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Check my what?

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We have all heard the phrase, “check your motives” but how often do we really check them?  I am finding personally as I try to make a habit of it, that they aren’t always as pure as I had once imagined.  This motive checking has been on my radar for quite some time now as I knew it was something God was dealing with me personally about.  Not surprisingly, it is way easier to judge someone else’s motives than your own and your family members are easy prey.

My husband and my youngest daughter have always had this thing that they do when I am fussing at them about something.  While I am in mid-sentence, they say, “I love you”.  There were times when this was infuriating, but a large percentage of the time, it garnered a smile from me and the change of subject that had been their intent all along.  Their motive behind saying it was to change the topic and my train of thought, or to derail my indictment.   Thankfully, I know they both adore me and that although their motive wasn’t entirely pure, they still meant what they said.

If we pay close attention to our conversations, our emails, and our Facebook posts, they can speak volumes regarding motive.  Has anyone ever posted something seemingly innocuous on Facebook, but the reason you did it was to get back at or prove a point to someone?  What about the argumentative email that you go back and forth with someone at work?  Is it perhaps because you are determined to be right or prove them wrong?  Are all of your questions about others out of genuine concern or do you ever have an ulterior motive?  Think about times when you are discussing something and you say something that you later regret.  Why did you say it?  What was your motive behind it?  Were you being kind, compassionate, loving and merciful?

Now, for the difficult part of this post, the part where I am completely transparent.  Often when I speak, my motive is to prove that I am right, to make myself look good (attain praise), to get attention, or sometimes even to call attention to a fault in someone else.  Ouch!  The truth hurts, doesn’t it?

Silly selfie shared with girls

Now, you can see why God is dealing with me personally.  Thankfully, this journey has opened my eyes to some of the little hidden things of the heart and I have learned about myself and others.  I have asked for forgiveness and for God’s help that that my motives will always be pure; that the words I speak are from a heart filled with love.

I want to challenge you to pay attention to your own motives in conversations, as you go about your day and see if you have any “wow” moments in this area.  Then, be brave and come back and post something you learned.

I dare ya!

My heart

Ashley and Morgan; then and now

Ashley and Morgan; then and now

Chubby little hands, wet with slobber, getting caught in my hair

Up half the night rocking you with a prayer until the fever subsided

Chasing remnants of applesauce around your tiny lips with a tiny spoon

The spoon, now airborne and not because I’m pretending it’s a plane

Bath time;  soggy toys, towels and floors until you were like ten

Drying a wiggle worm until the towel drops and you run away giggling

Treating Boo boos with kisses and rug rat bandages and Neosporin

Riding bicycles and scooters and go karts and four-wheelers

Going to Little league, Church camp, school plays and sleepovers

Checking out library books and Disney movies and The Nutcracker

Reminding daily about baths and brushing teeth and hair

Blond hair whipping in the wind as we caught our share of fish

Driving cars and blasting music and growing up too fast

Never-ending showers that leave the rest of us mad and cold

Little Miss Know It All who doesn’t really have a clue

Late nights, some fights, long talks and lots of prayers

High school, sports, dances and dates

Increasing beauty, decreasing days before graduation and then…..

Empty nest, quiet house, too much time on our hands

Phone calls, holiday visits and lots of texts

Agree to disagree, offer advice but realize my limits

Heart breaks when you feel pain or struggle

Loving you long distance, looking forward to your next visit

Missing you, lots of reminiscing, tears and prayers

Oh Christmas tree, MY Christmas tree

Christmas 2013

Christmas 2013

This Christmas is a first of sorts for my husband and I.  December 25, 2013 will be our first Christmas as empty nesters.

Don’t worry; this post isn’t going to be a sappy one lamenting a dismally quiet household and no one to wake up with us on Christmas morning.  Although we are disappointed that our eldest can’t make it home this year with our only grandchild, we will have our youngest and her husband here for the holidays.

With all of the ornaments laid out on the kitchen table this year, I made a decision.  I was going to split them and ship them!  I painstakingly and with absolute fairness, separated them into two large flat rate postal boxes.  I wrapped them using bubble wrap and tissue paper and one Christmas dish towel (a little extra). One of the boxes is on it’s way to Louisiana while the other heads for Texas.  Why, you might ask?  Well, I decided I had a couple of choices.  I could hoard them all and continue to have the same old tree year after year, or I could send them each a little piece of home, while also helping these young couples build up their Christmas decoration stock.  Why keep them until I’m old and grey? (wait, I’m already grey without color every six weeks) – anyway, I figured I would let them enjoy them and have memories of home hanging from their trees.

