Thank you to all those who have covertly passed me cough drops during church services - and there are more than a few.

TWELVE - the number of notes I have mastered on my clarinet!  Not many...but it is a start.

TWO - the number of trips to the vet it took in order for our sweet pup to have some surgery.  The first time was a bust.  Apparently, all those rules about no food after midnight before surgery apply to dogs as well.  If only they would have told us.  As soon as I (quite innocently) acknowledged that she had eaten breakfast that morning - the entire, super simple fifteen-minute procedure was quickly canceled and postponed.  Who knew?

FOUR - the number of attempts it took before two technicians could manage to draw blood for the aforementioned puppy surgery.  I don't suppose she was in a tremendous amount of pain but she is our baby.  She loves to go for a ride in the car.  And then she looks at me with those eyes that say, "I really thought we were just going to PetSmart!??!"  Well, I feel like such a traitor.

ONE - the number of day trips to Lancaster!  AND, the number of fun house projects currently underway.  Both of those are entire posts by themselves...so seems like a good place to pause - until next month!  Here's to a blessed August!

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

An Attitude Check

Whitney, at Come Home for Comfort, recently blogged about all the wonderful things she loves about living in the South.  She and several commenters mentioned all the sweet things (including the tea!!) that they love about the South and about their home town.  My heart has longed for the South for many years and I oohed and aahed over each special thing they mentioned.   (If you have a heart for the South, you can read her post here.)

And then I thought perhaps I should list some of the things that I love about this place I call home. Virginia - is it really in the South? or in the North? (don't even say it!) or is it neutrally right in the middle?  No doubt, depending on where you inquire, folks would argue for both sides. Even Virginia accents don't agree.  I happen to live in the northern part of Virginia.  There is, I am told, much to love about this part of the state.

** We fully experience/enjoy all four seasons.  But.  I cannot really include this in my list because, well, I hate winter.  Hate is a strong word but there really is nothing, at all, that I enjoy about winter.

** We are surrounded by history.  Rich, Civil War history is literally everywhere and within minutes of my home.  But. I really don't enjoy history.  I do not visit the battlefields and, sadly, I do not appreciate all the history that is preserved here.  It's sad but true.

** I have lived here all my life.  It is "home."  For me, that was one more reason to want to be somewhere else.  Again, sad but true.

Actually, my whole thought process was sad.  The more I thought about where I live and where I wish I could live...the more discontent I became with exactly where God has placed me.  I have asked God - begged God! - more times than I should admit to send us somewhere new.  Some place with no snow. Some place with a sense of community.  Some place that.....and my list would continue.  Not once has He showed us some place else to be. The children of Israel once had the same problem. They were discontent.  Their discontentment led to complaining and, was so strong, it even caused a desire to return to bondage.  How twisted our thoughts can become when discontentment burrows deep!  The Lord did not take their complaining lightly nor did He overlook their dissatisfaction with all He had provided.  I am confident that He is just as disappointed with my attitude.

It is time for a change of attitude.  I will be content with this small corner of the country that is my home.  I will not simply resign myself to living here but will embrace it as my Jerusalem - the place where God has me now - a place to be busy reaching for Him.

"ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth."  Acts 1:8b

And I will still consider ice tea the most refreshing beverage ever poured over ice.  But make mine unsweet.  Please.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Five Things to Love: Summer 2017

Summer is at its high point right now.....humidity, sun-drenched days, long evenings of extra daylight, cold drinks in sweaty glasses, farmer's markets -  and produce departments piled with fresh fruits and vegetables. Blooming crepe myrtles, flower beds that need watering.  And impromptu trips to the seasonal ice cream stand. Oh, summer, I love you!

Here are a just a few things I am loving this summer - in no particular order:)

1 - Mornings!  I really do not need any new reason to love mornings.  I am, and always have been, a morning person!  And then, in the summer, morning comes so much earlier...and it is glorious!  We have a window directly above our bed.  From a decorating point of view, it is a bit of a nuisance but when the morning sun streams through that window and wakes up the room with light, I am so tickled to have that window there!

