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. :-)

video


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.

Monday, October 13, 2014

I Now Pronounce Them Husband and Wife


Photo by: Swindell Photography

My daughter recently eloped with the man of her dreams. Initially, there were twinges of sadness that I wasn't able to experience this joyous day with her—a day that she's dreamed about her whole life. But those sad feelings didn't last long. It's her story to write, and I'm thrilled she married a man she loves and one who loves her and her daughter, equally. He is a special man in so many ways, and I'm delighted to have him for a son-in-law. I pray their commitment will last a lifetime, and the love they share will transcend all obstacles that come their way. ♥

Friday, October 10, 2014

True Forgiveness Sets Free

Are you one of those human beings who perpetually punishes people who did you wrong? If you hear their names, do you immediately say ugly things about them, making sure the wounds inflicted remain visible and raw? Do you secretly (or openly) wish harm to them? Do you smile when problems come their? If you answered yes to any of the above, you haven't practiced true forgiveness.

Forgiving someone who wounded you isn't an easy thing to do. In fact, it can be more painful than the wound he or she inflicted— I've been there. You want them to pay for what they did. You want them to suffer and bleed. You want them to fall in a dark hole in a snake-infested forest. You want them to get chiggers and die scratching. You want them to get what they deserve!

But true forgiveness seeks just the opposite. 

True forgiveness issues a pardon, and gives the guilty person a free pass out of jail. Does that mean you forget what was done to you? No. But forgiveness isn't about forgetting. Forgiveness is about remembering without revenge. And once you cease to remember the sin against the sinner, you've set that person free—and you've also set yourself free from his or her control. As you have forgiven others, God can now forgive you.

Warren Wiersbe once wrote, "The most miserable prison in the world is the prison we make for ourselves when we refuse to show mercy." Truer words were never spoken, and no matter how deep the wound or how evil the deed, life is too short to live it behind bars of your own making. ♦


I'm linking to: Spiritual Sundays

 ~ COMMENTS ARE OFF ~

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Squeezing the Moments ~ Audrey in the Arboretum

Saturday was spectacular in my neighborhood, with a hint of fall whispering though the pines. In an effort to seize the glorious moments, I loaded my beloved granddaughter in the car, picked up the twin sister, and headed to the nearby arboretum.

Here are a few pictures to paint a few thousand words.

My blue-eyed beauty with "Bop."

Looking adorable with her sunglasses on.

Pausing to pose.

A smile for Nonni and Aunt Dayle.

We started off hand-in-hand, but the open space
(and even the stony paths) were calling her name,
and she was almost impossible to contain.

Nonni breaks into a trot...

and Miss Audrey is off and running.

I'm linking to Outdoor Wednesday.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Rocking Miss Audrey

Audrey's Room - where we rock.
My granddaughter has spent several nights with me lately, and there isn’t anything I cherish more than rocking her at bedtime. It’s beyond magical. Just me and her. Her little head on my shoulder, me rubbing her back, the night-light glowing in the darkness. Holding such innocence so close is a tiny glimpse of God, no doubt, and my heart almost can’t hold the love I feel. I know how fleeting these days are, and I treasure each memory that we’re making together.

Rocking Audrey. She was one-month old.
Of course, I don’t just rock her—I sing softly as we rock, and I've been doing that since she's been born. Believe it or not, the last two weekends, she’s been calling out song requests. It’s so precious. Tonight was no exception. After we settled into the rocking chair, without lifting her head from my shoulder, she whispered, “B.I.B.” That’s one of her favorite songs—“The B.I.B.L.E.” It was one of her mother’s favorites, as well, and I commenced singing it in my best nonni voice. As soon as it came to an end, she called out another request. “Tick-Tock-Tick-Tock.” That’s a song I wrote on the fly one rocking weekend, and it’s been a big hit in her world ever since. After that, it was “Eeesus,” which means “Jesus Loves The Little Children,” or “Jesus Loves Me.” I don’t know which, but either one is fine with her, and I usually sing both. Then the list repeats itself, over and over and over. Sometimes, I barely sing two lines, and she’s requesting the next song.

Audrey and Bop - 9/27/14
Tonight, she requested something new. 

Ohhhh Bop.

Bop is what she calls her stuffed “Lamb Chop.” I said, “Nonni doesn’t know any song about Bop, but I can write one.” And with that, I started singing. “Ohhhh, Bop. Ohhhh, Bop, Bop, Bop. Ohhhh, Bop. Ohhhh, Bop, Bop, Bop.” At that point, she started chuckling, and by the time I finished up the tune, we were both laughing so hard—her little head still on my shoulder, and me still rubbing her back.

