Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Focus, Focus, Focus

A few weeks ago, twin sister and I were out and about. Her granddaughter Arabella came along.

At some point, Arabella got restless, and I took out my cellphone and peeked in the backseat with my camera, hoping to distract her.

Once she spotted me, she immediately ceased fretting, and we exchanged smiles for a few priceless moments.

She reminded me of myself.

Between you and me, the past few weeks have found me struggling in my car seat, road weary, deeply grieved about things I can't change, my heart so heavy at times breathing is a real struggle. I don't like the detour life has demanded. The road is rough. The road is long. I want out of the car.

But just when I think I can't go another mile, I get a call from a special someone, or I see a vivid sunset, or I read a timely word, and I remember my Creator, and how he cares about me, and provides for me, and has promised to never leave me alone in my weakness. And for another day, I find strength to sit still and journey on.

Philippians 4:8 says: "Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things...and the God of peace will be with you."

In other words, you'll never have peace if you're focused on the bumpy road. You have to commit the road to the Driver, and focus on something good. ♦

"My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness."
2 Corinthians 12:9

I'm linking to:
Grace at Home, a beautiful blog
Spiritual Sundays, a blog focused on faith

Friday, September 9, 2016

Friday's Musings

While waiting to board a plane a few days ago, I sat by the windows and watched a flurry of activity on the ground. Thankless jobs, for the most part: Workers carrying bags of trash from the aircraft. Mechanics inspecting whatever they inspect. Drivers waiting to transport cargo.

None of those employees greeted me upon boarding, of course, but they affected my experience, nonetheless.

The same is true in life.

No matter how invisible we may seem, or how insignificant our roles may be, we affect the experiences of others as we travel along.

We can compliment, or we can criticize. We can calm, or we can anger. We can cheer, or we can boo. Only we get to decide what type of influence we'll be, and we make that decision every day.

Help me, Lord, to use my power wisely. ♦

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

The Blurry Days of August

I'm certain I blinked, and August vanished. Here is a run-down of how the days went by in a blur for me.

As I often do, I made memories with my grand niece on her memaw's couch one evening after work. She melts my heart, and is growing as fast as the days are going by. How I wish our precious babies could stay small, and innocent, and carefree.

Big Sister invited me to share dinner at Black Sheep Bistro one evening...her treat. I'd never been, but oh, my! What a treat it was!

Miso Glazed Chilean Sea Bass with Soy Garlic Spinach

Chocolate something-or-other. So smooth and creamy beneath the crunch.
I can't wait for a return visit!

And again....Big Sister invited me to join her and hubby and granddaughter for a Sunday lunch. It was a wonderful time. Have you ever seen such cuteness?

I ordered some new shoes. Yay. Yes, I can still wear high heels. As I told someone recently, it's in my DNA, and they'll probably bury me in mine.

The twin and I often drive to church together. We have a habit of stopping at Cracker Barrel for a bite of dinner and a whole lot of chatting before church. Nothing better than good food and the twin!

Three of the males in our family have birthdays in August, so to celebrate, we gathered at Minute Maid Park and cheered the Houston Astros on to a great victory! Here I am, smiling in the parking lot with my beautiful niece Anna. I love her so much and am amazed at how strong she is.

And finally, tomorrow (the 31st), I will have been divorced 14 years. It seems impossible at times. This picture of me, slumped in a chair, looking less than cheerful, while my belongings are being moved into storage—until I can get steady on my feet—makes me a little teary-eyed. Not because of the challenging times that followed, understand, but because of how far I've come.

As I write, God's blessings and gifts astound me, and the smile on my face is real. Life isn't perfect, of course—and I can't know what a day might bring—but the future looks bright, and I'm happy to be me. 

And now...on to September!

Monday, August 1, 2016

Pain, Purpose and a Plan

As a person of faith, I should never be speechless when it comes to God’s ways and his timing, but the last few weeks have rendered me a little speechless, I must say. I keep thinking about a message I heard one Sunday morning, months ago, while visiting my parents.

On the way to church that morning, I prayed a simple prayer aloud in my car, “Lord, you knew I would be here today, and you know the heartache I’ve carried for so long. I need a word from you. What would you have me know?”

When the pastor announced the title of his message, I felt goosebumps everywhere, and I knew, beyond all doubt, that God had sent me to that church that morning. 

