Shine your light in a dark world

While browsing a local retailer in search of Christmas gifts for my family, I overheard one woman tell another woman that this year, she is not going to put up a Christmas tree or decorate for the holidays, even though she has done that for years.

With the world muddling through pandemic fatigue, it has become apparent that although Christmas 2020 saw many people putting up their lights to help brighten the holiday season, 2021 may not see that same kind of celebration.

A quick scroll through social media, and one finds many in similar situations.

And here at 6 a.m. on the first workday of this week, I can honestly say that my own energy is tapped out.

I need another morning to sleep in. Another afternoon nap time.

But I am not alone.

I know that some of my readers are going through countless exhausting, heart wrenching, seemingly impossible situations.

Tired of carrying the load, the light of the Christmas season can seem to be too much to share.

This past weekend, I had the opportunity to attend a lighted holiday boat parade.

There were fewer lights on the shores of the lake to wave in return to the 94 happily decorated floating vessels.

The last time I visited this parade, several people donned wearable holiday lights and waved various lanterns, lighted swords, candy canes and reindeer lights.

This time was markedly different.

The vessels floated by and the crowd was silent.

Truly a silent night, I thought.

Maybe the crowd was in contemplation or deep conversation.

Suddenly, one woman turned on her cell phone flash light and started waving it to those who put so much work into their lighted boats.

It brought to mind a thought, even a challenge for myself that I wanted to share with you.

What can we collectively do to help make this a brighter season for others?

My thought wanders to the proverbial, every day greeting and conversation.

A cheerful hello and “how are you” – while waiting for the response and likewise responding – goes a long way.

Even better, that moment when we see a need and step up to meet it, even if we only have a little to offer can make such a difference.

Light beams a long way into the darkness, even if it is just a little light.

Maybe if we each bring our little light, the little energy, the little smile, the little embrace to this world, good intentions and kindnesses will shine like stars in the sky on the sandy shores below.

Selah. Let the Spirit of the season be strong within you.

Make yourself a priority

Bicycles capture my eye everywhere I go and I would like to think that I am close to the goal of purchasing one and also a hitch for my car to carry it.

Life speeds by sometimes, and a month quickly passes, six months pass, a year, and we find we are no more closer to our goal.

Why?

Everyone needs mentors and friends who feed into their lives. I have been seeking advice on all fronts of my life.

The word is the same from all: I pour into other people (community workers do, so do ministers, teachers, doctors, etc.) and need to frequently .. not just once in a while .. fill my cup.

Long ago, a spiritual mother wrote in my bible that I should fill my cup so I could continuously pour to others.

Rejoining our church choir was one step I took to recharge my spirit.

Anyone who serves can tell you that if you don’t have outlets for your creative energy, or ways to decompress, rest, contemplate and so forth, you will burn out quickly.

Track.

As a kid, I was never a good runner. It hurt to breathe, and now I know that was just the way I was built.

Everyone else could run.

In high school, I was tired of being overweight and bullied, and started “jogging.” Eventually I could jog maybe a quarter mile. A coach at school wanted me to train for cross country.

He liked my pace, and said that with training, I could go far.

I never did.

Presently, I think it would be great if I could work out three times (or more if possible) a week.

End goal: so I will have enough stamina to go on some bike rides. As a kid, I loved to ride my bike everywhere.

The other goal, besides catching up on several holiday gift projects, is to carve out time to finish my books. (Writing them. And then crafting those marketing letters and getting estimates on publishing costs etc.)

My first book, The Brighter Side of A Darker Thing, is sold by WestBow Press and is also on Amazon. It was a self published volume through WestBow, which is connected to Thomas Nelson Publishing Company. My goal was to get that book going, but I have made little effort to do so.

Also a goal.

Recharge. Reflect. Renew. Restart.

Makes sense to me.

And connect with friends whom I dearly love, yet have not spent any time with in a couple (yes, a couple of years).

I feel strengthened and empowered in putting my goals and dreams to words. And as I spoke to one of my friends earlier today, they reminded me that the purpose of my blog is for the sheer enjoyment of writing, and if I have even helped one person, then that is great.

What Is Progress? Pursuit. Part 2

To do. To do. To do again. To begin. To begin. To begin again. And again. New habit formed? Yes? No? Maybe tomorrow?

Planning is a big deal when embarking on a project, a mission, a bucket list event, a large purchase, and so forth.

An achievement is a goal well planned and pursued. 

In the professional world, we have all kinds of planning tools on our various devices. I use all those. But I still use paper.

