Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Don't Give Up, Always Try

I am republishing this post from May 17, with a few minor changes, because I think it goes well with Kelly Balarie's #RaRalinkup.  This was originally written for those who write, but can be applied to any situation. Even though I don't mention God in the body of this post, I realize that He is the one who gives us strength and is with us always. My hope is that you will be encouraged.

Thursday night I participated in a Write In with an online writing group. (This particular group is no longer in existence) Our second prompt was taken from a quote by Anne Lamott: 

If you are a writer, or want to be a writer, this is how you spend your days--listening, observing, storing things away, making your isolation pay off. You take home all you've taken in, all that you've overheard, and you turn it into gold. (Or at least you try.)”

Prompt : How can you acknowledge and accept the try?






When we go through our days with eyes and ears always open, slowing down to notice the beauty in the ordinary things, we want to think of ways to share that beauty so others will begin to slow down and look at ordinary things differently. In this way not only are our lives enriched , but also the lives of others.


Sometimes our trying is easy to acknowledge, because we are pleased with what we write.


But maybe some days it seems to us there is no beauty. The ordinary seems ugly. We are discouraged and don't want to even think about beauty, much less look for it in the everyday routine. It seems like too much effort to pick up the pen and write even one word, but we try. We might write just one sentence like:





Sometimes our trying is hard to acknowledge, because we have written so little.


Or maybe we do see the beauty. We want to write, but our minds seem to zone out. We write a lot, but nothing sounds right. We read the beautiful words of others and think that since we don't write like they do we may as well give up. Why would anyone want to read our words when someone else does it more eloquently? We start to believe the lies that tell us our words are no good and don't matter at all.


Sometimes our trying is hard to acknowledge, because we compare ourselves with others.


Let's all begin to write whatever we remember from our observations of the day without thinking about what it will sound like.  Let's write from our hearts and let the words flow. Let's push back the lies, find our voices and realize that our words do matter.  Our stories can help and encourage others. They show us we are not alone. Writing and sharing our stories can be freeing to our spirits and wake us up to the joy of being truly alive. 


Let's acknowledge our trying every day, and let's acknowledge each other, too.





Sunday, December 28, 2014

Intentional, My Word for 2015

I had not heard of OneWord 365 until late last year when some of my friends began talking about what their one word would be for the next year. That got me thinking it might be fun to try. My word for 2014 was ENJOY . Because we had made so many changes in 2013, I wanted to slow down and enjoy them. 

For the most part that word worked, but there were also some hard things that we had to go through which were not very enjoyable. In the blog post, 2014,Remembering, I share about some of the good and the bad. Looking back now, I can see how each event was a cause for learning and growing.




As 2014 draws to a close I have been thinking about what my word for 2015 should be. One of the words on my mind has been SHINE, as in letting my light shine encouraging others and pointing them to Christ. The word BRIGHT is another word I thought of. Either of those words could be good for me, but the word that keeps coming back over and over is the word INTENTIONAL. It seems like I'm finding that word more often in my reading, and it seems to jump out at me. One day I turned to a new chapter in a book I'd been reading and the title of it was “Intentional Family.”

You may wonder why I would choose a word like that. It almost sounds too serious and hard compared to words like shine or bright. There is a reason, and I believe it is a very good one. You see, I am full of good ideas and goals and dreams and desires, but none of them will ever amount to much if I am not intentional about them.




In my post of January 3, 2014, My New Year's Resolutions, my last two goals were to clear clutter from my house room by room, and work on making our front porch/yard/garden areas aesthetically pleasing - a place to relax, enjoy the outdoors and entertain guests. Thanks to my daughter, Sara, we have made a lot of progress in the front yard and garden area. It is beginning to take shape and look nicer while providing food for us to eat.

The inside clutter is another story. The house seems just as cluttered or more so than it was when I made those goals at the beginning of the year. It's easier just to ignore the mess and get on with our everyday tasks and interests. It seems to me the only way I am going to get on top of it is to be intentional about it, plan times for it, then follow through. When I think about all my goals, the word intentional seems to fit best.

