Beauty

I had the blessing of watching the sun rise over the ocean this morning. Slowly but surely, to the music of the crashing waves and the noisy gulls, the light came and the horizon became bright, the sun warmed my skin and peace prevailed.

Up and down the coast thousands of people were witnessing the same event I was. From different locations and with varying degrees of time to enjoy it, we were being blessed with a beautiful beginning to our day. From where I sat we were all experiencing it differently; some were sinking their toes in the wet sand along the shore, others paddling their surfboards out to meet the waves, some walking dogs, joggers following their morning routine and others heading off to work. I was among those blessed enough to sit still and soak it in.

My heart heard, “I’d do it even if you were the only one watching.” A smile took over my face as I accepted that hug from God! He would allow the beauty just to bless me. I know there are scientific reasons for the need of sunrise and sunset, but God could have made them bland and He didn’t. He could have made them happen in an instant instead of slowly so we could enjoy them. The colors could be dull. Instead He made something necessary beautiful and enjoyable. And He would do it even if you were the only one able to watch!

Each of us is important and special to God. We have not been created and forgotten about. He knows us. That’s hard to take in but He’s God….He spoke it all into existence and His love is everlasting! His love for YOU is everlasting. Today is fresh. This minute is new. He doesn’t mind when we ‘start over’. If yesterday was awful-if you made it awful-talk to Him and start fresh today. If the last five minutes was a mess, take a breath, talk to Him and start over. He’s much more patient, forgiving and accepting than we are so don’t gage Him by human tendencies. Truth-be-told, He’s your biggest cheerleader!

Today, find beauty. Find time to talk with Jesus. Find ways to represent Him well. Remember that even in the sea of humanity He knows and loves YOU. His beauty is for your blessing!

And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness.  God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.”  And there was evening, and there was morning-the first day.    Genesis 1:3-5

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Loving Locally

“Shop Local” has become a mantra in our area and it’s becoming easier to make that happen because of the growth in our downtown. We have more shops, restaurants, street vendors and creativity than I can ever remember and it’s such fun! It’s a great place to look for unique items and things made by local craftsmen and we get the benefit of people following their passion as they open a store or studio to share their talents and knowledge with those of us who are shopping or exploring. I’m totally enjoying “doing local” especially when I know my friends and neighbors are benefitting!

There’s another local aspect I would love to see become more popular and that’s the idea of “Give Local”. Knowing that each area of the country is different and yet the same, I’m sure this opportunity exists everywhere. It’s the joy of being able to help someone by connecting with a group that is focusing on a specialized need right in your own area.

It’s easy to find ways to give to large organizations; we all see the TV commercials, receive the letters or come across advertisements on our social media pages. They are good causes, well run, doing great things and they definitely need our support. But there are many local groups that need our help as well.

In Ross County we have the chance to partner with free medical clinics, teen mentoring programs, homeless shelters, rehab groups, clothing banks, food kitchens and pantries, pregnancy centers, childcare agencies, backpack programs for school, backpacks for weekend food during the school year, necessity closets in local schools, summer lunches for kids, building with Habitat for Humanity, art programs for kids, a children’s museum and the list goes on. Opportunities are boundless.

If you have a social concern that grabs your heart, why not find a local group and give them some support? You may not have money but you have time or maybe you have the money but less time…..they won’t turn down either! It’s extremely rewarding to know that your resources are helping right in your own community. The homeless problem, the drug issue, the educational concerns can all be better in your home town because you found a way to support those who are devoted to a cause. Perhaps a student will graduate because of the encouragement of a dedicated mentor, or a child down the street from you will not be hungry this weekend, or a medical clinic will be able to stop a problem before it becomes an issue because you and your neighbors looked around to see what needs were right in your own backyard.

If you’re not sure where to start, a local church with a community outreach mindset would be a great launching pad; they often have a good pulse on current needs. Our county has a Social Service Council that’s full of resources and information. Maybe you can’t help on a regular basis but you’ll see groups hosting fund raising events during the year; jump in and support that event! Getting a car washed by a youth group, enjoying a spaghetti dinner to support drug rehab, donating to a 5K that benefits a local shelter or attending a holiday event that will make the local park safer are all good investments in the people where you live, work and play. And there’s really no better investment than people! Every group will tell you they only thrive when the community gets involved and your help, no matter how small you may think it is, really does make a difference.

What if there isn’t a group servicing a cause that close to your heart? Guess what that probably means?! You just might be the next person to start on the journey of a lifetime by getting that group started.

