Foundations

Every chance I get, I tell people of the foundation of faith, family, and love on which my parents built their lives. That, in turn, set such a wonderful example for their children and from there, their grandchildren.

I went to stay with them for a couple of weeks a while back as my dad was preparing to begin his journey of treatment for stomach cancer. That treatment consisted of rigorous and brutal chemotherapy, a total gastrectomy (stomach removal), followed by more chemotherapy.

The evening before surgery as I was going to bed, I walked past their room and this is what I saw. Each knelt by the side of their bed, heads bowed in prayer. Prayer has always been an important part of their lives, but this picture, this moment, caused me to pause and catch my breath. And it’s forever etched in my memory.

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Today my dad is cancer free. Their prayer life is every bit as important now as it ever has been. The difference their example has made to their family as well as friends, is without borders.

My question for all of us is what are we doing to make a positive difference in the lives of others–family, friends, and others looking on that we’re unaware of.

My challenge for all of us is this: If you can’t think of anything, why not start now? It’s not too late. It’s never too late.

A person's most useful asset is not a head full of knowledge, but a heart full of love, an ear r

Happy Thanksgiving

Holiday Fun

I participated in a craft and vendor show this past weekend at Harvest Fellowship Church, manning a table with my books. A writer friend of mine was there as well, her table next to mine. I’d been waiting a long time for this event, as it always promises to be a wonderful time and sets the mood for the beginning of the holiday season, including Christmas.

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Christmas? you say? But it’s not even Thanksgiving yet!

Yes, I know. I, too, am not a fan of stores displaying their Christmas merchandise before Thanksgiving. It seems to be getting earlier every year, to the point that one of these days it will probably be in the stores year-round.

However, that being said, Christmas means different things to different people. For the world of retail it means money. It means starting sales as early as possible, taking advantage of the marketing opportunity to make as much money as possible. Christmas music pipes through the speakers in department stores, subconsciously inspiring people to buy, buy, buy.

For others, me included, celebrating the Christmas season in combination with Thanksgiving means something entirely different. I don’t believe it can ever be too early to celebrate the birth of Christ. To begin preparing our hearts for the coming of the Savior. Thanksgiving isn’t only about remembering the Pilgrims, it’s about giving thanks to God for the thousands of blessings he gives me.

On October 3, 1863, in the third fall of the Civil War, President Lincoln issued a proclamation:
I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, …, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him …

Giving thanks to the Father for the birth of His Son fits in nicely here. It’s never too early for that. So bring on the Thanksgiving holiday, complete with turkey, pumpkin pie, family, and football, while at the same time preparing my heart for the birth of Christ. And Christmas lights and music? When the heart is focused on Him, Christmas music isn’t about buying, it soothes and helps prepare. And lights? Who doesn’t love the beauty of lights.

Enjoy this holiday season, the entire season, for all it’s worth.

Wishing you a most blessed Thanksgiving to you and yours.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving Day is a jewel, to set in the hearts of honest men; but be careful that you do not take the day, and leave out the gratitude. – E.P. Powell

A Rich Abundant Life

This past weekend I was fortunate to attend a women’s retreat through my church. Typically, when I get home from work in the evenings I long to stay in my home office with my computer, or at least within the walls of my home with my dogs and my husband. On weekends, I don’t venture too far from home, either. Being an introvert, and after spending so much time at a day job surrounded by co-workers and fielding phone calls and office visits from the outside, quiet time at home is heaven.

Since these kinds of activities are well out of my comfort zone, the fact that I’d signed up for the women’s retreat surprised me as well as my husband. I paid the fee the moment I signed up, knowing if I didn’t I would find an excuse to back out.

I’m filled with gratitude that I persevered and went. Not only was the scenery breathtaking, the experience taught me far more than anything has in a long time and has grown me in ways I desperately needed to grow.

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At some point, I can’t remember exactly when, I closed myself off from relationship with others. And I found out I wasn’t the only one who did so. Playing it safe seems to be more popular that I’d imagined.

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During the weekend, I remembered the joy of being connected to a larger group of women, especially Christian women, when my Christian self is the area in which I wish to grow. I remembered the fulfillment that comes with being open to relationships. For far too long, I had been weighing the joy of loving someone against the potential pain of loss. And the fear of loss had been greater.

It we’re not open to others, we’re not allowing ourselves to be available to those who need us. We’re not living to our full potential, living out our purpose to love one another. How can we make a difference in the world if we stick to ourselves, an army of one? How can we make a difference in the world if we’re closed to others? And being open to even one makes a difference in the world. One is all it takes to make a good start. Each one we make a difference to will make a difference to someone else.

The weekend refueled my energy tank. It opened my heart to a life of being open and available to others. God showed me where the fear was coming from and how I was living such a limited life.

