Friday, February 20, 2015

God, Teach Me How to Wonder

As I opened my devotional guide this morning, I found myself playing catch-up. This week had finally brought winter to our area. Ice, snow and record low temperatures had caused a temporary pause in our normal daily routines, slowing us down, with our thoughts turning to taking care of our family's basic needs of surviving with possible power outages, road safety, staying warm and having enough food and household supplies.

The change in the weather at the beginning of the week turned my focus to the beauty of a snow covered ground, icicles hanging from the edges of the house, trees, left bare by the autumn winds now covered in shimmering ice crystals, a frozen pond....the wonder of it all! Trying to capture this amazing handiwork of God through the eye of a camera always leaves me disappointed, but maybe, just maybe....
we were created to only capture His true wonderment though the eyes of our soul.

Last Monday's lesson title "The Beauty of Wonder" seemed so appropriate as I reflected on the past week.
Often, we go at such a pace, we forget to stop and look at the world around us.......we forget to wonder. "Taking time to stop and wonder at something, to really look at it---it's like tuning into the music that the world is making, the music that God is making through the world."

Over the past year, after retiring from a fast paced work life, I have had the time to slow down and really enjoy the beauty of the seasons in my own back yard.

I have been amazed at the peace and tranquility of spending a early spring morning listening to the birds singing their songs of praise of the brand new day

or enjoying a good book sitting beside the calm waters of our picturesque summer pond. 

Capturing the perfect angle of the old farm gate and the landscape beyond,

 the colors in the wardrobe of the beautiful autumn trees reflecting on the pond

or the first flakes of a winter snow have truly
created a soul-appreciation of wonder in me.

I am also aware that even in a
broken world, God has filled
it with so much beauty and goodness.

Wonder is paying attention, paying attention to the beauty that surrounds us....even snow days are thrown into the middle of a busy schedule to cause us to stop and wonder, to make memories with our children or grand children, to remind us of the comfort of a soft blanket and a cup of hot cocoa in front of a warm fireplace......"we must not become so busy that we lose our sense of wonder. Wonder, listen to the music that God is making in His world."

"This little interruption will soon be a memory as the south awakens from it's brief winter slumber and green grass pushes through the dried dead stalks of last season, green leaves bursts out of their buds, new life spurts up from the frozen ground followed by beautiful spring flowers......such a beautiful show of the wonders of God".

The Psalmist says it best

"You visit the earth and water it, you greatly enrich it. The river of God is filled with water;You provide their grain; for so you have prepared it. You water it's ridges abundantly, You settle its furrows, You make it soft with showers, You bless its growth. You crown the year with Your goodness and Your paths drip with abundance. They drop on the pastures of the wilderness and the little hills rejoice on every side. The pastures are clothed with flocks, the valleys also are covered with grain. They shout for joy, they also sign." Psalm 65:9-13

Let me always keep the sense of  wonder Lord, teach me how to stand in awe of You~~~~

This is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it. (Psalm 118:24)

" Journey, a woman's guide to intimacy with God."

Monday, October 20, 2014

Where The Journey Leads

"I don't mean to say I am perfect. I haven't learned all I should even yet, but I keep working toward that day when I will finally be all that Christ saved me for and wants me to be. No, dear brothers, I am still not all I should be, but I am bringing all my energies to bear on one thing: forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead. I strain to reach the end of the race and receive the prize for which God is calling us up to heaven because of what Christ Jesus did for us". Philippians 3:12-14 (The Living Bible) 

When she pulled off the fast-paced highway of the working world in the middle of winter, she had no idea how different the pace on the country road would be. The cold January mornings found her snuggled under a blanket in front of the fireplace with a warm cup of tea while former co-workers made their way to the workplace on icy, dark roads. She felt blessed and privileged that her corporate working days were finally over. Waking to the sunrise instead of the alarm clock soon became a passion and drifting through the day without a schedule gave her wings of freedom.

As winter turned into spring, the feeling of freedom and a care-free summer ahead was exciting. Vacations to the beach or spending time with family and friends without consulting someone else’s timeline had been something she had given up many years ago when entering the working world.