What was in it for me?  To be honest, as I packed all the cute, kiddie looking ornaments, I was dreaming of a tree similar to one I’d encountered on Pinterest, with a woodland animal theme.  You might think I’m not sentimental enough and that I should be pining for the ornament that a 6yr old made in art class.  Well, I did keep a couple that were made by their own little hands.  However, not for my tree; just for the memory.  I much prefer the memories of spending time with them and our conversations and laughter to things.

I marched right to Kohl’s the following day where I had already eyed the ornaments I liked and filled up a basket with owls, foxes, cardinals and others that would match my theme; Then it was off to Target and then Family Christian Store for more tree decorations.  I turned on Christmas carols, turned down the A.C. (yes, good old south FL weather) and began.  A couple hours later I stepped back, pleased and beamed when my husband said it was beautiful.

As families grow and change, a new tradition or a new twist on an old tradition helps to move us forward.  I have beautiful memories with my children decorating and them picking out an ornament every year, but they don’t live here anymore and this tree makes me happy.  It let me pour out some creativity and refresh an old theme.  We can’t dwell on the past and the way things were.  Things and people change and we can’t allow ourselves to get bogged down in the yesterdays and how things used to be.  We grow, people pass on, family members move, more members are added.

If you find yourself in a new season in life, make a change, do something different, something new and enjoy it!

I am reminded of a similar post called “Gone are the matching bows” that I wrote at a different time in my life last year about Christmas trees and letting them be for the children; you can click on the link below to check it out.

https://longwalksanddarkchocolate.com/2012/11/28/gone-are-the-matching-bows/

 

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Mini vacation on my dock

Freezing in VA, made me miss home, so thought I’d post a little something I wrote the day before I left…

A brown pelican in Key West, Florida. Français...

A pelican flies by, one feathery wing dipped in the cool water, as if checking the temperature

A cool salty breeze tousles my curls and rustles through the palm fronds

The water laps around the dock as it’s carried to and fro by the tide

Puffy, cotton candy clouds drift by in a resplendent blue sky

The hot sun is leaving its kiss anywhere it touches bare flesh

A school of fish chasing their mid-afternoon meal ripple the peaceful water

The mangroves resonate with the songs and calls of the birds enjoying the mild winter

My eyelids grow heavy as I relax and soak it all in, like a massage

Ah, the beauty of a February day in Southwest Florida.

Monday musings

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Why did I cook homemade cornbread today?  I initially told myself it was because I love my husband and I wanted him to have something special to go with dinner.  In reality, I wanted it.  My motivation for making it was two-fold; I was in the mood for some fluffy, sweet bread and making it would kill two birds with one stone, because my husband would also appreciate it.  Two large pieces later, I am questioning my judgment.

When I wrote Check My What back in November, God was dealing with me about checking my motives and looking at the why behind my actions.  I’m still doing that and I still recommend it.

I even find my faith increasing as I learn to trust God completely and not try to fix things myself in the background (like He can’t see exactly what I’m doing anyway).  When I open myself up completely, no hidden agendas, no hidden motives and I just pour out my heart; God loves that.  It’s so real.

Have a blessed Monday!  And if you want a good cornbread recipe, go here.

A work in progress

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Since I wrote “Check my What?” back in November, I have been more aware of my motives as I go about my business.  Hopefully I have offended less, exalted myself less and cared less about being right, and more about showing love.  Of course, as I write this paragraph, my failures glare at me from the recent past.  Thankfully though, I realize I am a work in progress.  I didn’t expect perfection quite yet, just improvement.  And that, my friends, is the point of this post.

As we closely examine ourselves (If you don’t do this, I highly recommend it for your own benefit as well as those around you), we often find areas in our lives that need work.  We long to see some speedy positive development in our needful areas.

I find though, that upon reflecting on their progress, many of my friends and members of my family are often way too hard on themselves.  They don’t see mere improvement as success.  Maybe 2 lbs. isn’t the 30 you want to lose, but it’s a start; it’s still success because you aren’t going backwards.

For me personally (besides the motive thing I’m also working on), I want to do more for others.  I still feel like I procrastinate too often or give in to laziness and fail to reach my goals.  However, I have improved and surely that counts for something.

If your heart is right and your intentions are good, you are headed in the right direction.  Be encouraged that recognizing something that merits change or improvement is half the battle.  At nearly 50, I am learning that there is still so much I don’t know, when I thought I about had it wrapped up!

