Thursday, January 27, 2011

A New Perspective

I have been praying fervently for something for the past few days.  Oh, I know the ground can't change someone's free can't make other people respond in a way that makes obvious sense to you...and you can't make bargains with God.  My mother taught me that last one as I apparently was a born negotiator.  But truer words were never spoken.  I'm not necessarily trying to do any of the above by my request, but I'm trying to keep from driving myself crazy.  I suppose, then, that makes my prayer one of self-preservation.

See, the "drama fairy" has sprinkled a fistful of nasty dust all over my life for the past couple of days.  After having the perfect weekend, I came home to a whole host of little aggravations.  Nothing that I need to go talk to Dr. Phil about, but enough to keep little foxes in my vineyard to make my wine seem more like vinegar.

Or something like that.

Anyway, I was sitting here having a lovely round of wound-licking when I realized that there are a couple of arrows in my quiver of friends who always have the right words to say when I need to hear them.  So, I phoned one of them and apologized profusely for talking to her so much last night that I wasn't entirely sure that she'd pick up the phone today if she saw me on caller ID.

She didn't on the first two tries.  She SAID she was out of town.  (Oh, come on...I know she was.)

After going through what was on my mind...she just simply blew me away with an entirely different perspective on things.  Man, it is good to have friends who won't just agree with you...but who will take it upon themselves to just tell you the truth when you need to hear it.

What she said in a nutshell is what I happen to know...but frequently forget.  And that is...that everything that I am going through that is not sweet and there to make me stronger.  Not necessarily stronger to make me able to bear more...although that is obviously what it could mean...and I often construe it to mean.  What I don't often see is that it makes me able to accept the mantle of some really big responsibility or some huge blessing that He has in store for me. 

All I have to do is get through it and learn whatever it is that I need to learn.  I have to be strong enough to handle something immensely good...just as I do to bear something truly awful.  I can't just recite an incantation and POOF! be strong.  I have to bear under the weight of the little aggravations, weights on my soul, and days that I'd rather not relive so that I can build up my spiritual muscles.

I know that a lot of people invest a great deal of time improving their outer shells.  I believe that this is not only a good is admirable.  But it is equally good to look at the trouble and trials in our lives and consider that a workout for our souls.  Because we generally grow the most during those periods of time that we'd really like to forget.  When things are going well...we can sometimes delude ourselves into believing that it was because of something we've done to make it so. 

So, as I go through a week that has had a wee bit of drama...I hope that I can see it as God's preparation for something out there that is far better than I imagine.  Maybe it is...and maybe it isn't.  But I do know that counting it all as joy certainly beats feeling like I'm being picked on.  And there's a lot to be said for that. 

Tuesday, January 25, 2011


Several years ago, I went through a period of self-exploration because after a series of misunderstanding others…and being misunderstood myself.  In so doing, I did come to the realization that somewhere along the way I had become lost. Not lost in the sense of being spiritually adrift…although there was a component of that at work. And certainly not lost in terms of going through the routines that my life had become what defined me more than anything. I just knew that I had no idea who I was anymore. The Karen that I thought I was didn't resemble the one that was going through the motions every day.

Oh, I had been growing as a person in some ways, had let some dreams go by the wayside, and was constantly just expending a ridiculous amount of energy trying to keep the ship on course.  I'd have made less of a mess had I taken time to make sure that I was headed in the direction that God…or even I intended. I suppose that having time to think and reflect is not particularly unusual for a woman after her children stop demanding so much of her time or when she gets to a point where she just realizes that some things must be accepted rather than railed against. And that other things that have been accepted really need to be changed.

Perhaps it was simply that I noticed the wreckage of broken dreams and promises along the pathway of my life. I saw that the person that was so relieved of breaking some old negative patterns had let other new ones crop up in areas that I least expected. Maybe it was that realization that my journey here on Earth is halfway over at best. Or perhaps what I thought was so important just crumble to a pile of nothingness in my hands enough times to convince me that I needed to find myself again.

I don’t know what started it and it matters not.  But I do remember taking an inventory of my life at that time. I found that there were things I’d forgotten about…and things that I’d depleted that could never be replaced again. But it was what it was.

I’d like to tell you that I was inspired by a sermon…because I’ve been inspired by many in my life. But to tell you that would be untrue. It was just that I apparently woke up one day and thought to myself, “Is this all?”

I simply realized that I didn’t know who I was anymore. I was burned out. Tired. Not enjoying the best of life and barely surviving the worst. I had tried to be the best I could be at everything when I thought it was possible to do it all…and ended up exhausting myself trying to move the needle on the dial to excellent from very good. See, I was under the impression that you can live up to your best self in your own strength. Work harder. Stay later. Do more than is expected. I mean…you can be anything that you truly want to be, right?