2- Netflix.  Although I have had Netflix for awhile, there never was a show that I was "just hooked" on - until this summer.  Then I discovered Call the Midwife.  I've heard others talk so highly about this show but never thought it would interest me, so I decided to see for myself.  I'll admit, it took about three episodes before I was absolutely hooked.  But I was definitely hooked.  As with books, I had to watch the series in order and I watch about two episodes a week but I think I'm actually nearing the end - nooo.  I really look forward to each new episode.  I know.  Totally late to the game - but I do like it.

3 - Light dinners.  The comfort foods and crock-pot dinners that cook all day are great during the cooler seasons, but during the summer, dinner is much simpler.  We have much lighter appetites and, admittedly, I have much less motivation to prepare full meals.  We have been enjoying lots of veggies, pasta salads and even more sandwiches that don't require a hot kitchen to prepare.

4 - Coconut and essential oil.  For washing my face.  I never dreamed I would wash my face with oil, but it is wonderful.  A few drops of essential oil (I use tea tree oil) in a small scoop of coconut oil - smells wonderful, removes every bit of my makeup, makes my skin feel so smooth and has noticeably improved the look of my skin.  It is the best.

5 - Devotionals on my Kindle. Not sure if it is the extra hours of morning or just the more relaxed schedule of summer, but I have more time for my Bible reading/study these days.  I have been adding some devotionals/suggested readings to my time and really enjoying them.  Often, I start a devotional and then find I don't use it or enjoy it (one reason I don't ever buy them) but this summer, I have come across several that have been great.  I am also slow to embracing my e-reader but it is almost a constant companion these days!  These early summer mornings spent in the word have been extra sweet this year.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Learning to Choose Joy

If you want to learn to swim, you have to get in the water.  You can sit by the pool and dream about swimming...you can even flop on your bed and practice your breaststroke to perfection, but unless you get in the water - it's not swimming.

We've all heard the saying, "don't pray for patience!"  Why?  Because we can read, study and have all the head knowledge we want about patience but until we go through situations or circumstances that demand patience, we will never truly develop that wonderful fruit of the spirit known as patience.

So, I suppose the past few days that I have had all began when I asked the Lord to teach me more about joy.  More about choosing joy - even when circumstances are less than joyful.  The Bible tells us to "count it all joy" and I believe that Christians can choose joy - even on difficult days, during heart heavy and weary days.  But I also know that, more often than not, I choose to live defeated by my emotions.  So, I asked the Lord to help me.

Much like learning swim skills in the safety of the bedroom, I am not going to learn to make the deliberate choice to have joy - on nothing by "bright blue sky" days!  Surprisingly, these past few days have been anything but sunny and blue.  What a week!  But God is teaching, refining and helping.  He is so very faithful to teach us when we ask.  I hope to share some of what I have learned in some upcoming posts.

In the meantime, I will press on - and choose joy!!

Friday, July 14, 2017

Letters from Home

I'm joining the Five Minute Friday again today.  Writing for five minutes - unedited and, largely, rehearsed. (I do have to collect my thoughts!)  It's a challenge but it's fun, and the prompt for today is: Comfort.


As I read my devotions this morning, there it is was...comfort.  Ephesians 6:22 - Paul promised to send his beloved brother and co-laborer to the church gathered in Ephesus that "he might comfort" their hearts. Comfort:  to strengthen the mind; to give vigor to the spirit; to cheer."  Paul, even in his distress and deep trial, wanted to comfort those he cared for so deeply and that loved him as well.

There are so many ways we can come alongside and be a comforter to others.  Definitely longer than a five-minute post but one way, in particular, stands out to me this morning - keeping in touch with missionaries on the field.  Emails, real letters, care packages and even texts....that simple connection from home....all do so much to emotionally encourage, mentally strengthen, to refresh and to cheer. To comfort.

TIME'S UP  (so soon???)  Let me wrap this up:

Last year, while discussing ways to support foreign missionaries, a missions director, who oversees hundreds of full-time missionaries, told me the number one reason for missionaries leaving the field, other than for health reasons, is the discouragement of the wife.  It's hard.  It's lonely.  It can be emotionally and spiritually depleting.  I suppose, unless you've actually been on the field, it is impossible to appreciate all that a missionary wife experiences.  Having someone become a Tychicus could make just the difference a discouraged wife needs.

