Write On

It’s safe to say that no one was more shocked than I that Friday morning in 1972 when my name was announced. The panel of judges had chosen me as the first prize winner for news writing at the 19th Annual Press Day at El Camino College. Sitting in the darkened auditorium awaiting the results, I had zero hope or expectation of being recognized. In all honesty, I had strongly considered not even showing up that day as nearly 400 student journalists from 17 South Bay high schools convened to compete. It was truly a last minute decision to jump into my ’65 Mustang and head to the competition. What the heck. All my friends were going, so, why not?

The South Bay Daily Breeze gave me my fifteen minutes of fame…

I remember hearing speakers, attending the informational session and being told to write a news story about it. I was as nonchalant about the contest as a seventeen year old girl could be, still pondering whether to even bother to write the assigned article or not, with no thought of a win. I was already there, and the time was going to pass anyway, so why not just write and get my participation badge?

When I look back on that day, nearly half a century earlier, I view the experience through different lenses. I now see that day as confirmation that I am, indeed, a writer- that I was born with an ability and a desire to write. This, not because I worked so hard at it, or because I studied long or honed my craft– not because I was the best prepared, but, because God gifted me with something that He wanted me to use for His glory. When I least expected to be recognized, He singled me out and shined a light on the gift He gave.

Redondo’s HIGH TIDE featured all the winners on the front page.
My very brief moment of high school glory!

Though there was a time when I had aspirations to write on a grander scale, I am happy now to share my little stories here with you, whoever and wherever you may be. I will continue write to share with you the meaningful moments and lessons He blesses me with, as I endeavor to fully live this beautiful, difficult, joyful, challenging and precious life He has called me to. Gifts are meant to be shared, so, I will write in response to the One who gives and Who consistently reminds me to pass it on. The act of processing life through these humble words is my response to the Giver of all good gifts. It matters not whether only one person or a million reads them. He made me a writer and, so, I must write.

I am well aware that blogs like this are a dime a dozen and that there is a plethora of writers far more eloquent than I. I am a little fish in a big pond. My aim is not for wealth or fame or a certain number of followers. In fact, the older I get, the more I crave a quiet life. Still, in the rhythms of my quiet, everyday life, I see the simplest moments as stories waiting to be told.

What gifts might you be hoarding that He intended you to give away? No matter where you are in life, it’s not to late to begin. Take a step of faith. Give it away.

To Everything, A Season

It’s Labor Day weekend and your local barista is already offering all things pumpkin spice. I have lamented multiple times, this week alone, that Summer has flown by faster than a whistling 4th of July rocket. I often express surprise at how the seasons sneak up on us, but the truth is, they are predictable, unlike some other segments of our lives. As the curtain on another Summer draws to a close, I am reminded that one of the few things we can absolutely count on is change.

To everything there is a season, A time for every purpose under Heaven…

Ecclesiastes 3:1

Be it the weather, our health, relationships or the seasons themselves, we can be certain that life will frequently be in flux. There will always be new mountains to climb and inner strength will be necessary. Our ability to find our “sea legs” will determine how we will ride out the subtle changes and larger storms of this life.

There will always be mountains to climb…

A time to be born, And a time to die…

Ecclesiastes 3:2a

Pressing through the grief, disappointments and irritations that are common to all takes not mere tenacity and resolve but a faith that propels such endurance. Releasing those we love to death stings. Disappointment makes our hearts heavy. The ability to press through the changing and challenging seasons only heightens our instinct to cherish the sweeter moments.

A time to weep, and a time to laugh; A time to mourn, and a time to dance...

Ecclesiastes 3:4

The blessing of new life as we mourn the loss of another we love

Three weeks after the death of my beloved father, my first grandchild was born. As I navigate through my own seasons, I have learned to embrace the reality that sorrow and joy often collide on the streets of life. They are in fact, the most intimate of friends. We won’t engage one without eventually engaging the other. This is a hard certainty. Change will come and we must change with it. As we ourselves are changed, we have the opportunity to bring change to the world we inhabit. I have recognized my only hope (and I believe, yours) is to cling to what is unchanging.

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever

Hebrews 13:8

In the shifting seasons, sands, circumstances, moral codes, political climates and relationship issues we all encounter, I have found Jesus to be the single source that will never fail. Wherever I am, He is there. Whatever my sin, He forgives. However gravely I am wounded, He will comfort. However late I call, He will answer. However undeserving I am, His grace is greater. However deep the pit I’m in, His hand will reach down to draw me out. Not because of any good thing I have done, but because of His grace and mercy to me despite my many shortcomings and failures.