The title of his message was: “The Countenance of Faith,” and within a few sentences, God’s word for me was delivered to my front door: As much as you trust my ability to do something, you have to equally trust my timing in doing it.

Now I’ll admit, that wasn’t what I wanted to hear—heartache fosters impatience, after all—but it was exactly what I needed to know, and I clung to it for all I was worth.

In the weeks following, whenever my grief would overwhelm me, I would revisit the message, and hold tightly to what God had said: Trust my timing, Gayle. Not yours. Mine. It was the hardest thing I've ever done—trusting through my tears—but I did.

Fast forward to today, and although the fog of heartache hasn't lifted, I clearly see God's hand, rearranging the clouds, unfolding a beautiful rainbow in ways I could never have imagined or would have believed. A beautiful, unexpected, perfectly-timed rainbow just for me.

I shared that to say this: If you’re desperate to escape from your misery, your confusion, or your grief, remember that, sometimes distressing things have to happen in our lives in order for God's master plan to be accomplished. He doesn't necessarily send the crisis, but he allows it to happen, and he uses it as a means of placing us where we need to be when we need to be thereemotionally, mentally or even physically sometimes.

Remember Joseph? He could never have saved his people from starvation if he had not been in Egypt. Yes, he arrived there as a scared boy, sold into slavery by his own brothers, no less. But through it all, the Bible says that God was with Joseph. And in the end, Joseph fully understood that the pain he endured had purpose, because Almighty God had a plan. Joseph's words to his brothers, after years of separation were: "You thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good."

So, my friend, regardless of the situation you find yourself in today, don't despair. If your faith is secure in God, and your life is surrendered to his ways and his timing, all things will work together for your good. Hold tightly to his promise and believe. 

Linking up with Charlotte at:

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Savoring the Moments ~ Arabella and Me

Friday afternoon, I was needing some of my grand niece's sugar, so I texted her mother and she said come on over. They were looking out the front door when I drove into the driveway, and seeing their smiles made my heart glad.

Arabella is growing so fast, and learning something new every day, I'm sure. I wish I could pause the moments of her life, but all I can do is savor the ones we share.

As I sat next to her on the couch, breathing in her innocence, I thought of the world in which we live, where evil runs rampant. It's a dark place in many ways, but thank God for kids, the song says. They give us reasons to keep loving, and hoping and praying for brighter tomorrows. ♦

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Ties That Bind

It was a good 4th. Those who could, gathered among the pines with Mom and Dad at the old home place. Twin sister brought a roast with the trimmings, I brought potato salad, and Mother fixed a pot of pinto beans.

At one point, twin sister sat down at the piano and played patriotic tunes. Of course, harmonies soon followed, and prayers for our country were spoken aloud.

As the sun sank into the west, we retreated to the front porch for a picture. The trusty tripod captured this shot, while we battled the stifling humidity. Twin sister's hubby (my dear B-I-L) had a wounded toe. Thus, the one shoe.

In Daddy's usual fashion, we formed a circle in the living room and prayed before departing. As I squeezed the hands of those I love, I thanked God for the genuine joy in my soul and for ties that bind in a world that's unraveling. ♦

Linking to:

Monday, June 27, 2016

Holding Hands in the Backseat

A child is such a precious gift from above, and I love making memories with my grandniece, Arabella Marie. 

While riding to church Sunday morning with her grandparents, I laid my hand on her car seat and she immediately wrapped her little fingers around mine. It was a tiny taste of heaven, and I could've stayed like that all day long.

"Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these."
Matthew 19:14

I'm linking to:
Mosaic Monday

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Finding Peace

At work this week, a friend came to me, and I could tell by her face that she was troubled. Her life has taken some unexpected turns of late. Things that once seemed clear are no longer certain. Present circumstances aren’t at all what she envisioned for this stage of her life. Understandably, she has questions of why, how and when.

We talk often, and she knows about the personal burden I’ve carried for over a year. She wanted to know how I keep on going, seemingly with grace and ease. How do I keep on keeping on, despite the dark clouds looming over each step I take?

She’s a person of faith, and, of course, I told her that I still have meltdown moments, when the tears just won’t stop falling—I had one the other night. But what keeps me going, during times of heart-wrenching grief, is the Spirit of Christ living within and my unshakable faith in God's Word and his unending love for me.

