Tuesday, March 27, 2012

A Grandma is...

...love and hugs and kisses and smiles and warmth.  A grandma is strength and softness and kindness and praise.  A grandma is a gift.  My grandma came to visit this past weekend.  It isn't often that I get to see her anymore.  You see, she can't drive these days and relies on those around her to get her where she needs to go.  I'd be that someone, but she lives in Chicago, and well, I don't.  Just like the rest of us, grandma is getting older.  I think the hardest part about seeing her so sporadically is that in my mind's eye she is still 50 years old and healthy as can be. When I was younger she used to live next door, this is where I spent most of my time.  I probably still would if she were closer. But I digress...

Grandma used to have a sewing room.  I was never destined to be a seamstress like she was, but how I loved to tinker with the scraps she left behind.  I can remember one fine day, in 7th grade, where I was bound and determined to make my own dress, without a pattern no-less.  I had to clean grandma's house for her to buy me a plain t-shirt (which would be the top of the dress).  Of course, in all my innocent glory, I wanted white!  Anyway, I got the t-shirt and carefully sorted through all her fabric for the exact color and pattern that I wanted to turn into the skirt of the dress.  Grandma had 3 cabinets full of bolts ranging in different colors, patterns, and material.  I can't remember now exactly which material I chose, but I know I spent hours turning it into a ruffled skirt, attaching it to the hem of the t-shirt, and covering the seam with a wide ribbon.  I was so proud of this and grandma, being the ever loving person she was, complimented me on my endeavors.  I got made fun of at school the next day and never wore it again. 

Grandma also used to spoil me relentlessly.  I knew this, so did everyone else.  Some would say I was her favorite, but she and I know better.  In fact, we all were.  When we were all younger, my cousin and I used to play dress up in grandma's clothes.  Grandma ALWAYS had the coolest clothes, for an old person that is.  No, seriously, she used to be really up on fashion, now she leans toward comfort.  Anyway, my cousin and I would spend so much time carefully dressing up, putting on grandma's jewelery and make-up, and styling our hair.  (All of this in the full glory of all the fashion the 80's had to offer.) Then when we were all done we would put on a fashion show.  No matter how many times we paraded in front of her in all that fancy stuff no one ever came out the victor.  It took me a long time to realize that grandma was making our numbers equal by giving us different scores in all the categories.  I would score higher on originality, my cousin on poise, or vice versa, but grandma always made them add up to the same value.  I guess grandma never had a favorite, she still doesn't, and when she can get our names straight she will tell us so.

Grandma taught me one of the biggest lessons of my young life too; never ask for something you aren't sure you want the answer to.  I can't remember what Christmas it was, but I know it was the year I got a Caboodles.  You see, I asked her relentlessly for clues as to what I was getting.  I begged and pleaded, I even offered to do chores for her in exchange for the clues.  I never-gave-up!  NEVER!  Finally, I broke her down, or so I thought!  She gave me the clues alright, and I guessed them...which made me feel pretty darn smart, but after that I was bummed.  I mean, I already knew what I was getting.  Once I felt remorse set in I couldn't tell her, after all, she was right.  But my lesson didn't stop there.  No, then grandma made me wrap the entire family's Christmas presents, including my own.  The lesson, I got to know what everyone was getting so that I could keep that secret, but also not get to share in their surprise.  Oh, and she also had me wrap the one present I didn't guess.  To this day, I don't even like to tell people what I want.  I don't even want to have an inkling of what I may receive.  I want a surprise and I want to know that they have listened as I hinted throughout the year or know me enough to get me something that is special just to me.  After all, grandma always did.

I have so many stories about grandma that I think I could write a novel.  I remember the smell of her favorite perfume, Vanderbuilt.  I can remember how we watched Knot's Landing and Golden Girls together.  I can remember how she would always make me mint tea and coffee, caffeine free of course!  I remember that no matter where she went, I was never more than a step behind.  I have been so blessed to have someone that special in my life.  She has been the best grandma in the world, and I know without a doubt in my heart, that God made her just for me.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

When Life Smiles

Have you ever had a day when you felt like life was just smiling on you?  Today started out like any other day.  I woke up, got ready for work, went to work, picked up the kids, and went to church.  I know, doesn't sound all that exciting or special does it?  In fact, there were parts in there that weren't so great.  Let me start there.

