December 31, 2011

The Dawning of the Old Year - Time to Let Go

There have been year's end when I couldn’t wait for the new one to begin. Recent years, where so much begged to be left behind and a new year seemed the perfect opportunity to begin again. Joy and anticipation filled me with hope that I would begin anew, leaving the pain of past days behind me like closing a door and walking away.

I am blessed with a perpetually optimistic approach to life. My glass is usually half to almost full. So when these days, like today, dawn with clarity but less than optimistic ideals, I wonder what happened to deflate my balloon.

It is a reality that all days are not sunshine and roses, and the gloom of yesterday’s rain left me in a fog that confined me to warm covers of my room. In the middle of the night, awoken by my old, hungry cat (this is a nightly routine), looking out into the night sky I saw the brightest of stars right outside my window.

Thinking it was merely a reflection from some light inside, a closer look revealed that the clouds had indeed cleared and the stars were so close I could reach out to touch them, or so it seemed. Orion loomed immense on the western horizon, his feet almost standing in the level of the marsh. It was so beautiful I was tempted to don my winter coat and hat and go for a walk at 3 a.m. But that’s crazy talk in December in Wisconsin, even with a winter as mild as ours has been so far.

After hours of tossing and turning, sleep found me again. And now it is the morning of the last day of this year. I am not sad, but neither am I filled with anticipation at what lies ahead. Out with the old, and in with the new. Promises to myself to eat better, exercise daily, finally clean off my desk… these are nothing new and hold no real strength for diving into a new year with hope.

Why do I not feel that boost of energy, of anticipation? What do I need to jump start my new year with a feeling of hope, anticipation and joy?

Perhaps this is how others feel; people who do not ride on the highs and the lows of life like I do, but who keep a more steady flow in their lives. It isn’t a bad feeling, it just is not me.

Ah, the clouds are clearing and the sun slants across the grass still showing green at year’s end. The wind is low, and the temperature beckons a walk outside to breathe and to pray. As always, I will put my hope in the One who has a plan that I cannot see. I will trust that His love will guide me through all of my days and nights to come. And I know I will feel joy, love, hope, pain and suffering in this year. That is life. But I will hold tight to the love that never fails, never changes, and is always new for me each day – the love of my Savior.
Though I live on the ebb and flow of my emotions, the one constant I have come to know is the steadfast love of God in my life. I am thankful for this buoy to hold onto when I am floundering in vast seas of uncertainty. He keeps me afloat, and presses me onward to fight the good fight. I’m smiling now, the sun grows stronger and I realize my strength comes from beyond this earthly place. Hold onto hope. The Light is your beacon, too. He will guide you on the path of your future. Big smiles now. I’m going outside to greet the day.

Here are some of my favorite Bible verses to bring us hope for the new year and beyond:
God has a good plan for you …   “’For I know the plans I have for you,’ says the Lord. ‘They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11

God is always faithful …   “The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning.” Lamentations 3:22-23

God is always the same …   “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever.” Hebrews 13:8

God’s love endures ….   “For the Lord is good. His unfailing love continues forever, and his faithfulness continues to each generation.”   Psalm 100:5

                “Give thanks to the Lord for he is good! His faithful love endures forever.” Psalm 107

All verses taken from the New Living Translation

December 30, 2011

Life is a Matter of Moments

Moments that we breathe, and moments that take our breath away. Moments captured in a photograph, a memory to revisit whenever we choose. Our lives are made up of moments, some so hurried we barely notice them. Other times the clock slows and we measure every minute’s passing.

What makes a life? And what marks the passage of time? Moments. Some are sacred, blessed moments alone with our God. Perhaps found in a cathedral forest beneath the canopy, with feet on solid ground and our heart in the heavens. Treasured times hiking through a tall grass prairie under blue skies. Feeling oneness with nature and all living things. Breathe, and the moment passes. Live in the moment. Each one is sacred.

We live in times so hurried that we have to run to catch up with ourselves. Clocks ticking, seasons changing, and life never slows. Make it slow down. Make time to breathe, time to pray, time to sing and to share joy. Life truly is what we make of it. So make it what you want it to be.

What better time, with a new year looming on the calendar, to pause and reflect on what we consider a life well lived. In my heart, I believe we were made for more than a daily grind of work and duty. Certainly we must work, but there must be balance to know peace.

