Friday, December 30, 2011

Finally Friday... celebrate smart


Celebrate safely.
Celebrate smart this weekend.  Be safe.  Have a designated driver or stay home.  Better yet... go to bed early and get to church on Sunday.  They say that what you do on New Year's Day is what you will be doing all year.  Be alive.  Be happy.  Be with the ones you love.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Thursday Travels.... Poolewe, Scotland

     When I was (much much) younger, all I knew about Scotland was that the Bay City Rollers came from there.  Many years later ~ long after I had gotten over my teen lust for men in kilts and tartans (Well... I never outgrew the one for Sean Connery) ~ I went to visit my Mum and Sis in Poolewe, Scotland. 

     A portion of our trip was on a small commuter plane from Glasgow to Inverness that was entertaining to say the least... there was a group of drunken 'football' fans on the plane whose team had won and they sang team and school songs the entire flight.  Fortunately, the flight was just long enough for us to enjoy their celebration, but not so long that we became annoyed.  In Inverness we took a train to Gairloch where Mum met us at the station.  I hadn't seen her in twelve years and I felt like a child again.

     It was then that I truly fell in love with Scotland.   Water seemed to flow from the rocks, and while it was late October~early November it was bitter cold with no snow to show for it.  The hills were covered with a thick green grass, and rocks covered with moss.

     Sheep and the occasional cow freely roamed the small town on the northwest coast of Scotland.  It was a year before I stopped seeing bits of  sheep 'pebbles' on my shoes.

     There was just one radio station, three television stations and twice a year they all went down at the same time for 24 hours of maintenance.  There were no video rental stores, no movie theaters, and one or two pubs that closed at 10pm.

     Mum's house, just across a bridge on the outskirts of town, was within walking distance of the pub she ran.  Her electricity was paid for on a daily basis by putting coins in a machine in the back of the house.  She paid  enough most days to just keep the small refrigerator under the kitchen counter running, and maybe a few lights during the day.

      Almost all the roads were one lane... so if you rounded a curve on the hills and came face to face with a car going in the other direction, one of you would need to back up until there was room on the shoulder to pull over enough to let the other pass.  I think that I kept my eyes closed every time we took Mum's car somewhere.... okay, so some of those times I was sleeping because I never did get over my jet lag and hypothermia was setting in, but there were times when I was terrified because Mum drove like the devil was after us.

     We rode in the mail van to Gairloch (stopping to deliver mail along the way) where we caught the train into Inverness to stay a night in a bed and breakfast.  Another day we drove to Aviemore to spend a night with one of Mum's friends in a 100 year old croft house that had thick sod walls and roof.  It was the warmest I had been the entire trip, sleeping in a room heated by a tiny coal heater under piles of down comforters.  I didn't want to leave that bed.

     Now... remembering the beauty of the country, the friendliness of the locals, and the incredible history in every stone and building... I'd love to go back one day.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

What is your wish for the New Year?


We Heart It
     It is the last Wishcasting Wednesday of 2011.  As I think of all my wishes past, and wishes for the future there are so many things that come to mind.  Wishes of things I would like to take back, do over, and erase.  This has been a difficult year for me.... a difficult two years.

     I wish that 2012 is better... abundantly better... than everything that 2010 and 2011 were.

     I wish for healing... for my husband's condition, and health and healing for my own as I seek the source of another abnormal test result.

     I wish for the ability to repay loans, pay debts, and build financial security for the future.  To be able to pay bills on time, to fill my pantry, refrigerator and freezer, and to be able to sleep at night without worries of what bill will arrive in the mail the next day.

     I wish for ... hope... and the belief that one day I will look back at this time in my life and realize that I survived it... "What does not kill us, makes us stronger."

     I wish to be stronger. 

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Anonymous Encouragers...

"Therefore encourage one another and build each other up."
~ 1 Thessalonians 5:11 ~

     Mom sent me a Christmas box with lots of goodies in it... recipes... scented soap... some awesome cartoons to cheer me... and a newsletter called Blessings by Integrity Notes.

     The cover article was on Anonymous Encouragers and it was... well... encouraging!  There was also a quote in the newsletter that really hit home for me this past week.

"Things fall apart so that other things can fall together."
~ Anonymous ~

     I feel like I've been in the falling apart stage for so long that I don't know if all my pieces will fit together anymore.  But something happened recently at work which made me realize that maybe all the pieces aren't supposed to fit together again without a little help from my friends.

"I would have lost heart, unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.  Wait on the Lord; be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart; wait, I say, on the Lord!"
~ Psalm 27:13-14 ~

WeHeartIt


Monday, December 26, 2011

Wrapping paper...

     David and I drove around the neighborhood on the way to the lake where he fishes just before sunset tonight.  We were going to watch a small herd of deer (also called a 'mob' which makes me laugh to think about a mob of deer, but I digress...).

     As we drove he commented on the lack of Christmas wrapping paper and boxes by the road like we used to see when we were kids.  It seemed that 'once upon a time,' on the day after Christmas there would be boxes and bags of ripped and torn wrapping paper all through the neighborhoods.  Kids would be outside riding new bicycles, skateboards, or scooters; playing with new footballs, basketballs or baseballs.  Now... there were no kids in sight.

     I pointed out that of the 30+ houses that run down our street, there were perhaps only five that had decorated for Christmas.  I remember when the odd house was the one without any lights or decorations... now it seems that the odd houses are the ones like ours with lights and decorations.