Here’s my challenge to you. Search for an area of your life that feels comfortable. Too comfortable. An area in which you tend to fall into a rut because it’s the path of least resistance. Now take some time to explore that area. What if you stepped out of your comfort zone, tried something new, opened your heart to something more than comfortable? The more you resist, the more fear is probably ruling your life. Think of how your life could potentially grow more beautiful and meaningful if you stretch yourself beyond what’s comfortable.

Comfort is good, and it does have its place. But when it comes to living and loving, comfort holds us back from fully living and loving. And if we’re not living and loving fully, we’re only living half a life.

I choose to strive to live an abundant life rich with loving others and being loved.

After you are gone, people may forget most of what you have said and done. But they will remember that you loved them. 
― Steve Goodier

The Present of Presence

Being Present

The best lessons come from the most difficult trials, the most significant growth from when we’re at our lowest.

When we’re filled with pride, the inevitable fall is hard. And so painful. But with humility comes peace. Yet It never ceases to amaze me that like the monster it is, pride rears its ugly head time and time again.

I have found the one surefire way to stay humble is to be grateful. One cannot be grateful and filled with pride at the same time. It’s like being angry and laughing at the same time. They cannot coexist. The next time you’re angry about something, smile, even if you have to fake it, and see if it doesn’t change your perspective at that exact moment.

When I talk about being grateful, I don’t just mean about the big things that happen during the day. The in-your-face-can’t-miss-it blessings. I’m referring to the little, seemingly insignificant things that oftentimes go unnoticed unless we’re consciously aware of our surroundings. The hundreds of presents given to us daily waiting to be unwrapped, graciously accepted, and savored. All of the ordinary moments that collectively make the day extraordinary.

  • The birth of a new day.
  • That deep, long inhale, followed by a long cleansing exhale, feeling every muscle relax in the process.
  • The sound of laughter.
  • That smile from a stranger at that exact moment you needed a smile. And when you didn’t even realize you needed one until you received it.
  • A child’s belly laugh.
  • That one line in a book that speaks directly to your heart.
  • A vibrant red umbrella on a gray, rainy day.

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  • That magical “I love you” from a loved one.
  • That out-of-blue phone call from an old friend, just calling to see how you’ve been.
  • The smell of a freshly opened box of crayons.
  • The feel of fresh, crisp sheets after a long day.
  • The soft hum of the furnace on a cold day.
  • Bright stars twinkling in a black velvet sky.

Stars

  • The comfort of slipping into yoga pants and a sweatshirt after a long day at work.
  • Kindness from a stranger.
  • That out-of-the-blue scent that transports me back in time to one of my very favorite moments, like the smell of Chantilly that brings my grandmother close again.
  • The scent of a balsam pine candle.
  • Sea salt caramel gelato.
  • Letters written in silver script.
  • The warmth of the clothes as they’re pulled from the dryer.

Presents given endlessly, waiting to be discovered. And we can only receive them if we’re present in the moment. Presence. It’s the best present we can give ourselves.

The Joy is in the Journey

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We as a whole are a results-driven society.

  • We work so we have financial freedom, success, recognition, personal satisfaction, etc.
  • We raise our children with the goal of creating loving, responsible, productive people.
  • We create a date night with our spouse to keep the spark alive in the midst of daily chaos.
  • As writers, we write a set number of words (or minutes/hours/paragraphs, etc) to produce the finished product.
  • When reading a book, we often rush through it to get to the end in anticipation of what happens to the good guy/gal—or the bad guy/gal. (Or am I the only one who does that?)
  • We diet to reach a desired goal.

I could go on indefinitely.

While striving for our desired results isn’t a bad thing, if that’s our focus, we’re missing out on the process.

The process is where the gold is discovered. It’s in the process that we’re refined and made stronger.

It’s the process of achieving results that’s the teacher, showing us how to get from point A to point B while revealing the necessary seemingly little steps that eventually lead to the final result.

It’s in the process that we learn patience, perseverance, and self-control. When things aren’t going the way we’d planned, we learn to pivot as needed, taking the longer route if necessary, learning that our way isn’t the only way. It opens us up to bigger, broader horizons if our eyes aren’t stuck on the goal.

It’s in the process that holds the joy. Detours are often more scenic, more relaxed and enjoyable. We can either get to where we’re going by hurrying, scarfing down meals on the go, potty breaks only as needed, or we can sit back and enjoy the ride, take the time to taste exquisite cuisine, wander a bit in nature, getting to the same destination but with more to show for it.

Results are out of our control. Joy is not. Set your sights on the process and get to where you’re going joyfully.

It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.
― Ursula K. Le Guin, The Left Hand of Darkness

 

 

 

Faith in Humanity

Love One Another

As news channels cover the heartbreaking devastation that Hurricane Harvey left in its wake in Houston, Texas, followed closely by Hurricane Irma in Florida, there was a message that spoke louder than the news anchors I listened to.

