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Well, I did it …

I turned 50.

It wasn’t the big deal I had made it out to be in my mind.

My body did not, contrary to my expectations, spontaneously shrivel and die at midnight.

I slept like a 49-year old and woke up feeling a bit smug that I had moved into a new phase in my life.

When I danced around the kitchen singing happy birthday to myself, Murphy the wonder-pup danced around my feet as though he were celebrating with me.  Either that or he was doggy-praying that I would calm down and act my age.

I felt a sense of empowerment as I drove to work knowing that, on this day, I was half a century old.

I nearly depressed myself with the empowering thoughts because 50 sounds so much better than half a century.  Ugly crying wasn’t an option so half a century turned into two fourths of one.

50 was starting to sound exciting,

Half a century sounded like it belonged in the back basement corner of a now-defunct museum.

During my drive to work, my mind, as it usually does, began to wander.  I started down the broken road of things I would change, but decided unless it was my bed linens or the time on my watch, it wasn’t worth wasting my thoughts on.

I doubt there is a person on earth who wouldn’t change things if they could, but since the time machine hasn’t yet been perfected, it would be a mute point.

Mute.

So I sang happy birthday to myself again as I drove along and gave thanks to God that He let me have another trip around the sun.

I’m 50 and proud of it.

I can’t say I’m all that thrilled about the AARP mail, but I did like the look of that free backpack.

 

 

It’s that time of year …

not for celebrations and parties.  Not for get-togethers with good friends and people you may know.  Not shopping for bargains and gifts, not meeting up to have a good time and not for having a nice glass of wine with like-minded folks.

Well, actually, it is that time of year, but not for everyone.

For some, this time of year means eating a cold can of beans alone in an empty room without power because the electric bill wasn’t paid.  It wasn’t paid because the baby needed medication and there wasn’t enough money for medication and electricity.

For some, this time of year means standing on the street, in the cold, wearing street clothes and house slippers because there wasn’t enough money for rent and if there wasn’t enough money for rent, there certainly wasn’t enough money for a coat and shoes.

For some, this time of year brings memories that are bitter and hurtful; thoughts of years past that ran, one into the other, with no happiness or joy.

For some, this time of year means nothing.  It is simply the passing of time while watching the world go by, just like the year before and the year before that.

For some, this time of year means family, food, friends and fellowship.  It is these people who embrace the season and enjoy it as they always have, together with the people they love and are comfortable with.

But what about all the others?

Who, when they set down to their family table laden with food, surrounded by family, warm, cozy and perfect, think of those who have nothing, expect nothing and know nothing different from the emptiness they feel every year at this time?

I and many others call ourselves followers of Christ.  We say with our voices  how much we love and want to be like Jesus.

We sing praises, bless our food and continue on in the same traditions we have followed for years.  We praise Jesus and say we want to be like Him but prove time and again that we recite words we believe but don’t, deep down, mean and we fail the very Jesus we say we want to be like.

He wants us to share what we have; not just home, warmth, family, friends and food, but the very word that would bring others to love and honor Him.

Invite a stranger to Thanksgiving dinner.  Invite several strangers.

Let’s bring someone homeless to our home and make them, for one day, family.

Let’s show them that Jesus is real and that they are loved.

This time of year is our time, the Jesus follower’s time.  Our time to put our money where our mouth is.  To be hospitable, to offer shelter and food for those who are hungry and the ones the world calls outcasts.

It is our time to take in everyone, despite everything, and to show them Jesus.

If we, who claim to be the hands and feet of Jesus don’t show love to the oppressed, be certain that the evil one will.

He will entice and enchant them, then make them slaves to his depravity and hatred of all things good.

Don’t give the devil the satisfaction of beating us to the punch.  Let us be the Jesus we claim to want to follow and lead someone to Christ by being the hands and feet of the Savior.

Make no mistake –  Satan is working hard to win the souls of the lost and if we don’t work harder, he will win because he doesn’t give up if he doesn’t get a response on the first pass.

Be Jesus to the world and don’t give up just because you can find an excuse.  Having an excuse doesn’t excuse us, but overcoming excuses and finding a way to be Jesus to the world shows our true alliance.  We are with Jesus or not with Jesus.  It is as simple as that.

Everyone reading this post is welcome to Thanksgiving Dinner at my mom’s house.  You, for one day, will be our family, you will be warm and your bellies will be full.  Must love, or at least tolerate dogs, though, because our place is lousy with them!  🙂

I was just on the verge …

of a meltdown.

I had already picked out the breakable missile to be thrown at, well, something breakable.

My inner voice was saying, rather loudly, that there was nothing to break that could be salvaged and that I should put down the weapon.

I’m not certain when my inner voice became a hostage negotiator, but she has, and with obvious authority, decided that she’s the boss of me.

My meltdown voice, not to be silenced by a newbie, was saying “I don’t care, something has to give.”

Then the inner voice then said, in a still, soft tone, “who are you mad at and why do you want to break things?”

I replied, in my loud, hateful voice,” what do you care?  Leave me alone”.

That soft voice spoke again and said, simply, “Why do you work so hard to destroy yourself?”

