Thursday, February 25, 2010
I guess you want some background. I have an older brother: 3 years my senior. That would have made him about 16 at the time. Just imagine: a 16 year old boy with a 13 year old sister. A very strong willed 13 year old little sister! Capitalize "sibling rivalry"! We did get along on occasion but we had our "bouts"! I don't remember a whole lot about the situation in question, except that we were playing Monopoly and we were having some "disagreements". About what, I don't remember. I do remember lots of "disagreements", though. Onlookers might have thought we were "mildly violently dangerous". It's comical now but it wasn't then. I know. Those of you who know me now are rolling in the floor! (ROTFLOL!) I remember a few times when sharp pointed objects were "brandished" (but never used, thankfully). This particular time, whatever the disagreement was about, I just remember reaching over and grabbing my brother's nose and twisting! He ended up with a blister on the end of his nose! Quit laughing! I guess my mother had had all she could take! She took that game and threw it in the trash! Of all the indignities! How could she???
They say that we pay for our "own raising" when we have kids of our own. I was mercifully spared the trials of sibling rivalry with my children because I only had one. I realize now there are benefits to not having more than one child. But, I now have grandchildren! With all the glories and wonders that grandparenting holds, but also with all the added "benefits" of learning what it is like to have more than one child at a time! I have the privilege of caring for my two granddaughters: 5 and 3 year olds. Extremely strong willed little girls. Very different from each other but very much their own "persons"! The oldest, Rachel, has been dubbed "Drama Queen", a title which she proudly claims. We thought that the youngest, Jordan, was going to be the mild-mannered, sweet little pixie, but I think "urchin" may become a better description as time goes on! I love them to death! They are the joy of my life! But, as I told a friend the other day, I have to repent all the time because I get so mad at them! I'm trying to teach them good values: how to get along, how to control their emotions and reactions, how to find more creative ways to express their frustrations, how to be sweet and kind, how to be good little girls. I think that I should do this because I'm beginning to think that perhaps some of their "drama-ness" may have been inherited . . . . . from their Mamoo.
Just this morning, the "drama queen" was voicing her frustrations (thankfully not towards her sister) and she acted like she was going to throw a half-way expensive toy simply because it didn't do what she wanted it to do, and I instinctively said, "If you throw that, I'm going to throw it away and you'll never see it again!" And it hit me: I finally understand why my mother threw the Monopoly Game away!
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
There are so many things that have happened in the last few days. Extremes of emotions, from one end of the spectrum to the other, have kept me on a virtual roller coaster ride mentally. I've had trouble focusing on a single clear thought to be able to write about, so I just haven't. Written, that is. They buried my friend on Saturday and I was privileged to sing and play according to her wishes. I was reminded by the minister that we didn't need to worry about living a life full of many years but, more importantly, we should attempt to live years full of life. Then Saturday evening was a time of fun and friendship as my fellow Red Hat Sisters and I celebrated a belated Valentine's with our hubbys. All weekend I battled a physical condition, of which I will spare you the details, that, because of the sheer length of the time I have suffered with it, has tended to cause me mental depression. And then Sunday morning I was reminded of how much God loves me and that He still answers prayer. Since then I have rested on that knowledge as I carry the burden of the sufferings of those that I love and care about. The second paragraph in my second letter (Christmas 1997) says this, "I've learned some things this year: A person can be happy, even in the midst of hard times, God does love us and He is mindful of us at all times and in every situation, and family and friends are two of the most precious possessions a person can have. Of course, I knew these things before, but not like I know them now." I actually could repeat that paragraph every year, especially that last sentence. Why would I, or anyone for that matter, give up that security for something temporal?
The society we live in today is obsessed with the idea of being independent from God. The song, "I Did It My Way", is typical of the prevailing attitude of the masses. They don't think they need God. They think they're self-sufficient. The other buzz word we hear a lot these days is "Change". We need change. And change is what we are getting! In every arena, change is coming so fast that it is scary. I'll grant you, some change is good. If we're going in the wrong direction, we need to change. But what is the measuring tool with which we can determine if change is needed or not? I present to you, my opinion is this: if MY way runs parallel to HIS way, then I don't need to change. And the vice versa is true. I've seen so much "stuff" that masquerades as good when, all along, it is My Way. I guess we could call it the "New Good". I can't imagine how we could think we could improve on the most perfect proven system ever created!
