Friday, October 17, 2008

Tales Around the Table

Nearly twelve years ago, I, with grateful heart, worked diligently on a cross-stitch piece, trying to have it completed and framed by December 22, 1996. After completing my rather large craft, I, again, with grateful heart, presented the gift to my Mother-in-law for her birthday. It read:

To "His" Mother
'Mother-in-law' they say, and yet,
Somehow I simply can't forget
'Twas you who watched his baby ways
Who taught him his first hymn of praise,
Who smiled on him with living pride
When he first toddled by your side.
'Mother-in-law' but oh, 'twas you
Who taught him to be kind and true,
When he was tired, almost asleep,
'Twas to your arms he used to creep,
And when he bruised his tiny knee,
'Twas you who kissed it tenderly.
'Mother-in-law' they say, and yet,
Somehow I never shall forget
How very much I owe
To you, who taught him how to grow
You trained your son to look above,
You made of him the man I love,
And so I think of that today,
Ah! Then with thankful heart I'll say
"Our Mother."

See, unlike most folks I know, I simply adored both my mother-in-law and father-in-law, the moment I met them. I used to love sitting at their kitchen table and listening to them tell their life stories, including both struggles and blessings; stories from their own childhoods and also from married life together. Many lessons were learned about the secrets of having a successful marriage, and surviving parenthood, while sitting around that table. Lessons about simply enjoying life, no matter what it throws at you. Many laughs were shared, tears shed, and love for one another deepened while converging around that kitchen table. Moments that will live on forever through cherished memories, moments- good and bad, will live forever in the hearts of those blessed enough to gather around that kitchen table.

Recently, I was given my cross-stitched gift back. It was returned to me. It now leans silently against my livingroom wall. And each time I pass by, I thank God for the gift of my mother-in-law.

She was a strong and brave woman; diagnosed with multiple forms of aggressive cancers in late July 2008 and fought a tough battle throughout August and September.

On October 5, 2008, Wilma Anita Lee Strickland, joined her soulmate, Irvin H.B. Strickland, who passed before her on June 30, 1997. Knowing them has enriched my life beyond words, and I know that they smile down upon their family with love.

I miss them both; I miss tales around the table. And I am ever grateful for the wonderful man they have given me to love; my soulmate and best friend. May God bless us with tales of our own to tell as we gather around the table with our own children in the years that lay ahead.

Monday, November 19, 2007

One less window...

By noon today, I had gotten three boys up, showered, fed, and off to school, gone grocery shopping for Thanksgiving stuff, cleaned the kitchen which entailed but was not limited to scrubbing the floor on hands and knees, and scrubbing the oven, as well as several loads of laundry. My legs hurt, my back ached, and my head pounded.

I am always excited about hosting the family Thanksgiving, but this year…

I know that Thursday will be a joyous day filled with love, laughter, and cherished memories, but today I felt stressed, rushed, and less than hospitable.

I was angry with myself for not getting the cleaning done this past weekend. Sunday was spent lying on the couch dozing on and off during the football games because I was sick and not feeling well. And Saturday, well Saturday was interesting to say the least.

Long story short, my dog broke through my front window when my neighbor rang the doorbell to return a pair of pliers she had borrowed the day before. Thank God she was not cut, and the dog was okay. But there was glass everywhere. My brother came over and help my husband get everything cleaned up, the rest of the glass out of the frame, and cut down plywood to put in it’s stead until we can replace the glass. This window is approximately 5 foot high and maybe 1-1/2 to 2 foot wide, and double paned. Don’t even want to think about the cost of replacing it.

Anyway, I decided to take a break from my vigorous cleaning, and stepped outside to sit on the front swing, where I could just sit for a few quiet moments, and try to relax. But as I stepped out my front door, I felt as if I had stepped straight into Alfred Hitchcock The Birds! They were everywhere—on the bushes lining my side yard, on the trees behind my house. It was really awesome. When I stepped into the yard to get a better look, they all took flight. There were so many birds, the sky seemed to turn black. I gazed up into the sky at the amazing spectacle, and was quickly met with the sound of raindrops. ACK!!! It wasn’t raining! I ran to the shelter of my front porch, but not quick enough to avoid the bird poop bomb that hit the back of my hand. YUCK! Better that than my hair, I guess.

