Tuesday, February 27, 2018

The Flu, Hints of Spring and A Lesson Learned

Colonial Williamsburg
Time to look back at February.  This shortest month of the year has been "long" for me.  I think the flu is to blame.  The month started off with our being able to visit with our family from Florida.  They were traveling for a school field trip and we met up with them.  It has been over five years since our last visit, so it was especially nice to be together again.  I started feeling "less than my best" while I was away.  Then the flu officially "hit" when I got home. 

A new Bible study started at church.  I said "yes" to an opportunity where I would normally say "no" - trying to stretch myself! - and I also saw God open a wonderful door for me.  I hope to share more about that later.  And, in the meantime, I got rid of the flu.....only to have it return.  Twice.  Goodness.

I am looking forward to a fresh month - and, hopefully, spring.  I was downtown (that's DC around here) today - and the forsythia is already blooming!  Nothing speaks spring - and joy! - to my heart like the first yellow blooms of the season.  The predictable routine of nature is a smile to my soul and a perfect picture of God's faithfulness.

One lesson learned this month.  A week or so ago, the FMF prompt was "Why."  I was not able to post that Friday (um...the flu??!) but I pondered that thought and prayed over it several times.  For most of my life, I never asked God, "why?"  About anything.  I always thought it was arrogant and, in some way, even offensive to an always sovereign God.  I've been told as much, as well, along the way.  Who am I to question God?

And, while I would never suggest shaking a fist and demanding God explain Himself to me...I do not believe my Heavenly father is offended when my feeble heart just cannot make sense of things.  When my heart is crushed and broken.  When my dream is shattered.  When circumstances appear senseless, useless or all hope seems to be lost.  When I humble myself before Him and wonder "why?"....He is a loving Heavenly father that knows my heart and longs to comfort, help and heal.

Any parent of a toddler knows "the game" of why!  A question is asked, the answer is given, only to responded to with why?  And the whys continue - until the adult finally says something similar to "just because."  No need for further explanation.  And the child confidently accepts whatever great mystery of moment - simply because they trust.  In the same way, God may reveal some of the answers.  Other times, He gently answers with a "just because" but I can trust Him with confidence just as my toddler did.  That truth brought me comfort this month.  I am not a weak person or a faithless Christian when I feel overwhelmed.  I am human.  And my Heavenly Father knows me. Knows my heart.  He patiently loves me and I can trust Him.

Friday, February 23, 2018

Mom's Influence

If I heard my mom say them once, I heard it, at least, 100 times......

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, or (her favorite)

Pretty is as pretty does

They may have been her motto.  Or, perhaps, a motto she hoped for me.  It was her repeated attempt to shift my focus from the external - and all that I so often found lacking - to the internal.  And, yes...Mom was right.  And, yes, with each passing year, I become more and more my mother.  But it has been a slow learn, to be sure, and even in this phase of life.....this distorted focus can trip me up.  Rob my joy - making me feel "less than," unqualified and defeated.

Godly character is beautiful.  It outdoes any lipstick, cute hair-cut or the "perfect" figure.  I like all the pretty things and try to look my best. Totally not against cute hair-cuts or make-up.  But character shines past all of it.  It pleases the heart of my savior and it is noticed by others.  "Hmm - something about her.  She is just so pretty."   All of us have seen it before.  The radiance of godly character.  That is "pretty is as pretty does." I want to remember Mom's words.  And her character.  She was beautiful.  (STOP)

Today's FMF prompt - beautiful.  Character can, and should, be beautiful.  So are manners.  And everyday acts of love.  Unselfishness.  And family.  When I was sick, I was reminded of all of this.  This haven I call home is a beautiful blessing.  When so very much around us is not only ugly but just plain evil, we can miss the beauty that is around us.  There were so many ways to look at this week's prompt!  I look forward to seeing what the others have to say.  You, too, can check it out here.  Have a beautiful weekend:)

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Grateful in the Weary Days

Another Friday gone and another FMF missed.  Disappointing.  I enjoy the challenge of the FMF prompts and I enjoy the community of FMF.  I really enjoy blogging, actually, and do not like to miss posting.  But life.  Or, life with the flu.  This struggle with the flu has been going on for almost two weeks.  But, today is a new day.  A fresh day and a beautiful one, too!  Before this day gets away from me, just a quick post to remember the blessings that were mine - even when I felt tired, ill, weary and, at times, discouraged.

In the order of total randomness (that is my mind), I am thankful for:

- a very faithful, and very patient husband....my partner in this life.  The past days have been quiet, mundane, cough infested and slow.  How comforting it is to have him willingly ride out these long days close by.  And thanks for all the grilled cheese.  Comfort food at its finest.

- essential oils...but for my OTC remedies as well.  All of it has its place and helps in some way.

