Friday, February 16, 2018

Ups and Downs

Just like the stock market, life has its ups and downs. Fortunately, most of us know how to weather the bad and enjoy the good. Christians, I think, are especially fortunate because we have faith "in our corner" to see us through whatever challenges we face, and grateful hearts for happiness. For me, the past week has held some very happy times, and I am savoring every detail as a blessing.

Last week, I was able to secure a SKYPE call for our Kansas Authors Club district with Amy Newmark, the Executive Editor and co-owner of Chicken Soup for the Soul. It was an incredible opportunity for our group as well as honor that she chose to make contact with us. Amy discussed what they look for in stories for their publication, and answered any questions we had.

Our scheduled 30 minute conversation turned into nearly one hour. During that time, Amy announced one of my stories was already chosen to appear in their annual Christmas book this year (which was a big surprise since they haven't finished accepting entries as yet)! It will be my 5th time in one of their anthologies, and I am excited and humbled with each selection. I know the call encouraged others in our group to make submissions, some for the first time, and it certainly made my day!

And then on Valentine's Day, our singles group from church gathered for lunch at a local restaurant after Ash Wednesday services. At the luncheon, these wonderful ladies gave me a "Grandma Shower" with fun items to keep at my home for when my new little grandson visits. The gifts included anything from toys and books to practical items such as bibs and spoons, photo album, pacifiers,clothing, and a teether-rattle. These friends knew how excited I was to become a grandparent and graciously asked to see photos too! (What grandparent doesn't like to indulge in that?)

In both of the scenarios, the key element was sharing − one shared helpful knowledge including information that elated me, and the other shared in my joy. Both were also great examples of how God sends others our way, whether in times of need or in times of happiness.

As a Stephen Minister in my church, we call ourselves care givers. God is the cure giver who uses us to provide physical presence of His love for the person who is facing a particular life challenge or experience. It is truly a blessing to be a servant in that manner.

So, as I contemplate this past week, I will file it away as one of blessings. I don't know what will follow tomorrow, next week, or next year. But whatever comes, I know there will be others sent by God to cross my path to give comfort or joy, depending upon whatever is my circumstance.

Friday, February 9, 2018

It's All Relative

When I was a preschool director years ago, I joked that I never enrolled a child of average intelligence. That statement alluded to what I often heard from new parents − "my child has above average intelligence." Sometimes that was actually true, but usually not.

There is something within most of us that doesn't want to be average, even when average is okay. We humans want to be unique, to be of special value, and the funny thing is the best way to do that is sometimes not to purposely try to stand out among the crowd. I'm thinking of Jesus.

Jesus was more than happy to teach us about God and how to live, but he did so without trying to stand out as special himself. He didn't brag, "I'm the son of God, so you better treat me like it!" Instead, it was his willingness to be part of the crowd that ultimately made him not just another face in it.

When my sons were young, I marveled at every accomplishment that was above average, or appeared to be. I even have a picture of my oldest son sitting up at 3 1/2 months. Now before anyone wonders, it wasn't that he had the strength or ability to do so. It was because he had such a round little belly, that when propped up, he only had one way to go and that was sideways! (Although sitting up wasn't really exceptional, he did begin potty to train early at 12 months, and that is true. He wasn't pushed; it was all his choice.)

A few days ago, this same son sent a picture of my grandson at just under 3 weeks of age. If I hadn't seen the picture, I would not have believed it − he's holding his bottle! It appears this isn't some fluke and is actually an exceptional feat, and I'm certain there will be many more such above average occurrences. But, while those of us who love him will smile with pride at whatever above average things he does, I'm hopeful he will be just one of the crowd who stands out because of it.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

A Timely Word

Proverbs 15:20 states: "A man finds joy in giving an apt reply and how good is a timely word!" That was never truer than last week for me.

While leaving after visiting my new grandson at Overland Park Regional Medical Center in K.C., my sister and I had difficulty with the scooter lift in my car. The boom came out of the car, went up and down just fine, but would not go back in.  That left the rear gate open and no way to shut the door. Finally, after multiple attempts, it began to go back inside, but required at least 5 incremental times pushing the "In" button.

Once my scooter was safely inside, that meant I wasn't going anywhere later because I could not risk having my scooter lift fail. Even if one of my sons could manually lift the scooter (assuming they were with me), there would be no way to shut the door. Long ago I lost the manual crank that takes forever to use.

When I called about parts and repair, I was quoted more than $500. Ouch! That's quite a chunk of change for most of us, and I had other things I'd rather spend it on. But then I remembered reading something from the latest book I'm editing. This was the timely word for me.

The author wrote a daily devotional based on Dave Ramsey's "Financial Peace University." It's unlike anything I've ever read before because it is a personal account of how she and her husband paid off more than $191,000 in unsecured debt in five years to become totally debt free. One of her devotions was about not freaking out about a large auto repair bill. She realized it was a blessing to have the money to do it. Voila my apt word!

I have the money to make the repair; I just didn't want to spend that much, and having the resources to do it is a blessing I almost forgot. Usually, I'm a pretty grateful person who recognizes her many blessings, but I really needed that apt word. I couldn't wait to tell Lisa, the author, about the appropriateness of her words and thank God for the timing in reading them.

