Wednesday, April 29, 2015

As the Wind Blows


(artwork by ChaoticArtAngel)

The wind and I go back a long way.

In my younger years I would stay outside as long as I could before a storm. As I felt the wind pick up speed, saw the dark clouds roll in and the trees swaying, I felt a sense of freedom and power. Sometimes the wind would almost push me along. Other times I would run into it feeling it rush across my face and lift my hair. It was a wonderful feeling to stand there or slowly wander around the yard, twirling with my arms outstretched, as the wind grew stronger.

I loved it.

Growing up in Jacksonville, Florida, we experienced pretty warm weather, especially in the summer. When a storm came up, which it often did very quickly, the touch of the wind and then the rain provided some relief. But, just as quickly, the storm would subside. The sun would come out again, and as the street dried, you could see the steam rise. There was so much humidity the air...


You can read the rest where I am guest posting at Cara Strickland's as a part of her de(tales) series.


Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Slowing the Pace




Does it sometimes seem to you that everyone is in a hurry to get to the next thing?

Hurry up so you can get it over with so you can move on and hurry up again. We find ourselves moving through life at such a fast pace we hardly have time to enjoy it.

As a child I was often being told to hurry up. I guess some of the adults in my life thought I was too slow. I liked to take my time, but others just wanted to get things done.

At college with my job in the cafeteria, they were always trying to figure out how to be more efficient. It was all about how to do everything faster, a race to see how much time could be saved. The problem was that too much emphasis was put on performance almost to the point of treating people as machines.

I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of running around feeling stressed or doing things to try to please everybody.

What if we decided to slow down?

Rather than rushing through our tasks we learned to enjoy each step.

Rather than scheduling our lives so we have to keep moving, why not eliminate some things to slow the pace a little?

Why is it so hard to take things a little slower?

Are we afraid of what we might find if we actually took time to stop, to think, to question, to address our deepest desires or fears?

Have we forgotten how to slow ourselves?

Are we so used to the fast pace that we think we are wasting time if we slow down?

When we pause for a break do we feel guilty, like we should be doing something?

If we deviate from our everyday routines, are we afraid of getting behind?

What would be the advantage of slowing down?






Instead of being stuck in what seems like an endless cycle, why don’t we stop and reevaluate our situations? We obviously can’t change everything, but we could find ways to make our lives more enjoyable.

We could eliminate unnecessary activities. I know that I sometimes spend too much time on social media. I could limit the time there and use it to create art or sit outside and relax a few minutes. We could intentionally go through our days choosing to slow down enough to notice things, to interact more with our surroundings, to see the beauty that might otherwise be hidden.

As we do this we could practice gratitude.

We could say aloud our praise to God or even burst into song! If that isn’t possible, we could simply thank Him in our hearts for the little things as well as the bigger, more obvious blessings.

What about you?

What is one thing you can do to slow down and make your day more enjoyable?

I’d love to hear your thoughts!



I will give thanks to the Lord with all my heart;
I will tell of all Your wonders.
 I will be glad and exult in You;
I will sing praise to Your name, O Most High.
(Psalm 9:1,2)



Friday, April 24, 2015

A Place to Hide

Sometimes we are overwhelmed by a cacophony of voices coming from many directions and venues. We are told what to eat or what not to eat, what to wear or not wear, where to go or not go, and so on. The noise is so great we just want to run and hide.

Maybe that’s exactly what we should do.

Maybe we should find a place to be alone, a place where we can hide from people, but pour our hearts out to God in prayer.

We talk about hiding sometimes as if it’s a bad thing. And it would be if we are trying to hide from God. And anyway, that’s impossible.




Whether we are pleased with ourselves or ashamed, we should never be afraid to approach God. He already knows our thoughts. He already knows what we did or didn’t do. 

He wants us to come.

The more we try to run away, the more He pursues. We tire ourselves by running until we finally give in and fall into His arms. There as we yield to Him we find forgiveness and peace.

There we can hide, not FROM God, but He can hide us and protect us from our fears and from the lies and other enemies that come after us.

Sometimes we try to hide from ourselves

We keep busy so we won’t have to deal with the hard questions. We are afraid to dig deeper, not knowing what we may find.