I think one reason I have been feeling these extremes in emotion is that I have been working on myself for a while now, attempting to make myself better by examining my life to this point. I've taken a hard look at my past: my failures and my successes, my victories and defeats. Things I would change if I could do it over. Lessons I've learned and people and things that have influenced me. Risks taken, contributions made. Changes I need to make. I've looked at my "assets", both physical, mental, spiritual, tangible and intangible. I've considered what I would do if I had only 24 hours to live. I've looked at what I want my end to be. I've written my obituary. My epitaph. I've determined what are my core values. I've written a mission statement and a vision statement. I've interviewed myself and attempted to determine my strengths, weaknesses, obstacles and threats. Then I've interviewed others to get a picture of how they see me. I've tried to pick a few things that others see I need to work on to make them my project for the upcoming year. As you can imagine, the emotions evoked by all of this activity bring me to a particularly vulnerable state. There are certainly things in my life that I would like to change but then there are those things, core values, standards and beliefs that I wouldn't change for all the gold in the world. I see people making apparent "paradigm shifts" in areas that are "Landmark" in their importance. I don't understand how they can expect to get the same results with different actions.
There may indeed be an easier way but, all I know is that I want MY way to be HIS way.
Wednesday, February 17, 2010
"in my fused world, on the left side of me is a small box, it sits just above my heart, and though it seems small, it never feels like the content ever changes. . . it is full of the prayers and love you have sent . . . when I need a prayer, I reach into the box and pull one out . . . it is very tiny, so I use my fingertips and . . . drop them onto my heart . . . this is where God has placed your prayers so I can find them . . . funny thing is that sometimes I can see your face. I love it! We cannot choose how we die, only how we live and I choose to live in Christ with the earthly help of each of you! Most tests today . . . love you all."
I don't know if that touches you in the way that it touches me, but I hope that I can face death with such tenderness. I've seen my friend go through some very dark times and I've seen her fight her way out of that blackness. She's not fighting anymore.
I'm missing you, my friend.
Tuesday, February 16, 2010
There is no way that I could wait to get through 7 years of letters before I mentioned the most precious part of me: my grandchildren! I haven't even gotten to my 1997 letter and the first one was not born until 2004! All the letters in the world are not enough to contain my feelings for them or their antics and cuteness (and "orneryness" [it's in the dictionary]). I've wished so many times that I had kept a little journal with me to write down all the things they say, and maybe I'll do more of that with this venue!
Those of you with children, - especially small children - or grandchildren, know how it is: there is always sound. In the background. All around you. And every once in a while a little bit of that sound registers as words to you and you pay attention: "What was that?" This happened the other day. We were sitting in my kitchen and in the background my oldest granddaughter was singing as she often does. Thankfully their lives' (my grandchildren's) are filled with music. Music is an integral part of my life as well as my children's lives. Rachel has a tendency, however, to substitute words. She gets all the syllables in there, and the melody, but sometimes she doesn't catch the words and so she just improvises. Her mother caught my attention and caused me to listen to her singing: "Row, row, row your boat, gently down the stream. Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily, life is butter dreams!" And over and over and over again. Every time it was the same. "Life is butter dreams!" Oh, to be a child again. That is what their lives are! "Butter Dreams". What are butter dreams? Soft, smooth, problem-free, innocent, perfect lives. Lives that add flavor to everything they touch! This culture would try and destroy that but we must protect that with everything that is in our power. Children are our most precious responsibilities! Jesus blessed the children and said, "Suffer the little children to come unto Me and forbid them not: for of such is the Kingdom of Heaven." (Mark 10:14) And in Matthew the 18th chapter, he gives stern warnings to those who harm these little ones (and those of a child-like attitude).
And so, sing on, little One! Live in that perfect world. Give us glimpses, every now and then, into that life of Butter Dreams! We'll let you live there as long as you possibly can! Our love will protect you and the One who created you, who loves you so much more than we ever could dream of, will keep you in His love. And that's not a dream. It's for real!
Friday, February 12, 2010
"It is Valentine's. A time of love. Take time and let all your FB friends know how you met your sweetheart."Yes, Sunday is Valentine's Day. A day when we think about love. Some think more about who they love, and focus on doing romantic, or sweet things for the object of their love. Some think more about who they hope loves them, and spend their focus wondering what they are going to get. I think my friend has a good perspective. Focus on the moments where love has happened in your life. Treasure those memories and use them as a springboard to create new memories. After all, it's like someone else said:
Life isn’t measured by the number of breaths you take, but by the moments that take your breath away. (author unknown)
So, where did I meet my sweetheart? Some of my story will not be a surprise to many of you since you think you know me, but, I can guarantee it will be very surprising to many. I met him at a church service (no surprise). It was at my church. He was visiting with his Pastor. I was definitely not the only eligible girl in the room. And I was also definitely not the only girl in the room that felt like fainting! LOL! Wow! Who is that?! Here was this extremely good-looking young fellow, dressed in a classic '70's style, hair just right, with a smile that made you think the lights had been off before he smiled! And he was SINGLE! It was unbelievable! I was right up front on the piano bench and do you think he saw me? No, he did not! Some other 'thing' had caught his eye! I won't belabor this point because I don't want to embarrass him or her (the other 'thing'). But, suffice it to say, I was devastated. To make a long story short, however, he did finally come to his senses. And he did notice me. (Of course, I did my share of praying. . . LOL!)