Whether planners on paper or on devices, somehow we end up with a list.

College professors say there are goal oriented people who can multitask and reach said destination on time, then there are task oriented people who are more suited for the hyperfocal.

All approaches are useful.

In both cases, the common denominator is the pursuit of meeting what is expected.

Pursue. Focus. Move toward. Put some labor to the matter at hand. Make it a point. Etc.

The holidays are almost upon us, and already my calendar is filling up. My goal every year is to find the holy and sacred in every day, every gathering, every place.

I have not mapped out my plan yet. That is part of what I am doing today.

In the midst of work and home, church and family, shopping and cleaning, writing and reading, decorating and cooking, the rush .. will give way to hush once in a while .. usually late at night as the lights on the tree twinkle and my mind does a replay of all I have done and need to do.

And I think of goals and dreams, and how the New Year follows Christmas. What do I want to accomplish?

Professionally, personally, spiritually?

An inventory is necessary. A list will be made.

But no goal is reached until I put my feet to the matter, or mind, or hands to create or type, or resolve that today, not tomorrow, is the day to create my best “now.”

What is progress?

I overheard a conversation one time in which one person said to another person (about who, who knows?) that well, “she must think she is so important she needs a website.”

And I chuckled, as I knew they were not talking about me, since they did not know me. But I seriously wanted to break in on the conversation (strictly taboo, you know, to do something like that lol) and ask why having a website seemed like a big deal to them.

In this day and age, it is strictly a method of communication. And you have the advantage of controlling your content.

I still blog because I enjoy writing creatively and because once in a while, someone’s day is made better because of it.

Anyway.

As you know, I am a list maker and goal setter, and sometimes I try and sometimes I fail.

Or is it really failure? I wonder if not trying at all is failure itself, or maybe not even a failure so much as it is deciding you will or will not do a particular thing.

The gym. I went to the gym two days, made a Facebook post, felt accomplished and then poof.

Motivation I had not.

Where it went, I do not know.

Nevertheless, I have a gym bag and for the sake of health need to get back at it.

On a whole side note, I got my second covid vaccine, recovered from the effects and cleaned house for a while.

So I feel somewhat accomplished today.

What is on your list?

Are you setting and reaching your goals?

I imagine we all do a tug of war with our list.

Good luck with yours, as well as mine.

Reach

Fixed my hair. Check.

Brushed my teeth. Check.

Got ready for choir practice and church, and drove there, arriving on time. Check.

Enjoyed the sweet fellowship under the cathedral.

Ebb and flow.

Returned home to do some scrapbooking.

Oh, and I made some cornbread to go with dinner. Used vegetable oil instead of butter (what was I thinking?? I never do that.) To me, it was intolerable.

Blah.

Fetched some hangars off the back of my bedroom door and figure that is one goal truly met. Placed them in the laundry room where I wash and hang my uniforms.

Tonight, I wonder why people think you have to be a rock star to be amazing. Or famous. Or anything that is noticed by all.

Do you have to have a fabulous house, an enchanted life? Do you have to impress? Or is it ok to be ordinary?

Looking back over my family’s heritage, I can say that not one of them were what I would consider famous, or known by huge numbers of people. They worked hard, kept clean houses, donated to charity when possible, went to church and invited neighbors and friends to dinner.

Collectively, my family has inventors, teachers, artists, businessmen, government workers, night watchmen, beauticians, homemakers, seamstresses, girl bosses (we call it being assertive), and more.

And of my family who maintains a presence online, they are pretty simple people, post a few things to be social. Realizing a need to connect, we enjoy seeing pictures of what we are all doing.

Yet reaching the masses, not so much.

And I think of my writing and whether it will blossom (I have written for newspapers, and those days are over, as I have launched a new career that I love, while also maintaining my love for creative writing.)

I say all this to present a question.

Am I using my writing to help people, and are others touched or motivated, inspired or encouraged by it?

I hope so.

What gifts we are given, when shared, shine on the world around us and help us all reach our dreams.

Side note.

Was also grocery shopping today, and heard a young lady singing in the parking lot of the grocery store, and a few aisles away, heard a young man playing a concert violin.

He had a sign for donations, but wow, his contribution to this beautiful day was so worth any money people could throw his way.

I saw the young lady in the bakery, and told her she had a pretty voice and that she needs to sing like that everywhere she goes because the world needs more of that.

So here is my offering for today’s blog.

May we all sparkle with the stars we hold in our hands and toss them frequently about, giving light and warmth to those around us.

Thankful for the little things

Thankful muses, there are.