But as we hide in Christ, we are given the strength to face our fears, the courage to go through what seems impossible, the peace that only Jesus gives, and the grace to share our lives with others. 

We learn what it means to bear one another’s burdens and to build each other up. 

Instead of hiding from ourselves or from each other, we can join hands and work together as we travel this road called life.



I'm linking up with Kate Motaung and Five Minute FridayLisha Epperson and #GiveMeGraceStacey Thureen at #FindStability, Letetia Mullenix with Motivate and Rejuvenate and Kelly Balarie's RaRaLinkup.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

A Story of Brave



Brave is leaving your husband and your two older children, ages six and eight, at home while you travel on an airplane with your two year old and your nursing baby. Your grandfather is dying. You haven’t seen him in six years, and this might be your last chance.

Brave is walking the long distance at the airport carrying your baby and a heavy diaper bag. You watch your two year old walk the whole way wearing a toddler sized backpack filled with her stuff. You are exhausted, and it is such a relief to see your dad standing there waiting for you at the end of that walk. You know you will finally have help again.


Brave is when you are sitting in the hospital room with your grandfather making sure he stays comfortable. You sit there with the television on, knowing that neither one of you are really interested.


Brave is staying, even when you feel helpless, as your grandfather all of a sudden says, “It’s an awful thing to face death.” He was around 90 years old, and I know he must have been worried about leaving my grandmother. They were really close and did everything together.


Brave is helping out by answering the phone and greeting people at your grandmother’s house after your grandpa dies.


Brave is doing all that while still caring for your toddler and baby.


Brave is traveling back home again as an exhausted young mother with her two little ones.


Brave is arriving at the airport and not seeing your husband there as you get off the plane. He was only a little bit late, but I was exhausted and it was hard.


Brave is when seven years later you once again leave your husband and older children and find yourself on a plane with your then 14 month old (child #5). This time it's your dad who is in intensive care and not doing well, but that is another story. Part of it is told in an earlier post entitled “The Touch of a Father’s Hand."


Brave comes in many forms and often unexpected. 


We don’t realize what we can do until faced with certain crises. I find it’s best not to worry about what the future may hold or how we will handle things that are hard. 


God has promised to be with us and take us through whatever we have to face. 


He will provide the courage when circumstances would bring us down. He has always been faithful to me to bring comfort and peace during trying times. He goes with us wherever our paths may lead.




Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Defeat the Lies

We all have times when we doubt ourselves. We doubt whether our work really matters. We look around and see others that we perceive as better, so we think we might as well give up. We all have these inferior feelings sometime or another. They raise their ugly heads and we crumble as lie after lie comes raining down on us.
 

How can we defeat these lies?




I participated in a group writing call this past Sunday afternoon led by my daughter, Jamie Bagley. The following letter is what she gave us as a prompt. In response we were to write a letter to defeat the lies.
Dear (insert your name),
I'm doing what I know I am called to do, but everywhere I look, there is already someone else doing it better. What difference am I making? Please remind me of what you know to be true. Please help me remember why it matters. I need you!
Your very own,
Inferior Feeling


Here is my response and I hope it also encourages you:


Dear Inferior Feeling,

When you start to doubt that you’re making a difference, remind yourself that you are a unique person. No one else is like you. No one else can say or do it quite the same way. It’s not that they do it better, it’s just different. 


 There is someone, somewhere who needs to hear what you have to say in just the way you say it.
 
 Your work is important.
What you say matters.
No one can fill your shoes.

 BUT 

Even if no one else ever hears or sees it, YOU DO,  and it is still worth it. If you are doing what you are called to do, whether or not anyone else notices, GOD DOES, and is pleased. 
You are loved.
 You are needed.

Your life DOES make a difference.

Love,
Gayl


***Update to include my recording of this letter. Think of it as my letter to you.***






When feelings of inferiority or failure start to get you down, come back and read my letter. Better yet, write one of your own!



