Oaks Of Splendor

Sharing My Life's Story And Things That Inspire Me


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#70for70Project : Frustration with Myself

Tonight I find myself frustrated. I am frustrated by the way my mother often changes her story about what she knows and remembers about the past. I am even more frustrated by the fact that the way I was told something for years often changes. The way I remember something in the past seems to never be correct, according to my mother. I also am frustrated with the my own need to argue the point. Then the argument keeps going on until one of us walks away. It is a habit I had learned well over the years, from both parents. The need to argue. I wish this pattern would no longer continue. Not only am I complaining about this now, but I know in the past my mother has also been frustrated with her own mother for the exact same reason. It seems like in this family we often remember things the way we want to remember them; even if parts are exaggerated or false.

As I dive deeper into this thought , I feel as if  seeing a character trait in other people is easy. Recognizing it in yourself proves to be the challenge. As I journey through the 70 for 70 Project, God has increased the strength of my eyeglass prescription, so I am seeing things a lot clearer than before. I was talking to my friend a few days ago, and telling her how I feel God has brought me to this place. A place where all the painful roots of my past had formed and made me grow. Yet, he calls me to change one root at a time. If I allow him to help me change my roots, then I will become the oak tree full of all his splendor, bearing lots of fruit.

As I write now, I pray to my father to change this root. Allow me to no longer need to argue to the point of frustration. Instead I want to face this type of situation with grace and acceptance. Understanding everyone’s filter is different. Even when we enter into an experience at the exact same time. the facts may be the same, but our memories and interpretation are never the same. And this is OK. God made each of us unique, like snowflakes. Not a single snowflake is alike, but together they create a magical winter wonderland. Embracing these differences will help me to stop needing to argue over the memories of the past. I can see how in the next time I face conflict, I can allow his presence to fill the space. Then I will be reminded to embrace the grace of different filters.


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#70for70Project : A Funeral Speech For Uncle Jack

Nahum 1:7  

The Lord is Good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who Trust in him.

I am not sure if anyone is familiar with the book of Nahum. It is a small book in the bible, and the message is mostly about the destruction of Nineveh. Then among the all the talk of destruction, there is this shot simple verse. It has always been a reminder to me how God’s goodness and love is there even among the hardest moments in life’s journey. And so, my hope is we can all find comfort in the goodness of God as we gather today to mourn the loss of a beloved Son, Brother, Husband, Father, Uncle, and friend.

Not only do I stand before you in mourning, saddened by all the unrealized moments my Uncle Jack will never get to have. I also stand here today in celebration of the life he lived. For me, as I imagine many of you will agree, Uncle Jack was always the type of person you noticed. When he entered the room, it was always with great declaration that he had arrived. He had a way to lighten the mood no matter what the circumstance. The one thing I will remember most, about my Uncle, is his humor. I could always expect lots of laughter when I would spend time with my Uncle Jack and the rest of the family. I view this as one of his many talents and gifts. He had such a love of life, and never seemed to take things too seriously. He also had a great laugh. I unfortunately have not been given the talents he had for telling a great joke, and as much as I would want to tell a joke right now, to lighten the mood. I am fresh out. You are in luck however, because I have a different kind of talent which God has given me. It is with great pleasure I share it with you now.

One of the things that often happens when you experience the loss of a loved one, is you find anger with the fact that such a good person has passed away. You might even question, why God would take such a kind loving soul, and did not give him more time. I know after I had the opportunity to see my Uncle on Easter Sunday, I set aside time to pray for a miracle. I am a person who strongly believes in the possibility of miracles. I know there are people who have had all kinds of afflictions, only to be cured by god’s grace in the last hour of need. So, as I prayed for God to send a miracle to my Uncle Jack; God in his infinite wisdom and grace shared with me how Jack had already been given two miracles.  His miracles are his wife Stacy and their beloved daughter Allie Jo. I was reminded in my solitude of prayer, how Jack had always wanted to find someone special to share his life with and to start a family. Although, I did not get the opportunity to see how Jack interacted with his daughter as a father. I know in my heart he was a great dad, because for me and my siblings he had always been such a great Uncle.

2 Corinthians 1:3-4

Praise be to God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.

 And so, one of the talents which God has given me has been the gift of dreams or visions. As I was still in the presence of my savior, praying for my Uncle. I had a vision of Jack sitting by the water. He was looking out towards the sun – rising in the distance, and the light’s reflection twinkled with delight. As I looked deeper into the bright shining sun, Jesus stepped out of the light and towards Jack. He then reached out his hand, and Jack stood up. No longer was he weary, but standing tall in the presence of God. He took the hand of the Lord and walked into the light. I know in my heart Uncle Jack is now telling his great jokes in heaven, and God is delighted with his child.

Isaiah 40:31 

But they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.