Ephesians 6: 21-22  "But that ye also may know my affairs, and how I do, Tychicus, a beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord, shall make known to you all things:  Whom I have sent unto you for the same purpose, that ye might know our affairs, and that he might comfort your hearts." 

What a privilege it would be to be a comforter - an encourager -  to someone on the mission field! Some thoughts:

* Keep in touch and up to date with what is going on - in her home and in the ministry.  When you write, you can talk specifically about family celebrations, events happening in the ministry and even struggles taking place.  Asking something like "How was the VBS?  Was Johnny's friend from school able to come?"  connects much more than "Hope all is going well this month."

*Help her stay up to date with what is happening back "home" even if she is not from your home church.  Knowing things that are going on helps alleviate some of the feelings of isolation.

*Whether a single lady or married, remember she is a gal just like you.  Yes, she is in full-time service, and I do greatly admire missionaries, but she gets her feelings hurt, she has crummy (less than spiritual) days and can feel just as inadequate as the rest of us.  Her kids misbehave and, no doubt, she and her husband do not always agree.  Don't expect her to be super-woman.

*And don't get discouraged yourself if she is not able to immediately correspond back to you.  Of course, she might be super busy but it could be she has to make a trip into town just to have internet access.  However she may or may not respond, just continue to be a friend.  That is where the blessing will be for you!!

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Grandma's Recipe Box

While I will never be a food blogger or even have too many recipes to share, after writing Friday's post and reminiscing about my mother and grandmother's cooking....I remembered my treasure.  I'm not a saver and do not have too many keepsakes from days gone by; however, I do have this special wooden box.  It is my grandmother's recipe file.  Just a simple wooden box with a flip top - very practical - yet stuffed to overflowing with recipes clipped from ladies' magazines that date before I was born and, as well, many recipes handwritten by either my grandmother or my mother.  I love seeing their handwriting as much as do the memories that come from reading the recipes!!

Pound cake was a favorite dessert for our families.  My grandmother made her pound cake from scratch.  I even remember cold-oven pound cake.  Always sounded intriguing to me.  My mom had no problem serving Sara Lee pound cake - cut into perfect rectangles out of the signature aluminum pan.  But she always made homemade sauce - a custard, really - that, truly is better than anything I could describe!  Whenever given a choice for dessert, pound cake and custard was a hands-down favorite!

The recipe is as easy as it gets. I can never get mine exactly like hers (her love made all the difference!) but it is still well worth it!!

Sauce for Pound Cake
  2 cups milk
  2-3 eggs, beaten
  4 T sugar
  1 dash salt
  1 t. cornstarch
  1 t. vanilla
Cook over low heat until thick.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Taste to Know

I come from a long line of good cooks.  Great cooks, actually.  My mother.  Her mother.  Aunts and even cousins.  These women regularly put wonderful meals on the table – full of delicious main dishes, abundant side dishes, and always some type of sweet yumminess to finish the meal.  They are Southern cooks and all their dishes are full of flavor and well-seasoned.  It’s this whole seasoning thing, I think, that sets them apart from…well, from cooks like myself.  They can taste and sample as they go and then add just the right pinch of this or a dash more of that to make any recipe just that much better.  I can follow a recipe but when it comes to tweaking and improving, I am just not a natural.  Mom, Grandma and the rest are naturals in the kitchen.  How often I have wished for their gift!

As they taste a dish in the making, all good cooks get excited just anticipating when the meal will be served.  The aromas, the tastes, even the look confirms that everyone gathered around the table is going to enjoy the meal! 

Psalm 34:8  “O taste and see that the LORD is good….”

As sure as a good cook knows everyone is going to enjoy her meal, the Christian who walks in fellowship with the Lord should know His goodness and His faithfulness need to be experienced by others.  There is a hurting, lonely and lost people all around us that simply need us to entice them “to just taste this!” and know that God is so good!!  If they will taste, they too will know.

