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.

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.

Swimming in the sea of humanity

As the sea gulls chirped at each other and hopped around on the sand, the beach started to fill up with people, it seemed, from all over the world.

Beach umbrellas and chairs, towels and coolers dotted the shore for as far as the eye could see. Listening to chatter in other languages, someone turned on some Latin music, and the celebration began.

Families gathered to smear sunscreen on each other, talk about their trips thus far, and sprawled across the sand here and there, some even taking naps in the middle of the day, while others enjoyed beverages and still others bobbed up and down in the waves.

This truly is the sea of humanity, I thought.

And I am in it, like a grain of sand among other specks on the sea shore.

The white sand clung to my legs that I had carefully smothered in sunscreen (to no avail, I still am red as a lobster.)

So instead of trying to brush it off, I played in the sand with my hands.

It was like sugar.

How it reminded me of baking as a kid. And how I loved equally making sand castles.

Somehow I must make more time to go to the beach. My happy place, indeed.

The salty air is good for all things that need healing.

Tonight, I will sleep, knowing I swam a little in the ocean.

“Vitamin Sea,” my youngest daughter calls it.

Teetering on the edgy of edge

The sunrise was beautiful and jet trails scribbled their journey across the horizon as I haphazardly dumped all my work gear on the driveway to search for my keys.

Seriously?

I have a certain routine, and usually place all of my work stuff in one place, and place my ID badge, keys, belt and work phone all in my “go” bag. And my uniform and shoes are laid out. Lunch is a cinch because I have in mind what I am taking.

But this morning, I woke up and all morning felt like I just could not get one thing right lol.

Couldn’t find just basic stuff. Had my quiet time before work, but this morning I sat in the living room, snuggled with my coffee and stared like a bug eyed squirrel into open space as the sun came up.

Sweetness, the coffee finally kicked in and I thought hey I got this day handled forthwith.

Seize the day, they say. It will be fun, they say.

I dropped things I was holding. (My peanut butter crackers wrapper in the elevator. Thanks to the kind soul who retrieved it for me.)

Have you been there? The one day out of a thousand where it seems like you cannot get it together.

Later in the day, I met a sweet lady who makes teddy bears. She is known as the “teddy bear boss” in her teddy bear making group. How adorable is that? How she chooses to spend her time, helping others.

And all of a sudden, my day got better.

Peppermint.

You might wonder why I chose peppermint candy canes as the photo for this blog today.

Peppermint is a smell that soothes me when my nerves are frazzled. Just being real here. Everyone has a frazzled day or two here and there, and mine was fuzzy indeed.

So I thought the visual of candy canes might do the trick.

Aromatherapy, they say.

Anyway.

My day got a lot better and I thought about various things going through my head. And how there is nothing wrong with hope and positivity, and how healthy that is, even, to pursue such things. How it is good to encourage yourself and believe in yourself and also to believe in God and His power to hold you when you feel like all the crackers are crumbling, even if they really are not.

Side note here. Someone said there was some sort of solar flare or solar storm.

Well there you go.

The keys buried in the bottom of my bag seemed almost relieved to be rescued thereof.

Tomorrow is Tuesday, and I have already decided it shall be a Happy Tuesday. How shall we celebrate just being alive?

Let me know what you do to celebrate your ordinary day tomorrow.

Maybe by all of us sharing a little light, the world will be a brighter place.

Is God Relevant?

“When kids come to our church youth room, they find a place where they can kick back and fellowship, enjoy a soft drink, some snacks, play games and listen to music.”

I was stunned as a large mega-church youth and college leader showed me their enormous youth room. Much larger than the youth rooms I visited elsewhere in my own teen years. (You know, back when dinosaurs walked the earth. Lol.)

Yet the concept was still the same. Keep up with trends .. we are at this blessed place in history. Technology, transportation, fashion, entertainment, even occupations have changed drastically in the last two hundred years.

It has been said that trains of thought have polarized greatly. Many studies and statistics say that while there are a large number of Believers in the United States, not all of them are gathering to fellowship, while pastors and youth leaders wonder why this is occurring, the pandemic beside.