Whether you think you can or think you can’t — you are right. ~Henry Ford

Only as high as I reach can I grow,
Only as far as I seek can I go,
Only as deep as I look can I see,
Only as much as I dream can I be.
~Karen Ravn

The Anything But Ordinary Day

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Today started out like most ordinary Fridays, with me peering through half closed eyes at the clock to check the time, then realizing its almost seven and feeling like I’m wasting the day away.  I stumbled to the bathroom and on to the kitchen for coffee.  Thursday is my Friday, so today I allowed myself to sleep late (for me) and take my time getting the day started.

Most Friday’s I do errands and this day would be no exception.  As I journeyed to town, I took the time to thank God for the beauty all around me and to ask for His mercy throughout the day.  I thanked Him for loving me and loved on Him as I enjoyed the view and the drive.  I felt such peace and such a spirit of gratitude enveloped me.  I determined in my heart that nothing would take that perfect peace away today.

I thought of a quote I had read this morning that said something about how we could be standing right next to someone who is completely broken and never even know it.  I would approach others with this thought in mind and show love.

As I drove on, I didn’t sense any agitation over other drivers or traffic.  I had a busy day ahead and many things to do, but I turned up “The Message”, sung along and resolved to do each errand without rushing and with patience and kindness.

Part of my list today included picking up some of my granddaughter’s medications.  This can be a test in and of itself because often they aren’t ready, doctor hasn’t approved yet, they require a specialty pharmacy or a compound pharmacy (all things I would have never known about until Cali).   I called the farthest pharmacy away (the compound pharmacy) and although that one wasn’t ready yet, they said they would text me when it was.  My first actual stop was another pharmacy.  The prescriptions weren’t quite ready here either, but they told me to come in and by the time I got to the counter, they would have them.  They weren’t all covered by insurance, but the cashier offered to find a coupon that saved me $20.

One of these meds needed to be refrigerated, so I bought an inexpensive cooler and ice and was on my way to grab lunch.  My hubby’s business needs required my next two stops and I found what I needed without delay and readied myself to kill time waiting on the other prescription.  But, I got a text hours earlier than anticipated and proceeded to the other place, where everything was ready.

I went on about my day and every single conversation and experience was a pleasure.  Traffic seemed to be waiting to give me the best spot in line; everyone was kind and helpful and returned my smiles.  At my last stop, I talked to lady who was busily stocking shelves and she gave me a much appreciated compliment and then at the checkout I got to hear a story about a man who is helping build homes in earthquake devastated countries.

I left there with a grin on my face and the realization that today had been an extraordinarily good day; a day filled with peace and laughter.    Many days are filled with impatience and agitation.  Some “errand Fridays” I complain about traffic, rude people, long lines and anything else I can think of.  Today, I didn’t!

Yes, I know that all days aren’t amazing and bad things happen, and we are faced with trials and troubles.   However, I also know that how you approach your day makes a big difference in the outcome.  Oh, the problems are going to show up.    It’s how we deal with them that matters.

If I mediate on and implement the scriptures that say “love is patient and kind and long suffering” and the ones that say “think on good things” and “say things that edify others and build them up”, I know without a shadow of a doubt my day is going to go better than if I gripe, grumble and complain and look for the bad.  If I meet others with a long face or a scowl, guess what I will probably get in return?  If I greet the day with a grateful heart, thankful that I am saved by grace and given this precious gift that comes with such amazing peace I am much more likely to stay on the positive side of things.

As I sit here, errands done and the day winding down to a close I am thanking God again for His many blessings and for this anything but ordinary day.

One of the best days

14333016_298730933833087_5619537209019762505_nThursday, September 22nd, 4:22am – The bright lights on my bedside clock confirm that I am up way too early for a day that I don’t have to work.  As I often do upon awakening, I let the fog dissipate for a moment and realize why I am off today.  Today is the big DAY, the day we have prayed and believed for, for over five months now.  Barring any complications, you are busting out of Nicklaus Children’s Hospital for your long anticipated homecoming!  Of course after I remember all of this, there is no way I will be going back to sleep, work or not.  I might as well enjoy my favorite time of the day.

Teeth brushed, I meander to the kitchen and get a cup brewing and moments later, warm cup in hand, I settle into my chair, careful to find glasses first and crank up heating pad.  My tummy is full of butterflies as I being to pray and thank God for this day and your continued progress.

Nervous energy continues as I text a few close friends and family members.  I am having trouble deciding what to do next.  Do I go to town and buy balloons and food first?  Do I go down to your house and do some cleaning and finish organizing your room and hang the “Welcome Home” banner?

