Restful Saturday at home

treeThere is something so deliciously satisfying about an afternoon nap; joyous partly due to the sheer infrequency you get to enjoy the pleasure.  There you are, adrift on the ocean of peaceful slumber so sweet, languidly waking, body warm beneath a cozy blanket.  Equally wonderful is slowly coming alive to the sounds of a fire and family; book pages turning, quiet conversation, a soft snore from someone enjoying the same wondrous pleasure;

Lazily peering over your publication of choice, admiring those whom you love, the scent of holiday baking and lunch left overs hovering in the air.  Relishing these all too rare moments, living in them, appreciating them.  Thankful that in this moment, there is no rush, no deadline and nothing on social media worthy of stealing this time of hushed leisure.

Time is ticking, hurriedly rushing forward to the next hour.  May we cherish restful times like these and the cherished ones we share them with.  It’s too easy to squander our time with loved ones during the holidays as we get caught up in the hustle and bustle.  We should strive to truly “be there” in every shared moment.

Happy December 1st,
Blessings,

Lisa

Peace, peace wonderful peace

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You know how some moments just stay with you, all of your days?  You couldn’t erase them from your memory, even if you tried?  I remember one of those days.  It started as a visit from a friend, who I’m sure was concerned about my well being after the recent loss of my mom.  I don’t remember all of the details but I know God had His hand in it.

On the outside, I was a wife and mother doing my best to serve my little family well.  On the inside, I was a wreck.  I hadn’t seen or even smelled anything that resembled peace in a very long time.  As much as I loved my little family, I felt as if a part of me had died with my mom, who left us at the tender age of 49 due to infection after a liver transplant.  She left me, her eldest, 8 months pregnant and struggling to make sense of a life without her.  Honestly, the thought of continuing to live without her, didn’t seem possible.

For the most part, I could hide my grief.  My husband saw the really ugly days and held me as I was falling apart.  He understood better than many, as he’d experienced great loss himself.  Friends and family were supportive and said and did all the things they truly thought would help.  But, like I said, on the inside the battle was raging and few knew how bad it could get on some days.

Mom was my best friend, the person I spoke to every single day, the person I shared everything with.  She had been an excellent mother from day one, but you don’t learn to have the deep appreciation until you are older and you don’t really understand some of what motherhood means until you have your own children.  She advised on any and every problem without judgment, she was my biggest fan and Nana to my daughter.  She had felt the movement of the grandchild she would never hold as she moved her hands across my swollen belly and spoke words of tenderness as she lay in the hospital bed.

Once she was gone, I threw myself into the role of “the strong one”, but I didn’t realize that I could only do that for so long, that sooner or later I had to deal with it.  I waited until after the baby was born, agonizing through labor without her by my side; I waited until I stopped nursing so the stress wouldn’t affect my little princess.  Then, I shoved the pain inside and watched helplessly as it reared it’s ugly head touching my family through my lack of patience, my loss of desire for living and a dark depression which had settled over me.

But on that day I mentioned, sitting on my old green couch, I uttered words that began a chain of events that would change everything.  As I was talking to my friend, I merely said, “I think I need to go see someone.  I can’t do this anymore.”

I don’t remember when I saw her again or if it was by telephone but not too much time passed before we spoke again.  She uttered the words that spoke to me somewhere down deep and my soul raised a frail and weary hand to identify with them.

She said, “I was telling mom what you said the other day about needing to talk to someone.  Mom said that you already know Who you need to talk to.”   Now, it goes without saying that my friend and I knew she meant I needed to take my troubles to the Lord.  There was no explanation needed for 2 girls who had grown up on the little white church on the island.   I don’t remember the rest of the conversation, but those words started a fire somewhere deep inside of me.

They were simple words, brief and to the point, but I am so glad they were spoken and then shared with me.  (Sometimes you will never know the effect your words can have on someone or how God will use you in mysterious ways to bring about change)  Those few words weighed heavily on my heart and mind for days.  I couldn’t shake them, couldn’t forget them and couldn’t ignore them.

