Friday, April 17, 2015

With Daddy in the Den ~ Savoring the Moments

 After a long day at work, I pointed my car east and headed to my parents' house, anxious to spend precious hours among the pines with the two people who love me most. Despite a whole lot of traffic, a little bit of rain, and a ferocious south wind, I made good time and arrived just before nightfall.

As usual, Daddy was at the front door with Mother right behind him, giving out hugs that made me question the sanity of living alone. Supper was still warm on the stove, and while they filled me in on the latest happenings, I consumed what was left of the shrimp casserole. The sound of their voices soothed me, and I fully released the stresses of my day.

After three games of dominoes, Mother puttered in the kitchen, preparing for lunch the next day. Daddy and I retreated to the den, where we sat talking about nothing really. At one point, he mentioned a song he had sung while ministering out-of-state recently, and then he began singing it. When he got to the chorus, I joined in with harmony notes. It’s an old song, and the chorus says:

When I look back down the road, where I laid my heavy load,
And I think of all the victories I've won;
Sometimes I get a thrill, when I look back down the hill,
And I see just where the Lord has brought me from.

The significance of the lyrics weren't lost on me as I harmonized with my 87-year-old father, walking the last miles of his journey, no doubt. Without warning, a tear rolled down my cheek, and then another, and another. How blessed I was to have had my father all these years, and how grateful I was for the indelible influences his faith has had on my life and on the lives of countless others. ♦

Saturday, March 28, 2015

A Blueprint for Letting Go and Letting God

Do you struggle with letting go of things (or people) you care deeply about, but have no control over? Have you tried to let go, but your anxious thoughts keep returning? If so, I used to be in your shoes, and this blog is for you.

It was about a year ago. Despite being a person of great faith, I found myself on a destructive path of tears, fears and chronic worrying. I knew I couldn't stay sane if I didn't stop my anxious thinking, but I didn't know how to exit the deadly roller coaster of giving my worries to God and picking them up again. Dear Lord, I whispered, as I prepared for bed that evening, I really need a blueprint for letting go of my worries. I can't continue down this ruinous path. Help me, please.

As odd as it might seem, I have a practice of reading my daily devotional at bedtime instead of morning, and as I opened it to the day's date, it was like God entered my bedroom and personally delivered the blueprint I so desperately needed. Each word was timely and inspirational, but the real recipe for letting go came at the end where the author shared a story about Dr. Edward Payson, a 19th Century preacher who was known as "Praying Payson."

Dr. Payson, while still a young man, once wrote to an elderly mother who was extremely worried and burdened over the condition of her son, He wrote,

   You are worrying too much about him. Once you have prayed for him, as you have done, and committed him to God, you should not continue to be anxious. God's command, "Do not be anxious about anything" (Phil. 4:6), is unlimited, and so is the verse, "Cast all your anxiety on him" (1 Peter 5:7). If we truly have cast our burdens upon another, can they continue to pressure us? If we carry them with us from the throne of grace, it is obvious we have not left them there. In my own life I test my prayers in this way: after committing something to God, if I can come away, like Hannah did, with no more sadness, pain, or anxiety in my heart, I see it as proof that I have prayed the prayer of faith. But if I pray and then still carry my burden, I conclude my faith was not exercised.

Needless to say, tears fell that night, and I laid my worries down and exited the roller coaster with peace in my heart. Have I been aboard the roller coaster since then? Of course. I'm human. But I don't ride it very long. I have a blueprint for stopping the madness, and every time I follow it, the madness stops.

Linking to:

Friday, March 20, 2015

Spring is Springing!

It was the perfect day for escaping the office at lunchtime, and I couldn't resist the arboretum nearby. The intoxicating fragrance of blooms greeted me at the front gate. In a few weeks the gardens will be awash in color, but I love the initial bursts of spring that come and go so quickly. Tulips, for instance. Cherry blossoms. Dogwoods. Redbuds. Azaleas. Here are some pics for your viewing pleasure.

Winding ribbons of color. Thank you, Lord, for the wonderous works of your hands.

The white tulips took my breath away. "Amazing" isn't almost sufficient.

It had been awhile since I saw a blue sky.

The pines seemed to go on forever. Only the Creator could make it so.

I loved this fuzzy little bloom. Not sure what it is.

Bluebonnets. Made me homesick for Dallas.

A few lingering azaleas. Our endless rains stripped the bushes almost as they bloomed.

Daffodils. One of my springtime favorites.

Such a stunning shade of blue!

Anybody? I don't know what it is.

I loved this blooming tree, draped over the little walkway. Fuchsia. A fav color of mine.

Even the goldfish seemed to know that winter was past. How gracefully they glide through the water.

And finally....

The minute I saw the name of this herb, I had to snap a pic.
I think I've been called this on more than one occasion.

♥ ♥ ♥

I'm linking to:

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Things Aren't Always As They Seem

 My twin sister and I wrote a children’s musical years ago called “Way Down Yonder In The Pumpkin Patch.” I wrote the songs first, and Dayle weaved in the dialogue. I found the live recording the other day, and it's been fun listening to it again. 