We make balance by making time for what speaks to our souls. For some, this may be the nature walks I described above. Others find peace in simply being still, and it matters not the location.

Sometimes we thrive on connections with other people, and our shared energy produces something much greater than we could create by ourselves. There is strength to be gained by joining forces with others, and inner strength to be found by focusing inward in our search for peace.

Take time to assess your life. Is it in balance? What do you need to add, or take away, to create balance and peace in your life? Remember that time passes too quickly to put this review process off until next month or next year.

It’s worth the time to evaluate where we are in this life and how we really would like to be living. Change is never easy, but it is always worthwhile. Let’s make the necessary changes to bring better balance to our lives as we go into the new year. The payoff of peace and contentment will be worth it.

December 28, 2011

Living in the Light

Welcome back after a Christmas break! The celebration of Christmas with family and friends is a joy we can hold in our hearts long after the day has come and gone. Indeed, it is my wish that we could carry the love and peace of Christmas in our hearts all throughout the year.  

This gift is for all when we remember the true reason for the season. God sent us His Son to show His great love for us, and to give us hope for today and all of our tomorrows. When we focus on this truth, God will live in our hearts and His peace will carry us throughout our days ahead.

My friend Mary DeMuth @ Living has a wonderful idea for going into the new year. She asked us to pray for God to give us a word or a picture to guide us through the coming year. This year God has given her a picture from which her hope for the upcoming year is springing. You can read about this here.

Our personal challenge is to pray that God will give us direction through a word or picture for our new year, and for me, I already see the light. And it is His Light.

Light is my word for this year! It is my image and my guiding force. It became clear to me through repeated acknowledgements. First through an article I read about how light is so much a part of the celebrations of many faiths, and then through song after song on the radio as I pondered about light as the guiding force of my destiny.

You see, God’s light shines in us, and we are to shine for Him so that others will see our light and know Him. I finally realize that this is the work He has been doing through me. I sing for Him, and I let my light shine for others to feel the joy I share. I write so others will know of His love and the hope He brings, and in this way God's light shines through me to offer hope to those who are searching.

We are beings of light. This is who we are. We are energy and thought. Yes, we are flesh and bone, but it is the spirit within us that guides us on our way through this life, and our spirit is light. It is through our spirit that we connect with people and to the world around us. And through our spirit, we feel God inside of us as He lives in us, helping us find our way through this life.

Sunlight is powerful! Without this light, our species would not exist. In fact, all life on earth would cease without sunlight. The sun helps to grow our food and fodder for the animals that graze. The sun grows life under the oceans and on the land creating oxygen for us to breathe. Light is essential to life on earth. This fact we know to be certain.

For me, personally, I look to God’s Light for my inner strength. By knowing Him through relationship and His influence on my thoughts, words and actions, I feel the strength of His guiding force in my life. I am open to it. Through faith and perspective and belief I have come to know my maker as my companion as I travel the bumpy roads of existence here on earth. He lifts me up, He shows me the way I should go. And when I err, He patiently waits for me to find my way back to the pathway I should be walking.

So my focus this year will center on light; God’s Light, my light, the light of life and the light of hope. This will be my beacon, my guiding force for the year ahead and indeed for my life. God is Light, God is good, and His constant presence in my life reassures me of His love for me. 

Let God be the Light of your life. Let Him lead you to find what your guiding word or image will be for your year ahead. I pray you will know His love in your heart and in your life, and through relationship with Him you will be blessed with knowing His peace.

December 21, 2011

Why the Shepherds?

Recently I shared the beautiful Christmas story from the book of Luke at a church women’s holiday gathering, and while practicing my recitation I found myself wondering, "Why the shepherds?" Why would God choose lowly shepherds to be the first to hear the Good News of the birth of the Savior to the world?

I know little about shepherds, except that they lived a fairly lonely life far from civilization, where their livelihood depended on the constant vigil of their flock. They may have been regarded with a lower status in society, and it’s hard to imagine their hygiene habits or if they ate regular meals.

Yet to these poor shepherds, the Lord sent His messenger angel, lighting up the night sky with the radiance of the glory of God, telling them not to be afraid! The angel spoke of the birth of the Messiah, nearby, in the city of Bethlehem.

And the shepherds left their flocks alone and hurried to the village to see the baby Jesus, wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger. It was just as the angel had foretold.