Or rather, muses of thanksgiving.

Dreary days with little sunshine can tip the mood meter to the sour.

Yet thankful hearts have a continual feast.

What if we can change our mood with positive, deliberate thoughts.

Coffee.

Just the thought of a coffee shop, any coffee shop, makes me smile.

I think of books, and comfortable chairs, and journals and pens and time to enjoy all of the above with a steamy ceramic mug of joe.

Yet there are other things for which I am thankful. Some are simple, every day things like hot water and a great washing machine, while others are more complicated, like considering the depth of all God created, the earth, the heavens, the creatures and the forests, mountains and oceans. Breathtaking.

Presently I am thankful to have spent the afternoon, after work, at a birthday party for my daughter and two of my grandbabies.

The energy of a child on their birthday .. we were all smiling at the kids and the joyous looks on their faces as they opened their presents and ate cake.

On a whole different note, am looking at some projects I need to finish soon. My next grandson’s blankets, kitchen curtains, two quilts and two shawls.

And then the cleaning projects. Bookshelves that need organized, photos that need to be arranged (my old cloth photo albums are really showing their age and harboring dust, so will work on a new system that is easier to keep clean.)

A year or so ago, I had used an old sewing table as a desk, then moved it to replace it with shelves. And the shelves are ok, but I miss my desk corner. Then I think well wouldn’t I like a small corner type desk and a chair that would fit under it and not be in the way.

Goals. A bicycle with a basket. A corner desk. And at some point a laptop that is not an albatross (mine is a dinosaur, truly.) Simplify. Add. Subtract. Remake.

In the midst of compiling my many lists (both figuratively and actual lists in my day book), I still must remind my soul to both reach for my goals and dreams while also being thankful for the present moment of life in all its glory.

Add that one to the list

The small cork board tacked to the wall is dotted with notes of to do items and reasons why we want to do them. And magazine clippings of waterfalls and hopes of traveling to intriguing places and community festivals.

Would you believe I have an entire shelf full of journals (some of which I may combine in typed form for my kids some day, just not now)?

Much of journaling is a purge of thought and feeling, pondering the what if and stewing in the oh I should have done that differently, peppered with the by the way I forgot that and yes, don’t forget to take care of yourself.

I have written prayers and written the answers to the prayers. I have questioned my existence and also praised God for it.

And I am in this season of hey I want to go see a splendid teapot race, I want my picture taken in front of real magnificent sunflowers, I want to paint rocks and finish writing the two books I am working on.

(Make believe counselor yawns and the glasses slide to the end of said nose. No not really. But maybe everyone needs a life coach. Maybe that is a good idea for me to pursue.)

Our church has a Stephen Ministry.

(Look up the concept .. Episcopals offer it as a way of tending the flock of parishioners through either trying times or maybe just because they need an ear, a voice, a sounding board that is impartial.)

I have used one before and she helped me for months to navigate a number of questions rolling through my head.

What I want to know is this:

Why don’t we talk? Why is everyone so bound up in hey let’s keep this all surface conversation (i.e. wow the weather is crazy lol, as one example.)

I do have friends where the conversation is two sided. I am blessed with my family and my bestie and a small circle of other super close trusted friends. I know I could call any one of them and they can do the same.

But I am talking about every day life.

Once upon a time, people talked a lot more than they do now.

(This is just my opinion. You may have a different opinion and perspective and I respect that because we are all different and perceive things differently. And we can grow by sharing perspectives. I have a couple friends known as my voices of reason. Not every friend you have needs to have the exact same life knowledge or approach as you to be a blessed friend.)

Anyway.

Some days I find myself longing to hear people share their true hearts and feelings, and stories of the past and dreams of the future.

Or maybe they are, and I am distracted, chasing the pondering of my own heart.

Maybe I just need to listen.

And then maybe I would hear.

Add that to my list of goals.

To listen more, and observe more, and let myself enjoy this moment of life as it unfolds.

Whether in the coffee shop, or nestled in a book over lunch, or on my knees at the garden shop checking out the half price gardenias.

I might be on to something here.

Seeking God in the chaos

Psalm 63:1 “O God, You are my God, Early will I seek You; My soul thirsts for You; My flesh longs for You, In a dry and thirsty land, Where there is no water.”

Many words have been written about the noise of this current age.

“When I get home, I want it absolutely quiet,” said a woman I knew years ago.

“Quiet,” I said, “as in no music even?”

And she said that yes, silence is what she sought.