I really have everything I need, including money for repairs, and what could be a better blessing than that? Oh, and I'll also share the name of the book, to which I referred, when it is published because I can almost guarantee there is an apt word for everyone else too!

Monday, January 15, 2018

He's Here!

I first fell in love with Maddox when I learned of his existence and viewed his sonogram. And, of course, I think he is the cutest and most adorable grandchild ever to be born! I'd post pictures to prove it, but I am respecting his parents' wishes not to publicly splash his picture across the Internet!

Maddox was due on January 6, but finally made his appearance, after 3 futile attempts to induce labor, via an unplanned c-section yesterday morning (Sunday, January 14). The roads were not great into KC, and I slid through an intersection on a red light while all other cars were fortunately stopped waiting for the light to turn. (For the record, I was going very slow, but ice doesn't care.) I'm certain  the intersection was clear of vehicles because God listened to me praying the whole way there!

Maddox continues an uncanny occurrence in our family. There may be 365 days a year, but we seem to like duplicate birthdays. I have 2 nephews born on my paternal grandmother's birthday; a great-nephew born on my sister Lesta's birthday; my son Ryan was born on my sister Bette's birthday, another nephew was born on my paternal great-grandmother's (with whom I share my middle name) birthday; a niece was born on her paternal grandmother's birthday; and Maddox was born on my maternal grandmother's birthday. He missed my father's birthday by one day.

As you might imagine, Maddox is the screen saver on my Samsung tablet and I can't stop looking at him. At 8lbs, 12oz he can easily fill an entire page. He also very much resembles his father's baby pictures so that's another reason to love him even more!

Sunday, December 31, 2017

2018 Happy or Not?

2017 was a banner year for me in many ways: I accomplished most of what I wanted to do like filing the final patent application for a new type of mobility walker; I had no major medical issues; and I lived comfortably without any worry of having enough food or paying my bills. My grateful heart tells me the latter two are the most important. Not every one is that fortunate.

A few years ago I wrote an Internet article for The Humanitarian Examiner-Topeka called "Make a Difference." The theme was always something anyone could do to make this world a better place. (I finally opted for this current blog format because I could make it faith-based.) My New Year's Resolution articles always gave suggestions for positive actions that could change the world for better. Now I have just one.

For two years, I have kept a journal. In it, I try to write daily something I did to make this world a better place. That makes me take positive action to consciously accomplish that as a daily goal. It's the best self-improvement concept I can think to do, and one I'll faithfully implement.

The new year will hold many exciting things for me including a grandson from my older son and daughter-in-law, and the wedding of my youngest son. From life experience, I know those will be the best of 2018. I also know that our lives are what we make them through our choices. Mine is to live my faith as best I can, and that means honoring my New Year's resolution daily.

Happy 2018!

Thursday, December 21, 2017

The Right Time

I did something fun today. It was fun because it wasn't expected and the time was right.

In this season of gifting, it's easy to miss the simple giving that occurs year round. I'm talking about those individuals who do a little extra to make our lives easier, and those who volunteer to do the necessary things that we either can't or prefer not to do. Remembering them at Christmas is perfect.

I set out popcorn bins for the sanitation and recycle crews who make a special effort to collect my refuse nearer to my home instead of at the curb. My mail carrier is also so conscientious that he even caught and redirected a Christmas card sent to my previous home address 10 years ago! These are the obvious people to remember to thank.

But then I began to think about my church and how wonderful and blessed we are to worship there. I took boxes of gourmet chocolates to personally thank each of the five paid staff members, and wrote thank you notes to several of the volunteers who almost should have designated offices because of their countless efforts and time spent at the church.

And then I remembered, too, those who coordinate our pet pantry, organize lectors and ushers,  handle the sacristy, head Sunday School education and programs, serve on our outreach and internal committees, assist with church needs, and the list goes on and on. So, I wrote a simple thank you addressed to "All the Volunteers."  I asked our Parish Life Administrator to post it on the bulletin board in the hallway.

Christmas is the time to remember when the greatest gift of all was given. What better time to remember and acknowledge those who give of themselves all year? And, of course, the added bonus is that it was fun!

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

The Real Christmas

Nope, it's not the apocalypse. I'm just writing a second blog in two days because Christmas is in my heart.

I didn't meet my goal to finish shopping for gifts by December 1, but for the most part, my list is complete minus a few little stocking stuffers, and my Christmas baking only has two items to go. But checking off my gift list and baking goodies isn't what put Christmas in my heart.

The real Christmas spirit came to me this year at my final church council meeting on the 27th of November.  I completely forgot it was my turn to offer the devotion at the beginning of the meeting so nothing was prepared, but the first thing that popped into my head was, of course, Christmas. (As I warned fellow council members, I'm sharing a brief portion of those thoughts now in this blog.)

Hebrews 10:24 − "Let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds" is perhaps my favorite Bible verse. To me, it epitomizes what Jesus commanded us to do when he said, "Love one another." − John 13:34 (NIV) Mankind does that no better than at Christmastime.

This is the season when even non-Christians get into the spirit of giving and caring, but we of faith should keep that spirit year round. Showing love to our fellowman, I think, gives us a taste of God's love for us. When we give without restraint, but instead with compassion and the joy of sharing our blessings, we invoke a higher sense. For just a short time, we can feel the power and opportunity to make this world a better place. Wouldn't it be wonderful to keep Christmas in our hearts everyday?