If I am intentional with my life:
  • My everyday tasks will be easier to accomplish.  
  • I will find time to read and meditate on Scripture and have a definite time of prayer each day for myself and to intercede for others.
  • I will be more disciplined and be able to complete things rather than jump from one thing to another feeling frazzled. 
  • I can actually be more relaxed having time to do the little things that encourage and bless and make me happy.

By looking to God for wisdom, strength, discernment and grace, I hope to live intentionally, being fully present each moment of the day, finding peace and contentment regardless of circumstances. Here is my latest art page and I think it sort of sums up how I want to feel. I want to have joy as I go about my tasks, be exuberant looking for beauty in ordinary places, take time to rest and relax each day, and look forward to times of silence. Fairy tale? Maybe, but I can dream, can't I? It might not be as impossible as it sounds.




The art page was inspired by this activity at Abbey of the Arts.
#OneWord365, #photography #artjournal #amwriting

Friday, December 26, 2014

Christ, the Light

I've enjoyed writing poems for the month of December using themes of Advent - Hope, Love, Joy and Peace. Some poems have been easy to write. Others took a little more thought. To wrap it up I decided to take parts from each poem and/or add something new to end this Advent series of poetry from my heart.



Christ, the Light

Hope comes searching in the night
when belief is wearing thin,
shining glimmers of her light
upon a world fraught with sin.

Love comes searching bringing hope
for the weary, sick and lost
shining rays of brighter light
circling those in darkness tossed.

Joy comes following along
where hope and love have lingered
shining beams of brilliant light
to dance around unhindered.

Peace comes gently to our hearts,
where hope, love and joy abide,
shining forth with radiant light
reaching through us far and wide.

Christ has come, we now proclaim,
Baby, Shepherd, Savior, King,
shining as the one true Light
causing all to bow and sing
Glory to our risen King!


I wish you all peace and love throughout this Christmas season and into the New Year to come. I pray that God will bless you wherever you are, whatever your circumstances, with hope, love, joy and peace.

If you are interested in reading my other Advent poems you can find them here: 2014 Advent Poetry Series.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

The Candle of Peace



For the fourth Sunday in Advent we light the candle of peace. One of the meanings of peace gives the impression of not having any stress or being anxious about anything. This was on my mind when I came up with the following poem, a simple picture of peace. 


Peace is like an oasis

where springs of water
cool and clear
soothe
parched lips and cracked skin

where a grove of trees
provide
a shady place
granting relief from bright sun

where tired bodies
undisturbed
may find
a healing balm

leaving stress behind
they travel
to a place
of calm serenity

Peace is like an oasis.


I realize that peace doesn't always present itself this way, and many times we don't feel at peace. It is hard when so much is wrong in the world around us and even in our own lives. There is a peace that is greater than we can manufacture ourselves. It comes through knowing Jesus. He is only one who can bring true peace. 




We all want peace. We want to see everyone showing love and kindness to each other. Sometimes it seems like an impossible task, but we need to do our part right where God has put us. We need to actively seek peace as it tells us in Psalm 34:14: Turn away from evil and do good: seek peace and pursue it. Sometimes that means stepping out, going the extra mile to let the love of Christ shine through us in our everyday tasks. 





May you all have a wonderful Christmas, and may God surround you with His love and give you peace.

I'm linking up with Kelly Balarie & Friends.  Check it out and you'll find lots of encouragement from other bloggers. #raralinkup

Also linking up with Lisha Epperson and the #GiveMeGrace Sunday community.

#advent #peace #poetry #photography #scripture

Friday, December 19, 2014

Five Minute Friday: Adore


Go:                                                      

According to Rhymezone the definition of the word adore is “love intensely.”

Using this definition I would say that I definitely adore my family including my husband, children and grandchildren.

We may not agree on things all the time, but there is intense love between us.

Whenever one has a problem the rest of the family is right there lending support in whatever way they can.

I am very blessed to have a family where the siblings love each other so much.




Sometimes we use the word adore to express how we feel about babies.

Sometimes it's used about kittens or puppies. We think they are adorable.