But why the shepherds? From their simple lifestyle, they certainly offered a humility and humbleness that might make them more receptive to believing the truths that the angel told them. With their honest, meager living in the outskirts of town watching their flocks, surely they were not haughty or arrogant.

God chose honest men of good character to be the bearers of the news of the miracle of our Savior’s birth. Simple men who had nothing to gain by telling the story of that miraculous night, but had pure and honest reactions to the incredible events that they experienced. They could be believed.

God uses the humble, the meek and the lowly, the downtrodden and the brokenhearted. He uses us in our imperfect state. We come to Him when we are broken, lost or hurting, and through His love we are healed. Our willingness to believe that our Savior cares enough to exist in our own lives, allows God to work further in our hearts. He can use us, and He will, in the work of His kingdom here on earth.

If we are the vessels willing to be filled with His Spirit and love for His people, He will direct our steps in ways we could never imagine. It doesn’t take money or fame, just a willing heart and a complete trust in the One who leads.

God uses our imperfections to teach us His ways, and to improve our relationships with others and with Him. Talk to Him. Tell Him of your fears. Ask for His guidance. And when you are ready, say “Here I am, Lord. I am ready to serve you. Show me the path I should follow. Lead me in Your truth.” 

And then be prepared for blessings you never expected. It all begins with a humble heart and a desire to know God in ways that lead to a greater understanding of yourself and your place in this world. 

"Show me the right path, O Lord; point out the road for me to follow. Lead me by your truth and teach me, for you are the God who saves me. All day long I put my hope in you."  Psalm 25:4-5 NLT

December 20, 2011

O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree

Our giant Christmas tree has taken its place of honor in our living room. Unadorned as of yet, it towers to the cathedral ceiling in all its majesty.

The adventure begins with a trip to a nearby Christmas tree farm. We always have to scout out the biggest trees, as the boys will settle for nothing less than 13’.  I would prefer a nice 10’ fir, but we chose a 14’ pine that requires a chain saw to bring it down.

The farmer brings around a tractor and flat bed trailer to haul it for us. Amazingly, the 200 pound tree is lifted into the “shaker” and we extract handfuls of dried pine needles as more shake to the ground. We thought we’d try to bale it this year, but there was no way this tree was going through that small funnel.  It will be another year of push and pull to get the tree inside.

Last year, my husband took the sliding glass doors completely off their tracks, and the tree was easily brought in. This year the boughs weren’t frozen, so the task was to open the double front doors and force it up the stairwell. What a mess!

Fighting gravity to set the trunk in the cast iron stand takes great strength. Getting the trunk centered when it nearly fills the stand is almost impossible. Working with nature and a trunk that grew at an angle (why didn’t we see this at the farm?) we finally get the tree to stand on its own.

Sweeping needles and pine bark off the floor, I shake my head and wonder why we do this every year. I think this is the tallest tree ever, but my youngest argues that indeed there was one taller. We will need the extension ladder and step ladder to decorate our masterpiece, and the process takes days. Once completed, I am reaffirmed of the reason for all this work. It is a sight to behold!

Already the scent of pine is heady, and the tree drinks more than a gallon of water a day. The freshness and aroma of pine fills the house. No need for pine scented candles here!

The boxes and bins of treasured family ornaments are brought out, and everyone helps to turn this massive evergreen into our family’s Christmas tree. It is a labor of love, with over a thousand lights and hundreds of ornaments. My favorite time is late at night, when I turn off all the other house lights, and bask in the glow of the colorful mini-lights.

Finding my favorites, I look at my babies’ first Christmas pictures on their ornaments. I treasure the hand made ornaments, and remember my early Christmas birthdays with my Rudolph ornament from a year when my age was in the single digits. I have all of my family’s ornaments from growing up, as well as all of the ones we’ve added over the years. There are memories in each one, and I cherish the tradition as each ornament gets its place of honor on the tree.

There is comfort in tradition, and every year we are sure this year’s tree is the most beautiful ever. Enjoy the blessings of the season, and share your joy with those less fortunate. Celebrate the One who came so that we might have life. Cherish your loved ones and enjoy this particular season of life. It is ever changing, and we hold onto our traditions for continuity through the years. Christmas Blessings to you all!

Look out! Timberrr!

Enjoy these photos from a couple of years ago. I forgot to bring my camera this year! I say this because the tree in the photos is obviously a spruce and not a pine. (It's the horticulturist in me).