Why not challenge yourself to find a way to Give Local within the next 10 days. Then challenge yourself to Give Local at least three times a year. (Caution: it will be addictive!) You’ll be surprised how much more aware of your community you will become and how much more you will enjoy the small, sweet successes it experiences!

Luke 10:30-37

A Shopping Experience

I’d like to share a short story with you.

A few months ago I was shopping in the aisle where dairy products are displayed when an elderly gentleman approached and asked if I could help him locate the whipping cream. He held a list given him by his wife and was unsuccessfully trying to find this item. Together we found the cream that needed to be whipped at home but he wasn’t sure that was correct. He thought she probably wanted the kind in the spray can however, he picked up what he saw and placed it in his cart.

A store employee came around the corner so I asked if what the gentleman wanted might be in the back. As any good worker would, he offered to check. The elderly man continued down the aisle and I picked up the few things I needed. As I neared the end of the row the store employee came by and handed the needed spray can of whipping cream to me. I thanked him and looked around for the man who had requested it. Seeing him several feet away I walked over and handed it to him with a smile and spoke a quote used often in our family; “Happy Wife. Happy Life”.

He looked at me and said, “You sure have that right. I’ve been married 54 years and don’t know why I ever got married in the first place.” I’m pretty sure my heart stopped beating for a second. I was stunned. I was so sad. I was perfectly still and quiet right there in the middle of the store. It just shouldn’t be that after 54 years of marriage all you have to say to a stranger is “I don’t know why I ever got married.” It must be sad to regret 54 years of living. It ought not to be so.

Marriage is work. Marriage is teamwork. Even Cinderella and Prince Charming had to overcome obstacles! After meeting THE one, having butterflies in your stomach, spending endless hours on the phone, enjoying dates that you wanted to never end, finally a wedding and the joy of moving in together, there’s still the daily process of learning to live with and wholly love another human being. It is a never ending process because human beings are always growing, changing, having new experiences and learning new things. No matter how much you love the person you marry, in a matter of years they will be a slightly different person. You must love them continually, purposely. Embrace and celebrate the growth the years will bring. Rejoice that at 50 you are not the same as you were at 20. Allow them freedom to be all that God has intended.

My family has a wonderful legacy in that my parents will celebrate their 58th wedding anniversary in a few months. My siblings and I have benefited from their tenacity in making marriage work and family life enjoyable. I know it’s not common anymore and I realize most people reading this will either have parents who are divorced or be divorced themselves; sometimes it’s unavoidable. That doesn’t mean you can’t begin to create a wonderful legacy of love for your family. Love is a wonderfully, unexplainable emotion that can be oh so fulfilling and make you a better person. Do all you can to not only find the right person but to be the right person for your spouse.

My dad has had cancer for several years. It’s a type that will never really go into remission but has been kept at bay with treatments and we are grateful. My mom is a breast cancer survivor and was recently diagnosed with peritoneal cancer. These two have been through lots of ups and downs; recently more downs that ups! But they are facing them together. Their love is more than a feeling or even more than a habit. It’s commitment as well. It’s beautiful.

Nine years ago today my Handsome left earth and our dreams of growing old together and facing the challenges and changes of life as a team will never be a reality. As is typical, when reminiscing it’s usually about the good times and the rough ones fade into the background and I’m glad it’s like that. Not because pretending the bad times weren’t real makes things better but because it shows the good times were more abundant, more normal, more us. I would love to know how things would be for us now; empty nesters, retirement looming closer, more grandkids. What vacations would we take? Would we still live in the same house? What new hobbies would we have? What would make us laugh? I would love the opportunity to begin and end every day with a kiss and be excited when his phone number showed up on my cell. To hear his car pull in the garage and know the best part of the day was about to begin would be a treasure. I hope if you are married, happily or struggling, you find pleasure in things like that because, trust me, they are indicators of the health of your relationship. Don’t live 54 years in regret.

Miss you, Eric. Thanks for 28 wonderful years of learning, living and loving! You influence me still. You have my heart.mom-dad

Bald love!
Bald love!


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Give It a Try!

January is almost over and if statistics are correct, almost everyone who made a New Year’s resolution has already broken it. 25% of us broke them even before the first week ended. Good thing they aren’t binding contracts!

 
As there are still 48 weeks left in the year, why don’t we take a different approach to making improvements? What if we simply determined to count our blessings? If that phrase conjures pictures of Bing Crosby and Rosemary Clooney in a Vermont inn close to a beautiful fireplace, then you’re probably familiar with White Christmas and the Irving Berlin song Count Your Blessings. Maybe you can even sing parts-or all-of it. But, are you doing it? Counting your blessings I mean, not singing the song!