But to really adore I believe means to love deeply regardless of circumstances.

I do adore my family.

I also love God intensely so I adore Him. This Advent I want to find ways to adore Him more.




Join us for Five Minute Friday.  This is the last one for this year but will start up again in January, 2015.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

The Beauty of Sun and Sky

This week I have enjoyed the views of the area around my house. The sky, the clouds, the sun, the woods - all beautiful!

All these cloud pictures were taken today within a short span of time showing the amazing changes.







Next are some photos of the sunset taken yesterday from different areas of the property.

















This last one is a favorite of mine. Doesn't it look magical?




Hope you enjoyed viewing these photos as much as I enjoyed taking them!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The Candle of Joy

As part of my celebration of Advent I have been writing a poem to go along with each week's theme. As we light the candles each Sunday we see the darkness illuminated a little bit more each time. 

The first candle of hope reminds us of the surety we have that Jesus is coming again fulfilling His promises. 


The second candle reminds us that God is love and has proven that love by the death and resurrection of Jesus.


 This past Sunday we lit the third candle in our Advent wreath, the candle of joy.



The Candle of Joy

Joy comes following along
where hope and love have lingered
shining beams of brilliant light
to dance around unhindered.

Joy comes to us in our pain
when all our hopes are failing.
Christ has come, the promised one
for whom we have been waiting.

Joy comes like a bubbling spring
flowing deep beneath the ground,
bursting forth with pure delight
to spread healing all around.

Joy is with us through the night
though burdened with great sorrow,
showing us God's loving care
for now and each tomorrow.




Monday, December 15, 2014

A Broken Jar, a Beach Trip and a Birthday

Our last few months in Kenilworth, New Jersey, were mostly happy times although Sara recalls one event that was quite a tragedy to her almost five year old self. She remembers walking to and from the preschool, but one day around Easter things didn't go well on her way home.  

They had spent the class time on a project that included filling a jar with layers of colored sand and were also given those little yellow marshmallow chicks called Peeps. Sara was so excited that she started running because she couldn't wait to get home. She must have tried to go too fast, because she tripped and fell skinning her knees. The impact caused the jar to break spilling all the sand. The Peeps had gotten squished and some had fallen out taking on pieces of gravel where they landed.

To a little girl it was a very hard thing to take. I cared for her knees, and we went back to the school. There they were kind enough to give her another jar of the colored sand, but there were no more Peeps. Sara, being determined, figured out a way to eat the squished ones. We gathered them up and got out the gravel as best we could and she enjoyed at least a few of them.

(Sara and Jamie having fun at a park)

Steve seemed to be doing well fitting in as a teacher at Covenant Christian School. Towards the end of the school year we were asked to be the chaperones for the seniors on a class trip. It was a very small class of less than 10 students. One of the parents offered her large beach house in Pleasantville, New Jersey, as a retreat for a couple of days.


(Can you find Steve and me?)
Our bedroom had windows looking right out over the beach. It was wonderful! The salty sea air was good for my sinuses and I was amazed at how well I could breathe. One thing I wasn't prepared for was the bright sunlight. Even though I grew up in Florida near the beach, it had been awhile so I had forgotten about the intensity of the sun. With it reflecting off the water and the sand, my eyes became dry and red. It almost felt like tiny pieces of glass were irritating my eyes. I finally was able to get some eye drops to give some relief and wore sunglasses whenever I was outside.

(We were right on the beach)
Sara (almost 5) and Jamie (2 1/2) stayed with the family whose kids and dog we had cared for earlier in that school year. It was the first time we had ever left the kids so I was a little nervous about it. We knew they would be in good hands, but I wanted to do something to help the girls not miss us too much. I had a bracelet and necklace that I knew the girls liked, so I gave them to Sara and Jamie before we left.


Maybe giving the gifts was not such a good idea. I'm sure they had a fun time during the day playing with their friends, but when the quiet stillness of nighttime came they must have been a little scared in that large house without Mommy and Daddy. Sara's mind was filled with all kinds of imaginings. Every night as they were supposed to be going to sleep, Sara told Jamie that something was going to happen to us, and they would never see us again. She told her that was why I gave them the jewelry. You just never know how children will react to some of the things you do.