It stopped me in my tracks.

I realized at that moment that I was mad at someone.

I was furious that I was, once again, left feeling like I had done something wrong.

I was angry that I felt alone, insecure and abandoned by someone who would, if the world turned on its axis as it is supposed to, mean nothing to me.

I realized that I was disappointed in myself for being gullible, fallible, ignorant and needy and yes, I was intent on destroying myself because of it.

I was angry that I could put so much of my self-worth into someone  that found no worth in a friendship I was  willing to give.

I was angry because I felt I needed someone to find worth in me.

I was angry because, for a span of time, I could find no worth in myself.

That newbie voice just kept on jabbering until I was forced to either listen or throw myself into an active volcano.

Since burning every inch of skin off of my body was the lesser of the choices, I decided to stop being a self-centered, belligerent jerk and listen.

So I listened and in doing so, decided that the newbie voice was likely getting some coaching from a veteran.

I’m worthy without validation, for many reasons, the least not being that I am a child of Christ.

When I went down the reasons that I should feel OK about myself, that one reason, the most important one, didn’t immediately enter my mind.

Yes, there are people I want to like me.

They chip away at my self-esteem and make me feel that I will be less of a person if they don’t interact with me.

They, at some point, gained control over my self worth and whittled it down to next to nothing,

But if they don’t see it, my world will unfold just as it would have anyway.

There came the WOW moment that made me think twice about where I was, where I’d come from and to where I was going.

I found myself very disappointed in myself because I had, yet again, lost my way.

But, if the voice is accurate, which at this point, I’ve no reason to suspect otherwise, the way will be made clear if I stop feeling sorry for myself and ask for directions.

Yes,  folks have hurt me more than I ever knew I could be hurt, on a level that I didn’t even realize existed.

But they can continue to hurt me only if I continue to let them … if I give them the power to make me feel inadequate, insecure and unworthy.

There is only one person who dictates my worth and HE has found me worthy.

I question that.

Daily.

Hourly.

But HE is in a position of omnipotent power and if HE says HE likes being around me, then everything and everyone I have felt inferior to become irrelevant in my world.

I’ve cried way more tears over things I can’t change than over the blessings I had before I tried to change anything.

My meltdown lost merit after that.

I didn’t feel the need to shatter physical things.

Instead, I felt the desire to lift myself higher than I had deemed myself worthy to be because ONE well more worthy than myself found me worthy.

I felt compelled to love and to pray for the ones who challenged my worth.

I am thankful for a Saviour who sees the weapon in my hand and understands that I really want to throw it; who sees my tears and feels my pain, who knows my broken heart and comes running.

I have been looking in the wrong place for a long time.

It doesn’t mean that I won’t want to throw things again, as that is part of the imaginative nature I have been given; but I won’t want to throw them in hurtful indignation.

I will throw them simply for the fun of it.

And then I can sing joyously while I dance in the rain because I am worthy of the raindrops from Heaven.

Life isn’t easy, it’s not a cake-walk or a bed of roses, at least not all the time.

At other times, it is rainbows, daisies, trees in winter and fairies in springtime.

It is, essentially, what it is, and I’m worthy, so says my Lord, to enjoy the best and endure the worst and still be who I was destined to me.

Myself.

In His image and under the magnificent umbrella of His faith in me.

I am, in this moment, OK with that.

http://www.gcuniverse.com/throughtheeyesofthespirit

 

The obituary column …

is an essential component of living in the South.

Without it, life would take an incomprehensible and irreversible turn.

Every few days, my mom says to me “we’re going to the funeral home”.

The “we” is she and my dad.

I never know what’s going on so, as far as I’m concerned, it could be a relative or close personal friend.

Tonight, it was the wife of a preacher I’ve never heard of.

I don’t take the paper myself and even if I did, I wouldn’t read every word of every obituary looking for familiar names so I’d have a reason to go to the funeral home.

When I was a kid, growing up on a dirt road miles off the “main road”, the obituaries were read on the radio.

You late forty and older crowd, who live or have lived in the South, know what I’m talking about.

There was one AM station on the radio that was only part static and most words could be understood.

First came the Pledge of Allegiance, then the obituaries followed by the madly popular “Swap Shop”.

Since there was only that one discernable station, everyone around our parts listened to it.

They swapped hogs and chickens for mule harnesses and tractor tires, then met at the funeral home to talk about it because someone they didn’t know, who was a relative of someone they hadn’t seen in years, had died.

Congregating at the funeral home; it’s a Southern thing,  I suppose.

Or maybe it’s just a Southwest Virginia thing.

I think we’ll find, however, it’s broader than my little neck of the woods and call it a Southern thang.

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My nieces …

are remarkable.

Each of them brings me unspeakable joy.

Sophie, the oldest, was my first. I watched her being born and captured the first photograph of her.

She became, that photograph did, anyway, a greeting card.

http://www.greetingcarduniverse.com/holiday-cards/nurses-day-cards/general-nurses-day/nurses-day-obstetrics-new-baby-exam-150758?aid=133039

Gracie, known to me as Gracie-Bell, was second. I didn’t witness her birth as she decided to create all kinds of drama.