The musical communicated several valuable messages, among them the fact that what you look like on the outside doesn't always reflect what the inside is—in other words, an ugly pumpkin can still make a delicious pie.

To put that into a spiritual context, one of the songs is called “Inside Out.” The chorus says, “Inside out. Inside out. Why is it so hard to figure it out? God really knows what I’m all about. He sees me from the inside out.”

In today's world, where looks is an obsession and material things often define a person's success, it's easy to forget that things aren't always as they seem. Ugly sweaters can come in beautiful packages, filthiness can lurk in beautiful homes, and, yes, wickedness can dwell in spotless jars of clay. Only God knows what lies within, and he will have the final word.
♦ ♦ ♦

"Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then I will profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity." 
Matthew 7:22-23

Linking to:
Spiritual Sundays
Faith Filled Friday

Monday, February 9, 2015

Miss Audrey in the Park

I'll admit, I don't have much to say these days, and I'm sure nobody out there truly cares, which makes life so easy. I do have some photos to show you though. Lots. I've been wanting to take my beloved granddaughter to the nearby arboretum and shoot some pics of her in a little outfit I bought her for Christmas, and Saturday, I finally did.

Miss Audrey loves to laugh, and we had minutes of pure joy with her almost losing her breath, laughing so hard at something silly Nonni said. I almost lost my breath, too, sitting beside her in the swing, feeling her tiny fingers wrapped around mine, her innocence almost tangible in her striped sweater cap. I know these days are swiftly passing, and I'm making precious memories as often as I can.

Thanks to my twin for coming along and insisting I let her take a few shots of me and Audrey together. Although I wasn't really prepared for photos, I will forever cherish these pictures of this magical day.

To keep the blog from being longer than the Brooklyn Bridge, I've made collages for your viewing pleasure.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

The Best Gift You Can Give Yourself in 2015

A few days before the new year, big sister and hubby invited me to escape with them to Galveston Island. Although the weather turned rainy and cold before we left, the time away was exactly what I needed: Stress-free days with people who love me. It was also a time of inward reflection, counting blessings, looking forward—those things I do as one year ends and a new one unfolds.

During breakfast one morning, in the cafe downstairs, an older couple came in with a woman in a wheelchair. By all appearances, she was their adult daughter. About 40 years old, and very disabled. Her head was tilted to the right. Her eyes were opened wide, and her mouth never closed. There was no sign of understanding from her. No sounds of any kind. No movements. Just sitting and staring.

As the dad pushed her by our table, bumping into a few chairs along the way, he chuckled and said they were "used to that." My sister and I looked at each other. No words were needed. We knew how blessed we were with healthy adult daughters, living on their own.

Later that evening, in the lobby, a male trio played jazz music for guests of the hotel. A few feet in front of the piano sat the disabled girl in her wheelchair, her mother close by. 

At one point, the musicians took a break, and as casual chatter ensued, the piano player walked over and kissed the silent girl on the forehead. Only then did I recognize him as the same man who had pushed her into the cafe that morning, bumping into chairs as they settled in. Who would've known this gifted musician, spreading joy in such a masterful way, was the father of a severely disabled child? I wondered if I would be so strong. I think I would cry every day. But not this man. Somewhere in time, he had made peace with his challenging circumstances, and had moved on with his life.

As the music resumed, I was reminded of the Apostle Paul's instructions to rejoice always and give thanks in all circumstances. He didn't say we should be thankful for all circumstances, but we are to give thanks in all circumstances. Even without a disabled child, giving thanks isn't always easy to do—we all know that. However, gratitude is a glorious gift we can give to ourselves.

Melody Beattie describes it this way: "Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow."

Chances are, life in 2015 won't be without heartaches and sighs. However, if gratitude can fill our hearts every day—sunrise to sunset—our lives will be full the whole year long. ♦

I'm linking to:

Thursday, January 8, 2015

2015 ~ My Resolutions

Most of you know that I’m not a big fan of making New Year’s resolutions. As I blogged here last year, “A new year is no different than a new day. With every sunrise, new mercies appear, along with new opportunities to try harder and live better than we did the day before.” Wrongs can be righted. Transgressions can be forgiven. Bad habits can be released. However, a new year seems to give new promise to our hopes and plans and goals, so here are two things I am resolving to do in 2015:

1. Less texting and more talking.
2. Less Face-booking and more face-looking.

Call me old-fashioned, if you please, but I believe electronic "conversations" and “social” media has turned us into a bunch of non-conversationalists and anti-social people.

Just the other day, for instance, I went to the doctor’s office, and every person in the waiting room was staring at their phones. Predictably, not one soul looked up as I strolled in. Maybe they were uncomfortable with strangers, or maybe they wanted to appear important, or maybe they just didn't want to engage in conversation with an old woman in high heel shoes. Regardless, it made me a little sad to know that acknowledging each other is a thing of the past. But mostly, it fortified my gratitude that I wasn't raised in the digital age.