I have been working closer to home off and on for three weeks now.  No, I didn't relocate or get a new job, I have just been fortunate enough to be in a facility closer to home.  One of the best things about this is that I don't have to wake up as early and I get to see my children before they go to school each day.  This has been such a blessing for me.  Then while at work I have had the opportunity to do something that I love - teach.  This is the part of my job that puts a smile on my face and warms my heart.  There is something so amazing about helping someone learn a faster, better, smoother way of performing their daily tasks.  (My absolute favorite part is when they get that eureka! look on their face and I know that they know it has all fallen into place.) I know, not many people get as geeked out about databases as I do, but hey, its what I know and love!  The next best thing, is learning something new myself, which I inevitably do each time I am in another facility training them on the new systems.  The next thing that means so much to me is not a thing at all, it is the people.  I get to meet some great people and make some great friendships.  However, if there was a rain on my parade, today was it.  Today was my last day working with some fantastic people.  I have so enjoyed this time learning from them, helping them, and getting to know them outside of work.  I may not be much of a people person, but I do know the value of others and, well...I'm going to not be a girl about all of this.  So, when this particular work day ended, I said my last good bye, gave my last hug and hand shake, all with a tear in my eye, and walked away from them for the last time. 

One of the best things about ending this day was knowing I had church tonight.  I left work with a bittersweet feeling and yet I know with all my heart God knew how to make my heart happy again.  Tonight at Bible Study we talked about participation in church.  Not necessarily the kind where you are in the choir, singing a song, playing an instrument, giving an announcement, running the powerpoint; no, none of that.  What the study was about was participating in groups, having fellowship with friends and fellow believers.  How does all this fall into place with my feelings from leaving work?  Simply, that God gives friendships and relationships when others go away.  He provides you the beauty of another, through a smile, kind words, similar interests, etc to let you know that you aren't alone.  (He never intended life to be like that anyway.)  To close this out, I guess what I am trying to say is this:  When one door closes, as much as it hurts, God is always there to open another.  Though it may not look like the same door, and feel like the same journey,  it is inevitably the best one to walk through.

I know there are going to be many, many more situations like this in my future.  I don't know the timing of them all and really do wish I did, but there are some things in life that were never meant to be known.  I guess that is why we go through it, learning as we go, so that at some point when we go eureka! God can look down and smile on us and know that we know it all fell into place.  (Thankfully, He is always there to help get us through any re-schooling that is needed!)

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Declaring a Mulligan

I don't know the first thing about golf and truth be told I really don't want to.  However, today I feel like calling a mulligan.  Not because I want to redo any portion of this day, but more so because I want to redo my life, or at least certain portions of it.  I'm finding that on this quest to trust others and to love others that there are huge moments of reflection involved.  Reflection, regrettably, brings about guilt;  guilt brings about sorrow; and sorrow brings about the desire to undo that thing which caused it in the first place.  I have a lot of that - guilt.  I look at my life and wonder how on Earth I got to the place I am in now.  Certainly I should not be here and not because the here is bad, but that the here actually has a lot of good.  I know, sounds strange doesn't it?  That's the thing, I don't deserve any of this.  Yet, despite what I deserve I have so much more; truly so much to be thankful for.  Why?  Undoubtedly because I have a God that is beyond wonderful. 

I read my girls their devotional tonight.  Let me stop there.  It is completely ironic that each of the lessons that we have gone through over the past week have been more of something that I needed to hear than I am sure they understood even though the book is geared towards kids.  Today's devotional: "Seek Me First."  The premise: to seek God first when making goals in life.  It isnt' that he doesn't want you (me) to have them, it is that he may have something better for you (me) or he may take your (my) goal and make it bigger and better.  I mean, who better to take something small and make it grand or something to take something misformed and perfect it?  And that, my dear readers, is why I want to declare a mulligan on my life.

