Freedom in the now

Where does your freedom find you today?

As I traveled over 3,000 miles across 9 different states in my yearly girls road trip with my bestie, it occurred to me that everywhere we went, people were doing life .. in the now.

Some of our trip was intertwined with family, suffering from age, infirmity and the isolation that comes from having lost a spouse.

The isolation contrasted the feeling of driving the many miles, viewing uncluttered and some undeveloped roads in America, where a small shack is a home, and laundry hangs between the trees on a limp clothesline at noon.

Majestic mountains hugged each other with forests that seemed eternal, even enchanted.

Freedom to a woman living in a nursing home is different than that of someone who has the means to move about the country and go to the store, or church, or even a hair appointment.

Those of us who are free to move about sometimes forget that not all are free.

How many moments do we waste complaining about small things .. the weather, other people, and maybe even things we do not have?

So this Independence Day, I ask myself, “What am I doing with my freedom? And am I using it to help others?”

A thoughtful, inspiring, and uplifting 4th of July.

I cherish the heritage of those in my family’s genealogy who fought for freedom. I also cherish that we all live and love on this earth together, a celebration of humanity.

The more of this beautiful world I see, the more I desire to explore it.

Have a blessed Independence Day!

There goes the light bulb again

Oh bother.

After requesting to cancel my gym membership, a very sweet marketing text came from the company telling me they could just freeze my account until I felt like returning to the gym.

A workout outfit.

Saw a lady all jazzed up in her workout clothes and thought just how stinking cute workout clothes are and how much fun they are to wear.

And you know what happened.

I sent a text to my bestie and said I changed my mind and after our girls trip, I will get serious about working out.

“What made you change your mind?” she asked.

Everyone needs that one friend who untangles your mental spaghetti.

And lays it straight.

“Well, I need it,” I said.

Not to mention when I am at home I can think about a billion other things to do.

The list.

As we have been talking about hopes, dreams, goals and plans, I penciled a list in a small wire bound castaway old notebook that got mashed in the bottom of my camera bag.

Worthy notes, indeed, on dog eared pages.

Exercise today was supposed to be “walk around the yard.” Instead, it was send some cards to friends and tote stuff from the front passenger seat of my car to the trunk so I could take my car to the car spa.

If cars could talk, she would sigh, chew her mint gum and file her nails as she batted her eyelashes at me.

She clearly knew I was not going to fetch out my box of tools, two beach chairs, small bag of newspapers, one overstuffed choir folder and a few pairs of shoes and who knows how many sweaters are hanging around in there. There might even be a roll of toilet paper. Lol. (Duh, fishing bait, or a square to spare if in the middle of nowhere or something like that. Grandma said it was essential and I in my adult life has never used the bathroom outdoors, we just don’t do that any more !!) Nevertheless, it’s there. Along with a battery-less flashlight. And a jar of peanut butter. And a beach towel.

And a few cloth grocery bags.

(Says me to the people reading this laughing, don’t judge me.)

So I made my list and put my chores on there, quiet time with prayer, write articles and make phone calls, visit the hairdresser for root color and a trim, visit the car spa for an overall cleaning, go to the grocery store, write another article, return to the house and cook a batch of turkey to freeze, two pans of meatballs for supper with spaghetti, bread and salad, freeze five bowls of chili, pet the cat multiple times, eat supper and run downtown to shoot photos for a magazine.

For sure, a productive day.

Anyway.

I guess my tennis shoes are running to catch up to me today.

My plan worked.

I got my steps in.

Faith and dream chasing

Start to talk about Jesus, there might be crickets in the room. But stick with me, please.

This morning, I was listening to one of Rick Warren’s talks from his “Peace Plan,” and at 5 a.m. with coffee in one hand and a pen in the other, heard him say that we are to dream big dreams and if we dream a dream that does not require the help of God, then it is too small a dream.