In June we celebrated Sara's 5th birthday complete with a ladybug cake. 





This concludes our time in Kenilworth. That same summer we moved into a house in Plainfield, New Jersey.  I shared the story of our traumatic first week there in three posts starting with this one: http://gaylwright.blogspot.com/2014/07/alone-with-two-little-girls.html.

You can find previous memoir posts HERE.

Friday, December 12, 2014

To Prepare My Heart

Today is the day many gather to share words written on a topic picked for Five Minute Friday. The challenge is to write for five minutes not worrying about getting everything just right. It's a chance to have fun and just write. Today's topic is the word prepare.

GO:

I love this time of year.  I really do, but often when December comes around I feel very unprepared.  Every year I plan to have all the Christmas presents bought early so that I can relax as the time draws near. 

 Usually what really happens is that I am rushing around at the last minute trying to find stocking stuffers and other gifts for our rather large family. 

 My preparations are not really in line with how I want to be or feel.

This year I am not ready either as far as gifts and decorations or parties or food goes, but something is different this year.  

I am not stressing about how it's all going to work out.

I have prepared somewhat by having our Advent wreath out, and we are trying to have readings every evening. We don't always get to it, but there is no pressure.

I am trying to prepare my heart, not because I expect Jesus to come again as a baby, but because I want to remember the miracle of his coming to earth. 

I want to prepare my heart to receive his blessings anew, because every day he gives more gifts.




If you'd like to join in with the Five Minute Friday group but aren't quite sure how it all works you can find an explanation HERE.  We'd love for you to join us.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

The Candle of Love

This past Sunday we lit the second candle in our Advent wreath. There is still darkness all around but the second candle adds a little more light. It is the candle of love.




The Candle of Love


Love is God the Father

creating and sustaining.

Love is God incarnate, 

Jesus, babe of Christmas.



Love left all His splendor

becoming poor and needy.

Love was born of Mary

by the Holy Spirit.



Love has given His life,

the completed sacrifice.

Love lives now in heaven

He will bring all to rights.



Love is everlasting,

God the three in one,

binding Father, Son, Spirit,

to those who love His name.



Love is searching for you.

Can you hear Him calling?






Tuesday, December 9, 2014

The Candle of Hope

The first Sunday in Advent always seems to be here before I realize it, and now the second one has already past. This year I wanted to try to make a wreath using materials I could find outside, but since the day was here already I just pulled out the same wreath we've used for several years. The only candles I had were from last year and one was broken in several places.  But, you know, that didn't really matter, because it still looked pretty and worked for us. There is darkness all around, but that first candle does bring some light to the darkness. It is the candle of hope.




The Candle of Hope


Hope comes searching in the night
when belief is wearing thin,
shining glimmers of her light
upon a world fraught with sin.
Can we see her reaching out?


Hope gives us a piece of truth,
healing balm our souls may grasp,
as reaching forth in the night
we seek something real to clasp.
Will we ever find that truth?


Hope is not a fairy tale
giving false security.
Hope is always in our sight
wrapped in clothes of purity.
Why is it so hard to trust?


Hope that comes from God is sure,
shown by prophecies fulfilled.
Jesus came when time was right
His great love could not be stilled.
Will He help me to believe?


Hope will never disappoint,
though shadows try to cover.
Beams burst forth now, ever bright
reminding us forever,
Our perfect Hope is Jesus.





Monday, December 8, 2014

Our First Loss

(Bringing this out of the archives to join with Susan Mead and #DanceWithJesus Friday linkup)


*Trigger warning for miscarriage trauma.

That first year in New Jersey produced mostly happy memories, but the one I will share today is hard. It was probably late during the fall of 1980 when I realized I was pregnant. I don't remember the actual dates, because I was not keeping a journal at the time.  Most of these memoir stories come from what I can pull out of my memories. 