The Oak Ridge Boys sang a song years ago called “Thank God for Kids.” The last line of the chorus says: “The nearest thing to heaven is a child.” Indeed, it is, and I'm working hard on being a fixed face in the life of my granddaughter and staying as close to heaven as I possibly can. ♥

Grandmothers are the people who take delight in hearing babies breathing into the telephone. ~ Unknown


I'm linking to:

Friday, August 29, 2014

August 22, 2014


My dearest Audrey,

I had been looking forward to you spending the night with me all month, so when you finally arrived Friday evening, I couldn’t open the front door fast enough. And there you were, on the hip of Aunt Courtney, your blonde hair aglow in the August sun, smiling from ear-to-ear and reaching your little arms my direction. Nonni’s heart all but exploded with joy.

The next few hours zipped by as we sang old songs and learned new songs, and read old books and new books, and laughed, and laughed, and laughed some more. Your smile is totally infectious, and when you laugh, it’s straight from the heart.

Aunt Dayle popped in to see her “pie,” and my, oh, my—there was dancing in the foyer. I mean, really. Aunt Dayle could’ve won a prize or something. I’m thankful you have Aunt Dayle in your life. You’ll be thankful, too, as the years go by.

And then it was just us again.

After dinner was done, we washed our hands at the kitchen sink. You love running water, and you promptly decided an all-out splashing was what you really needed, feet and all. So, Nonni canceled plans for a bathtub bath, and a sink bath quickly ensued. And what fun you had with my less-than-inventive bath toy of a small plastic bowl, filling it up and pouring it out again.

Once you were dried off, I put some smell-good lotion on you and dressed you for bed. It had been a long time since I had been with you at bedtime, and even longer since you had spent the night at my house, so I was a bit anxious about how the evening would go.

With your bottle and favorite blanket in hand, we climbed the stairs to your room. As evening shadows gathered outside, I sat in the rocker, hoping you would let me rock you for awhile. And you did. It was heaven on earth. I sang and hummed one of your favorite songs until your little eyes grew heavy with sleep. Once I laid you down, you drifted off into a peaceful slumber.


As daylight sifted through the bedroom curtains, I heard you jabbering in your crib. There is nothing any sweeter than the sound of you jabbering, and I am sure heaven’s choir stopped to listen in. Another day was about to start, and sunshine was in abundant supply. ♦

Saturday, August 9, 2014

12 Years Post Divorce - God Is Faithful

Although I don't celebrate divorce, I have celebrated God's faithfulness to me every year since mine, and this month marks 12 years of living on my own. Some years have been especially difficultjoblessness, physical challenges, stupid personal choices and troubling realities beyond my control. But the good years have outnumbered the bad, and for that I'm truly grateful. As I've said before, in feast or in famine, three things get me through life: Faith, Family and Friends.


Without question, God has blessed me with wonderful FRIENDS. Some live near; some live far. Some are old; some are new. But all have made this journey a little easier in some way. A meaningful card, a caring phone call, a timely text message. Lunch, dinner, breakfast. Even if we only shared a cup of coffee, your outstretched hands meant more than I can say, and I am honored to call you friend.

Thanksgiving - 2013

Having a FAMILY to love and listen when times are hard is something money cannot buy, of course, and I'm beyond grateful for mine. Each member holds a special place in my heart.

2002

My parents have always epitomized unconditional lovemeaning they haven't always agreed with my choices in life, but they have always loved me, and have always been there for me when I was in need. I have given that same kind of love to my child, and no child should ever be without it.

After my divorce, Mom and Dad were pillars of strength. Not only did they open their arms, but when things didn't go as I had planned, they opened their home. Day, after gloomy day, while I tried to focus and get my footing, they reassured me that the rain wouldn't last forever. The clouds would surely part. The sun would shine again. Sometimes you just have to walk by FAITH.


And walk by FAITH, I did. My journals tell the story. I revisited them this week.

When days turned into months, and I couldn't find a job, I wrote of how faithful God is. When I was barely making enough money to put food on my table, I wrote of how faithful God is. When disappointments came, I wrote of how faithful God is. When I felt betrayed by those I trusted, I wrote of how faithful God is. No matter how bleak the days were—and there were many bleak, bleak daysI was never without hope, as long as I had my FAITH

2002

And my FAITH didn't go unrewarded, of courseAs the old hymn says, "All I have needed, Thy hand hath provided. Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord unto me!" I don't know what my journey would look like without my FAITH, but I know how favored it's been because of it. 

