It’s Complicated…

Life.

Just when I think I’m in for some smooth sailing, something happens. It never fails. As it goes, people are always just coming out of a trial, about to go into a trial or find themselves smack dab in the middle. In the middle of the mess and muck. Sometimes it isn’t even your fault. You had nothing to do with it, and yet…..there you are.

I am the type of personality that does not enjoy confrontation. I am not a drama mama. Just give me my front porch, a super cold iced tea, and a good view. I find myself wishing life was that uncomplicated and easy, but alas, it is not. Oh, sure. There are “seasons” of easy, some smooth sailing, but the storm is always on the horizon. Something is looming…..ready to steal my peace. We all live in a broken, sin-cursed world. Sometimes the pieces of broken are jagged and hard.

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From my own personal experience, I have found it to be true that it is indeed the hard, choppy waters that grow me and make me strong. The big waves that threaten, lead me to call out to the One who can calm any storm. The wind and the waves hear His voice and obey. I listen for Him and He reminds me that He is the Prince of Peace, the Great I AM, and the Beginning and the End. There are no surprises with God. He’s got me covered.

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I know in my own life, when my (late) husband was first diagnosed with an incurable heart condition at age 32 (and I had just turned 31, and our son was 5), he could no longer work, he was declining into a black hole of depression because of this…..my life felt out of control. A tsunami of doubt and fear of the unknown was looming over me and I was scared. Scared I was going under. Smack dab in the middle of this horrible time, God met me. People, I will admit, it wasn’t easy. Part of me was in denial, and the other part was terrified. I was young, my husband was young, our son was young……and as my husband was looking death in the face, I was brought to my knees. Crumpled. Begging. Crying. I was drowning. God brought me through this time in my life. It will be 18 years ago this November that my husband went home to Jesus. Looking back, I can honestly say, I know things now, I can relate to others that are hurting, in ways I never would have been able to before. I tell my friends, I am an “empathetic free-cryer”. My heart aches along with theirs. When you have walked through the valley of the shadow of death, you know Jesus in ways others cannot understand unless they have also been through it. He carried me on the days I could not walk.

Several years later I remarried to a man who had also lost his spouse when he was in his thirties. In the first five years of our marriage, we sold both our homes, built another home out of state, and moved. Right smack dab in the middle of building our dream farmhouse in what once used to be a cornfield in rural Ohio, my husband lost his job. It was in January 2009 when the economy took a nose-dive and a myriad number of people were getting laid off. The loss of a job is always a hard thing, especially when it wasn’t expected, and especially when one is already committed to building a house! There were a lot of tears, fear of the unknown, and worry about losing everything we had already sunk into our dream house. The huge tidal wave was approaching fast and I was scared it would take us all, my husband, our children, and me, under. It was hard to breathe, as the waves pummeled us. I remember one night in particular when my husband and I prayed and cried……. We were reminded that no matter what happened, even if we lost everything, God was still good and He would not leave us nor forsake us. We would come out of this situation one way or another. It is one thing to say you trust God, quite another to actually live that out. It was our time to show God we trusted Him.

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Life is complicated. It doesn’t always work out the way we had hoped. Sometimes bad things happen to good people, and sometimes good things happen to bad people. In the midst of all the ups and downs, tears and laughter, mountain tops and valleys…God is there. You cannot go wrong by placing your trust in Him in whatever circumstance(s) you find yourself in the middle of.

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I Am Starting To Count The Days

Y’all, it is to be 88 degrees today. To me, that is hot. I have been sweating. You know how I feel about that. I am trying to come to terms with the fact that I will be forced to spend the next almost four months as a hot mess. Hot as in, I often think about how much I could get away with not wearing before arrest would become imminent. I do not look all dewy fresh. I do not glisten. I sweat…. like a horse. By the end of a long, hot summer day, I probably smell like one too.

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The ants, flies, mosquitos, fleas, and ticks are out full force, ALREADY. What the what???!!! I saw a horsefly the other evening that I swear could have actually carried off our horse. God, why did you choose to make flies that big? What was the point? I’m checking myself and all the dogs and cats daily for ticks. I used to be more squeamish about ticks than I am now. Now, I get any ticks and flush them down the toilet, yelling, “Die you little bloodsuckers!” at the top of my lungs. I consider it part of my summer therapy.