In retrospect, I realize that people were praying for me.  At the time, even though they would say, “I’m so sorry, honey, I’m praying for you”, it didn’t resonate with me, didn’t even bring me comfort.  It didn’t register in my spirit or maybe I was too angry at God for taking her to listen with my heart.  I’m not 100% sure, but I know now that God had a plan and that in the depths of my grief and despair, at a time when I was far away from Him, He loved me.  He saw me, He saw my pain and He reached out to me.

A few days later, I found myself on my knees beside my bed pouring out my heart along with what seemed like buckets of tears.  On that day, I finally surrendered.  I gave everything to Him and I made a decision to turn away from all of the wrong, negative thoughts and turn to His Word and His council.  I decided to to choose Him first and foremost.  My heart was filled with a peace that I still do not understand.  When I got up from that floor, my life was changed.

To this day when people ask me to name something I gained from my relationship with Jesus, the first word that comes to mind is peace.  I hadn’t had any peace for so long; it was such a welcome balm.  There are so many who long for peace and look for it in all the wrong places.

Do I still miss my Mother?  Of course.  But, I can honestly tell you that my grief doesn’t control me anymore.  My earthly flesh will always miss her and feel a pang of hurt when holidays come or events occur that I would love to share with her.  But, Mom is with Jesus and it brings me comfort to think that maybe she had something to do with my outcome, even if it was just her prayers.  She always wanted her children to serve God and voiced that again near the end.

There is a Way to peace and He waits with open arms.  Run to those arms and find yours.

John 14:27 “I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.

“Mommy, be my safe”

IMG-1434When my eldest was around 3 years old, she began to express her fears or concerns with her own original phrase that I thought was just precious.

When we found ourselves in situations where there appeared to be a cause for concern, she would nestle her tiny little body up close to mine and quietly say, “Mommy, be my safe.”  She meant, protect me and shelter me until the threat has passed.  It could be stormy weather or a creepy noise, or that stranger in the grocery store who got a little too close for comfort.

Whatever the peril, she trusted that I would save her from it.  Wrapped around mommy’s legs, with one sticky little hand in mine, she could be at peace.

Yesterday afternoon as the sky darkened, it started to thunder and the wind was bending the tree branches and lightning cracked across the sky.  We went from sunshine to eerie skies, with the promise of a good storm.  My youngest granddaughter came over to me and buried her little head in my lap and then looked up with her big blue eyes and said, “Nana, what noise?”  She’s always said that when she hears a noise that upsets her.  We have always speculated that all the time spent in the NICU and the strange noises might have affected her in some way, so we are always quick to reassure her that all is well.

Her cuteness reminded me of my daughter’s cuteness years before and I smiled thinking of the all the times that we have cried out for help from our Father.   What do our cries for help sound like to Him?  Are there times He thinks we are “cute”?  Do our petitions ever bring a smile to His face because of the way we phrase them?  I think so.

The storms of life roll through without warning, we are exposed to traumatic things all day on whatever type of media we choose, there is so much noise.  Noise, by definition,  is “a sound that is loud or unpleasant that causes a disturbance”.  Yes, there is much noise in our world.

Thankfully, like my daughter and granddaughter, I have a safe haven, a place where I can run to find peace and comfort.  I can cry out to God, “What noise?!?!”  As He stills and comforts my spirit with His still small voice, I can lean in and say, “Be my safe.”  And, He will, every time.

Thoughts on a summer day

Feet planted in a little green pool painted to resemble a watermelon, I’m thankful for the cool water while sitting on a scorching hot back deck.  I silently wonder how long my feet will be safe from toddler pee or if they have already been contaminated.  Considering I just polished off a blackberry after she licked it and offered it to me, I suppose I will live.IMG-1718

The cardinal showing off his vivid red coat on the fence post looks as if he would love to join Cali in the little pool for a midday bath, but he is staying out of reach.  Smart guy because I am positive he would get more than he bargained for.

Cali, sitting in the shade of her umbrella, is oblivious to the cardinal and seemingly to the heat as well as she munches on blackberries and strawberries and repeatedly dumps water from one bucket to another while singing bits and pieces of “head, shoulders knees and toes”.

