Gray is not for Cakes

I have always loved the color PURPLE!  I’m drawn to the color in everything from clothes to décor.  I have my favorite purple sweatshirt with my name on the front.  My dad helped me paint my trombone case purple.  I had a purple furry coat.  I just loved the color.  And, I still do today.

When I was about 10 years old, my parents and younger sister took an October trip to the Ozark Mountains.  My brother and I stayed with my grandparents and my Aunt Ruth, who was just a few years older than me.  My birthday was very near this time, so Ruth and I decided we needed to make a birthday cake.  And of course, I wanted a purple cake.  We did not have access to the myriad of food coloring products that are available today.  We had the box of 4 basic food colors from the grocery store: red, green, yellow & blue.  My aunt was in Junior High, so we knew that we could mix the red and the blue to get a beautiful color of purple.  We mixed the cake (from scratch) and then added the food coloring.  The cake was more lavender than truly purple, but that was okay.  After transferring our batter to the pans, we decided that swirls of color would be even better.  So, we added drops of all of the colors to the cake in the pans and stirred it around.  We stirred a little too much we would discover later.  The  beautiful purple cake I had envisioned was more gray than purple.  There were flecks of color here and there, but over all, it was a gray cake.  It tasted great, but it was not very appealing to the eye.

I am going the Bible chronologically this year.  Recently, I’ve been in the books of 2 Kings and 2 Chronicles.  The various kings for both Israel and Judah are listed and their history is recorded.  I found it interesting that each account included one of these statements:  “as far as God was concerned, he lived a bad life” or “in God’s opinion he was a good king” or “… did what pleased God for as long as he lived (even so he did not . . .)”  There were several kings that were just bad.  They worshiped other gods and led the people to do the same.  There were a few kings that did what God decreed and destroyed the other temples and led the people to worship Jehovah only.  And then there were the kings that lived the way God decreed, but allowed the people to continue to live in sin by worshiping other gods.  These were the “grey” kings.  If you kept your eyes closed or didn’t look too closely, they were good kings.  But, they didn’t follow God completely.  They failed the people they were chosen to lead.

When I look at my own life, I wonder if my life is “gray” when God looks at it.  I don’t think I’m living a bad life where God is concerned.   But, do I live in a way that pleases God?  Am I a royal purple follower of Christ and His commandments? Or, do I slip into the “grey” area that encompasses too many things?  Have I become so desensitized to the sins around me that I just don’t realize it?  Is political correctness the center of my focus or is God’s word?  Do I show compassion to everyone or just to the people I “like” in that moment?

I think we all like to believe that we are on the side of right.  I don’t know anyone that deliberately takes a stand that they believe is wrong.  However, we can’t all be right about everything.  Just as the early kings of Judah and Israel condoned the sex-and-religion worship by allowing temples to be built to worship the gods of fertility, we condone everything that makes us uncomfortable by NOT speaking up.  It’s just easier to live our own lives and ignore those around us.  I’m not advocating throwing stones at others.  I do firmly believe that we are to be kind and compassionate to those around us.  But, do those around you know what you believe?  Do they see someone who God is blessing when they see you?  Do you take a stand on a daily basis or is the act of attending Sunday and/or Wednesday services enough of a witness?  Is your relationship with God based solely on the current crisis in your life or do you spend time with Him daily regardless of circumstances?

Too many additions and too little knowledge/experience, made my birthday cake grey.  I don’t want my life to be gray.  I want the knowledge that comes from reading the scriptures.  I want to experience everything that God has to offer.  I want to follow Him completely and to exclude anything that is outside of His will.  That’s doesn’t mean I wont make mistakes.  (I can promise you I will make plenty of them!)  It does mean that I will stay aware and correct any mistakes with God’s help.  It does mean that I may have to give up some things.  I may have to get up a little earlier to spend time with God.  I may not get to sleep in on Sundays because I NEED to be in church worshipping with others.  I may have to give up my reliance on “finger-crossing” and “quick prayers” to really spend time with God to learn what I need to know.  I may have to learn to be part of the crowd and not in the spot-light where others can see me and comment on how wonderful I am.

Gray is a popular color for walls.  But, I don’t recommend it for birthday cakes.  Or life.

