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Changing Valentine

This has always been a special time of year for me.  I look forward to the flowers, gifts, dinner, and all the celebrations of the day.  Now, since my beloved has gone to be with the Lord, Valentine’s Day has changed.

Strangely, I am saddened as well as comforted.  My heart goes back to last year’s Valentine’s day as my husband and I attended a funeral in Tampa. Our friend died suddenly, and the circle of family and friends was in deep pain.  We had just been told of Richard’s illness, and were struggling with our own emotions as we tried to comfort our friends.

After the funeral we did our usual Valentine’s ritual. We went shopping for my gift and to dinner.  Years ago, it was agreed between us that the best approach to gift selection for me was to allow me to pick it out and Richard to pay. This way everybody was happy. We went to a nice mall in Tampa.  Richard sat at the counter while I tried on various rather pricey perfumes.  When I made my selection, the sales associate asked if he was paying, and he cheerfully replied, “but of course!”  He looked at the credit card slip and asked it that was all.  I confirmed that it was. Later, at dinner, we talked about the sudden death of our friend and the beauty of her life.  We did not speak of his own battle. Valentine’s Day was changing.

IMG_2315As with all holidays, I decorate my front door.  This holiday it is filled with red hearts.  I think it is rather pretty.  The red hearts are so deep and rich in color. Have you ever wondered why red is the prevailing color for Valentine’s day? When I returned home on Sunday after participating in the communion service, the red hearts reminded me of how we celebrated the power of the blood.

I said earlier that I am comforted during my first Valentine’s Day without my husband.  It is because I know that though Valentine’s Day is changing for me, God’s love will never change. He has assured me and the whole world that He loves us with an everlasting love. Many of us are faced with changing situations because of death, illness, disaster, and countless other reasons.  But we do not lose heart.  Our eternal love is sure.

For God so loved the world that we gave His only begotten son.

“We love because, He first loved us.”  Happy and joyous Valentine’s Day!

 

Velveeta Really?

In the past few months, I have become interested in baking.  Primarily, because our family wished to reconstruct our mother’s recipes.  She was an excellent cook.  One of her sure fire hits was mac and cheese.  Well you know that mac and cheese is just about a cult happening in its self.  So, I  did some research during the holidays into good mac and cheese recipes,  Several of them used Velveeta. As the holidays unfolded, and I attended family gatherings, mac and cheese was almost never omitted from the bill of faire.

At one particular gathering, the conversation turned to mac and cheese and the fact that many restaurants were including it, even making a mac and cheese hamburger! As we dug into the dish provided at this event everyone weighed in about how great it was and discussed the possible combinations of cheeses and spices used. Well, true novice as I was, I asked if anyone used Velveeta. Two of my family members looked at me in sheer disdain, and pronounced that they used a combination of real cheeses.  I felt like a defendant in the court of Judge Judy with Martha Stewart as the the bailiff.

Many days after this encounter, I was searching the “fridge” and came across a box of Velveeta.  My mind went back to the mac and cheese episode. Upon examining the ingredients, it was clear why these ladies dismissed my question about Veleetta.  Velveeta is not real cheese.  Now, I have to say, the recipes for mac and cheese using Velveeta are much easier than the ones using  real cheese combinations, and the preparation time is more shorter. Is the taste that different?  Can the ordinary person really tell the difference? Does it really matter that much?

Of course, my mind took me to the question of the real deal in my christian life. My answer may  lie in this analogy. A genuine christian life requires time in preparation, study, meditation, and sacrifice.  Or, we can take some short cuts and create some very convincing looking christian lives. But upon close examination, do we stand up? Does it matter that much? Can anyone really tell the difference?

God can.

Velveeta, Really?

 

 

 

 

“I woke up like this!”

There is so much attention on physical appearance, beauty, and glamor these days. Especially in the rich and famous circles.  Just recently, I recall a lot of media frenzy surrounding Tina Knowles, and Kris Kardashian.  Both these women are famous beauties of famous beautiful daughters.  First, Kris Kardashian posted a picture of herself that defied the reality of her age rendering many  people in awe and envy.  Then shortly afterwards, Tina Knowles posted a picture of herself just waking up. She was beautiful. Her caption read,”I woke up like this.”  Well, that did it.  This woman was just naturally beautiful. No contest.

