Friday, December 24, 2010

STANDING HEART TO HEART AND HAND IN HAND



“God places the lonely in families . . .” Psalm 68:6a

I just returned from New York City. Neal and I spent a week enjoying the city in her Christmas finery.  If you want to see the world in one place, visit NYC. As I walked down the street I heard people conversing in French, German, Spanish, Japanese, Chinese, several Indian dialects, Hungarian, and many other languages I do not recognize. And instead of the usual preoccupied rush down crowded sidewalks, people walked along the streets wearing their holiday faces—making eye contact and smiling— while carrying bright packages.

All seemed well.

However, as some of you know, this can also be the loneliest time of the year, especially for those of us who have lost someone we love through death or divorce. Maybe strained family matters separate us and this season magnifies that loss. If you know someone who is alone this Christmas and there is room at your table, why not invite that person to join your family? He or she may decline, but the invitation sends the message that this person is important and not forgotten. If you are the lonely one, maybe you can contact another person who is alone this season you and go out together.

I thought of another emotion of the season when I read a quote by Carol Nelson, “Christmas is a time when you get homesick – even when you’re home.”

I get that.

Looking back when my children were small I remember all our fun traditions. We baked sugar cookies and ate most of them before they cooled enough to decorate. I’d make fudge and the kids crowded around me with spoons to “clean the pan.”  We always had a tree decorating party. While we hung ornaments — the majority of them winding up on the bottom half of the tree — we ate chips and dip, candy, cakes, egg rolls, sausage balls and drank eggnog. When the children went to bed, Neal and I enjoyed a glass of wine together and moved some of the ornaments to the top of the tree!  And then there was the many evenings spent drinking hot chocolate and watching holiday movies.

How I miss those bygone days. I could really get lonely for my little babies and our sweet times together. However, life goes on and I must move with it. I must realize the importance of making new memories with my children, children-in-love, and grandbabies.
I’m not the only one who could let nostalgia run my present. My kids miss their childhood, but they realize the importance of creating holiday magic for their own children and family.

However, there are those who cannot reconcile the joys of their past with their present. They are sad because things had to change and their regrets to rob them of opportunities to make new memories, my grandmother being one of them. How I wanted her to realize the capacity in her heart to expand with love, and not let it shrink with regret.

This is my Christmas wish for you, that you’d make this Christmas special for yourself and for others. Open your home and your heart. Let the 2010 holiday spirit of hospitality, warmth, laughter, and kindness offer hope. Dwell on the positive aspects of life and let this begin healing in your soul as well as in the souls of others.

I think Dr. Suess says it best, “Christmas will always be as long as we stand heart to heart and hand in hand”

May this Christmas be a new beginning of hope in your life.

  

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

THE GIFT EVERYONE REMEMBERS




“The greatest gift is a portion of thyself.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

I can’t remember what gifts I received for Christmas when I was six, but I do remember walking around the city square in Mexico, Mo with Momma and Daddy. We visited Santa and Dad told me that he believed that this Santa was the real McCoy! Not just a helper. I still remember the thrill that ran through me that night. We admired the storefront windows as well as the lights and decorations along the street. Then we went home and drank eggnog with nutmeg sprinkled on top.
Before going to bed, we all piled on the couch and sang Christmas carols. Our parakeet, Butch, bobbed his head, kissed his image in his mirror, and chirped “ack-ack-ack” with cheerful abandon.
This memory is one of thousands held in the treasure chest of my soul. It is a gift that came from a portion of my mother and father. They gave me their love, time and creativity. They also lavished me with toys, but I don’t remember anything about those. I remember our time together.
Toys and “stuff” break or get lost. What my parents gave me never breaks, gets lost, or grows old. In fact, my memories grow sweeter with time. And they remain inside me where I can play with them anytime I please.
This Christmas, remember the best gift you can give is your time. Make sweet memories for those you love. Spend time with friends and laugh a lot!
And when you do spend money on a gift, don’t forget those who are in need like the single moms and dads, those who have lost their jobs or the children who live in third world countries and only have muddy water to drink.
         This week give the gift that is priceless—yourself

Monday, December 13, 2010

THE MESSAGE OF CHRISTMAS


“Christmas, my child, is love in action. Every time we love, every time we give, it's Christmas.” ~ Dale Evans

Christmas day is near! For me this is a joyful journey to the 25th and a springboard for the next eleven months. It is a season of renewal and a reminder of how I am to live my life throughout the year.
Every year in Northwest Arkansas Walmart holds a stockholders’ meeting. Stockholders from all over the world come to our area to attend lavish pep assemblies, visit the corporate offices, and shop the supercenters, which are decked out with huge and colorful displays in the parking lots where vendors hand out free food and small keepsakes. Celebrities are flown in to entertain them each night. When the gala is over, the stockholders are again reminded of why they have invested in the company and their loyalty is reinvigorated.

To me, this season accomplishes the same thing. Many have a negative view of this holiday saying it is politically incorrect, that it excludes all who are not “Christian.”