We really had not planned for another child yet, as we had recently moved into this new place, but it didn't take us long to get excited about adding a new family member. I remember having the usual tiredness and morning sickness, but things seemed to be going very well. One day as I was nearing my twelfth week of the pregnancy I noticed I was bleeding a little. I called the doctor and he wanted to see me. He told me there was a 50/50 chance of the baby surviving. Needless to say, I was a very upset young mother.

My husband and I did a lot of praying during that time, but things got worse and we did lose our baby. This was one of the hardest things as a mother that I have had to go through. Because it happened at home, the doctor instructed us to save whatever tissue was there. I guess he wanted to be able to make sure I was actually having a miscarriage. There was no need for that, because we were able to see the tiny body that was definitely recognizable as a baby. That made it even more traumatic for me, and I remember shedding a lot of tears. I was young and this was the first real tragedy that I remember in my life. 

My doctor was compassionate, but he had no explanation except that it happens sometimes, and that it usually meant there was something wrong with the baby. I accepted what the doctor said and tried to understand.  I don't know that I actually took the time to grieve fully. Some people don't realize that having a miscarriage is more than just having a pregnancy terminated unexpectedly. It was the life of my child that ended. I don't even know if I fully comprehended that at the time. 

The doctor wanted me to come to the hospital outpatient to have a D & C. While lying on the hospital bed unsure of what was to come, I remember praying, asking God to be with me, to give me strength. He did bring peace to my heart even though it was still a difficult time. I was pretty weak, and my blood pressure was very low, but I made it through without any more complications.

When we returned home a close friend brought us a meal, washed all the dirty dishes and thoroughly cleaned my kitchen. She also took care of our daughters when we were at the hospital. I don't remember too much more about who all helped us out but I know we were shown much kindness.




Our pastor came to visit me and was very tender and compassionate, like a father. He noticed I was very pale and told me to be careful and take it easy. He talked about receiving comfort from God. Then he wrote a scripture passage in my Bible.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort; who comforts us in all our affliction so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any afflictions with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 
(II Corinthians 1:3,4)

He wanted it to comfort me and also to show me how I might be able to comfort someone else later because of the experience. My opportunity came the very next year when one of our close friends had a miscarriage. When I went to visit her I didn't really have much to say, but she told me she knew I understood because I had been through it myself. (About eight years later I had two more miscarriages fairly close together, so I am no stranger to that type of loss.)

During the time of my miscarriage, which was probably around January or February of 1981, a friend of mine was also pregnant. When her son was born it was actually healing for me to be able to hold him. It was a good feeling to have a baby in my arms. I could never hold him very long, though, because my two year old would cry and want me to hold her. I don't think she liked sharing her mommy with others.

This loss for us was hard, but God provided for our needs giving comfort, strength and loving friends. We were still a family of four, and we still had love for each other. 

Here we are a little later that year on Easter. 

(Sara was 4)
(Jamie was 2)



Friday, December 5, 2014

Enjoying Time With Grandchildren

It's Five Minute Friday time again! This time the word is dear.  I have been thinking about it off and on all day trying to figure out what to write about. You could go in so many different directions with that particular word.  

This afternoon my oldest daughter and her dear children were visiting us. She has done some permaculture design for our land and she was revising it today.  The children were all full of energy as children usually are unless they are sick.  The first thing they wanted to do was to play the game Quelf again since they loved it last week when we played.  I popped some popcorn, which they all love and we ate it while playing the game. It's a little hard for the younger ones to understand but we helped them.

When they first arrived they all had to give me hugs. Do you know how precious hugs from grandchildren are?  I really am blessed to have so many loving grandchildren - 13 in all.  Five of them were here this afternoon.

Well, my time is up, but I'm not quite finished.  All of the children are so dear to me, and they always have lots to tell me about.  The oldest was showing me some of the doll clothes she had made. The boys always have something made from lego or pictures they have drawn. The next oldest was with me in the kitchen part of the time I was making supper. She was asking questions, smiling, and we just enjoyed being together.

The last thing we did was to read a book together.  When I saw the picture my daughter took of us I knew what I would write about - my dear, loving grandchildren. As they were leaving I got more hugs and two of them came back for more before they actually went out the door.  