It seems to me that worship can be musical, loud, cheerful, mournful, patiently waiting, shouting, quietly meditating, dancing, art, cooking dinner and more.

Our world is moving at such a fast pace. Cars get angry when they have to wait in line, or traffic slows. Everyone is moving fast and the wheel of life seems to be speeding up with the pace of the pack, so to speak.

Then you draw into your quiet place at the end of the day, and “chill.”

Or do you?

When my kids were little, such quiet time only occurred at 5 a.m. It was hard to sit in the glow of the kitchen stove light with a cup of coffee and try to read my Bible and pray. Some days it lasted a whole hour. Other days, five minutes or a half hour.

What does your life look like?

Everyone serves someone. There are those you are either responsible for (moms and dads take care of kids, older children care for aging parents and so forth) or to whom you provide a mentorship. Maybe you have a job, community or church responsibilities.

But are you “on” once you are “up” in the morning, or does that take time?

As social a person as I am once the sun comes up, I admit that until I see that golden orb peek above the horizon, I am not truly “up.”

Or I might be up, just not ready to be social 🙂

Why is that?

The more you pour out in a day to the world and your family, the more you need to be filled up with the benefits of prayer and positivity before you head out to face the world.

There are some who tell me, no ma’am, I have my quiet time at night before I go to bed. And they give all their concerns to God so they can sleep.

Another tells me that for them it is a constant conversation with God throughout the day. Not a set time.

Whatever it is for you or me, or anyone else, the important thing is to somehow carve out time to seek God.

I find that when I hit a dry period, a thirsty period of my life, I ask myself when was the last time that I truly eliminated distractions so I could seek God.

In the mountains of West Virginia are a million little streams of crisp, clear rushing water. Just the sound of it soothes the frazzled nerves, rejuvenates the weary.

The streams beckon our souls. In the midst of our day, we are seeking God.

Time with God

An antique lamp illuminated the bedside table where my great grandmother’s Bible rested. But she did not rest at night until she had, as she said, her “time with God.”

Every night, she read the Bible, and prayed for her family, and thanked God for the day. She was widowed many years prior, and she slept in a twin size, adjustable, hospital bed because she had numerous heart conditions.

She was active in her church, and Saturday night was a busy evening, preparing Sunday dinner for an after church spread, ironing church clothes and setting the table.

Prayer was folded around her day, every day, from sun up to sundown.

Her kitchen table was a welcome sight in the morning as she drank her coffee and read the paper and her edition of My Daily Bread, a free devotion book that churches distribute to their masses in order to help guide their quiet time.

It would be decades before I would come to see the fruit of a dedicated quiet time in my own life.

I was pregnant with my second son, Aaron, when I started having those times with God, and it is interesting that he is also the child who has been actively, non stop, working in the church in some capacity since he was a teenager.

Presently, I have two devotions a day.

After listening to an online devotion by Rick Warren, I put on contemporary worship to listen to and use to praise God as I get ready for work.

Night time devotions are shorter.

Everyone has a different approach to their time with God. One lady I know says she prays in the shower because that is the only time she is alone. Another goes for a walk with worship music in her headphones and that is when she prays, as she takes care of a husband whose health is failing.

Anyway, today was a great day. Had some fellowship time after work with one of my spiritual mentors.

Also took some time to get a haircut and get my nails done. Vain? No. I just like feeling put together. Then my head is free to deal with the other parts of my life.

On another whole side note (and yes I changed the subject three times), I feel grateful tonight for life, and my senses of sight, sound and smell. These are all things we take for granted, right?

May you be blessed as you explore your own quiet time with God.

The thinking of thinking

Where do you do your best thinking? And when?

Do you like to think in the silence of an evening, or the whisper of fresh air just before dawn?

Or do you need noise, some noise, any noise?

Isn’t it pretty cool that God made us all so different?

And we all have a thinker.

Or at least that is what the thinkers think.

Think about how many times the word think is used.

I think it is used a lot but those opposed might say, “I don’t think so.)

My head is always going, admittedly. Very seldom can I say I am not thinking something.

So now the question is .. what do you think about what you are thinking?

Is it something easy for you to think about, or do you really have to think things through?

A thinker is a pretty necessary part of our lives. Great creativity yields great joy.

When I think about what I am thinking, I have to laugh, for there you go.

Thinking upon thinking. And think some more.

It has been said that the direction of our thoughts guides the ship so to speak. Think a negative thought, yield a negative result.

Think a positive thought. And poof, a positive result.

I have often thought how much our lives would be blessed if we would think more and worry less.

What do you think?