2002

Likewise, I don't know what my life would look like without my two sisters, but how rich it's been because of them! They are like giant sequoias in life's national forest, rooted deep and soaring skyward. Even in the midst of their own battles, they still lift my head when needed and help me find courage to fight another day.

We all need words of encouragement sometimes, and when you hear them from someone who has faced and fought their own fires of adversity, they aren't just hollow words, my friend. You can take them to the bank.


Of course, my journey would've been much lonelier without my beloved Leslie at my side. Her very existence kept me going when death seemed less painful. She is truly God's gift to me, and I love her without measure.

Regardless of why parents divorce, all children are innocent victims, often taking on roles they weren't intended to play, and their struggles can last a lifetime. It's easy for both parents to lose sight of that. One parent is usually focused on self-survival, while the other parent is usually just focused on self. In both cases, the children get lost in the rubble, like war torn refugees.

After it became clear that Leslie and I would be living on our own, she made this poignant collage for me pictured below. She was 16 at the time. Today, it hangs in my bathroom and is a priceless treasure.


If you look closely, near the bottom, you'll see the words, "You can lean on me." I remember the day she gave it to me, and how my heart ached and tears welled up in my eyes when reading those five little words. In fact, tears still come when I read them. Why? Because no child should ever feel the need to shoulder the load of a parent.

2003

Undoubtedly, I could have been a better mother during the stormy years following my divorce. More times than not, I was flying by the seat of my pants, with the wipers on high, trying to see the road and stay out of the ditches. And although that doesn't excuse any failings on my part, I can't change what happened in the pastnone of us can. All I can do is focus on today.

Photo by: Megan Ella Photography

Yes, Leslie is grown and has become a strong woman in many way, but she still needs her mother. I never realized just how much until recently, and I want to take whatever steps necessary to be the best mother I can possibly be. In the words of Mother Theresa, "Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today. Let us begin."

Photos by: Megan Ella Photography

If you know me at all, you know that becoming a grandmother last year added meaning to my life in countless ways, not to mention more joy than one heart can old.

Like most mothers and prospective grandmothers, I suppose, I had hoped a husband (to love, protect and provide) would be a part of my daughter's baby plans, but from the moment I heard the heartbeat of the child she carried, I knew grand-parenting would be a breathtaking experience for me.


And I was right, of course. Loving Audrey Emeline is like no love I've ever known. Whenever she's with me, any burdens I'm carrying are merely feathers in the wind. No, I can't shield her from storms (just like I couldn't shield my own child), but I can be a godly grandmother of FAITH, who prays for her every day, and offers a soft place to fall if she ever needs to come running.

♦    ♦    ♦

And that bring us to August 2014.

As of today, I have a great-paying job, live in a nice house and drive a car that I paid for. I don't know what tomorrow holds, of course, but wherever it leads, my FAITH will go with meand hopefully, friends and family, too. ☺


Someone recently suggested (for the umpteenth time) that I get married again. I admit that 12 years is a long time to make your own coffee and drive your own self, but I'm pretty sure that marrying again isn't something I want to do. However, for the sake of this blog (that just might never end) let's pretend that it is. We have the issue of where to look.

Oh, I've had dates and some would-be suitors, but for the most part, women my age aren't a hot commodity in the dating sceneand quite frankly, men my age aren't such a hot prize either. However, for the sake of this blog (that's becoming a novel as I type) let's pretend that none of that is true.

And let's also pretendsince we've now officially entered the land of make-believethat there is a castle filled with handsome kings who all want to marry me. We then have the issue of what I'm looking for. And therein, my friends, lies the real rub: I have no idea.

I mean, it varies from day to day, depending on my mood, my desires, or my immediate need or crisis. One day, it's a carpenter, the next day, it's a chef. One day a mechanic, the next day a masseur. The other night, after helplessly watching a butter knife go clanging down the kitchen sink, a pea trap expert sounded mighty good to me. (Are you getting my drift here?)

And of course, when twin sister and brother-in-law board Cloud Nine and head to faraway places, the only man I'm interested in is a financially sound one, with a penchant for travel and a big RV.


Perhaps I'm over-thinking thingsas I have a tendency to dobut the way I see it, until I can firmly nail down what I want in a man, I should continue making my own coffee and driving my own self. Maybe in another 12 years, I'll have figured it all out. ♦


Linking with Spiritual Sundays.