October Falls

fall leavesOctober is a month filled with falling leaves, pumpkins and football.  The days get shorter and the air gets cooler.  We have joy seeing scarecrows, wearing hoodies and going on hayrides.  My parents celebrated their anniversary on October 1 and if my dad were living today, they would have been married 50 years.

There was a time in my family when October wasn’t so happy.  My mom lost all three sisters to cancer and two of them died in October.  She also lost a nephew in October.  These were during my young adult years and it caused October to have a black cloud of sadness. Time passed and October continued to be a time for leaves, pumpkins and football.

On the last day of October 2010, my mom was in a very scary car accident.  She escaped serious injury but the car was totaled.  On that same day, we made a difficult decision to leave a church where my husband was pastor.  It began a long year of uncertainty but we knew that God had bigger and better plans for us.  One year later, God revealed those plans for us as we were finalizing for him to become the pastor of a new church that was filled with people who loved God, loved missions and most importantly, loved their pastor.  October once again became a month of leaves, pumpkin rolls (thanks to a sweet lady in the new church) and football, always a favorite of my husband.

On October 6, 2012, I received a frantic call from my mom.  “The house is on fire.”  We jumped in the car and drove the hour to her house.  I prayed the whole way there to save my childhood home.  As we came closer to her house and I could look across the farm field to see it in the distance, I saw that the roof was still on and the house looked normal.  The firemen were able to contain the fire that had been smoldering in the attic.  Although it was inches from making it up the rafters and to the roof, it was caught just in time.  She was out of her home for 3 months while reconstruction took place.  October continued with leaves (lots at her house), pumpkins, but no football – she isn’t a fan.

Two years later.  October 7, 2015.  October falls.  It replays in my head like a bad movie flashback.  The day before, my husband had a procedure to shock his heart back into rhythm.  Everything went well and he woke up in tears to the news that it worked.  Later than night he was discouraged because he felt like it was out of rhythm.  The next morning on October 7, he said he felt great.  I didn’t want to go to work so I stayed a little longer with him but he said he thought his heart was in rhythm and he wanted to go prepare his Bible study for that night.  Before we both left for work, I wanted to know his heartbeat was normal.  Since I couldn’t find the pulse, I put my head on his chest to hear it and it was in rhythm.  Little did I know, that would be the last time I would hear and feel his heartbeat.  That afternoon, I got a frantic call from my 12 year old daughter and she said the words, “Dad’s not breathing!”  I rushed home to find emergency personnel and lots of people at my house.  The police officer stopped me at the door and said, “I’m sorry, he’s gone.”  I fell to the floor crying out in shock as I looked my daughter in the eyes.

Like leaves beneath my feet, I was crushed and shattered.  After recently celebrating 20 years of marriage, he was gone.  He took a nap and woke up with Jesus.  That October was a month of shock and uncertainty.  I had been here before but this time I felt alone.

Two years later and October 2017 is here with leaves that are changing color, pumpkin spice in way too many things and football – it will always be a part of our home.  Just like leaves changing colors, life changes too.  It wasn’t the way that I had expected and wasn’t the way that I had planned.  Fortunately, my faith is strong and so I must remain strong too.  October may always have that tint of sadness but I know that God is the author of my story and my October may fall but He will pick me up and show me the beauty as he paints October each Fall.

Shoulders

Our shoulders can carry a lot of weight.  Most of the time it is weight that can’t be seen.  It comes from worries, burdens or anxiety that we carry.  Even though it is invisible, we feel the pressure.  Our muscles get tense and tight.  You may be the single parent or widow trying to raise your child or children alone.  You may be a coworker with more responsibilities than one person should ever have.  You may be a caregiver taking on the emotional and physical needs of someone else.  You may just be the type of person who worries about the future in this world that we live.  Our shoulders can become so heavy that we start to feel the physical pain.  I am currently diagnosed with a “frozen shoulder.”  It is truly the most painful thing I have ever had and prevents me from lifting and doing a lot of daily things that I used to take for granted.

Shoulders can be used to carry others and to help others.  I remember when Hannah was little, she was almost too big for me to carry her in my arms. I could still carry her on my shoulders to give her little legs a break.  Her weight was balanced on my shoulders and I could carry her a little further that way.  However, my shoulders were never as good as daddy’s shoulders.  Daddy’s shoulders could carry her so much higher and he was so much stronger than I was.  Therefore, Daddy could carry her longer, she could see over crowds and she had time to rest.

Our heavenly Father carries all of us on His shoulders.  He is our rest and our rescue.  He takes all of our burdens, worries, fears and troubles and carries them on His shoulders.  It is like that small child that can’t take another step.  He lifts us up and puts us on His shoulders where we can see things clearer.  We just have to get to the point when we acknowledge that we can’t take another step on our own.