I bought some super cute tops that have those circle cutouts on the shoulders. They look great on me, but here lately it has occurred to me that I am going to have really weird tan spots on my otherwise white arms. I can’t win. On a good note, I love wearing flipflops so my feet are going to be nicely tanned.

I feel the need for an iced tea. It is my go-to drink of the summer. Green tea “on the rocks”. If you need me, I will be on the deck, sipping my beverage, laying in the hammock…..maybe fanning myself.

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Fall starts on September 22nd. I am starting to count the days.

 

When Your Reality Was Not Part Of The Plan

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How many of us find ourselves in the middle of a reality that we didn’t really plan for? We wake to find our life map has been crisscrossed with detours and derailments, pits and punctures, and a healthy dose of “what just happened?”. Maybe it is just because I had an important birthday. Maybe turning fifty has made me more contemplative. Maybe I just like to think about stuff. I don’t know.

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At times when I find myself doubting about where I am in life, and what I find myself in the middle of, sometimes things I never asked for and didn’t want, I am reminded of a quote from the late Corrie Ten Boom. This Holocaust survivor was a follower of Jesus Christ. Because she and her family helped to hide Jews they incurred the wrath of the Nazi’s.  This woman probably wondered how she found herself surviving in a concentration camp. Surely, this was not part of her plan. Even in the midst of a living nightmare, she saw God in action. She was witness to miracles. She lost some of her own family members and numerous friends and yet she did not lose sight of the bigger picture.

I will paraphrase her words…..”Life is like a tapestry that is being embroidered. From the viewpoint of Heaven, God can see the beautiful picture of our lives.  All the intricacies and wonder. From our viewpoint, here on Earth, all we can see is the loose threads, the knotted off strings, and a picture that doesn’t make much sense”. We have to have faith that God is good. He sees us. He is working on our life picture every single minute of every single day…..and He alone knows the number of our days. We are not forgotten.

So, if you find yourself in the middle of a detour, remember God loves you and He is in control. You might find that the detour takes you to a place you would have never discovered on your own.

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“Surprises are part of God’s plan. They remind us that He’s still in charge”. –Charles Swindoll

Vacation At Camp Crystal Lake

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Today I am celebrating my birthday. Fifty years have come and gone since I made my grand entrance into this world. My sister sent me a funny t-shirt for my birthday. It has “Summer of 1980. Camp Crystal Lake-Swimming, Boating, Adventure….” Now, for those of you that grew up in the 1980’s, you know about the campy slasher flicks. If so, the shirt might give you a chuckle, as it did me. Movies full of silly plots and bad acting. I mean how many times are Jason Vorhees, Michael Myer, and Freddy Krueger going to return from the dead? My sister and I still love these types of movies. We are not able to sit through the movie and keep our mouths shut though. We have running commentary. “For cryin’ out loud! Don’t you know NOT to go into the woods to make out with the cute camp counselor? If you go into the woods, you’ll never make it out alive!”. Or there is always the one kid that goes off by his or herself. “WHAT ARE YOU DOING?! Don’t you know you always stick with the group? You don’t want Jason to pick you off. You are being the weakest link!”. My all time fav, “Run faster! If you fall down GET UP. Be scrappy. This is not an action flick, Jason doesn’t move like Bruce Lee. You can outrun him, after all, he has already been dead and back alive and dead again for some time, surely he doesn’t have very good lung capacity at this point. Sprint for it! What have you got to lose, but your life?”

Maybe, this weekend I will pull out one of my DVD’s. Pop some corn, and watch Friday the Thirteenth Part 543.

 

 

Witty Comments On Turning 50

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I turn 50 in two days. Two days, people! I am somewhere between panic and acceptance, as far as this particular birthday is concerned. I mean, in my mind I do not feel like 50. As if I know what that really means…after all, I’ve never been 50 before. This is all new territory for me. You know you are rounding a bend in the road when you realize that your high school graduation, circa 1986, wasn’t yesterday. It is now several decades ago. Gulp. Breathe in. Breathe out. Turn on iHeart radio to ’80’s music. Try not to hyperventilate. Over the past five decades, I like to think I’ve gleaned some wisdom. Indulge me for a few minutes as I share some of what I’ve learned.