He talked about how we listen to public speakers who tell each of us that we can be anything we want to be, and how he disagrees with that. He says we each have specific things that we are “shaped to do.”

Boom.

Basically, it goes that if you are in the right occupation, for example, then there is less stress and your job is fun.

I love it! Yes, and yes. I love to write and every time I write, I feel a creative fulfillment, especially now that I am writing both news and feature articles, as well as pursuing creative writing (books underway) and my blog.

Writing is one of those things that seems so natural to me.

I have various dreams that involve writing.

Faith.

There is that word.

These days, for many reasons, people quietly take in bits of faith or spiritual encouragement and avoid discussion at times because as Grandma always said, “avoid talk about politics and religion.”

Yet my Dad and Granddad would sit in opposite chairs and go at both subjects for hours!

When I think of faith in my own life, I am quick to criticize my lack thereof at times. Maybe that is natural too .. master of your own destiny so to speak.

I have heard it said, well God gave you a brain.

Faith has been described to me over the years in a number of ways.

“Let go, let God,” one says, while another says “God’s got this,” and another “He won’t bless you unless you have faith.”

If we take a leap of faith, it could be a calculated leap of faith, the kind of leap where you make a plan, and somehow know you will need Divine assistance.

I am not one to run a haphazard budget.

I know to the cent most days what available funds I have for basic things and other things not so basic. We all agree the cost of living is ridiculous these days and those back yards of chickens, goats, pigs and produce look better and better all the time.

Self sufficiency is one mantra that helps us all get through.

So when I think of faith and dreams, I think I am not going to limit myself that way. I might have one dream and God suddenly brings something into my life I had not considered.

Is faith and dreaming the same thing?

I can only draw on my own experience, and you can likewise draw on yours.

Thus far, I see a golden thread that knits together my dreams with faith that somehow, they will come true, while also anticipating that as my charismatic friends say, “God shows up.”

I need to update my list of dreams. There are a few things I have not added. Plans? Yes. Hopes? Absolutely. Fears? We should talk about that.

Maybe tomorrow? Let’s explore how our fears interfere with our dreams.

The clock is ticking

For a few days now, we have been discussing dreams and plans. Yesterday we learned what to put on our list of dreams, and yet without a corresponding action or plan, we get nowhere.

Every goal has a deadline.

Reporters and editors are familiar with this language. Everyone in the sales world, likewise. To know the time, or best time, to launch a project is paramount to its success.

And we have heard it said that hey, everyone has 24 hours in a day. The sun comes up and goes down, and there we are, looking at our lists.

Time.

I sit in wonder at people who are skilled in the world of time management. A lot can be accomplished when the puzzle pieces make sense.

But what does making sense have to do with time management? And dreams?

Streamlining is a word I love. To me, it is how one rises in the morning, enjoys a cup of coffee and after morning devotions, hits the day with gusto.

(Gusto can be hard to come by, but this is not the topic of said blog for today, ha, ha.)

Streamlining is where I line up the activities of my life, the necessary moves, so that at some point in the day I have time to dedicate to my creativity. For you, it might be having enough time to conquer a billion piece project that requires both time and patience.

For me, it is the chance to let my creative side flow and also allows me “planning” time. This is when I feel most fulfilled as a person.

While it is true that often, our dreams and plans fall on the floor like a basket of fresh eggs, splat .. also true is that when we have the list, the intention and the determination to make time for our dreams, at least some of them come true.

Let’s all agree to look at our schedules, and see if there are small pockets of time we can dedicate to our dreams.

More on time management, tomorrow.

It is now time to crochet.

That is all.

Thoughts versus Emotions

Happiness. Good cheer. Positivity. Kindness. Goodness. Self control.

Lack of peace. Confusion. No boundaries. Dismay. Despair.

The two groups of words contrast just like light and darkness.

Many times, when I have shared my story before a group of people at an event, at church, or elsewhere, people have asked me ..

“How do I get over it? How do I release the pain of my past? What do I do with these feelings of depression and despair? How do I forgive the one who hurt me?”