Well, I am here to tell you that you can’t.  Not in your own strength.  Not even remotely.

What carried over from that period in my life was that I constantly check myself to make sure that I stay aware of ME. Some things have never changed about me such as my preferences for mint chocolate ice cream over just about all others and that I’d really rather be at the beach than just about anywhere else. That I hate hospitals and do all that I can to avoid them…so if I ever visit you in one…consider it a real gift. I learned that my favorite colors are green and pink but that I am partial to just about every color for some reason or another. I love Jelly Belly buttered popcorn jelly beans, romantic comedies, and Jesus. I prefer reading, scrapbooking and watching SEC football to just about anything outdoors.  However, I see God's handiwork in the creation every day of my life and I never cease to be amazed by it.

I also am the person you want on your side if you are being treated poorly, I am above average in doing what I say that I’m going to do, and I hate doing any form of housework. I like to cook, love crowds, and only like rock and alternative music.  Cantatas, bluegrass, and show tunes are to avoided at all costs.

I count steps, daydream, and cannot kick my love for Reese’s peanut butter cups in spite of aversion therapy I tried several years ago. It did work with Jack Daniel’s, by the way…and now I rarely drink alcohol at all. I realized that I couldn’t care less about dressing to impress…I am more a comfort girl who prefers things that take virtually no maintenance. I don’t own a closet full of shoes…I’ve left that to my mother and daughter. I don’t have a beautifully decorated home…I have a comfortable one. I’m Chinet over china and paper over cloth. And I seriously doubt that anyone really sits around and reflects on how sad it is that I am the way I am.

And if they do…then they are obviously very bored. But enough about me.

I mention all of this because I am currently basking in the afterglow of a perfect weekend. It was the kind of weekend that you not only look forward to and then back upon fondly…but one in which you know it is special while you are living it. I have found that few things ever meet our expectations…much less exceed them…and that most of us hardly know that we are living the best of times when we actually are.

But I knew this weekend. I was also reminded that God is good.

Not just because I was in the company of friends who make me want to be a better person. And not because I was the filling between two generations of wonderful women that I love dearly. Not because the weather was perfect, the house was amazing or because it has been way too long since I actually ventured outside.

Simply, I was reminded that God is good.

I saw my now grown daughter spend her 21st birthday in the company of women old enough to be her her choice.  She was allowed to bring a friend...and she chose my mother.

I saw that nature has indeed corrected itself and all that remains of a horrific oil spill is an occasional tar ball and the sight of people who relentlessly try to fish them out of the water in an effort to bring back the beauty and the tourists.

I witnessed people using their God-given abilities to sing gospel music…a genre that is not my favorite. But I was inspired and blessed just the same. The praise flowed and the words of a preacher totally sold-out for God were enough to raise my spirits and give me sufficient spiritual food for reflection.

I saw God’s creativity shown differently in five different women: a painter, a writer, a decorator, an actress, and a crafter.

I learned that it is possible to stay in a place that is so peaceful, so comfortable, and so wonderful that you honestly wish you never had to leave. 

Oh, I don’t know what the future holds, but I do know that for three days in my recent past that there was nowhere else on earth that I would have rather been. We prayed. We talked. We laughed hysterically. We dreamed. We hoped. We enjoyed each other’s company and our time away from the stresses of life.
In short, we experienced a little taste of heaven on earth.  And that time away keeps the cords that sometimes get tangled up with busyness and the daily business of living free and independent. It keeps me grounded in knowing who I am and whose I am. It reminds me that I am not alone when I struggle, and that there are ways that God has chosen to work through me that are used to add to the happiness of other people.

For this…and the wonderful generosity of a sweet friend who provided us with a beautiful place to be together, food to nourish our bodies, and prayers to feed our souls…I am grateful. Very grateful.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011


This is the second morning that I've been awakened at 3:00 a.m.  I don't really know why that is other than I go to bed with the television on, and sometime around that time the laugh tracks from whatever is playing on Nick at Nite just seem to break through my consciousness.  That...or the fact that I actually caught up on my sleep two days ago and my poor body simply doesn't know how to handle it.

I reached for the telephone that I usually put on my bedside table and saw a text message that someone sent me after I went to bed.  Although I don't know the whole story, I do know that there was a tinge of disappointment in the heart of the sender.  I suppose that all of us want the perfect made-for-TV life that excludes such things as sadness, worry, dependence, or fear.  But life being what it is...there is always an equal chance of happiness or missed opportunities when we step out to do something out of our comfort zone or take a gamble on a relationship.  Sometimes we just have to roll the dice and hope for the best.