That is incorrect.

Actually, if we look at the origins of Christmas we will find that the early Christians didn’t celebrate it. In fact, this holiday wasn’t instituted until 2 centuries after Christ left this earth. Another thing we will find is that Jesus was born during the fall of the year, not in winter.

There are more eye-opening things about the origins of Christmas that I won’t go into here, but it is worth taking the time to study. Why? Because it proves the origin of Christmas isn’t important, it is the message that is important! Over the next few weeks, I’d like to explore the messages of Christmas and dismantle the wrong messages. 

Today I want to encourage everyone, no matter who you are or what you believe, to join in this celebration of love, generosity, hospitality, hope, and family.

 If Jesus Christ came to Northwest Arkansas to celebrate Christmas with us, I don’t think he’d expect a birthday party complete with cake. Nor would he bring celebrities. From my years of learning of and from Him, I think he would prefer to sit with us and encourage us. He’d look us in the eyes and see our souls. Peace would fill us and our ears would open. Then he’d say, “Feed the hungry, give to the poor, clothe the naked, visit the prisoners, help the children, open your home, love your neighbors, and love God.”

His words would penetrate our hearts and we’d feel the stress, the unrealistic expectations, and loneliness fall away. Our minds would clear and we’d recognize what really matters—people.

The colorful side of Christmas, the music, parties, food, sappy movies (I love them), sparkly lights and shiny decorations, are the fun, celebratory part of the season. It’s at this assembly of celebration where we are reminded of the message of Christmas. But it isn’t to stop on the 25th. It is to be carried out through the year.

Feed the hungry, give to the poor, clothe the naked, visit the prisoners, help the children, open your home, love your neighbors, and love God.

That is something we all can do, no matter who we are or what we believe.







Monday, December 06, 2010

TIES WITH TRADITION


And how do we keep our balance? That I can tell you in one word! Tradition! ~ Tevye from Fiddler on the Roof.

One of my favorite movies is Fiddler on the Roof. Tevye, the Jewish father of four daughters, suffers the inconvenience of poverty, the high drama of an all female household, and the changing times. But he tries to hold fast to the one thing that keeps his family glued together—tradition.

Tradition is passed from one generation to another through example and sharing stories. It is the golden thread woven in and through us binding us to our ancestors. We share their beliefs, social customs, and habits. That’s not to say that we never deviate or change from the beliefs of our elders, but when life gets shaky, deep within us there is a place where we find our “footing” in tradition.

I’m a southern gal who comes from a long line of women who believe food is the ultimate cure for anything. Feeding people is our tradition. Are you sick? Let me feed you. Sad? I’ll make it better with food. Happy? Let’s eat!

I remember my grandmother, a widow living alone, cooking a huge pot of soup. When it was ready, she would divide it into containers and pass it out to her neighbors.  In the spirit and from the example of my grandmother and my mom, there is always room for one more at my table.

When our children were small, Neal and I started a new tradition during the holidays. To keep them mindful that Christmas was the season for giving more than receiving, we had them choose a child’s name off an angel tree and take them shopping for that child. One year we shopped for an entire family and brought them food as well as gifts. I didn’t realize this tradition would mold my children’s characters, but it has.  They are all givers, and some are actively involved in social justice and feeding the poor.

The funny thing is that I didn’t consciously think, I’m going to teach my kids to care about the poor, the hungry, the outcasts, and the lonely. Rather, the tradition of giving and caring for others came from my grandmother and my mother. And now I see the compassion of my ancestors in my sons and daughters.

Traditions come in many forms in different families. Music, a craft, religious practices, scholarly pursuits, even the way we celebrate is all handed to us by tradition. Unfortunately, all traditions may not be good ones. The good news is that we can break with tradition, and begin anew.

It is the season when our traditions are openly shared. Take the time to participate in the traditions of others, invite them to join in yours. It is good to understand and appreciate those who are different from us.

If there is a cycle of unhealthy traditions in your life, break away and begin new ones.

Tradition—the foundation all generations can stand on. We all need them. Remember what Tevye warned, “Without our traditions, our lives would be as shaky as . . . as a fiddler on the roof!

Monday, November 29, 2010

A WORD TO BE WISE




“The next best thing to being wise oneself is to live in a circle of those who are” ~ C.S. Lewis