 


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Midnight Confession

Last night as I was laying down before bed to meditate I had a single thought, which involved the name of my ex. It had been a while since I thought about him. It has been a while since we ended our two-year relationship. As I laid in bed I started writing a letter to him in my mind. Well, that was it. I had to get the letter out onto paper. I turned the light back on and sat there in the middle of the night pouring out a letter to a person who was no,long part of my life. I didn’t quite understand the impulse. Like I said it had been a while since I had even thought about him. I don’t intend to send him the letter, but I think in some way it was the release of any bit of him which was still left. Did I mention that the guided meditation I was doing was about letting go? I figure this is what brought the whole thing about. I want to share with you what I wrote……

Dearest,

It may seem crazy to be writing this letter, especially after all this time has passed. I haven’t the least bit of expectation what may come of it. I have very little hope that you will even read this letter. Nor do I even anticipate any form of response. Yet, I write it not because of some need to even hear from you. I have discovered instead that words are powerful. Words can defy expectations, they can even bring understanding to your own past. I have been writing a lot lately, you see. I have been recalling memories and sharing them with others. It has brought me some happiness over the past weeks. It has shown me the other angles of the memories which I had not seen before.

I was in bed this evening when in my mind, I said your name. I had a thought of you. Not because I was wondering how you are getting on or what you have been up to. No, it was just a thought, and so I said your name. The simple thought brought forth a memory though. Do you remember a few summers ago, how you called me unexpected. You were in a drunken state, and dialed my number. You wanted to apologize for screwing everything up. You can’t begin to know how I had wanted to hear those words, even then. Alcohol is a funny thing sometimes. It lowers our inhibitions. I don’t think you would have called had it not been for the drunken state you were in. At first the apology did not mean that much to me. I only felt you were too late. A lot had been done and said between us, and in ways the apology seemed tarnished by what you said afterwards. Yet, one thing still sticks out. As you confessed in the uninhibited state you were in, your new relationship was so different from ours. You confessed how much you missed being able to talk to someone like you had with me. The great thing about our conversations were the honesty between us. This honesty was there from the first day we met. I had never let anyone in so close before. We had true intimacy. I had taken down all my walls for you. I will confess to have been afraid of letting people in for some time after you broke my heart. However, the brokenness did not maintain its hold over me. Tonight, I sit in the darkness remembering all of it.

Memories can be a silly thing. They can be like a ribbon dancing along in the wind. You are walking in an open field which is your mind. When a gust comes along whirling the memory in front of you. So, you stop to gaze at its wonder in admiration. Thinking about what was once my life.  Yet, it is only a ribbon which can be blown further off into the distance. Landing in a tree somewhere for a short period, until it gets blown in front of you again. As I have been writing and remembering more often, I have begun to see things differently. I know we were happy for a while. Like memories happiness is fleeting. It often gets overshadowed. Happiness is never sustained. Instead we must find joy. Not the kind of joy that is really just happiness masquerading as joy. No, we must find the true joy. Joy filled with warmth, the kind of warmth which fills us completely. It consumes every fiber of our being. With joy, there is no room for anything else. Even in the sadness life brings we can still be grateful, because we know joy. You could also call joy love. Not any love but agape love. The love which only comes from God.

I am not sure what you have been doing over the last few years. I don’t even really need to know in honesty. I know what I have been doing. I have been searching. Searching for joy. I have been trying to discover who I want to be. Not only that, but also who I am, and most importantly who God has made me to be. What I have discovered has filled me with joy. It is overwhelming at times. I feel as if my heart will burst from the likes of it. I don’t feel it always, but like God it is always there. In all ways. I don’t have all the answers. And I know that they will be a lifetime in the discovering. The one thing which has brought me to the understanding I have known has been each step along my journey. I have admiration for the part you played in this journey. Without it I would not have understood what I do now.

I understand God has made me into a woman of hope. Even if others around me see it as foolish optimism, I know it is who God wants me to be. How do I become her is a continuation of what has already been. I have lived a life full of many seasons. Many seasons are still to come. You were only a small part in the middle of one of these great seasons. Just as I was a part of one of your seasons. You once told me you believed we were going in different directions. I did not want to believe this at the time. All I wanted was to be going in the same direction as you, but maybe one was ahead of the other. I know now you were right. I choice just to ignore it. We have different paths, and maybe one day we will cross our paths again. Even if it is just a wave hello. I , my dear, will continue to become who God has made me, all while being who I am. Who I am, who I have always been, is beloved by God.