I have found Him faithful. Through every season for more than half a century. There is:

  • No sin He can’t forgive
  • No circumstance too messy
  • No addiction He can’t break
  • No pain He can’t comfort
  • No brokenness He can’t restore
  • No lie He can’t speak truth too
  • No foolishness He can’t redeem
  • No weakness He can’t bring strength to
  • No chaos He can’t bring peace to.
  • No hate He can’t conquer with His love.

Through all the seasons of life, this extraordinary Jesus invites common people like you and I to enter into relationship with Him. Imagine! Your Creator, singling you out to walk and talk and live with Him now and throughout eternity. And, it has nothing to do with being good enough, because none of us are worthy to sit in His presence. Still, He invites us to enter into an intimate, personal, life giving relationship with Him.

Throughout every season of life, He stands at the door of your heart and knocks. Will you open that door?

It Hurts to Write These Words…

“Ben died…”

Those were the first  words I read  upon awakening  this past Friday.

“May he rest in peace and rise in glory”

I hail from a large extended family and some I know better than others.  Ben, not so well.  But, his father, my cousin, is like a brother to me, having lived in our home for a substantial  period of time when I was growing up.  He gave me my first Beatles album.  (Rubber Soul)  He let me drive his pink corvette one day.  He has an infectious smile and laugh.  I have a million memories of and with him.  Like each  of us, he has strengths and weaknesses.  Like me, He loves Jesus.   I have dearly loved him as long as I can remember.  Although he is miles away, I am grieving with him today and will be in the days to come.  There is a hard road ahead.

IMG_0885

Ben was his youngest.  His one and only son,  from a mother I have yet to  meet.  He was the child who most resembled him,  from where I stand. He was the husband of   a kind and  beautiful wife who loved him and a sweet daughter he claimed.  He had siblings who also grieve.  Shockingly,  his exit from this life on earth has been splashed across television screens which omit his name,  for now.  A devastating end to a sometime tumultuous life. But then, whose isn’t?

fullsizeoutput_b205

In the wee hours of the morning while riding his motor cycle on a deserted street in a town I once  called home, Ben was struck by a car.  His broken body slammed to the pavement and abandoned.    A helmet lay on the ground near a single white shoe.   A lone witness called for help as the driver of the car fled the scene, no doubt fueled by sheer panic and fear.

Emergency crews arrived to  transport him to a local hospital, where a kind young woman tried to reach my sister, several states away,  via Facebook.  Having found Ben’s ID, she searched for his name there and and saw my sister as a friend and attempted to reach her in the hours before dawn.  The kindness of strangers. 

In a sterile emergency room, surrounded by the good people who worked hard to save him, Ben breathed his last breath.  And now,  we, his extended family grieve, praying that he crossed over to glory.

The witness at the scene of the accident shared information allowing  the police  to identify a  suspect early on.  He was urged  to surrender and  tell his story.  His  car was found, windshield shattered and other damage to the front.  But he was in the wind.IMG_1324Truth be told,  there was no where to run.   Adding more sorrow to an already tragic situation,  he was found dead,  from what is assumed to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound.  My mind shouts “senseless-tragic-why?”   But- I am not God, hence I cannot comprehend the whys.  But, what I do believe, is that God will somehow use it all for His purposes and our good as this sad story continues to unfold.

There is more “collateral damage” than is known to us.  Both of the dead  were 41 year old- young men who  were sons and fathers,  loved by those who suffer in sorrow  today and who will grieve for many days to come. No doubt many  will ask the perennial question, “why?”  1 Peter 5:8 reminds us  that we have a ruthless enemy, described as “a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.” He is always anxious to tear us away from everything that is good, every  gift God freely offers us.   By all we can see, it would that the enemy and his lies seem to have  won this battle.