My life has to be that which makes them hungry for something more than this world has to offer.  More than the bland, tasteless, empty promises that seem to be everywhere.  Just as my mom was confident about her dishes and then excited to serve a meal, I need to be bold to share about my savior because I am confident of His promises and His faithfulness.  My love for Him will be seen as excitement as I love Him and serve others.  How does your life encourage others to taste and see that the LORD is good??

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

My Hometown: the Fourth of July

Happy Fourth of July!!  Such an exciting, fun and, meaningful holiday!  I love everything about today's holiday....except, perhaps, for how pitiful the dog is when the dreaded fireworks just seem to last for hours!  She hates them.  Simply hates them.  I enjoy them - for a bit - but, apparently, folks in my neck of the woods really enjoy their noisemakers.  They have been practicing for days now and, no doubt, they will continue long into the night.

I read a blog post this week about someone's recent family vacation - to the Nation's Capital. She was excited over the museums, the tours (the White House one is pretty cool!), the restaurants....all of it. She really made it sound wonderful.  She even said, given the chance, she would move here in a minute.  Now, that caught my attention.  Washington, DC.....that IS my neck of the woods. I suppose I know folks come here all the time - from all over the world...but I guess I just never think about people wanting to come here.  On vacation.  And, believe me, there might be some here who are just hoping to be here forever.  But, they are far outnumbered by those who are simply counting down the months until they can move.

However - they do know how to put on a rather spectacular Independence Day celebration.  If you live here, you probably do not join the crowds (and the Fourth of July crowd is huge!) - just like you don't often go to the museums or avail yourself to the government tours.  Except when family visits. Then, of course, you can be a tourist with the best of them.  Its funny how much we take for granted many of the things "right outside" our door.  But when "right outside" your door is about 35 miles away and can take almost two hours to get to - unless you time it "just right" - well, the fun just loses its allure.

A few years ago, some friends took us to one of the neighboring military bases for the Fourth.  We set up a picnic on a hill overlooking the city with the absolute best view of the fireworks!  It was such a great afternoon and evening.  We are not military - which makes us part of the minority.  (I've also lived here my entire life which puts me in an even smaller minority.  Lots of military and lots and lots of transplants!)  Getting onto the base for that holiday was a real treat for us!

This year, we plan to spend the afternoon with some friends and watch some local fireworks.  The local governments do a great job, as well, with their displays.  It will be fun just enjoying the summer night with friends.  Grilling.  Eating on paper plates.  Super cold iced tea - unsweet, please.  The always needed bug spray.  I love it all!!  However you plan to celebrate, I hope you have a wonderful holiday!!  God bless America.

Just for the record, the afore-mentioned blogger also said the Nation's Capital was one of the safest places ever to be..and she was told (by an uber-driver!) that you could run at three in the morning and be perfectly safe.  I don't know about that.

Definitely would not advise it.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

A Visit from My Friend

Photo by Karina Carvalho on Unsplash

I met Deb 37 years ago.  Thirty-seven.  How can that be?  It was sometime during my very first, very emotionally tenuous, 48 hours of college dorm life.  I was so out of my element and, although surrounded by freshmen just like me (and plenty of seemingly self-confident upper class men), I felt completely alone.  Somewhere in the busyness of meeting the other girls that would make my "home" for the next months, I met Deb.  And, as Anne Shirley would say, she was my bosom friend.  A genuine kindred spirit.

I survived that year because of Deb.  That friendship helped to mold me - and continues to do so thirty-seven years later.  Deb has known the good, the bad and the downright ugly that is me. Sadly, those early post high school years were among the worst for me.  But Deb's friendship was a constant.  What a gift!

Deb came for a visit this past weekend.  It has been over two years since we were last together.  But it seems we can pick up right where we took a breath in our last conversation...and, then, full steam ahead with new chats, new laughs and new memories.

We saw the Sound of Music at the Kennedy Center.  The acting was good and the Von Trapp children were adorable but not all movies translate "just as wonderful" to the stage.  The songs and the singing were fantastic!  Truly they were - its just hard to walk in the footsteps of Julie Andrews!  We wandered the cobble-stone streets of Old Towne, then took a water taxi to National Harbor.  So many restaurants and not enough time.  No, that is not us in the top photo.