That message?  How tragedy can bring a country together.

For far too long, anytime I turned on the news it spewed about all the hatred and divisiveness of our people. You name it, people were hating. Whether it be race, sexual orientation, gender identification, political beliefs, personal beliefs, job choice and the action it requires, misuse of power and those not allowed to use their power…well, I could go on and on. With each broadcast, the news seems to polarize our country with half-truths, pitting people against one another. It had gotten to a point where I was seriously wondering if we, as a country, could ever turn things around again. All the hatred was suffocating everything good.

Listening to the news about the hurricanes, I finally felt a glimmer of hope for our nation and the amazing people who live here. My faith in humanity has been restored. As I hear the countless stories of individuals sacrificing what they have for the needs of those who lost, companies offering time, money, and resources to help a fellow man/woman/child/city/state, and friends and family reaching out to their loved ones in the affected cities, I see God at work. In fact, it occurred to me that this is what Christianity looks like.

  • Unselfish acts of helping another.
  • Accepting and loving, rather than judging, regardless of whether you agree with someone or not.
  • Tolerating others’ views and opinions, different as they may be from yours, accepting that your way isn’t the only way. Even proclaimed Christians have destroyed one another due to intolerance.
  • Forgive even when you don’t “feel” like it. You’ll “feel” so much better after you do!
  • Being of service to others, whether it be time in your already busy life, money that you don’t have in excess, services that you can provide to those who can’t.
  • Being a prayer warrior for those who so desperately need it.
  • Taking just a moment to write a letter of encouragement to someone who feels hopeless and alone.
  • Bringing a meal to someone who doesn’t have the physical capability or the resources to make their own.
  • Putting others needs before your wants.
  • Spend time, even if just an hour, with someone who doesn’t have anyone.

Simply stated…

Love

Above all else, love. The rest will fall into place. Wouldn’t it be amazing if we turned on the news and we heard more stories of love and hope? Stories of  people pulling for each other instead of battling against each other. Stories of people loving one another rather than killing? Stories of people accepting one another’s differences rather than hating because of them?

It IS possible. It CAN be done. But only if we all do our part. Time is at our advantage if we start NOW.

What can YOU do, TODAY, to start a revolution of loving one another?

“Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.”
― Desmond Tutu

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The Company We Keep

We Become Who We Spend Our Time With

Even though it’s not Wednesday, I had to sneak in an extra post.

This morning as I was running around Lake Estes in beautiful Estes Park, Colorado, my thoughts circled around who I am today, who I was, and who I want to be. Thank God–literally–that I’m not who I was, that I’m finally comfortable with who I am, and that the power to be who I want to be lies within me.

On a recent episode of Hallmark’s Chesapeake Shores (I admit it, I’m a Hallmark Channel junkie), the character played by Treat Williams told his daughter that life is about the re-writing more than the writing. If you don’t like what’s on the page, change it.

Wow! Just wow!

The profound truth of that statement is so enlightening and empowering. Our lives are not changed by anyone else unless we allow it to be.  We have the ultimate power to change our own lives in any direction we want it to be changed.

Last weekend I was out to breakfast in a busy restaurant with some of my extended family. A table of six, not far from our table, got their food, bowed their heads, kids as well, and prayed over their meal before eating. It wasn’t the in-your-face-notice-us prayer, but humble and discreet. My husband and I always pray before meals at home, and when we’re in a public place I will sometimes quietly bow my head and silently give thanks. But only sometimes. Why not all the time? Because I forget. It hasn’t become a habit. That morning, I asked my nephew who is a youth pastor in Minneapolis, MN, if he would say the prayer over our meal. It was powerful, it was beautiful, and it was meaningful.

A week later, I was having dinner with some friends. Our food arrived, we were talking and laughing, enjoying one another’s company. When I got home I realized I didn’t give thanks. I didn’t have the reminder from someone around me, I got busy having fun, and simply forgot. While that’s not a bad thing, I want to be the person who gives thanks all the time, not just sometimes when I remember.

My point is how easily influenced we are by those around us. Subconsciously, we take in and absorb the world around us. We become who we spend our time with. There are some powerful Bible verses about this as well:

Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character.” – 1st Corinthians 15:33

Do not make friends with a hot-tempered person, do not associate with one easily angered, or you may learn their ways and get yourself ensnared. – Proverbs 22:24

Your boasting is not good Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough? 1 Corinthians 5:6

Take the time to figure out who it is you want to be, who you want to grow into, and how you want to re-write the pages of your life’s book. Because you, and only you, have the power to make that happen. Surround yourself with the people you admire and respect and you will become someone you admire and respect.

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