"Oh, magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt his name together!
I sought the LORD and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears.
Those who look to him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed."
(Psalm 34:3-5)






I'm linking up today with Kelly Balarie and the #RaRaLinkup and also Holley Gerth and Coffee for your Heart and updating to share with Susan Mead and #DanceWithJesus.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Afternoon Observations




On my porch swing
I rest and unwind.
Sights and sounds
Break into my mind.

Sunshine, blue sky,
Not a single cloud.
Chain saw vibrates
Noise is very loud.

Bees are buzzing
Flying all around.
Breeze blows gently,
Chimes bring joyful sound.

On the railing
Green lizard running.
On the porch floor
Lazy dogs sunning.

As I sit here
Even when I’m stressed,
God reminds me
I am truly blessed.




Sometimes God calls us to come away from our everyday lives to experience rest and retreat, but sometimes we find it just outside our own front door. When I step outside and allow myself to relax and notice all the simple ordinary things, I often find inspiration. I can be alone to spend time in prayer with God, or just enjoy the beauty of creation.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Tomorrow, Always a New Day

The Five Minute Friday word for today is tomorrow.  You can read all about it HERE.




When my children were young and excited about what was going to happen the next day, they had a hard time going to sleep the night before. So I would tell them that the sooner they got to sleep the sooner tomorrow would come. I'm not sure if it really worked or if they even believed me, but eventually they would get to sleep.

Tomorrow sounds like such a magical word. It's in the future, and we don't know what the future holds. It could be something exciting or boring. It could be happy or sad. We could get our hopes up for something thinking it would come tomorrow and then be disappointed.

What I like about tomorrow is that it's always a brand new day. I might mess up today. I might not do all that I had planned. I might wish it would last longer and stay up too late trying to make it last. But I look forward to tomorrow, because I can start afresh. I can finish what was left undone the day before, or I can do something entirely different.

Whatever tomorrow holds I know that I am held by my heavenly Father. Nothing can separate me from the love of God.



Don't forget to check out other  Five Minuteriday writings at Kate Motaung's blog.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

From Frustration to Peace


I stayed home from church Sunday.

We travel about forty-five minutes to get there if we don't get too many red lights. It had been a busy couple of weeks and I woke up tired and achy. Just the thought of getting into the car again was not something I wanted to do.

What I needed was some alone time outside so I could relax, pray, think and write. So late morning found me sitting on the hillside with my journal once again. It was a beautiful day and I was struck by how quickly the trees had filled with leaves. A few weeks ago you could not see the different shades of green on the far hills as shown in this photo, the view from my perch on the hillside.







I was frustrated about some things and it always helps to write things out. So I wrote about how sometimes there is a feeling of tension in our house. Sometimes it's about finding writing time that doesn't interfere with other responsibilities. Often it's a feeling of failure because of unaccomplished goals. It seems to happen most often when one or more of us is tired and becomes irritable, but I also think that the clutter has a lot to do with our state of mind. Some may not agree, but I know it affects me.

People tend to feel better and work better when there is some kind of order.


For whatever reason, things have piled up, and we seem to get buried further and further under the ever growing mountain. It can be overwhelming just thinking about where to start. We would rather do anything but clean or sort and throw away some items. We often look right past the clutter and try to ignore it, but that only works for so long. It's hard to get motivated to do much about it, and we seem to get in a rut.

Don't get me wrong, I love my house and my family.

We have all talked about making schedules so that we have time to accomplish what we like to do along with the jobs that are not as much fun. We talk about making plans and we can start to get excited, but it doesn't mean much if we don't follow through.

We just stay in the rut.

I actually had good intentions a few months ago when I started my Empower: You Can Do It series. I was all excited about getting the clutter taken care of little by little and thought I'd be done by now. Instead it seems to be worse. That series has been put on the shelf for awhile, but I want to get back to it.






As I continued writing in my journal that morning I began to think about some things I HAD done in the past week. I made granola and cinnamon buns, but they didn't turn out as well as I thought they should. Then I remembered the bone broth I was making in the crockpot. It had been there for nearly a week and I was afraid it wouldn't be any good, so I started to feel bad about that, too.

You see what I was doing? I started finding fault with even good things I had done.