     Toys now are electronic... iPads, iPods, and cell phones to name a few.  Kids eyes are lit by the glow of Facebook, MySpace, and whatever the latest social or electronic fad is.  They aren't lit by smiles and laughter of joy as they interact with their friends and compare new toys.  They communicate by texting... acronyms and abbreviations.  We were once so worried that Ebonics was going to negatively impact the educational system... now we should be worried more about text-onics.

     Whether or not the lack of wrapping paper and Christmas lights is a sign of the economy... or green thinking... I miss both.  I miss the laughter of kids in the streets on Christmas day.  I miss driving through neighborhoods on Christmas Eve with a thermos of hot chocolate looking at the decorated houses and yards.

     I miss the Christmases of my past when all I had to worry about was whether or not I was going to get a new camera, boots like the ones Nancy Sinatra wore, or if I was going to have to suffer through the next month of school wearing slacks that my Mom made to cover the braces on my legs (sorry Mom, but I used to get teased more for my clothes than for my braces).   When the day after Christmas I was outside with my friends... with my brother... already breaking the newest toys and working on our wish lists for next year.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

A.D.D.

     I went to a new church this morning for Christmas Day services.  As always, it was right where I needed to be.

     Pastor Joe Rich spoke on "When God Messes Up Your Plans" and opened with "You can make many plans, but the Lord's purpose will prevail." ~ Proverbs 19:21

     He said that we often have Attention Deficit Disorder when God speaks to us because we've already made our plans, we've already decided what we want in life.  The truth, however, is that it is not God who is messing up OUR plans, it is US who messes up His plans for us.  God sees the bigger picture of what He wants for us.  We don't get in His way... we get in our way.

     "'I  know what I am planning for you,' says the Lord, 'I have good plans for you, not plans to hurt you.  I will give you hope and a good future.'" ~ Jeremiah 29:11

     Even when we decide to change God's Plan A for us and go with Plan B... or C... or F... or P... God will always take our messes and turn them into good to fulfill His purpose for us.  That is His promise to us and it has always been His plan for us.

     When our lives become difficult, when we feel tired, worried, and scared... when we can't imagine that this is part of God's plans for us, we look for the easy way out... the Plan E.  As soon as we give up our faith and our trust in Him... that is when we mess up His plan for us.

     His plan is not for us to hurt, but for us to become stronger in Him.  To build our character, our values, our beliefs in something more than just material things and "instant gratification."

     He wants us to have a relationship with Him, not just a 'Simon Says' religion that you only play on Sundays and holidays.  He wants us to find the purpose that He has created us for, our talents and skills that will define who we are for Him.

     Our rewards when we do that are not things we can hold and experience now.  Our reward for our faith, love, and trust in Him is yet to be seen.

     "No one has ever seen, heard, or even imagined what wonderful things God has ready for those who love him."  ~ I Corinthians 2:9

     As the year comes to an end, whether it was good, bad or ugly, these three things remain truths that you can count on...
  1. No matter what you did or didn't do in 2011, God still has a personal plan for you and your life.  He still has faith in you, still loves you, still reaches out to you.
  2. He will never leave you.  He will never turn his back on you, slam the door in your face, or leave you stranded.  His love for you is everlasting.
  3. When you get to know God ~ when you have a personal one-to-one relationship with Him, when you seek Him out and open your heart to Him ~ when you discover the purpose He has for you and start living that purpose in your life.... you will be richer than your wildest dreams.  Because the real riches are not of gold or silver, big fancy houses, or cars that turn on at the sound of your voice... true wealth is the peace that you will find in yourself, in your heart, and in all of your relationships.
     Turn your A.D.D. into "A Daily Devotion" of your life to God.  Seek Him.  Find Him.  Know Him.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Dear Santa...

S. C.

     The year my father was in Vietnam was the year I first realized that there was no Santa Claus.  I do have to give Mom credit for trying to make the effort to keep my belief alive... but in the end it was what gave it away.

     Mom had cut boot prints out of white paper and left them on the floor from the fireplace to our bedroom doors where our stockings hung on the handles, and back and forth to the Christmas tree.

     On the gift tags for the presents Santa left under the tree, she had neatly printed "To Cindi, From S.C."

     The giveaway was that at the time, we lived in Scottsdale, Arizona.  Where there was no snow on the ground at Christmas.  So while the white paper boot prints were creative... they didn't quite fool my eleven year old mind.

     Santa's initials were the other giveaway.  They just happened to be the same as my Mom's.  S. C.  could have been Santa Claus but the handwriting looked just like Sib Clarke's.

     The Santa of my childhood disappeared that year, but I never stopped believing in the magic of Christmas.  It is more than just a time of year for getting ugly homemade sweaters, rock hard fruitcake, and perfume that makes the dog want to roll on you.

     The true meaning of Christmas is the gift we were given... a child born to save us from ourselves...

21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” 
~ Matthew 1:21 ~

Friday, December 23, 2011

T.G.I.Friday...


Find someone to snuggle with and stay warm this weekend.





(photos found on WeHeartIt.com)

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Thursday travels... Mojave Desert

Photo by Tim Laman (National Geographic)
     Yucca brevifolia.