            Wisdom comes to us in many ways. Confucius says, “By three methods we may learn wisdom: first, by reflection, which is the noblest; second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third, by experience, which is the most bitter.”
            I think most learn wisdom by experience, and that experience is usually accomplished the hard way. I wish that didn’t have to be the case. How wonderful it would be for us to do as Mr. Lewis says and live in a circle of wisdom. To surround ourselves with people who love us and have no other motive in mind than to see us successful, fulfilled, and happy.
            There are such people you know.
Our ears should be trained on people who have learned by experience and by reflection. And when they come to us in the spirit of concern and love, we should listen to them.
            Unfortunately, when wisdom is given it often contradicts our desires, it interferes with our plans, it threatens to remove the blinders we have on and forces us to look at all aspects.
            Once, when I was laying tile in our home, I was advised to measure the room to determine if it was square. If not, I needed to make adjustments. But I didn’t want to take the time. I just wanted to get the job done. I convinced myself that if I were careful to make sure that every tile corner met and used the spacers everything would turn out fine. A certain smugness over my decision to do it my way settled in as I sat on the floor and looked over the grout lines.   They appeared straight—that is until I got to the far wall. My tile met the wall in the west corner, but was eight inches away from the wall on the east corner. When I stood and looked over the floor the grout lines were wavy. It made me sick! And even worse, I had to look at that floor every day. I covered it with rugs, but still, the poor tile job was there and I knew it.
            There are many advisers in our lives and some are not worth listening to, especially if they do not have our best in mind. But for those who do, for those who have nothing to gain if you listen to them or not—listen to them. Reflect on what they say. Don’t let your own will dictate foolish decisions and actions on your part.
A ship’s captain who is steering his vessel in a storm cannot have the same sense of direction as one who watches above the storm. In the tempest of our lives, we do not have the same understanding and perception as those standing on the outside looking in.
I like what the first century Roman author, Publilius Syrus, said, “Many receive advice, only the wise profit from it.”
This week, be wise and listen to those who love you. Put down your will and take the blinders off. Honestly reflect on what they say. Then make your decision.
           

            

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

MY CULINARY EPIPHANY


My mom, Freddie Diehl




In the spirit of the Thanksgiving season, I’m posting my story that appeared a few years ago in Chicken Soup for the Soul’s Recipes for Busy Moms. Have a great celebration everyone!

MY CULINARY EPIPHANY
                                                     
         There are many important “firsts” in live—first step, first word, first kiss and first turkey—the Thanksgiving kind.
         As a child I remembered waking up Thanksgiving morning to the aroma of roasting turkey. I bounded down the hall to the beat of the Macy’s Day Parade on the television. Mom was always in the kitchen and Dad was in the recliner. I’d pile on him and watch the parade till all the relatives arrived and lunch was served.
My husband, Neal, and I continued the tradition of going to Mom’s for Thanksgiving. We brought the green bean casserole and the kids. Mom did everything else. But the holiday cooking mantle was passed on to me when Neal’s job transferred us to another city.
         This new responsibility didn’t concern me. Mom didn’t seem to mind cooking such an extensive meal, why should I? Her face always had a rosy glow when she cooked. From enthusiasm I supposed. Besides, she wrote clear, step-by-step instructions for me to follow. Hey, this was going to be a cinch!
         Thanksgiving week finally arrived and I pulled out my instructions. First I had to find the perfect turkey—one that would feed our family of seven, plus provide ample leftovers for all the fantastic, delicious, dishes I could dream up. So, I purchased a twenty-eight pounder.
         Next on the “to do” list—thaw him. Naively, I thought that would only take a few hours on the counter, till my food-safety husband nixed my plan, exclaiming, “It will take a week to thaw a bird that big in the refrigerator.”
         I panicked! Thanksgiving was in two days. I needed a quick defrost method. Then Neal remembered how his granny put her turkey in a bathtub full of cold water. Quick as a wink our bathtub was full and Mr. T as we fondly dubbed him, contentedly floated around.
         Later that afternoon we heard strange noises coming from the bathroom.
Thud, splash, thud.
Neal and I raced to the bathroom. As soon as our feet hit the hall carpet it squished with water. On the flooded bathroom floor a diaper floated by. Alarmed, I shoved back the shower curtain to find out two-year-old son, William, laying on top of the frozen turkey pushing himself from one end of the tub to the other like a bucking bird rodeo. I grabbed him off the main course. All cheeks were pink and shiny. I handed him to Neal and went to work in the kitchen.
The rest of the day and into the night I chopped, diced, sliced, mixed, rolled, sautéed, simmered, boiled, and baked. It didn’t take me long to realize that my mom’s rosy glow wasn’t excitement. It was heat exhaustion!
The alarm sounded unusually loud at 5 A.M. Thanksgiving morning. I crawled out of bed and felt my way down the hall to the bathroom. In my sleep-deprived stupor, I grabbed Mr. T from the tub and hoisted him to my hip. Glacier water spilled down my nylon gown. It clung to me like a second skin. Every nerve in my body shrieked red alert! I won’t repeat the words that silently formed on my lips.
In the kitchen I peeled off the wrappers and stared, shocked at the sight of a naked turkey. The only ones I’d ever had the pleasure to know wore a nice, crispy, brown skin. This cold, clammy thing was pale and pimply.
Everything in me revolted.
Glancing at the recipe, it called for the giblets to be removed from the cavity.
Only one problem. I couldn’t get the stupid legs apart! Some kind of bar held them together. What was the purpose of this thing? Some kind of chastity belt for birds? 
I tugged, yanked and jerked for fifteen minutes. Finally the dark greasy cavern yawned open—and I was supposed to put my hands in that?
My mother’s instructions said to stuff celery and onion in the carcass, so I obediently acquiesced. After thoroughly stuffing him I shoved that bad boy in the oven, slammed the door shut and leaned against the wall.
This wasn’t the way I remembered Thanksgiving. 
Later that morning, the savory aroma of roasting turkey and lively music from the marching bands filled the house. The kids woke up, bounded down the hall and piled on Neal to watdch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade.  I worked feverishly in the kitchen wearing that blasted rosy glow.
Finally, dinner was served.
Neal said grace and in less than thirty minutes we consumed over a hundred dollars worth of food that took over two days to prepare. After dinner Neal reclined in his chair and the kids went outside to play.
And me?
I was left to clean up a kitchen that looked like Bourbon Street the morning after Mardi Gras.
So this is what my mother did every year????
My hands were chapped. My fingers were cut and burned. Every muscle in my body begged for a glass of wine and a hot bubble bath.
My mother deserved sainthood!
Glancing out the window I watched the children jump into a pile of leaves, just like I did when I was a child. Neal snored in his chair, just like Dad. And I began the arduous task of cleaning, just like Mom.
Indulging in a little self-pity, I grumbled under my breath. Nobody in my family had a clue how hard it was cooking Thanksgiving dinner.
Come to think of it, neither had I till that day.
Immediately I got off my self-righteous perch and practiced the true meaning of Thanksgiving.
         I called my mother.
When she answered I said, “Mom? Thank you for your hard work all those years of cooking our holiday meals. We are not worthy of you!”