I am thankful for my day out shopping, the mani-pedi and a long lunch with two of my favorite people.  I was anxious to get home and babysit this little rascal though tonight after my errands were complete.  With Cali and her mommy living back at home, that means I am the primary baby sitter when Morgan works.  Sometimes, Nana gets a little tired.

We were empty-nesters for a couple of years and I got quite used to my free time.  Time to read or write for hours without interruption.  Time to take a long nap on a Saturday without a little munchkin banging on my door.   Yes, there are times I long for more solitude.

At these times, however, God always reminds me of my prayers to Him when we didn’t know if Cali would make it.  Those long drives to and from Miami filled with fears and tears and prayer.  The months in ICU, the surgery days, the ups and downs.

I’m reminded once again that life is a journey.  We travel through seasons with all kinds of weather.  The seasons will never cease, but we can learn to face them with His strength and grace.  He is our great Help and Comforter.

It is how we handle the journey, it’s our attitude while we walk it out, it’s our abiding in His sweet vine.  Don’t kid yourself into thinking that the next big milestone is the destination, that once that “thing” happens you will forever by happy or you will have finally made it.  There is always something (good and bad) around the corner as long as we walk this earth.  If you acknowledge this, it makes the unknowns a little less intimidating.

Take joy in moments, learn to find the lessons in the trails, look for God’s plan in the middle of your messes, be grateful and find your peace and rest in Him.

Blessings,

Lisa

Cherish the moment you’re in

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What if we woke up thankful for the beauty of a new morning filled with mercy?  If we relished the fresh, cool running water we splashed on our face? if we savored every warm sip of our morning coffee or tea?

If you are like me, you too often have your mind set on the “next thing” to enjoy the now.  We look forward to lunchtime, Friday, summer.  There is nothing wrong with living hopeful and expectant.  The pity is in letting the desire for what is to come, rob any pleasure from the current moment.

If you’ve had children, you know how fast they grow.  You might have even said, “I can’t wait until she walks, talks, starts school, graduates…”  When those milestones and moments pass, you quickly find yourself wanting to reverse them, often aware that you wasted precious time.

When I am living in the moment, that’s when I am the happiest.  When I slow down and allow myself to fully tune in and participate, I thrive.

The added benefit is to others.  When I am living in the moment, slowing down and taking notice, this is when I find myself really pouring into others or at least listening to them.  When I am fully engaged, I catch things like the sadness lurking behind a smile, the worry underneath the nervous laughter or the need for a hug.

When I make it a habit to be intentional about living fully in every God given moment, I am a better person.  I find more peace and more good.

In my spiritual life, it means I’m not clicking off scriptures or praying words of repetition with no heart behind them.  It means I can bask in His presence, taking time to enjoy my heavenly Father.

This is just yet another reminder of something we already know.  Slow down and truly live in the moment.  Be present.  If we truly love our fellow man, we owe it to them and we certainly owe it to our families.

Blessings,

Lisa

Simmering pots and changing views

food-pot-kitchen-cooking.jpg“Up, up”, cried the curly blonde headed toddler as I stirred the big simmering pot of lima beans.  The scent of supper hung in the air, tempting me to perform yet another taste test.  My pallet satisfied, I turned to put away the remains of the ham I has used to season my savory soup.

I felt a tug on the leg of my blue jeans, prompting a downward glance at a vision resembling my youngest 20 years ago.

The practical, get-things-done side of me almost said, “Go play, sweetie”, but the Nana in me bursting with love for this little angel, took one look in those blue eyes filled with curiosity and I picked her up and positioned her on my hip instead.

She was fascinated by the steam coming off the pot and pointed toward it, exclaiming “Hot, hot!”.  Right on the heels of “hot, hot”, was “eat, eat”.  I guess she repeats things to make sure she gets her point across.  God does that with me.

As I held her, allowing her to touch the cool, granite counter, hold a round, ripe grapefruit and smell it’s clean citrus scent she smiled.  I gave her a taste from a small spoon, after she and I “blew it” to cool it off, and I was reminded of something.

