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Together is a good place

{This is my monthly book review.  Thanks for allowing me to share my thoughts.}

Being an only child, mother had plenty of time to spend with me. She didn’t have to divide her attention between multiple children. And let’s face it, one child does not create that same work as three or four.

One of my sweetest childhood memories is coloring with my mother. She patiently sat with me and colored in the large pictures designed for the very young, a box full of crayons scattered on the table between us. Just being with my mother in a shared, fun activity provided more stability than I can probably understand.

The BIG and Little Coloring Devotional, written by Rachel C Swanson and illustrated by Jacy Corral, provides just such opportunity for an adult and a child to experience togetherness in a bonding activity. What is unique about the book is the way the pages are put together.

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On one side is an adult graphic to color. On the opposite side is a less detailed coloring page just right for a child to enjoy. The perk of the book is the written devotional captured within the adult side.

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Imagine this picture: You are sitting at the table beside your child, or someone else’s. The crayons, pencils and markers are scattered about. The child colors and you color, each of you having your own page. Both of you begin to relax into the activity, breathing deeper as you fill in spaces with brightness and beauty. Pausing a minute from coloring, you read the devotional right there on the page, never leaving the table. You let the words penetrate your thoughts. You listen as the Holy Spirit speaks.

On the other side of the book, the child is deeply involved in her activity. You notice how her page coordinates in a simple way with what you’ve just read. Now you begin to ask questions that give her a chance to talk about the topic, whether that is sadness and tears, obedience, God’s love, or seeking Jesus with the whole heart.

The two of you are now sharing time with God together. Tenderly, unhurried, simply conversational. These moments carry eternal weight as she opens her heart and you open yours.

In our busy, task-oriented culture, slowing down long enough to color a page may seem insignificant, unnecessary, or even time spent foolishly. However, whenever we slow ourselves, give ourselves permission to relax and fall into the rhythm of a leisurely pace, when we connect with another person, young or old, through our words and animation, something significant happens in the atmosphere of life. Something important that outlasts our latest project on the to-do list.

BIG and Little Coloring Devotional provides the vehicle for being together.

Give time to the people you care about the most, especially during the rush of upcoming holidays. Ask questions and listen, linger with the conversation, turn off technology and experience life together.

Being together is a good place to be. In fact, it is the best place.

 

P.S. BIG and Little Coloring Devotional is currently on sale for only $5 at Lifeway.com. Pair it with pretty pencils or markers and you have a great Christmas gift.

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NOTE:   I received a copy of BIG and Little Coloring Devotional, provided by B&H Publishing, for an honest review.  The book was free.  The words are my very own. 

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October ending

In the first week of October we took a much-anticipated trip to see our dear ones. I brought my Carpenters CDs so I could sing along.  It makes the miles go faster and keeps me awake.

This is the music of my youth, and I remember what my life was like by the lyrics of each track. “It’s Yesterday Once More” as I recall my life flying by.

Though the distance is long, the faces that come out the door to greet us are the ones we want to see. I never mean to cry, but I do. We spent the time just being together doing simple things: playing games at the kitchen table, visiting a coffee shop and some thrift stores, watching movies, talking and laughing. One evening we went to new/old-fashioned soda fountain where I experienced my first Egg Cream, which by the way, does not have eggs or cream in it.

Maisie was in dog heaven with the family’s two spaniels to romp with. The first day she kept looking at me with a dog-smile as if to say, “Thanks for bringing me here.” Playing is her favorite thing to do.

Our grandson, the youngest of our three grands, prepared pancakes for us our last morning. He patiently stood at the stove frying one large cake at a time until all were fed. Then he fixed one for himself and sat down with us. I commented on his kindness, and he said, “That’s what mom does.”

Two deaths this month hit me hard. I found out about them while we were traveling and away from home. I had wanted to see both of these friends one more time and was planning to be in touch when I returned. We never know when we will look at a face for the last time. It makes every interaction with each person important.

With the cold weather sweeping in, I moved outdoor plants inside the house and garage. Some tender perennials would not survive if I didn’t shelter them.  It’s the task that  follows a clean-out of the garage to prepare for them to sit by two windows where they will reach for the sunlight during the winter months.