Mommy spent the night with you last night and when she facetimes me, Nana realized you are not a morning person yet.  We will see what we can do about that.  I wonder how you felt last night with Mommy in the same room, right beside you all night for the first time since you were delivered on April 13th.  I know Mommy was thrilled and so excited it was hard to sleep.

Nana is so emotional today and I heard that your Grammy is too.  I think of your sweet face all situated in your car seat, or imagine the goodbyes of the doctors and nurses that have taken such good care of you, or what you will think of sunlight and grass and flowers and how mom and dad will feel driving away with you settled securely in the car with them, and I cry.

I remember the beginning of your journey and your tiny body being wheeled away and loaded into a helicopter and friends and family holding hands in a circle and praying and I cry again.

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I think about the surgeries and the complications and the good days and bad days and the crazy roller coaster ride of the past few months.  Emotional doesn’t even seem to describe it, I feel overwhelmed with joy and thanks.  I feel like dancing and singing and doing cartwheels, all while praising God.  So I do all of these things, except the cartwheels.  I do want to be here well and uninjured when you arrive.

Throughout the day, Mommy calls and Nana helps her call pediatricians; we have to find one that can get you in on Monday in order for you to be released.  What a feat, but it’s done.  We will do anything to get you home!

After going to town and getting a Welcome Home cake that you can’t even eat yet, Nana arrives at your house to finish what Mommy had started in your room.  Did you know that you have been so blessed by friends and family that you have too many clothes and shoes and bows?  Nana spends a lot of time just looking at all of your cute stuff.

Oh Cali, you are so loved!  People follow the reports on your progress and pray for you daily.  They have been more than generous with donations to help mom and dad spend more time with you and pay for gas and hotels and food.  They have offered words of hope and advice and encouragement to all of us who call you our own.  We have been abundantly blessed and we are all so overwhelmed and grateful.

As the last ray of the afternoon sun casts a warm glow through your bedroom window, I got the text I had been dying for all day long; you were on your way!  Mommy posted a picture on Facebook of you nestled in your car seat with a big smile so she could share the news with all of the people who love you.  You looked like you knew exactly what was going on.14370075_300102760362571_281185968660978266_n.jpg

After that, the hardest part of the day began; the waiting.  Nana paced and checked my phone over and over again for the latest report of where you were on your journey.  Mommy and Daddy hit the 5 o’clock Miami traffic and then had to stop and feed you along the way.  Oh, would you ever arrive?

When Papa and I got the message that you were close, we went outside to wait on the porch.  My stomach did flip flops when I saw the headlights come around the corner.  You were finally home!  Papa was concerned you might get a bug bite so he reminded your daddy to rush you up the stairs.    The time had finally arrived and not one moment too soon.

We were all exhausted at the end of the day, but it was a good kind of tired and our hearts were filled with joy.  We are anxious to watch you grow and learn and thrive.  Cali girl, you are our little miracle and such a strong little girl.  We love you ❤

Related stories:

Cali; the gift that keeps on giving

Just give me my binky

When life throws a curve ball

What lies beneath?

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Today’s prompt hit a nerve as soon as I read the word….surface.  My mind immediately began to form poems about layers and things hidden deep within.  It affected me because it reminds me of a topic that I’ve been contemplating for days.

A few nights ago, I taught on Motives; those deeply private and often impure reasons we do the things we do.  As I studied in preparation, I thought a lot about my own motives.  I asked myself questions like, “What is hidden in this heart?” and “Are my motives usually pure?”  I know better than to ask “always” because I think we all know that our hearts deceive us sometimes and there are other times when we have just allowed the wrong things in and our actions correspond.

I knew I had written on this very topic before so I did a quick search on “motives” and lo and behold, I find Check My Motives.  This post was from 2014!  So two years ago, God was dealing with me on the same topic.  I’m thankful for God’s long-suffering towards me as obviously He is re-addressing this with me once again.  I am either a very slow learner or my human heart just needs a reminder from time to time.

We do find ourselves with messy motives though, don’t we?   Have you ever done something for someone else with the hope that someone else will notice and praise you?  Would you do some of the good things you do if there was to be no visible payoff?  Do you hide behind social media and post something with a motive to hurt someone or embarrass them, but tell yourself you are innocent of such?

In all seriousness and honesty, I really do want to have pure motives all the time.  In order for that to happen my heart has to be pure, because out of the abundance of it, the mouth speaks (or writes, or posts).