I might not know why, how or when, but I do know who. And when I place myself in his hands, and when I put my trust in his Word, and I keep my mind on him—the one who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all I can ask or think; the one who promised that all things "work together" for my good—peace beyond understanding envelops my soul, and I can keep on going for another day. No, it isn't easy—total trust in God—but it is the only route to finding peace.

"You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusts in thee."
Isaiah 26:3

I'm linking with:
Grace at Home
Spiritual Sundays

Thursday, May 26, 2016

May in Review

I don't know if it's because my job is deadline driven or what, but this year has been one big blur for me, zipping by at the speed of sound. I simply can't believe May is almost over.

The first of the month found me surrounded by paint cans, drop cloths, ladders, rollers and brushes. Living alone makes it easy to do stuff like that—nobody bugging me about getting the table cleared and fixing supper. Wink.

I had been wanting to paint my living room the same color as my dining room for a while. I used Behr's Marquee paint (guaranteed one-coat coverage) and the color is "Nurture." It's a very soft, calming color, and I'm totally pleased. For some reason, the new color required different decor on the mantel, and although I've not got things exactly like I want them, I'm getting there. I scattered my copper pieces around the room and also purchased a few new ones.

I also had the brilliant idea of replacing my existing coffee table with my DIY project from my granddaughter's room—this oneThe only catch was: I had to get it downstairs, and it weighs more than an 18-wheeler with a load of steel. 

Now, trust me, I do stupid things all the time, playing Sampson, but that was about the stupidest thing ever! I wrestled with that coffee table in the stairwell for longer than you would believe, trying to figure out how on earth I was going to get it down without it (or me) falling to the bottom of the stairs and banging into a thousand pieces. I actually had a "come to Jesus meeting" on the stairs, hanging on to the table for dear life, asking for forgiveness for my sin. If I had captured the descent on video, it would go viral. 

But, as they say, all is well that ends well, and the coffee table is safe and sound in the living room, looking quite lovely beneath my books and what-nots. 

Mother's Day was bittersweet. I still have no answers as to why my only child suddenly banished me and my family from her life without warning or explanation a year ago this week. Needless to say, I miss her and my grandchild every single day, but I do my best not to let my grief rob me of the good things that were and the good things that remain. Thus, Big Sister and I spent Mother's Day with our dear mom. She is loved by all who know her, and I wish she could live forever.

Daddy turned 89 on the 14th. God has blessed him with long life and good health, and we celebrated with a partial family gathering at a catfish place near their home.

In my mind's eye, Daddy remains the most handsome and strongest man I know. He drives me a little crazy sometimes, but I'm glad he's still sitting at the head of our table.

Of course, May never goes by without me remembering my fairy tale wedding in 1982. I believe marriage should last forever, but too often these days, it doesn't. The 15th would've been our 34th wedding anniversary. I still mourn my broken family circle. 

On the 19th, I hosted a dinner at my house, celebrating my niece's upcoming birthday. Shelaine holds a special place in my heart, and I'm proud of the woman she's become.

Yesterday, I left work and drove straight to Miss Arabella, my adorable grand niece. She makes the shadows disappear for a while, and I couldn't love her more. Although she usually does a double-take between me and her Memaw (my identical twin), I think she fully understands now that the two aren't one. ☺ I'm so glad she's in the neighborhood, and I know we'll be seeing lots of each other as time goes by.

And that brings us to now. Outside my window, rain falls in loud splashes onto the sidewalk. I had considered a little getaway during the long weekend, but if the weather doesn't take a turn, I'll probably stay home and hang out in my pjs.

If anybody is still reading, I hope your May has been beautiful. Life is so very fragile, and can change drastically with a phone call, or even an email. Unwrap each moment with care, and hug tightly those you love. ♦

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

My Blogging Friend

Recently, my sweet blogging friend Cheryl (from "Homespun Devotions") asked if I would consider participating in her ongoing series, "Inner Views." I was honored to say yes and be a part.

It's amazing how God causes our paths to cross with people we need whenever we need them, and the day I stumbled across Cheryl's blog, I knew it wasn't by chance. She's a prayer warrior, and her words have encouraged me so many times in the past few months. If you aren't following her blog, I hope you will begin today.