     That is the Latin name for the Joshua Tree, seen here in a photo from the Mojave Desert.  It is the only term I remember from my 'Natural History of the Antelope Valley' class that I took in the late 80's.  It stuck with me because it sounded like you were calling someone a name... much like the Robin Williams character did in his movie 'Hook' ~ "You two-toned zebra-headed, slime-coated, pimple-farmin' paramecium brain, munchin' on your own mucus, suffering from Peter Pan envy!"

     Later when I began reading the Harry Potter book series, it sounded like a spell being cast with a flick of the twig I used for a wand while reading to my nephews.  "Wingardium Leviosa!"

     When I first saw the Joshua Tree as I drove from LAX airport to Lancaster, California in September 1986, I thought it looked like some sort of alien tree.  It did nothing to reassure me that my move from Florida was going to be pleasant.  We crossed the San Andreas Fault that ran through the San Bernardino mountains.  It divides the Los Angeles valleys and West Coast, from Palmdale and the Antelope Valley High Desert.  All I could see was flat, brown, dry dust, tumbleweeds, and these ugly trees.

     Fourteen years later, in November 2000, I left the same way I had arrived... crossing the San Andreas Fault line without even looking back.  I had come to appreciate the diversity of the desert, the Joshua Tree, tumbleweeds, and the unique beauty of the Antelope Valley.

"We don't see things as they are, we see them as we are." 
~ Anaïs Nin ~

Lessons...

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

What is your winter wish?

     The sun was coming up on my way into work this morning, making the sky go from red to pink to peach against the dark grey clouds.  It made me think of a saying I learned long ago... Red sky in the morning, sailors take warning.  Red sky at night, sailors delight.

     Thinking of that brought me back to last night's conversation with Mom and the two of us laughing hysterically as we tried to recite two poems my Dad taught us several lifetimes ago.

Once a molicepan saw a bittlelum,
sitting on a surbingctone,
chewing gubberrum.
"Yum!" said molicepan,
"Won't you give me some?"
"Not by a sarn dight!"
said the bittlelum.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Maresey dotes,
and goatsey dotes,
and little lambsey divy.
A kiddle divy too,
wouldn't you?

     Thinking of laughing with Mom made me think of laughing with David later in the night as we played Yahtzee and kitchen danced to The Beatles, Santana, and Billy Currington.

     When I thought of Jamie's prompt for this Wishcasting Wednesday, my first thought was that I wish I never had to spend another day in Texas.  But watching the sun rise, remembering my Mom's laughter and how good it felt to laugh and dance with David last night...

     My winter wish today is to always find reasons to laugh... especially when it seems like there are no reasons.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Hands-Up How-To ... find Christmas magic...

     Jamie Ridler has invited her fans to create a Hands-Up How-To Blog and my first thoughts were... what do I know?  But then in reading another blog I follow written by Chick Chat about Christmas, I realized that there was something I could share...

     2007 was a horrible year for me.  I had divorced the fall of 2006 which left me with a great deal of debt from my ex, my father died the spring of 2007, and I had argued with my brother most of the year as I tried to settle my father's estate.   As far as I could see, there wasn't going to be any 'merry' in my Christmas that year, especially if I had to spend it alone.

     I had always dreamed of going back to Germany to visit the magic I had felt as a child when we were stationed there with my Dad's military assignment.  But the idea of going 'alone' had never occurred to me, (a single woman, alone at Christmas, in Germany?  How pathetic could I be?), especially since I have limited vision in my right eye.  When I was in a relationship or married, there was always the consideration of the expenses for two people to travel on limited budgets.

      But then I realized... how much braver could I be?  What better way to take back control of my life and my happiness than to do something totally out of character of the 'old me?'

      I had been working two jobs to make ends meet... a day job that kept me exhausted and bored, and a night job teaching that made me feel fulfilled each time one of my students came to me with that 'Aha!' moment.  I was finishing up the term in September with a class that had more students than any of my previous classes, so my pay when it arrived at the end of the term would be substantial compared to what I had received in the past.

     A friend had recommended Uniworld after her father and stepmother had gone on one of their summer river cruises, so I started researching options.  When I got my pay for that term, it went right to Uniworld to pay for an eight day Rhine Holiday Market cruise!