Here is our shot of the Harbor's ferris wheel.  We were standing on a nearby pier overlooking the Chesapeake - where the ferris wheel certainly did not look that far away - trying to decide if we needed one more view of the harbor.  We were content to keep our feet on the ground.  Such a wonderful weekend.  The special ones go by so quickly - but I've replenished my store of memories and refreshed my soul....enough to hold me until our next visit. - which we promised would not be another two years from now!!

One more Anne Shirley quote (she is a gem):
                            "True friends are always together in spirit."

Friday, June 23, 2017

Lessons from my friend - Steady

I really enjoyed Five Minute Friday last week...so I thought I would try it again this week.  You can read more about FMF here.  And this week's prompt is STEADY.

Ready.  Set. Go.

One of my richest blessings is knowing my senior friend – and spending time with her.  She loves to share conversation over some Panera soup and half a sandwich.  She enjoys wandering the aisles at a local department store – looking for a new top that makes her feel pretty.  And she is most happy if you have “just a few minutes” to come in for visit when you return home after an afternoon out – after already “visiting” for hours.  She will retell her favorite stories and memories - full from a life that has known almost 90 years - as if she were sharing them for the first time.  And we will laugh at the funny parts and tear at the sad ones just like we have every time she shares the story.

Any opportunity to spend time with her is a genuine joy.

Her eyesight is limited – and that is bothersome to her.  A fall from several years ago has taken some of her confidence and can, occasionally, make her unsteady on her feet.  So, without even thinking about it, when we leave the house and walk down the steps…or when we walk across a parking lot or navigate crowded stores, I take her arm.  I make sure she is steady.  Her arm on my steady arm gives her strength and a calm self-assurance.

Oh, but the real blessing is her smooth hand that rests on my arm.  Her poise, even though relying on another, is felt and is reflected in her life.  For many decades, she has experienced, lived and learned much.  She has known much joy but, equally, much sorrow, loss and heartache.  But her testimony is precious.  Just as willing as she is to rely on a friend, she leans on her Lord and allows Him to direct her paths.  He keeps her steady.  And she is teaching me how to do the same.

Note to self:  Five minutes goes by fast.  Goodness.  

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

A Bucket List for Summer

Tomorrow is, officially, the first day of summer! It has pretty much felt like summer in my neck of the woods for about two weeks now but if the calendar is going to make it official, I think today would be a good time to get my summer bucket list down in writing.  Maybe putting it in words will keep me just a bit more focused - those hazy days of summer are quick to affect my thinking (and motivation) if I'm not careful!

This time last year, at the very start of summer, I was headed here......to Samoa!  What a wonderful gift from the Lord that trip was and how it continues to impact me even now.  It seems impossible that it was an entire twelve months ago!

Unfortunately, nothing quite so life-altering this summer (next year - I am praying!!) but I still want to enjoy these warm, sun-drenched months to the fullest.  Just a few things I want to make happen:

1 - I really want to find the perfect smoothie.  For me.  And not just the ones from Tropical Smoothie.  Whirling some frozen fruits together in a blender just cannot be that hard but the ones I make at home always seem to be okay.  Just okay.  I saw one that looked like a real contender today here.  It was simply fruit and a very little water.  Imagine that - I usually start with almond milk or something similar.  Hmm.  I also want to experiment with dairy and/or gluten free desserts.  This is something completely new for me but comes on the advice of my doctor.  The very first look around, I came across this idea - dairy free, gluten free and sugar free.  For the win!

2 - I recently started taking clarinet lessons.  After two short-term missions trip, I am hoping to make myself more prepared to help out during a service or special program while abroad.  I (sorta, in a very rusty way) play the piano - but you cannot take a piano with you overseas:)  Somehow, I thought reading music and having played the piano somewhere in my past would have made learning the clarinet easier.  I was wrong.  It is much trickier than I thought and, honestly, this middle-aged woman wants to say, "good try" and put the clarinet away.  However, I am going to stick with it all summer - and then we will see.  There, I put it in words and now I am accountable!

