Bikers and Boy Scouts

This Christmas may you be the recipient of some of that goodness.

They look nothing alike on the outside, seemingly with nothing in common.  Yet every year thousands of Bikers and Boy Scouts, along with other people from all walks of life come together with Wreaths Across America to help honor, remember, and teach others about those fine men and women who served our country either as an Airman,  Marine, Sailor, Solider, and Coast Guardsman.  This is one of those holiday events that somewhere in the back of my mind I knew about but never participated.  This year I was invited to join my husband’s company to volunteer.   I learned that the laying of wreaths is more than just laying down a wreath.  It is also about remembering one who is no longer with us, those who love of country, and family drove them to serve; to say their name out loud and thank them for their service.

We laid wreathes at the Florida National Cemetery in Bushnell.  I estimate there were a dozen semi’s full of boxes of wreaths.  I’ve never seen so many wreaths in one place and the smell was wonderful!  The volunteers lined up at each truck waiting for the doors to open at 10:30 to get their wreaths to lay on a grave,  Groups of volunteers, like my friends Jr. R.O.T.C. Cadets, worked on completing one section at a time.  Others, like my group, had several people they knew who were buried there.  We walked with them to those sections and stood with them as they remembered their friends and loved ones.  I took one of my wreaths and walked to the back of the section where there weren’t any and picked an airman who served in WWII.  ( I am an Air Force wife! )
While I did, I thought of my dad’s grave and  believed that a stranger took a moment and did the same for him.

A friend of mine parents are buried in this national cemetery.  In passing last week I told her I was going and she said “lay one on my dad’s grave for me.”  I said sure.  Technology is very handy, using my husbands phone for the cemetery plot search, and mine to note down the information we were able to locate my friends fathers grave site just by his name.  I could have been sad she had lost her dad just as I’ve lost mine.   Instead I was happy I could say “thank you” to him and let him know she is a great friend and talks of him enough I feel like it wasn’t a strangers grave I was placing that wreath on.

 

I thought I was writing this post about Christmas Wreaths but that’s not it.  I’m writing because I love seeing someone doing something nice.  Everyday we are all bombarded with bad news.  It doesn’t matter where it comes from; national news, local, ourselves.  Life is hard.  If the bad is all we focus on, life will be bleak. This post is about good news.  The good news that God has had His hand on my life long before I paid any attention to Him.   He has His hand on those Bikers who love God and Country and are so proud to show it.  On the Boy Scouts who could be sleeping in but instead get up early to serve and learn to honor men and women who are long passed.  This post is about God who sent Jesus at Christmas for us; to be born, live, teach, and save us from ourselves.

This Christmas I hope you get a moment to look back and see where God’s hand has been on your life.  I hope that whether you believe in Jesus or not, you can see good in others and in these last few days of December may you be the recipient of some of that goodness

Merry Christmas!

Isaiah 9: 6 For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given, and the government shall be upon his shoulder.  And his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.

Visit http://www.wreathsacrossamerica.org/#join-us for information on Wreaths Across America

Traditions; Family or Otherwise

The problem was the distorted memory of the child I was versus the truth of the lovely families who invited me in when I was looking to belong. 

Halloween is over, it’s not quite Thanksgiving, and the Christmas commercials are running in full force.  These days they are referred to as  holiday commercials but since I celebrate Christmas, I’m going to take the liberty to call them that.  I’m bringing this up not to just write about the holiday season, which I also refer to the “Holiday Eating Season”.  Yes it’s true.  Any healthy eating I may attempt, I throw out the window when my husband begins his baking warm up with the cut out cookies at Halloween.  I’m bringing it up to get you thinking about traditions.  Just look at what he made for me to test taste this evening!

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He just whipped these together for me tonight! #nobaketurtles
Family, friends, workplace traditions. How do they all start?   I’m sure you have some, start thinking about it.  This time of year may bring some of them to the front of your mind.  You may even be in the midst of creating new ones right now.