     So here is my Hands-Up How-To travel alone at the holidays advice for singles of any age:
  1. Be brave!
  2. Plan ahead.  If you don't already have a passport, GET ONE NOW.  Don't wait until you need it for a trip to get it... that almost always guarantees delays in the mail or passport office.
  3. Make sure your cell phone has international coverage... even if you aren't going to spend the holidays with family, you will probably want to call someone and tell them what a FABULOUS time you are having (even better than a Wish you were here! postcard).
  4. Do your homework! 
    1. Learn some of the language before you leave.  Even if you never use it, it will give you a little confidence to at least know how to ask for help or directions.  My Southern girl accent must have been obvious because no matter where I tried to sprechen Sie ein wenig Deutsch they would always respond in English!
    2. Purchase some books before you leave for the countries or cities that you will visit.  Amazon.com has some excellent ones that allowed me to make notes of what I wanted to make sure I saw.
    3. Research airports for all departures and arrivals delays and potential weather issues.  Consider leaving a day ahead - I flew out of JFK and so went up the day before my flight to Germany to see all of the sights in New York.  I stayed the night in a beautiful hotel within walking distance of Rockefeller Plaza.  When I arrived at JFK for the long flight ahead, I was rested, excited, and not stressed from worrying whether or not I would make my connections because of weather delays.  When I returned at the end of my trip, I did the same thing, staying an extra night in New York to get rid of the jet lag.
    4. Pack light and in layers.  My first trip I packed an outfit for each day and a few options ~ way too much!  Wrestling with two suitcases and a carry-on bag when I had to take the train from Frankfurt to Koln... nightmare!  Pack clothes that you can mix and match, and a few of Purex 3-in-1 laundry sheets so you can do laundry on board the boat if you really need to.
  5. By booking a river cruise, I just had to unpack once and each morning I would wake up in a new magical city along the Rhine River.  We would tour the city in the mornings and the afternoons we would be free to explore on our own.
  6. Step out of the box!  Try new things!  The chef on the cruise was incredible and I made a vow to try something new every single night at dinner.  I had escargot (not really as gross as the snails in my fish tank back home!), duck (nothing at all like the one on A Christmas Story), and one night for dessert I had champagne, sorbet and caviar (all together in a champagne flute)!  For lunch we often had the option of eating on the boat or in town, and I always opted to eat at one of the local restaurants or holiday markets.
  7. Speak up!  Don't sit by yourself at dinner.  Seek out someone else traveling alone and ask to join them for dinner.  While I was probably the youngest single (at 44) on the trip, I made some wonderful friends by joining a table of other singles for dinner.  We began to call ourselves the Christmas Five Club, and the following year when I took the Danube trip, one of the elderly gentlemen (80ish) I met on the Rhine trip booked the same trip just so he would know someone would be watching out for him and keeping him from getting lost (he was deaf in one ear and hard of hearing in the other, but was a wonderful conversationalist).  Even if you don't eat with them again on the trip, you will have met someone new.  River boats typically carry less than 200 passengers... Uniworld cruises about 100 max.  That Christmas there were only 49 passengers... there were more crew members than passengers on board!
  8. Every time I could, I would buy two of the same postcards.  One I would stash away to bring home with me, the other I would 'journal' what I had seen or done that day and then mail it to myself with local postage.  When I got home, my scrapbook was halfway completed with all of my postcard journals that I could match up with the picture postcard I had carried home.
  9. If you do want to go for the holiday markets and shopping, book your trip for the week before Christmas.  Most of the holiday markets will end on the 23rd or 24th, and most businesses will be closed the 24th through the 26th.
     Looking back at the scrapbooks I created from those two trips... they were the best Christmas memories ever!  If I had let my fear of traveling alone at Christmas control me, I would never have had the incredible experiences I did.  Be brave!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Advent...

Source
     It is the third Sunday of Advent and I love this easy to make calendar that I found online.  I had forgotten about the calendar similar to this that I bought in Germany several years ago.  It has numbered gold and white angels glued to the front of the clothespins that hang along a string. 

     I really like this idea of tiny gifts hanging from the pins!  What a sweet idea!  Tiny bags of candy, love notes, or mini ornaments to hang on the tree.

Source

     I remember as a child we had an advent wreath with candles that we would light each Sunday before Christmas.  I have one now,  but again, it is something put away in a box somewhere that I cannot find since we moved here a year ago.

     I'm looking forward to a time when there are no unpacked boxes ... and our home is filled with family for the holidays.  It has been far too long since I have spent Christmas with extended family in a home filled with laughter, love, and lights....

Saturday, December 17, 2011

If only...

     Last Sunday my husband, David, and I spent time watching sermons we had recorded over the past week.  T.D. Jakes.  Joel Osteen.  Joyce Meyer.  Jentezen Franklin.  Jesse Duplantis.  We both were sick with colds and as much as we wanted to get out of the house and to a church... sitting in a pew coughing and sneezing to share our colds with everyone... just didn't seem right.

     While we missed the fellowship of being in church, it was good to get submerged in the Word from so many incredible pastors.  What made it even more incredible is that the underlying message from all of them was the same.

     When we make up our minds to live for God... live as God desires... then we live a life filled for His purpose and He blesses us richly.  When we do the 'right' thing, when we do our best for Him, when we believe on Him and in Him....

     The key is to make that decision when things are good so that we can stick to it when things are bad.     It can be so easy to follow God's will in our lives when the sun is shining, work is going well, bank accounts are full, the car runs great, we're in good health, and even the pug dog is fat and happy.

     But the challenge comes when those things change.  We can become resentful, jealous, angry.  We compare ourselves to others, 'coveting' what success someone else might have.  Those days it rains, when we dislike our jobs, when paychecks don't stretch as far as you need them to, when the car's warning lights stay on and it rattles when it runs, when we are sick, and even when the dog bites us...  Those are the times when we find ourselves bargaining with God, making promises that we will be better "if only..."

     "If only..."  Two words that can carry so much weight in our lives, and can do so much damage.

     I also watched a movie this week, House of Sand and Fog, which was based on a novel by Andre Dubus III.  Towards the end of the movie, one of the main characters was praying to his god for the life of his son.  "If only" his god would save his son, he would make everything right.

     We are to do the right things, to live by the example set for us the best we can, to fulfill His purpose for us, to share His word and His love.  There is no "if only" in His desires or promises for us.  Why should we put an "if only" on our promises to Him?

45 Not one of all the Lord's good promises to Israel failed; every one was fulfilled.
~ Joshua 21:45 ~

     

Friday, December 16, 2011

Finally Friday... weekends on the lake


     Weekends seem to go by so fast.  By the time laundry is done, house cleaned up, there may be just a few hours of sun left to go fishing if the weather is warm enough.