While she stood on the kitchen floor, hearing the sounds of lids banging, water boiling, the chopping of onions, she couldn’t see any of it.  She could smell something that awakened her hunger, but she couldn’t dig in, she heard noises but she couldn’t identify their source.  From her line of vision, her viewpoint, her perspective, things were unclear, possibly a bit confusing, maybe even a little scary or unsettling at times.  Only when Nana picked her up and began explaining things, did it start to make sense.  At her age, and with her limited knowledge, things still aren’t 100% clear, but at least she got a glimpse.

Another spiritual lesson or reminder for me in the everyday things!  We can’t see the whole picture yet, the goodness God has prepared for us continues to unfold, but often from our perspective we can’t understand.  At times, our lines of vision is obstructed or clouded by unbelief.  Since His ways are not our ways, we can’t fathom His plan.

As we lean into the Father, tug on Him and say “up, up”, we begin to get a least a glimpse.  And because of His unconditional, passionate love toward us, even if we don’t understand 100%, we have peace in knowing we are in good hands.  The more we seek Him, the more we find Him.  The more we eat, the hungrier we become.

Let His word and His love change your perspective today.

The love in the No-nos

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As Nana instead of mama, I can get tickled when my almost two year old granddaughter is testing my daughter.  I have earned that right but I am wise enough to hide my laughter.  My cousin’s wife has termed it being “rascally” when she starts acting like a little stinker.  This usually happens when she is fighting sleep, but lately with the two’s looming in the near future, it happens more often.

She will go up to something she knows she isn’t allowed to touch and get her finger as close to it as she possibly can and look at you, studying your response.   There is a snowman dish that captivates her, but she knows she can only look at the “no-man”, not touch.   The other day, she touched it and took off running.

She is trying to see how far she can push before it’s too far.  What can I really get away with?  Will this really hurt me, or is mom just saying that?  What happens if I touch the forbidden?  She runs full speed ahead trying to taste, touch and see everything as fast as her little legs will carry her.  When she knows she has committed a “no-no”, she will swing those golden curls back, look at you and swat her own little behind, all with a smile on her face.

She knows exactly what she is doing, yet there is something in her that rebels.  She doesn’t always just listen and obey.  At times, she has to learn the hard way.

This morning, I was contemplating sin and temptations and how long suffering God is with us.  I am a firm believer that Jesus died for my sins, but I also believe when I committ them, I need to repent.  Daily I pray that God will search my heart and help me to live a holy, committed life for His glory.

I thought about my granddaughter’s behavior and it reminded me so much of us as God’s children.  Oh, how He loves us!

How often do we run through life anxious to see it all and do it all, and we wander too close to the things that God knows might cause us harm?  He warns us, yet sometimes we fail to heed the Father’s voice.  That seemingly harmless conversation we are being lured into might cause us pain later.  A still small voice whispers, “no-no” but we ignore the plea and carry on, like a toddler running with scissors.

Thankfully, when we fall, He is there to pick us up.  He willingly forgives the offense and loves the hurt away if we let Him.  If we are smart, for our part, we will repent and learn something and we don’t have to repeat that lesson over again. We aren’t toddlers trying to figure out who is in charge.  We do already know that God wants the best for us, and that His plan for us is perfect!  Why do we question that?  If He keeps something from us, it will always be for our benefit.  If He changes our direction, it’s to keep us on the best path.

His banner over me is love.  Maybe we can remember that the next time the spirit of God is dealing with us about something.  His no is always shrouded in love, just like ours are with our children.   It always means, I know a better way or I want a better outcome for you.  It means, I love you.  Trust that love.

 

An authentic love

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Many times I am asked to explain what I mean when I talk about feeling close to Jesus and having more than a superficial relationship with Him.  How can I say he is my best friend?  How do I know when He is guiding me in a certain direction?

When I was very young, I was taken to church by my mother and grandmother and as I grew it continued to be part of my life.  In my pre-teen years, I went for the fun and games, to see my friends and because I genuinely wanted to be good.  I wanted to do the right thing and I was afraid of the consequences if I didn’t.  Somehow, in spite of all of the lessons telling me that Jesus died for me and how much He loved me, I couldn’t wrap my head around what it meant to be in a relationship with Him.  There were times I felt more inspired than others, but I still didn’t grasp the depths of His goodness at the time.