 
To count your blessings you don’t have to join a gym, quit eating carbs, learn to be on time, swear less, drink more water, drive slower, spend less time on your devices, curb your spending, eat out less often, quit yelling or give up TV. You can count your blessings without promising to do anything differently all year long. All you have to do is start.

 
Almost every day there is something to be grateful for. Some days you may have to look a little harder than others and sometimes the blessings are disguised because we are programed to think of them as ‘normal’. Not everyone is sleeping in a house tonight. Not everyone has the opportunity to walk to a refrigerator or pantry any time they want. Not everyone has a job to go to-not even one they thoroughly dislike. Those ‘normal’ things are blessings.

 
There are blessings around us daily; train yourself to be aware of them. Intentionally look for the good instead of the bad. Allow the positive to become a greater influence than the negative. A lower electric bill than you expected, sunshine breaking through a cloudy day, a neighbor lending a helping hand just when you need it, a short line at the grocery, a pat on the back for a job well done….there are any number of things that happen around us all day that, when focused on, can help us become more positive, more peaceful, more loving. Some people keep a journal and write one good thing about every day. Others write their blessings on slips of paper then place them in a jar and watch it get fuller as at the year goes on. Keeping a record of your blessings can help on those days when it seems like everything is going wrong; just pull out the journal or read the papers and let them encourage you.

 

You may not have to change to begin counting your blessings, but counting your blessings will change you!

I will tell of the kindnesses of the Lord,
the deeds for which he is to be praised,
according to all the Lord has done for us….
Isaiah 63:7

What a week!

Things have been interesting around here lately and I realized that last week was multi-generational for me. Being from a family that actually enjoys spending time together and that lives in rather close proximity to one another, the multi-generational thing isn’t really all that unusual but the way it played out was.

I got to spend an extended amount of time with three of my youngest grandchildren while their parents enjoyed an anniversary celebration far away from anything but each other (now that’s an anniversary!). For several days it was Grams and the kids and we had a great time. Not that everything was peachy – we had our issues but they were minor and at the end of the week the kids still loved me!

My dad, who is 82, experienced what it is like to fall twice within a 10 day period which is not exactly an experience everyone looks forward to. Along with those other wonderful family members I mentioned earlier, I spent several hours in an emergency room and we have spent several more trying to help dad understand the meaning of the words ‘rest’ and ‘very limited activity’.  Not an easy task!

Then my twenty-something daughter was in a car accident. Her car was totaled but thankfully she and the two passengers in the other vehicle walked away with minor injuries. Another trip to the emergency room!

From the old to the young there were changes and adjustments. There was sadness from some missing their parents (or maybe it was just because they didn’t get their way!), from age making itself known in a harsh way and from the realization that accidents happen very quickly. But there was also joy when serious injury could have taken place and didn’t, when a fall didn’t mean a hospital admission and when Grams let the rules be broken since mom and dad weren’t around to know about it!

I feel blessed to have shared these experiences with those I love so much. I have fond memories of my own childhood and am grateful my grandchildren will have the same. I love my children more than I can even begin to express and to be there for them when they need me is a reward. My parents have supported me always and it’s a privilege to do the same for them now.

As I look back on my week of multi-generational care giving, I realize anew how fast the stages pass. I’m sure it was just weeks ago that my children were the age of my grandchildren and I was the young twenty-something. I turned around once and my parents were great-grandparents and I know this to be so because somehow I’m the grandparent! When? How? Watching my grandchildren play reminds me that childhood innocence is a treasure and shouldn’t be rare or rushed. Being with my grown children gives me hope that dreams can become reality and pushing through hardship has rewards. Watching my parents age with grace teaches me that you can still be joyful, kind and thankful even when being launched into unknown territory.

And me….at my current stage? Well, that reminds me that I need to remember to do more than just take up space. I need to look for the good, share the best, spread the joy and thank God that He is with me in every stage and through every experience – the happy and the hard. I want to be carefree and laugh like a child, dream and experience like I’m in my prime and be full of peace when my strength is failing. I want to live for more than just myself, to experience the best of every stage and hear “Well done*” when the time is right. I may not hit every mark but I most definitely will enjoy trying!

O God, You have taught me from my youth;
And to this day I declare Your wondrous works.
Psalm 71:17

Hey Handsome, the only thing missing is growing old with you.
You are in my heart!

*Matthew 25:21

Embrace the Challenge!