So what?..you may ask. As an aging woman myself, I tend to try  to take particular care to look my best.  Exercise, rest, physical care and the other regiments women take.  Tina’s post hit a cord.  Perhaps, mother nature and father time have already posted the ultimate message.  You either have it or you don’t.  Vanity, thy name is woman!

Of course, all this took far too much of my time and energy. I had to examine my focus on wellbeing, health, and priority. Upon  reflection of the awesome lesson from  Lamentations 3:21-23, I came to this conclusion:

Waking up  is a blessing. Just the new mercy of another day is a blessing.  Each day holds possibilities for love, friendship, and joy.  So, my post to Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram is that I woke up like this:

“With my hands lifted up and my heart filled with praise!”

praise1

Brilliance!

Brilliance!

So it is a new year, and we are making resolutions, going on diets, starting exercise routines, cleaning out our closets, and becoming more reflective. Again!

Perhaps you will consider an alternative approach to this beautiful, promising, exciting new year.Let’s make the year brilliant.  You know what brilliance looks like.  Its exciting and shinning. It removes the dullness of the moment and invites the possibilites of everything.  Each time you find yourself in a place of lack of  brilliance, focus on remembering extraordinary acts of love and kindness.Those special times when your heart was overcome with warmth, and you knew without a doubt you were cherished.  Nothing can deminish that feeling.  It is pure brilliance.

 One of my favorite memories took place on a cold winter night in Georgia about thirty years ago,  Our family had just moved to the sub-burbs of Atlanta when an unexpected winter storm crippled the city. My hushband, Richard, made it home before the worst of the storm, secured our children,and waited for me to make it home.  I got as far as I could by car and was forced to join about twenty other people to walk home in the ice and snow with no coat and very pretty, but inadequate, shoes. Remember, it was an unexpected storm..the kind that loves to visit Georgia.

 I managed to get a message to Richard that I had to abandon the car and was walking home.  During these times, cell phones were not common.  Our sub-division was new and further away than  the homes of my walking companions.  Eventually, I was all alone in the falling snow.  As I walked along, slow but certain panic gripped me as it became darker and more strange sounds emitted from the surrounding woods.  Suddenly, I saw an image in the distance that seemed to walk toward me. At first I thought it was just my imagination and fear, but it proved to be a real person getting closer and closer.  My feet were soaked and soggy.  I prepared to run.  Then the voice said, “I thouhgt you would need your boots.” It was my husband, Richard.  He has found his way in the storm to rescue me and walk me safely home.  The feeling of safety and security filled my chilly body and warmed me completly.  We walked home on the most beautiful winter night I can remember.  The sky was clear and the stars were brilliant!

 Let your light so shine that men will know you are a disciple of Christ, the light of the world.

Blessings

This week was very difficult for me. A dear friend, mother, grandmother, sister, aunt, mentor and disciple of Christ died suddenly.  No way was I prepared for the news. Suddenly, she was gone.

Sadness, unbelief, questions, and fear… all wrapped in the reality of another friend’s departure from the world I know. As I reflected on the blessings of having known her and what she meant to so many, I wrestled with how there could possibly be anything to praise God for in this moment of my journey. After all, we are urged to give thanks to God in all things.  We are urged to thank him for each day and to look for the best in each situation.  I could see no good in this situation.

My own immortality loomed in perspective.  I was uncomfortable, uneasy, and apprehensive.  It seemed that so many people I  knew for many years were passing away.  Some that I had prayed for God to heal and leave with us a little longer, and some who died suddenly, yet death came. What was God saying?

Now, you may ask why I titled this piece Blessings. In the process of saying goodbye to a friend, she ministered to me through her life and gifts, and allowed God to bless me with a message so profound that I can not stop praising Him. During the celebration and home going service, a song taught to a child was performed, Blessings.   My friend had taught this song to her grandson, and he sang it for us.