And our conversation then floats to the usual .. what does your support net look like? Have you considered counseling? Are you in a church?

Do you have any close friends who can walk beside you? Do you have any hobbies you enjoy?

The room gets quiet as the soul considers .. what can I change to bring about my healing?

For me, emotions flow freely. It goes along with creativity. Creatives see and feel, express. Emotions come out in my writing and in my crafts. I turned to creativity as I worked through confronting the pain of my past.

Then later, I learned, through various friends, counselors, books and podcasts, that one can improve one’s emotions through a renewed thought process.

Replacing downer thoughts with positive thoughts.

Example: I could never attempt that (goal, dream, occupation, pursuit, etc) because I am not enough (not smart enough, not physically strong enough, not mentally strong enough.)

The Flip: With God’s help, I could accomplish that. I am not sure how, but I am willing to research, learn, grow, practice.

Our emotions and general outcomes can improve when we go after our thought process.

Last night, I delivered a talk in front of nearly 75 people.

And did so with confidence.

There was a time in my life .. even ten years ago .. where that would have been a challenge. But one of my college professors told me that I would one day be a professional speaker and have the ability to move people to greater things. I remember shaking my head, and also remember how all of us in speech class, except one, shook like crazy when we got up to speak.

Thoughts.

A very sweet lady I know has claimed Philippians 4:13 (from the Bible) as her verse, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

Encouragement.

There is more we could explore on this topic. But for today, ask yourself .. is there something you are not doing, or not trying, exploring or living because of the fear of failure? Or because the emotions just are not there?

I feel like thoughts are the wagon that pull our emotions. If we determine our thoughts, our emotion will follow.

Focus on the positive

Ice froze a solid curtain on my vehicle windows this morning, and like everyone else in central Florida, I waited until my defroster cleared up all of my windows and mirrors until I ventured out to work.

After putting in four hours at work, the rest of the day was flex, so I thought hey I will clean the house.

(Yes I see you smile, you know where this is going.)

I felt certain that it would be a personally productive day because I made a list in my colorful day planner that I bought to make sure that 2022 was extra cheerful.

Starving, I grabbed a bag of nacho chips and a cup of coffee (yes, not a good snack for diabetics), and ate so many that I suddenly felt sleepy.

Well the back yard looked sunny.

After I stepped out, I sat in my chair by the now cold and empty fire pit. The sun felt great and gloriously warm on my face, and I seriously almost went to sleep in the yard.

(Aside from a wicked sunburn, I am sure that would have been refreshing.)

Talked to one of my kids a while. Watered flowers and took the sheets off them that I had wrapped around the bushes a few days before. It was as if the garden breathed a sigh of relief.

Squirrels barked at me from above, fatter than usual.

And after an hour outside, I thought hey I need to get on the cleaning.

Ha.

Went to the bathroom to fetch a brush out of my “hair utensils” drawer and the drawer stuck.

Well then it was “on.”

I unpacked the whole thing. The WHOLE thing.

Figured I probably saved about fifty bucks in hair barrettes and brushes because I found them all held captive by my eight different flat and curl irons.

And three fuzzy rollers.

After the hair purge, I felt pretty good, but it was time for coffee.

Well it is flex time, I thought, so I will take out that acrylic nail kit I got at the major retailer for like $8.

I remember telling my bestie, if I can master this, think how much money I can save. On nails that is.

No, I’m not vain. I’m very girlie. And nobody can dispute those suckers (acrylic nails) stay on pretty good.

Well.

Upon opening the bottle of acrylic I nearly gassed myself and that, yes, was through my N95 mask.

Heck, no.

I put the lid back on, and looked down at the nail tips I had glued on and thought well what am I going to do now?

I ran out the back door, gasping for clean air and turned the kitchen fan on.

(In my head, I felt stupid for thinking I could do my own acrylics.)

Hard pass.