 

 

Invisible

invisible

Do you ever feel invisible?

Are there times your voice is not heard?  Is it because you do not speak up?  Or are the other voices and sounds drowning you out?

Do you ever want to be, maybe even need to be,  invisible?

When I was newly widowed, there were many times I felt invisible.  I didn’t fit into any group.  I was no longer married, but wasn’t quite single, either.  My friends were still in the married group.  I moved from “part of the group” to “third wheel” status in the blink of an eye.  I didn’t know how to be seen.  Others seemed to look through me, not ever seeing the ME that stood there.  I didn’t know how to be seen, because I didn’t know how to see myself.   I watched as others buzzed around and wondered how I could be so lonely in a such a busy group of people.  I didn’t know how speak up,  it was easier to fade away than to endure the pain of living in the world in which I no longer belonged.

One can be invisible for lots of reasons.  When another’s need to be recognized  is louder and more aggressive than your own, their need pushes all others out-of-the-way.  I feel the shutters begin to close in around me.  My opinion doesn’t matter.  My voice in not important.  Even the facts and information that I know are dismissed and discounted if they are not in agreement.  I am forced to disappear within myself to avoid further conflict.  It is often that very need to avoid conflict that pushes me further onto the sidelines.  When I am helpless to change anything, when  I’m caught on the carousel of life and there’s no way to regain control, I disappear.

There are times when I try to blend into the background.   There are other times when I need desperately to be heard,  to be seen.  But, I’m  invisible.   It’s as if I’m speaking in an unknown language or wearing the cloak of invisibility.  No one is listening.  No one sees me.  Regardless of how hard I try, I cannot break through.  I begin to believe that I’m truly invisible, that I truly do not matter.  And, that is the real problem.  I accept the invisibility.  I stop trying.  I fade away.

We need to be aware of those invisible people that surround us.  The invisible person may be that homeless person that has become a part of the background.  The invisible person may be the senior citizen that tells the same stories over and over and over again.  The invisible person may be the widow that reminds you how fragile life is.  The invisible person may be a friend or family member that refuses to see things your way causing you to rethink your own ideas or decisions. Invisible people surround us.  They work in the deli’s in our offices.  They stand on the street corners.  They are our neighbors, our friends, our family.  We need to put on our “X-ray vision” and find those invisible people.  We need to see them.  Listen to them.  We need to care.

God, investigate my life;
    get all the facts firsthand.
I’m an open book to you;
    even from a distance, you know what I’m thinking.
You know when I leave and when I get back;
    I’m never out of your sight.
You know everything I’m going to say
    before I start the first sentence.
I look behind me and you’re there,
    then up ahead and you’re there, too—
    your reassuring presence, coming and going.
This is too much, too wonderful—
    I can’t take it all in!

 Is there anyplace I can go to avoid your Spirit?
    to be out of your sight?
If I climb to the sky, you’re there!
    If I go underground, you’re there!
If I flew on morning’s wings
    to the far western horizon,
You’d find me in a minute—
    you’re already there waiting!
Then I said to myself, “Oh, he even sees me in the dark!
    At night I’m immersed in the light!”
It’s a fact: darkness isn’t dark to you;
    night and day, darkness and light, they’re all the same to you.

Psalm 139 :1-12  MSG

 

 

Joy

beau.jpg

Beau (aka Travis) waiting for his morning belly rub.

Travis was rescued from death.  Literally.  Estimated to be about 7 months old when he was found at a construction site, Travis was so sick they didn’t think he would survive the night.  He had hookworms that had drained most of his lifeblood from him.  He had an injury to his left eye that left a cloudy ulceration.  He couldn’t lift his head.  He received transfusions for 3 days.  For weeks, he wouldn’t even open his injured eye.  He was kept in isolation since he was weak and couldn’t see very well.  He was given food and water, vitamins, eye-drops, worming medication.  He began to recover.  He willingly took his vitamins and sat very still for his eye-drops.  Given any opportunity to snuggle up to his rescuer, he did.  He craved attention.