     A few weeks ago David and I were exploring around one of the lakes we fish, watching for deer since we had seen several large bucks as we drove up.  As we were walking along the road, we heard some loud rustling coming towards us through the brush.  

     Both of us froze, picturing the large ten-point buck we had briefly seen on the other side coming out on the road ahead of us.  The rustling became louder and I stood with the camera poised to take a picture, wondering if perhaps it was something other than a deer, maybe a coyote, raccoon or armadillo...

     After what seemed like forever, the source of the noise revealed itself... 

Beware of crazed ducks in the woods!

          We laughed until we cried...

Thursday, December 15, 2011

You might be a redneck if...


... you use Tree Frogs for Christmas Lights...
      I just couldn't resist.  I found this picture on National Geographic:

August 17, 2009

Cuban Tree Frog, Florida

Photograph by James Snyder
This Month in Photo of the Day: Animals
This is a Cuban tree frog on a tree in my backyard in southern Florida. How and why he ate this light is a mystery. It should be noted that at the time I was taking this photo, I thought this frog was dead, having cooked himself from the inside. I'm happy to say I was wrong. After a few shots he adjusted his position. So after I was finished shooting him, I pulled the light out of his mouth and he was fine. Actually, I might be crazy but I don't think he was very happy when I took his light away.

Thursday travels... ghosts of Christmases past...

     Today I'm traveling to the past.... Christmas brings treasured memories of holidays spent with loved ones who are no longer here.  This year I have decorated a small tree with ornaments that have their names on them.  While the memories of those no longer here would seem to put a damper on the holidays, they instead bring me joy and laughter.

     I remember a brother-in-law who passed away in August 2001.  Shortly before he died, we had talked about starting a Christmas tradition with a pair of old, smelly, nasty slippers that had been left behind after another family member's visit.  He was going to box them up and send them as a gift... much like the dreaded fruitcake that never gets eaten and instead is re-gifted year after year.  That Christmas I boxed up the largest coffee mug I could find along with a laminated picture of him and description of what he had planned with the slippers and sent it off to his mother.  His love of coffee was a constant joke in the family, and so I asked that she enjoy a mug in his memory over the holidays and pass it along the following Christmas to another family member.
Source

     The first Christmas spent with my father after I moved back with him for my senior year of high school, he had been behaving like a Scrooge.  It was Christmas week and we still didn't have a tree.  Each time I asked him about it, he replied, "Bah Humbug!" and said that we weren't getting a tree that year.  I was devastated.  Three nights before Christmas, I got off work from my part-time job at the mall and went to my car.  It was a chilly night, even for Florida, and when I realized my car was not where I left it but three spaces away with the windows steamed up, I was afraid someone was waiting for me in it.  I went back into the mall and got a male co-worker to come out with me to open the car.  Imagine my embarrassment when he opened the car door to reveal a tree taking up most of the inside of the car.  My father had come to the mall, taken my car to get a cut tree, then spent more than an hour circling the lot trying to get a parking space close to where I had parked.

     Memories keep our loved ones alive in our hearts at Christmas...

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

What is your deepest wish?

     This morning's prompt from Jamie Ridler, while similar to one a few weeks ago about our greatest wish, made me think more deeply about both wishes.  Is there a difference between greatest and deepest wishes?  My greatest wish was for something global, something for others more than for myself.  So would my deepest wish be for something I truly wish for myself?  I find it difficult (still) to feel that I deserve good things.  It is easier for me to wish for (buy for, make for, think of) others than it is for myself.  That 'caretaker' personality quirk.

     What is my deepest wish for myself?

     I am on the edge of turning 50 ~ although my mother reminds me that I'm actually already in my 50th year... so I remind her she is in her 71st.  My health of late has been challenging from mistakes in the past (why couldn't I have worn more sunscreen?) and stress from worrying about financial constraints.  Book sales have slowed and I haven't had time to continue working on my next non-fiction book titled Rest Stops...On the Road to Something Better.

     But the truth is that in spite of the challenges in my life right now... I am happy.  I am content.  My needs are provided for.  True love finally found me.  My health issues could be worse than what they are.  We have a home that has water and power.  The car runs ~ rattles ~ but it gets us where we need to be.  I enjoy the friendship with my mother, and our renewed relationship.  While book sales are slow... they are still selling.  Maybe one day Trooper's Run or Eagle Visions will become a Lifetime Movie but if they simply continue to sell I am happy.  My dogs (my kids) are healthy and have finally overcome the insecurities from their previous abusers.

     My deepest wish for myself is that the next 50 years are as good, if not better, than my first 50 years.  That I become healthier, happier, and my needs continue to be provided for.  That my books continue to find eager readers, the car continues to rattle and we can maybe afford to get it fixed or get another.  That my friendship with my mother, and the rest of my family continues to grow.  That one day we might be able to buy a home on the water ~ whether beach, river, or lake ~ where we can enjoy watching the dogs run and dragonflies zip in the light of the setting sun.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Luke 13:13

"13 Then he put his hands on her, and immediately she straightened up and praised God."

     The healing touch of hands on us.  Too often we forget how much we need to feel the touch of another.  Whether it is a hug, a pat on the arm, or holding hands to comfort, touch is one of the strongest connections we have with one another.  It says so much at times when we have no words to offer.