- snow on Saturday.  If you are going to be snuggled under an afghan on the couch, snow outside is pretty much the perfect weather.  The cozy of it all just helps calm your sick-weary soul!

- and, now, three days later....it is 78 degrees!  Go figure.  But perfect for throwing open all the windows and airing this house out!!  Blissful!

- this phase of life.  I'm constantly being reminded of the joys it included.  This is the first time being sick without of the pressure of missing work, keeping up with the children, etc. etc.  I could literally rest all day without worry.  This is a blessing not to take lightly.

- extra time for Bible memory.  Feeling my worst was not the time for in-depth Bible study or even extra reading.  Not like I imagine it would be if "I had a day to lay on the couch."  Or seven.  But going over verses to commit to memory....that I could do.  And, I did.

- insurance

- healing.  After you have had cancer, you go through a time when every sneeze can rattle your nerves and make you wonder if the cancer has returned.  I know that dread.  But I think that God has (lovingly and patiently) brought me through that season.   It was very evident to me these last couple weeks and, for that, I want to thank Him.  Also, even on the days when I felt the lousiest, I knew I only had the flu and the flu would go away.  Eventually.  I am reminded that God did heal me - and I praise Him - and I know many who do deal with long-term illness.  Every day.  Often, without end in sight.  I pray for each of them.

Not to end this post on a dreary note.  Much more of praise to the Lord for His mercies new every morning.  Now....outside to soak in all the Vitamin D possible.  There could be a blizzard by Friday!??!

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

The Backbone of Privilege

My brother had been driving less than a year when my father allowed him to use the car one evening.  I think he was going to a high school football game (the details are fuzzy as it was quite a while ago!) and he was going to drive some friends home afterward.  While trying to adjust the radio dial (like I said, quite a while ago....), he forgot about the road.  And drove straight into a ditch. Thankfully, no one was hurt.
The damage to the car was much less than it could have been.  But the extent of the
consequences does not diminish the lesson.

 My brother had been given a privilege - but he forgot the responsibility.  Privilege always comes with responsibility.

Privilege - a special right or favor given.  Privilege can come on a large scale... how we identify ourselves.  It may come from a smaller group....maybe in your workplace or your ministry.  Privilege is also very personal - specific to each of us individually.  As a Christian, we are blessed beyond measured and enjoy special favor from a Heavenly Father that loves us more than we can comprehend.  No matter the type of privilege or "special favor" we enjoy, each one comes with responsibility.

For instance, I feel privileged to be an American....and I have the responsibility to be a good citizen.  I am also privileged to serve in the women's ministry at my church...and I have responsibilities associated with it.  There are responsibilities because I am privileged to be a wife, a mother, a friend, etc.  How easy it is to confuse our privileges with our rights.  Just as a naive teenage driver assumes he has a right to drive simply because he has a license, it is immature for any of us to assume our blessings are rights.

Two quick thoughts for maintaining perspective:

1 - Focus on the responsibility....not the privilege.  If we are diligent to serve wherever we can -  and whomever we can - our privileges become a gift, and not a right.  The joy is also found in the responsibility and not simply the privilege.  Privileges can always come to an end. (I'm pretty sure my brother found that out soon after my father's car was pulled from the ditch.)  Finding the joy in the responsibility helps us not to take blessings for granted.

2 - Gratitude.  Purposefully taking note of and then giving thanks for our blessings is one of the easiest ways to prevent them from becoming our rights.  The shift in our mental focus might be slight but deliberately voicing (and showing) appreciation for the privileges that are ours really does make all the difference.

Like you, I am so very privileged and blessed more than I could ever deserve.  I just want to thank the Lord, publicly here on my blog, for all His richness to me.  We have an enemy that wants to rob the joy and wants to derail us mentally, emotionally and any other way he can.  But with gratitude and the proper focus, we will not simply enjoy....but abundantly enjoy all He has given and done for us!!

John 10:10 ".....that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly."

Friday, February 9, 2018

An Easy Valentine Treat

A bit of a different Friday here.  No Five Minute Friday (I am actually out of town and not able to join the fun once the prompt is announced).  But I did want to share a quick look at something I put together this week.  I totally cannot take credit for this - but found the inspiration on YouTube.  Patty, at Life on Lemon Lane, has the sweetest content and is super creative and talented.  Me.  Not so much.  However, many of her projects of super easy and even for someone with minimal craft talents.

All of the materials were from the dollar store and the whole project took about thirty minutes to put together.  We are having a Ladies Night Out next week at church and I put these together for the prizes after the game.  They would also be great for those you work alongside in the ministry, neighbors, friends or simply random gifts of niceness!  The complete instructions and video can be found on Patty's blog.  She will inspire you :)

Inside my mugs, I put a hot cocoa packet, some Milano cookies and a few chocolates.

And....all ready to go! 
Have a "sweet" weekend! 