“Come on over to my yard
 Sit around
 Let your troubles all disappear
 Come on over to my yard
‘Cause right now Heaven’s right here”  (Jeb Loy Nichols “Heaven’s Right Here”)

An so it was, mornings spent in her garden, surrounded by God’s feathered choir and the sun beckoning her to enjoy this moment she had earned….

The giddy feelings of freedom were refreshing during those first few months, but the giddiness, it seems, is wearing off. Frankly, the increasing feelings of freedom are somewhat overshadowed by the feeling of being completely trapped; trapped somewhere between what was and what is to come.

Not long ago Mondays were to be dreaded and faced with blinding determination to get past the start of the work week. Tuesdays were a little better, like the second sip of something bitter…it went down a little easier.  Wednesdays were the half-way mark of the fast paced race to make it to the finish line. Thursdays were the big push to get it all done so Fridays could be glided through with ease into the freedom of the long awaited weekend that would, no doubt go faster than the speed of light right back into someone else’s timeline. 

Days now come and go without the speed and stress of a few short months ago and are often undefined by any particular activities. Finding joy in this new found freedom is fleeting and finding a level of discipline to this new pace seems just a bit out of reach.  In a season of discontent, she finds herself in the spin cycle of change, searching for something to hold on to…. a passion……a purpose.

When it’s time for a change, you can feel it in your bones, and there’s nothing like that feeling – the feeling of chasing something new. Excited, anxious, happy…maybe even a little scared…but those feelings drive us towards the starting line of something fresh. There comes a time when we want something more, and there comes a time when we need something more. It can build up slowly, or catch you by surprise. Either way, you know it’s time to skip to the next scene, press play, and let the magic of the unknown excite you. (Author unknown)

Friday, February 28, 2014

Too Late in Life

" one day you will wake up and find there won't be anymore time to do the things you always wanted to it now".
Paulo Coelho

I watched the shadows of 80 plus years pass over her well worn face as Mary spoke of dreams left unfulfilled. Her voice was shaky and trembling hands caressed her prize possessions as she told of her dream to own a shop to display all her antiques and music artifacts. Would there have ever been a price tag that would actually give her reason to relinquish even one of the treasures she held dear to her heart? The world will probably never know, as the dreaded disease of the elderly slowly takes over, but in that moment in time as Mary's eyes revealed the depths of her soul and she uttered the words, "it's a little late in life to think about that now", time stopped and my mind raced......

I know I am not promised anything beyond this very moment, yet I am always looking ahead, dreaming that next dream and touching that next life. As my thoughts raced to the journey I had just begun, I couldn't image not fulfilling the dream of running my own business; a business that could touch and change so many lives.

I truly believe each of us is born with a purpose in life. Max Lucado tells us in his book, "The Cure For the Common Life", we are born pre-packed. When God formed us, He looked at our entire life, determined our assignment and gave us the tools to fulfill that purpose. It is our job to unpack our tool bag and use the tools (skills) specifically assigned to us. Many times we go through life trying to use the tools from someone else's bag and we find ourselves discouraged, hopeless and unfulfilled. We race through each day complaining, frustrated, and stressed out trying to meet their expectations, never finding that "sweet spot" God intended for us.  In finding our sweet spot.....our uniqueness that comes when our successes and our passions intersect.....we find joy and contentment in what we do and without a doubt, it has nothing to do with money or self recognition. God packed us with special tools so we can make him known (1 Peter 4:10-11) and to serve others (1 Cor. 12:7).

I think about the lives I have touched and those who have touched mine in the past and know it has prepared me to relate and give to many more in the future with what God packed in my tool bag; encouragement, confidence building and now, the opportunity for financial change.

We drove away that afternoon as Mary stood in front of her home where she felt secure and at peace with her surroundings, waving goodbye. I have only known her in her later years, but at that moment I knew there stood a woman who had lived her life looking back, holding on to the past and dreaming dreams she would never realize and my heart cried for her loss.

(Psalm 33:13, 15) The Lord looks from Heaven; He sees all the sons of men......he fashions their hearts individually; He considers all their works.


Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Finding the Better Part

It's Monday and for the first time in more than 37 years, I'm not headed out the door to face the challenges of a corporate work day. If fact, I have just returned from a wonderful, exciting, fun-filled weekend with over 6000 friends and business partners who are either doing what I'm doing this morning or working their way to doing what I'm doing......working from home, being my own boss, setting my own schedule and running my own business! As I begin my day and I find myself searching for that "quiet time" to read scriptures, to meditate and find that something.......that quiet voice to feed and nurture my soul and spirit, I pick up one of my favorite books, "Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World" by Joanna Weaver. This book has helped me through some rough spots during the last few years of being a "Martha" as I tried to juggle the stress and tension of a hectic, time-consuming work schedule, build a future home based business and make time for home and family. The order in which I list these activities are sadly, the order in which they have dominated my life; being a Martha and longing for the chance to just be a Mary sometimes.

In the story found in Luke 10:38-42, Jesus and his disciples came to town and a woman named Martha opened her home to them. Her sister Mary sat at Jesus' feet listening to what He had to say instead of busying herself in the kitchen with Martha. Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made and got ticked at her sister for not helping, so she went to Jesus and asked, "Lord, don't you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!" Jesus politely said "Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better and it will not be taken from her." 
For so many years, I have reflected Martha in my day to day life with long, stress- filled work days. 
January 2014 is the beginning of a new segment in my life. I am still a Martha, but my time is my own and Mary will be more visible as I schedule each day on my new journey, seeking the better part in each of them. 

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Life After The Harvest

As I sit looking over the breathtaking view of the mid-morning farm, the bright blue sky and the sound of the waterfall in the pond, I am in awe of how quickly autumn is fading. The beautiful crimson and gold that adorned the trees only a couple of weeks ago are quickly turning to darker shades of brown. I can't help but think how this transition only parallels to how quickly change will come in the next few weeks.

I know he will be fine and is ready to step into his own greatness, after all, that is what we have been preparing him for the last 19 years. I am so proud yet at the same time, melancholy.....just as he brought change to my life 20 years ago, he will change my life once again.
Autumn; a time to harvest, to assess how well the growing season produced, a  time to put away the tools used to work hard during the growing season and a time to look at the bountiful fruits that  have been produced....I would say the fruits of our harvest have been exceptionally good.................


Fast forward a few short weeks........

November 2012 ………2012? Where has the time gone? I’m sure if I sit here and travel in reverse in my mind, I will find most of the years, months, weeks, days, hours, minutes and  seconds that have slipped by while I was busy living my life.  It is also possible that more of those precious moments of time were wasted or idled away than I would want to admit.

Today marks the beginning of the final week of my role as “mom” as it has been for the last 39 years, as I prepare to release my baby boy into the world to make a life of his own. Mixed emotions surround me as I prepare for the adjustment of an empty house, the absence of piles of dirty laundry and dirty dishes in the sink, not to mention the clean laundry that never makes it to the drawer.

Some of the other things I will have to adjust to is not hearing him ask if I worked out or ran on the treadmill today? It seems that at the ripe old age of 19, he has become concerned about my health and wants me to take care of myself. For that I am grateful and grateful that all those years of teaching him to eat right, insisting he take just 2 bites of food he thought was yucky and only allowing him a “sweet treat” when he had a “happy plate” at dinner time, is paying off. Not only is he concerned for my health, he is very conscious of the need to keep himself healthy. The days of the     ”Blue Moon” cabinet are long gone, but the lessons taught will live on!

As I began to write, I wasn’t sure what direction my thoughts would take me……. would I pour out my fears of what might be beyond the doors of the home he had grown up in or would my tears blur the words I wrote as I thought about the loss of the last child that depended on me for unconditional love or would my words be filled with doubt that he was ready to face the future without his mom? 

Since I know he would not want me to mention any of that mushy mom stuff, I will focus on the fact that since the day he was born, I have prepared for this day. The day he would be able to step out into the world a man, ready to take care of himself; to be able to make decisions and learn from them if they were the wrong ones; to be respectful and courteous to others, but not let others take advantage of him; to know I was always there and ready to support him and supply him with the things he needed and most of the things he wanted. Some of the things I wanted for him were not things he wanted and that’s ok; it taught him to make decisions for himself and taught me he was a person with thoughts and ideas that were different from mine.  I have learned so much from him, things I wish I had known while raising his older brothers, like not taking the crazy stuff boys do so seriously, that they grow up to be responsible no matter how much you worry, scold and fret. I am also secure in the fact that when I am no longer watching over him, he will still have his Heavenly Father to walk by his side, watch over him and supply his needs and I am secure in the fact that he knows his Heavenly Father as well.  

