Saturday, January 30, 2016

Quiet Times: A Desire and a Prayer

What is quiet?

With all the noise of today coming from every way possible, it's hard to find a place of quiet. With technology at our fingertips we can travel the world sitting in the comfort of our home. There is never a dull moment. We seem to be drawn to these little devices that can keep us in touch with people anywhere in the world with the touch of a finger.

We get frustrated when there is a problem and a website takes longer than it normally does to load up. If it doesn't load up at all we are easily perturbed.

Why is that?

Are we so afraid of being alone with ourselves that we have to keep things going constantly?

I desire so much to be able to take time out each day to sit quietly, to listen to what is around me, to spend extended time in prayer.

But often what I desire and what I do seem to be in conflict.

I really do desire the quiet, but I just keep reading through facebook, twitter, blogs and other types of articles.

I can't seem to stop myself. It has become too much of a habit.

I need to pull myself away and have periods of time where I am disconnected with the outside world.

I need time to just be, to discover anew who I am and who God is and be filled with wonder at all that He has made.

(My granddaughter and I enjoying quiet time together after her brothers went to bed)

May we all find times of quiet and cherish them.

May God be with us all and give us hearts that desire to seek Him, to follow our hearts to wherever He leads us and share our gifts and talents with others.

May we not be afraid of what we will find in our deepest thoughts and emotions.

May God help us to remember that we are loved and have worth even if no one else seems to notice.

May we meet even hard things head on and go through them with the power, strength and grace that God will give.

May we come through with an even greater peace and hope because of what we learn, and may we come boldly before God with our questions, our requests and our praise.

I'm linking up with Kate Motaung and #FiveMinuteFriday where the one word prompt is: Quiet. (My five minutes turned into seven this time)
Also linking up with:

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

The Many Faces of Change

Change is inevitable in our lives. No one stays the same all the time.

As a new mother, I marveled at how quickly my little daughter grew. We had been given some adorable dresses when she was born, but the size was 6 months so I decided to put them away for awhile. When I took them out later she was too big for them! No one ever told me that the sizes didn't always coordinate with actual ages.

Children change seemingly overnight.

When they are young and you are up a lot at night you wonder if things will ever change, or if you'll always be a zombie stumbling through each day. The next thing you know they are rolling over, then crawling, then pulling themselves up and finally walking. Once they are that mobile they move fast and keep you on your toes.

You can't wait for them to say their first word. You tirelessly keep repeating the words Mama or Daddy trying to get them to imitate you. When they finally make a sound even remotely resembling them, you are thrilled beyond measure! Before you know it their tongues never stop and you wonder if you'll ever have peace again.

And, oh, those wet, slobbery baby kisses… There's just nothing like them.

Before you know it those children are entering school for the first time. It's a little scary and a little exciting for you and them. So many changes and new things to learn, but somehow you survive. More changes come as they want to do more and more on their own. You wonder how much longer they will need you. You blink and they are driving the car and you can't believe how fast the time went. Weren't they just in diapers?

Change is inevitable, though, and soon those babies 
are heading out the door on their own.

You want to shield them from all the harmful things out there, but they have to make their own decisions. You hope you have taught them well, but you know they will make mistakes just like you did. They will learn from them and continue to grow and mature as they find their way.

They may not always do what you think they should. There may be changes you don't like, but you love them just the same. You pray and you trust God with their lives and know that they will always be in your heart.

Change is inevitable in all our lives.

We are not static beings. As parents we change right along with our children. We learn quickly that our expectations of parenthood and the actual thing may be quite different. Every child has their own unique personality. As parents we learn sometimes by trial and error as we seek to discover how best to relate to each individual child.

One thing I have learned in my years as a mom and grandmother is that it is never too late to learn something new. I have made it a point to try to learn things that my children and now grandchildren like to do. That way I am able to join in with them and let them know I care enough to be there.

I have done what I can to keep communication open with all my children and they have also been patient with me. Despite changes or maybe even because of them we are still very close and are able to discuss hard things. I pray that will never stop.

Some changes won't happen on their own, but need work on our part.