"Sometimes" is one of those words that is nebulous and unsure of itself to me.  It seems to lack conviction and is gray instead of black or white.  It is undefined and unable to take a stand.  It is somewhere between "always" and "never"...implying hope...but not commanding commitment or even the expectation of it.

Sometimes we win and sometimes we lose.  Sometimes things work out the way that we want them to...and sometimes they don't. These little platitudes are the words that we tell ourselves so that we can either brace ourselves for a big disappointment or dare to keep hoping.  Because in reality...sometimes things really do work out against all odds.  Sometimes just a sliver of hope is all we need to keep believing that better days are ahead.  Sometimes good things actually happen to us instead of other people...and because the option is still open...we continue to believe making it more likely that our disappointments will not crush us.

I have no idea why sometimes I believe a certain way only to find out that I could not be more wrong and other times - without knowing the facts - I judge correctly.  I don't know why things sometimes work out as they should, and other times fail to work out for no apparent reason.  I don't know why sometimes life is easy and full of joy and sometimes difficult and full of pain.  Sometimes I feel that life is to be embraced and I have great hope that it will be more than it actually is at any given point in time.  And sometimes I wonder why I thought that at all. 

One reason, I suppose, is that by never knowing how something will turn is built from a pile of bricks into something beautiful and sustaining.  Every day that we keep pressing forward, another brick is placed where it needs to be in God's master plan. 

Or perhaps it is that if we knew the truth about our lives...what would be to our gain...and what we would have to suffer without...we might just elect to sit down somewhere and quit moving forward.  Some people actually do this, you know.  They just give up.  They are buried under the rubble of disappointment.

Sometimes we need a drink of cool water that a little hope brings while we are engaged in the midst of a raging battle.  Sometimes we need to know that the struggle we are tired of  dealing with is worth it on the other side.  Sometimes we need to understand that we are not unloved when we go through periods of doubting that God has us on His mind.  Sometimes we just need to believe that the rainbow is just behind the storm that seems to be constantly raging in our lives.

I don't know why I got up so early again this morning, or why I happen to be frustrated at my lack of information and understanding about what is going on in someone's life.  Calling for clarification at the crack of dawn just isn't an option if you want to keep your friends.  I don't understand why things are sometimes ridiculously difficult to understand or why we sometimes have to take the circuitous route in getting from Point A to Point B.   

I just know that eventually...most things work out exactly as they should.  Sometimes we are told "no" because all that glitters is not gold.  Sometimes we have to assume that God knows what is best for us.  And yes, sometimes we just have to trust that the whole story is not yet written in the book of our lives.

But I am comforted by the knowledge that sometimes things end right...and better than I imagined.  That sometimes God smiles on my plans and gives me the strength to keep going when everything around me seems to suggest that I should just pack it in.  And sometimes I expend energy worrying about outcomes that will never be an issue anyway.

Yes, I'd like to move my faith from "sometimes" being happy with the outcome to "always."  Who wouldn't?  But the power to accept what IS remains always in my grasp.  I can accept what IS as God's best for me today.  It is always better than any plans that I might devise for myself in the long run.  Whatever I am going through has been sifted through His fingers...and if I am living it...then it has purpose. 

What IS may sometimes line up with what I believe I want...and other times may seem like a total waste of time or a missed opportunity.  My job is not to judge.  It is to accept, to obey, and to trust.

I have to remember that sometimes. 

Monday, January 17, 2011


Well, two weeks into the new year...and change is still in the air.  I expect it in January, frankly, because it just seems like a really great time to start.  It is, along with the start of the school year in August (or September...whatever) and spring (if you are so inclined to clean) as one of those times when everyone is on the bandwagon...or has immediately just fallen off of it. 

Change is good!  Change is positive!  Change is inevitable!  Yeah, yeah, I know...stop with the Tony Robbins bit.  Truth be told...most of us honestly just don't like change.  Sad...but true.

Dislike of change is one of the reasons why we go back to our old habits even though we've worked hard to establish new and healthy good ones. 

Or why we whine about the new furniture that we've been blessed enough to be able to purchase...but we secretly believe isn't as comfortable as what we just got rid of.

Why we have trouble bonding with new friends of friends who have joined our friendship circle in spite of the fact that they are genuinely nice people and have a lot to teach us.

Or why we hang on to traditions far longer than is practical, normal, or even meaningful.