     A study once claimed that you need at least eight hugs a day for optimum health, and eleven to grow.  Other studies have shown that being deprived of touch can significantly impact the emotional and psychological development of children, and the health of the elderly.

“Let us touch the dying, the poor, the lonely and the unwanted according to the graces we have received and let us not be ashamed or slow to do the humble work.”
~ Mother Teresa ~

     We may not have the power to make the blind see, or the crippled walk with our touch... but we can heal their hearts... heal their souls when we take the time to reach out and touch someone with a comforting hug, a hand held, or a gentle rub on their back that simply lets them know... you are there.  They are not alone.  None of us are ever alone...

29 The one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone....” 
~ John 8:29 ~

Monday, December 12, 2011

Scars...

     This morning I had a 'why did I schedule it so early' appointment at the dermatologist's office.  I needed to have some basal cell skin cancer sliced off of my chest, right over my clavicle bone.  A place where the skin is thin, the bone close to the surface, and where most of my winter shirts and sweaters will rub and irritate it.

     Sometimes our mind lets us forget things so that we will stress less, and relax more.  I didn't remember my appointment until early this morning when the alarm clock went off.  If I had spent the weekend remembering it, I'm sure I would have worried about how much they would have to cut, how many stitches, how bad the pain, would they get it all or would I need to go back, would there be a scar...

     "People have scars.  In all sorts of unexpected places.  Like secret road maps of their personal histories.  Diagrams of all their old wounds.  Most of our wounds heal, leaving nothing behind but a scar.  But some of them don't.  Some wounds we carry with us everywhere and though the cut is long gone, the pain still lingers."
~ Unknown ~
Source
"Sometimes you have to fall from the mountain to realize what you are climbing for.  Obstacles are placed in our way to see if what we want is really worth fighting for.  From every wound there is a scar, and every scar tells a story.  A story that says, 'I was deeply wounded, but I survived.'"
~ Unknown ~

     Not all of our scars are visible, and it is usually the ones that others can't see that feel raw the longest.  Words or events can cut deeper than any knife into our minds and sometimes never completely heal.  Those things that we wish we could forget, replay over and over again in our mind.

     But the gift of our scars is that they are a reminder.  Call them battle scars or medals of honor, our scars... those seen and not seen... are proof that we can survive. 

     He conquered the enemy... and through Him, through Christ whose hands, feet and body bare the stripes of scars He took for us... we will also survive.

24 “He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.”
~ 1 Peter 2:24 ~

3 He heals the brokenhearted
   and binds up their wounds.
~ Psalm 147:3 ~

 4 Surely he took up our pain
   and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
   stricken by him, and afflicted.
5 But he was pierced for our transgressions,
   he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
   and by his wounds we are healed.
6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
   each of us has turned to our own way;
and the LORD has laid on him
   the iniquity of us all.
~ Isaiah 53:4-6 ~

Update:  13 Dec 11
Always, ALWAYS, ALWAYS wear sunscreen!!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

A home of truth...

     I've always struggled to find a church "home" where I felt comfortable.  Organized religions ~ 'denominations' ~ have always struck me as being something man made... and the fact that they call them 'denominations,' the same term used in reference to money hasn't been overlooked. 

Source

      I didn't grow up with a strong church 'home.'  It's hard to do that when you pack and move every two or three years.  I would go to whatever church my friends at school went to (Presbyterian, Baptist, Pentecostal).  I identified as a Protestant because that was the other option from Catholic at military bases. 

     As I got older, I would visit different churches with co-workers (Assembly of God), boyfriends (Lutheran, Episcopal), my Dad (Methodist) or his lady-friend (Catholic).  I identified as a Christian, non-denominational.

    I began to believe that organized religion became over the centuries mans' interpretations of God's word in a way that best fit their lives, a way for the rich to get richer, a way to judge and condemn those who were different, a way to become educated.  I felt closer to God, and more in His house when I was at the beach, than in any building made of wood or stone. 

     Those organized religions ~ denominations ~ were not necessarily how God intended His word to be used, but became ways that made followers less uncomfortable in their skin.  I don't think God intended our walk with Him to be easy or comfortable.  I believe that God wants us to strive to be like Him.  To have faith in Him in the good and the bad times.  The ups and downs.  The trials and celebrations.  When we can be in our darkest hour and praise him for the light that we know will come.

     Even without a strong church upbringing, I have always believed and always sought Him in all that I do because I think that for a book... a belief... to have lasted so long, to have had so many who lived or died for it... there is ultimately a truth in it.

     A truth... that there is something bigger than us out there, something stronger than us, and by believing in that... having faith that we are here for a purpose and that our lives are not simply chance atoms that collided... there is a strength in that which gives us hope to do the impossible, and a reason to continue to wake up every day knowing that He is blessing us each and every day, whether or not we see it at the time.

13 But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers and sisters loved by the Lord, because God chose you to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth.
~ 2 Thessalonians 1:13 ~ 

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Sleep in Saturday...

     I was out sick for three days of work this week.  Strep throat.  You'd think that after sleeping most of 48 hours over those three days I'd be wide awake.... Not!  At work yesterday I felt like I'd been hit by a truck and my brain was so fuzzy feeling that it took me several tries to remember all my passwords.  I should have asked my Secret Santa for chocolate covered coffee beans instead of peanut M&Ms.

     Needless to say, the weekend agenda will be following the example that the dogs set... sleeping late... taking naps... and going to bed early.  And because I have Monday off ... make that a three-day weekend to get well.