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Maisie and I walk the lane and I smell fall. It’s hard to define, but I know it when it’s in the air. It’s a mixture of mown grass, musty soil, and wood fires burning. I breathe in long and my senses tell me the changing of seasons. The  leaves are scattered in the yard, the red twig dogwoods look especially red, and berries cluster on branches, food for the birds. Darkness settles early in the evening, and I find myself wanting to snuggle in and drink hot cocoa.

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Unusual for us home bodies, we traveled again at the end of the month to the  state of Mississippi, the place of Sweet William’s birth. The youngest daughter of his deceased brother was being married, and it was important for us to be there. We caravaned with Sweet William’s older brother and his wife.

It was a time of remembering for all of us as we drove familiar roads around town and saw the house where Sweet William’s parents once lived. On another street we passed the home of his favorite aunt and uncle, all now gone from this earth. Life is brief at its best, like grass that is here today, then withers and blows away tomorrow.

We visited and had lunch with his 93-year-old step-mother who still gardens and irons. She is a sweetheart of a woman, and we cherished time with her.

The wedding on Saturday evening was lovely and the bride was beautiful. She and her sister kept saying they were glad we made it. And so were we. It was one of those times when showing up was what really mattered.

Image may contain: car, sky and outdoorPhoto by Louise Wright

This quote came home to me from The Art of Simple: “I show up because I believe in the power of presence. Life is really freaking hard–but we don’t have to do it alone.

The latter trip was perfect for enjoying the glow that is Autumn. I needed a box of 64-count Crayolas to help me describe shades. As we drove through the corridor of trees on Natchez Trace the colors were brilliant. Forest and olive greens, burnt orange and mellow gold, mahogany and bittersweet. It could not have been a better weekend for peak beauty.

Travels done, we arrived at home-sweet-home, unpacked, and washed clothes. I caught up with messages since I’d been off-line and disconnected to internet for three days. It was a bit of relief.

Settled into my regular routine, I discovered another of my good neighbors will be moving soon. It was only a week or so ago when the for sale sign appeared in their yard, and I expressed my  sad feelings about that.

Image result for seminon realty sign in yard

They sold their house quickly, even before the first open house. I’m happy for them; this is what they wanted and prayed for. But my little world is changing quickly, and I have to adjust. I want what is best for them, the will of the Lord. And so we pray for them and for the new neighbors who will be moving into our quiet community. I hope we can be friends.

With the ending of October we merge into the two busiest months of the year. Holidays and celebrations will abound. If we aren’t careful, we will blink our eyes and it will be next year. If we are not purposeful, we will miss the most important part: time to focus on family, an opportunity to listen with the heart, a chance to look at faces we love and be there, very present, with nothing else on the agenda.

Filling our lives full is a cultural temptation. But it doesn’t mean we will experience the pleasure of it. Perhaps we should think carefully about the activity level and our commitments in the coming months.

A full life and life to the full are two very different things.

http://holleygerth.com/faith-missing-out/

As the holiday season approaches, I don’t want to rush through it. I want to savor the smells, the sights, the sensations. I want to enjoy the people who sit with me at the table and around the Christmas tree. I want to really be there in all of it.

Don’t you?

 

It’s about time

{This is my monthly book review.  Thanks for allowing me to share my thoughts.}

Time is such a gift.  I realize it more and more.

We each received the gift of time this morning, my friend and I, as we met for a couple of hours.  And our chatter was the give and take that friends do.  We share life experiences, and we pray for the each other.

This kind of gift cannot be purchased and wrapped with a bow.

Time is a gift we give to God.  Imagine that we can gift something to the God who owns everything?  But think it through.  He desires to be with us, to talk and listen to us.  To share heart experiences.  To hear our prayers.

How much time do we really give Him?  Uninterrupted time.  Focused time.  Meditative time.

When I was but a small child, my mother presented me with a daily devotion book.  It began on January 1 and ended on December 31.  It was her way of encouraging daily time with the One she knew so well.  She wanted that same precious relationship for me.