Inherently we dislike having to learn something new unless we seek it out.  If it is thrust upon us...we feel like it is an imposition.  We'll whine, complain, kick and scream about it without regard for the fact that it may be a vast improvement over what we are currently living with or managing.  We'll hold on to something because we've owned it for twenty years and is working just fine...instead of braving the new and improved model that requires a learning curve or more sophisticated operating requirements than we are willing to invest the time to learn.  Don't believe me?  I know a lady who retired from banking years ago because she didn't want to learn how to use the computer.  I'm so not kidding.

In short...we're just incredibly human sometimes.  We like the familiar...the known...the trusted.

But change happens to all of us.  This week, I've seen two seniors move in with their adult children.  It will require some change on everyone's part...but it is definitely the right thing to do.  Does this mean that adjustments will need to be made?  Absolutely.  Will there be growing pains and some issues that will need to be resolved?  I expect so.  But it is time for a change.

I've also heard of a young lady I know who is newly engaged to be married sometime in 2012.  This means that her parents have to adjust to the prospect of having a son...and dealing with a wedding.  It may not be the timing that they had expected...but it is an exciting time nonetheless.  It is a time for change.

And on a personal note...I've started exercising again.  It isn't pretty.  My body is revolting against such...including extra sleep, soreness from muscle groups that I haven't been aware of since 2006, and changes to what I am allowing myself to consume.  The latter isn't entirely new...but it is a far cry from the free-for-all that this Christmas represented.  I'm making changes that will benefit me somewhere down the road.  I'd like to think that change is not only good in this is seriously overdue.

Change really is good sometimes.  Not always.  But often.  Change is something that gives us a new perspective on our daily routines and mindsets.  When we elect to make positive changes...strangely enough...they often inspire even more changes than we originally anticipated.  We may start out by making one positive change in our lifestyles...and before we know it...we are walking closer to who we are truly meant to be.  Although we sometimes fall back...sometimes we don't.  So, we need to look for whatever positive aspects we can out of change. 

Some people actively embrace change.  These are the people that go to a favorite restaurant and insist on ordering something new every time.  For most of us, though, we'll go in and order the same thing that we always order...because we know that it will be good...or if it isn't...we have something to gauge it against. 

But positive or negative...change is inevitable.  People get older.  Children grow up and marry.  Something happens that makes us reevaluate where we are...and where we need to go.

So, today, I am trying to embrace the fact that change is in the air.  My daughter will turn 21 in less than a week.  My son will be graduating from high school in four months.  And as they are growing older...I am growing older too.  My life will change as a result of their lives changing.  Anything can happen at any time and any place.   While we like to think that these surprises will be pleasant ones...every so often...change will rock our worlds in ways that we are not prepared for nor desirous of living through.  Such is the nature of change, though...and life.

I hope that the next few weeks keep me grounded and able to grow roots of persistence and determination into the soil of promise and hope.  There are changes that I need to make in my life.  I want to find a way to keep those things that are working for me...working for me...and those things that are obviously not...changed.  Because change means growth, and growth obviously requires a vicious little cycle that is going to happen in some cases whether I like it or not.

Embrace the possibilities in your life.  Stretch yourself and consider the benefits of getting out of your comfort zone and getting out of your own way.  It could truly be the beginning of something remarkably beautiful.   Just know that change is in the master plan...which is why we have seasons...both literally and figuratively.  So be brave and just keep moving forward.  One day you'll be able to look back and see how far you've come. 

At least that's what I'm counting on tonight...

Thursday, January 13, 2011


One of the hallmarks of mid-January is that by now most people have given up their resolve to live up to their New Year's Resolutions.  Oh, most of us mean well...but after the tinsel and decorations are put away, the last of the divinity and fudge is consumed, and the vacation time is goes on.  Life with all of its twists and turns, stresses and joys, and stark realities.  It is at this time that we normally reach for the crutches that have gotten us from Point A to Point B or go back to familiar patterns because our resolve isn't great enough to carry us through.

Those that are still proverbially "on the wagon" are blessed enough to have a faith that can move mountains or have a support network that is top notch.  All of us need those people in our lives who see us for what we are supposed to be rather than what we actually are.  We need folks whose rose colored glasses regarding us are unfailingly kind and who have the ability to look past all of our defense mechanisms, emotional scars, and denial to make us face the truth.  You know...what real friends should be.

I have had instances in my life where someone has appeared out of nowhere...encouraged me to take one path toward something that was for my good but not on my radar...and I actually listened.  Although I do not believe myself to be the most intelligent creature on the planet...I normally trust my own judgment over that of other people.  Even wiser, smarter, and more together people.  Sometimes it takes awhile for me to actually begin to see the gold that these friendships are...because I'm usually too busy trying to figure out a way to tactfully keep doing things my way.  Never mind that "my way" is sometimes a colossal failure.  At least I own it.