I am sharing the link to my "Inner Views" in hopes that the words and music there will uplift another along the journey. Whatever I do for His Kingdom is all that truly matters in this life.

Blessings to you, sweet Cheryl. You're a true vessel of God.

Friday, May 6, 2016

I Miss Mean Mothers

This article was originally published in The Dallas Morning News on Mother's Day 2002, and it has been republished in numerous publications. Although I've posted it here before, the message is timeless, and I'm posting it again in honor of my mean mother on Mother's Day. I am blessed to still have her in my life.

Growing up along the banks of the Mississippi River, my sisters and I had the kind of mother every child dreads: a mean one. She was the meanest mother in Warren County, and her list of rules had no end.

We couldn’t sass.

We couldn’t say “yep.”

We couldn’t say “nope.”

We couldn't say "golly."

We couldn't say "gee."

We couldn’t ask for something without saying please.

Indeed, life with Mother consisted of rules, rules and more rules—and they weren’t limited to 529 Hill Street. The Queen of Mean had rules for everywhere.

No smacking gum in the car. No undressing mannequins in stores. No belching in restaurants.

Even in church, Mother was mean.

As the church pianist, Mother didn’t sit beside us on the pew, but never fear—Mother’s eyes could execute orders from afar, no words required. I called it the Look of Death.

Personally, I never understood how Mother could stare at three kids simultaneously without moving her eyes either direction, but she did. No blinking. No wrong chords. Just steady staring and steady playing—lips puckered, one eyebrow cocked, shoulders rigid.

Sometimes it took us a while to realize that Mother was in the Look-of-Death mode, but once we figured it out, it didn’t take us very long to get spiritual. After all, weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth were no foreign concepts to Mother’s kids. When we sang, “Savior, Savior, hear my humble cry,” we meant: “Right now, God! Mother is looking!” The terror of the Lord was one thing, but the terror of the pianist was something else.

Mother was a very gifted woman, capable of doing just about anything. But nothing was more important to Mother than raising her children. At times, I wished it had been otherwise. Mother would have made an excellent Commanding General in the United States Marine Corps: giving orders was what she did best.

Recently, I overheard a mother counting to three after telling her offspring to do something, and I couldn’t help but chuckle. Mother never counted to three after telling us to do anything. She didn’t even count to one! She ordered. We obeyed. No countdown.

As my sisters and I edged toward adulthood, Mother’s rules didn’t disappear, but she did fine-tune them a bit to fit the seasons. Occasionally, she even made rules on the fly as she winged her way through the unfamiliar terrain of raising teenage girls.

I remember one such time very well.

It was one of my first real dates. Curfew time was nearing, and me and Mr. Wrong were sitting out front in the car with the engine off.

As we smiled into each other’s eyes, the porch light came on. Then it went off again. Then on. Then off. On. Off. On. Off.


Yes, Mother—still executing orders from afar. “Time to say good-night and come inside,” her switch-twitch was saying. And, of course, I wasted no time in exiting the vehicle and high-tailing it to the front door.

It seems that mean mothers aren’t as prevalent as they were when I was growing up. I don’t know what happened to them. Instead of mean mothers, we have a bunch of mean kids—fighting, cursing, killing their classmates, their teachers, and their own flesh and blood.

I miss mean mothers.

Children miss them, too. ♦

Sunday, May 1, 2016

"U" Are the Key

My typewriter is rather old, but it works qxite well—except for one key.  Trxe, all the other keys fxnction fine, bxt as yox can see, when one key isn’t working properly, the final prodxct is greatly affected.

And so it is in God’s kingdom.

You might say, well, I am just one person. My contributions aren’t terribly important in the overall scheme of things. I don’t sing. I don’t preach. I don’t teach. I am not the head of any department. I am not as important as others to the cause of Christ.

But that isn’t true, my friend. Just because you aren’t as visible as others, doesn’t mean you aren’t as important.

After all, God’s work isn’t limited to what happens when church is in session.  The majority of God’s work is done when church is dismissed, when the lights go out, when no one but God is looking.

As demonstrated by the Good Samaritan, God’s work is fulfilled one-on-one, loving our neighbors as ourselves, doing little things that make big, big differences in the lives of those around us.