Church attendance and participation in service clubs has wained over the past twenty years, I am told, by those who manage those organizations.

Is God still relevant?

Is He relevant to me? Is He relevant to you?

Relevant .. relatable, necessary.

Surrounded on all sides by a Jesus believing family, I memorized scriptures as a kid.

And I craved a relationship with the Lord. My prayers were full of the God blesses, etc.

The “be with” prayers. Be with those who are suffering. Be with those who have lost their way. Be with those who feel empty and don’t know why.

Why is God Relevant?

It seems that those who believe in God really, really believe, and those who don’t, really, really don’t.

A long time ago, someone told me that trying to win the world by admonishment or accusation would never work.

“But your testimony, your story, no one can dispute. And when they see the light in your eyes, they will know.”

They have seen God. The God of all creation, the Almighty Author, the fantastic Painter of all things beautiful. The Creative Musician Who sings over us as we sleep.

Lord, we seek You. Right here, wherever we are. There is no place on earth where You cannot be found. We love you so much, and seek Your Presence in our lives.

Psalm 104:1-2 (New King James Version) “Bless the Lord, O my soul! O Lord my God, You are very great: You are clothed with honor and majesty, Who cover Yourself with light as with a garment, Who stretch out the heavens like a curtain.”

Let brighter thoughts prevail

It is end September and Florida is still hot and humid, but then again that fresh ocean air that sweeps over the state is so worth it.

I found myself asking a coworker what her beauty secret was for keeping her hair straight even though she has curly hair. She shared the product and combing technique she uses and yes, I went to the store today and totally forgot to pick up the product.

Some days are like that. If I don’t put it on my list, I may or may not remember it.

Yet a train of thought flew through my mind of how sometimes I complain about little silly stuff, like the weather, or traffic (well if people would use their blinkers, be considerate and kind, that would be a non-issue), or congestion at the grocery store.

And I thought to myself, self, why do you complain about such things?

How about be thankful for the changing weather, or the fact I have a car, or that I have access to grocery stores and can get most things I need?

And then.

My how the dust has gathered in my bedroom, which presently looks like a book and greeting card hoarder lives here. (Maybe I am exaggerating a little bit.)

I figured out why I have so many books, besides being bookish and loving to read and actually consume a book, curling up with coffee and tenderly turning the pages, and the feeling you get as you read page by page and get lost for a few hours in the land of who knows where or what is this new project I can do .. it is because as a kid I had no siblings and books entertained me for hours. But as a fast reader, I ran out of reading material quickly.

To me, the closest thing to an earthly hell would be a house without books to read, notebooks or journals, pens to write with .. devoid of card sending or letter writing materials.

When I finished reading my books, I read cereal boxes, and then some of my mom’s nursing books for school, and our encyclopedia set.

I know someone, somewhere is saying hello .. with the internet you now have a treasure trove to choose from to satisfy your literary longings.

Self help books are cool. I love non-fiction, as well as fiction set in England or New York.

But the room is dusty.

Slowly, I am simplifying, with a goal that I can come in here and just breathe.

I am sure you are thrilled with the idea of house cleaning (for real?), but to me it is part of making a home, and making a day great, or splendid.

Someone has to polish the teapots of the world and set the table for a brand new day.

My cat Molly Moo sends her regards. As do Peebs, Winter Moo, and Oreo. I still wonder what she would look like in a cat dress, posed next to a teacup.

Peebs, a calico cat with great curiosity, and Molly Moo affectionately study the camera and wonder if treats are next.

Ah, the fancy minds of writers.

A desk awaits

A notebook and pen tucked into my daily work bag, my first book, The Brighter Side of A Darker Thing started as a journal of my past and noted my history, penned at the time strictly for my own healing from our family’s dark secret.

Slowly, I crept out of the dark place, sharing my story with friends, at first, and other survivors, who urged me to use my gift of writing to reach others because they said that they were not able to do so for various reasons.

And I respect that. They wanted me to be a light bearer, they said.