We all need support.  Anytime that we step out in faith to do something...we need that one lone it in our ear or in our head that tells us that we are on the right path.  Sometimes people really don't understand that the right word from the right person can alter someone's history.  Occasionally the words can be spoken once and it is enough...and other takes having encouraging words repeated for decades.  What matters is that someone believes in you. 

Sometimes that someone has to be you.

I know that there have been times in my life when I've wondered why God has led me down one path only to find out that it is a dead end.  I've had to backtrack and try to make up lost ground.  But along the way I've learned things about myself or about life that have made it possible for me to get somewhere that I could not have identified had I not had my little side trip to the wilderness.  Usually, someone has come along and said something random that has made me think...and given me a new perspective.

Like the boyfriend of a former suitemate who said that he was majoring in Finance.  I'd never heard of it and asked him to elaborate.  When I transferred to Troy, I ended up seeing that as a possible major and remembering that conversation.  Yes, it was also (along with Economics) the fastest way out of college and down the aisle...but I ended up being a Finance major in college.  I've now worked in banking for the past 25 years.

Or a friend who - over lunch discussing possible alternative career options years ago - told me that she saw me as a teacher.  Two months later I was offered the opportunity to teach banking classes.  I taught for ten years.  It gave me extra money to help pay for private school tuition, and I enjoyed the experience immensely.

I also have a hilarious friend who wrote me brief e-mails about her day that became the highlight of mine.  I'd write back and she'd encourage me to keep writing because I made her laugh.  It renewed my love of writing to such an extent that I started the blog in April 2009.  The fact that my daughter did not really want me to be her friend but I wanted her to be able to read the blog on Facebook caused me to make the decision to start a Facebook page to share the blog with those who loved me but weren't necessary excited about me knowing everything about their college experience.  I'm now my daughter's friend...but the blog and the Facebook page are still there.  And my funny friend and I still communicate via e-mail, text, and phone, and her descriptions of her life experiences still crack me up.

And finally, I have another friend who tells me little tidbits of information that have kept me out of the pit so many times that I've honestly lost count.  She's a few years ahead of me raising her daughter...and every so often she will pass along a gem that she has learned (the hard way in some cases) so that I can sidestep that particular obstacle.  Her support and belief in me have been unwavering...and I'm blessed for it.

So, go out there today and make a difference.  Speak up.  Say what you're thinking.  If you are one of those people that compliments everything in selective so that people know that your words are genuine.  If you think that your opinion matters not, you could not be more wrong.  If you feel like you don't have anyone in your corner...examine honestly whether or not you are on the right path.  Keep looking for breadcrumbs along the path and see if you can find your way home. 

And know that if you are reading this right are supporting a person who loves to write and feels the need to do so for some cosmic reason that has not entirely been revealed to me just yet.  I have been asking God to show me what this is all about...and so far...I'm just told "WRITE."  Just know that your words of affirmation, the fact that you click "like" occasionally to let me know that you've taken the time to read, or a message in my inbox that says that something I've brought up has made a difference to you has truly made a difference to me.

Thank you for that.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Reflections on A.D.D.

Lately, the muse that normally gives me lots to think and write about has been passed out in a sugar coma somewhere...or got taken out with my extraordinarily dry tree last week. I've thought about a lot of things, but they haven't necessarily translated into thoughts that can be shared with other people. I was never diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder as a child...primarily because we knew not of such a malady, but it is highly likely that I have some degree of this affliction here lately. I suppose it is a nice change from my "overfocusing/tune the world out/exhausting myself with the details" existence that I've had for the majority of my adult life.

I'm one of those people who can tune into what someone else is saying no matter what is going on in the room. I actually remember to do things without writing them down because my brain just likes details. But that doesn't stop me from writing them down anyway. I am a list maker of the highest order. Lately, though, my brain has dropped more balls than are in the ball pit at McDonald's. Or were. I have no idea if they still have those or not. I'm SO out of the loop.

Normally, I've had friends come in and carry on conversations with me that I don't hear a word of because I am watching something on television and I have no idea that they are in the room...or on the planet. Now, a leaf can blow three buildings over and I'm looking out the window to see what just happened. I've definitely been more like that kindergartener on the tee ball team that is turning cartwheels in the outfield and has no idea where the ball is...nor does she care.