 

I first saw his picture on the PUPS website.   I was hooked.  I talked to his caregiver and got the information she had: his estimated age, his size and temperament with other dogs, and his house training.   I found out that Travis would be neutered on Tuesday and available for adoption the following Saturday.  I was at the Petsmart that Saturday to meet  him as soon as they were setup.  And I took Travis home with me that day.

Travis is now called Beauregard (Beau for short).  It didn’t take him long to make himself at home with our other fur-babies.  His eye is healed and after a few visits with the vet, he’s up to date on all of his shots and worm free.  He has a tag with his name and my phone number on it as well as a microchip, so he cannot be lost.  He is a little ball of energy.  He rolls and plays with the other dogs.  Every morning, after his potty break outside, he comes back to my room to find me.  I can hear his tags tinkling together as he runs down the hall and comes and lays at my feet.  When I call his name, he rolls over and wiggles in anticipation of the belly rub he’s about to receive.  I pick him up and cuddle him and get my morning kisses and then he’s off to breakfast.

Beau reminds me how I should react to time with my Father.  I was saved from death by the blood of my Savior.  He has taken care of me and prepared me for life in this harsh world.  It is through God’s loving care that I have survived the grievous events in my life.  I allow the world to suck the very life out of me.  I struggle to see where I am headed. But, I don’t always go to my loving Father with excitement, anticipating His loving attention.  Many times, I’m distracted by other “things” in my life.  I don’t have time or I’m sure I can handle this one myself.  I forget to spend time with Him.

But, He comes to my rescue, time and time again.  And I remember His tenderness and His love.  My name is engraved in His book of life.  I will never be out of His sight.  I realize that it is time with my Heavenly Father that I crave.  I spend time in His word.  I pray and listen for His guidance.  And, yes, I beg, plead, cry and complain about all that is “unfair” with my life.  He’s always there to correct me when I’m wrong, to provide for my every need and to always love me.

It took a squirmy, cuddly rescued puppy to remind me that I just have to go to God.  He’s waiting with every thing I can need or imagine.

I’m thanking you, God, from a full heart,
    I’m writing the book on your wonders.
I’m whistling, laughing, and jumping for joy;
    I’m singing your song, High God. 

Psalm 9:1-2 MSG

Joy (Take 2)

I am in a second marriage.  I was widowed in 2005.  In 2015, I married my dearest friend who had been divorced for a few years.  He was also a good friend to my late husband.  We now have a blended family with five kids:  the oldest is 28 and the youngest is 18.  They’ve know each other through the years as they grew up in church together.

Marriage the 2nd time around is familiar and different all at the same time.

I married Terry in 1987.  We were in our late 20’s.  We thought we knew everything.  We did everything together, even grocery shopping.  Having lived on my own for 5 years, it took a bit of adjustment to have someone there all of the time.  But, we adjusted to life together in our little one bedroom apartment.  We learned to love together.  We learned to disagree with each other.  We learned to give up expectations and live for today.  We learned to parent together.  We grew together in our love of family and our love of God.  And then, he was gone.  I mourned the loss of my best friend, my husband, and my dreams for many years.

I’ve never understood when I hear negative comments about marriage.  I was told once after Terry died,  that I was lucky I didn’t have to put up with a man any longer.  (I definitely didn’t agree!)  I’ve listened to comments about the “poor saps” that were getting married soon and how foolish they were.  I couldn’t comprehend “out-growing” my husband and moving on to greener pastures.  How do you out-grow someone with whom you are growing daily?  Couples that lived very separate lives always mystified me.    Terry and I had our own careers.  And, we were sometimes separated due to traveling for work.  But, I talked to him every night regardless of our locations.  While I might enjoy a day or two of being able to “do my own thing”, I counted the days until we were both home together again.  And, I think he did too.   Anytime Terry and I were in the same room, people knew we were together.  He was my husband and I was his wife. I wanted every person around us to know that.  I was proud to be married to him.   Life wasn’t easy.  We struggled with finances and work options.  There were extended family issues that affected our little family.  In later years, there were health issues to consider.  But, we had committed to God and to each other to see it through until the end.  We were together!

