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Friday, September 22, 2017

A Quiet Light

When I heard that Tilt-a-Whirl Joe, a man well known in our community for operating the tilt-a-whirl at Kiddieland, had passed away at the age of 93, my heart immediately broke and warmed at the same time. When I think of influence, I think of someone or something that is larger than life and hard to ignore. That isn’t always the case. Joe was a small unassuming man. He faithfully operated the tilt-a-whirl since 1986. He didn’t just operated it…. He owned it! He owned it in the sense that he put his whole heart and soul into each ride, carefully watching the faces of the tiny tots who giggled and squealed with each turn of the cart. When my kids were small, I loved watching as he pulled the stick that made the carts whirl with a wide grin, ride after ride, after ride. He seemed to take the joy of each passenger personally. He closely monitored each face to make sure the tiny tots were having a good time. He didn’t hesitate to stop the ride when a wee one became overwhelmed. He was the epitome of Ecclesiastes 9:10 “Whatsoever your hands find to do, do it with all your might.” His image is etched in my memory and the memory of my community. My husband and I work the Welcome Desk at our church, and every service he would come to the desk to get one of the hearing devices made available. He always had a sweet smile and a kind word. On more than one occasion, I remember thinking to myself….. “I want to be just like him when I grow up.” I never had a conversation beyond pleasantries, but that doesn’t change the fact that he had a lasting influence on my life and the life of others. He was and will always remain, A quiet light. 

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Love Safe


Parents teach their children about dangers. We teach them about stranger danger. We teach them not to text and drive. We drill into them that they should just say no to drugs. We warn them against many things that can trip them up and weigh them down in life, but we rarely discuss the signs and dangers of a toxic relationship. I wonder why that is? It’s safe to say that everyone has been in some kind of a toxic relationship at one time or another be it bullying as a child, or an emotionally and/or physically abusive boyfriend or spouse. But mum is the word when it comes to sharing our experience. Years ago I warned someone I love about warning sign I saw in a new relationship. This loved one lived in another state at the time, but was visiting me when they took a call from a new boyfriend.  The one-sided conversation I overheard, made the hairs on my arm stand up. I was in an abusive relationship in high school, and the conversation was a Déjà vu moment for me. I couldn't help but share my fears, but they wanted to believe the best in the new relationship and as they say…. The rest is history. Maybe we don't discuss it because it is hard to believe that you have been duped.  Maybe it's shame that keeps us silent, or fear that it will happen again. It's probably a combination of all of the above, but whatever the reason, it's something everyone should be aware of.  I have had my share of heartache from relationships that were peppered with warning signs all along. I want to say they are in my past, but I'm sure there are more in my future. Why?  Because I sincerely want to believe the best in others. I want to give large portions of grace, because I know that I require large portions of grace..... And last but not least, I am a people pleaser. The easiest way to love, is to be aware and believe there is such a thing as safe love. I found the following portion of an article that describes one of the most toxic relationships. I wish I had read years ago. This type of relationship left me wounded and caused me to question myself and others. I keep this close at hand so next time I'll love at a safe distance. 

NARCISSISTIC PERSONALITY DISORDER
A Narcissistic Personality Disorder comes across as conceited, boastful or pretentious. A Narcissist will often monopolize conversations. They may belittle or look down on people they perceive as inferior. They feel the sense of entitlement - and when they don't receive special treatment, they become impatient or angry. They have trouble handling anything perceived as criticism. They have secret feelings of insecurity, shame, vulnerability and humiliation. They often react with rage or contempt and try to belittle others to make themselves appear superior. 
  • Having an exaggerated sense of self-importance
  • Expecting to be recognized as superior even without achievements that warrant it
  • Exaggerates achievements and talents
  • Believe they are superior 
  • Require constant admiration and affirmation
  • Expects unquestioning compliance with their expectations
  • Takes advantage of others to get what they want
  • Believes others envy them
  • Behaves in an arrogant or haughty manner
Although some features of a Narcissistic Personality Disorder may seem like having confidence, it's not the same. Narcissistic Personality Disorder crosses the boarder of healthy confidence into thinking so highly of themselves they put themselves on a pedestal and value themselves more than they value others.

Love without boundaries, but always be aware. I can love a Narcissist, but I'll love them at a safe distance.