I've been daydreaming...and thinking about possibiltiies. Oh, I know that it is natural to do that in January of each year...but this year it is almost as if I'm being transported into another realm. I don't know if there is something major going on in my world or not...but it sure seems like it. I've had bursts of happiness, creativity, and energy that keep me from settling down and doing the things that I need to do effectively.

You, laundry...putting gas in the car.

Tonight, for the first time in a long time, I had the gas light go on. This meant that I had to go to another gas station than I normally do...and it took awhile for me to figure out the pump. I almost put supreme gasoline in my car because I was too busy trying to figure out if I should push a button to start or lift a handle. See? Completely devoid of walking around sense.

I wear a watch, but forgot to actually look at it or just didn't actually move to go, and time flew by while I was chatting with friends...twice this week. Okay, granted, one group hadn't seen each other in awhile and we had a lot to say and the other one always takes a bit longer than the allotted lunch hour...but time just flew by without me really having a clue about it.

Big Dave has been stuck with the laundry because it became quite clear that I'd rather go to Target and buy more underwear than actually settle down and put in a load of wash. I've left the Christmas decorations in boxes at the foot of the steps to the attic and haven't really yelled at anyone to take them upstairs. That's actually because I don't really notice them there anymore. I'm too busy flitting around doing something else that seems incredibly important at the time...but I couldn't begin to tell you what it was.

I know that this will pass in a few always does. But I'm enjoying considering possibilities that are normally outside of my realm of thought. I just keep thinking that this year will be a significant year in some way. That wonderful things are just around the corner. I do so hope I'm right about this.

I know that my son is graduating and that my daughter will be finishing her junior year of college and beginning her last year of college. He will go to Europe in May, and I'm planning to go in September. I have a beach trip that I'll make sometime in July, and my sister is due back here with my niece and nephew in late June. There's a lot to look forward to...but I can't seem to shake the feeling that there is a whole lot more going on this year as well. Hope it is all positive. REALLY positive.

So, tonight, I am going to go to bed early. I'm going to read, and pray, and settle in. I'm going to hope that I can be effective during the working hours tomorrow...and that I can get more done in one day than I've managed to get done all week. I can hope, anyway.

And perhaps this weekend will be one of great efficiency. I pretty much doubt it right now...but you never know. I'm just hoping to retain the "happy" part of the equation and perhaps trade some of the "daydreams" for "putting plans in action." I guess, though, that every once in awhile it is nice to just let go and recharge the creative part of your brain. Although efficiency and order are extremely important...equally necessary are creativity and wonder.

Or so I hope. And lucky me that has Big Dave to do laundry. :)

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Paying It Forward

Tonight I'm trying an interesting experiment on Facebook.  It isn't my idea, actually...I'm one of the ones who thought it would be fun to participate.  What I had to do was be one of five people to sign up on a friend's "wall" and my friend will send me something handmade as long as I then repost on my Facebook "wall" that I'd be willing to send something handmade to the first five on MY wall with the same rules applied.  The time limit?  Sometime in 2011.  I think I can swing that.

So far, there are no takers to something free that was handmade by me.  All they have to do to get a "prize" in the mail is to agree to do likewise and "pay it forward" to five people. 

I'm so feeling like Lisa on "Green Acres" right now.  Poor city girl couldn't cook...and nobody would eat anything she made.  Ironically, I never said that I intended to cook, though.  Not that I'm not able to.  Really!

The requirement stated that it must be "handmade."  If truth be told...when it comes to "handmade"...I'm far better in the realm of paper.  Not as good as my friend, Cindy, who makes the most beautiful cards you can imagine...but fairly decent.  In fact, technically what you are reading right now is "handmade."  But, NO, I'm not planning to send an envelope full of printed blogposts.  What I have planned - assuming that anyone takes the challenge - is pretty good.  I want it to totally rock...well, for something free and "handmade" that is.  After all...nothing rocks your world like something that is better than you expect, yes? 

How many times do we "pay it forward" out of our abundance of items because we don't need it, want it, or want to deal with it?  Most of the time we just call this "giving to Goodwill."  The truth?  What we have in our possession is what we are supposed to be a good steward of in this life.  But instead of getting it moved along to people that actually need it...we put it in storage houses, attics, closets, and in garbage bags in the trunk of our cars.  We won't wait for direction for its disposal and we either store it or throw it out. 

Then we plan our next shopping trip.

But what if we were intentional about our disposal of items and our giving? 

Are we missing out on the joy of giving because we are too busy to stop and think things through?  Apparently, some of my friends are too busy to read my status because nobody wants something free right now.  OR perhaps it is that they don't want to commit to sending out five things of their own. 

I suppose that's possible.