I am thankful for a son, that has been such a joy to parents that were looking forward to watching their teenage children grow into adults 20 years ago, hoping to make it through the difficulties of their teen years and come though on the other side as survivors. But, they found that God was not ready to let them off that easy. I am thankful for a son who made it easy on his parents by breezing through his teenage years without the difficulty that they could have faced, because they would not have had the energy to deal with it! I am thankful for the opportunity to not only teach him the things moms teach their children on a daily basis, preparing them for life, but the opportunity to be a part of his education to prepare him for life in the work world. Homeschooling gives parents insight to their child that they would otherwise miss. So, I am truly thankful he wanted to be educated at home during his high school years, giving his parents those years to learn about who he really is.

So will turning my son over to the USAF be difficult? Will I mourn the loss of my last child..... leaving me to adjust to another life time? No way!!! I will pray for those who will now take on the responsibility, I will watch in anticipation as he takes his place in the world he is walking in to, and I will rejoice in the fact that my job is over and that I am free to ask, “What’s Next”?


Friday, October 12, 2012

Season of Change In Paris (Landing)

October..... such a  fascinating month! With the arrival of October, summer finally comes to an end, nature sheds its bright green foliage and begins to dress up in colorful shades of red, yellow and orange, the mornings  become cool and crisp, the haze of humidity gives way to bright blue skies and the Branches Sunday School ladies retreat to a secluded hideaway weekend in the mist of God's colorful Autumn Handiwork........

This marked the 4th Annual Ladies Retreat and just as in years past, this excited group make our way from different directions, from home, from work, from Dickson, from Nashville, from Clarksville......the direction we come from is not as important as the direction we are going because we have waited a year to come together again.

Laughter is on the menu as we gather around the table to share the evening meal. Soon the laughter turns to howls, leaving our faces sore and making it hard to maintain a proper posture while holding our sides. Updates on family and friends and the latest happenings in the world around us become standup comedy routines.

The regular routine of game night is replaced by the sharing of a simple story of a New Year's dream of restoring the love and passion for the things God has been so gracious with and seeing those dreams becoming a reality by His Grace. Sharing is what  "sisters" do best, without judging  and with confidence in the fact that what happens at Paris Landing stays at Paris Landing and in our hearts. From serious to hilarious, the bond between us is strengthen and with giggles and yawns, bedtime arrives well after midnight as the sound of the cool fall rain on the roof sings us to sleep.

Morning arrives on golden sunbeams streaming through the wall of windows that open to the deck. The air has taken on the freshness and crispness of fall after the rain of the night before. No one is in a hurry as we take turns with our morning routines, getting ready to meet the day. Breakfast is delayed as we wait for the arrival of one of our own who has had a minor travel setback. But soon she arrives with yummy bagels in tow and once again  we gather around the table, feeling blessed by God's goodness that protects us and sustains us.  The change in temperature has brought another change in the regular routine and the annual walk is set aside as we settle back and discover our true colors. It is amazing how discovering little things about yourself puts other things in prospective.

          With new found aspects of our character, we pile in and head out for the shoe store!

With bargain finds tucked away, the prospect of a different kind of treat for next year is researched and a spa holiday begins to formulate. Breaking tradition again, we make our way to an Octoberfest at a nearby church. Browsing the booths and attractions, the aroma of the grilled delicacies appeal to our palettes and we break for lunch. Before leaving, the bake sale beckons us and we zero in on a scrumptious pan of Brownies with Mocha Frosting......mmmmm, shoe shopping and chocolate; two main passions of the American woman!

Then it is on to the book store that has a sale just for us!......well, it might just be the sale is an annual event at the same time as our annual event, but it does make us feel special and we always take advantage of our special sale, each clutching our precious Bibles, books and gifts as we exit, followed by  warm goodbys from the owner and staff, inviting us back again next year.

Finally arriving back at the Chalet, we now refer to as home, it's "shoes on the runway" as shoes are modeled and admired by all.