Tuesday, May 16, 2017

You've Came a Long Way Baby

The other day, I was standing in the check out line at Homeland with my husband. I had just put a People magazine back after flipping through the pictures, when the lady behind looked at the cover.... "Oh isn't that baby adorable?" She said. The cover featured Charlotte, the second child of Prince Williams and Kate. "Which one is that?" the lady asked me..... I told her and then I had to show her how much Charlotte looked like the Queen (bless her heart), but in a good way. We had our heads together as I flipped through the magazine looking for the picture.... This stranger and I. I found the picture and showed it to her..... "Oh, she certainly does!" she said as I returned the magazine to the shelf. By that time my husband was paying out and I headed to the car with our buggy. That's when it hit me..... 7, 6, even 5 years ago that conversation would have never, ever happen even in my, or my husband's wildest imagination. 8 years ago, yes, but certainly not 7 years ago. I stood in the parking lot replaying the interaction. It was a vivid contrast of how far I've come over the last 7 years. So much so that I almost missed noting that this would have been impossible 7 years ago when I struggled my way back from a Traumatic Brain Injury. During the years following, I found it difficult to communicate with my family, much less a stranger. Relationships were difficult to maintain, much less cultivate. Remembering those years are something I choose not to do often, but this particular moment the memory was a sweet reminder that I've come a long way baby.   

Friday, March 10, 2017

Unstoppable

This has been a weird week. It seems like everything I picked up, was more complicated than it needed to be. I've worked really hard, yet feel like I haven't accomplished much. I call it "Swimming in Glue". Although everyone has days like that.... I've had a whole week. Well, almost, tomorrow is Friday!!! Insert happy dance here.

It just amazes me how God orchestrates opportunities. Today he orchestrated a beautiful opportunity for me to visit with someone who has inspired me for years. I have a precious friend who is in the journey of showing Breast Cancer who's is boss. Today she had her second Chemo treatment and I was able to visit with her for a couple of hours. When I got there she was already hooked up and ready to go. Without exaggeration, I can say she absolutely glowed. We chatted like two magpies for a couple of hours..... Just catching up. It was a great visit. As I drove away from the Treatment Center, I thought to myself about what a great attitude she has. She has met this giant face to face and hasn't even flinched. It is so refreshing to see faith in action. She is literally "Standing on the Promises of God" Unstoppable is when you go to encourage someone else and come away feeling inspired yourself. That's just the way she is. I love her to the moon and back and can't wait to see what God will do with her Unstoppable spirit.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Comfort Zone

The last couple of years or so, I had been convinced that God was done with me.... I was of no use to him as I held no spiritual value. I thought God had tossed to me the side like people do to each other. I wasn't interested in investing in new relationships.  I get a visual of God watching me with his arms crossed, tilting his head and saying.... "Really? You think that's how this works?" With quite a bit of attitude I might add. So, God did what God does...  He stirred things up like an Eagle does her nest. It felt as if he had literally tossed me into the wind like an Eagle teaching her young to fly. Trust me.... It may sound idyllic when you read about it in Deuteronomy 32:10-11, but when it happen in real life, it's terrifying!! Did I flounder? Oh yes I did. I had lived in the shadows of others for so long, I couldn't imagine being left hanging, no security in sight. Nothing will bring out your insecurities and fill you with self-doubt like being uprooted from your comfort zone.  I wish I could say that I didn't bat a lash. I wish I could say I just spread my wings and began to soar.... But that would be as far from the truth, as the east is from the west. Comfort zones aren't healthy. I had taken a backseat, and even worse, believed that's where I belonged. See, that's the whole problem with comfort zones. Comfort zones are to Christians, like rocking chairs are to babies.... They lull us to sleep. Living in the shadow of others, will make your eyelids heavy and before you know it you're just dozing away without a care in the world. That's not the life Christians are called to. We were created to be, not just conquerors', but more than Conquerors'. Imagine an army preparing to conquer a city. Do you get a picture of soldiers decked out in their pajamas, popping bonbons in their mouth? No. A conqueror has to be on their toes.... A conqueror has to be hyper aware of what's going on, not wrapped in a in blanket. How ridiculous would that look? Comfort zones are a great place to hide, but they aren't a great place to grow. Growing takes a lot of digging, a lot of culling, a lot of not so pleasant activities that stimulates us to adjust. The Church is a great comfort zone. The Church isn't suppose to be a comfort zone, it's supposed to be a safe place, but not necessarily a comfortable place. The church isn't the building.... We are the Church and as such, we are to be mobile. Sure, the Church comes together as one, for encouragement and to be spiritually fed, but the Church isn't the battlefield. The battlefield, the ground to be gained lies outside the doors of the church where things aren't always pre-planned and well rehearsed. The Church building is where we dress for battle, but it isn't where the battle takes place.