  • I pray for changes that would enable each of us to regain a sense of wonder.

  • I pray for changes that will help us see all human beings as equals.

  • I pray for changes that will bring reconciliation between the races.

  • I pray for changes that will enable disabled people to have resources to enrich their lives, that they will be respected for who they are as people created in God's image as are all people.

  • I pray for changes in relationships between estranged parents and children so they can resolve their differences or at least try to understand each other better.

  • I pray that we would be quick to love and slow to judge, to treat others the way we want to be treated, to demonstrate God's love through our words and actions.

Change is inevitable, but we can be instruments
of the kind of change that brings joy to life.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Being Present in the Snow

(This was taken two days ago; the rest are from today)

We're having a snow storm today. It's the second time we've had snow in two days. The first time was only a little and went away quickly. This looks like it will stay at least until Sunday when the weather is supposed to warm up a bit.

The word for Five Minute Friday this week is present. Now I could have looked out the window and decided to ignore the snow and go on about whatever I wanted to do inside, but I decided to be present with the current circumstances.

I put on my hat, boots, extra thick sweatshirt and went outdoors to take some pictures. It was freezing out there and normally I hate to be cold, but the outdoors just seemed to call to me.

I'm so glad I chose to be present, because even though it was cold it was also refreshing. Snow has a way of making things look prettier.

My #oneword2016 is open and to me that also means being present wherever I am, not zoning out or thinking of all the things I'd rather be doing, but being fully engaged in whatever place I find myself. That's not always easy to do, but I know that God can enable me to do just that. I want to experience all of life knowing that He is with me.

What about you? What is your take on the word present? I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Be Curious, Ask Questions

I have always had lots of questions. When I was a child some of the adults in my life told me I was too inquisitive. One of my grandmothers told me I was slow, but I think it was because I was enjoying what I did. I didn't see any need to rush.

Children are so curious about everything. Have you ever watched a baby when they first discover their hands or feet? Their little faces are so intense and they wiggle with excitement.

It doesn't stop there. 

Babies want to touch and taste everything. When they begin speaking the questions come hard and fast. They want to know why or how or what. Their seemingly constant chatter can get on a parent's nerves, but they don't intentionally want to aggravate us. They are genuinely interested and want to know.

Questions help us learn. 

Sometimes the answers are easy to find, but often they take a lot of research. There are questions for which no one has answers. We may search all our lives and not find satisfying answers to some of our questions.

I remember as a teenager asking a particular question about faith. I don't remember the content of it now, but the answer was something like you just have to believe. I'm not really sure how helpful that was. My guess is that they did not know the answer so gave me the one they had been given.

Questions are so important. 

I like to think that I encouraged my children to ask questions. They might remember differently, but I'm sure most of the time they were encouraged to do so. When we began homeschooling I wanted them to learn how to learn and one of the best ways to start is by asking questions.

Some questions might make us feel uncomfortable, and I probably put off my kids sometimes when I wasn't sure how to answer. As time passed, though, I did become more open to listening to differing views and now I do encourage more questioning.

If we are willing to ask questions, to discuss differences, and to look for truth, I think we will come closer to breaking down some of the walls that divide us today.

We should continue to encourage curiosity in our children and be honest when we don't have answers to their questions. They need to know that we also have questions, and together we can research to find out all we can.

Sometimes the answers only lead to more questions and the cycle continues until we either get tired of searching or find a satisfactory answer.

I'm reminded of a song that Michael Card sings called “Could It Be?” One line is “Could it be that questions tell us more than answers ever do?” I wonder…..

Join us at Erika Shirk's place for #wholemama where others are writing about our one word prompt: QUESTION.
Also linking up with 

Monday, January 18, 2016

A Girl, Her Piano and God

The old piano stood upright in a corner of the room. He was silent most of the time, because he couldn't make music by himself. How he wished for someone to bring him to life! 

The mother of the house played occasionally, but she was not very confident of her abilities. Her only lessons were through mail order using shaped notes. She never had an actual teacher present with her. Mostly she played from an old hymnal. 