She, like her older sister, is a drama queen.

Gracie has Down’s Syndrome but lives life as though it will end tomorrow. She’s a character and, as you may have imagined, a greeting card as well.

http://www.greetingcarduniverse.com/holiday-cards/nurses-day-cards/general-nurses-day/happy-nurses-day-child-dancing-803906?aid=133039

Life happens as it happens and as it does, I capture it.

It’s what I do.

My daughter, for instance, was a music education major.  She’s chosen a different path, yet still found herself on a greeting card.

http://www.greetingcarduniverse.com/miss-you-cards/general-miss-you/girl-with-trumpet-music-135567?aid=133039

My dad, an inspiration to me though we often butted heads, is my mentor. Guess what?  Yep, a greeting card.

http://www.greetingcarduniverse.com/dad-father-birthday-cards/general/happy-birthday-dad-farmer-246883?aid=133039

Life happens.

In that life is magnificence.

Live.

Love.

Embrace.

Enjoy.

Time passes, life goes on, memories fade.

Enjoy each moment for there will come a time when nothing, except memories, remain.

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Family. Friends. Creation. Life.

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Nothing matters more.

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Being broken …

is a blessing.

Yes, you read correctly.

I am broken; have been broken and will, God willing, be broken again.

I am closest to God when I am broken for He loves me enough to be with me during the times in my life when I have nowhere else to turn.

I don’t seek out opportunities to be broken, yet find myself there.

I try to be good, to honor my Lord, yet I fail Him more often than not.

Ones who don’t love me have long given up on me.

That number is many.

People I have loved and adored as friends have cast me away as flawed, unworthy and incapable of love or friendship.

I don’t blame them.

I see myself that way.

But He sees me differently.

In His eyes, I am, though I’m broken, redeemable.

He sees something in me I can’t imagine.

Something worth saving.

Something He can use to help me reach out to others like me.

I am broken, yes, and being so, I am blessed.

I’ve lost so much, endured many trials, felt the hatred of those I held close to my heart.

It hasn’t been easy, but in order to be of use, it has been necessary.

I’ve been to the worst places;  destitute, friendless, homeless, persecuted, forgotten, scorned, and yet have survived the flames that threatened to burn me to ashes.

It could have hardened me but instead, it gave me an understanding I wouldn’t have otherwise had.

The fire refines me and, with each refining, I am stronger than I began.

Given a choice, I would have chosen an easier path.

An easier path, however, would have likely made me hardened and judgemental; useless to the work He had in store for me.

He lifts me above the flames so that I might relate to another’s trials.

I’ve been there.

In the fire.

In the desert.

In the wilderness.

Alone in the darkness surrounded by shattered pieces.

And wherever I was, whenever I was there, I wasn’t alone.

I will never, as He promised, be alone.

I once thought myself cursed, but now I find myself chosen.

How lovely to suffer for my Lord so that I can understand the heartbreak of His children.

I cry often, yes, but each tear that falls, falls into His hand and is treasured.

I understand who I am because He understood who He made me to be.

I love because He first loved me, though I was so often unloveable.

All of us, regardless of what we perceive ourselves to be are, at one time or another, unlovable.

That, we have in common.

Don’t follow my example, but learn from it.

That is my blessing and I am thankful for every heartwrenching trial.

Without them, I would be just like everyone else and, to my delight, He has set me apart.

Grace, mercy, tolerance and understanding are mine so that I can see, without blinders, His people.

Thank you, Lord, for eyes to see and an often broken heart to help me understand.

Amen.

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Raw oysters …

are one of those things that evoke an immediate and unwavering response.

One either loves or hates them.

Adores or abhors.

People who know me personally would say loudly and with confidence that I would never, with intention, put a raw oyster in my mouth.

They would be sadly mistaken.

I love raw oysters.

There is something about slurping the organism and the juice around it into my mouth that takes me right over the edge of culinary ecstasy.

A delicacy that did, I freely admit, surprise me.

I was apprehensive at the thought of my first raw oyster, but I wanted adventure and, well, come on, what is more adventurous than a raw bi-valve.

I remember closing my eyes, as if that would somehow make the experience less traumatizing.

But when that sweet, salty taste co-mingled with the sharp bite of horseradish hit my tongue, I was hooked.

Joyous.

Delectable.

Intoxicating.

The fear of an immediate emetic response was eradicated and pleasurable endorphins poured in to take its place.

It is like everything else in life … don’t knock it until you try it.

If, by chance, you’re ever in the Outer Banks of NC, take highway 12 to Buxton and check out Pop’s Raw Bar.

It will, I promise, be worth it.

Those were, I say with utmost confidence, the best raw oysters to ever pass my lips.

If you go, tell Wendy that the Virginian with the suspicious Ohioan companion said “Hi”.

At last I say this … try new things.

Divert from your everyday ritual.

Fear of the unknown will keep many wonderful things from your perspective.

I know this because I lived, many years, with fear.

Now, unless it involves spiders, I give it the finger.

I still freak out at spiders.

Overcome what you can, run screaming from what you can’t.

Pretty simple when you break it down.

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