So what did I do? I questioned everything and everyone around me.  I wanted to completely disappear from life as I knew it. As Dr. Seuss would say, I puzzled and puzzled until my puzzler was sore, and then I puzzled just a little bit more. I went through a time of doubting God, myself and others. Then ever so slowly God began to push a little here, nudge a little there, and before I knew it He whispered in my ear..... "It's not that I don't understand..... It's just that I don't care, because where you were at, isn't where I needed you to be..." and slowly he began to open my sleepy eyes,  dry my pitiful tears, and direct my timid steps (which are ordered by him), to new places, with new faces.  He assured me that I had a purpose just as crucial as anything as anyone else. He has done a great work in me.  He has healed my wounds, strengthened my wings and is teaching me to soar with the big birds. He has made it apparent that I have not been tossed aside. He has prepared me for such a time as this with a kingdom purpose. He has spoken to me and through me... Little ole back seat me. He has shown me that value I have in Him, and so much more so since he kicked me out of my comfort zone. He didn't leave me in a free fall, he swooped down and caught me on his wings until I had gained confidence. He carried me until I wasn't afraid to forge new relationships. Looking back now I know he had never left me behind, but he was always  behind me.

Sweet ones..... The greatest lie Satan can tell you, is you are of no worth. I assure you every one of you have a purpose. There are no big I's or little u's in the kingdom of God. We are all meant to be conquers' of big things, little things, and every day things. You have value and I hope you realize it before you have a nest stirring experience. Get out and get going.... You have places to go, people to meet and things to be done in His name. Start now before he jump starts it for you.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

The Brambles and the Briars

I've often referred to the journey of life as a tapestry. On one side, you have a plethora of colors, weaving and intersecting in what looks like nothing but tangled knots. When you turn the frame around, what was a tangled mess, emerges as a beautiful picture. That is still the way I prefer to look at life. It may be messy, but in the end a beautiful life will emerge. But when you are in the thick of things, when you are going through the tough stuff....  Life doesn't feel like a tapestry, it feels like you have stumbled into a thicket of brambles and briars. You can't escape life without some bumps and bruises, a little bleeding and scars. Our Savior didn't escape the tough stuff.

The brambles and the briars can be anything that knocks you off your feet, something that jerks the rug right out from under you sending you in a free fall.  They are the failed relationships, broken promises, and unfulfilled dreams that haunt us in our darkest hour. They are illnesses and unexpected deaths that shatter our lives and disrupt the foundation of all that we know. They are the despair you feel when your career tanks, sinking the ship that hasn't quite come in.  They are "the things" that happen to other people until you look up to find them roosting on your doorstep with no warning. They consist of  wild thorns and sharp words, that pierce your heart, ripping wounds so deep you surely think you will not survive. But survive you will. The tough times are not times of beauty, for we cannot see the big picture and often cannot see or feel the hand of God. It isn't until we can look back with tearless eyes and vision that isn't clouded by pain and emotions, that we see them for what they are... A learning place... A kneeling place.

In time.... After you've fought your way through the brambles and briars and back onto a path of healing, that you may gain clarity regarding such a painful time.... Well, sometimes clarity will come, but some times you just have to trust that when the sun begins to shine, you will look back and see some sort fruit or lovely blossoms on the thorny branches that once ripped holes in your heart. Sometimes the fruit is sweet, sometimes it is bitter, but there are always lessons to be learned in the thicket of the briars. There will be scars.... But scars can tell a beautiful story.... A story of healing, a story of hope.

The brambles and the briars in my life may be different than the ones in your life. It is so difficult to watch someone you know struggle through these patches in life. If you've ever been there, you want desperately to gently remove them from the thorns that are ripping every fiber of their heart.  But free them you can't.... All you can do is to be there for them... To be a safe place for them to go to when they are still so tender.  You can meet them where they're at, with no judgement. You can be open arms that embrace the hurting with the healing ointment of unconditional friendship.  You can be the one who whispers God's promises in their ear... To remind them to be gentle to themselves as they heal. You can be an encourager for nothing will zap your courage like the brambles and the briars.  I like it when I can make them smile, for I remember all too well, that smiles can be few and far between when you are tangled in the brambles and the briars.


Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Hoppa Lolli and Snowflakes From Heaven


Today was my birthday and like every birthday, (especially as I get older) it was a special day..... Not so much because it was my birthday, but because it was Valentine's Day. If I could pick any day of the year to have a birthday, Valentine's Day would be it. I'm a hopeless romantic and love anything that is heart shaped, pink, or that glitters. Valentine's Day is my day.... Literally! First thing this morning I got a video from my Daughter-in-law of my Grandson saying..... "Hoppa Lolli" which translated into Levi speak means "Happy Birthday Lollli." It made my heart swell to epic proportions.