3 - I really enjoy essential oils.  I use my oils every day.  But I would like to do more.  I would like to
make things with my oils.  For example, just for starters, my own moisturizer.  I wash my face with my oils and I love it, so moisturizer seems like the perfect place to begin.  I've been wanting to do this for awhile and this summer, I am going to make it happen.  I would love ideas for ways to use essential oils - more than diffusing and topical applications.

4 - We have vacation plans but not until September; however, we would like go away for a couple long weekends.  Not far - but just a change of scenery and a chance to explore new streets, relax and read a book (see #5) and search for a great new restaurant.  I want to plan two get-aways.

5 - I probably have ten (maybe a few more!) half-read books on my tablet.  None of them are bad, per se, but none have really pulled me in.  But I hate having them unfinished.  I need to delete them - or, better yet, read them.  I want to finish, at least, three this summer.  They don't have to be deep.  Nor do they all have to easy mysteries. They just need to be read.

6 - I want to paint my toes something totally unpredictable!  I always have my toes painted but, I'm thinking, something just a bit more....fun:) will be great for the summer!

Summer might just be my favorite season.  It could be a tie with another favorite.  They are all special but, for now, I  am looking forward to the next few months!

Friday, June 16, 2017

Something New: Five Minute Friday (FMF) - Worth

I recently found a community of bloggers and link-up - Five Minute Friday - and I've enjoyed reading posts and finding new bloggers.  And so, I thought I would join by giving Five Minute Friday a try for myself.  The idea seems simple enough:  each Friday there is a new prompt and, according to the instructions, you "free write, which means: no editing, no over-thinking, no worrying about perfect grammar or punctuation" for exactly five minutes.  When the timer goes off, you're done.  Yes, there is a bit of new-blogger anxiety - not to mention, the whole forget perfect grammar and punctuation angst, but I'm going to give it a try.  All the details can be found here.  This week's prompt is Worth.

Timer is set.  Ready.  

Worth your salt.  I learned the meaning of this saying during Wednesday evening's service.  Roman soldiers were often paid with salt - and were happy for it.  If a soldier did not do his best, it could be said of him that "he was not worth his salt."  Interesting fact.  I remember that piece of trivia as well as much more from that message.  It was one of those that stick with you.  

Yes, another message about being salt and light.  We have probably heard more than a few sermons about one of Jesus' best analogies.  But this particular sermon went deeper.  We know we are to be light and salt.  No doubt, we genuinely want to be the light and salt this world desperately needs us to be - but, how?  How do we go about it?

Wednesday we learned some of the most common ways believers try to be salt - ways that I can identify with - but, honestly, are not that effective.

Time is up.  OK - well, that was much more challenging than I thought.  Definitely challenging.  I think I have about a half of a post there.  Perhaps I can finish those thoughts later.  But, for now, I am going to stick to the FMF and simply post what I have.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Lesson Learned: The Necklace

The necklace was, actually, just the beginning of the trouble.  And, no, it wasn't this necklace but that was just too cute not to include!

I enjoy essential oils.  I have genuinely benefited from essential oils and I use them often.  I really like to diffuse them.  At Christmas, I received a diffuser necklace as a gift and I have really enjoyed one more way to use my oils regularly.

Apparently, I am also a true sucker for YouTube, Pinterest and the like.  No doubt, I should know better - much better - but I just seem to be "that girl."  The one reorganizing my pantry, making my own taco seasoning and trying to decide if it really is possible to live with a 10-item wardrobe.  Not that I was necessarily unhappy with the state of my pantry to begin with - but, YouTube made me do it.  So, when I saw someone mention lava rock necklaces that can diffuse your essential oils....well, I was intrigued.  More than intrigued.  In fact, just a week later when I saw the cutest lava rock necklaces in a store while on vacation - I was first in line to buy my very own.  After paying, I stepped to the side of the register, pulled out an oil, applied it to the lava rock and excitedly hung it around my neck.

It was less than five minutes before several people got my attention to let me know my pretty colored lava beads were creating a oily, drippy rainbow down my neck - soon to be all over my white shirt. Thank you, friends.  I should have learned my lesson right then.  Again.  But, I didn't let it go quite that quickly.