I’ve been thinking about ours.  Like the baking, it’s a tradition, but the baking and requesting our favorites isn’t our only family tradition.  Birthdays include the happy birthday banner, table-cloth,  the celebration plate we use for every birthday, and let’s not forget the famous “birthday song”.

It’s not so much what the tradition is but the feelings that come from it. Some of them are just downright silly.  The re-gifting of that “Ugly Clutch” that started as a real gift to one of my daughters.  We laughed because it just wasn’t her style. Somehow instead of being stashed away, never to be seen again, it showed up under the Christmas tree or as a birthday gift to someone else . As well as the year we couldn’t remember who had it and it was my turn to give it away all along.  It’s also attending the opening season for  hockey we go to every year in matching hockey garb, sharing chicken fingers and fries and drink $11 beers.

 

What about those cookies?  It was December of 1985 and my husband had a squadron party. He wanted to try his hand at making one of his favorites that his Babci use to make.  Those cookies turned out great and so the tradition began. The baking warm-up at Halloween by with the cut-out cookies.  The recipe comes from one of my childhood friends. Twenty-seven years later he has a repertoire of 10 favorites he makes every Christmas.  I know, I just asked him to count, as well as adding about three to four new recipes each year.  If we find one we really love, he will rotate it in once in a while but he never leaves out the favorites!

 

Talking about traditions and Christmas can bring about mixed emotions for many people.  For years I watched from a distance as the girls and hubby decorated the tree.  I liked Christmas but had mixed fillings about it as well.  Not the part about the birth of Christ, no, I thank God for that.  The problem was the distorted memory of the child I was versus the truth of the lovely families who invited me in when I was looking to belong.  My Pop was a wonderful, single dad of a teenage girl when single parenthood was not a familiar occurance, especially in my small hometown. In my youth I kept searching to create the “normal” family picture we just didn’t couldn’t make on our own in the late 1970’s.  When I had my own children, my memory of the child I was, was a pathetic child looking for love, who people were feeling sorry for.  Good grief how wrong I was!  These lovely people treated me like family and they made me feel so welcomed and loved.  My own distorted vision of the memory was a lie of Satan’s I believed for many years.  It wasn’t until my 30’s when I began seeing the truth. We were living in Montana when I could finally put into words what bothered me about Christmas and my husband was able to help me see the truth.  I was not a pathetic child but a fun-loving kid who wanted to belong and did.  I’ve paid it forward as often as I could for those families by loving others and especially the friends of my children. Dear friends of my youth, thank you for showing me how to love!

Christmas in our home now includes a live, full-size tree in the front room, a live, small tree in the family room, and a tree outside by the pool!  It’s not the trees, it is the anticipation of finding those homemade ornaments that didn’t make it on the tree in the front room so we started the family room tree.   It’s the decorations that are faded, worn, and broken yet we can’t bring ourselves to throw away because of the memories they bring back.  It’s the annual wreath making with the girls where we get glitter everywhere, burn our fingers on hot glue, and the spiked eggnog gets mixed just right!  It’s our annual Christmas Eve open house where people drop on their way home from their own family gatherings to share a cookie or two.  It’s stuffing the homemade stockings my sister-in-law started by making me one of my own my first Christmas with them.  God thank you for family traditions.

Thinking back right now I’m remembering other family traditions from my childhood and smiling.   Watching the NBC Wednesday movie of the week with Pop while eating saltines with peanut butter and jelly for me and sardines (yuk) for Pop.  Driving with Pop to Jackson Lake to fish on an afternoon after pumping gas that summer between my junior and senior year.  Catching no fish but finishing off a whole package of Nabisco Chocolate Chip cookies.  The traditions of my youth, with family and friends, the warm memories they bring, the sadness too, are a part of what led to our family traditions of today.

Traditions; they say a lot.  They stir up both joy and pain.  They lead to healing.  Take some time this season to create your own traditions with friends, colleagues, and family and to remember the traditions that helped make you who you are today.

 

Rest

I took God up on His offer to rest, wish I hadn’t waited so long.