Later in the day I got a little melancholy, wishing I could talk to my Mom and listen to her tell my birth story. Something about a birthday just calls for a Momma. Shortly, a co-worker peaked around the corner and said.... "Jackie, it's snowing." I ran outside like a two year old..... I truly regress when snow is involved. If I had any self awareness, I'd probably be embarrassed, but I don't and I'm not.... I love snow and am completely clueless at those who don't. I knew without a doubt that those fluffy flakes were sent as a special reminder that she is gone but not forgotten.

To top the day off was a ton of well wishes from friends near and far. I had a spectacular birthday and as Dr. Seuss said about Christmas.....

"It came without ribbons, it came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags."

But it came with a whole lot of heart. It came with a Hoppa Lolli, and snowflakes from heaven and I could not wish for anything more. I love you dear friends and I hope your day was just as magical as mine.  

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Fighting the Good Fight


3 years ago today, my Mom passed from this life to her eternal home. My Dad had been in the trenches of her illness long before we knew she was truly ill with something other than dementia or some other condition altering her mental state. When she was finally diagnosed with Lymphoma, I moved in to begin helping.

After she died, my immediate and most pressing concern was my Dad. They had been married for 57 years. I remember telling him..... "Daddy, don't quit on me. Please don't give up."  So often after a spouse dies, the remaining spouse gives up on life and follows shortly thereafter. My greatest fear was that Daddy would no longer have a reason to live. My husband and I continued to live with Dad for several weeks after her passing. We didn't actually move out, I just gradually began taking my clothes home, and spending more nights at our house until Dad was a little more settled. When I took the last suitcase home, the look on his face broke my heart.

I go by every morning before work. He works part time at the funeral home. He loves to work in his yard and takes care of his neighbors yard as well. His days are long and lonely, but he hasn't given up. He hasn't given up because he isn't a quitter. He hasn't given up, because he is still fighting to the good fight.

Today is a hard day, but it would be so much harder if I didn't have a part of Mom still here with me. I don't feel like I've ever lost Mom because as long as I have Daddy, a big chunk of her is still with me.
I love you to the moon and back Daddy... Don't ever forget that.


Friday, January 6, 2017

An Enchanted Day of Whimsy

Last night as I lay in bed reading my book, my husband kept coming in to show me the latest weather forecast, along with the radar. I shooed him away, telling him he was going to jinx my sliver of a hope for snow. I could almost swear Stephens County, Oklahoma has a no snow dome surrounding it. It seems that when snow is predicted, it makes it right up to our county line then.... Notta, zip, Today was a blessed day. During the night, we got barely a dusting. I was pretty certain that was the most we would get. When someone at work mentioned that it was snowing hard, I was elated. Snow brings out my inner child in an almost obnoxious way. I cannot confirm or deny that a snowball was thrown inside the office this morning, and without sounding too much like a Democrat.... "At this point, what difference does it really make?" But I will confirm that my boss heard squealing, came to see what all the fuss was about, only to find me standing on the steps catching flakes. Not sure how much that will advance my future within the company, but  it can never be said that things are boring when I'm in high gear.  I do love it when those around me who are not snow enthusiasts, grant me and my snow shenanigans a measure of grace. What can I say.... Snow sends my ADHD into hyper-drive.  

By noon the roads were pretty bad, and the schools were closing so we got to go home.
I slid into the driveway, flew upstairs for my winter gear (minus one glove) and ran right out the back door with dogs right behind me. One thing I have learned is, if we get snow I better enjoy it while it last, because it's  usually short-lived. The dogs and I romped in the backyard for probably an hour, then I swept the porch and drive. The snow was still coming down so I went over to Daddy's and cleared his and his neighbor's sidewalks and drive. I issued stern warnings not to get out and to call me if they needed anything. When I got home my husband wanted me to take him back to work so our son could have his car for work. When we got to the Honda Shop we had an impromptu two step dance lesson which was really fun. With no customers around, everyone in the shop attempted to find some rhythm and a right foot to go with the twin left feet we were all sporting.

Last but not least, I did what I dread every single year. I got the Christmas tree disassembled (but not put away). During dinner the activities of the day seemed to sneak up on me rendering me almost immobile. Yeah, I'm pretty sure sleeping in tomorrow will be at the top of my "to do" list. Today was day of enchanted whimsy and fun. Being an adult is overrated and every now and again its good to just let loose and enjoy life, That's what having a snow day is all about.... At least for this snowbird.