Saturday, October 23, 2010

Challenges Can Render Rich Rewards

After months of searching for employment without any prospects, the job downtown was a gift from above. My only concern was the long commute. I had enough challenges in my life without rush hour traffic, and I dreaded it like the plague.

My first morning out was stressful indeed. An ocean of taillights awaited me.

Trying to focus on which lane to be in, exactly when to be in it and how best to get there left me tense, tired and longing for a chauffeur.

As I topped the final hill before leaving the other travelers behind, I found myself with an unexpected front row seat to Houston’s magnificent skyline.

Etched against a canvas of midnight blue, the stately skyscrapers, twinkling in the distance, were breathtaking to behold. Instinctively, I slowed down, mesmerized by the sight.

A few bends in the road later, the sun peeked over the horizon. The skyscrapers, appearing close enough to touch now, turned into giant packages of gold as shafts of yellow sunshine climbed steadily up metal, glass and stone.

It was a spectacular scene—sunrise in the city, you might say—and I felt richer for having witnessed such grandiose grandeur. Perhaps the dreaded commute wouldn’t be so dreadful after all.

As human beings, we tend to resist challenges as a whole. Instead of launching out into the deep, we hover near the shoreline, coddling the familiar and feeling safe.

Perhaps we fear the unknown.

Perhaps we dread the known.

But despite the reasoning behind our limited way of thinking, undoubtedly, beautiful rewards have been forfeited along the way.

When my daughter was five, she wanted a sibling more than anything in the world. Every day she talked about becoming someone’s big sister.

Certainly, I never planned on having an only child. But at 35, I wasn’t thrilled about starting over either. My spouse felt as I did, and so, together, we made the definitive decision that one offspring would be the magic number for us.

It is a decision that I lived to regret. And even today, I wonder what beautiful reward might have ensued had the challenge of another child not been surrendered all those years ago.

Of course, not every challenge in life is optional.

A newborn has Down Syndrome.

A loved one has an incurable disease.

A fire leaves ashes where a home once stood.

Indeed, it is those challenges—the unavoidable, unexpected ones—that we resist so vigorously. We didn’t sign up for such painful disruptions in our lives. We want things as they used to be.

Certainly, such thinking is understandable; no one enjoys pain.

But it’s my belief that, even in the direst of circumstances, when every moment is a struggle to survive, beautiful rewards can be found among the shadows that be. Not tangible rewards, perhaps, but rewards just the same.

Maybe it’s a restoring of the soul, a softening of the heart or a renewed sense of gratitude—for life, health, family and friends.

As James Buckham once said, “Trials, temptations, disappointments—all these are helps instead of hindrances, if one uses them rightly. They not only test the fiber of character but strengthen it. Every conquered temptation represents a new fund of moral energy. Every trial endured and weathered 'in the right spirit' makes a soul nobler and stronger than it was before.”

How true those words are, and yet how difficult for us to accept them.

But accept them we should.

Whenever challenges come our way, instead of dreading them like the plague, we should cast our fears aside, start our engines and embrace the road before us. No, the commute won’t be without pain, but skyscrapers of gold might be over the hill.

Linking to Spiritual Sunday, where faith lifts are free.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

D is for: DAYLE

L-R: Dayle, Big Sister Elaine and Gayle

What a perfect letter for Alphabe-Thursday! Not only is today my birthday, it's also Dayle's birthday, my identical twin sister. I call her my wombmate.

One of my "Dayle" stories is published in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Twins and More. I titled it, "Weirdly In Sync," which perfectly describes the two of us. Below is another story I wrote about Dayle. It appeared in Reflections magazine, and remains a favorite of mine. Happy birthday, dear Dayle. And MANY more!


It’s 3 o’clock in the morning. Dayle and I have just finished our third game of Scrabble, yet neither of us is anxious to retire. We’re having too much fun; sleeping can wait.

My Scrabble partner is a reflection of me in so many ways. Born 11 minutes apart, we have the same nose, same eyes, same hair, same fingers and same feet. We talk alike, walk alike and laugh alike. Our tastes are the same. Our thoughts are the same. Even our DNA is the same.