Dinner on our last night together consisted of a delicious and healthy salad bar and then we start digging into that pan of Chocolate Guilt. With every bite, the sound of pure pleasure can be heard and feeling guilty was not on anybody's mind. Maybe the guilt will surface next week when we have trouble with our clothes being a little snug, afterall, we did ditch the morning walk!!!
With the fireplace giving us a warm and cozy feeling and the temperture outside becoming chilled, we settle in for a relaxing evening where topics vary from present relatives that connects us to long ago discoveries on our family tree.

As the late night eventually turns into early morning, we rise and begin to pack for the trip back to our prespective homes. Sitting around the table once again for our final meal together, we each take turns with our own contribution to our devotion time. It is amazing how each of us can share something different and it all falls together like a puzzle to make an impression we can take home with us.
The clock has no mercy on us as we wanted to linger, so with our final goodbys, the weekend was over, leaving us to dream about 12 months in the future when we would do it all over again........

Thank you Lord for Friendship and Laughter

Saturday, January 14, 2012

January.........The Beginning

January 2012......Mama had a birthday this month and if she were still here on earth, she would have been 76 years old. I want to dedicate the first month of the new year to my mama and to my sisters.....just as we look to the new year as a new beginning, we are thankful to our heavenly Father for giving us our own beginning with a mother who always put her girls first and opened her heart to everyone God put in her life.........

Mama would be so surprised we have made it to the year 2012! She was so certain the world would end and we would all be home in heaven before we saw the beginning of another century. Well, the world still stands, but she couldn't wait around any longer and went to be with our Lord in 1997.

Well, Mama, if you are watching from that little "Cabin in the Corner of Glory Land" you always sang about, you know we still miss you and carry your memories in our heart. And if I were guessing, God had something greater for you than a little cabin......He was, no doubt,  waiting to welcome you into your "Stately Mansion" that you now share with our  sweet daddy.

Mama, Dessie Mai Spears, was born on January 8, 1936,  the 4th child and 3rd daughter to Grady and America Spears.  She grew up in a large family of 11 children but her oldest brother died at the age of 12, so she barely remembered him.
I remember growing up and visiting my grand parents on Sunday and seeing all my cousins, aunts and uncles. In a book I have started and hope to finish one day, I recall those Sundays at Mama and Papa Spears' house.

"Sunday at Mama and Papa’s was a treat. My sisters and I got to play with a whole different set of cousins. Mama came from a large family of 10 children. Actually, there had been another sibling, the oldest boy who had died at the age of 12 with appendicitis. Mama had 3 brothers and 6 sisters; she was the 3rd from the oldest living children. In the early years, mama and her 2 older sisters were the only ones with children but slowly the family grew…. 
Going to Mama and Papa’s was the highlight for our mama after a long week; this was an event we all got dressed up for. Mama would dress her girls in little hand-made dresses she had proudly sown or altered from hand-me-downs. Thinking back to those days, I can imagine the excitement  mama must have felt getting ready to go home and visit her family. She was such a young girl at the time, married and already a mom. My memories are vivid when there was only my baby sister and me. Mama was about 20 years old at the time and she was raising a family among her "new family" who were practically strangers; how exciting it was to go home and visit with her mother and sisters. The laughter would echo from the kitchen as they prepared the Sunday meal. When the meal was ready, the men always ate first.  When they were finished, the dishes were washed and dried, then the table was set for the women to gather and eat. When they finished their meal, the dishes were washed again and the children finally were called to the table. There was always enough food for everyone, but occasionally all that was left of the fried chicken were backs and wings. Mama later told her girls she didn’t like making the children wait ‘til last’ and that is why at our mama’s house, the children were always served first." 


It is hard to imagine Mama as a child and young girl. but pictures tell the story when we are not there to see for ourselves. 



Mama was sweet 16 and  daddy was 26 when they fell in love and got married. It was not uncommon at that time for girls to marry early and they usually married older men.  We grew up listening to the stories mama told us about how they had meet and married.

                      Happy Birthday Mama......... it doesn't manner how many years go by, you will always be forever young in our hearts. The lives of your children and your grandchildren are so much richer by having you as the beginning of who we were, who we  are and who we will become.