Many years later, after multiple failures and the death of my mother, I found myself in a bad place.  I felt alone, insecure and without much hope.  As a young wife and mother, I didn’t feel like I had anything left to offer the ones I loved.

But slowly and surely, the things I had learned in my youth came back to me and the timely words of a friend reminded me that there was somewhere to find strength and peace.  I found myself thinking about God and wondering what it would feel like to run to Him and cast all my cares in His lap.  Would it work?  My mind, educated in the bible, said yes but my emotions were a wreck and my doubts numerous.

I don’t remember the exact day and time like some people do when they have life-changing experiences, but I do remember feeling like I didn’t have anything to lose.  Why not cry out to God?  I was at the end of me (and therein lies the key).  That was almost twenty years ago and I haven’t regretted my decision to fully surrender to Jesus, not one time.

On the contrary, my love for Him has grown by leaps and bounds.  He has been my friend when there was no one else who could possibly understand me.  He has forgiven me though my sin was deep and He freely gave this precious gift of salvation.  All I had to do was believe and ask and surrender my life to Him.

Has it been easy?  No, I would be lying if I answered that with a yes.  There were times I felt weak and frail when He has been my strength.  When I felt faithless and my shortcomings seem to come in droves, He was long suffering.  When my tears fell like rain, He taught me to have joy in spite of my circumstances.  When I was afraid and fearful, He spoke peace.  Making a decision to surrender didn’t make things perfect and life still had it’s curve balls to throw but now I had a perfect God to run to, Who gave strength like no other and a peace that I had never known my entire life.

Having said all that, I still haven’t fully explained how I feel so close to Him, why I am certain of His abiding presence and direction.  How do I know how much He loves and and how can I confess such an overwhelming love for Him?  Intentional time spent with Him, loving Him, getting to know Him and in the process, getting to know me.

The only way I know how to explain is this.  When you love someone (and I’m not talking about the superficial relationships this culture is wrought with), you spend time with them.  You get to know them.  You read their notes or letters over and over again because you want to discern how they really feel about you.  You’ll take the time to discover what moves them.  It’s not a “hook-up” or a “best friends with benefits” type of attraction.  It’s way deeper than that.  You put them first and even in the midst of life’s craziness, they remain a priority.  You look forward to their touch and you share with them your heartfelt thoughts and desires.  You turn to them for direction and advice because they know you so well, they are the best to give it.  You take every opportunity you can to be in their presence.  It’s intentional.

This made all the difference for me.  I went from feeling like I was outside looking in, to a beautiful, holy relationship with my Maker.

I felt inspired to share this on this beautiful rainy Sunday.  We will all have our perfect sunshiny days, but we will all also experience the rain.  Let us love Him intentionally, placing Him in the proper place in our lives.  When the rain comes, He wants to be your shelter.

 

Post Irma musings

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As I sit on my cousin’s porch here in Tennessee, the air is cool in the midst of my favorite season.  The birds are filled with song and two little squirrels are chasing each other up, down and around a tree.  In the midst of one of the most chaotic seasons of my life, I sing praises to my Creator and thank Him for His abundant mercy and the beauty of my surroundings.

After losing our home in hurricane Irma, I am a grateful guest in a household that is filled with the love of Christ.

Due to my granddaughter’s health condition and fearing long lines and possible fuel shortages, we fled the state of Florida prior to Irma’s approach.  Some said we were over-reacting but I had prayed about it, discussed with my husband and had peace with our decision.  He would stay and continue to make preparations and be close to assess the aftermath and my daughter, granddaughter and I would head for the hills.

The first weekend I was here I remember sitting in Sunday school thinking that if I let one tiny teardrop fall, I was going to bawl a big ole ugly cry in front of a room full of people I didn’t know.  I did cry during service as the Pastor described efforts already underway to send trucks of essentials and workers down to assist in our area.

The emotions pre-Irma, mid-Irma and post-Irma have been like the tea-cup ride at Disney.  One minute you’re screaming as someone spins the cup faster and faster and the next minute, you need to throw up.  And, all of my emotions have been from afar, so add a strange sense of guilt for not being there with and for my friends and family.  All I could do was pray, and that I did and continue to.