When I put down the pen, and lay back down to sleep, I had a dream. I was standing in an open field and I saw a red ribbon. As I followed the ribbon float back behind me from the direction I had come. I saw him in the distance. He smiled and turn around, starting towards the forest behind me. He met a woman and they walked into the forest together. The one detail I remember about the forest they walked into was it must have been winter, because not a single leave was on a tree in the forest. It was also rather dark, and lacked anything happy. Then a butterfly flew up into the air catching my attention, then hundreds of butterflies were around me as I turned to the right. I ran up a small hill, chasing one of the butterflies. They all flew away as I looked out over the horizon. I began run down the hill towards sunshine and warmth. I started to notice friends of mine on either side of my path, they were smiling and waving as I passed them. Then as I looked upon eat face I noticed they were all the friends I have made over the past two years. All those who I have loved, who have helped me to rediscover God’s grace. I looked ahead and saw a different forest, this one was filled with light. Every tree had the greenest leaves on them. They were hundreds of oak trees to be exact. Stretching beyond what I could see. At this point I was no longer running on my path but rather floating. As I approached more faces, I noticed I could tell if  they were male or female, but the face was blank. It was blank like an abstract painting you might find in a museum. Then there were three male faceless people, the first kissed me on the cheek, the second held my hand, and the third I walked up to a minister and married. All the time I was gazing into his face but could not see it. It was all blurred. The only details I remember was he was taller than I am. However, that is easy to do because I am only 5’2″.  I smiled and woke up.

In the beginning of the dream I might just claim my subconscious working thoughts out, but now after reflecting upon it I think differently. I am reminded of the dreams of Daniel and Joseph in the bible. How it was a way for God to communicate with them. To show his plan to them. I feel as if this dream was a promise from God that I have so much good ahead of me. I will love again, and someday find someone to share my life with. He already knows, but if I saw their face it would ruin the mystery. I have so many more people to look forward to being friends with, all of them I know I will learn from. I imagine I even have a boyfriend or two who I will date before I find the one God intends for me to marry. Like the dreams of so many in the bible, it gives me hope for the future.


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Reflection on a Past Life Lesson About Self Value

There often comes a point in one’s life when you stop putting so much value on your parents approval. Some people never reach this point, while others discover this early on in their life. For me I discovered the lesson when I was twenty-two years old. I was away at college dealing with another life lesson. Sometimes even when you feel like you are true friends with a person, it can be a lie you tell yourself because all you really want is for people to ‘like’ you.

I was in my second year of college. The first year I loved the college I was attending, and met so many wonderfully awesome people who I became great friends with. Unlike in high school I never had to ask permission if I wanted to do something. I just did it, if I wanted. I was becoming independent. I was an adult after all. When I went back the second year I was excited. In the beginning, things were great. Or so they seemed. I started hanging out with a new friend named Jennifer. Now she was someone I knew the year before, and had been friendly with. However, the second year we started doing everything together. I had a car my second year of school, and was always willing to help a friend out taking them to places off campus. I can’t say Jen and I didn’t have fun. We had a blast. I discovered how much fun going to a gay bar and drag show could be. It was liberating doing something, my parents might frown upon. Now along with Jen came her gay best friend. So, I drove the three of us everywhere. If I found myself feeling lonely or bored even, I could always call Jen and we would go jauntting off on some great adventure. The lesson soon to come was when I started passing out in class for no reason. It was scary not knowing what was wrong, and not having my family around to help. I would rather hang out with my friends than do any school work, and so my grades suffered. I could never say no when I was asked to join some of my friends who were going out. Mostly we did silly things like going to the 24hr Wendy’s and spending hours playing card games in the booth. Or other times we would drive to the closest city and go dancing. I was the typical college student, going to a school in a small town.

It took me until the summer to understanding why I was having what seemed to be seizures, but weren’t. All the tests kept coming back normal. It wasn’t something that happened everyday, but definitely once every other week or so. In the summer I discovered that I had an anxiety disorder that showed itself in the form of pseudoseizures. I would later learn how to manage my stress. Something I didn’t know anything about my sophomore year of school.

Have you ever known a person who gets satisfaction from causing problems among a group? It’s as if they thrive from the drama they create. This was Jen. I can remember many times when I would hear about some trivial conflict which blew up into an argument within the group of friends I was part of. I discovered by the end of the year I had been taking on other people’s worry. Growing up I was often the peace keeper in my family. I would smooth out the arguments among my siblings. I took on this role in college. Every time there was conflict, you could count on me to try to smooth things over. Playing this part hurt me in the long run though. Maybe being a peacemaker among three siblings is easier than when more people are involved. I now know that was one of my main sources of stress my sophmore year. I valued what everyone thought about me. I wanted to be accepted. I struggled in my teen years with feeling like an outsider. So, being the peacemaker was a way to be inside. In some ways Jen helped me by creating the drama I would try to fix. Yet, it all got to be too much. The only thing I could do to change things was to walk away from a friendship. When I did this I started seeing how Jen had been manipulating me, and using me. I also learned she had stolen from me. Or at least I suspected that she had stolen from me when she got caught stealing from someone else.