Do you think this will fit in our living room?
On its way to our home...

Decorated in all its Christmas glory!

December 16, 2011

JESUS Came so You can Live YOUR STORY

While living in Texas years ago, I attended a Bible study in the home of a dear friend from church. My friend had a old, dirty, cracked flower pot on her table, and she shared that this can be how we feel about ourselves in our unworthiness before our Lord and Savior. Then she brought forth from the inside of the filthy pot a beautiful shining crystal vase, and told us all "this is how God sees you". It took everything within me to not run crying from the room and never come back.

I thought all God saw of me was my stains, my mistakes and my failures. I felt I was a fake to be putting on this façade of a strong Christian woman when inside I was so terribly broken. Perhaps some of you have felt this way, too.

This video, with footage from the movie “The Story” makes me weep. The lyrics tell the reason Jesus came; for us to live our story with all of our failures and brokenness. We come before our Lord and He sees only our possibilities. He sees our greatness and our potential. With lovingkindness and forgiveness, our Savior releases us from the bondage of our past. We are born again, made new in His sight. Our sins are forgotten; they are gone with the wind. And even if we make more mistakes, and we will, because we are human after all, we can come to our Lord and ask for forgiveness, and He will set our feet on the pathway to righteousness once again. 

Mac Powell of the band "Third Day" sings these words of truth: "Tell me your story, show me your wounds; and I'll show you what love sees, when love looks at you. Hand me the pieces, broken and bruised, and I'll show you what love sees, when love sees you."

No longer am I ashamed of what once defined me from my past. I am born again in the Spirit. I know Jesus as my Savior and my Lord. I am the daughter of a King! I am blessed. My friend, this is my Christmas wish for you, that you will come to know our Lord personally, and truly believe that you can made new.

If you are struggling with inner demons, He is the one who can save you. You deserve to live a life free from shame. Jesus came for you to live your story. And His great love can help you live your life with gratitude and peace. Do not believe the lie that this promise is not for you. It will be yours when you ask Jesus to come into your life. You can share with him all of your failures and successes. You can learn about His life through reading the New Testament of the Bible, and you can come to know Him personally by coming to Him in prayer. Ask Him for the direction your life should lead. This relationship can be the guiding force of your life. And it can begin with a simple prayer asking Jesus to come into your life.

We all need more than the simple existence of living life on this earth. Our lives are filled with challenges and sorrows, sufferings and joys. God can help us turn our challenges into triumphs, and our sorrows and suffering can help us grow into a closer relationship with Him. Our joys will be filled with gratitude and our rough places made smooth through knowing that God is always with us. Emmanuel, God with us. That is why He came.

December 15, 2011

The Mystery of the Star of Hope

Carols ring about the hope found beneath the star. Wise men followed it. Volumes have been written about it. What was this mysterious star and how did it prophesy Jesus' arrival as a king?

Recently we had some debate as to where the star was seen. It began with a young friend who claimed the star was not found in the east. I countered with what I know best -- songs! There’s a star in the east on Christmas morn; Rise up shepherds and follow.” Or if you dig further into “The First Noel” in the second verse, “They looked up and saw a star, shining in the east beyond them far”. And that really must have been SOME star because “And to the earth it gave great light, and so it continued both day and night.” Now that’s a bright star!
I think the star was meant as a beacon, to draw us near to the One who can change us, the Savior who would save us, our God here on earth. Whether the light was a result of some celestial occurrence or the radiance of a thousand angels, it was meant for us to follow.

Astronomers and astrologists agree that a true spectacle of light may have occurred during this time. They argue about a conjunction of two planets, or a rare triple conjunction. Additionally, there is much debate as to exactly when Christ was born. There is no record of his birth, so determining exact timing is impossible. This makes it difficult to pinpoint exactly what might have been happening in the skies during Jesus’ birth.

One theory is the appearance of the planet Jupiter. By studying computer models of what would have been occurring in the sky during that part of history, it is realized that the planet Jupiter, which appears in the heavens as a very bright star, appeared in the eastern sky.

In astrological beliefs, the appearance of Jupiter in the eastern sky heralded the coming of a new king. The Magi saw the star, and traveled a great distance to bring gifts suitable for a king: gold, frankincense and myrrh. They found the infant king in humble abode, and they honored him with their gifts and their presence.