The cashier seemed genuinely concerned with such a faulty product but was helpless to really do anything to rectify the problem.  She directed me to the owner who was working in the back of the store.  Here is the real problem.  The entire time I was headed to the rear of the store, that "still small voice" was trying to get my attention.  But, I was not going to be rude or demanding.  I simply wanted her to know the situation.  So, I said inside.  Not only was she not concerned, she plainly told me it was not her problem.

And then, I was annoyed.  My friends were waiting for me at the front of the store, as was the cashier and several other very curious customers at this point.  I really needed to check my attitude.  I wanted to have the right response. Actually, I knew I should just say nothing.  Without question, I knew He wanted me to say nothing.

But, I did not.  I made comment that I had wasted my money.  It sounded innocent enough.  It seemed innocuous.  But I knew.  Knew I had failed to listen.  And, just that easy, my heart was grieved - over much more than a necklace.

I was able to "make things right" with the Holy Spirit.  I even saw one of the ladies in the store at a restaurant the next day and was able to apologize for my comment.  I'm sure she still doesn't understand the need for that apology.  But for most, that was the only time I will ever encounter any of them.    Whatever my testimony.  Whatever impact I may or may not have made.  I had one chance - one opportunity.  And, I missed it.

I pray, this time, the lesson has been learned.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Remember. Be Grateful. May 2017

Certainly one of the goals of this blog is to intentionally remember God's goodness.  How easy it is to get caught in the routine of life and, before you know it, another week has gone by - or, just as quickly, an entire month comes to an end.  I believe, as Christians, we genuinely want to be grateful and we want to thank the Lord - to praise Him - for His many gifts; yet, so often we just don't.  I know I'm guilty.

So, I want to look back over the month and see what God has done.  And not only remember - but to be grateful and to thank Him!  May was a mile-stone, of sorts, month for me.  Last week was my last day at work.  I have had the privilege of working at my church, and its Christian academy, for the last six years.

I worked there before Tyler became sick - until we had to begin homeschooling.  A few years after he died and I was emerging from the cocoon of grief, I found myself with too many empty hours on my hand.  I thought it would be wonderful to return to work - but my position had long since been filled and staff openings just did not become available often.

But God.

He knew exactly which position I needed.  The hours I could handle.  And where I could best serve.  He knew it all - even before I approached my pastor.  My new position was perfect for me.  And it has been a blessing for these past years.  My co-workers (who gave me the beautiful flowers), my part in the ministry, all of it.  I will certainly miss it.

So, why would I leave?  Without hesitation, I know God has told me it is time for a change.  Admittedly, I do not know all that involves or all that the future holds - but I am excited to found out.  To walk the future path where He leads - and I am confident the next "phase" ahead will be just as perfect as the past six years.

Thank you, Lord, for my church, my ministries there (which I will continue), my pastor and co-workers and for the years I was able to work there.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

A Time to Blog

Journaling is hard - or at least hard for me.  I love words - LOVE words.....and I love (also LOVE) to write - but something about journaling my own thoughts and opinions has never come easy.  Write a poem - can do.  Write a story - got that too.  Even an essay or term paper....yes, boring, but I can write that too.  But the whole sharing your heart always seems to stump me.  Nevertheless, I want to write.

There is so much that goes through this brain of mine...thoughts and ideas (good ones and lame ones), things that pluck my nerves and others that make my heart swell.  Honestly, God is so good to me.  I feel so blessed and know that He is constantly teaching me, molding me...reminding me.  But there is the problem, I just cannot remember it all.  At least, not all at the same time.  I want to remember - remember the blessings, the good ideas, that whisper from God - I want to remember all of it and the only way I can do that is to write it down!

What can a girl with a heart overflowing do?  Well, blog.  Of course.  And, maybe - just maybe - in the process of my writing down thoughts or inspirations, recording events (wow! or simply every day) and capturing on paper the lessons learned that I hope will continue to effect me...well, maybe they will be an encouragement to someone else along the say.  Most of all, I pray they will be a reflection of God's goodness.

So, let the blog begin (again).