I had up to this point often avoided confrontation. The day I confronted Jen’s bff, who had become a dear friend to me, was the first time I ever faced a fear so head on. It gave me the courage to keep going, so I confronted Jen. I ended our so-called friendship, and never regretted it. I don’t want you to think I am blaming her for all my problems at that time, because I had been willing to play the role. It’s just when a person or people are a source of negativity, the only way to get rid of it sometimes is to cut the source off. There is enormous power in recognizing this.

After all of this happened, I started to see how I was afraid to tell my mother how unhappy I was. I was afraid of disappointing her. Her’s was the one opinion I valued above all else, even my own. I have become such an independent person over the years that I often forget I used to not value myself. I see how God used even these events that I did not want to shape me and teach me how to stand up for myself. I learned how to find my own voice. A voice worth sharing. I still value my mother’s opinion, but I now value my own first. I am also not afraid to share things with her like I used to be. I know, no matter how different we view things, she is my mother. She will always love and support me. It may take her a bit of time to come around to certain ideas if she disagrees, but eventually she understands me. She accepts me no matter what. Her love is more valuable than her pride. Despite this though, I know she is proud of me. Even in the decisions I make which she does not agree.

 


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Thoughts Shining Through the Preparation of Christmas Cards

My life is bound to my faith and that is where my strength lies. I cling to what I have learned through my past, all things are possible. The faith I have is a large part of who I am. When I push it aside, I often become lost. I lose myself in the world. It has been a long road to reach this point in my life, and I know I still have further to go. I believe God has a plan for me. I the plan is not in the destination but in the journey. I have fallen many times, but each time he picks me up and I surpass where I used to be when I fell. I know this has a lot to do with the decision to accept Christ at the age of five. I have never since that time been without faith, even when I was lost.

Faith is such a deep part of me it guides each and every decision. It guides decision when I don’t want it to. I know in my heart the events of 2016 were all in his plan. As much as we often like to think of ourselves as in control, it is often an illusion. We must not confuse control with that of free will. Free will is a gift God gives us. In my execution of my own free will, it is the faith I hold which shapes my decisions. Sometimes the world tries to persuade our choices. This may lead to what is not pleasing to God. However, I spent so much time recently reflecting over the lessons I have learned so far in my life.

I am preparing to write notes and letters to my friends and family for Christmas. Many people send out cards sharing all the many experiences that the year has brought them. It is a quiet reminder to each of us about the things that shape us. I write letters to myself sometimes, when I take the time to journal in the evenings. I haven’t journaled every night since I started my first one, but pages are filled with big life events and thoughts I knew were important to get out.  The many journals sitting on my bookshelf tell a tale of what I have lost and gained.

Steps along the way were never clear, but when I read the words I wrote so many years ago, or even yesterday, I see my own evolution. They have become a tool for me to remember. Not just a remembering of what was, but also they show who I was the moment my pen hit the paper. I look forward to revealing to the people who find my blog the many evolutionary lessons I have learned. I have the understanding words can inspire even with the shortest content. Bless you all as your pen writes “Merry Christmas” to the ones you love and cherish. May the length of your content inspire the faith of the season.


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4 Things About Holidays You Didn’t Know When You Were A Kid

Turkeys cost money. I found out today that my brother and his family didn’t have enough money to buy a turkey or other groceries for thanksgiving day. When I was little I don’t think I ever thought about how much a Thanksgiving Day dinner really costs. According to google the average cost of a 16 pound bird will set you back 23 dollars. Not to mention the cost of all the other ingredients for things like stuffing or mashed potatoes. What’s a Thanksgiving dinner without all the sides? Luckily my brother has his family who can send money so that he and his wife can go shopping to prepare a family thanksgiving. Others may not be so fortunate, so you may rely on a local food pantry. I am grateful for the provision of a Turkey and sides on this Thanksgiving Day.

Not all cranberry sauce is the same, round. Sometimes even if you dress it up on a crystal plate it still came from the can. I think Holidays are often dressed up so to speak and everyone plays nice just for the show of it. When you are young and sitting at the table surrounded by all your aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents you don’t realize how dysfunctional your family can be. When you become an adult and see how other families act during the holidays, you see all the freakouts that happened on Thanksgiving for what they were- dysfunctional. No matter how it was dressed up it was always going to be drama. As a kid I just thought that’s what all families did on holidays, argue.

Great Grandma use to turn to each of us around the dinner table and ask in german….”Is it Good?” She would expect you to reply in german “This is good.” To this day it is the only german I know. After dinner my great grandmother would sit in the living room and randomly sing christmas songs in german. As a kid, all I thought was how cool it was she spoke another language. I found it silly that she would sometimes put german words in the middle of her sentences. I thought she was being silly. So I would laugh. What I didn’t realize was that she was starting to get dementia and she probably didn’t mean to speak german words in the middle of a sentence. Memories you have are not always the truth. Sometimes when you are young you see the world one way, like an old lady intentionally trying to be silly and make you laugh was really a woman who sometimes couldn’t remember what she was trying to say.