I hope you enjoyed my true story! This year, don’t forget to thank those who made it special for you. If you are the one wearing the “rosy glow” let me say in advance, THANK YOU for your dedication to those for whom you are creating this special memory!


         

Monday, November 15, 2010

ACHIEVEMENT THROUGH HOPE


Many of the great achievements of the world were accomplished by tired and discouraged men who kept on working.” ~ Unknown Author

I’m reading a book about the early immigrants who came to the shores of the USA seeking a better life, a life free of the religious and social constraints that made them less than others. These men, women, and children worked hard. They came here poor and remained poor a long time after arriving. Some farmed and fought the elements to bring in the crops. Others indentured themselves, cooking and cleaning for those who had found their fortunes.

Not all came here on their own volition. Millions of men, women, and children were brought here against their will and suffered inhumane treatment, being separated from their families, watching their children auctioned off, backbreaking work and death.

I can see how easily it could have been for these heroes of history to have given up. How they could have lost hope. Some did, but most kept working. Today we are enjoying the fruits from their labor.

Today, we work and fight the elements. However, our battles are very different from those of our forefathers and foremothers, but they are battles all the same. We may be tired and discouraged, but we must continue and not give up.

The meaning of hope isn’t “wishful thinking.” It means “confident expectation.” I’m learning-on a daily basis-that I cannot trust circumstances. For instance, I have certain things that weigh heavy on my heart. One day I may feel all is lost. The next I may get good news and think, “finally, a step forward!” I walk on air the rest of the day. The next morning I get slammed with bad news. Instead of a step forward, now I’ve taken six steps backwards.

In situations like this, I feel lost. But I don’t have the full picture. It is easy to lose perspective, to lose confidence, to lose hope. However, the worst thing I could do is quit. And believe me, I’ve threatened to many times.

But I can’t.

You can’t either. Whatever is going on in your life right now, keep on keeping on. Don’t give up hope. You will achieve if you do not give up.




Monday, November 08, 2010

SEEDS OF GRATITUDE



“Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all the others.”
~ Marcus Tullius Cicero

How I love this time of year! It is a time when we think, “harvest,” but it is also a time to plant. However, unlike planting in the spring, fall planting is delayed gratification. My Tiger Lily bulbs, Daffodils, and Tulips are all snuggled in their earthen beds for the winter. In the spring they will wake up and grow into graceful shapes with brilliant colors, delighting me as well as all who visit Selah. It is worth the wait.

Planting seeds of gratitude in our hearts accomplishes the same thing. Our lives may be filled with problems, heartaches, and disappointments. We may have irritating  people in our faces whose goal in life, it seems, is to make us miserable. When this is the case, it is so easy to focus on the negative. After all, this is our reality.

But . . . does it have to be?

No.

We need to plant the bulbs of gratitude in the garden of our hearts. We may not see an immediate change. But gratitude will work its magic in us while our souls are in winter. Then, one day, gratitude will break through in our soul and we realize that we are more positive, our vision is clear, and we have hope even in the darkest tempest.

While searching for quotes this one by H. U. Westermayer hit me hard: “The pilgrims made seven times more graves than huts. No Americans have been more impoverished than these who, nevertheless, set aside a day of thanksgiving. We can learn from these brave people that while we may feel we have nothing to be thankful for, we really do!