In just a few days Ohio will be casting their ballot for, among other things, their choice for a potential President who will guide our nation for the next four years. Needless to say, preparing for this particular election has been a bit different than usual! More candidates to weed through, more diverse personalities and the climate in our country have created some unique perspectives.

Whether you live in Ohio or not, when placing your vote you are not only deciding who will sit in the White House or Congress, you are deciding what kind of America you want in the years to come. Do you want government more involved in individual choices or less involved? Do you want open borders or more accountability for immigrants? What about taxes…should there be more to help with government programs or more left in your paycheck? How do you want your tax dollars spent? What about military, education, environment and international trade? Why do you feel your opinion is correct? Sometimes we have to make choices that will be better for the country as a whole rather than what will make us more comfortable for the moment.

It can be so easy to choose or oppose a candidate based on their personality or the good/bad press. When making such an important decision we need to do our homework and not rely on what our friends, family or coworkers think. It can be difficult to wade through the rhetoric and we most likely won’t find a candidate that agrees with us on everything but maybe we can come close. There are internet sites that will allow you to do a side-by-side comparison of all the top candidates and even allow you to answer questions then see who your closest match is. When you take hype out of the equation, it might be interesting to see who leans the same way you do. Embrace the challenge of finding out!

I encourage you to spend time truly thinking about why you are casting a vote and who it is you are giving it to. Every time someone is elected we give them the right to speak for us; make sure you like what is being said.
As with a lot of things we are used to, the act of voting may not seem overly important….until we are no longer allowed to do it. Research, pray, vote and trust God to watch over America so we as a nation can be a shining light of hope.

Pray for rulers and for all who have authority
so that we can have quiet and peaceful lives
full of worship and respect for God.
1 Timothy 2:2

Old and New

Here we are, ending our eighth year since Eric died. It seems almost impossible. Can it really have been that long ago yet often seem as though no time has passed? Isn’t it odd how that happens – that time can fly and stand still all at once?

Most people are now used to me being a ‘single’; I actually have friends who never knew me as a married person. Another fact that seems odd to me but, hey, it’s reality. Reality is that my life is vastly different than it was nine years ago. Many, many things are different; not bad, just different. Adjustments have been made, new ventures enjoyed and life is still a precious gift.

I have adjusted to sleeping alone, bypassing the mens department when shopping, not making coffee daily….or twice daily….or even more often 😊. I no longer automatically expect Eric to be home when I get there nor do I pick up my phone to give him a call when something amazing happens. I am used to traveling without him, making changes to our home and knowing there is no one else to consider when writing events on my calendar. These things that once were such typical parts of my life exist no longer, but I have adjusted. And I am happy.

However, I have not adjusted to praying alone, not starting the day with a hug and a kiss or being pampered on a regular basis. I don’t like checking the box that says ‘widow’ or trying to find a handyman for all those annoying projects around the house. I miss having a truly honest sounding board and being the center of his attention. It’s sad to have memories that no one else shares because the only other person who experienced them with you is missing. These are adjustments I have not made. But I am happy.

Out of necessity, people who used to be central parts of my life are people I hardly see any more. I might not ‘see’ them at all if it wasn’t for Facebook! Looking at their pictures, reading their posts and realizing how far apart we’ve grown can make me rather nostalgic. Then I think about all the new friends God has blessed me with and I get almost giddy. I have renewed friendships and enjoy the company of some people I did not know nine years ago. I count myself very blessed because of them! And I am happy.

So many emotions. So many questions. So many tears. Loosing a spouse is a roller coaster ride at best, a horrible nightmare at it’s worst. It’s a step-by-step, day-by-day decision to come out on the other side and be able to say “I am happy”. It may be a different kind of happy, but it’s happy. There was a time I was not convinced I would ever be able to say that. And since I’m still moving forward, maybe someday I’ll be able to say it is the same kind of happy I used to have. Maybe my heart will be full again in all aspects. Who knows. But if not, it’s ok because I am happy now. I am amazed at God’s faithfulness and kindness. His grace truly is amazing and His patience must be, well, indescribable! If you are walking this road as I have, take heart because you do not walk alone. Jesus walks with you and He slows down when you need to and prods you a little when you need it. You will be happy, truly happy, as you allow Him to mend your heart. You can trust Him …… He loves you beyond compare.

…“Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love;
Therefore with lovingkindness I have drawn you.
Again I will build you, and you shall be rebuilt,…
Jeremiah 31:3-4

https://www.youtube.com/embed/eUHRDCYnFfg“>Enjoy this beautiful song.