I am a survivor. I did not wake up one day and say well hey I am healed from the abuse (intimate) I suffered from age 7 to about 12.

Once in a while, someone says they had a sudden epiphany and poof, they have no more issues with suppressed memories, painful thoughts of low self esteem, panic, inner non-positive dialogue, etc.

Many survivors of sexual abuse turn to drugs or alcohol. Some self harm. Others seek to change everything about their environment or themselves that is a reminder of abusive events.

I sought counseling while addressing my past many years ago, and it was the best thing for me. I did not have a substance abuse issue as even aspirin makes me sick to my stomach, so that was not appealing to me. I wrestled with my existence. Why did God make me, and why did I feel like a freak?

I feel so strong now, compared to where I used to be.

What does strong look like to me?

Well if I am a survivor, I don’t have to do or be anything great to be extraordinary. I made it “through” and am walking on firm ground. I didn’t always think this way. Constantly trying to win approval can get exhausting as you will never make everyone happy.

That said, I love to be the best person I can be. Sometimes I fail. I have learned that one of my challenges is to remember everyone makes mistakes. But it is how I handle that – which determines my inner peace and the outflow of blessing I can be to others.

What mistakes am I referring to? Personally? Not being selfish here, but one mistake was not valuing myself as a human being.

I have as much right to be on this planet as anyone else. And because I believe God made me, I know He has work for me to do.

Yet the telling has been difficult at times.

My eye doc told me I have a type A personality. I was flabbergasted!

(Smile) Big 😁

That was news to me lol!

You see some believe that being bossy is problematic, but is sharing my story bossy?

I think it would be if I were to say ok the only way you can handle etc. is to stand on your head, figuratively. (No this is not a reference to yoga, lol. I wish I could stand on my head, but sadly, I am not that coordinated.)

So that feeling of my type A being too much for others at time has been a bit of a buffer to my desire to continue getting my story out there.

Anyway.

Finished writing this in downtown Winter Haven. A lizard was watching me, and a turtle in a gated nature garden slowly crept along.

Will get back at the blogging. A little each day.

Who says?

How many people give up a hobby because someone says they are not good at it? And how many have persisted because one soul encouraged them to keep on going?

I was astounded several years ago when I spent five hours reworking a structured painting, ending up with an abstract by the end of the evening.

Having several writer, author, artist types on my friends list, one of the creatives spoke up and offered to screen print my creation onto a Tshirt to sell in his shop and divide the proceeds.

At the time I was in journalism, and though most writers have a side hustle of some sort, I opted not to take him up on the offer. A marketing decision it was, as I was working on my book and trying to get that finished.

Some time later I interviewed an actual artist. Pretty cool, as he taught middle school children how to rework their paintings for “art” effect.

The kids were mortified and protested greatly as they had one idea, carefully painting that. There were nature scenes, family pics, weird creatures and more.

So he instructed the children to blindfold themselves (teachers, Paras, and guests present) and then turn their painting upside down and use a different brush in different paint, making haphazard designs.

“Now you have art,” he said.

I guess the type A side of me cringed as I saw this, as all of a sudden, their paintings took on a different life.

Some of the kids were mad, others were laughing, still others were like “oh cool!”

Today’s painting is an abstract. It started out as an ocean scene, then I painted over that and it all became lavender with a olive green heart tilted to the side.

Frustrated that it looked like a nothing canvas, I then sloshed yellow paint across it in the middle, mixed with white.

Then remembering a little art trick we did in school, took a Q tip and scratched a flower and pot design in the paint while it was still wet.

Happy flowers. Happy happy flowers.

Anyway.

One thing I have learned from artists is that art is your expression. Yes, I would love to paint something that resembles something factual.

And I may again paint coffee cups for fun. Or other little items. Or rocks. Or my old jewelry box that has junk jewelry. Or a wooden spoon. Or.

Here is to exploring your creative side.

Molly sends her regards. The splendid housecat approves this project.

The God connection

The Sunshine State did not disappoint today.

After church and a quick run to the grocery for a few lunch items for next week, came home and jumped in the pool for a while.