Sometimes things done with insincere motives unwittingly benefit others and often we don’t even realize where our motives are coming from when we act.  It is a topic definitely worth reflecting on in your quiet time.

Proverbs 16:2 says, “People may be pure in their own eyes, but the Lord examines their motives.”  We know God looks upon the heart, but we may forget what that means.  He examines our motives.  If that isn’t reason enough for me to examine my own, I don’t know what is.

 

 

 

Cali; the gift that keeps on giving

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The prompt was “Crisis” and since NICU parents deal with this all the time, I thought this was appropriate.

My daughter and I had a great day with our little Cali yesterday.  I blogged before about Cali’s premature arrival and the complications she has faced since.   She is 3 ½ months old and we still don’t have a homecoming date.

We stayed in Miami last night so we were with her until around 9pm and my daughter even got to help give her baby a bath for the second time ever.  It’s tricky with a PIC line.  Also, when you live over 80 miles away and spend most of your days here, and the baths are given at night, it’s tougher to participate.  Last night was the first time I had ever seen my beautiful little granddaughter’s skinny little behind.  What a sight to behold!

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All Clean!!

We got up this morning and had breakfast, anxious to arrive at the hospital.  In good spirits, I parked the car and I chose the stairs as my daughter took the elevator.  We usually park on the 5th floor but I always beat her by taking the stairs.  And believe me; I need the exercise with the delectable guava pastries (stress eating) that Nicklaus Children’s Hospital serves.  Leave it to me to know about the food.

There was a long line at the check in and since I had left my monthly pass in the car (and I wasn’t going back outside and up those stairs or in the sweltering parking lot elevator) I had to wait in it.  Impatiently, Morgan flashed her pass and went on up to the 2nd floor, eager to see Cali.

When I arrived in the NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) a few minutes later, I could tell by Morgan’s face that something was wrong.  The nurse explained that Cali had begun vomiting last night and her heart rate had dropped a little a few times.  This can mean so many things, but they were immediately stopping all food and doing blood work to rule out infection.  They asked us to leave so they could insert a second tube in her nose (opposite nostril from feeding tube) to pull excess air from her stomach.

My eyes welled up and in all seriousness, I wanted to curl up on the floor and cry.  However motherhood kicked in and I knew I had to be strong for my baby girl.  We went to the waiting room until the procedures were over and then my baby girl wanted to hold her baby girl.  I sat in a chair beside her, more for moral support than anything.  Cali slept and I looked around the room, which currently is home to approximately 7 babies; I overheard them say they have a total of 42 patients in NICU right now, which I understand is a lot for them.

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Morgan and Cali

There are babies in much more serious condition than Cali’s.  There are older ones, younger ones, bigger and smaller.  Some cry a lot and some you never hear a peep out of (at least when I’m there).  I pray for all of them and I ache for the parents and what they are going through.

They come here from all over, show their ID or passes, push buttons so doors will open and wash their hands thoroughly multiple times per day.  They sit in a room that is filled with beeping machines that have the power to give them quite a scare and they listen and try to understand as doctors and nurses reveal plans and strategies.  Some of their children are growing out of the clothes and diapers they got at baby showers and some have even outgrown some of the toys.

Yet, they face each crisis with a strength that I had never seen before, having had two healthy, and delivered at-term babies.  I look at them and not only compassion floods my soul, but also respect and admiration.  I will shed tears in my prayers over this little world I didn’t realize existed until April 13th.  Sure, I knew there were sick babies, but I had no idea of the big picture.

I have focused on one small group of breaking hearts in my post, yet there are hundreds of others.  More people going through this life with a heavy load and dealing with things we can’t imagine unless we have been there.

I know I’ve said this over and over, but let’s give people the benefit of the doubt because we truly don’t know.  That lady in line in front of you with the blank look on her face who doesn’t hear the cashier saying, “Next, please”, could have been my daughter this morning.  Be patient with her.

We are praying and believe that Cali will bounce back from this step backwards and come home quickly and give her doctor’s a shock.  This journey is increasing our faith and our strength and I thank God for that. God will continue to provide the strength, mercy and grace for each and every day.  He always does!

I would also be remiss if I didn’t thank the amazing team of doctors, nurses and all other staff at Nicklaus.  We couldn’t be in better, more caring hands and I’m truly grateful.  Oh, and a special kudos also to the cafeteria staff for their tasty creations and their smiles of concern.    We also have the best friends and family ever and our community has rallied around us like a great wall of love and protection.  There is NO way to begin to thank them all appropriately!

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