Colossians 3

11 Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.

15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 

17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Over the summer I lived with several internationals who came to Boston to study or work. One roommate in particular, from Peru, had only been in the US two weeks before she moved into the apartment. Since she didn’t have a car which is a more convenient way to go to the grocery store, I often would offer for her to tag along as I ran my errands. On saturday like most I liked to rest from the long work week. I remember one specific saturday where it ended up being more restful than any other. It wasn’t like I went to the spa and pampered myself. Instead what I did was simple. In the afternoon I went to a park with my roommate to enjoy some live music, we then went to the grocery store, followed by coming back to the apartment and making dinner together. I think what made this day a different kind of peaceful wasn’t what I did but rather my state of mind while I went about my day. I woke up that day feeling full, not a physical fullness but a spiritual one. The night before I put down the netflix and decided to read the bible. I then followed it with journaling describing how I felt in that moment. While background music played I wrote down every worry,and let it go to God. Thanking him for ruling my heart and bringing peace. Something changed in that moment when I let the spirit of christ come into the all of me. When I woke I felt a difference. I walked through the day with a deep Thanksgiving in my heart, and every deed I did knowing that Jesus was with me. I did not know this when I was a kid. I did not know that being full in spirit was a better feeling than when you over stuff on Thanksgiving day and have to let out the top button of your pants. When you cook a meal with thanksgiving in the heart it brings a peace unlike any other.  The simple deed of cooking is transformed, and what used to be stressful becomes a source of joy. The words of what you are thankful for this year has more meaning than you could understand before. Feel Christ in you- through you, and be grateful.

 


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Countdown to Thanksgiving Day 5: Thanksgiving Ingredients God Has Put in Front of Me

I am happy to see that I am getting visitors to my new blog and people are responding to what I have to say. I only hope that the words I write glorify God, and inspire those who read every symbol I type. This week I reached out to a few friends back in Boston, it just reminded me how much I miss them. However, I know that they will always be a part of me because they are more family than just friend. I didn’t live close enough to my family during my stay in Boston, so I found people who like family would show up when I needed help. Some of them became a choice, and others God led me to.

Today I was sitting in the living room listening to an open playlist on spotify as I filled out job applications online, and I recognized one of the songs I used to love by Alexi Murdoch called Orange Sky. It was a song that had been on the soundtrack for the movie Into the Wild. If you haven’t seen the movie I definitely recommend it. Anyways, the movie which is based off a nonfiction book about a man who gives up everything and sets out on a journey  through America to the Alaskan wilderness. What inspires me about his choice is how he begins to live his life whole-heartedly. He took life by the balls, so to speak. It’s something I admire, because in this season I want to learn to live with such boldness.

The boldness I seek is not to leave everything to travel across the world in search of something. My boldness comes from a realization that God has invited me (and you) to a banquette. The things he wants of me to savor are sitting right in front of me. I ask myself….. Do I really have things to figure out when I need to instead see the bounty sitting right in front of my spot at the table. I can take a bite out of allowing my body to be a temple, and taste what it’s like to be a runner. Maybe that is what I have been looking for to be healthy. I have tried a few things but have never been consistent. Instead I let the lies I was told when young hold me to being a person unmotivated.

I now believe Jesus has been asking me to take a heaping spoonful of writing. However, up to this point I was to afraid to share my voice. Yet, he has showed me my voice and understanding are unique. The Lord has given me a gift of understanding, this includes not only what I know but what others know. I feel him saying take a piece of dessert child, the dreams and possibilities await you in the future are sweet. They do exist and can become a reality, even if they seem silly or foolish. Don’t forget the gravy on all of this is the Lord’s grace and love which make all things true, good, full, possible, and even worthy. The lies you have clinged to don’t have to be what you believe about myself or the world. You can let it all go to be renewed through love.

Some months ago before I was laid off, I had chosen to start on a journey towards volunteering for a mission project overseas. I went through the whole process. It was a lengthy application where I was asked questions about my moral values and character. I was accepted into the program. Next I went to a week long training session the first week of June. I felt like this was something God was strongly asking me to do. For the first time in my life I truly said yes, I said yes to this calling with every ounce of who I am. At the training retreat where we learned about support raising and what the eight month program would look like, I agreed to get rebaptised. I had been baptised when I was a child but never as an adult, where it was my decision and no one else’s. I will share the baptism story another time, but just know that I did feel renewed after stepping out of the river. I ended up slowly raising money when I returned, putting in the work to go. Then four weeks before I was to leave, the assistant pastor at my church sat me down and explained to me why he felt like it was not my time to go yet. Because I needed the sponsorship from my church to attend the trip, I was not be allowed to go . The money that had been raised up to that date will still be available for me to use at another time. However, I did not leave as originally intended.