Let’s take a deep breath and rest.  Rest.  What a loaded word that has been for me.  In the past, someone would say “get some rest” and immediately I’d think I don’t have time.  I did not know how to rest. There was too much to do.  If I don’t do it who will?  Anyone?!  I’d actually get jealous of other people’s free time wondering how they had less to accomplish than I did.  Strong words for such a small idea wouldn’t you say?  Especially when you look at some of it’s synonym’s  like take a break, breather, breathing space, calmness, coffee break, comfort, holiday, leisure, nap, siesta, time off.  Where did that come from, that idea I was so busy I couldn’t rest?  I’d hear my inner voice say: rest is for the weak and lazy, there is too much to do, I don’t have time, just one more thing, then I can sit down.  That is a lot of importance and pressure to put on one’s self.  Does any of this sounds familiar to you?  Be encouraged.

Let’s try that again.  Take a deep breath and rest. Okay that wasn’t so hard.  Some of you may be relieved to know I’ve learned a thing or two about resting and I’m getting better and better at practicing it.

I still struggle to prove to myself how much can I accomplish in a days time.  That’s just it though, what am I trying to prove and to whom?  If my self-worth comes from the things I can accomplish, I’ve set myself up for failure.  This wasn’t something I figured out on my own.  It came from exhaustion of keeping the fast paced schedule for decades.  Raise the kids, keep the house, PTA, church, volunteer, be the perfect spouse, friends, family, holidays, the next move.  Then add in a part-time job.  Oh that was fun and I found out I liked working.  Work full-time?  Sure!  Exciting!  Welcome to 50, now start exercising so you can still feel 30.  Now I’m really laughing at myself.  Sure I feel like 30 in my heart and head,  but I could not keep up with the pace I set for myself.   I kept adding more to do and didn’t take anything away.  It was tiring.

Last spring my Bible study was using Open Your Bible by Raechel Myers and Amanda Bible Williams as our guide.  This study is a very practical tool to help women realize that “God’s Word is for them and for now.”  In short, how to open the up the Bible, read it, and meet God in His word.  I’m not new to Bible study.  I’ve been in studies for years and I love it, especially when I’m caught off guard and learn something new about God.

In this particular study there was a lesson about resting in truth.  I knew that the Bible mentions resting in many places.  Exodus 34:21 Work six days but on the seventh day you  rest or Matthew 11:28 Come to me who all who are weary and I will give you rest.   I knew that, in my head anyway.  This was different.  What I was hearing from God; my “ah ha” moment, was God wanted me to let moments of rest lead me to moments with Him.  I was finding my self-worth through my accomplishments.   I didn’t want that.  My worth is based on what God thinks of me and He loved me before I ever came to be.  In that week of study I finally took up God’s offer to rest. I wished hadn’t waited so long.

In quiet moments of rest, God doesn’t have to compete with my busyness.  He can whisper a kind word to share with a stranger or bring up a memory of a sweet time.  In moments of rest He gives me the strength to get up and give it another try, whatever that “it” may be.

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Irma and the Battle of Fear

God’s peace, daylight, and a packed bag in case we had to leave, grounded me and put my head back on straight for the rest of the storm. 

There is no shortage of heartache and fear in this world.  It comes in different degrees and measured individually.  A week ago the debilitating fear of one that seemed unreasonable to me was not so unreasonable after Hurricane Irma.  It is what 56 plus hours of storm news coverage can do to a person.  Add to that, restless sleep, poor diet, too much caffeine, and I had created the perfect recipe for my own fear.

Let me go back to Labor Day weekend when I knew there was a storm out there in the Atlantic but wasn’t really paying attention, to waking up Tuesday morning for work and the entire area was on close hurricane watch and preparing for the worst. Was it really going to be that bad or had Harvey and what happened to Houston create a fresh urgency in the community? Did we have enough water, gas, peanut butter, flashlights, batteries, ice?  I needed a full tank of gas to get to work that week, no problem, but by Wednesday, the neighborhood station had run out of gas.  It was the first time I sat in line for gas since the oil crisis of the 70’s.