Seriously, though, think about how it would look if you could pay it forward?  What if you had a closet full of clothes that you had "undergrown" or "outgrown" (whatever) and there was another person who had lost or gained weight and needed a new wardrobe?  Wouldn't that be an amazing miracle to receive beautiful clothes at a point in time when you had no money for such a luxury?  Well, for me, this year...I experienced that miracle.  Not once...but twice.  I tried to express my appreciation...but I honestly am grateful for that generosity every day that I go to my closet. 

Every single day.

Wouldn't it be nice if you could just do something nice for someone with no clue as to how it is going to be received?  Or care?  I have two projects in mind right now, and I'm waiting until I'm directed on an amount to send.  I want to mail it when I'm prompted to send it...and in the amount I'm told to send.  I tend to trust God's timing for these kind of things.  I also prefer to do it anonymously. 

One reason that people don't "pay it forward" with regularity is because they have encountered someone who is a really ungracious recipient.  They feel the need to pay you back...or refuse to receive the gift altogether.  Kind of like when you give someone a compliment on their hair ("Oh, it's dirty!") or their clothes ("This old thing?") or something that they accomplished ("It's no big deal.").  You get your compliment back in your hands...and you leave feeling like you should have just kept your mouth shut.

And so the next time you think you might say something to someone who is just starving for kind remember your last experience...and you don't.  And your silence means that what God had planned to do through you remains undone.

How often have we been poked in our spirit to do something and we refused?  We worried about what someone would think of us.  We thought that they would think that we were disingenuous.  We were afraid that following through would require more of us than we wanted to give.  We thought that someone else was better equipped to handle the situation.  We were afraid.  We figured it wouldn't matter one way or the other.  Or a gazillion other excuses.  Sound typical?

I'm currently reading a book that explains that the reason that so many of us are feeling unfulfilled in this life is because we are trying to perform miracles in the lives of other people in our own strength.  We exhaust ourselves and then begin to resent the effort that we expended for naught.  We long to make a make peoples' lives matter.  Most of us get fulfilled in raising our children and don't really notice that something is missing because we are too busy or too exhausted to truly ponder it.  Then when we have time...we don't even know where to begin.

Or maybe it's just me that feels this way...although I seriously doubt it.

So, I'm hoping that someone will respond to my offer.  They may or they may not.  It is possible that they just looked at it and didn't really read what I had written because they've seen it numerous times before.  I'm definitely guilty of that.  The first time...I read it.  Times 2 through infinity...I do not. 

Guess we shall see...I plan to keep posting it until I can pay it forward...or I'll just have to start drawing names.  I don't want to be denied the opportunity to give...and I'm actually pretty excited about doing something nice for someone else.  And it won't even involve regifting...


Tonight I had the privilege of hanging out with one of my groups in my circle of friends.  I like to think of these circles as much like the way water breaks into ripples when you throw pebbles in.  The circles just expand outward.  Most of my circles are like that...they tend to expand and contract over time...and occasionally, that effect of circles within circles actually happens because we have more than one group in common. 

When I was younger, I thought that friendships were meant to be more boxed in.  That allegiances were almost cut and dried.  That you had to choose between friends.  And I suppose to some extent in those early years that was true.  I don't know where those "rules" got in my head.  But I apparently came "preloaded" with some software that was heavily bent on rules.  First children often are.

Not that I was a big fan of rules.  But I did have a pretty healthy respect for them.

Anyway, tonight we met for dinner.  For this particular has been a difficult year.  Health issues...divorce...sandwich generation situations...job problems...and other various stress-inducing drama.  But we laughed.  We talked.  We shared, prayed, and caught up.  It was a three hour dinner that was spent reconnecting, releasing, and rehashing what we've been going through these past few months.

But there are bright spots among our little group as well.  There is healing.  Budding romance.  Maturing children.  And, of course, the knowledge that we earnestly and deeply like each other.  There's a lot to be said for that.

In this life, there are so many things that pull on us day to day.  Worries about how we will live, who we will encounter, and what we can tolerate make it extremely difficult sometimes to just spend a few hours solving the world's problems.

Tonight we talked about a job ending...but also talked about the possibilities that this will afford her to follow her dreams.  She has the desire to serve God through her artistic gifts...but knows that she has bills to pay.  Another one was suggesting possibilities that were far beyond anything she'd contemplated...but made perfect sense in many ways.   Another was tightly scheduled and she felt pulled by wanting to join us but also needing to be going where she had already committed.  One couldn't be with us because she had a sick husband at home, and another one was nursing an ailing father.  A couple of us were in holding patterns in our lives...with nothing especially out of the ordinary going on...but we were quite grateful just to be a part of the conversation.