I was angry and confused. How could someone say I could not do what I felt God calling me to do?  I can still be thankful for God using the journey of going as a way to transform me. To draw me closer to him. I know that the promise he gave me to go overseas is still relevant. I see now how he had some other ingredients to offer before me, ingredients in my thanksgiving feast that will become a dish which many will find filling. However, he still has some things to teach me before I start mixing. I think about a souffle in this case. If everything is not perfectly mixed together and the recipe not followed to the exact measurements then it falls flat. Once you get everything how they need to be, and then bake it, the end result is a golden crust gleaming on top of a mound of yummy goodness.

I was excited about the transformation I knew that I would go through on a trip overseas. Now I feel like God wanted to show me that transformation does not have to take place half around the world. Instead you can transform right in your own backyard. He continues to call me to throw out the past lies I held so true. Instead replace them with the fresh ingredients of his bounty , a bounty that sits right in front of me. I can be healthy, happy, and fulfilled. The first measure is a commitment to write with the Lord’s glory during the next year. The second measurement is taking action towards living healthy. Third measurement is a continuation of daily devotion that was started this summer. Fourth measurement I see is to listen to God as he continues to teach me the instructions and call out additional ingredients each step on my journey. I want to see the golden crusted mound of yumminess as my life comes forth from the oven to be shared with all those around me. Including you who are reading my words in this moment.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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Countdown to Thanksgiving Day 3: Why Thanksgiving is the Secret Ingredient

Once you start shifting you attitude in a life filled with thanksgiving, you will notice things in your life start to take a new form. It becomes something  you know but don’t recognize as much. I mean to thing  you start saying is thank you for loosing your job, for not being able to get a new cell phone you thought you needed, to say thank you for the fact  a relationship you thought was going to lead to marriage is over. You even say thank you that you once threw out a rotten banana only to slip and fall. You start realizing  the days you thought to be grey and gloomy were really the moments that God was using to transform you. You over come all of that sticky life stuff only to come to where you are now, and hope this season of thanksgiving brings will help to awaken you to the glory of who you are. You are strong and beautiful, and even when your life is not like you want it to be or imagine it to be there is opportunity. You have a rainbow standing right before you to choose, and to seek what is next.

Living in thanksgiving everyday leads to more optimism, which (lets just break it down) is hope. When you are hopeful tomorrow will be filled with the endless possibilities, you can face a flat tire and say OK. It’s flat today but I know it can get fixed and tomorrow I will be driving down the road again. Life sometimes is filled with these moments. The secret  I found in my journey to my own discovery of truth, only proves thanksgiving is not just one day a year, but really 365 days a year.

My dad died when I was in college and it effected me beyond anything else had up to that point. I would say it effect me even more than my parents divorce and not seeing my father for fifteen years before we got the phone call he was dying form cancer. It was the day of thanksgiving actually. I could forever associate such a great holiday with such sadness, but I don’t. Instead I live the moment in thanksgiving. I might not have gotten the chance to say goodbye to the man who was my father if it hadn’t been for a few circumstances leading up to that moment. In September of the same year I had changed colleges. I chose to transfer back in state for many different reasons, but ultimately it was because I truly felt like it was the right choice, the choice that God wanted me to make. The thing about transferring was all of a sudden I found myself living close to my family, actually the same town as my grandparents. I went to church, lunch, and laundry every Sunday. I was also able to be with them all for Thanksgiving Day, when we got the call from my Aunt (my dad’s sister), saying that he was really sick and dying. She was the only family from his side who stayed in contact with me and my younger brother. She mentioned he had asked to see us, and wanted to know if we wanted the same. See if I hadn’t of transferred, I wouldn’t have been so close when all of this happened. I had originally been going to school six hours away, and the school had a absence policy that basically meant you couldn’t really miss any classes. I know they would not have been as understanding about missing finals for my father’s funeral. I know this because a friend my freshman year had lost her father to a heart-attack during midterms, and she basically had to drop out for the semester and return a year later. Part of that was due to the schools policy on missing classes. At my new college when I told the director of my department what was going on before I took off to fly to New Jersey  in order to see my dad before he passed away. Well, she basically said if you need anything let me know, she would inform all my professors. And don’t worry about work missed she would make sure I got it later. Also I had only taken two finals when I got the call he had passed away and since we needed to fly back for the funeral service, she basically was OK with me taking several in-completes. Then allowed me to take the finals the beginning of the next semester when I got back from break.

So, I live in thanksgiving that the choices and direction my left was heading leading up to such a tragic moment in my life, was all set into place for the best out come. Now when I think of the holiday I am not sad and mournful because it was a time when I found out my dad was sick. Instead it was a time when I was able to share forgiveness with my father. I was also able to understand how much my father did love me despite all the years of separation.