For me, I struggle frequently with anxiety and worry.  As the single mom, young widow and only financial provider, I worry about how I can raise my child so that she has what she needs.  My shoulders weren’t as strong as her daddy’s shoulders.  I can’t raise her above the crowds when they close in on us.  Now I know the reality is that she is a teenager and won’t literally be on my shoulders.  Metaphorically speaking, those thoughts are still there.  I carry so many burdens upon my shoulders and I have to constantly remind myself that God already carries me and every single thing.  All He asks me to do is to put my arms up to Him.  I can’t do it on my own.  The burdens might not go away and the world is going to keep having problems but when I know that I can ask God to help me, He will give me the rest I need to ease the weight on my shoulders.

“May the beloved of the LORD dwell in security by Him, Who shields him all the day, And he dwells between His shoulders.” Deuteronomy 33:12

“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.”  Matthew 11:28

Polaris – Always a Constant

Polaris is more commonly known as the North Star.  It remains almost motionless over time as other stars in the sky seem to rotate around it.  The star is very helpful because it has been used as navigation for ships and travelers.  Find Polaris and you can navigate your way.  It is a constant.  I have never been successful at finding other constellations but I can always find the big dipper and this bright star.

In the same way, Jesus remains constant in our lives.  Colossians 1:16 says, “For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities — all things were created through him and for him.”  He has always been there and always will be there.  Malachi 3:6 says, “I am the Lord, and I do not change.”

Last summer, we were in New Mexico and had the opportunity to camp out on a sailboat for a few days.  Every night we would lay on the boat deck and look up at the numerous stars.  We would watch for shooting stars and sometimes see a satellite that was flashing by.  It was a peaceful time because it reminded me that God knows every single star in the sky just like He knows us and yet, He still provides us with the constant, unchanging star to guide our way.

Even in the midst of life struggles and times when you don’t know if you can deal with the changes that are happening, we can be assured that God doesn’t change in His compassion for us.  He is always there, always constant — just like that star in the sky.  Look up, see the bright star shining down on you.

Father’s Day – A New Look

Father’s Day used to be a day when I honored and remembered my father.  Then he passed away the day after Father’s Day in 2001 and it became a difficult holiday.  Two years later, I was able to celebrate my husband being a father and the years of creating fun gifts for him from our daughter began.  Since he passed away in 2015, it now is a holiday that just floats and I don’t know what to do with it.  I still honor both in my memories and am thankful for the time I had with them.  There are lots of other men that I know that show great examples of what it means to be a father and a man of God.  Some of those I secretly adopt in my heart as a father figure and grandfather figure for my daughter.  They may or may not know it, but that’s okay.

I ran across this poem from Maya Angelou, a woman of great writing and wisdom.  It reminded me of those in my life who have passed on.  They were a great tree, rooted in faith.  Although their life is no longer growing with us, they have still made the impact in people’s lives and leave roots for us all to continue growing.  As you read the poem, think about someone in your life who was that “great tree” and live your life in such a way that you can be that for someone else.

When Great Trees Fall
by Maya Angelou

When great trees fall, rocks on distant hills shudder,
lions hunker down in tall grasses, and even elephants
lumber after safety.

When great trees fall in forests,
small things recoil into silence,
their senses eroded beyond fear.

When great souls die, the air around us becomes light, rare, sterile.
We breathe, briefly.  Our eyes, briefly, see with a hurtful clarity.
Our memory, suddenly sharpened, examines, gnaws on kind words unsaid,
promised walks never taken.

Great souls die and our reality, bound to them, takes leave of us.
Our souls, dependent upon their nurture, now shrink, wizened.
Our minds, formed and informed by their radiance, fall away.
We are not so much maddened as reduced to the unutterable ignorance
of dark, cold caves.

And when great souls die, after a period peace blooms, slowly and always irregularly.  Spaces fill with a kind of soothing electric vibration.
Our senses, restored, never to be the same, whisper to us.
They existed.  They existed. We can be.  Be and be better.  For they existed.

Learn and Do the Impossible

This Spring we have had at least three nests in areas of our front yard.  Two were in trees and one is on the eaves of the garage.  The nest pictured was out of my visual realm because I am not one with super long legs.  Okay, I am short.  I used the video on my phone and lifted it above the nest to observe the changes that were taking place each week as the mama bird flew to get food.  Imagine my surprise when I saw this little birdie, mouth wide open, just waiting for some food.  The old cliche “Early bird gets the worm” rings true as his siblings are still in the egg.

I would like to think that I am like this little bird in the way that I approach learning.  I love to learn!  I love to take in anything that I can to keep my mind sharp and also fill it with new things.  Recently, I started to learn spanish on a popular phone app.  It may not be formal learning but I am learning basic Spanish words, phrases and sentences.  Yo como manzanas ~ I eat apples.  While I may never actually use it, it is still fun to learn.