Reasons to be grateful are all around us, but we overlook them because they are so small or taken for granted. Think about something you would hate to be without and then be thankful that you have it. I’m thankful for warm, drinking-quality water to bathe in and the hours I’ve spent the last few days laughing with my family and friends.  

I plant the seeds of gratitude by reviewing my day, making a list of the things I’m grateful for, and writing them down. There is something about writing (or typing) that buries them deep in our souls.

This week, in the month set aside for thanksgiving, start planting seeds and bulbs of gratitude in your heart. Add to your list every night.

Spring will come, gratitude will bloom, making our lives beautiful.







  

Monday, November 01, 2010

THE FOLLY OF FEAR



Fear is an acronym in the English language for “False Evidence Appearing Real.” ~ Neale Donald Walsch

Last weekend many celebrated a holiday that has its roots in fear. A lot of us enjoy a good fright, whether it comes from movies or a scary tale. We like to jump out and startle people and have a good laugh afterwards. My normally quiet husband, Neal, enjoys sneaking up behind unsuspecting victims and making an ear-splitting chicken cackle noise, scaring them witless. This behavior, I suppose, developed from the many years he’s worked for Tyson Foods.

True fear is an emotion aroused by impending danger or pain. It is a protective behavior that keeps us alive. It brings to mind the deer on our property. I like to watch them from my deck. As they graze the constantly look up and survey their surroundings. They twitch their ears and listen. After a while they graze a little longer. If I snap my fingers, they look up immediately, wait, listen, and then go back to eating. However, if I should walk toward them, they flag their little white tails and leap into the woods.

Fear can also be debilitating when it “crosses” the barrier of truth and enters our imaginations. Irrational beliefs and dread for what could happen, what might happen, eat at our souls with negative attitudes resulting in self-destructive actions. While searching for quotes, I found this: “Fear is the darkroom where negatives develop.” How true. I can’t tell you how many times I sat in the dark weeping when my teenagers broke curfew. I had them bleeding to death in a ditch until I saw those blessed headlights in the driveway. However, after I hugged them, I wanted to kill them!

Many things—poor self-image, hurtful experiences from childhood, emotional distress, past failures, even the painful experiences of others—feed the fear that haunts our minds. We believe the lie and react in bizarre ways. I once heard someone ask a person who was deathly afraid of spiders, “What’s worse, the fear of spiders or the broken leg you get from trying to get away from it?

Living life in fear is a miserable way to live. Most of us can overcome it by identifying the fear, its origin, and telling ourselves the truth. For instance, the fear of spiders:

·      Some spiders are poisonous – true.
·      My foot is bigger than the spider - true.
·      I can use a fly swatter on the spider – true.
·      The spider will overpower my foot, my fly swatter, and fill me full of venom before swallowing me whole – false.

Fear is destructive. It robs us of our dreams and cripples our future. Mary Manin Morrissey rightly said, “You block your dream when you allow your fear to grow bigger than your faith.”

If you are living in the dark shadow of fear, I encourage you to master and retrain your mind. If you cannot do it alone, get help. There is absolutely NO SHAME in getting professional help.

Overcoming fear is gradual process in faith. I depend on my faith everyday in regards to the fear that often sneaks up on me—the well being of my children. I have to let go of what I cannot control and turn to the One who loves them more than I do. I never dreamed that much love was possible, but it is.

Life is good, live it to the fullest, free from dread and worry—free from fear.  

Monday, October 25, 2010

STRENGTH FROM STRUGGLES

“Strength does not come from winning. Your struggles develop your strengths. When you go through hardships and decide not to surrender, that is strength.” ~ Arnold Schwarzenegger



Last spring I must have dropped a cucumber seed in the graveled drive on my way to plant our garden, because a tiny plant made its appearance among the rocks around the same time as my cucumbers sprouted in their rows of rich dirt.

All summer long I passed the little plant thinking it would die. We didn’t water it. Actually, we rode our 4- wheelers over it to and from the garden. Neal even drove his tractor over it several times!  We totally ignored it and yet it survived. It even survived the August drought for heaven’s sake!

My  pampered cucumber vines in the garden did awful. Spoiled little things. Most were bitter and didn’t produce much fruit at all. We may have gotten a dozen pints of pickles from them. Hardly worth the trouble.

The little plant in the road didn’t do much either, that is until last week. I passed it and to my surprise it offered a respectable sized cucumber. I picked it and took it to the house. I didn’t have a lot of hope for its taste, but I sliced it up and took a bite. To my amazement, it had a crisp texture and sweet flavor. This brave plant actually has another miniscule cuke in the making. Take a close look at the photo above. 

This cucumber plant has been Neal’s and my discussion during our evenings on the porch. We looked back over our lives and remembered the “fruit” that came from our struggles. At the time it didn’t seem that anything good could come from our hardships and I can’t say that either of us was particularly gracious in some of our struggles. But I can say that we didn’t give up and now we are stronger and wiser.

I read this once, “Nothing that comes your way can harm you, only your response to it.” For the majority of things in our lives, I believe this is very true.