1st Timothy 4:4 For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving


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Countdown to Thanksgiving Day 2: What Attitude Can Teach You About Thanksgiving

Our daily lives we walk through each day and are affected by the attitude we have. I sure know that if I wake up in the morning and stub my toe on the corner of the dresser, than you might just find me going through the day with an attitude that its such a bad day. And as I continue to be , lets just say a grouch, I will find that each experience I have starts to become worst that the one before. I am pretty sure you know what I am talking about. If not then there is a great children’s book called Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. When I was a kid, and my mom first read this book to me I knew exactly how Alexander felt. I could relate, and even then I knew in some small way that it was his attitude that really shaped how he experienced the day. These past few years God has kept reminding me about this lesson. It is easy to get caught up on the bum toe that hurts as you walk. It is easy to get caught up in the problems you have in your marriage or even with your job. I know that sometimes we find ourselves only focusing on one thing that is bringing us misery. that thing in our life that we don’t want at all. You lose your job and find yourself depressed because you feel useless. Money problems happen and something needs fixed unexpectedly, so you get angry. You begin to ask yourself why in as much self-pity as you can muster. The day that is filled with sunshine only seems cloudy.

I think that is why I really love Thanksgiving as a holiday. It literally forces you to stop and think about the things you are grateful for instead of the things that are hard to handle and make the sky seem grey. I was reminded recently by one f my favorite poets Maya Angelou that “God puts rainbow in the clouds”. I believe this is so true, but sometimes when your attitude about what is only sees the grey you can’t really find the rainbow. I am sure it is there and once you step out of the situation and look back to the time you end up seeing the good that came out of the bad situation. I threw a rotten banana onto the floor once only to slip. I loved Chris but things had not been going well for some time, but all I could see was that I loved him and I didn’t want to let go. Then when things really were over and I was dealing with the fact that I still had to live with him for six more months until our lease was over. I could only have an attitude of anger and grief. I wanted to hurt him the way he kept hurting me, so I got into his face one day and pissed him off. I never seen him so angry in the few years I had known him. He just kept telling me to leave him alone, but I could not I was tired of being walked over so I just kept yelling back. He got so angry that he couldn’t control it any more so he picked up the desk chair and threw it on the floor. I had never pushed any one to the brink like that. It wasn’t like I was hurt or anything but I was sure scared. I threw that banana onto the floor with my attitude and it made not only me loose my own self control but his too. We both fell, not in an actual way tell you but in a way that somehow tarnished any kindness that was left between us. We didn’t speak much after that before we moved out a month later. I regret that the attitude I had could cause such anger and bitterness. As hard as things had been up to that point, at least there always remained a hope between both of us that someday we could be friends. And the broken chair that had to be taken to the dumpster was really just the last bit of love that cindered in our hearts for what was.

God kept telling me through scripture and sermons, and even songs that to find true Thanksgiving in our lives we must first shift our attitude about the things we do not want.  Psalm 3:3 But you, Lord, are a shield around me, my glory, the One who lifts my head high. If we allow the lord to lift our heads high to truly see what we can not when our attitudes do not allow it, then we can find the sun shinning and the clouds will disappear.  That is the lesson in thanksgiving that he continues to remind me of each day.

Romans 15   5 May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, 6 so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. 7 Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.


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Countdown to Thanksgiving Day 1: How to Find Gratitude for the Unlikely

It is Saturday the 19th of November, and Thanksgiving Day is a few days away. This is the first year I will be home for Thanksgiving since 2009. Of course like many of you i too am thinking about the things in my life I have to be thankful for. And even though I am not working and living at my mom’s house again, I know that I am grateful to just have a family who is able to take me in when I needed a place to go. I know that it is not everyone who has family that would be willing to do such a thing. This year I also find myself thinking about all the unlikely sources I have had in my life that have brought through the different times trouble I have seen in my life.