I walked back into the house, frustrated…and found the small blessing I’d been looking for. The one that could make me smile despite the events of my day. The one that made my heart change from cleaning out of a grudging obligation to cleaning for the joy of having a house full of family in just a few short days.

Amidst the floor that still needed vacuuming, the shelves that still needed dusting, and the piles of laundry that still needed washing, I rejoiced in the fact that…

I had one less window to clean!!

I actually laughed out loud as the thought hit me!

Seek the small blessings in every situation, and you will always wear a smile.
Don’t get frustrated because you don’t have an umbrella, delight in seeing how big of a splash you can make by jumping in the puddles.

And, to you, my readers, I pray you will find you have one less window to clean.

Friday, November 16, 2007

How many bags can you carry??

I pull in the driveway and heave a big sigh. I mentally prepare myself for the task that lay ahead. Despite the ache in my back and the pain in my legs from pushing the heavy cart through the store and loading the bags into the back of my van, I open the read hatch and begin decorating my arms with plastic bags. When each arm is draped with bags from elbow to wrist, I grab the remaining bags in each hand, leaving only the bulky items behind. Slowly, I waddle my way to the front door, nearly paralyzed by the time I reach it. Very carefully, so as not to drop anything, I bring my foot up and kick at the door. All the while thinking to myself, “He knows I went to the grocery, why doesn’t he ever come out to help me carry things in?”

My unsuspecting husband opens the door and begins relieving me of my burdens.

“Why do you always try to carry everything yourself, at one time?” he asks. “You know I’m here to help you.”

So, as not to hurt his feelings, I reply, “I left the heavy stuff for you. It’s in the back of the van.”

Does anyone else do this, or am I the only one?

For the sake of this blog, let’s change a few things within my story. Let’s change the bags of groceries to fears, worries, or burdens. Starting to sound a little more familiar? And what if we replace my darling husband with our Heavenly Father?

Now, this becomes a story I can really relate to. What about you? So often, I find myself weighted down by worries and fears because I rationalize that ‘this fear’ is silly, or ‘that worry’ is too small, and I should be able to carry it myself—but I leave the ‘heavy stuff’ for God.

I stumble along until I become paralyzed by the stress of it all. And then, unable to move a muscle, I hear God’s quiet voice—

“Why do you always try to carry everything yourself, at one time?” He asks. “You know I’m here.”

Last weekend, I heard a very interesting breakdown of Psalm 27, that I want to remember as I face my fears.

I want to:
Remember my strongest ally
Psalm 27:1 The Lord is my light and my salvation---whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life---of whom shall I be afraid?

I want to:
Visualize the ‘best case’ scenario, and not the ‘worst case’ scenario, and what if’s

Psalm 27:2-3 When evil men advance against me to devour my flesh, when my enemies and my foes attack me, they will stumble and fall. Though an army besiege me, my heart will not fear; though war break out against me, even then will I be confident.

I want to:
Continually return to a place of worship, where I feel safe and protected in God’s embrace

Psalm 27:4-6 One thing I ask of the Lord, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple. For in the day of trouble he will keep me sage in his dwelling; he will hide me in the shelter of his tabernacle and set me high upon a rock. Then my head will be exalted above the enemies who surround me; at his tabernacle will I sacrifice with shouts of joy; I will sing and make music to the Lord.

I want to:
Refocus on seeking God’s face, not his hands and what he can do for me, but I want to gaze upon the face of God, to know he is truly with me
Psalm 27:7-12 Hear my voice when I call, O Lord; be merciful to me and answer me. My heart says of you, “Seek his face!” Your face, Lord, I will seek. Do not hide your face from me, do not turn your servant away in anger; you have been my helper. Do not reject me or forsake me, O God my Savior. Though my father and my mother forsake me, the Lord will receive me. Teach me your way, O Lord; lead me in a straight path because of my oppressors. Do not turn me over to the desire of my foes, for false witnesses rise up against me, breathing out violence.

I want to:
Remind myself of what I already know to be true
God is good
Psalm 27:13 I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living,
Faith must be patient
Psalm 27:14 Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.