I married Tim in 2015.  Being married in our 50’s is an experience.  We both brought our own baggage into our marriage.  We’ve endured the buying, remodeling and selling of a home,  the buying and remodeling of another home, unemployment and the resulting financial problems, legal issues, the start-up our own business, joining a new church and just learning to be married to each other.  We’ve both had to stop filtering every comment and action through our previous life experiences.  I’m still working on my own insecurities and finding my place in our life together and with our children in this new family model.

There are always challenges in blending families.  Regardless of the age of the children in a blended family there are issues.   Jealousy about who likes who better.  Protectiveness of “my mom” or “my dad”.  While we strive to build new family traditions, there is pain as the old traditions are changed or even replaced.  Each child has different expectations for family life.  There have been tears and complaints, hurt feelings and joy since our marriage.   I expect that to continue as we grow together.

I adore being married to Tim.  At the same time, there are times that I still mourn for Terry and the things I miss sharing with him: our son, Zac’s wedding, the birth of Zac’s son, Gracie’s graduation from college and the purchase of her first home,  etc.  I also walk into unknown territory as a step-mom:  Where do I fit?  How involved is too involved?

The joys far out-weigh the trials.  Maybe because I’ve endured the loss of a husband, I truly treasure my time with Tim.  My views haven’t really changed.  I still believe marriage is for a life-time.  I still believe that we are to “become one” in every way. There is no “out-growing” each other.    I still believe in unconditional love.  I believe I have been incredibly blessed to find such a deep and abiding love the 2nd time around.  I still get butterflies when I hear his voice.  I still count the days, the hours and the minutes when we are separated.  To walk into a room holding my husband’s hand, is still one of the greatest thrills for me.  I can find the happiness we all say we want, because of the joy and peace that I have in my marriage today.

I am so glad I was given a chance at joy the second time around.

Interruptions

Don’t you hate getting interrupted? Just when the plot thickens on your favorite show, the phone rings or one of the kids needs you NOW. Does it drive you crazy? It does me! I’m a confessed control freak, so interruptions are NOT something that I look upon with kindness.

My Ladies Bible Study group has just started “Jonah, A Life Interrupted” by Priscilla Shirer. From the onset of this study, we’ve been asked to look at our own interrupted lives. And we’ve all had interruptions. Maybe it was not being noticed by ‘THAT BOY’ that brought your dreams crashing down. Maybe you didn’t get into the college you had dreamed about for years. Or maybe, you did get into that college and it wasn’t what you expected. Maybe your marriage doesn’t look like you dreamed and you are frustrated and upset with the lack of communication. You just want to be “HAPPY”. Maybe your marriage is over and you never expected to live life as a single parent. Maybe death has ended dreams for yourself, your marriage or your family. Maybe you just realized that your close friend is embarrassed to be seen with you in public. All of these things are interruptions. Of course, there are the GOOD interruptions, too. Do you have any of those? The “surprise” baby that has increased your family, a new and budding friendship, a new and challenging job. Even happy events can interrupt our life, our plans. Usually, interruptions or changes to our lives are unwelcome.

Job was a man who had his life interrupted. And yet, these are the words recorded in Job 1:20-21 after he has lost everything:
At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship and said: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; May the name of the Lord be praised.”

When my life is interrupted I need to stop asking God “Why?” Possibly, I would be better served to ask “Who?” Life’s interruptions may cause pain and sorrow and bring grief and tears. Things I would rather avoid. We’ve all heard it said “No pain, no gain.” So, why do I expect God to give me an easy path and increase my faith and strengthen my spiritual life. I will only grow and get stronger as I work thru the interruptions. I guess I need to change my view and instead of seeing interruptions to MY plans, I need to see opportunities for God to work in my life. I’m not there yet. I still have dreams that are dangling by a thread, plans that may never be fulfilled and lots of tears to shed. But, I’m learning to praise the name of the Lord thru the interruptions. And, I’m learning that I’m to really praise HIM, not just a perfunctory praise whispered under my breath. I need to praise Him with all my strength, to shout that praise from the top of my lungs regardless of what has brought me to my knees.