A couple of days ago I woke up thinking about what my next blog post should be about, and my grandpa Chuck came to mind. He is a warm-hearted man who I admire, someone who has shown me how a man should love his wife and family. He came into the family when he married my Grandma when I was around the age of fourteen. I was a bridesmaid in their wedding. The first impression he left as I was getting to know this new person who joined my family, was one I will never forget. We had gone up to visit my mom’s mother and new step-father a little after they had been married. Grandpa Chuck came into the kitchen and said he wanted to go to get some clam chowder and chicken. I was a little confused and just followed along as one by one we loaded into the mini van and headed of to get some clam chowdre. We were quite squashed in the van since there were so many of us, eight actually. I wasn’t really buckled in but just kind of sandwhiched against the window. We lef tthe house and hit the freeway, getting off an exit near Brusten Mills. As I was watching out the window all i could see where more and more trees. We just kept going deeper into the country. When the road turned into gravel you could hear all the adults start to question “where we lost? “. Well, sort of we were but all grandpa kept saying was it shouldn’t be much farther. Finally, we saw a sign and turned into the parking lot of an old white country church, They were having a church gather and serving as you may guess clam chowder and chicken. We went into the building and grandpa paid for us all as we stood in line. We then proceed to go along a buffet served by a bunch of the ladies from the church, and least that is what I guessed. I followed my new grandfather as he took a seat in the middle of the middle of rows of tables and chairs set up in the church hall. I felt so akward not knowing a single soul, I felt so out of place. Yet, as I watched Grandpa Chuck just started talking to eat of the people seated around our family. I just thought that surely he must have been here before or known some of the people he was speaking with. It wasn;t until on the ride home that I found out that he had never been to that church, nor did he know anyone there. Instead it was just something he had read was happening in the paper and thought it would be nice to have some of that clam chowder. Well, grandpa got his clam chowder, and I learned about the kind of man who had become my new grandfather. He is just like that, you can take him anywhere and he is going to start a conversation with a complete stranger, not one of those superficial conversation where you talk about trivial things like the weather. No my Grandpa Chuck will speak to you like you are best friends and he just hasn’t seen you in years and wants to catch up. It’s funny to watch and I have never been so bold. When I enter into a room, instead I must access the situation before I even attemt to speak……especially if I don’t know many people. You wouldn’t find me driving to the middle of the country to attend an event where I don’t know a single soul. Over the years I have relized what great value Grandpa Chuck brought into our family. He showed us each how to be just a liitle more adventurous when it comes to daily life. I think about this now, I think mostly because Thanksgiving was my favorite holiday to spend with my grandparents. My grandmother would be cooking hard in the kitchen, as Grandpa Chuck would be in the living room watching football in the after noon. He would later put on some western movie or christmas special. My great grandmother would be sitting on the couch going on about something or another, and he would always have a joke about anything she said. Then she would start singing in german and he would just ignore it and smile. Yet, that is him. He always has a joke up his sleave and never takes anything to seriously. A character you might describe a the comedic relief. I guess like most families the holidays were never without the drama, like the time grandma thought she ordered a precooked turkey but it only turned out that it was only thawed. The man who had not always been apart of my family came in and lightened the mood. I love my granpa and am so thankful for the joy and love he rbouhgt into my life over the years. I look forward to seeing him this year. And maybe even watching one of those John Wayne films again.

I find thanksgiving in simple things like the people who have contributed to my life. I can’t help but also think about last year this time and where I was. It was August and the sublet I had been renting was up, and I had just found a great contract job with a pharma company that I was excited about. Yet, I just didn’t have enough money to put down on a new apartment yet and needed a place to stay for the transistion. So, I reached out to my church family and spoke to the assistant pastor to see if anyone could help. To my surprise a famliy was going to be gone on vacation for three weeks in August and offered to let me stay in the guest bedroom they had in there attic. I had never met then before, but was greatful for the offer. It seemed like the perfect solution and I was trying to trust God more in my life so I agreed. I moved in with a couple of suitcases and my tiny poodle Sophie. The family was a family of four , two kids Andrew ( age 8) and Suzanna ( age 4). They first week I was there it was fun getting to know the family before they left for vacation. Of course we went over what plants needed watered and when trash day was. The kids really loved having a dog to play with. Then after a week they left to visit family in California. I went about the next could weeks working and the family checked in on me a couple times by phone just to see how I was doing. It was towards the end of the month and they would be getting back in a couple of days when the unthinkable happened. My contract job ended abruptly. I was out looking at apartments, when the agency who ahd assigned me called. I was shocked and didn’t know what I was going to do now. I had been able to save the money I needed for a new apartment but after the first month without a job I wasn’t going to be able to pay for it. I called the family emediatly, and the mother, Sophia told me not to worry. We would figure something out. I can never pay them back for allowing me to live with them until i found my next job. For six months I lived with them, and they became my family. I would sometimes help out with dinner, and I would always help clean whenever I could. The best part was the kids, and how they even would call me Auntie sometimes. I know that no matter how many times I say the words thank you, I will never be able to repay them for allowing me to stay in Boston that last year. I would have never thought that after eight months at my last job I would get laid off once again. I know that because of the open hearts that the family of four had for a complete stranger. I was able to grow and become a stronger person. I was able to grow in my faith in God and people. Just like the open heart my grandpa has for any stranger he meets, I hope that I too can change the life of one unlikly person who comes into my life. That is what I am thankful for today and this thanksgiving, the unlikley people that come into your life who end up family. If circumstances were different and my grandmother had never met and married Chuck, I would not have such a great example to live by. If I had kept working at that pharma company and moved out I might never have really gotten to know such a wonderful family who I love. And the gratitude I find for this brings tears of joy and love.

Who are the unlikely people who will come into your life that you can someday find gratitude for? Thay are out there, I am sure. You just have to look past your circumstances and the situtation……then look up. I am confident you will see them or meet them soon.