But, God… DSC02948

 

Here’s what I know for sure:

  1. In God’s economy, nothing is wasted or lost.  His Word says that when we submit ourselves to Him, we can move forward from any situation, confident that He will work every situation, every loss, every tragedy and every triumph for our good. Romans 8:28 assures us He uses all things- the good, the bad and the ugly, for our good and His glory.
  2.  God knew both of these men’s hearts and He was there with both of them in their final moments.   While I do know Ben heard the Gospel and acknowledged  the emptiness of a God shaped space in his heart,    I cannot speak for the other victim in this tragedy.   But, God. God knew and knows. By His grace, up until the final  moments of life, He hears the cry of a sinner surrendering to him and responds with forgiveness and mercy, just as He did to the thief on the cross beside him, when he said,  “Today you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:43)
  3. As we grieve we all  have a choice;  either to grieve as those who have no hope, (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18) or to grieve in expectation of being reunited with those we have loved here on earth, changing a hard good bye to a confident,  “I’ll see you in Heaven.”  After his infant son died, David said in 2 Samuel 12:23 that “some day I will go to him, but he cannot come back to me.” 
  4. When we suffer such great loss, (and we all will)  we must never forget that He still has work for us to do.  We must war against allowing  our sorrow to consume us.  When it’s time for us to be reunited with those who have gone before us, He will then  bring us Home. too.  Until then, we can either be paralyzed by grief or we can use it for His good, by serving as He calls us, waking every morning with the mindset of a soldier reporting for duty, asking for marching orders.  This is our great challenge and the proof of our faith.  This faith trusts in Him more than in the emotions that might derail us from his plans and purposes for our individual and collective lives. It’s us saying, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in Christ who lives in me.” (Galatians 2:20)

A mere three days into what might  aptly be described as a nightmare,  I have seen God’s hand at work in so many ways…in  the kindness of strangers…in the emergency workers at the scene of the accident…in the  witness who acted so quickly to call for help and to share information with the authorities… in the  media professionals who withheld Ben’s name so as not to be the first to notify loved ones of his death…in the many who have reached out to both grieving families and– in the visit between a father and a son so recent  that it had the finger prints of God all over it.IMG_0960

It is no coincidence that come July, this extended family of Ben and of mine, will once again gather together for a long ago scheduled reunion.  We will  celebrate an imperfect, unpredictable family that reaches far and wide across our country and the love and legacy we share. Unbeknownst to us until now,   we will also  grieve and celebrate Ben.  Some of us  will come to  know him better in death than we knew him in life as we share stories and remembrances from those who knew him and loved him best.  It is going to be a glorious time of remembrance, sprinkled with some grief, but not without joy.

And I, for one, can’t wait.

 

P.S.

The joy of the Lord is our strength.  If you are grieving, and in need of comfort and encouragement, please won’t you open your Bible (or your device) to the following encouraging Words from the God of all comfort. It is  my experience that

| JESUS NEVER FAILS. |

Please Read This and let me know how I can pray for you today:

Joshua 1:9

Psalm 28:7

Psalm112:6-7

Nehemiah 8:10

Isaiah 41:10

Exodus 15:2

John 14:27

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why I Gave Up My Career as a Super Hero

 

“I cannot go to school today” said little Peggy Ann McKay. “I have the measles and the mumps…” So begins Shel Silverstein’s poem, SICK. Peggy Ann had no qualms about taking a sick day even if she wasn’t sick. I on the other hand…

fullsizeoutput_91e4

I grew up in a household where to call in sick for work was severely frowned upon. With a fever of 102 degrees and a stuffed up head, I told my Dad that I was calling in sick for my shift. He schooled me quickly, letting me know that I needed to pull myself together and get to work. They were, after all, counting on my presence and should I not appear, my absence would impact the entire shift and everyone else left to run things. Mind you, I was not a brain surgeon or even a surgical nurse. I was, in fact, a clerk at Sav-On Drug. I was 19 and my responsibilities were to man the photo department and candy register. I know. Heady stuff. But, my Dad was pretty convincing and so I went to work with my fever, my congestion and a bottle of 7-Up sipped surreptitiously between customers. Crisis averted. The night shift team was saved.

This attitude toward calling in sick was firmly ingrained in my psyche. Over the years I showed up to work many, many times when I was clearly under the weather. After all, I had responsibilities to attend to, things that apparently I believed no one but I could handle , things only I knew how to do, my team was depending on me, etc. etc… While all that felt pretty admirable, in retrospect I realize it was also prideful and careless. In reality, people nearly always carry on when we aren’t there. Often, given the opportunity, they learn new skills and sometimes they shine and feel good about the skills you’ve helped them attain.