In the same way that I love to learn new things, I also love to share with others in the way that might help someone be a better person.  We all have a new day in front of us, full of possibility — with God, maybe an impossibility too.  In Luke 1:37, it says, “Nothing is impossible with God.”  It is always possible to learn something new, no matter what our age.  We also need to share our knowledge with others.  We need to be like this little bird, waiting in the nest for some nourishment.  When we are nourished, we will grow and be able to fly out of the nest, out of our comfort zones, and help others know that God makes all things possible.  ¡Aprende algo nuevo!  Learn something new!

Have you filled a bucket today?

Everyone is created by God and God looks at us as a treasure.  It is how we live our lives that determine if we are a treasure to others.  Are we consistently lifting others up by encouraging them and being compassionate?  Do we genuinely care what is going on in someone else’s life whether it is good or bad?  Do we just stay wrapped up in our own little world thinking that everyone is against us or that no one else cares?  These things can determine if we are being a treasure to others.

Have You Filled a Bucket Today?: A Guide to Daily Happiness for KidsThere is a book that was popular a few years ago and circulated through elementary schools.  It encouraged people to think of others first and was about teaching others about bullying, name calling and put downs.  It also promoted environments to be respectful and encouraging.  I have seen it in action and it is amazing what it brings to your mind to help you remember.   The book is called “Have You Filled A Bucket Today?”

The main premise of the book is that we all have this invisible bucket and when we do kind things for others such as saying something nice, helping others, or giving a hug — we fill their buckets and we fill ours at the same time. When we are unkind to people like calling them names, being a bully, degrading their character — we dip into their bucket and our own. The fuller your bucket is, the happier you are, so the idea is to keep your bucket full through kind deeds as much as possible.

This not only applies to children but to adults also.  It is so important that we show the examples to our children.  I see so many children that are so full of attitudes and not encouraging one another.  Sometimes you only have to look at the parents or the home life.  Some don’t have the home life that will encourage them.   As parents and adults, we need to lead by example making sure that we are forming the next generation to love and encourage each other.  It is important for us to be a generation that is not only creating heart treasures with the younger generation but also preparing them to have warm hearts for the future.

Be a rosebud among the thorns…

In the past couple weeks, my rose bush has exploded.  It needed a trim, but I didn’t want to trim it until the buds bloomed.  With the cold snap, the bloom process slowed down.  With all the rain, it has grown so much that I think it might try to come in my front door.  A rose bush is such a beautiful thing.  The blooms are so pretty but if you reach inside, you may get stuck with the thorns. My rose bush is taking over my entryway and needs to be cut back to allow for easier access to my front door and so that it doesn’t reach out and grab me every time I walk by.  I know that it will also bloom much more after a proper trim.  It made me think about how this applies to our life.

We all know people who may seem beautiful in some circles but we know them as a thorn who is always ready to stick someone with negativity.  In my experiences with these kind of people, it is hard to look past their thorny presence but God tells us in Matthew 5:16 that we should be a shining light to others.  We should be more like the rose and less like the thorn.  So how do we handle thorny people and allow ourselves to be healthy bloomers?

  1. We must recognize whether we are a rosebud or a thorn. Are you positively blooming in your circle of the garden?  Is your life representing the beauty of Christ or are you predominately a negative person which could be a thorn to someone else?  Without Christ in our daily lives, we can tend to be the thorn.  Pray each day that God would help you to be a beautiful rose so that people would see love and kindness instead of a thorn that would cut and bring others down.
  2. Maybe you are that small rosebud that is trying to bloom but you are always amongst thorns. Do you just immediately cut them all back and cut them out of your life?  No, you wouldn’t trim every branch from a rose bush or there would be nothing left to bloom.  The thorns protect the buds from animals that might just eat them.  When we experience thorny people, we still must bloom in a way that shows them Christ.  Negative people will try to overtake us but we must show them that the beauty of Christ is stronger than any negative person or action.
  3. Sometimes it is necessary to prune the parts of our lives that are out of control. If we are constantly among thorns, we need to get to a place where we are among more blooms so that we can multiply the beauty.  Negative people can bring you down and cause you to become more like them.  Soon you will go from being the rose to being the thorn.  When we prune some of that out of our lives, we will be more fruitful and a stronger witness for God.

The rose bush is a strong plant.  It can grow easily and doesn’t require much attention once it gets firmly rooted.  Our strength can show when we are firmly planted in God’s word, fellowship with others and showered with prayer by others and for others.  For people to see you as that beautiful rose bud, you must remember that your actions speak louder than words.  Steer clear of gossip, bad language and negative attitudes.  Remember that kindness counts in everything that you do.

Be the rose, not the thorn.

All trimmed and beautiful–ready to continue to bloom!