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Two Ways To Love Our Family - No Chocolate Needed

Mention Valentine's Day and you will get a variety of responses.  Some love it.  Others tolerate it while others think it is silly, a waste of money or just dumb.  Whatever the opinion, it seems feelings about February 14th are very strong indeed.  Whether you enjoy chocolates, cute cards or heart-shaped anything, love seems to be in the air during February....or, at least, the idea of it.  As Christians, we are supposed to love - everyone from our neighbors to our enemies - and to show love in order to reflect Christ's love for us.  With that idea (and, yes with Valentine's Day as well) on my mind, I have been considering my display of love for those I love the most - my family.  Sometimes we can be guilty of so consciously working to love our neighbors and the world around us, that those closest to us almost seem overlooked.  Or even forgotten.

Here are two ideas for loving the ones you call family - that do not even require a valentine! 

1.  Give Them Your Best - Not Your Leftovers

How often do we "hit the ground running" in the morning - with our energy, thoughts and focus on everything, and everyone, else other than those we love?   We go and give of ourselves to others all day and then return home "done" - depleted and drained.  Our spouses...our children...our family - they get whatever might be leftover at the end of the day.  Leftover energy.  Leftover sweet attitude.  Leftover effort.  This can happen whether you leave the house or hustle at home all day.

When my children were young, this scenario played out at our house more than just a couple times.  I would be tired or aggravated and everyone knew it from my poor attitude.  Until the phone would ring.  I would pick up the phone (which was attached to the wall, by the way!) and answer with, simply, the sweetest hello.  My children jokingly called it my "telephone voice".....but it wasn't funny.  Why could I muster up kindness, even patience, for a telemarketer but not for my children?

Yes, our homes are a haven where we can relax - even decompress - but not at the expense of loving our family.   I want to serve my husband - be my best and give my best - and then, with the time and energy left, seek to show love to others.

2.  Appreciate Their Differences

If you met my brother and me, it would not be hard to see we are related.  We share enough physical traits, to be sure.  There are other similarities as well. (We both hate raw tomatoes and we sneeze after just about every meal.  Go figure.)  But there are also plenty of differences.  We have different thoughts and opinions on everything from finances to raising children to favorite restaurants.  We certainly have different worldviews and, ahem, political opinions.  In many ways, "different as night and day" suits us perfectly.  I can say similar things about my own three children. Or about my cousins.  Or even sets of grandparents.  Each member is unique but the one common thread of being related - we are family.

Instead of allowing differences to distance you or to cause tension - even constant friction - how much better to appreciate what makes each member of the family special.  The hobbies you could never imagine trying, and certainly not enjoying, make for great stories.  The opinions so opposite of yours can challenge, even strengthen, your own but might also help you understand differing viewpoints.

When my son died, all of us grieved.  Obviously.  But we each grieved differently.  Uniquely.  Those differences have been, at times, challenging but also have been helpful.  No matter the differences, though, we have all greived together.  As a family.  Some differences are not quite as complicated.  This past Thanksgiving, I finally began to embrace all of our (very) different eating styles and tastes.  There were plenty of times, I allowed the differences to irritate and even dampen an entire special event.  Appreciating individuality made a huge impact.  It also expressed love.

I don't anticipate a day of chocolate hearts or pink roses next week - but I do hope to show my family how very much I love them.  Donuts with sprinkles would only help.  Right?!

Friday, February 2, 2018

Being Agreeable When I Disagree

Agree to disagree used to be helpful.  Congenial, even.  Not simply acknowledging a difference of opinions but it came with the idea of "putting aside" those differences for the sake of unity.  For peaceful living.  What seems to motivate many (individuals, groups, whole camps) today is truly disagreeing.  Even if there's common ground to be found, it is the disagreeing points that become the focus, the agenda and, often, where many find their identity. 

It can be draining.  For the non-confrontational ones, it can make you want to retreat and hibernate inside....much the same way these howling winter winds do!  What is a Christian to do?  Two (very quick) thoughts.

Ephesians 4:3   "Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace."   Where we are able...we need to be the influence for peace.  This atmosphere of constant division and disagreement - for the sake of argument - should not permeate our church, our Bible study, our fellowship groups and certainly not into our homes.  We can share different opinions and still love another.  We can get along and celebrate - focus on - common goals.  Especially in our homes, we often have the greatest influence to set the tone and mood.  Let's create calm retreats from the bickering world around us!

Matthew 5:16a   "Let your light so shine before men..."  There are plenty of places where we have much less influence.  Nevertheless, we are called upon to be a reflection of Christ - to offer peace, love for others, patience and forbearance (even with those with whom we do not agree).  It is not always easy but we are to do our part to make a difference.  Ask God to help you shine before all those you interact with each day...and then recharge in the safe haven at home each evening!

These were my quick (five-minute) thoughts this morning on the prompt:  Agree.  Join the others at Five Minute Friday....and have a peace-filled weekend.