What is going to be surprising to you is that I never dated my husband. Oh, I was with him all the time. But he was at my home (where my divorced, handicapped mother was all the time) or we were at church or with other young people. I'll be honest, it may have been different if we had lived in another "culture" than what we were surrounded by. But, we did have honest, sincere desires to be virtuous and to save that special part of our relationship for the sanctity of marriage. But . . . . we weren't engaged long! And, apparently, it worked. We will celebrate 31 years this May.
The journey has been . . . interesting, to say the least. But, I have to say, he's my best friend. He's been my refuge when I felt ravaged and abused by this world. He's my rock when everything else seems so shaky. And, as I've told him before, when he believes in me, I know I can accomplish anything I attempt.
I'm thankful for my Sweetheart!
Wednesday, February 10, 2010
No story about my journey would be complete without speaking of birthdays. I'm sure I'll tell about certain birthdays and the events surrounding them as I go along but yesterday was my forty-first birthday. You think I'm older than that? Actually yesterday was my Spiritual Birthday. Now, that terminology may be foreign to some of you, but to most, you know exactly what I mean.
I think we should celebrate our "second" birthday even more than we do our first. When I was born into this world physically, I didn't have a choice about it. No choice about who my parents were. No choice about what nationality or race. No choice about my gender. But my second birth was all about choices. I had to decide how I wanted to live my life. I had to decide WHO I wanted to live for: myself or my Maker. I had to decide what I wanted my life to represent. At the ripe old age of eleven, I'm sure that I didn't consciously think about those things individually. I just knew that something and Someone was tugging at my heart. I knew I loved Him and wanted Him to be with me forever. I knew I needed a Saviour!
I'm so thankful that I made that decision at a young age. It's so hard, many times, for adults, who are "set in their ways" to surrender their will to another Power. I'm a very strong-willed person, and, if I had waited, I'm afraid it would have been a much harder decision. That's why it is so important that we teach children, at the earliest age possible, the right way to go: the truth. And the most effective way of teaching is by example. Children learn what they live.
I don't remember anything about my physical birth. But I remember everything about my Spiritual Birth! I remember my thoughts, my feelings, my tears, even the dress I was wearing. I remember the place (I even know the street address), the time . . . . (you know the song). Those memories are forever etched into my mind. I'll never forget it.
The journey that began on February 9, 1969 has been one full of ups and downs, joys and sorrows, and victories and trials (tests), but never have I wanted to go back and undo it. I'll have to admit that I've actually had times physically that I would rather to have not been born but never have I wished I had never been born again. In fact, it is that foundation that makes this physical life more secure and more worth living.
If you have not experienced what I'm talking about, I invite you to try it out! You'll love it!
Monday, February 8, 2010
Do you remember the parable in the Bible that Jesus taught about the woman and her lost piece of silver? It's found in Luke the 15th chapter. Jesus was being criticized for fraternizing with sinners. He gave the example of the woman having 10 pieces of silver and losing one of them. He said she would light a candle and sweep her house, seeking diligently until she found that one lost coin. And . . . when she found it, she called her friends and neighbors together for a party to help her celebrate her find! It was lost but now it's found! Jesus went on to say that the Kingdom of Heaven is like that, in that "there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth."
That story was brought home to me this past weekend. Not everything I own is worth a whole lot. And the worth of a possession is not always in its monetary value. (The woman in Jesus' example had 9 other pieces of silver, after all.) What something represents adds much more value than simply dollars and cents. Thus, pictures lost in a fire are, many times, the most devastating of all losses.