‘Truth is, if we are really good managers, we should always be grooming others to step into our shoes should we be unable to fill them. If we have an extended illness or some sort of personal catastrophe, we will then have prepared them for the task at hand and will also have done our employer a great service. As leaders we should be preparing others to step up to new challenges. In retrospect, the careless part of my behavior was that I put countless others at risk by coming to work while contagious and put those around me at risk. My immune system may have been hearty, but I was woefully oblivious to the danger I may have been exposing others to. Having lived nearly 6.5 decades now, I no longer take my health or that of others for granted.

Fast forward forty some years and while much had changed, my inclination to go to work “no matter what” was still quite the strong hold in me. My employer was “re-structuring” and as the newest addition to the area sales management team, I was the first to be downsized. When I got the call I expected, I was told my job had been eliminated. I was immediately asked if I would consider returning to the company should another position open up and I responded affirmatively. My next response was a question regarding my accrued sick time. The company policy was if you left the company, while you would be paid any accrued vacation time, any unused sick time would be forfeited. I had accrued nearly 200 hours of sick time, a benefit of my employment that I essentially was going to lose. I was assured that should I return to the company within the next year, those hours as well as my seniority would be reinstated.

Not three months later, they offered me another position , which I accepted and, as promised, all those unpaid hours returned to me. This was a pivotal moment in how I viewed sick pay. I made a three-pronged decision at that time:

  1. I would not be put in the position again, of losing a benefit that was part of my compensation package.
  2. I would take better care of myself.
  3. I would not foolishly put others at risk because of my pridefulness.

img_3100-1

From that day on, I vowed to stop pretending I was a super hero. The final five years of my professional life I acknowledged that the world would go on and work could get done in my absence. When I needed to go to the dentist or to a physician appointment for preventative care or for physical therapy, etc, I stopped doing so on my day off and used a sick day instead. When I had major issues going on in my life, or a family member was ill and needed care, I took a day or so off in order to serve my family and/or restore and rejuvenate my body and soul. While there were some instances when I believed my presence was imperative, they were rare. ‘Turns out I wasn’t as indispensable as I believed.

Sometimes our bodies need rest and sometimes our minds do. In both cases, when possible I scheduled sick days in advance, so my absence was not a hardship for those who would cover for me. But, if I woke up with a sore throat or a head cold, I learned to stay home, to rest and heal instead of sharing my germs with everyone else. When my husband had surgical procedures done, I took the day to be by his side to support him. I stopped being a workplace hero and started being more of a hero in my own home to the people I love most.

This was the same girl, who years earlier took less than a week off following a corneal transplant. My work ethic, instilled by my hardworking parents, was still strong, but I had failed to realize that our bodies need rest when they are worn down and that failing to give them time to rest and recover was shortsighted. It took losing the sick time I was so proud to have NOT used, to make me realize the folly of my actions. God knows me well and He knew exactly what it would take to adjust my perspective.

Please don’t misunderstand me, I am not in favor of calling in sick for every hang nail. I cannot tell you how often I took sick calls for young women unable to come to work a couple days a month because of menstrual cramps. I suffered with menstrual migraines for many years, but, I powered through and came to work. I want to be clear that I don’t believe we should call in frequently for minor ailments, but, for genuine health related concerns; sick time is for that very purpose- to maintain health and wellness so that we can do our best at home and at work.

When I retired three years ago, I left with less than one hour of accrued sick time. Prior to leaving I took care of all my looming health issues. I scheduled time with my dentist, physician, optometrist and chiropractor and used my accrued sick time to do so. I didn’t take it in big chunks but a day at a time as those appointments were scheduled in advance on days I knew would have minimal impact on my co-workers. At work I continued to give 100% to my employer. I made a good living and was compensated well. I mentored other employees and trained others to do my job and be promoted. I was a loyal team member who did her best everyday. For the last few years before retiring, when I was given opportunity to provide input on job satisfaction, I repeatedly brought up the issue of sick time not being paid to employees who faithfully executed their duties rather than calling in sick for every minor malady. Such employees should be rewarded for their loyalty, not punished. I was very grateful for the many opportunities my company had provided me and for the opportunity to do meaningful work with wonderful people, but. I left still hoping they would change their policy for future loyal employees.

