Tuesday, August 29, 2017

A Look Back at August: Little Letters

Hard to believe, but this is my last post in August!  Another month - finished.
Just like that, summer is almost gone.  I thought I would look back at the events and blessings of this month in a new (to me) and kinda fun way....with "little letters"!

Dear kitchen cabinets.  You just make me smile with your fresh coat of paint and totally new look.  I knew I would love the change and always imagined what painted cabinets would do for the kitchen, but really never thought it would be in the budget or would actually happen.  But, there you are every morning - in all your creamy (off white-ish) prettiness - just making me smile!  Welcome to our kitchen and I hope you are here for many years to come!

Dear TJ.  Thanks for making the cabinets so pretty!  It was a long six days - at least, they seemed long to me - but you did a great job!!

Dear brother of mine.  So glad we were able to help celebrate your birthday.  Dinner was great and you were so happy (life is treating you well!) and any evening spending time with you is a blessing. Being your sister is a blessing!  Praying the next year ahead is full of special days for you.

Dear Carrabbas. You rarely disappoint and our visit this month was no exception.  You were the
perfect place to visit with our South Dakota buddies - we are always happy for the chance to see them again! - and your server worked hard to handle our large group!  Thanks a bunch!

Dear Sam.  Kudos for handling that cross country trip (South Dakota to South Carolina!) like a champ!  Praying your freshman year is a great one.  Don't forget....phone home.  Text.  Skype. Whatever...but your mom wants to hear from you.  Just sayin.

Dear August humidity.  You just about ruined my attitude this month.  I love summer.  Love it.  And it was going great until two weeks into August and you were relentless.  Thank you for making your worst days short-lived - but you were intense.

Dear fall-like weather.  Welcome!  Please stay.

Dear Tribute residents.  What fun you are - and how blessed I am to join you each week.  As a new volunteer, I am just getting to know each of you but, already, I have had a great time: many of laughs, good conversations, fun outings and too much food!  Thanks for welcoming me into your home and into your activities.  I already look forward to visiting each week.

Dear Courtney.  Thanks for a second great haircut.  Two in a row - this is something rare for me. Dare I hope that I have actually found a stylist that I can depend on and I will visit for more than four cuts??  How exciting.  The fact that I didn't cut my own hair in between visits says much - and is my highest compliment.

Dear church family.  This has been a history-making month for our church....in a good way. We all know change can be tricky - if not hard.  But God is really working and blessing.  I hope we will be excited for our preacher, as he retires, and that we will encourage and support our new pastor in every way that we can.

Dear September.  Come on in - and welcome!  I am looking forward to you and all the fun things I have planned while you are here...birthdays, our anniversary, a wedding, vacation - just to get me excited. Yes, I will miss summer but I'm ready for you September.

Friday, August 25, 2017

A Guide

Five Minute Friday - a sweet community of writers that take a prompt and write (largely) unedited for five minutes.  To learn more about it or to find the other writers, go here.  Whether you are a writer or simply want to ponder...the prompt this week is GUIDE.


My visits to a local assisted-living home are the highlight of my week.  I love the sense of community, the activities we share and I love the seniors who live there.  I especially enjoy the pace of life there - not only the pace at which we enjoy each other's company but at which we do just about everything.  Slow and steady.  As we move from one spot to another, I fall into step beside a resident. We talk easily as I help her navigate the hallways - watching for anything that might trip her walker and ensuring she finds the right path to her destination.  These walks bring me joy.  For a senior friend, they are reassuring, a help and, I think, a joy as well.  (There are certainly plenty of smiles!)

Wouldn't we all benefit from such a guide?  Someone that will come alongside us - to share the journey.  To keep us on the right path and headed in the right direction.  Someone watching for anything that might trip us or cause us to fall.  Someone who wants to help guide us through life, not for any gain or reward of their own, but simply because they care.  Surely, we would.