I lost something over the weekend that is extremely valuable to me . . . my wedding band. More than the considerable monetary value, my distress was caused by what it means to me. It's irreplaceable. Even if I had the money to replace the object, I wouldn't be able to replace the spirit of it, if you please. When my husband and I were first married, we couldn't afford some of the bare necessities, much less a ring. That fact, along with a few other extenuating circumstances of a totally different nature, determined that our ceremony did not include rings. On our 15th Wedding Anniversary, however, we renewed our vows. Like most married couples, we had had our ups and downs and ins and outs and had survived with renewed purpose to "make this thing work". I even wrote a letter to Focus on the Family about the event and what it represented. It was then that my husband gave me the wedding band that I wear today. It's beautiful. It is in the Anniversary style, yellow gold, with 11 channel set diamonds. Not as expensive as some, but certainly expensive by our standards. My cousin performed the ceremony, and he brought out a different meaning about the wedding ring than I had ever heard. Of course, we know that it represents the token of a covenant - which is what a marriage should be. Not a contract, but a covenant. Basically what he brought out was that, as we age, we lose physical beauty as well as ability, but when my husband sees that ring on my finger, it reminds him of his awesome responsibility to love and protect the bearer. It reminds him of beauty past - even when I have morning breath and "over-night hair" (LOL!). It reminds him that I am still the person whom he married in the beginning. It reminds him of why he married me. I guess you could say, it's my leverage!
So, you can imagine how I felt when I looked down at my hand during Sunday School while my husband was reading aloud in class participation! If anyone was looking, I'm sure I looked like I had seen a ghost! I kept myself from crying and I maintained my composure until he was finished reading and making his comments and then I reached over and quietly told him, "I've lost my ring." He immediately assured me, "We'll find it." And he got up and left. He searched the house: he said he didn't clean house like the woman in Jesus' story but he said he looked everywhere he could think I might have left it. He returned empty handed. After service, I asked him if he had checked our friends' car as I believed I had removed it to apply hand lotion while in their car going to eat with them. He went and checked. No ring. Finally, as a last resort, I asked him if he would take me to the restaurant, where we had gone, to look in the parking lot. I had called the restaurant and asked if anyone had turned in a ring to lost and found but to no avail.
My story does have a happy ending, thankfully! As we drove into the parking lot, I remembered exactly where we parked. I knew that if the ring had been in my lap as I got out of the car probably which direction it would've rolled. There was a car parked in the space next to where we had been. I told him, if it was in the parking lot it would be under that car. He said, "I guess you want me to get down and look . . ." "yes, unless you want to wait until they come out to leave." The car was very low to the ground and he basically had to lay down to see underneath it. "There it is!" Unbelievable! Right in the middle where it would not be run over and scratched up! Right in the middle so that no one walking by would see it! Our friend said, "You're lucky". I said, "I'm blessed"!
And so I know how the woman felt. I called my friends (although we didn't have a party, but we did rejoice!) And it also brings home the purpose of Jesus' story and how it applies in my life. I once was lost. But now I'm found! I know God values me so much more than a mere object of possession! He loves me. And He loves you.
Don't ever forget that!
Friday, February 5, 2010
There are places in the world where one might close their eyes and imagine they've gone back in time. Places where crime is very minimal and usually petty. Places where you can leave your doors unlocked. Places where everybody knows everybody (that can be good and it can be bad!) I realize these places are vanishing quickly as perpetrators of those non-existent crimes from the big cities discover this untapped source of "gullibleness" (if that is a word). But we enjoy them while we can.
When we moved to this small Mississippi town, we were moving from a semi-unpleasant larger city (don't want to offend anyone but their major industry was a very smelly one), and before that, we lived, for many years, in a town whose major industry was tourism. You would think that outsiders would instantly feel like insiders in a tourism town: but not so. Even though we lived there for almost 20 years, we never felt like we were a part of the community. Hard to explain or understand. I think there were a lot of undercurrents, maybe even on a spiritual level, that struggled for power. That's why it was so refreshing to come to a place I described as having "real people", "clean streets" and "peaceful nights." We have since moved to another small town, also in Mississippi, where we still live. What is so interesting to me is that, in spite of the short year and a half that we lived in that first Mississippi town, we are remembered by more of those acquaintances from that town than from the previous one where we lived for so many years. We do, however, have some very dear friends that still live in that town, as well as family, which will always tie us to it to a certain extent.
I have voiced a fear in the recent past that small town America is in danger of extinction because of technology, the environment with all of the talk of saving it by changing transportation modes, and a number of other contributing factors. I guess it could go the other way because of computers and the internet: people working from home, purchasing everything from clothing, to cars, to groceries online. That option has my vote! Let's get back to our roots. Plant a garden! Get to know your neighbors! Get a horse! (LOL!) Don't get a motorcycle . . . . (another story)!
Cheers for small towns!