     It is amazing how a sore throat or sinus infection can make your entire body feel like it has been bulldozed.  Two days of fever requires almost a week of recuperating.  Unfortunately, the boss doesn't agree.

     One of these days, I'm going to have a job I can do from home, wearing my fuzzy pajamas, robe and slippers, curled up on the bed with the dogs snoring around me.  On days when I have web meetings, I can dress from the waist up and sit at my desk in my home office where I will look awake and the snore of my pug, Henry, won't be so easily picked up by the microphone.

     I think I shall begin practicing for that this weekend... a new book has been spinning around my brain and I need to get it out...

Friday, December 9, 2011

Finally Friday... holiday baking...

     I'm thinking of dusting off the Springerle roller that I bought on my Christmas trip in 2007 and cookie cutters this weekend.  It has been many years since I've dug out my grandmother's recipes for Lebkuchen, Pfeffernusse, and Springerle cookies.

Springerle

Lebkuchen

Pfeffernusse


     But I've found some pictures of cute sugar cookies that look like they would be more fun to make.

     I wish my step-daughter, nieces and nephews were closer.  We would have a blast making these!

     Christmas is about giving... sharing... believing... laughter... love... and sometimes finding it all in the warmth of a kitchen that smells like fresh baked cookies!


     I'm hungry!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Thursday Travels... deserts

Carefree, AZ ~ photo by Sharon
"You should not see the desert simply as some faraway place of little rain. There are many forms of thirst."
~ William Langewiesche ~

     I've lived in several different types of deserts... Arizona was my first that I remember, and it is a beautiful, living desert. While it may be dry and dusty at times, it has unique plants, insects, birds and animals that bring unexpected color to the desert. Not to mention the sunsets...

     In California, I lived in the High Desert, north of Los Angeles. Whereas Arizona had a "living" desert, the desert of that part of California was not one I would even consider to be alive. But surprisingly, there were times when I found unexpected life and color. Did you know that tumbleweeds have flowers on them in the spring? Yearling lambs would frolic in the alfalfa fields, and in the fall the onion harvest would make the air smell like French onion soup.

     Here in Texas, the desert gives way to hills filled with White Cedar, oak and evergreen trees. If you look closely you can sometimes catch sight of deer, or a thin creek winding through the hills.

     Water is a rare commodity in the desert, especially here in Texas this year after a horrible drought. Plants and animals thirst for it. Farmers pray for it. The ground can be so dry and parched that when the rain does finally come, the soil doesn't know what to do with it.

     We thirst for water... for knowledge... for success... for love. Our spirit thirsts to be refreshed, our soul to be fed, our heart to be filled. All we have to do is ask to be refreshed in the springs...

16 ‘Never again will they hunger; 
never again will they thirst. 
The sun will not beat down on them,’ 
nor any scorching heat. 
17 For the Lamb at the center of the throne 
will be their shepherd; 
‘he will lead them to springs of living water.’ 
‘And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.’”
~ Revelation 7:16-17 ~

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

What do you wish to be celebrating?

     Today's prompt from Jamie Ridler Studios comes with a "Happy Birthday to you!" wish.  It also falls on Pearl Harbor Day... which brings to mind so many things...

Source
     I wish to celebrate the end of wars, and the beginnings of peace.

     I wish to celebrate the lives of those lost, those found, and those alive.

     I wish to celebrate health, love, family, friends... and of course, my dogs.

     I wish to celebrate the bad as well as the good... because without those moments in life when things seem the darkest, I wouldn't recognize the moments that are the brightest.

     I wish to celebrate me... for surviving, thriving, and finally becoming someone I like, love, and respect.

     I wish to celebrate you... for all that you are to those in your life... for all that you are to you... and for all that you will be to those you haven't yet met... for surviving... thriving... and learning to like, love and respect yourself.

     I wish to celebrate life's moments... good and bad.

We never walk alone...

Source


10 If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. 11 Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? 12 Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.
~ Ecclesiastes 4:10-12 ~

       When I first read this passage, I thought about all the difficult times in my life when I hit bottom so hard that it made my nose bleed.  I thought of those who had helped to lift me up, keep me warm, and defend me.  I realized that while some of those people came and went in my life, there has always been that third strand of cord that has been a constant.

     God has always been with me.  He has carried me when I thought I was walking alone, and when I was one of two... He was the cord that kept us tied together.

     It has never been God who has left us on the ground, alone, cold, and defenseless.  He is always with us, whether we believe or not.  He holds out His hand to lift us out of our despair, He wraps His arms around us to keep us warm, and it was His love for us that sent us His son to defend us against the evil that would have destroyed us.

     We are the ones who occasionally turn our backs on him, leaving His word on the ground, ignoring His outstretched hand, throwing back a cold shoulder, and leaving the armor His sacrifice made for us behind.  We are the arrogant ones who think we don't need Him, that we can walk alone through all that Satan throws at us.  We become self-righteous and indignant when someone tries to share their faith with us.  We shout out in anger at Him, "Why me?" and He waits silently and patiently until we realize... why not me?

     His love for us is always there, unconditional, patient, faithful, and forgiving.  All He ever asks of us is that we believe in Him as much as He believes in us.  That we reach up when we are down, and that we lift up those around us in His name.  That we wrap His warm assurance around us, and that we share that warmth with others in His name.  That we wear His armor, defend His name, and protect in prayer others in His name.