Mother kept me in devotion books through the years hoping I would develop a habit of spending time with God.  It was a discipline I would desperately need through the years.

There were seasons when I could barely bring myself to open the Bible, open the devotional, open a study book.  Times when I felt alone and forsaken.  Times of depression and darkness of soul.  Times when all looked hopeless.

But the daily habit was ingrained.  So I did it.

And it brought me face to face with my Savior once again.  It was the face I needed to see, beyond the current storm I was in.

And so I want to recommend The Devotional for Womendevotional for women.

It begins with Day 1, not January 1, so you can begin it at anytime of the year.

It begins with Genesis and goes through Revelation, encapsulating the entire Bible, not leaving out the tough parts.

It is a book written by women for women so it speaks to us personally.

It has a “strong focus on what God has to say to women.”

And it’s just pretty.  Purple.  With a soft almost velvety feeling cover.  It appeals to the eye.  But it’s what’s inside that is important.

Just like a woman.

Are you needing something to spur you on this year?  Have you already forsaken that “read the Bible through in 2016” resolution and feel like a failure?  Would you like some help in developing the discipline of being in God’s Word and spending time with Him?  Could you use a a little guidance that you can pick up at anytime?

Check out The Devotional for Women.  If not for yourself, make it a gift for someone.

Because time is the gift.

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NOTE:   *  I received a copy of the book The Devotional for Women, provided by B&H Publishing, for an honest review.  The book was free.  The words are my very own. 

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Looking forward

December 31 marks the end and the beginning.  They come in tandem.

We celebrate the beginnings. A marriage. A birth.  A new job.  And we celebrate the endings. A graduation. A finished project. A race.

Sometimes we are just glad the thing is over, wanting to move on, hoping for something different, something better.

I’ve been both places.  Haven’t we all?

Some years I planned and listed goals and worked to accomplish them.  Other years I simply put one foot in front of  the other, leaning into the wind of adversity, hoping to survive.

As I look back over the year, I ask questions.  What did I do with the time I was given?  Did I use my days well?  Did I appreciate each one?  Was I present in the moments?

As my years increase, the days of my life become more precious.  I don’t want to spend what I have left foolishly, wasting it on fear, anxiety, unresolved anger, unforgiveness.  There is an abundant life offered to me, and I really do want to take hold of it and live it well.

Looking forward, I know there will be joy and sorrow.  They run side by side at times.  There will be challenges, hard places on the journey, and there will be joy unspeakable and full of glory.

I look forward with hope.  That hope is in Someone who has a plan and I’m part of it.  Hope calls me to live with courage to press on, to press in, to press forward.  When the muck and mire weigh me down, when the rain pours hard and soaking, when the fiery trial burns hot and unrelenting, I hope in the Lord who is God over my life.

There is only One worthy of my hope.  He is the One who can redeem my past and give promise to my future.

So I ponder the coming year, the new day, the next tiny second.  What am I going to do with the rest of this one wonderful life I’ve been given?

I will hope in God and I will yet praise Him.  He is my health and well-being, the One who is before and behind and surrounds me with His presence.

In Him my unfolding year is secure.

happy new year

 

Taking a breath

I’ve noticed that I’ve been a little tense lately.

My body is talking to me.  Simple health issues belie the stress.  My schedule has been crowded.  My inner spirit feels the need to take a breath.

In this my second year of retirement, I’ve not put restrictions on my activities like I did the first year. And I am feeling a bit overloaded.

Today I had plans; then I canceled them.  Instead I went to a friend’s home and sat in her sun room and began to take a breath.  She served me sumptuously, what she called simple fare but to me was fit for a queen.  Queen of quite a lot on her plate.  I relaxed in her comfortable friendship and the view of trees and sky.  I nestled into the chair with the pillow at my back, breathing deeply.

We talked.  Sometimes that is the prescription I need. No pressure to do anything, but simply the opportunity to be myself and to express my feelings.

My friend gave me a gift today, spur of the moment for sure.  She was willing to change her plans on my behalf, to minister to me around her table.