The mother may not have thought she was good at it, but her daughter loved to hear her play. Sometimes the little girl would touch the ivory keys, delighted at the sounds that came forth. She tried her best to learn to play from some early learning books, but she couldn't understand it all.

When she was nine years old her parents decided it was time for some real lessons. 

From the beginning she showed promise and learned quickly. She loved it! When she had learned the notes well, she wrote a song about how we should love Jesus because He first loved us. The old piano was thrilled and could feel the love when the little girl played.

Time passed as it usually does, and the little girl continued to improve her piano skills as she grew older. At her high school she accompanied the girl's choir. Her typing teacher told her to take care of her hands because of her talent. One day years later her hands were severely injured by dog bites and she wondered if it would affect her ability to play. It took awhile but she was finally able to play again.

She played lots of fun songs from Mary Poppins to The Sound of Music to jazz to classical. When she was feeling angry she would play loud, aggressive songs. Other times the music was more subdued. She loved playing hymns, sometimes singing along.

I think she must have felt a special connection to God when she played.

After supper at night she would often go right to the piano and start playing through the hymnbook. Many times it enabled her to get out of washing dishes. Her mother enjoyed listening so much she would clean the kitchen herself. 

As her fingers frolicked across the keys, the melody would float right out the open windows filling the night with music. Sometimes people would stand on the doorstep listening for awhile before they rang the bell. 

Years passed and the little girl grew up and got married. 

The old piano smiled to himself because he was instrumental in procuring her a husband. He didn't see the girl much any more except when she came to visit. Eventually the house was sold and the piano stayed there. The girl never forgot the piano and I'm sure the old piano never forgot her. She often wished there had been a way to keep him, but it was impossible.

As time went on she became a mom but still spent time accompanying school and church choirs, soloists and congregational singing, which she loved. When the people sang it was special, because something stirred within her very soul. Her emotions spilled out through her fingers as they moved along the keyboard in response. 

That little girl is now a grandmother.

She doesn't spend as much time at the piano now as she has also found ways of expressing herself through writing and art. But when she does, her fingers share the feelings in her heart as they dance along the ivory keys. Once again she is lost in the wonder and magic of the music.

In the film Chariots of Fire, we learn something about the life of Olympic runner, Eric Liddell. At one point his sister was worried that he was spending so much time running he would forget about God. His answer to her was this, “God made me fast. When I run I feel God's pleasure.”

I believe God gave me the ability to play the piano. When my fingers are traveling across the keys making music from my heart, I, like Eric Liddell, feel God's pleasure.

What about you? Do you ever feel God's pleasure in something you do?

Whatever God has given you to do, whether it be playing an instrument, being a prayer warrior, encouraging others, making art, teaching, preaching, being a friend, a mom, a dad, a child, a student or any other calling, you are contributing your part in this big wide world He has created.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Never Enough Time?

This week the Five Minute Friday prompt is the word TIME. Remember we write for five minutes not worrying so much about grammar or punctuation. We just write whatever comes to mind. If you'd like to join us you can get all the info HERE.

Time is an elusive thing. 

We often complain that we don't have enough time. There are not enough hours in the day.

We schedule so much and have many interruptions that time seems to get away before we accomplish all we think we should.

We get frustrated and stressed and exhausted. We feel like failures.

But what if we looked at things differently? What if we scheduled less in our days? Could we then accomplish everything?

I'm not so sure. 

We act like we are in control and when we plan we expect to get it all done. Then when interruptions come, and they will, we are upset. 

There have been times when I was so dead set on accomplishing my goals that when the interruptions came I would hurry through them all the while thinking about what I “should” be doing. By the end of the day I would be exhausted.

There is a better way. 

We can not hold our plans too tightly. We can address each interruption with the attention it needs. Instead of wishing we were doing something else we can pour our energy into taking care of whatever need has come up.

I realize that some things can't change and some days are going to be hard no matter what we do and some nights or maybe lots of nights we'll be exhausted.

But if we can be open to what comes, if we can be flexible, if we can trust God to help us keep from stressing over details, maybe we'll find that we won't be so exhausted. Or at least not as stressed.