Struggle requires something from us that is beyond us. It requires faith, determination, vision, and action. If we roll on our backs—like my grandpuppy, Kricket, does when troubles come— we will grow weak in our soul and our lives will show it. Just like my pampered cucumbers, we may put on a lot of showy leaves, but have no fruit. Or what little fruit we do have may be bitter.

Don’t resent the struggles you are having now. Respond to them. Change the way you think about them and make them work for you. Exercise the “soul muscle” of faith, determination, vision, and action.

In doing this, you will be strong.

Monday, October 18, 2010

RULES OF CHANGE


                        
“When the music changes, so does the dance.” ~ African Proverb

I just returned today from Eureka Springs where I attended the Ozark Creative Writer’s Conference. On my way there the trees were green, the weather a little too warm. However, coming home they were turning scarlet, orange, and yellow, the air crisp. My heart sang out, “Change is coming!”

How I love the seasons. Especially fall. It is the time when nature dons colorful clothes and celebrates the fruits of spring and summer. Each season is distinct and has a unique purpose.

In much the same way, life is the same. Think about this, every living thing grows and changes. We all go through changes or “seasons” and each serve a purpose. We grow into adults. We graduate school, get married, start careers, get jobs, maybe have a few children. Our children grow into adults and make us grandparents.

We change our careers, our interests, and the direction of our lives. Our bodies change, our ways of thinking grows and sometimes changes. We watch loved ones die and one day we will too.

This is the natural flow of life. Where we go wrong is when we resist change. No one can enjoy fall if they are filled with longing for the past spring. As the proverb says, dance to the music that is playing. Live your life to the fullest. Embrace the change and make it work for you.

Dance to the music of fall! 


Monday, October 11, 2010

A TIME TO HARVEST



“For the unlearned, old age is winter; for the learned it is the season of the harvest.” ~ The Talmud

I started writing around the age of 48. In my naïveté I didn’t think my late start mattered. That is until my first writing convention. The speakers were all ages, but the one thing they had in common was that they were born with a silver pen in their hand. Every one of them said they started writing as children. The message I heard was “all you middle-aged women, just lay down your pen and go home.”

It seemed that editors and agents only wanted experienced writers and didn’t have time to fool with novices. One speaker actually said if we wanted to write, then write letters! Needless to say, I left with my writing spark snuffed. A tiny stream of smoke curled up from my extinguished flame of creativity.

I kept writing, but the “what’s the use” cloud hovered over me like the one over the Peanut’s character, Pigpen. However, that changed when I attended a writing workshop. The speaker asked us to write about an influential person in our lives. I wrote about my mom. She married when she was in 8th grade. Then at the age of 45 she earned her GED and achieved her LPN license at 48. She didn’t let the circumstances in her life make her a victim.

After writing about her, it hit me, I was turning myself into a victim! No one is guaranteed a tomorrow. So what was I doing with my “todays?”
I came to realize that all my life I had been gathering experiences, stories, life-lessons. Then at 48, it was time for me to “harvest” and share my gleanings.

Do you feel it is too late for you? Maybe you want to go back to school. Do it! You want to start a second career or a new one? Do it! You want to follow your dream? Do it! Don’t let your age or how long it may take stop you. My mother went back to school, and it took a little over 3 years. She could have said, “Well, I don’t know, I won’t graduate until I’m 48.” But think about it, she turned 48 anyway—with a degree.

I don’t care if you are 70+. Go back to school, write that novel, start that career, create, love, reach out. It is never too late. Share your life’s harvest with us. By doing this, you are planting seeds for future generations! 

A TIME TO HARVEST




“For the unlearned, old age is winter; for the learned it is the season of the harvest.” ~ The Talmud

I started writing around the age of 48. In my naïveté I didn’t think my late start mattered. That is until my first writing convention. The speakers were all ages, but the one thing they had in common was that they were born with a silver pen in their hand. Every one of them said they started writing as children. The message I heard was “all you middle-aged women, just lay down your pen and go home.”

It seemed that editors and agents only wanted experienced writers and didn’t have time to fool with novices. One speaker actually said if we wanted to write, then write letters! Needless to say, I left with my writing spark snuffed. A tiny stream of smoke curled up from my extinguished flame of creativity.

I kept writing, but the “what’s the use” cloud hovered over me like the one over the Peanut’s character, Pigpen. However, that changed when I attended a writing workshop. The speaker asked us to write about an influential person in our lives. I wrote about my mom. She married when she was in 8th grade. Then at the age of 45 she earned her GED and achieved her LPN license at 48. She didn’t let the circumstances in her life make her a victim.

After writing about her, it hit me, I was turning myself into a victim! No one is guaranteed a tomorrow. So what was I doing with my “todays?”
I came to realize that all my life I had been gathering experiences, stories, life-lessons. Then at 48, it was time for me to “harvest” and share my gleanings.