  1. Life on earth is short. It doesn’t matter whether you take one breath, or live to be 100, in the big scheme of things it is all short. pexels-photo-273153.jpeg
  2. Because life is short, choose wisely what you are going to let bother you. Honestly, cleaning up cat puke, and dust bunnies the size of Texas tumbleweeds roaming throughout the house isn’t as important. Clean or messy, it is what it is.
  3. Real friends don’t always expect you to be “on”. If I show up without makeup on, or my clothes are a bit wrinkled, my friends are just happy I showed up. Showing up and being there are what is important.
  4. Short hair is a lot easier to take care of. There is freedom in losing the locks. Besides, I have super cute earlobes that get covered with long hair. Just putting that out there.
  5. Forgiveness can be hard, especially if it wasn’t asked for, or even deserved. Forgive anyway. It is more for you than for them. Be better, not bitter.
  6. A fifty-year-old body does not resemble a twenty-one-year-old body in the slightest. I have to be honest. Sometimes I mourn this. When I was young I wore a bikini and was tan and blond. To ever look like that again…well, let’s just say that dream has died.
  7. So yes, my body has changed over the years. Really, it has never been quite the way it was since having my son, twenty-three years ago. He was worth every stretch mark. I’m still working on losing some of that baby weight.
  8. God is faithful. He has been in the past and He will be again. I’ve gone through some stuff in my life. Some hard stuff.  I know I would not be here today if He had not brought me through to the other side.
  9. Losing someone you love is one of the hardest things you will ever go through. Be it a parent, a sibling, a spouse or a child. Although life goes on, it won’t ever be quite the same again. Expect a new kind of normal.
  10. Tell those you love that you love them. Tell them. I don’t care if it feels weird or goofy. Do it. You need to say it, and they need to hear it. I told my husband he just has to get over it–I tell him I love him all the time. It doesn’t get old. If I go before he does, he will never have to wonder how much he was loved. That is a gift. pexels-photo-186447.jpeg
  11. Keep in contact with your parent(s). I have a wonderful mom who is my biggest encourager. She lives miles away from me but recently visited. I was reminded what a calming effect my mother has on me. No matter how old I get, I am still her child. There is something very comforting in that.
  12. Help people when you can. The longer I live the more I realize how important that is…not in a grandiose way, but quietly. Even if you are only a small cog in a big wheel there is satisfaction in knowing that you made a real difference in others lives. Giving really can be better than receiving.
  13. Toddlers are energetic and happy and excited about everything. I am turning 50, but my granddaughter makes me feel young again when we go for walks and look at bugs, and bees and pick flowers and giggle at the llamas across the road.
  14. There is nothing sweeter than a kiss from a child. Even the Grinch knows this! pexels-photo-256728.jpeg
  15. Sometimes the people that come across as the meanest or most hateful are the ones that need the most love. Hurt people hurt other people. That is so true. I had one mother of a student that hated me for no other reason except that I was white. She got in my face and screamed at me, I had to wipe her spit off my face. She scared me to death. I had never in my 27 years (at the time) been treated that way. I didn’t give up on her, I cared about her son, I fought for a relationship with this woman. Slowly, it happened…….and I am so glad we both came together. It was a good life lesson.
  16. Working with those with disabilities is a passion of mine. I have spent my entire adult life (and most of my childhood!) working with this population.  Whether I am teaching, consulting or advocating I will always stand up for those who don’t have a voice.
  17. I love being a wife, a mother, and a nana. I think too often our society looks down on women who love these roles. Stand tall women! Don’t let anyone look down on you for your choice to stay home. “The hand that rocks the cradle, rules the world.” pexels-photo-54547.jpeg
  18. My doctor told me that I might not be able to get pregnant because of an autoimmune condition I have. I got pregnant at 26 and had my son just two days after my 27th birthday. Having my son taught me what unconditional love truly is all about.
  19. Having an autoimmune condition isn’t easy, but it is something I have learned to live with. Being sick or chronically ill is never easy. I know there are people reading this, that have it much worse than I do. You live that day in and day out. You are strong.
  20. Family is important. Relationships are what matters. The people who you share memories with…
  21. You are never too old to learn new things. I was in my forties when I decided to go back to school to get my Masters degree. I loved my classes. It was a lot of hard work, but I did it, did it with a 4.0. Take that you twenty-somethings! (Just kidding with you, I know you worked hard also.)
  22. I am still trying to deal with the fact that I now need reading glasses, and I actually got mail from the AARP the other day. I am not quite ready for that yet, although I am looking forward to senior discounts in the future. Just sayin’. pexels-photo-917299.jpeg
  23. I still want to write a book. Don’t give up on dreams.
  24. Life can be and still is good at 50….or 60….or 70+. Life is what you make it. God gave each of us so many days. Don’t waste them.
  25. Joy is a choice.