So there went another hour and a half of my day, and I found myself frustrated.

But yet, it was a good day. I had a great conversation with my youngest daughter, spent some time in my garden, made Mexican casserole for supper and put away folded clothes.

Not too bad I guess 🙂

There is always a brighter side. Even when your list goes by the wayside. When your project doesn’t turn out. When you feel like you have failed, you really have not.

Tonight, as I listen to the Christmas Canon from TranSiberian Orchestra, I think of how grateful I am for this life. What a wonderful day. How blessed I am.

Sunday Thoughts

Church online.

Today, I took a rare day to sleep in, ward off the chill, wrapped in blankets with the blinds drawn until well after sun up.

Then crocheted on my granddaughter’s blanket while taking in a church service from a church I used to attend long ago. Once in a while I do this, usually when I just need a slow day.

Tonight, warming my hands and my coffee cup by the fire, I think of my precious friends at the church I have attended the last few years, and how they bless my soul, how gathering together ignites my spirit.

Yet the day of rest was a day well spent. I feel energized for the week ahead, and can’t wait to see my choir friends on Wednesday night. They sounded great today indeed! (I heard them online as well.)

I was thinking of how many churches are begging their congregants to return, masks on or not, vaccinated or not, please return to life as we knew.

I also notice that fewer people are wearing masks than a year ago. Slowly, life is returning, and I know someday our grandbabies will ask us to explain the year they were born.

We have an Ever Present hope in Jesus our Messiah, in this God, our Creator.

As the fire kindles the logs beneath, I think also of how many people say “there is so much anger in the world today.”

Some days it is more obvious than others.

But light begets light, and when we look for the blessings, we soon find more reasons to say “I am blessed beyond measure.”

Coming together as believers at church is a way for us to encourage one another, face to face, to uplift, say hello, hear about another’s week. Online services definitely bridged the gap when many were, or are, stuck at home. So many do not have a way to church, whether young ones whose parents do not attend, or shut-ins.

What a blessing it is to go to church.

On another note, have to say I would not have the love for the church or the Lord had it not been for my family (both sides were devout Christians) and friends at church who gave me rides to church because my Dad worked nights and was asleep before 9 am so he could go and work all night again.

I wish I could find them and thank them. Did a social media search (for my friends) which proved to be fruitless. Will keep trying. I truly am indebted to them and their influence.

There are a couple people whom I believe God has put on my heart to invite to church. Maybe they will say yes, maybe no, or maybe maybe.

And if they do, maybe I will have paid forward, at least a little, what was done for me.

Selah.

Monday will be here soon. May you have a productive week.

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.

A fragrant presence

As the chill slowly rolls across the Florida peninsula in this our first real cool air this year, sweaters are fetched and everyone tests their heat source to make sure it works without smoking the household out of its comfort zone.

Enter. We picked up a fireplace insert to help heat the house without actually starting a fire. (It is much healthier and no ash to deal with, nor sparks. Controlled by a remote, it keeps the living room and downstairs quite warm.)

And I thought of people and fragrance, and candles and warmers, and scented car bars and more.

How sweet it is to be able to smell again after having had covid months ago.

Once in a while, I get a hug from someone who has great cologne or perfume.

Yes, another weakness. It is actually part of my budget, lotion and perfume. No compromise there. Twice a year, usually during those large sales, I visit a couple of my favorite stores and stock up.

Now I have peppermint body wash and am delighted.

How could smell have such an effect? That just the smell of coffee, or scented candles can brighten my day?

I had a friend years ago who sold makeup for a special company and every time I saw her, she was beautifully put together and wore this fragrance that was invigorating.

I actually bought the bottle and eventually ended up selling the same products myself because I love them so much.

So why am I writing about all this smell stuff tonight?

Perhaps, more than anything, I hope that my inner spirit will be as the fragrance of Christ.

Lord, do Your work in me.

May you have a blessed evening, all. Know that God loves us.

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.