Do you feel it is too late for you? Maybe you want to go back to school. Do it! You want to start a second career or a new one? Do it! You want to follow your dream? Do it! Don’t let your age or how long it may take stop you. My mother went back to school, and it took a little over 3 years. She could have said, “Well, I don’t know, I won’t graduate until I’m 48.” But think about it, she turned 48 anyway—with a degree.

I don’t care if you are 70+. Go back to school, write that novel, start that career, create, love, reach out. It is never too late. Share your life’s harvest with us. By doing this, you are planting seeds for future generations! 

Saturday, October 02, 2010

THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM

"Faith is taking the first step even when you don't see the whole staircase." ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.


Eureka!

That was the siren's call luring men and women to the California gold fields from the years 1848-1853. However, the most common phrase spoken was either, “Have you saw the elephant?” (sic) or “I have seen the elephant.”

The elephant was symbolic of the high cost of their endeavor in selling everything they had for the funds to make the trip and also of leaving their families. It represented every thing that could go wrong like horrible weather, broken wagons, Indian raids, small children wandering off in the tall grasses never to be found again, sickness, starvation, and death. But even with the high cost and everything that could go wrong, the result was still considered the most amazing experience of a lifetime.

So, if the elephant represents the high cost of an endeavor, and the innumerable possibilities of what could go wrong, but still is an adventure without equal, then EVERY PARENT has seen the elephant! There are days that darned animal tromps all over the room. Sometimes when I go to bed it sits on my chest making it hard to breathe.

Ever been there?

One morning, before sunrise, I woke up with a problem on my mind that concerned one of my children. Realizing how useless it was to try to sleep, I went outside to pray. On my front porch I stared into the darkness.

Funny how loud problems can scream at you from all directions in inky blackness. There isn’t a place to focus. But then on the horizon I saw a golden razor edge split the earth from the sky. I made that my focal point as gold and pink pushed the darkness away. The cacophony of worry gave way to the song of birds. I watched as the sun rose and burned away what was left of the night. With the dawn came clarity to my problems and my hope renewed. With God nothing is impossible.

Psalm 112:4 says, “Even in darkness light dawns for the upright, for the gracious and compassionate and righteous man (and woman)”

That light can be hope, and it can also be revelation. But it only comes when our focus is on God – not the elephant.

Parenting is costly, and many things can and do go wrong. But it is also an amazing experience.

We all see the elephant at one time or another, because the pachyderm beast isn't limited to parenting. It can any relationship. We need people in our lives, but with people there will be complications from time to time. Just remember, our focus is best when on God and loving His way.

How does He love?
That is next weeks post! 

Monday, September 20, 2010

WHAT REALLY MATTERS


“I have found a paradox, that if you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love.” ~ Mother Theresa

September 11, 2010, I listened to rebroadcasts of the terrorist attack on our nation. I was driving to meet my friend Jan who was traveling with me to Oklahoma City. My throat constricted and tears slid down my cheeks. It felt to me like the attack had just happened.

When Jan got in the car, she too had been listening to the same radio station. We talked about that day and she made an interesting point. It intrigued her how important it was to those who knew death was immanent that their family knew how much they loved them. It wasn’t important to know that they were loved.

I thought about what she said.  After returning home I googled the last words of the victims. I wept as I read transcripts of phone calls and interviews of those who lost loved ones in this heinous crime. No one called to say, I’ll never forgive you, you hurt my feelings, I hate you. Rather they said, I’m okay, I love you, never forget that.

This just goes to show us what really matters, to give love rather than to expect it. It also presents the true meaning of love. It is a verb more than a noun. It is an action more than an emotion. It is doing for others when there is nothing in it for us. It is often inconvenient and unappreciated.

True love is sacrifice. Loving others is what really matters.



Wednesday, September 15, 2010

GOING THE EXTRA MILE

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” ~ Aristotle

Labor Day, fifteen years ago, our house caught fire. It happened around 8 in the evening. Rob, Charles, and I were talking in the living room — this is significant, because my teenaged sons were actually communicating with me, even using full sentences! I was in Heaven. Our subject? Armageddon. Isn’t that funny? While we talked about the end of the world, Armageddon was happening in our house and we didn’t have any idea, until Olivia noticed flashing lights in the office. She thought William was playing on the computer and peeked in to find the room on fire.

Fortunately, Rob thought of grabbing the cordless phone as we ran out of the house. We called 911 and watched an orange ball of fire consume our home. Neighbors came out with their phones asking who we wanted them to call. I couldn’t think, my mind had become a traffic jam of emotions, thoughts, and worry. One neighbor asked where we were insured. I told them Allstate and our insurance rep was Dale Johnson. She made the call.