Wednesday, February 3, 2010
Each year, my letters seem to take on a life of their own and develop a theme all by themselves. These days, I do try to figure out what that theme should be, but in the beginning, it was not quite so organized. The theme of my current letters revolves around the life lessons I've learned from my experiences during the year. Thankfully, as I grow older, I seem to learn more lessons, more quickly. That being the case, my posts on here will be numerous from a single letter. And the memories that are evoked by what I read . . . and the things I forgot at the time . . . and the things I didn't have room to say.
I would have to say that the theme for that first letter was Friends: old friends, new friends, temporary friends, friends in need and friends in deed. Now, I've been blessed with many friends. In fact, because I have friends, I consider myself successful, fulfilled, safe and extremely wealthy. I have friends that I know would come close to laying down their lives for me. I met one of those really good ones in my first letter. She's my best bud and I believe she'd take a bullet for me. Is that not riches?!
There are times in our lives, though, when we come across people who befriend us when there is no possible way for them to ever reap a reward for it - other than in the life to come. I tell about such people in that first letter. Shortly before we moved to Mississippi, I made a trip with my mother to see my brother and his family and my Dad and step-mother. My hubby had to work so he stayed behind at home. We began our trip home on a Sunday in the morning. We were traveling in the middle of nowhere in Arkansas when "the thing that I feared the most" happened to us. We broke down! In the middle of no where! Very few houses in sight. I can't remember how many people were with us, but it was more than just mother and I. We had several children with us, as I recall.
Who wants to see a bunch of strangers standing on their doorstep on a beautiful Sunday morning just in time to interrupt their day?
I met some true-to-life good Samaritans that Sunday morning. This precious, older couple, took us in, fed us, and let us stay in their home all day long! First of all, I didn't have a cell phone and when I tried to phone my husband from their phone, he was at Church and no one would answer the phone! Why do Churches have phones if no one is going to answer them? For goodness sakes, it could be an emergency! It was an emergency! I'm stuck in the middle of nowhere! To make a long story short, it was evening when he arrived to rescue us. Those people were angels, as far as I'm concerned. They wouldn't take anything for their trouble and were the most gracious of hosts to these strangers. We could have been criminals as far as they knew but if that thought ever crossed their mind, we never knew it.
That's friends in deed.
And I wouldn't even remember their names if I didn't have it written down.
I know that I have written many times, over the years, about my friends, so you'll hear about them as well. I treasure them. I like the words of Emily Dickinson, "My friends are my estate. Forgive me then the avarice to hoard them. They tell me those who were poor early have different views of gold. I don't know how that is. God is not so wary as we, else He would give us no friends, lest we forget Him." Our friends help shape who we are, who we become.
I thank God for the blessing of Friends.
Monday, February 1, 2010
For the last several years, I would think that I'm going to finally compile my book, but life always gets in the way, and the year passes, and no book. I saw the movie "Julie & Julia" this year, and it piqued my interest in this form of communication: blogging. I didn't, however, connect that idea with the idea of my book until just recently. I have endeavored to begin creating an online presence over the past year and have come to the knowledge that blogging is a good way to further that cause. You must have something to write about. . . . and then I realized: I have 13 years of stuff to write about already! I always tried to make my letters as short as possible because of my love/hate relationship with the good ole' U.S. Postal Service, and even then they were five and six pages long. But they could've been a lot longer! And the nice thing about blogs is that they are open ended. A book has an ending.
And then, the theme. What is the point? What is the common thread that ties all my letters together? It hit me about a year ago. They're about becoming. Life really does have meaning. Even in the little, ordinary, sometimes dreary details. It's all a process. And the verses in Jeremiah 29 came to me (vs 11-14): "For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end. Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you. And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart. And I will be found of you, saith the Lord: and I will turn away your captivity, and I will gather you from all the nations, and from all the places whither I have driven you, saith the Lord; and I will bring you again into the place whence I caused you to be carried away captive." No, I don't think Mississippi is captivity! (Is it apropo to say "LOL" in blogging?) It's all about His Plan For Me. It is a journey, and I love it!
And so, this is the beginning. But it's really more like in the middle because I'm going to go back just like I would've done in a book and start at the real beginning. I'll probably take side roads now and then and certainly will "flesh out" my original letters. I won't use real names (to protect the innocent), and I more than likely won't include every mundane detail (this one got married, this one graduated, etc., etc.), but I will include the spirit of those details. Current events will most definitely be interspersed here and there. And eventually, I will pass the current letter by, and everything after that will be my new letters. Hopefully, it will be something that you will enjoy. I know I'm going to enjoy doing it!