Jack

I met Jack at a Mayde Creek Booster club meeting. Joe pointed him my direction when he asked about high school wrestling. And that is where our friendship began. We would see each other at football practices and games, wrestling matches, outside the locker rooms waiting for our kids. Just about anytime I was at the school, I would get a chance to visit with Jack. You didn’t have to be around Jack very long to find out two very important things about him: 1) He is a believer and 2) He ADORES his wife and family.

Jack was very open about his beliefs. Jesus Christ was at the center of his life. Jack loved old hymns, and Bible based preachers. He talked of different teachers he’d know through the years and pastors that had made a difference. He had seen God work in his life and wanted others to have the same experience. Many times, I’ve wished that I was as bold as Jack when talking about his faith.

I loved to listen to Jack’s stories. In some ways, he reminded me of Terry with his corny jokes and loud laughter. Jacob and my daughter were in the same class, so I knew got to know Moose personally. But, I felt like I knew the “Chicago” daughter and the “Katy” Daughter and all of the grandchildren, too. Jack was always telling me about his family. And Penni was at the center of most of his stories. Their love story started at a young age and it was a joy to listen to him talk about her.

Jack is ready to meet his Lord face to face. Soon, he will be there. In my imagination, I see Jack and Terry talking about football and wrestling and telling really corny jokes and laughing together. And the joy that Jack will have at being with his Heavenly Father will help to temper the pain of missing him here on earth. Our world will be a little quieter and a little sadder without Jack Freeman. He will leave a huge gap in the lives around him.

We will miss you, dear friend! See you later!

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith (1 Timothy 4:7)

Anniversary

An anniversary marks a significant event in life. Most times, we think of anniversaries as celebrations. But what about those anniversaries that aren’t so great? Death and divorce leave a huge imprint on the lives they touch. And these anniversaries are multiplied by every other special event was ever celebrated. We can not avoid the anniversaries, and we do not want to celebrate. We honor the memory while touching the pain they cause as little as possible.

Admittedly, it’s easier not to remember. I’ve been told that I live life as if it’s a circle. I always come back to an event. Some people live life as a straight line and just move away from unpleasant events. Yet, those sad anniversaries are just as important as the happy ones. These anniversaries give us a chance to review the past year, to see what growth we have achieved, to see that we are still living. We are given a chance to reflect on what we currently value, what is really important. While I don’t want to dwell on the rough times, I do think there is value in remembering. I guess I’m looking for whatever good there is to remember. I want to find value, and justify the pain that shoots thru me at odd times.

Too often society defines how we should react. We are told to be strong. Be brave. Don’t look weak. Don’t get mad, get even. And, the expectation is there: Get over it. Move on. The first year in a child’s life is measured first in days, weeks, months and eventually years. Anniversaries are often measured the same way. But, after the first anniversary of a death or divorce, we are supposed to stop noticing the passing of time. After all, its been a year. You should be “over it”, right? I expected that first year of widowhood to be hard. I was surprised how hard the second year was. I wasn’t “fixed”. I still had issues. I didn’t cry as much and the days weren’t as dark, but the scars were still fresh and tender. I was moving forward with life and any admissions of grief were frowned upon by most. I had little patience with my own progress. I often felt guilty about grieving because it showed weakness. I was blessed to have friends that understood, accepted and encouraged me to be honest. Never underestimate the value of a strong shoulder or a firm embrace. These can quite literally save a life.

My faith was all I had left when death destroyed my life. I had my hope. And while hope and faith are good, they don’t remove the pain or the regret. So often in the darkest days, I thought I was letting God down. I wasn’t recovering fast enough. I was too sad. I was angry. I was lost in a world I didn’t understand and I didn’t want to be there. People that had offered support, the people I thought I could depend upon drifted away and moved on with their lives. I had to inch forward into the world around me, careful not to make anyone uncomfortable with my neediness. I had to learn to trust myself and others, again.

As each anniversary comes and goes, I remember what used to be. I wonder what might have been. And, I mourn the losses. And, I remember that I am alive and I have a purpose. I believe that God has a plan for my life even if I don’t understand or (sometimes) agree with it. Each year gives me a chance to measure how very far I have come and what I have accomplished. I’ve learned to celebrate the inches instead of bemoaning the shortage of miles. The anniversaries still hurt. They always will. And, I will continue to celebrate what I can as each year passes.