The truth is the broth turned out fine, and the cinnamon buns disappeared quickly. The granola is not as clumpy or sweet as we like, but it still looks and tastes fine. There were other good things that were accomplished during the week as well, but I was only focused on the negative at the time.

How could I turn things around?

I thought to myself how nice it would be if I had a week or two at home where I didn't have to go anywhere at all and had no interruptions. Maybe I could make schedules for writing, cleaning, clutter removal, and school for my son. Then I'd get to work following the schedule and everything would be just great. Isn't that how it works? Of course not.

That's not real life, is it?

There will always be interruptions. Even if I had a block of time that large, it wouldn't guarantee that the work would get done. There could be some laziness involved, but it's not like I'm just lying around doing nothing. I have so many ideas to implement that I tend to neglect some duties while pursuing other interests. Those interests are not wrong. In fact, I believe God has called me to write and share my words and art.





I think there is something bigger here.

Maybe the answer lies in my attitude about myself and how I perceive my life. I began thinking of different scenarios in my head asking myself questions. To many of them my answer was, "I don't know." Then I wrote this: What I do know is that I am frustrated. I don't know how to get out of the slump except maybe to start praying more for wisdom, to pick an area to start on and then follow through.

There I found the key.

GOD HAS THE ANSWERS TO ALL MY QUESTIONS. I can go first to Him in prayer when there is a need or something I don't understand. While I may not get all the answers when I want them or in the way I want them, I can trust God to know what is best for me. I need to look at myself as God sees me - a beloved daughter covered by the righteousness of Christ. 

Yes, I will stumble at times, but God will always pick me up.

The clutter is still here and the tensions will come, but I don't have to let them keep me down. I can move through them with an attitude of praise and thanksgiving knowing that God will bring me through. Then by taking one step at a time I can move ahead in my life gaining strength and grace as I become the woman I am meant to be.

My daughter, Jamie Bagley, in her e-course on prayer wrote some simple patterns for praying when you need help getting started. I used two of them to express what I thought I needed that day on the hillside. 

Dear Father,

I am frustrated with my cluttered life and house.
I need Your wisdom to help me figure things out.
I surrender my mess to You.
I praise You because You hear and answer prayer.

Give me trust in this moment.
Grant me peace in this hour.
May I have a desire to simplify my life.
May I find strength to follow through.

As I closed my journal that day, I felt more at peace. The combination of the fresh air and sunshine, the writing out of my words and the time in prayer helped me to see I have a lot to be thankful for. My family and I will get on top of the clutter. We will work together, and love will always win.





I'm linking up with Motivate and Rejuvenate Monday and also  Kelly Balarie and Friends and the #RaRaLinkup.  Come join us and link your own encouraging blog post. You'll be warmly welcomed!

Friday, April 10, 2015

What a Relief!

It has been a couple of weeks since I participated in Five Minute Friday. I have been pretty busy with activities and other writing, so it's good to be back again.  The topic this week is the word relief.

GO:

Relief comes in many forms. Recently my computer decided it wouldn't boot up. A message said the hard drive was full and needed to be remedied. According to my son it will not start unless it is hooked up to another computer in order to delete some files to make room. I didn't know how to do that so I'll have to wait until he has time.




At first I started to panic. I wondered if I would lose those files. Then, relief, when I remembered I had recently transferred files to my SD card.

To my dismay, when I inserted the card into another computer it didn't work. It said the card needed formatting. I knew if I did that I would lose everything on it. That meant all my poems, stories, anything I had written in the last 1 1/2 years would be gone.

Then I remembered another computer that had the same operating system as the one that wouldn't start. So I put the SD card there.

RELIEF! It worked. I was so happy.

My son suggested I back up the SD card onto a flash drive. I think I'll take his advice.

STOP



Have a great weekend everyone!  Don't forget to checkout Five Minute Friday!

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Signs of Spring



Split rail fence zigzagging along,
blueberry bush in every bend.
Daffodil leaves still standing strong,
though yellow blooms have met their end.

Soft clouds like cotton candy float,
ever changing across the sky.
Old rooster crows a happy note
letting hens know dinner is nigh.


Once bare trees wearing new green clothes
will provide some lovely shade.
Thunderstorms roar as a strong wind blows,
making my dogs feel quite afraid.