Sure, there are advantages to instant messaging, and instant information, but with all those options at my fingertips, I probably would've missed so many magical things—like lightening bugs after dark, and playing paperdolls, and jumping rope and hop-scotch on summer afternoons. Like lazy days at the library, piles of books at my side, immersed in the fascinating stories of Ribsy and Henry Huggins and Ramona and Beezus.

And later, as a mother, spending hours at the library with my daughter, seeing her break into a skip as she approached the front door, her eyes lighting up as she found old favorites, and scoured the shelves for new ones, and then watching her haul as many books home as the law would allow, often reading every one before the dinner bell rang.

And then there are my old letters. Ah. So many of them. From elementary school teachers, and family members while I was on the road, and sweethearts (and a few looney tunes) and friends. The excitement of receiving them, opening them, sniffing them, reading them and then tucking them away for later reading on another day. I mean, who prints out text messages for re-reading on another day? Anyone? For the most part, they are words quickly typed and words quickly forgotten. Maybe my offspring won't ever care to read words that anyone wrote to me after I'm dead and gone, but children of "texters" most likely won't have that option.

So, although resolutions aren't my strong cup of tea, I am resolving to make more tangible memories with those I love in 2015. Instead of endless texting, I'll stop and give them a call. I'll make time to see their faces and watch the wind blow their hair. To hug them. To look at them. To wrap myself in their voices, their laughter and sighs. Certainly, it won’t be as easy as sending text messages or checking out Facebook to see what’s going on, but it’ll be worth every ounce of effort I put forth, I have no doubt. The only issue I might encounter in my noble new year's resolve is getting someone to answer the phone whenever I call. ☺

I'm linking to Thought Provoking Thursdays at 3-D Lessons for Life.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Girlfriend Gathering ~ 2014

When you divorce later in life, most of your friends are married, and you quickly learn that establishing new friendships isn't easy. You want someone who “gets” you on a certain level, and allows you to be yourself without judgment. You also want someone you are comfortable with when conversation is sparse. Someone you can do nothing with and not worry about it.  Someone who doesn’t just talk, but who also listens. Someone who doesn’t miss a beat when the demands of life keep you apart.

I've been blessed with friends like that, and for a while now, I’ve wanted to gather them in my home, introduce them to each other and enjoy their company as a whole. It finally happened last night, and it was just as lovely (and lively!) as I knew it would be. 

Over bowls of spicy jambalaya, we talked, listened, laughed, drank sweet tea and made merry. I’m thinking it should be an annual thing. Me. Them. Us. One of my friends had previous plans, but maybe next year she'll fill the empty chair at the table.

Someone once said that when you die, if you've got five real friends, you've had a great life. These four beautiful women—each unique and special—are real friends to me, and I'm so grateful our paths crossed. We've shared tears, fears, heartaches and headaches, but also joy and smiles. I pray I have enriched their lives in some small way. They have certainly enriched mine. ♦

Monday, December 1, 2014

The Blurry Days of November

November went by in a blur for me. Most of the hours were spent at work, doing what I do, five days a week. I am grateful for my job—and it does keep me sane—but it leaves little time for investing in things I truly love and enjoy. Nevertheless, November offered spare moments here and there, and I tried to invest in them wisely. Here is how they looked.

Miss Audrey—my little ray of sunshine. Although weekends with her wear my body out, the joy she brings can't be measured.

Much of our time together is spent with books. She absorbs each page, and never gets enough.

I love this picture of her, busy in her room. I cherish each moment we share.

She loves the refrigerator, and Nonni lets her enjoy it until she's done. The soy sauce is a big draw, and she seems to think it's a bottle.

Her precious feet. I pray God guides them as she grows.

A new pull-toy brought excitement. Love the PJs and socks.
The hairbrush is a favorite thing to carry around.

Baths are her favorite. She could live in the tub. This smile melts my heart every time.

My mom and dad came over for a brief visit. Mother brought her a new book, and she wasted no time in having it read to her by one and all.

We posed before the good-byes. How special these moments are. We never know what a day will bring.

She loves music, and I feel certain she'll be a musician some day. I love her tiny hands in this photo. 

And my little bookworm reads another book.

Clowning for the camera with Nonni. 

Fall foliage finally arrived in Southeast Texas. It's always a welcomed sight. 

FaceTime with Nonni. It never gets old.

My daughter sent me this shot. I almost cry every time I look at it. That sweet innocent face. If only I could keep her young and carefree.

Thanksgiving Day was hosted by my parents. It was my daughter's first Thanksgiving with her husband, and I was grateful we were together.

I love the little girl on my lap, and I love how she is very relaxed and dangling. She is watching "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star," and she finds it thrilling every time. The proof is in the video below. Once you watch it, you'll be so happy you stuck around. :-)


And now, it's December.

Dear Lord, tomorrow is promised to no one. Help me spend the moments I can investing in things that truly matter.