Swirling the water around with my toes and doggy paddling, I’m not a real picturesque swimmer, but I make do. Most of all, I just floated and paddled, soaking up the sunshine and enjoying the scent of freshly mowed grass.

As I looked up at a few white billowy clouds, I thought of their beauty and thought also, hey this is really cool.

Floating weightless, and observing the clouds do the same, it occurred to me that most people have some kind of God connection, and whether they acknowledge it or not, it is still there, I believe.

I have never been one to get into deep religious arguments or skirmishes about the status of things.

Quietly go and do, hopefully live in such a way that I am a blessing.

Grandma always said don’t talk religion nor politics, and that is safe.

Yet I admire when folks are real with me because proverbial smokescreens of relation seem so shallow at times.

So when I write about God, or a muse, or something I have pondered, it is my way of sharing a part of me that blooms because of seeds others have planted.

Girl, get to the point.

Our pastor shared something today that I found very thought provoking. It went along the lines of “Are you showing up” for God?

And I thought you know, I have always felt the need for God, for His Presence in my life. I have always, even as a child, thought how on earth am I going to be good enough to get into heaven?

This might have something to do with me spending years of my childhood grounded, lol, for either sassing my parents, or foraging my own way instead of following instructions (for the last time, button your coat, turn the faucet so it does not drip, do not bring home C’s on your report card, as we already know you are a minimum B).

I laugh now when I look back, really, because as an adult I am such a rule follower.

So salvation to me has presented many challenges, as I thought to myself you have to be more than perfect to get to heaven.

Youth group changed all that for me, as our youth leaders glowed with the love of Jesus and were not hypocritical. They knew they would never win any of us by beating us over the head with a Bible, but by living it out before us, Christ in jeans.

Jeans. Opposite of a conservative Baptist church I attended in my early childhood years, the Southern Baptists reached into my heart and home and slowly, showed me their faith in action. My parents were impressed with the preacher who owned one suit and used to be a rock musician. Amazing Grace was really something when that man played the piano.

One half of my family was Baptist. The other side of my family were Church of Christ (non-musical.) And of course, that was one of the grounding occasions of my teen years, having an interesting discussion with one of my grandmothers over church history and music, and how music is so a part of worship.

After attending a number of Baptist churches, I came to the non-denomination Christian fellowships (i.e. the Alexander Campbell movement, not the only Christians, but Christians only.)

I raised my kids in those churches, and returned to the Baptist denomination after my first marriage ended.

Eventually, I came to the Assemblies of God, drawn by the open worship concept, and the warm and inviting church, who helped me through some of the worst parts of my adult life.

I also attended jeans and Jesus churches, which reminded me of my youth group.

In my second marriage, I went to a charismatic church and also joined a Jewish synagogue (by marriage, it was obvious I could not sing in Hebrew, though I did try!)

By the end of that decade, my marriage ended. So I was like wow, in church circles, this does not look good. But sometimes it is not meant to be and you have to move on.

I found I also began a heavy spiritual search. Who are you anyway? Every church I visited had a little pamphlet, a small handheld cross, a religious coin, a pen or a church coffee cup. I enjoyed the fellowship of many churches before I finally landed at my current church, Episcopal (Anglican.)

There are several of us who attend who came from different denominations. Some confirmed, some did not.

A Jewish friend of mine, who is a dear friend, to whom I still owe an Indiana pot roast, said once to me, how did you go from Baptist to Charismatic/Pentecostal to Episcopal/Catholic, so I thought I would share.

The God connection.

I feel like we all have a place for God in our hearts that only He can fill. Every nation on earth has some aspect of religion or relationship, worship or tradition.

I still feel drawn to Him because I have seen Him in others, and in nature – the works of His hand – in day to day things like sunrises and a child’s laugh, and the light of a candle on a stormy day.

Have a splendid evening, all. I was thinking of doing my spiritual writing on Sunday, then creative and life encouragement the other days.

Molly, my cat, sends her regards.

Prayers for all, for a safe and beautiful week.