Soon comes again the bright sunshine,
as gentle breezes softly play.
Let us all share this spring so fine
Enjoying every single day.


"Oh give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; 
For his lovingkindness is everlasting." 
(Psalm 107:1)

I'm linking up with Lisha Epperson and #GiveMeGrace.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Tired but Understood

My friend,Tara Owens, has written a book recently published by Intervarsity Press entitled Embracing the Body - Finding God in Our Flesh and BoneShe is hosting a synchroblog and this is the topic as written on her blog:

Holy Week is so much about the body—foot washing, eating together, betrayal with a kiss, not to mention the intense experience of the crucifixion—but we seem to avoid talking about that fact and what it means for our bodies, even so. What aspect of Holy Week resonates most with your embodied experience right now? Or what’s hardest? Write about that.”

I wanted to join in but was having a hard time deciding how to answer the question, so I went outside to sit on the hillside in the dry grass, which was thick, cushiony and quite comfortable. Most of my senses were involved as I sat there taking in the sights and sounds around me and I began to write...

(gaylwrightphotography)
The sun is shining. There is a gentle breeze, enough to move the chimes. I hear cars going down the road occasionally and an airplane in the distance. It is peaceful out here. The sky is blue without a cloud in sight, and the sun is feeling warm on my back. No phone, no computer, no television or CD player; just me, my journal and all of outdoors.

My body is tired.

I’ve been out more than usual this week. Monday afternoon we went to my mother’s house where we cooked supper and played Scrabble, which is one of her favorite things to do. Tuesday was a sunny day and I spent time on the hillside writing. It seems that's where I often find inspiration. Thursday I also spent at home, but it was rainy and cool so I was inside. I did get some writing done but was still tired.

Wednesday, we left around 9:30 in the morning to head to the house of my youngest daughter, who is an artist. While there I helped her shorten some of the chains for necklaces she was making using prints from her paintings. Sometimes my fingers don’t work as well as I’d like because of arthritis, and I wondered how well I could do it. To my surprise I found that even though tedious, it was not hard and I enjoyed it. As a thank you she gave me one of her beautiful necklaces.


(by chaotic art angel)

That evening my sons and I went to a karate class. Karate is something new for me and I wondered if my body was too old and stiff to start learning something that physical. The stretches and exercises were and are challenging, but I’m gradually making progress. After the first two classes I was almost ready to give up, but during this third class I surprised myself by doing better on the stretches than I had before. At the end my teacher told me she had noticed a marked improvement since last week. Maybe this body of mine can handle more than I thought.

Friday was a full day beginning at 7:00 in the morning and ending in our first time attending a service held at our church called Stations of the Cross. Basically what we did was walk around the parking lot stopping at different places as we read scriptures and prayers reminding us of the events of the last hours of Jesus from the Passover meal with his disciples, to his prayer in the garden, to his betrayal, trials, then to the crucifixion. All the walking and standing as we listened to the explanations of each station was very tiring. My legs were aching when we got home, as it was a very physical experience.

Walking around outside, thinking of all Jesus suffered, somehow made it seem more real.


(gaylwrightphotography)

After writing all this down, thinking about how tired I was from all the busyness of the week, I realized what resonated with me.

Jesus was busy that whole week before his death. 

He was still teaching, healing, sharing his life, and he got tired. I remembered that a regular practice of his was going away from the crowds to take time to pray to his Father. This is what sustained him and gave him strength to complete his mission on earth.

Praying in the garden was the last thing he did before he was betrayed.

Just like Jesus, I need that regular time alone to pray to God. This is what will sustain me and give me strength to complete my mission on this earth. I will never know the extent of his pain and exhaustion, but I do know that he understands my tiredness and my weakness.

He knows my needs and He will give me grace.  

This seems to tie in with the e-course on prayer I took recently that was written and led by Jamie Bagley. I've spent time writing prayers and trying to pause more during the day, taking time to relax, refocus, pray and be refreshed. I'm still working on it and I'm still learning, but I'm finding that it does make a difference in my attitude and how my day turns out.

I'm linking up with Motivate and Rejuvenate Mondays with Letetia.