Sometimes people don’t take the time they need because the work stacks up in their absence. I get that. But, working sick and/or exhausted is bad for you and everyone around you. So, do everyone a favor. Call in sick. And when necessary, call in well.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Christmas Lived Out

Emmanuel. God with us.  God incarnate.  The God of creation came down to earth as an infant, born a king in the most humble of circumstances, making it possible for both princes and  paupers to be at home with Him.  

Two thousand years later, His book, the Holy Bible arguably remains the world’s  all time best-seller.  Recent estimates tell us that more than 5 billion copies have been printed in hundreds of languages.  While our society has grown more secular and less spiritual, He is not deterred or discouraged.  Jesus still rules and reigns and whether intentional or not, the world still celebrates His coming each December.  

Though it may now be called Winter Break instead of Christmas vacation,  His coming is still marked with every Christmas tree sold, every intentional act of kindness, every gift exchanged, every carol sung, every meal shared, every dollar dropped into a red kettle,  every cookie baked, every family gathered, every recital performed, every card sent, and every “Merry Christmas!” spoken.  His mark in indelible. 

He came to die. But, by His life and through His word, He taught us how to live, and  to do so in ways that often confound our neighbors and friends.  He taught us: 

  • To walk humbly when the world tells us to aim for the top
  •  To give not just from our wealth but sacrificially
  • To put the needs and desires of others ahead of our own
  • To forgive 490 times if necessary, and then, perhaps some more
  •  To seek the pleasure of God vs the praise of men.  
  • To obey His word despite a world that finds it vastly out of date
  • To be inclusive when we long for the intimacy of familiarity
  • To be content, not merely in our circumstances but in Him
  • To build community for ourselves and to be it for others
  • To value knowing Him above every worldly measure of success
  • To be generous toward God, giving Him the  best of all we have and are
  • To share the love of Christ with our lives and our words
  • To fear God more and men less
  • To be merciful when we long for justice
  • To pray for those who seek to do us harm
  • To entrust ourselves to Him who judges justly
  • To recognize the enemy but to know that lion has no teeth
  • To put our hope in things eternal 

All  this so that we could know and be known by Emmanuel,  and be called His own.  

TzQgNot7T+mnZoFNKJnUeg

In his book WAITING HERE FOR YOU, Louie Giglio says, “Christmas led to the Cross, and on both days Jesus accomplished what no one else could.”

 What He accomplished was full payment for our failures, our sins, our just punishment for our sinful inclinations and behaviors.  Not because we earned it, but because He loves us with an everlasting love.   He  came as a sweet little infant boy, wrapped in swaddling clothes,  with impossibly soft skin and  a perfect tiny mouth–no doubt a mother’s dream.  But His destiny was to live and then to die.  For us.  So that we could be transformed to His image and to live eternally with Him free from the bondage of sin and shame.  We cannot earn it, we don’t deserve it, but He came, the perfect gift from Heaven.  

fullsizeoutput_a4e6


We have only to receive from His bounty.  Christmas is past, but His gift remains.  Today is the day of salvation.  Take hold of  the hand that reaches out to you with a gift tailor made for you. 

Keep Christmas in your heart. Every day.  It is the source of imperishable hope. 

In Praise of Thanksgiving

Tomorrow most of us will gather together with friends and family, to reflect on the blessings we share and the gifts we’ve been given.  A big bird will no doubt light on our tables and disappear in a matter of minutes as we celebrate the season and those in our presence.  Hopefully both our plates and our hearts will be full.  Maybe those around your table will reflect on their many blessings.  (I love that part)

In recent years, many have embraced the tradition of identifying a “word of the year,” a word to be mindful of in the year ahead.  I, for one, have never been able to settle on anything other than “Gratitude.”  It has, for many years, been the word that I hope most reflects the life I live. Hence, I am officially claiming it as my LIFE word.  

Because,  there is much to be grateful for.  In the midst of the sorrows and trials of this life, it would be easy to succumb to despair.  I feel ya. The news of the day wears me right out.  There’s too much cancer and depression and terrorism and abuse and pain all aoround us. 

But, happiness, I believe, is largely dependent on our ability to give thanks for the good, in spite of the bad.  

Many years ago, the week after Christmas and before New Years, the husband and I had a little spat that morphed into a pity party with a guest list of one.   While he watched a football game downstairs,  I made the decision to wash windows in our upstairs bedrooms.  The recent rains and winds had left them clouded with grime and I deemed it a good day to remedy the situation with a bottle of windex and a roll of paper towels.   