Just minutes after the fire department arrived, Dale drove up. He comforted me and told me not to worry, he would help us through this disaster. Losing stuff really didn’t bother me, it was the irreplaceable things that hurt my heart. I watched the hungry flames consume the letters my father had written my grandmother while he served in the Korean War, all of my children’s baby books that contained letters I had written them while I carried them. I had planned on giving those letters to them when they were expecting their first child. Photos, family memorabilia, all lost. But I didn’t experience the same despair over those things as my son Charles felt about his guitar. He had saved for months to buy his first guitar, a blue Fender Stratocaster. We literally had to hold him back from running into the burning house in an effort to save it. He finally collapsed on the street curb and cried.

After the flames were put out, Dale walked with the fire chief through the house. Several minutes later he walked out with a blackened guitar case and handed it to Charles. With tender trepidation, Charles opened the case and found his guitar in perfect condition. The combination of joy and relief still thrills my heart today.

Dale went the extra mile by walking through the muddy ash to find that guitar, and then checking to make sure it was in good condition before handing it to Charles. I will always appreciate this man’s excellence.


To go the extra mile is to make more of an effort than is expected of you. By doing this you not only make a positive difference in the lives of others, the rewards of such excellence follow.

This weekend Neal and I went out to lunch at the Texas Land and Cattle Steakhouse in Rogers. We were seated and the hostess asked us for our drink orders and brought them to us. Then nothing. After a while the manager asked us if we were going to be eating anything and Neal casually answered, “Yes, when we get a menu.” The manager looked surprised and hurried to bring us a menu. When he handed them to us he said, “Your lunches will be on the house today for our oversight.”

Wow! He told us that before we ordered! Neal and I were surprised because we had enjoyed talking, not thinking a thing about the delay. But the manager went that extra mile. We ordered a lunch portion (we resisted ordering the most expensive thing on the menu) of steak medallions and I must say our lunches were excellent! Plus, because of that manager’s attentiveness, we will be back and we do recommend that restaurant.

I’ve heard it said, “Average is the best of the worst and the worst of the best.” We don’t want to be the best of the worst, do we? This week, go the extra mile. Do more than is expected of you. Let us all begin practicing excellence as a habit.



GOING THE EXTRA MILE


“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” ~ Aristotle

Labor Day, fifteen years ago, our house caught fire. It happened around 8 in the evening. Rob, Charles, and I were talking in the living room — this is significant, because my teenaged sons were actually communicating with me, even using full sentences! I was in Heaven. Our subject? Armageddon. Isn’t that funny? While we talked about the end of the world, Armageddon was happening in our house and we didn’t have any idea, until Olivia noticed flashing lights in the office. She thought William was playing on the computer and peeked in to find the room on fire.

Fortunately, Rob thought of grabbing the cordless phone as we ran out of the house. We called 911 and watched an orange ball of fire consume our home. Neighbors came out with their phones asking who we wanted them to call. I couldn’t think, my mind had become a traffic jam of emotions, thoughts, and worry. One neighbor asked where we were insured. I told them Allstate and our insurance rep was Dale Johnson. She made the call.

Just minutes after the fire department arrived, Dale drove up. He comforted me and told me not to worry, he would help us through this disaster. Losing stuff really didn’t bother me, it was the irreplaceable things that hurt my heart. I watched the hungry flames consume the letters my father had written my grandmother while he served in the Korean War, all of my children’s baby books that contained letters I had written them while I carried them. I had planned on giving those letters to them when they were expecting their first child. Photos, family memorabilia, all lost. But I didn’t experience the same despair over those things as my son Charles felt about his guitar. He had saved for months to buy his first guitar, a blue Fender Stratocaster. We literally had to hold him back from running into the burning house in an effort to save it. He finally collapsed on the street curb and cried.

After the flames were put out, Dale walked with the fire chief through the house. Several minutes later he walked out with a blackened guitar case and handed it to Charles. With tender trepidation, Charles opened the case and found his guitar in perfect condition. The combination of joy and relief still thrills my heart today.

Dale went the extra mile by walking through the muddy ash to find that guitar, and then checking to make sure it was in good condition before handing it to Charles. I will always appreciate this man’s excellence.


To go the extra mile is to make more of an effort than is expected of you. By doing this you not only make a positive difference in the lives of others, the rewards of such excellence follow.

This weekend Neal and I went out to lunch at the Texas Land and Cattle Steakhouse in Rogers. We were seated and the hostess asked us for our drink orders and brought them to us. Then nothing. After a while the manager asked us if we were going to be eating anything and Neal casually answered, “Yes, when we get a menu.” The manager looked surprised and hurried to bring us a menu. When he handed them to us he said, “Your lunches will be on the house today for our oversight.”

Wow! He told us that before we ordered! Neal and I were surprised because we had enjoyed talking, not thinking a thing about the delay. But the manager went that extra mile. We ordered a lunch portion (we resisted ordering the most expensive thing on the menu) of steak medallions and I must say our lunches were excellent! Plus, because of that manager’s attentiveness, we will be back and we do recommend that restaurant.

I’ve heard it said, “Average is the best of the worst and the worst of the best.” We don’t want to be the best of the worst, do we? This week, go the extra mile. Do more than is expected of you. Let us all begin practicing excellence as a habit.