Friday, people in the area began planning their evacuations. Offices closed down early and emergency teams set in motion.  Who could focus, I couldn’t.  I began viewing every weather alert on my phone and receiving emails and text from family and friends asking, “Hey, how close are you guys?” “Are you evacuating?”  “Boarding up and leaving, or boarding up and hunkering down?.” (Side note: No one wants to hear the words “hunker down” ever again!) I replied calmly, “Yes it’s a big storm, if it goes east we will be okay, if it goes west, we are in a little more trouble.”  “It’s looking dicey. ”  “We have to wait and see.”  “Don’t worry, we are prepared.”  Besides, I was watching the storm. Was I ever.

Saturday morning my own fear hit. I felt as if I was coming out of my own skin.  I had tossed and turned and looked at my phone many times throughout the night.  At 4:30 am I gave up and turned on the news.  Irma had changed course again.  What we thought may turn it to the east had done just the opposite and I was looking at a picture of a storm heading right for us that would cover my entire state.  I felt fear.  Our roof is 20 years old.  I had all the supplies I needed but I didn’t have a bag packed if the roof blew off.  What about when it hit the Keys or Miami, what would happen to them? I began crying and woke my husband telling him I was afraid.  Before Irma, I’d had boasted nothing scares me.  I cant say that anymore.  At 6:40 am it was time to practice what I preached.  I needed to pull myself together not on my own but with God.  I needed His strength, I had none of my own, my brain was a scramble, my thoughts running wild as my anxiety amplified.

I love my Bible app, it has tools that I use often. I can search a topic and scriptures pop up.  I searched fear.  As I prayed and worked on getting myself together, my search brought up Psalms 56: 3-4 When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.  In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid.  What can flesh do to me?  This was the Word I needed to regroup.  I’m no Biblical scholar, simple, practical, that’s how I see my faith.  It works for me.  I no longer feel the need to justify or prove Him to anyone.  Jesus is my savior.  I don’t have to argue my faith.  It’s what I have, who I am, and it is working.  I don’t have to see it for it to be real, faith is enough and His living word brings me life.

God’s peace, daylight, and a packed bag, grounded me and put my head back on straight for the rest of the storm.  I still had the stress, the anxiousness that comes from an emergency like this but I was working through it.  Neighbors were out making sure everyone had what they needed and knew we could go to each other day or night.  I was preparing for some house guests who lived in an evacuation zone and posting updates on Facebook.  We would get through this and we did.

Saturday a week later the fear is gone. I find myself thinking of other things.  Thankful I was hardly effected by Irma and yet guilty for bemoaning I’m not able to buy a banana and Starbucks only had soy milk for my ridiculous drink, while people in the Keys don’t have the basics of running water, electricity, and food. Some don’t even have roofs over their heads.  I’m having a hard time shaking the stress from the previous week.  The news coverage isn’t 24/7 but the lead stories are still Irma.  I have so many whys?  Why them and not us?  When will South Florida recover?  How will this change them?  How will it change me?  How is the recovery in Houston going? Did they get all their power back before Irma brought all the linemen to Florida?  What happened to Mexico and those injured and killed after the 8.1 earthquake a week ago? Questions go on and on in my mind. I’m still searching for the answers.

I don’t have any catchy conclusion to this post, I can’t find one.  I have more questions than answers.  What I will do: I’ll pray, keep the faith, help a neighbor, smile at a stranger, skip that Starbucks, find out about Mexico and Houston, see a friend.

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I Am a Runner

It’s about living life with a group of people that lift you up when you need it, about those friends you call family and not only the ones who run with me.

I am a runner.  That always makes me smile when I say those four words.  Yet, I like to call myself that.