     He is the third strand that makes us whole, whether we are alone, or with another.  He is The One who does not break, The One who fixes us when we are broken.

     He is.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

A slip of the tongue...

     The other day I overheard someone say "I appreciate you," when a short order cook in the little dining hall at work brought out his burger.

     "I appreciate you."  Not "I appreciate it," but "I appreciate you."

     It made me think about what a difference changing that one little word can mean to someone.  All too often we take for granted those in the service industry.  Waiters, waitresses, cooks, bartenders, janitorial services... those seemingly invisible people whose job it is to take care of our needs.  Sure, we might tip well at a restaurant if the service had been over the top excellent... or not tip at all if it had been bad.  But tips are sometimes just what goes with the job.

     Appreciation, however, is something personal.  Individual.  Direct.  Not something that might have to be shared with the cooks, bartenders or other wait staff.

     One little word that might change someones outlook.  One little word that might change someones attitude. 

     Try it out for size this month when all the hustle, bustle and commercialism of the season often wears on people.  Crowds are larger, weather harder, and everyone in a service job is overworked, overstressed, and under appreciated.

"The deepest principal in human nature, is the craving to be appreciated."
~ William James ~

"Kindness is more important than wisdom, and the recognition of this is the beginning of wisdom"
~ Theodore Isaac Rubin ~

"I appreciate you."

Monday, December 5, 2011

What's in a name?

     I'm finally getting around to making my name change official.  We've been married for a year now.  My procrastination wasn't because I wasn't sure of him or the marriage ... but because it is always such a hassle.

     First you have to change it with Social Security.  Then where your drivers license (I just finally got around to getting one with a Texas address!), work, bank accounts, credit cards, everything....  You'd think that it would be an easier process, but it isn't.  You'd also think that since I'd already done it six times (married, divorced, married, divorced, married, divorced) that I'd be tired of it, or at least have the process down to an exact science.

     Not.

     At least this time I like the name.

     My first married name sounded like someone hacking up a lung.  It lasted just a year before his drug use made me leave.  The second time around my name became abbreviated to CyCo at work when I had to sign something quickly ... which is what he was and what I almost became after twelve years with him.  "Sometimes it's better to have loved and lost, than live with a psycho the rest of your life." 

     The third was probably doomed from the start when I told someone how to pronounce my new Hungarian last name.  "Think of commode and put in a load!"  My father-in-law didn't think that was as funny as I did.... the marriage didn't last two years... I had a problem with him and his son trying to sneak his ex-wife into the house.  (Imagine that!)

     But this time around, the name... the man... and the marriage is a keeper.  Summerlin.  It sounds almost like a romantic resort on the beach... or in the mountains.  My cousin told me after we were married that it made my name sound like a song.  Cindi Summerlin.  I like it.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Casting Crowns concert...

     David and I went to see Casting Crowns in concert a few nights ago.  It was an early Christmas present to ourselves.

     We are at those awkward Christmas gift ages ~ between a Red Rifle BB Gun or Candyland board game and new t-shirts or granny underwear I can pull up to my neck ~ when the things that we really want or need during the year are bought.  We would really much rather spend money at Christmas 'doing' things rather than 'getting' things.

     I've blogged before on the value of experiences over possessions... when letting go of material "things" doesn't mean losing the memories of them... when time spent laughing with family and friends has more value than money spent on a dust collector or a space taker. 

     This Christmas, consider spending time rather than money.  Make memories, don't just buy them.  Give of yourself, don't just take from others.  When you spend time helping others... at a shelter or soup kitchen... when you spend time cheering others... at a hospital or nursing home... when you spend time with those you love... the joy you receive will be multiplied a thousand times and re-gifted.

     We went to the well and our spirits were refreshed with the living water of worship and praise.  May your spirits be equally blessed this Christmas season!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Keeping an eye out for you...

     It was seven years ago today that I had my first of many eye surgeries to repair a retinal tear in my right eye.  I thought it would be a good time for an 'informational' post since often issues with our eyes happen so gradually that we don't realize we are having issues until it is too late.


Image source
      Cataracts... glaucoma... macular degeneration... retinal tears... the list goes on.  A web site I found for Eye Health and Blindness News provides a great resource for current information on how to care for your eyes. 

     I also can't stress enough the importance of yearly eye exams, even if you don't need or wear glasses or contact lenses.

     Certain medicines can have side effects that affect your eyes.  Prednisone can cause cataracts in some people (like me) and changes in your vision.

     If you are extremely nearsighted (again like me) you may be at a higher risk for a retinal tear.  I had been told to watch for the symptoms since I was a child.  When I saw the flashes of light (thought someone was playing with the lights in the hall at first) and the black dots (I thought they were ants on my desk), I knew to call the eye doctor for an emergency visit.

     While my surgeries to repair the tear went well, I believe that because I delayed being seen by a retina specialist ~ going instead to the emergency room at the hospital when 50% of my vision disappeared ~ I lost vision in my eye that never returned.

     Close your right eye for a few minutes at different times of the day or night and while doing different tasks (please not while driving!).  Welcome to my world.

     Your eyes are a precious gift... take care of them.

22 “All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows who the Son is except the Father, and no one knows who the Father is except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”
 23 Then he turned to his disciples and said privately, Blessed are the eyes that see what you see. 24 For I tell you that many prophets and kings wanted to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.” 
~ Luke 10:22-24 ~