We need to give ourselves grace. 

Each new day is an open slate ready to be filled. We will have another chance.

Friday, January 15, 2016

The Beginning of Winter

December 22, 2015 didn't seem like the first full day of winter to me as my husband and I were traveling to Florida to spend some time at a beach with his siblings. There are five in the family and they are blessed to still have each other. Of course all the spouses were included in the fun, and we enjoyed ourselves immensely. The weather was warm and sunny most of the time we were there.

(For those who don't know, my husband is the one on the right)

When we returned home Winter met us with much cooler temperatures!
To top it off our propane tank was low so we had to conserve heat until we got a delivery several days later. At least we had some electric space heaters around to make it somewhat easier. 

On Sunday when I began writing this it was so cold that I quickly made some hot cocoa and bundled up in the rocking chair with a warm sweatshirt and an afghan. I spent some time reading and enjoying some other #wholemama posts about winter.

We don't have any snow and probably won't see much of it here in South Carolina, although I do enjoy watching it fall. If there is enough it covers the ground hiding all the raw patches and messiness and turning it into a winter playground. There is beauty in the snow. It makes everything bright as it reflects the sun after the storm.

On Monday this week I went to see my mom and as soon as I saw her I knew something was wrong. She wasn't talking very well. She knew what she wanted to say but the words wouldn't come out right. They were garbled and seemed to run together. We suspected a stroke and ended up having her taken to the ER. They ran some tests and finally admitted her. 

After all the testing they really didn't find anything except that she did have a stroke which affected her speech. On Tuesday most of her words were sounding right and by Wednesday her speech was back to normal except for her laryngitis, which was lingering from last week. My mother has been through a lot and is still a little weak, but she is improving. For a woman who will soon be 93, I think she is amazing.

(This was taken a year ago and she looks about the same)

Wednesday night I stayed with some of my grandchildren who live about an hour away while my husband went to karate class. I had so much fun with those three kids. We made a milkshake/smoothie for supper which made us cold so we cuddled on the couch and read lots of books. Then we played games and when their dad got home they cleaned up toys. While he put the boys to bed my granddaughter and I snuggled on the couch with a blanket and she enjoyed her new Mood journal and ring I had given her for a late birthday present.

As I mentioned in an earlier post my one word for this year is OPEN, because I wanted to remember to be open to whatever God has for me this year. Guess I got a chance to practice it this week. My mother looked at me while in the hospital and said something like, “This week sure isn't going as planned.” I agreed with her wholeheartedly.

Despite the fact that I had plans to do a lot of clean up this week, some baking to prepare for a family belated Christmas celebration, and arranging some gift baskets for each family, I am not discouraged. Most of it will probably not get done and we will meet at another family member's house, but we will have a memorable time.

There will be ten kids ranging in age from 4 – 12 running around, making noise, and generally having fun. One family lives too far away and their presence will be greatly missed, but we'll see each other again some day.

Needless to say my winter is off to an interesting start. 

I wonder what the rest of it will bring.

What about you? How is your first month of winter going? I'd love to hear from you!

Please check out the other posts that are linked up with Erika Shirk and #wholemama.

Monday, January 11, 2016

She Embraced Freedom

One night, just before turning out the light, I was looking at this mixed media art piece made by one of my daughters. A poem began to emerge and I wrote down the first few lines. Yesterday I worked on it more and decided to place it on a picture I had taken of the art.

Her art is sometimes thought provoking, sometimes enchanting and magical. You can find more of it at her Chaotic Art Angel Etsy Shop.

Here's the poem again in case it's hard to read on the photo.

She Embraced Freedom

She stood in a field
of flowers
Her hair
swirling around
tossed by wind

She embraced freedom
All will be well

Heavy was her heart
Yet peaceful
Skin kissed
by warm sun in
azure sky

She embraced freedom
All will be well

Wrongs will be righted
In God's time
come, but His love
comforts still

Embrace His freedom
All will be well

Rest in God's love
Trust in His
I am small but
He is great

I embrace freedom
All will be well

I'm linking up with Literacy Musing Mondays