 

She Is A Blessing

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The bright yellow dandelions in the yard matched her yellow rain boots. It was a beautiful sunny spring day, not a rain cloud in sight…she chose to wear her yellow rubber boots just because she loves them. And isn’t that enough of a reason? Just because she loves them.

Life has changed a lot for me over the past year and a half, in a good way. My husband (a.k.a PopPop) and I (a.k.a Nana) have had the opportunity to have our granddaughter live with us. Without getting into all the details of the why’s and the what’s, let’s just say having her live here, for now, has been (and is) a blessing.

I have the opportunity to see this world through her young eyes. It’s a gift, really. A toddler’s perspective is one of excitement and exploration. Each day is a new adventure. When she pats my head and kisses my hair, magically everything is right with the world. When she holds my hand when we go for walks, everything looks fresh and clean and beautiful. When we blow dandelion seeds into the wind, examine rocks, and laugh at dog licks to the face, life seems so much more easy and simple and extraordinary.

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Hugs and kisses, and story time. Elmo and stuffed animals and gummie bears. Bath time and bubbles, and silly, crazy laughing. Snacks and sippy cups and my cup running over with gratitude. I look at her and my other grands, along with my children, my feelings for them are the closest thing I will ever know (in this life) to unconditional love.

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It might not have been this way. My oldest son and daughter-in-law had some rocky times. Relationship issues. Little Sweet Pea was not planned by her parents, but even so, she is, and always was, part of God’s plan. Every. Single. Day. I am so grateful that they chose life. They chose to bring her into this world…..and the world is a better place because of it. I cannot imagine my life without her.

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I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well. Psalm 139:14 NIV

 

Never Trust Your Heart

Never trust your heart. That flies in the face of what we so often hear in today’s society. We are told to trust our heart, trust our gut, trust our intellect. Pssshhh! That is ridiculous. I certainly don’t want to rely on myself. I know myself pretty well… more than anyone else, right? I cannot be trusted. Oh, I am trustworthy, that is not what I mean. I cannot trust my feelings. They are far too fickle.

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Last night is a prime example of what I am talking about. I was feeling down, considering the state of my day to day life, contemplating my upcoming 50th birthday and am I where I wanted to be at this age? What have I done? What am I doing? Am I accomplishing my goals? Realizing my dreams?  You can fill in the rest…..most of us have gone down that road at some point. If you haven’t yet, just wait. You will.

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I went to bed last night feeling sorry for myself, sure that I was going wake up feeling stressed and well, stressed. Instead, after a good night’s sleep, I woke up in a better mood. I was no longer under the gray cloud of what if’s?

Feelings change, much like a real-life roller coaster. Somedays you’re plunging down hills at break-neck speed, wondering if you’ll ever lose that weight, get the degree, run the marathon, paint the picture, take the road trip, make the call, and disguise the wrinkles. Other days, you’re soaring to the top, heading for the clouds, the wind whipping through your hair…and life is good.

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God had something to say about the heart and feelings. He knows how we are. He knows we don’t understand why we do what we do, or why we feel like we feel….even when it makes no sense.

 The heart is deceitful above all things
    and beyond cure.
    Who can understand it? Jeremiah 17:9 NIV

Last night, I was sure my current mission field felt more like a mud pit. I was covered in the muck of the mundane. Muddy and messy and I was sinking. This morning as those thoughts entered my mind, this verse came to me, calming my anxious heart.

I waited patiently for the LORD; And He inclined to me and heard my cry. He brought me up out of the pit of destruction, out of the miry clay,  And He set my feet upon a rock making my footsteps firm. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God; Many will see and fear And will trust in the LORD.… Psalm 40:1-3 NASB

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He set my feet upon a rock……. I am going to be okay.