Little things like: hugging a hurting child, having lunch with a single mom or sending a card to a friend in crisis.

How much applause we get from men isn’t important—unless we’re working for an earthly reward, or course. It is how well we do our job that will matter in the end.

So the next time yox feel xnimportant in God’s great big family, jxst think aboxt my typewriter and say to yoxrself: I’m jxst as important as anyone else.  And if I don’t fxlfill my role properly, the finished prodxct will be greatly affected.

 “For we are labourers together with God.” I Corinthians 3:9

This article first appeared in Signs of the Times magazine.

Linking with: Spiritual Sundays

Sunday, April 17, 2016

A Guest Room Brightening

Recently, I decided to re-do my guest room and brighten it up a bit. I didn't want to spend a lot of money, so I didn't. ☺

My main purchase was a quilted reversible bed topper. It came with two throw pillows, and had a beach theme. I also bought a set of sheets, a bedside lamp, and a few matching linens for the adjoining bathroom.

I had seashells galore, so I put some in aqua containers.

I had lighthouses and seagulls, so I scattered them about.

The canvas on the wall is a story all by itself, but yours truly painted it years ago. Could it be more perfect? And the sheer ivory panels? They were in a closet, and I don't remember from whence they came.

Eventually, I will paint the accent wall a lighter color, but for now, it'll have to do.

The little bench was a last-minute decision, but I think it looks perfect beneath the window, and I think Teddy is a warm and welcoming roommate to any house guests who might visit.

I'm joining:

Cindy for Amaze Me Monday
Judith for Mosaic Monday

Friday, April 15, 2016

Glorious Gifts for Free

"I love to think of nature as an unlimited broadcasting station,
through which God speaks to us every hour,
if we will only tune in."

George Washington Carver

After a crazy day at work yesterday, a spontaneous shopping spree seemed the perfect cure. Two hours later, as I exited the store with my goods, I glanced up and captured this magnificent view. Everything about it thrilled me. The stately palms. The sun's golden reflection on the clouds. The blue of the sky. Such glorious gifts! (And they didn't cost me a dime.) As I gave praise to the One who made them, the cares of the day fell off my shoulders, and I felt renewed. 

I'm linking with the good people at Spiritual Sundays.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Savoring the Day ~ Arabella Visits

Sunday afternoon I kept my grand niece for a couple hours, and we made every minute count. Here are a few pictures of our day.

She had just got up from a nap when she arrived, so she was quiet for a while. I took advantage of her stillness and snapped my first picture. Isn't she adorable? ☺

She loves this little pull dog, and before long, she had spotted it in the scattering of toys I had ready for her.

She can't walk and pull the dog yet, but she will soon enough.

What a precious smile on that little face! 

At one point, I sat her at the little table where my beloved granddaughter and I have shared many treasured moments. I could tell she really liked the chair, and when the color box was opened, she let out a little chuckle.

I didn't know if she had been introduced to colors (since she's really too young to hold a color and actually color), but I took my chances. (What happens at Aunt Gayle's stays at Aunt Gayle's.) The only coloring she did was one tiny little purple line on Aunt Gayle's wall. If you look closely, you can see it in the picture below. I might leave it there forever.

She was intrigued with this block puzzle. I loved watching her little hands and mind at work.

Here she is studying the zebra. (Be still my heart.)

Later, we walked over to the dining room windows and she spotted cousin Audrey's carseat sitting nearby. I had purposefully avoided it on prior visits, for my own reasons, but she saw it, and without any prompting, she plopped down in it and stayed for a spell.

Of course, we had to make a trek upstairs to Audrey's room. Arabella seems to love everything about it.

Check out the cupcake shoes! (I bet Memaw bought those.)

As the day wore on, she insisted on getting in this chair. I helped with her ascent, and remembered my other grand niece loving this chair and loved me catching her as she slid out of it, too. ☺ I wondered what Arabella was thinking as she sat there, so solemn and quiet.

Much too soon, she was headed back home, and I was sad to see her go.

There's an old Chinese proverb that says "A child's life is like a piece of paper on which every person leaves a mark." I hope to leave a beautiful mark on sweet Arabella's life as the years go by—one she'll always look at fondly. Although she's only a year old, she's already leaving a mark on mine, and how beautiful it is. ♦