I worked non-stop for an hour or so and was pleased as punch with the outcome until my husband responded that he would have greatly preferred that I had begun taking down our dead and drying fire hazard of a  Christmas tree in the  living room instead of dousing upstairs windows. You know, the ones no one but the two of us would likely  see.    Gracious and understanding wife that I was/am,  I accelerated from humble servant to prideful shrew  in nothing flat.  

I retreated upstair in a rage, livid and  astounded at his lack of appreciation for my hard work.   (must I remind you that he was lounging in front of his big screen while I toiled?)  Stewing in self-pity,  (I confess I even  shed a tear or two) I stomped around a bit and then sat down at my desk with a legal pad and pen in hand and set about to write the proverbial pros and cons list, except instead of pros and cons, there were two columns: one listing the things that drive me  crazy (and not in a good way) about this man.  The other was to be a list of all the things I appreciated about him.  

You know how this story ends, do you not?  List A was written in bold angry letters and was relatively short.  An hour or so later, List B was long and still unfinished.  As  I put down my pen, I thanked God for this man I had been so angry with, for He had reminded me that this was the same man who had brought so much good to my life.  

Our patient God  used this simple exercise to remind me that my blessings are far greater than are the trials, irritations and frustrations that often blind me to the good gifts He has given me.   While I acknowledge that  many of the roadblocks in life aren’t  this small and inconsequential,  for the most part, they  do all pale in comparison to the bounty I have received and enjoy.   What makes the difference is which list I choose to focus on.  

So, that day was a marker in my life– a day I look back on as a defining moment.  A day when I chose to be grateful for what I have and to focus on the good, vs, bemoaning what is less than ideal and far from perfect. It was the  day I chose to be intentional about where I focus.  At this season of Thanksgiving, I am reminded again, that to be grateful is to be happy.  

“Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious– the best not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly;  things to praise, not things to curse.  Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized.  Do that and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into His most excellent harmonies. ”  -the Apostle, Paul, (Philippians 4:8-9 The Message)

Today we all have a choice to make.  Which list are you focusing on?  I would venture to say that most of us have enough of all the things we need.    Today, I wish you a grateful heart.  

Happiest of Thanksgivings my dear readers.  You are loved!


Never Forget

On this morning 17 years ago, I awoke to my radio alarm announcing that the World Trade Center had been hit by a plane.  In my half conscious state, I stumbled out of bed and walked across the hall to my office where I turned on a television in time to see live, the second plane soar into the second tower.

9/11 Tribute Sounds of Silence (Doninic Bukuski)

IMG_4002For me, the world changed forever that day.  An evil I had never known existed became a part of the fabric of my life.  It had existed no doubt from the beginning of time as we know it, but, it entered my world that day and since then, I have walked through life differently.  Not, in fear or in anxiety, but in the realization that evil is all around us in this broken world and that life is fragile.

May we for this one day,  set aside our weapons of disagreement and strife and name calling and honor those who were taken?

2,974 Lives

2603 in the TwinTowers

351 Fire Fighters/EMTs

246 on Planes

125 at the Pentagon

60 Police Officers

flag of america

Photo by Sharefaith on Pexels.com

May we take a moment to honor them and their unplanned, unexpected sacrifice and the sacrifice of all who loved them?  Might we put down our disagreements and the political rhetoric long enough to agree that evil was present that day in a way most of us had never personally experienced before?  May we grieve the losses and give honor?  May we take comfort in the fact that such evil cannot consume us when our hope is in the One who made the ultimate sacrifice for us on the cross, that we might forever be free of the sting of sin and death?  And may we be thankful for the freedoms we enjoy and the blessing we’ve been given by being citizens of this imperfect country?

Now, take heart.  We do not walk in fear, but in confidence and in victory.

“Don’t be bluffed into silence by the threats of bullies.  There’s nothing they can do to your soul, your core being.  Save your fear for God, who holds your entire life–body and soul–in His hands.”

~Matthew 10:28, The Message

Don’t be deceived.  There IS an enemy.  The Bible tells us clearly in 1 Peter 5:8 that our enemy the devil is like a roaring lion, seeking whom to devour.  He is real.  But, in Christ, we have victory over him.  He roars loudly, but, this lion?  He has no teeth.

animal big blur brave

This lion?  He has no teeth.   (Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Falling in Love Again

Growing older often  brings with it,  gifts that can only be  wrapped and delivered with the passage of time.