(photo credit Sara Harding)


Tuesday, December 2, 2014

2014, Remembering

This was originally published in early December for a reflection in an online advent group, In the Edges of the Day.  We were asked what we would like to remember from this past year.  I'm republishing it today, January 1, 2015, and joining in with Emily Freeman's What I Learned in 2014. I found things in different areas of my life like creativity, friends and family, and our homesteading venture. Some are good memories and some not so good, but even through the difficult times there are things I have learned.

Creativity
One of my goals at the beginning of the year was to fill an art journal even though it was a new form of creativity for me. I realized that you don't have to be an accomplished artist to create in this way. It has been such a good way to release tensions and is a healing and inspiring activity. This is definitely something worth remembering and I plan to work in my art journal on a regular basis. Here are some samples.


Another goal was to begin writing a memoir. Thanks goes to my daughter, Jamie, for encouraging me to actually start and share weekly on my blog. Looking at old pictures is bringing back so many memories. At first I didn't think I'd remember enough from so long ago, but the more I write, the more I remember. It's really been a lot of fun and worth the hard work of putting them into stories. Here's where you can find my memoir stories: Memoir

A third goal was to publish a book of poetry. I have not yet done that, but writing poetry has become a regular activity for me. Sometimes the poems have been very simple and sometimes more meaningful. There have been times when they seemed to write themselves. I've found that poetry can be a way to express thoughts buried deep within that might be hard to express using ordinary language.  She Flew  is an example of when the words came almost faster than I could write them. Another one that seemed to write itself is Beyond Comprehension.

Finding out that I enjoyed photography has been a bit of a surprise. When Jennifer Upton encouraged me to take time each day to slow down, notice ordinary things and take pictures, I had no idea of the joy I would find in photographing simple things around my home and in nature.  Enjoying the Beauty of Now  is an example that illustrates what I mean. 

Friends




One of my goals at the beginning of the year was to meet at least 5 story sisters. I'm happy to say that in September I met Hope, Jennifer and Abby. 

Then in November I was able to see Jennifer and Abby again and also meet Marvia, Morgan and Elizabeth. It was so special to finally meet them in person!
 

These events will have a place in my memory for a long time. We hope for more times to get together as our friendship grows. Speaking of friendships, I and some of my oldest friends here in South Carolina have resumed our monthly lunch visits which are always fun.

(Mathis, Steve and Robert)
Our family made a new friend this past summer as we welcomed Mathis Gonon, a French exchange student, into our home for a few weeks. He, Robert and Alan will surely remember the white water rafting trip when both Mathis and Robert fell out! The funny thing is that Robert lost his paddle, but Mathis caught it and used it when he was rescued by another boat. Our Quest for the Waterfall tells about another adventure we had with him.


Homestead
At the beginning of this year we had two goats and added another one in hopes of building a small herd to keep us supplied with milk. We encountered health problems of our own along with the goats becoming more needy, and it was getting harder to care for them properly. To top it off we lost one shortly after she gave birth to twins and had to bottle feed them. We realized that even though we started off with good intentions we were not going to be able to continue with the goats. Eventually we were able to sell them all which brought quite a relief. 

One reason to include this in things to remember is to remind me that it's okay to try new things even if they don't work out. It was a learning experience giving me a greater appreciation for those who work hard to provide food for the rest of us. 


On a happier note we still have chickens who supply us with fresh eggs. This seems to be something we can handle without much difficulty. Also with the help of a couple of our daughters we got a good garden going and are still enjoying the fresh greens it is producing. We are very thankful.



Family
I am so thankful for my family. Many of us have had to face hard things and disappointments this year, but everyone rallied around to continue to love and encourage. It fills my heart to overflowing to see their love for God and the love between us all, even in the hard times. The best memory is the whole family being together for Christmas including my 91 yr. old mother. That's 27 of us! We had a wonderful celebration including a white elephant treat exchange. It was great fun.



Take a look at Emily Freeman's link up to see what others have learned this past year!