I don't know what my life would look like without my circles of friends.  Without women that I've known for years...and others that I've only recently just begun to know.  I believe that we are all put on this earth for a purpose, and we often find that purpose through the encouragement and support of our friends.  Our families love us regardless...but our friends really have the choice to be with us...or not.

We talked about beach trips, and weddings, and our plans for the future.  We made dates to exercise together, and tried to share our impressions from the holidays.  Thankfully, they were overwhelmingly positive.  We are bound by a common faith...and we have no qualms whatsoever being honest about our walk...what is truly on our minds and hearts...and what we hope the future will bring.

I felt personally blessed because Jill was there with us.  She loves my friends...and they love her.  During those years when the girls can be tough and their mothers even tougher...Jill found refuge with my friends who thought that she was the most wonderful girl in the world.  They still do.  And for that I am immensely grateful.  She has been blessed by hearing the collective wisdom of women of faith who encourage her by being inclusive and by giving her good counsel.  Sometimes it is exactly what I would say...but she hears it with a more open mind than she would if it were delivered by me as her mother.  And likewise...they can tell me when I am being wise...when I am being too protective...or just "too much" and I respect the fact that they know us well enough to render a judgment.  Some people like to tell me how to raise my children from a worldview that is dramatically different from mine.  While I am open to hearing other opinions...I find that I tend to discount those opinions in favor of my own.  This circle of friends affords me the opportunity to fully appreciate someone else's view...which is invaluable.

Today I spoke to another friend about taking a trip with my circle of friends that enjoys scrapbooking together.  We've been doing this for years...and I really love what we refer to as our "therapy" sessions.  I have received so much support and learned so much from these ladies that I can't even begin to elaborate.

Later this week, I will have lunch with another circle of friends who have been gathering for the past two years.  Our children graduated together...but we weren't ready to let each other go just yet.  I love hearing about the ongoing story of their they are faring...and basking in that feeling that I am not alone at this point in time.  They are right in the boat with me.

Much like the ripples of a pebble in a pond...our circles expand and contract.  They overlap.  They take their time melding into one another until it just becomes a continuous circle of change.  But even in the midst of that change...we are all grounded...connected...together.

I love my time with my circles of friends.  I'm blessed that I have people who care enough to call and check on me if it has been too long, text or e-mail me with whatever is going on in their lives, or pick up a phone to ask when we can get together for lunch.  I love knowing that I am not alone in this journey of life...that I have people to share my joy with...and my pain.  They crack me up, they make me think, and they pray for me. 

And for that...I am very, very grateful. 

Saturday, January 1, 2011


Today is the first day of the new year.  Often I have found this day to be one where I swear to myself that I'm not going to eat too much, that I'll be more disciplined, and that I'll put on my "Supermom" cape and strive to be that woman who actually has a functional home that looks like it could be featured in a Southern Living spread.  I am not that woman, mind you, nor have I ever had any indication that God has gifted me with the ability to even remotely achieve such status, but it seems to be on my mind every January.

Old habits die hard.

So, tonight I am reflecting on life as I know it right now.  I ate too much today...but I don't feel guilty.  We were invited to spend the afternoon watching the football game (Roll Tide!) and a delicious supper was served that I didn't have to cook.  It had the classic New Year's Day fare...and it was wonderfully prepared.  The home was beautifully decorated and comfortable, and the hosts were upbeat and gracious. 

The Tide winning their bowl game 49-7 totally rocked as well.

I have rooms to clean, bills to pay, lists to make, and things to do, but right now I'm just grateful that there are 364 days ahead of me - Lord willing - that are blank slates.  I can feel free to have hope.  I can dare to dream.  I can imagine that some of what I want to happen...actually will.

Today was wonderful.  It was a true celebration of a holiday...with all of the wonderful aspects that a holiday carries with it.  Time  Reality will hit in two days.

Most of the time...reality bites.  But this year...I sincerely hope not.

Tonight I'm thinking of the possibilities that lie ahead.  Of the prayers that I'm offering tonight for people who need them.  Of the resolutions that I plan to actually attempt this year even if I fail miserably in the process.  Of the people who have possibilities right in front of them if they are smart enough to just grasp the brass ring that is just overhead.

So, enjoy the waning hours of the first full day of the year.  Smile when you think about all that is ahead of you...and press on with great expectations and joy in your heart.  Don't fear disappointment or play the "what if" game until you make yourself nuts.  There's plenty of time for that.  Just make a plan, execute it, and see what happens.  You might just be surprised.

I surely hope I will...:)