Six years ago on my journey of doctor visits to find relief from chronic headaches I didn’t find relief for the headaches, but was diagnosed with Undifferentiated Connective Tissue Disease (UCTD).  This is a big long name that means somethings wrong is with my autoimmune system, not enough to give it a name anyone has ever heard of but enough to start treatment and a journey to stay healthy.  The best way I can describe the condition is it’s like the light switch of my immune system was turned on to fight something, which is exactly it’s job, but is has never turned off.  Which means, even when I don’t have a cold or some other bug for the immune system to fight, it is up and fighting against my healthy cells and organs. It is such a surprise when you are at the doctor for one thing and they tell you something new. That was an unexpected diagnosis. Now anyone with a medical background that may be reading this and is cringing at my description of this disease, please forgive me, I must dumb it down for myself. It is one of my coping skills.

I was caught off guard by the diagnosis.  What did that mean?  What had I done to myself that caused this?  Hey God, really?  All I was asking for is a cure for headaches and I get this?  No answers just more questions.  Doctors couldn’t attribute my headaches to the UCTD either so that added to my discouragement.  I was prescribed medication but more than that, I was given direction for some lifestyle changes. Change the diet, reduce stress, rest, etc. I was also told to exercise more.  I exercised two days a week, and broke into a sweat sometimes. Wasn’t that enough? What did more really mean? I did not want to do more but it was worth a shot to get some relief from the headaches. Which brings me to calling myself a runner.

Well, more than that, it brings me to tell you about my friends who said they’d exercise with me.  “It will be good for all of us” they said.  What started out as walking five days a week turned into, let’s do a 5k.  “I can’t run a 5K!”  Oh but we did and then some.

This story is really more about my friends than about me calling myself a runner.  It’s about living life with a group of people that lift you up when you need it, about those friends you call family and not only the ones who run with me.  Those friends who know me at my worst and still love me.  It’s a lot like God.   He uses people to show His love to us; how we show God’s love by helping others.  Despite our failures He loves us anyway and calls us to Himself. How will anyone know God if we don’t show His love?  Rm 5:8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

That’s part of the lesson God has given me when my health didn’t live up to my expectations.  Life isn’t to live alone.  What I wanted to keep to myself was easier to bear when my friends came along with me.

Ecc 4: 9-10 Two are better than one because they have a return for their labor; for if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion.  

What in the World?!

 I kept asking everyone their opinion of me writing a blog as if I needed them to confirm what God had already told me.

It started last spring, the idea of writing a blog.  Funny thing about that whole idea, I barely knew what a blog was or how in the world one went about writing one.  My husband and I had just married off one of our daughters and all of a sudden we had an empty nest.  I was still working, leading my small group Bible study and living life with my wonderful husband of 33 years. I just felt a calling to do something and it came to this, writing a blog.

I came upon a scripture, that I just knew God was using to confirm I was to start writing. Psalm 105: 1 reads: Thank God!  Pray to him by name!  Tell everyone you meet what he has done! (MSG) That’s it.  I’m just going to share what works for me.  Somethings will really crack me up and you won’t think is funny at all.  Sometimes, I’ll get mad and you’ll wonder what all the fuss is about.  It’s just about sharing my thoughts.  It’s about telling my story because my story really is the Good News of Jesus.  How He can save one young girl and give her a life full of promises and joy.  It’s about me taking the chance to tell anyone who would like to listen, that Jesus is for real and will make a difference if you let him.

I’ve had a slow start.  I kept asking everyone their opinion of me writing a blog as if I needed them to confirm what God had already told me.  Silly, how many times do I try to get a second opinion, when I’ve gotten confirmation from God is asking me to do?  Too many to count I’m sorry to admit.

This first post is rough, they may all be for some time.  I decided that’s okay as well.  I want to write and I want to get better, I better get started.  How do I edit the page?  I didn’t want to publish that yet! Good grief, I thought this would be easy.  Forgive me blogging experts for my naivete.  How do I add an image? Why didn’t I research more?

Do these doubts and struggles sound familiar?  It’s with anything new, we are drawn to do.  Do our fears keep us from trying? I would have to say before today, yes.  I held back, waiting for one more confirmation, one more assurance.  Not today.  This is nothing ground breaking, but it’s from my heart.  Direction from God.  I’m excited to see where He takes this!