This post isn’t what you think it is.  And maybe you will think me a little “off” once you hear what it  is.   But, the title of this blog is the one that best describes how I feel about  the events of this past weekend.

Nearly fifty years ago, I met a friend, by way of our mutual friend and then we became friends.  We were both single and for a minute contemplated a romance, but quickly came to our senses.  Not one to let a good friend be lost to a romance that wasn’t meant to be, we  both persevered in our friendship, now for almost half a century.

IMG_2265

My dear old friend and I

He, a quirky guy,  married a beautiful woman with a heart-shaped face and a heart that welcomed me. ‘Bless her.  I married my own  quirky guy (whom I  later  divorced and  re-married.)  In between,  Steve and his wife travelled from Tennessee with their first-born and spent time with me and mine. Later, they came to visit us when we lived in the DC area.  When my girl and I returned to California to reunite with my  guy, the drive across the  country included a detour to  Nashville specifically designed to spend time with them before continuing West.

That was 26 years ago.  It was the last time we were in the same place together. But, now they were headed West for a wedding and my far away friend  announced via an unexpected email, that he and his beloved would be dining with us on August 4.

YAHTZEE

They arrived at LAX early early Saturday morning, texting me that  their rental car wouldn’t be available until noon. Yikes!   I jumped out of bed and  dashed out of the house, sans make-up and in  the clothes I’d had on the day before. They are  those kind of friends–no need to impress, only to  show up.  So, show up I did.

He was mildly disappointed that I was driving a Ford and not a European sports car but, agreed to get in with a promise of breakfast to come.  We headed to a small community adjacent to LAX where we shared a meal, took some pictures and then drove  along  the coast so they could soak in the sparkle of the early morning Pacific. We  headed North on Vista Del Mar as  beach goers claimed their turf for the day.

Their rental was ready, so I deposited them just off Century Blvd. and they headed East  to one of the Presidential libraries they’d planned to visit.  As for me,   I returned home to prepare for their return for  dinner around our table. When they arrived just after 6,  they met my husband for the first time and everyone was instantly at ease.  If you’d been a fly on the wall, you’d have assumed we were all long time friends in the habit of gathering together often.   We meandered around our kitchen island drinking cold beverages and the years and distance melted away with the summer  heat.  There was no lack of ease  in the room, no extended silences, no aloofness – only the comfort that comes from knowing and being known and believing down deep that  you are welcomed as you are.

We sat at our table and ate too much food.  We  talked for hours, not about superficial things but about the many things that had transpired in our lives since we’d been together last.  There were the expected “catch up” conversations about our children and their lives today, our families and how they’ve evolved.  We came current as we  took in   braised short ribs and strawberry shortbread dessert. There was a lot of laughter, and then some  sorrow too, which morphed into deeper conversations.  We shared joys and sadness because the best lives are  full of both.    And- because there was no sense of risk involved.  We were safe together.

My husband, still recovering from a recent illness, said goodnight early,  but the three remaining compadres sat up late, sharing more stories , unwilling to let the one night we had together end too soon. They had a full day planned for Sunday and it was unlikely we’d meet again before their departure on a train early Monday morning.  Still, as I stood at the front door  sending  them off to their hotel,  I couldn’t help interjecting (okay, I was kinda pleading)  that “IF” they were up to it after another day at another library on Sunday, we’d be so happy  to meet for another meal at a local  restaurant. (a girl can dream, right?)

I fell asleep with a full heart and a prayer that  it might possible to reunite just one more time.  The next morning we texted and I was thrilled to receive her response, which said in part,

“…Such a precious time last night. I hope we’re up to dinner tonight.  We are planning to unless the day gets too long.  It’s good to be here and to be near you guys.  ‘Don’t want to miss the opportunities God has for us…”

My heart swelled with hope.  I prayed for a burst of energy that would bring them back to us.  By 5:30 there was a text that they were headed our way.

BINGO

So there we were, once again, sharing a meal and our lives for another three hours.  And, then,  at the end of a long day,  we said good bye knowing it would be our last for a  long while.

fullsizeoutput_9dc9.jpeg

“Re-united and it feels so good” The husband and I along with our beloved far-away friends, Prilla and Steve

 

It was more than a little heartbreaking for me.  You see, I was reminded anew how very much I love them.  I realized that though 26 years and 2,022 miles had come between us, the closeness I felt for them had never gone away.   Added bonus:  the husband now had come to know and  love them, too.  Although I knew I loved them, it felt  like “falling in love again.”  I was reminded afresh, how very special they are, how like-minded we are, how we share values,  faith and  perspectives on so many important things.  It was a little glimpse of Heaven.  For reals.