I want to…
Stare fear in the eye…and wink
Because God is bigger than any of my worries or fears

I want to…
Laugh in the face of adversity

Because the Lord is my ally and my stronghold

And when I don’t know what the future holds
I want to…
Find comfort in knowing who holds it in the palm of his hands.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Overdraft Protection

(this was actually written a couple days ago, and posted on one of my other blogs, but I thought I would share it here as well)

I've often heard it said that just because someone doesn't love you the way you want them to, doesn't mean that they don't love you with all they have. I've even found myself saying this to my oldest son about his dad. I believe it's meant to be comforting statement. But I often wonder how much damage is done in these situations.
I have read, and believe, that each of us not only has our own love language, but also love accounts. And each person in our lives make daily deposits and withdrawals.
I know that each day I, personally, make withdrawals from my children's accounts. They are still young and don't always appreciate the word, NO…lol However, no matter how upset or disappointed they may get with me, every night they eagerly await for me to tuck them into bed with a big hug and kiss, and our special song. I know in my heart that these precious moments built our love accounts tremendously, so that when I have to make a withdrawal, there is still plenty of love left, keeping the balance in the positive.
So what happens when we spend our energy learning everyone else's love languages and making deposits here and deposits there making certain that we are never overdrawn in any of our accounts, but no one is taking the time to make deposits with us? How long can we continue making deposits to others' accounts when our own accounts are in overdraft? How do we keep ourselves from charging daily overdraft fees so that even the good deeds go unnoticed?
Here's a thought—how overdrawn am I in my account with the Lord?! Ouch!!
But, praise God, that because of His great mercy and grace, I am never overdrawn—my account is wiped clean and renewed daily!!
Forgiveness is the key, I know, but I am a humble human and still struggle.
Psalm 51:10
Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Help me to look to You to fill the accounts where those closest to me are overdrawn, and help me to show your mercy and grace so that I can joyfully waive all the overdraft fees I've been charging lately. Amen

Monday, November 12, 2007

Go ahead and's at my expense

So, there I was, driving down the road, going to my wonderful yearly doctor's appointment. You know the one I'm talking about-where I get to sit naked in a cold room wearing nothing but a paper vest, a paper sheet, and socks--Oh Joy!! I could hardly wait to get there! I had been anticipating it since I walked out of their door last year!

Anyway, due to recent construction developement in the area, and the fact that I hadn't been there in a year, I missed the turn that would lead me to their door. So, I get into the middle (lefthand) turn lane to turn around in another parking lot. Wouldn't you know, I turn into a Shoedinger Funeral Home. The parking lot looked empty as I was first turning in, so I made the complete turn into their lot, only to find a man, very distinguished in his black suit, I might add, waiting patiently for me to stop beside him so he could adorn my van with one of the flags he held in his hand.

So, not only am I rude enough to do a U-turn in the parking lot of a funeral home, I do it when a service is starting--Go Julie!

What was I suppose to do now? Drive by him, circle the parking lot, and leave? I may be rude, but I'm not insensitive!

Now, to fully grasp my predicament, you have to know that I was driving an astro van in which the window switch doesn't work. So, my window is stuck down about 3 inches, and can't be moved either up or down. So, there I was, pressing my face toward the crack in the window, trying humbly to explain that I was not there for the funeral, but I was just turning around because I missed my turn. I could have died--well, at least I was in the right place.

With that embarassment behind me, I walked into the doctor's office to find a new reception staff. They got a good laugh at my expense when they pulled my chart. The only three inch wide green folder on a shelf with neatly filed thin manilla folders. Well, I've been seeing the same doctor for 18 years! I showed those girls, though. When I filled out my 'annual update' paperwork, where it asked for medical history and surgeries, I put in all capital letters:

Later, as I was sitting in the exam room, fashioning my paper vest, that ripped while I was putting it on, and my paper sheet, in walks the doctor. The first words out of his mouth were to tell me what a unique patient I am (due to the size of my chart), and that they like patients like me, and I'm one of his favorite Of course, me being me, I almost blurted out, 'New tactic doc, butter me up before you feel me up' But I've been tormenting this poor man for 18years, and decided to cut him a break today. 'Cause that's just the type of girl I am.

Bottom line-after discussing some issues with him, he wanted to do some blood tests. He's checking my estrogen, hormones, and thyroid. With the symptoms I've been having, I could be in the beginning stages of menopause, or I could possibly have a problem with my thryroid, or it could be nothing and just chalk it up to 'not being as young as I once was' (that sounds better than 'I'm getting old', don't you think?), and I just have to deal with it.

He might as well have said, "Heads I win, tails you lose"

Now, I've got that nervousness that comes with awaiting lab results.