Perhaps some things are meant to remain a mystery. There are facts to support the theories presented as to the origin of the star. With faith, we ascribe to the belief of the star as a compass pointing to truth, life and resurrection. All that Jesus grew to become was displayed as promise in the light of the natal star.
It would serve us well to keep that light burning in our hearts, to welcome the child who would bring us salvation. We are lucky that we have seen His star, and know the Truth of a child born in a humble stable and laid in a manger. This infant King, born to bring us life everlasting. This baby who would change the world.

December 13, 2011

What does God want from Us in the Season of Love?

I am a Christmas baby.  I was born on Christmas Eve, so this season has always been very special to me. When people hear I have a Christmas birthday, I get piteous looks as if I am somehow missing out on something.

My view is quite the contrary! I love the Christmas holiday and all that leads up to the celebration of Christ’s birth. This is the season of love, where everyone seems to be more tolerant and caring toward one another. It’s a great time to have a birthday!

As a child, my mother always made sure my birthday was kept separate from Christmas. This was very gracious of her since I made her miss Christmas at home with my older siblings the year I was born! 

I would get to open my birthday presents on Christmas Eve, and my brother and sister would have to wait until Christmas morning to open their gifts.  When you are a child full of Christmas excitement with anticipation at its maximum, it’s so hard to wait! I felt very special to be the only one opening presents a day early.

I always felt like Christmas Eve was my special day. My husband has continued the tradition of keeping my birthday separate from Christmas, and assuring that my day is special. Our family has always held the tradition of opening our Christmas gifts on Christmas morning.

The thing I love most about having a Christmas birthday is the feeling of love that the season holds. When I thnk about Jesus, and why he came to this world, I think about love. He came for our salvation, of course. But he also came to teach us. And the most important lesson he wanted us to learn was to love one another.

It’s a simple thing, really. I see love in the people around me. A smile shared, a helping hand, compassion, caring and tolerance. That’s really all it takes. Love has a ripple effect. When we share love, it passes on to the person who receives it; they feel more loved and are more likely to pass on that caring to someone else.

It’s amazing that our love will never be depleted. The more love we share, the more love we find within ourselves. Perhaps it helps to understand and accept that we are really not all that different from everyone around us. 

Our needs are the same as theirs. And the joy we feel in honoring someone with our little gifts of love passes that joy on to another. When this process is repeated exponentially, a vibration of love can permeate humanity, echoing Peace on Earth, good will toward men.

Love is the gift Jesus brought. He came to let us know of God’s great love for us. By sharing love amongst our fellow people, we can create peace on earth.  Each of us can start in our own little corner of the world, and together we can spread love throughout mankind. And let it not be just at Christmastime, but throughout the whole year. The world needs love, and you're the just the person to give it.

December 9, 2011

Cherished Traditions in the Season of Hope

Finally we have our Nativity set up. It’s such a family tradition that it didn’t feel like Advent without the crèche.

This set was bought years ago when our boys were small. Early on Christmas morning when eager little boys couldn’t wait to open the piles of brightly wrapped packages under the tree, we would first gather around the manger scene and sing Happy Birthday to the baby Jesus. Oh, such sweet memories!

Our holiday decorations become part of the tradition of celebrating Christmas. Ornaments are collected over many years, and as each one is brought out for the season, the memory attached to that ornament plays through my mind. Some decorations are received as gifts, or are purchased while traveling or on a family outing. I have a Santa ornament with dangly button legs purchased at the State Fair that always makes me smile and remember a fun summer day when I unwrap it.

Tradition is an important part of holidays, passing on to the next generation, and the next. We cherish our memories and our keepsakes. As a very small girl, I remember being in charge of our Nativity set. My big sister was jealous because I was the youngest so I got to set it up. I remember the set had lots of barnyard animals to play with, including tiny little chickens. My mother set the crèche under the Christmas tree, and I would lay there for hours playing with the figures, rearranging them to my delight.

Since I grew up to be the ‘traditional’ sibling, raising a family of my own and celebrating the holiday with all the trappings, my family’s Christmas ornament collection was given to me to cherish. I love bringing out the old and familiar decorations and placing them on the tree.

Of course new ornaments are added every year, and like some of you I have more ornaments than I can fit on a tree. Although we do give it our best effort, as those little boys are now over six feet tall so we decorate a very large tree. Our Christmas trees average about 13’ high, though the boys would like an even taller one!