Mid-Irma, we watched with horror as we experienced wind and storm surge in real-time, thanks to Facebook, face time and videos sent to us.  We sometimes watched along with the people we love who stayed to ride it out, hearing the fear in their voices as the waters continued to rise.  Thankfully, technology also provided a way to let us know everyone was safe immediately after the worst of it.

Post-Irma my husband sent pictures of the destruction as he walked for the first time back into what we once called home. We cried along with him.  We lamented some of our most painful material losses together, always thankful that we still had each other.

Then we shed overwhelming tears of gratitude as we saw people from all over; loved ones, clients and strangers begin to load up trucks like the hands and feet of Jesus, destination Everglades City, to unload a little bit of love and hope.

Homeless Irma victims, we have so much to be thankful for.  We have family who immediately opened their home to us until we can find a place of our own, more family and friends, clients and colleagues who have blessed us with gift cards, money, prayers and encouragement, and a place for my husband to stay while he is down there working.  We have our lives and our precious memories of how things used to be.

We have a lot to do and some new paths to forge but I remain steadfast in the knowledge that my God will provide.  He has not forsaken us, nor will He.  This life is fragile and our things are perishable but His love is everlasting and His promises are sure.  I pray for wisdom to follow without hesitation His perfect direction and plan for my life.

My deepest gratitude to all who have helped in any way.  May God richly bless you.

Killing Orchids

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My thumb is not a nice dark green.  I suppose it’s more of a seafoam or chartreuse color.  What I am trying to say is that I seem to have about a 60/40 chance of growing beautiful things.  Many of my plants do indeed thrive.  They have deep, robust color and if a bloomer, they have plentiful and hearty offerings.

Then there are those that start off with a bang, bring me viewing pleasure for months and then die a slow and pitiful death right before my eyes.  Others limp along, making little progress only to become diseased.

In the past I attempted to grow orchids.  My sister does a great job with them and hers always look beautiful.  My friend, Rudy has several that thrive.  She shows pictures of them on Facebook and I gaze in wonder at their beauty.   One of my uncles used to have many different varieties and he also seemed to believe they were not hard to grow successfully.

I have brought several of them home with high hopes and visions of grandeur, imagining an entire shelf popping with several blooms in every shade of color in various heights.  I have cringed as I watched one after another succumb to my inefficient treatment (and they aren’t cheap!).   Much to my dismay, I’ve never seen one last for more than a month or so.  Yes, I have read about the lighting, fertilization and watering and I have also solicited advice from the above mentioned orchid hall of famers.  All to no avail I might add.

Then, I read something the other day.  It was about how when the bloom falls off; you can cut the stem a little below the bloom and wait.  Often, although it can take a long time, your orchid will bloom again.  No one told me this.  I always thought that once that flower was gone, it was as good as dead.  Now I learn that as long as my leaves still have some life to them, it is very possible that my orchid will rise again to its former splendor.  I just needed to wait!  Isn’t the waiting always the hardest part?  I’m sure some of you are laughing at my ignorance right now and I can’t say that I blame you.

So, I considered my hydrangea which is my favorite flower ever and not the easiest to grow this far south (at least not for me).  All the leaves had fallen off.  I could barely remember the last flower.  But, I haven’t had much time for yard work lately so I hadn’t dug it up yet.  I went out and took a peek and lo and behold, there are several green leaves gracing that once barren little collection of sticks.  Therefore, I will wait.

In life, one of the things we have the hardest time with is waiting.  We wait for the phone to ring, we wait for the water to boil, and we wait in line.  We wait for the answer to that prayer.  We hear, “good things come to those who wait”, extolling the virtue of patience.  And in our exasperation, we throw out the orchid, we dig up the hydrangea and we avoid the plant aisle for fear of another failure.

I have learned today in my mediation on this topic and my prayer is that you have too.  We will have to wait for the fruition of good things.  We might have to look at an ugly barren stem for a while before we realize the beauty.  May we be more patient with things, but more importantly with people.  Let’s set our sights on the coming growth and glorious blooms instead of the dead branches of the now.  I want to see what God see’s when He looks at me; His plan and the possibilities.

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