You see, I have made so many goals.  Some have transpired without a hitch and others, well, let's leave them in the L column.  I have charged head first, like a bull in a china closet, through life and have wound up with more broken plates (goals/dreams, friendships, relationships, emotions, etc) than would have been necessary had I sought the direction of the one who knows what is best for me in the first place.  Society teaches us to take charge, do first and ask for forgiveness later, but God says to "seek first his kingdom and his righteousness." (Matthew 6:33)   Why? Because when we dive into something headlong and then ask him to bless it we are much more determined to get our way that we inevitably leave him out.  Why?  Because absolutely no one has a better plan for your (my) life than God.  His point of view is a lifespan long, ours, well, that is an easy answer.  Here's the kicker, if your (my) goals match his then he will help you (me) reach them.  If they don't, it's ok.  He will help change, slowly, your (my) way of thinking to be in line with his.  In all, it is a win-win situation.

Sadly, there are no mulligans in life.  This is a once in a lifetime shot.  Sure we can give our goals over, we can realign our thinking, we can give our lives to God (the best step by the way), but we can never undo what has happened.  However, life does go on.  We will all encounter sand traps, water holes, rough patches, and divots, but God, he has it all taken care of.  He knows the way to the green and can help us make par, all we have to do is seek him first.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Love Takes Trust

I have written about trust a few times before.  As most of you know, or at least those who have followed this blog for some time can attest, I have trust issues; deep, wide, insurmountable trust issues.  I grew up learning that the only person I could count on was myself.  It wasn't that there weren't grown-ups in my life, because there were, but let's just say I had to grow up really, really fast and in so doing had to count on myself.  This borne my total self reliance and trust in myself alone.  Now, don't think I haven't or hadn't tried to trust another, because I have and sadly failed so many times that it reaffirmed my concept of self trust.  I won't regale you will all the tales, but most assuredly I tell you that in all cases when I began to give my heart to another, to allow them to have some sense of control (the healthy kind) over me, they let me down.  I'm not talking a gentle situation where I could quickly brush my hands off on my pants leg and move on, no these were drops from stories high and landings that left me with scars deep and noticeable.  Therefore, I have learned that if there is anything in life worth having or getting then I was the only one who could take care of it.  Sad, but true.  However............

Fast forward to today.  After years of being conditioned to count only on myself I've realized that I am an empty person.  I have no love.  Sure, I have a husband and children, all of which I love dearly and would fall to pieces if I lost them, but trusting them, well, that is the problem.  I'm not so dense to know that that is a lot to put on a child and I don't, but my husband, well that is another thing altogether.  I want to trust him with my well being, with being the head of the household, of supporting us and caring for our every need, but honestly, I cannot.  I have to be that person.  I am the only one I can trust for all those things.  Or so I thought...

I have had a healthy dose of reality in the past week.  I love those types of life lessons (that's sarcasm).  They are the type that eat at you from the inside until you have let go enough to finally let God take control.  And by letting go enough, I really mean letting go altogether.  I also love how God uses seemingly random people to say the same thing in so many different ways that you are remiss to know it is He that is speaking.  And man, has He been speaking.  The topic, love.  The core issue, trust.  I have to trust in others in order to love them.  I have to trust in the Lord in order to love him.  It isn't enough to merely say the words, after all paying lip service never really got anyone anywhere.  It is meaning them (the words) and applying them that is the real challenge.  However, this is one of those things that I can't do on my own.  I have to have the power of the Spirit working in my life.  Why?  Well, frankly because I have 33 years of trusting only myself and it sure is hard to give that up.

Now, why all this, especially after yesterday's post?  Because I had a good day.  I can't take a lick of credit for it.  I have to give all that to the Lord.  You see, I prayed fervently this morning for His help and I trusted that He would provide it.  I prayed again during the day and continued to trust that he would.  Then at the end of the day I got affirmation from a coworker that I had succeeded and had showed true love (kindness, friendship, equality) to my peers.  I chose that moment to let him know that I had to give God the glory.  It wasn't me, no, I would have been more suited to handle the project myself, direct everyone to their locations, and control the day.  Instead, there was no one "I" in the team; we did it all together, through trust and love.

As I read my Bible tonight I knew that what I was reading was no coincidence.  I read only one chapter, Jeremiah 17.  It said enough for today.