A tradition I cherish is our Baby Santa. My mother purchased him in 1956 when my brother was an infant. He is plush and has a music box inside that winds up to play a mellow version of “Jingle Bells”. I still have the plastic sleigh he sat in for so many years, but in honor of his longevity, my sister gifted a beautiful new sleigh to carry him through the holidays. 

Our holidays wouldn’t be the same without our traditions. Whether it’s cutting out and decorating the sugar cookies, or attending Christmas Eve services at our church, we cherish most the time we spend together. Having the family together at Christmastime is our most treasured tradition.


How about you? What holiday traditions do you carry from year to year? I’d love to hear about them! Please leave a comment below and let’s share our traditions!  

December 8, 2011

All is Merry and Bright - or Maybe Not So Much?

Christmas memories can be the best or the worst, and the emotions tied to them are certain to be amplified this time of year.

If the holidays bring unhappy memories, how do we cope with the flood of feelings that are dammed up behind our happy facade? We may feel we need to put on a happy face for those around us, when deep inside our sorrow shows.

There seems to be an expectation for everyone to be jolly this time of year. Just listening to the holiday music, nine out of ten songs is upbeat and happy. Some are over the top, almost manic, like “We Need a Little Christmas” which races around decorating “before my spirit falls again”.  What we need “right this very minute” is a little peace amidst the chaos.

The reality may feel more like Judy Garland’s version of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” (from Meet Me in St. Louis). Singing to her little sis, lamenting a move that would take them far from loved ones, the feeling is melancholy as she looks to the future for happier times. By the way, the more familiar version of the song, made popular by Frank Sinatra, is more upbeat with a change in the lyrics. After all, his album was to be called “A Jolly Christmas”!

There does seem to be a holiday song for every emotion. Perhaps you are dreaming of a “White Christmas” as I was after a move to California. Many secular Christmas songs deal with love at Christmastime, and if you are not in a relationship, these can be hard to bear.

The sacred Christmas songs speak of promise and peace. Once again, I turn to my faith for the solace I seek. This promise of a Christ child, the Prince of Peace. The sweet song “Away in the Manger” over three verses tells the Christmas story beautifully, with a prayer for God to be near us always.

When we are overwhelmed with feelings of sadness or inadequacy during the preparations for this season, God is the one we need to turn to. When our hearts are heavy, He is the only one who can provide His perfect peace. There are no simple answers to deal with holiday grief. Perhaps, like Judy, we feel we need to believe in happier tomorrows. Instead of thinking “until then we’ll have to muddle through somehow” maybe we should think like Frank and “hang a shining star upon the highest bough.”

“And have yourself a merry little Christmas, now.”  Now. Not just looking to the future for better times. Let’s try to look to the present for a small joy. Today.

Make it point to find something to be joyful about, something to be thankful for. There are those little moments in the day, when the sun hits the snow and it sparkles like diamonds, or when a child shows you unconditional love; or the moment when a stranger shares a smile with you, that you can believe in peace on earth.

Our sorrows will diminish with time, but we need to live fully in the present. It may feel like the holidays are just something we have to get through. But if we search out reasons to be thankful, there may be little joys hidden amongst the trappings of the season.

Go for a walk and breathe in the cold, crisp air. Look for signs of wildlife foraging in the frozen world. If you are in a warmer clime, appreciate the subtle changes in the world around you. Find your center. Pray for God’s peace.

There is joy to be found amidst our sorrows; hope even though we think all is hopeless. Turn to the One who can show you the way out of your doldrums.  Ask for His help and tell Him of your need. He will open your eyes to the beauty that is around you. He will point you on the pathway to finding peace.

December 6, 2011

Shoot for the Moon

Are you a goal setter? Do you like to plan and project and set up steps to achieve your desired goal?

Some people are linear thinkers, and achieve better with schedules and structure. They thrive on designating goals and structuring the pathway to achieve them on an Exel spreadsheet. You know who you are.

Then there are those of us who are creative thinkers.

Speaking for myself, I am all-over-the-place when it comes to ideas, and perhaps that is how we creative individuals think outside of structure to tap into our creative vein.

I do make lists, then promptly forget about what is on them, as if making the list itself completes the task. I try to be organized, but it is so much more expressive to write or sing than then to go through that pile of papers on my desk.