WINNING

“I felt my heart strangely warmed.”   -John Wesley                                                             First love.

 I had forgotten what it felt like.

But-then, I was reminded.

They arrived back  home just yesterday.  We  now have a group text going and  I vow it’s going to keep going.  They are the next-door neighbors we’ve always longed for.  We’ve rediscovered a long-lost love and it has left my heart bursting with joy.

May it burn strong for all my days.  And, Lord, if it’s not asking too much?   May they be our next door neighbors in Heaven, if not on Earth? Please and thank You.

Amen and Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

Ten Things I Love About Growing Older

_Y9A6377edited

The world around us celebrates all things young, shiny and new.  I am blessed to comprehend  that there are distinct benefits and blessings associated with growing older–  a blessing many aren’t afforded. Some of us long for days gone by.   I,  for one,  would not  trade today for  the sweetest yesterday.  Each day that has passed has brought me to this day, and I am grateful to have travelled  where the road of life has taken me.    As I contemplate the day ahead, I am especially grateful for these gifts:

  1. I get to do what I want, when I want, with whom I want.  My time is my own to use as I wish.  What joy to sleep late or go to bed  late–to spend hours working at something I love or spending time with  someone I love without worrying about an ever present ticking clock.  That said, don’t waste a moment!
  2. Grandchildren.I’m with  the guy who remarked that, if he knew grands were  this wonderful he’d have had them earlier! If you don’t have your own, borrow some.  Little ones help us re-discover the joy of the new while allowing us to share with them perspective and wisdom that come with aging.  The world needs more of this.  _Y9A8246edited
  3. Senior discounts.Free coffee at McDonalds and so much more. There are loads of lists on-line that will point you to deals reserved for the more mature crowd.   I love a bargain and you should, too! Never pay top dollar if you can avoid it. Using our resources wisely is  still smart.  
  4. Retirement. Don’t even get me started. THE BEST. If you aren’t there yet, prepare well.  Relationships are deeper, marriage is better and faith is stronger.  Years of commitment and  sacrifice will pay off.  Trust me on  this. Press on!  
  5. Hours in my garden. My little section of this rainbow has never been prettier.  Time stops there, whether I’m pulling weeds, watering or planting.  I put on my headset, listen to an audio book or just enjoy the sounds of bees buzzing and birds chirping.  So many hidden treasures.
  6. GBD4hYdfSNqjY0wn2ZSAHQ
  7. Knowing enough is enough. Not needing more, but realizing you have more than you need. Looking forward to weeding out what is unnecessary and being content with what’s left. Abundance.
  8. No hurry, no worry.  Whether on the road, waiting in line or completing a task, I am now willing and  able to say, “you go ahead, I’m in no hurry.”  To fall back in traffic and let others zoom past me in their quest to get somewhere quickly is a gift I gladly embrace. The rat race may go on, but,  I’m no longer in the running.
  9. Meals that take more than 20 minutes to prepare.  This is a sweet luxury to one who worked very long days for many years.  To be able to find a new recipe, leisurely prepare it and present it as a gift to my family is pure joy.
  10. The company of good women.  I’ve always had more friends than I deserve, but to be able to actually spend significant chunks of time in their presence is like a tall glass of cold lemonade in the desert.
  11. The end of coloring my hair. Before I turned 60 and at the urging of my husband, I cut my hair within an inch of my scalp and went completely gray.  I’ve never looked back.  With the help of a gifted beautician and a great cut, I’ve never been happier with my hair. (Thank you Julie@TanglesManhattanBeach!)

    IMG_3003

    The shoe just didn’t fit! Yay for Grey!

So, that’s what’s on my mind this morning.

No doubt, this list will expand in the days to come, but, for today, allow me to encourage you to resist reminiscing too much about “the good old days.”  Instead, fully  enjoy this moment in time.  It’s a gift.    Don’t miss this beautiful day because you’re straining  to look back.    Instead, open your eyes wide to the present.  It will be past, tomorrow.

Look up and BLOOM.

fullsizeoutput_7954

Look up and BLOOM!