It is around the table where I find ministry takes place so often.  I think of Jesus and His disciples around the table at the last Passover they celebrated together.  Jesus had longed for that time with them.  It was the evening before His momentous event, and it was spent reclining at the table, sharing food and talking with His friends.  Jesus had words of love to impart and words that would call them to the same kind of love.

This afternoon I am breathing easier; I’m taking some time to rest.  I will fulfill my scheduled appointments already penciled into my calendar.  But I feel the Spirit urging me to be careful.  Take time to think through the plans and resulting actions required.  Consider what God wants to do with me, in me, through me.

I don’t plan on sitting around the rest of my life.  That’s not what I’m called to do.  There is still work with my name on it.  There is work and there is rest.  There are appointments to keep and there are margins to guard and maintain.

Life is to be abundant, joyful, and about the Father’s business.  It just doesn’t have to be bursting at the seams.

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The gift

airplane ride

I was out of town last weekend, flying by myself on an airplane and finding my way through Houston International Airport for a connecting flight.  I felt like a grown up and a child at the same time, navigating signs, regulations, and my own insecurity.  I did it, a bit nervously, with purpose.  I went to get my granddaughter who lives states away and bring her home to stay with us for a month.

And that is a gift.

She’s the eldest of my three wonderful grands, and the one who first made me a grandmother with that bursting wide open of my heart.  I had no idea that love could just break me right apart as I scooped up this tiny being who would take the heart of me and change me forever.

Love does that.  It transposes the song of life and we are never the same.

Love gaps us open, open for joy but also open for pain.  Pain is often the price of loving deeply.

I’ve felt the contradicting emotions, the loving and the losing, the holding close and the giving up.  The loss comes in different forms, whether by moving, misunderstanding, divorce, or death.  It happens to all of us sooner or later.

But the risk of loosing is more than worth the joy of loving and being loved. “Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all” is so true.

The granddaughter and I flew home together, our heads bent in conversation, laughter, taking selfies (with a photo bomber), stories, tears, and hugs.  She is a kindred spirit and we feel the connection deeply.

selfies of me and E

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A day in the life

100_3175Since December 21, the day’s are getting longer.  Well, actually a day is still 24 hours, but the daylight is lasting longer.

I am entering my second year of partial retirement.  As I look longingly for the season of spring I realized I am in the autumn of my years. Both of my parents have died.  People in my Sunday school class are grandparents and great-grandparents.  Friends my age have severe health issues.

And I know my days are numbered.

When I was younger I read a lot about time management.  I collected articles and went to seminars to learn how to plan my day and work my plan.  I wanted to use my time as wisely as possible which essentially meant getting as much done as possible.  And I had a lot to do.

Looking back I am not so sure all that management information helped me become a better person.  I may have accomplished tasks, but did I impact lives?  Did I invest in people, in eternal things?

What am I doing with the rest of this life of mine? I question how I spend my time as I watch the clock ticking away.  Sunrise.  Sunset.

Each new day is mine to choose how I will use it.  I can waste it on worry, anger, impatience, fighting silly battles that have no eternal value.  Or I can use it for good, speak encouraging words, stand for what’s right, look for the gifts of God and be thankful.  I can practice joy today or I can just coast along with whatever emotions invade me.  I can learn to be content.

That takes practice.  That’s what I tell my piano students to do.  Practice, practice, practice.  It. Is.The. Only. Way.To. Get. Better.  At anything.

What I do today is important. Time is a gift and it is valuable.  I need to keep practicing using it to the best of my ability.  That does not necessarily mean completing set number of tasks and checking them off my list.

I pray with the Psalmist:  Teach me, Lord, to number my days so that I can get a heart of wisdom.

And I take Paul’s words to heart:

So be careful how you act; these are difficult days. Don’t be fools; be wise: make the most of every opportunity you have for doing good.

The days can be difficult.  They can pull me away from my purpose.  They can side track me if I am not carefully looking at this day and praying to be wise in how I choose to use it.

Life is a gift, every single day of it.  I will give account for what I did with my days.  I don’t want to regret the price I paid for this day.