Tuesday, August 22, 2017

The Trouble with Over-scheduling

All of the schools in my area have either already returned to classes or they begin next week. It is officially "back to school" time and, in a sense, the end of summer.  The temperatures are still very much summer but the relaxed schedules and carefree (dare I say, lazy) days of summer are gone for another year.  And it really seems that everyone is already full-speed ahead into the hyper-scheduled, full day of commitments, feeling the stress mode that back to school seems to bring - even those who no longer have kids in school!

I am a schedule kind of a girl.  I thrive on an organized routine.  However, I think there is a nugget of wisdom in holding onto a bit of the carefree summer mindset.  Too often, we hold up our over-stuffed, color coordinated planners - with every line, every hour carefully accounted for - as badges of honor as if crazy schedules will prove we are good mothers, efficient wives and/or super productive women.  In reality, the bulging planners just show we are busy.

And there is much to be missed when we are over-scheduled.  The unplanned fun of playing with our children.  The impromptu coffee break with a girlfriend.  Simply soaking in creation on an extra long walk with the dog. Finding yourself completely absorbed in your devotional time that a whole hour slips away before you even realize it.  Learning about a need - a neighbor needs a babysitter or a coworker needs a meal - and having the time to not only meet the need but not feel stressed while doing it.

We so often allow ourselves the time to do these things during summer - and even look forward to them.  But once back to school season begins, there is a shift in our thinking that affects our time and, very often, robs us of blessings. And that's a shame. I'm certainly not tossing my schedule out the window - but I do want to keep it fluid and do my planning with more of the carefree attitude of summer.

Friday, August 18, 2017

...And Five Things I'm Not!

After listing five things that I consider myself pretty good at....it is only fair to document some of those things that - well, I just don't do well.  The things that keep me banging my head against the wall.  And that keep me humble.  I'll start with the proverbial elephant in the room.

ONE - losing weight.  I really hate to even bring it up but it isn't for lack of knowledge, motivation or even 100 new month/fresh Monday beginnings.   But I haven't lost a pound in years.  Let's just chalk it up to something I'm not good at doing.  I'm sure there are a two, three, or ten other (true) excuses but this just sounds better.  Moving on.

TWO - exercise.  See number one.  I'm not athletic and I pretty much hate to sweat - both of which make exercising loathsome.  I totally admit moving, stretching and burning calories is not only necessary but is also even good for me.  And, much like losing weight, I do make numerous attempts at starting.  It is the sticking with it, pushing through and disregarding the sweat (uhg!) that derails me. Every time.

THREE - ironing.  I made reference to this in the previous post when I said I would rather sort, file and organize rather than iron.  Actually, I can find absolutely anything, on any given day, to do in order to put off ironing. Absolutely the worst chore.  Ever.  My attitude, no doubt, completely affects my efforts...and explains my husband's wrinkled shirts!

I have to admit...the more I type this post, the more I'm shaking my head. Why did I think this was a good idea??  Just two more - 

FOUR - any type of poker face.  I can usually bite my tongue and, with the Holy Spirit's help, I try hard to remember that my opinion does not always need to be shared.  The problem is - even with my mouth closed, my face (and body language) usually give me away. This is something I need to work much harder on - not the poker face but the bad attitude behind it.  Simply holding in words is not really the answer.

FIVE - memorization.  I have a real desire to hide God's word in my heart...to have verses saturating my thoughts, to be able to meditate on them and, as well, to easily recall them when situations and circumstances depend on it.  Not only is allowing His word to permeate my thoughts a blessing and a joy, it is vital.  Memorizing scripture does not come easy but I do not want that to ever become a reason to stop.  Actually, I do not ever want the challenge of something to be used as an excuse. Whether it be dieting, exercising, memorizing, stepping out of my comfort zone, following God's path or any number of things...I want to persevere, keeping trying and begin again wherever I may have failed or quit.

So, no doubt about it, there is plenty that I am not good at doing.  Perhaps it is a good exercise to examine those, and then continue working to do them better.  If you have a thought, a method or tool that helps you with verse memorization, please share it.  I am always looking for new ideas!

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.

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?