"This is what the Lord says: Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who depends on flesh for his strength and whose heart turns away from the Lord." -Jeremiah 17:5

"Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in Him."  -Jeremiah 17:7

"I the Lord search the heart and examine the mind to reward a man according to his conduct, according to what his deeds deserve."  -Jeremiah 17:10

"Heal me, O Lord, and I will be healed; save me and I will be saved, for you are the one I praise."  -Jeremiah 17:14

Sunday, March 4, 2012

The Irony About Love

Have you ever had deja vu?  Or perhaps had a conversation on the same main topic a couple different times with different people and in those cases you were not the initiator of the conversation?  Well, that has been the case for me this past week, especially in the past few days. I have heard a time or two where the Lord will give you direction through other people, now I am a firm believer in it.  The topic, you ask?  Simply, loving other people.  Before you misunderstand, it isn't that mushy love that couples have, it is that general love that one should have for their fellow man.

You see, and I am just going to throw this out there, I have a really hard time loving other people.  Some see this as me being mean, pretentious, arrogant, strong-willed, and any other word that describes a person who isn't soft around the edges.  However, it isn't that I don't have the capacity, it is that I simply don't trust people and loving has a lot to do with trusting.  Why don't I trust people?  Well, I don't like my feelings being hurt and by not having them the problem is solved.  Or, so I thought. 

You see, regardless of what you do to protect yourself, perception is not always on your side.  People don't see the lack of "love" as a positive trait.  No, quite the opposite in fact, they see it as, well, meanness and in all manners if the word. Now, that said, this is the conversation that I had or the subject matter that I was a part of in seemingly unrelated circumstances a couple of times this week.  I think I may have learned something!  No, actually, I did.  I learned that God doesn't like to see His children suffer and He knows when walls are built there is suffering on both sides of them (the walls that is).  I want to share with you the notes I took today at church during the Pastor's message.

"The Prayer of Love" -Philippians 1:9-11

  1.  O God, give me DESIRE. (v9)
    1. that the love in their lives would abound more and more
    2. agappe love - a God-like love (a giving love)
    3. don't run between being stingy and lavish with your love
    4. we understand more when it comes to tangible goods and giving - we need to incorporate this thinking with love.
    5. our attitude and our acts prove our amount of love
    6. Having love will change your life. 
    7. Love one another - BECOME A PEOPLE PERSON
  2.  O God, give me DIRECTION (v10)
    1. love appropriately (discernment)
    2. not always sentimental gush
    3. the best way to love is to ask these questions:
      1. Is it harmful?
        1. Will what I am about to do, be or become harmful to another; mentally, physically, and/or spiritually?  MUST think of it ALL!
      2. Is it helpful?
        1. Will my actions and my advice be a positive thing; be inspirational, encouraging, and uplifting to another?  AIM for ALL!
    4. it isn't about you, it is about the other person
    5. ALLOW GOD TO GUIDE YOU!
    6. Keep this poem in mind:  LOVE:
      1. It's silence when your words would hurt.  It's patience when your neighbor's curt. It's deafness when the scandal flows. It's thoughtfulness for another's woes.  It's promptness when stern duty calls.  It's courage when misfortune falls.
  3.  O God, give me DEPTH (v11)
    1. God does work in the believer's heart
    2. Fruit should be seen in the person's life
    3. If you are just conforming to the law then you are shallow.
    4. Are we deep enough in this love of God that we are seeing the right kind of fruit manifested in our life?
    5. If the Holy Spirit is in our heart then love will be our fruit.
    6. LOVE BEGETS LOVE!
    7. We love Jesus Christ only as much as the person we love the least!!!!!!
    8. We have a choice on where we put our roots.  A spiritual landfill or Jesus Christ!
This message spoke volumes to me.  I have a long, long, road to travel to get to the place where my love for others is a desire, my direction, and has depth, but I have a fantastic travel agent and I know he is great with all sorts of weary travelers.  I want to leave you with one last thought for the day.  The Pastor shared this quote from a book he read:

"My prayer for you is that your love for one another will never be doled out in parsimonious pinches, but rather tumble forth like some magnificent cascade."  - Dr. Paul S. Rees