We should set goals, and structure is a good thing. For some people, though, schedules and structure are too confining and stifle the creative process.

I like to look at the process, and live in the potential to achieve the final outcome. I guess you could call that goal setting, but that sounds too structured for me. I like to have the option to stay my course or redirect it. And we all have the power to do that.

Do you have a goal or a dream that is waiting to be acknowledged? Perhaps it seems too lofty to obtain. The best way to begin is right where you are, earthbound. Is there a class you can take to begin the process? A conference to attend where knowledge can be gained? Little steps are all it takes to start out on the road to a new tomorrow.

Don't ignore that whisper in your heart. Living a life fulfilled is the only way to live. We only get one time around this crazy universe. Make the most of it by finding the way to live out your dreams.

Setting my hopes upon a star, perhaps I will shoot for the moon. That way I will at least land amongst the stars and shine in my own way.

December 5, 2011

Accept Me as I Am

Expectation can cause disillusionment. Memory can color the past. Perhaps all that we know or think we know is really just illusion.

Sometimes memory is inaccurate. Our emotions and our thoughts get skewed. The memories we keep are usually the best and the worst, and sometimes we temper the emotions those memories bring.

Sometimes people aren’t what we think they are, either. We may hold onto a memory or image of them that no longer defines who they are.

I think the best thing we can do is take people at face value. Meet them where they are in life, with no expectations or prior perceptions. Learn who they are, right now in their lives. Because aren’t we always changing? Doesn’t the very nature of life offer so many opportunities to grow and change and become?

Friendship can be a fleeting thing, or it can last a lifetime. When there is that special connection between two people, it transcends time. Months or years can go by and you pick up the phone and the conversation seems to flow effortlessly even though so much time has passed.

We are lucky to know a true friend. One with whom we can share our hearts and our souls. Someone we can feel free to say whatever is on our heart without reproach. Someone who accepts us exactly as we are.

When we are blessed to know such a friend, we need not hold back any thought or feeling. It helps us to navigate the rough patches of life when we can verbalize our innermost feelings and see our situation through another person’s experiences.

Sharing this road of life is the reason we are walking it. It is not to stand alone, but to lend our hearts to others and risk abrasion. When we reveal our true selves, we are exposed, and insult or indignity can result. But we can grow in our acceptance of ourselves and others through the mending, and gain strength and courage for the road ahead.

December 2, 2011

God's Strength in Our Weakness

Where do you turn when you are overwhelmed? When anger, frustration, fear, longing, pain or grief overtake common sensibilities, and emotions take control?

We are emotional beings, fraught with strong feelings that pull us off of our solid center. Life has so much to deal with, and we are pulled in so many directions throughout our day.

We may be sailing smoothly along and then get hit with an unexpected storm. Or we might be facing a trial of pain and inconvenience as we deal with a medical issue that threatens our stability.

After years of living and enduring being tossed to and fro on the waves of emotion that surge within me caused by situations in my surroundings, I have chosen to cling to a solid Hope that stays my course.

The storms of life blow and rattle my world, but with a solid strength to tether myself to I can weather these trials with some sense of forward motion. I don’t get “stuck” in my emotional turmoil as I used to.

The emotions are still strongly present, but they serve as a barometer to how I am experiencing what I am facing. I draw on my strength, my solid faith, and call on God to carry me through.

Even the power of praying brings me peace. Feeling connected to God through my challenges changes my focus. I am not in this alone. He will give me strength through the power of His Holy Spirit and I can endure. And when I am too weary to carry on, I rest in Him.  And there are times when I need to do that and just let the storm blow by.

The storms of life will come. That is a certainty. Instead of losing control and thrashing about wildly looking for solutions, I try to focus on God and keep my center. His strength is there for us when we need it.

And if our lives are centered on Him throughout the ebb and flow of our day-to-day living, we will know He is as close as our thoughts and we can easily turn to Him for support when the waters rise.

The challenges of life are more easily survived with a support system. Taking care of yourself, with time to pray or meditate and rest, eating well and exercising are all important to feeling your inner strength. Having good friends or loved ones to whom you can turn and verbalize your thoughts can help you sort through difficult times.

And knowing the solid, constant presence of the One who knows us best is a comfort and a wellspring of strength we can draw from whenever we feel the need. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. We gain strength through the courage it takes to reach out. Knowing that the strength we need is always available gives us the power to carry on.