I can’t imagine my life without Dayle.

Once when we were kids, we lost sight of each other in Piggly Wiggly. It was a game of hide-and-seek, and Dayle was “it.” After searching everywhere for her wayward twin, Dayle rounded the produce aisle, saw herself in a mirror and hollered, “There you are!”

As I observe her across the table tonight, I find myself repeating those same three words: There you are.

My beloved wombmate. My God-created clone. I love you more than words can say.

I love the way you look in that yellow housecoat. I love the way your hair is piled on your head, with only a pencil holding it in place. I love the way you scowl as you shuffle your letters, hoping to make a high-point word out of “EIEIOOO.”

I love laughing with you, drinking coffee with you or doing nothing with you.

You’ve been a compass to me in times of confusion. A haven to me in times of storm. An encourager to me in times of doubt and dissatisfaction. What a glorious gift you are.

These days, you’re traveling the globe, enjoying life with your retired spouse, but I don’t miss you when you’re gone. No matter how long the road is between us, you’re never far away. Like threads joined together in a piece of crochet, my heart is forever intertwined with yours. All I have to do is breathe, and there you are. ♦

Fall ~ Inside and Out

Friday evening, after a long day at work, I turned into my driveway and my mouth fell open--literally. My flowerbeds, once plain and boring, had become charming and quaint. Seems my twin sister and her spouse had ventured into my yard and left wonderful things behind. The pumpkins, scarecrows (notice the twins on the right-hand side), mums, pansies and crotons are all their doing. Simple things; loads of pleasure.

Their labor of love nudged me into bringing fall inside as well. I've posted of few glimpses.



I'm linking to my twin sister's Simple Pleasures blog party. Come on over!

Friday, October 8, 2010

All Things Work Together

If I live to be 105, I'll never figure out certain things. Why some sick people pray and get well, and other sick people pray and die. Why some jobless people pray and find a job, and other jobless people pray and collect unemployment. I really don't understand why some prayers seem louder than others, but what I do understand is that all things work together for good to those who love God. It might not look "good" at the moment, but it's working together for good.

Just recently, I suffered a devastating personal disappointment. What I thought was going to happen didn't happen. I had devoted months of mental, physical and emotional energy to this particular event. However, within a few moments, it came to a screeching halt. I was beyond distraught. I felt like a bride must feel, jilted at the altar: Now what? I didn't know what to say, or what to do, or how to move forward.

But I did move forwardone gray day at a time. And now, a few weeks after the fact, after the tears have dried and the anxious thoughts have ceased, I know beyond any shadow of a doubt that the thing I had hoped for and planned on happening wasn't meant to be right then. That my timetable wasn't in my best interest. That despite the tears, the fears, and the endless list of questions, all things were working together for good.

Whether or not my plans ever evolve is yet to be seen, but it really doesn't matter anymore. Either way, I'll be OK. My Father knows the end from the beginning, and I trust him with my life.

"And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God,
to them who are the called according to his purpose,"
Romans 8:28.

Linking to Spiritual Sundays.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

"Chicken Soup for the Soul"

At the risk of causing a national stampede, "Chicken Soup for the Soul: Devotional Stories for Mothers" will be in bookstores everywhere tomorrow. It's their first devotional for moms, and I'm honored to be a contributor. The stories I've read thus far are superb!

These books make great gifts for moms of all ages and stages, even moms-to-be. My story is on Page 355, and I believe it'll make you smile. It's called "Magical Mirth," and it starts like this:

(The Silly Kid)
"It was a rainy evening in December. School was out for the holidays, and after a long day of shopping, my six-year-old daughter was wound tighter than a top. Seeking solitude from her silliness, I put on a pot of coffee and retired to the den."

What happened next had us both in the floor laughing til we cried. Precious memories. How they linger.

Happy weekend to you all. Join me at Spiritual Sundays, where good people blog about good things.