God’s blessings are always present!

Blessings is taken from the CD -Walk With Me by Damaris Carbaugh.

 

A Lesson From My Roses

I recently rekindled a love affair with gardening shortly after my family was relocated to southeastern Alabama.  The area is rural, and the house we live in has wonderful space for growing all kinds of plants.  My first attempts were to grow vegetables in response to a challenge from the presiding bishop of our episcopal district.  Her goal in the project was to help communities become more self-aware and healthy.

Well, true to my “all-in” nature, I went whole hog and fell in love with the earth.  Now beans, tomatoes, and peppers are not that difficult to grow.  So my successes were huge.  But I always wanted to grow roses even though my research made me a bit nervous about growing them.  Roses needed a lot of care, preparation, and a host of other prerequisites.  However, I  plunged on to grow roses.

Needless to say, my reviews were mixed at best.  Roses are indeed particular creatures.  I planted some in various corners, open spaces, and borders of my garden. They responded Ok, but not the spectacular I was seeking.  However, I was determined to continue. The occasional fragrant  trails of the beautiful blooms were enough to give me hope and energy. Well my roses did not seem to respond to my love and attention, but then something very wonderful happened.

As I was clearing away the spent tomato plants and about to store the tomato cages away. I decided to use them in the rose garden.  The cages were very strong, and I had upgraded to some very colorful and tall ones, not the cheap flimsy dull wire kind. The colors of red, lavender, green, yellow, and lime surrounded the roses like colorful fortresses.  The effect was visually attractive, so I left them as added interest in the garden.  My own creation!

After a couple of weeks, I noticed that my roses were growing stronger and fuller.  It was as if the cages provided a guide for the roses even though they did not crowd them in any way.  They reached more securely for the sun and the sky.  Then I looked around the garden at the other roses.  It appeared that the rose bushes that braced against a wall or post column were more vibrant and fragrant.

Well of course, I have a handy bench resting near my roses in the garden that allows me to sit, admire, and reflect.  As I sat thinking about my experience with the tomato cages and the roses, it clicked  that the community of faith should have the same effect on us as believers as the tomato cages had on the roses.  The word of God should be presented as a guide, surrounding its members with strong unwavering principles of truth.  Like the tomato cages, the Word does not force its way but allows us to grow in grace as our hearts are directed and warmed  through moments of trust and dependence.

The community of faith and its influence on us should allow us to  grow, make choices, and still be unyielding in its acceptance of us even when we go astray.  Like my roses surrounded by the protection of the cages, we are protected by the security of God’s word that stays with us and helps us find our way to the Son, to the sky and beyond.

 

 

Try White Vinegar!

Try White Vinegar!
How many times have we heard that? It seems that white vinegar is the answer to any daily household problem.  We are advised to use white vingar to remove spots from clothing; soften our skin; clean our windows; remove orders; and even rid ourselves of pesky ants in the garden.  It seems that we could save tons of money and time by just keeping a supply of white vinegar around and presto….problem solved. No harsh chemicals to spoil the environment  nor our lungs, and no need for numerous products for differing kinds of dilemmas. Just use white vinegar!
Have you ever considered that when you are faced with spiritual, physical,financial, and other delimmas of life there is one remedy that is better than white vinegar or anything we can offer.   It covers any situation and circumstance. It can calm raging waters, heal the soul, and bring hope when it looks like all hope is gone. That remedy is the power of prayer.
Perhaps you are like me and try to tackle the daily bouts of living with all kinds of solutions when the one true solution is simply bowing before the all knowing and loving Creator of the universe…God alminghty.
  • What a friend we have in Jesus,All our sins and griefs to bear!
  • What a privilege to carryEverything to God in prayer!
  • Oh, what peace we often forfeit,
  • Oh, what needless pain we bear,
  • All because we do not carryEverything to God in prayer!
Whatever you are facing today, take this old saying to heart:
“A day hemmed in Prayer rarely unravels”.