Single with Dog, One New Year Eve Past

Today, the first of 2016, I wanted to post this for the single’s who I love and pray with and for, as I am still newly married, and still remember….

I lived single a long time, longer than most, desiring marriage. One New Year I returned home maybe more disappointed than I should have been. After all, logically I knew we meet someone special usually unexpectedly. But, I was hoping against hope…once again.

Maybe it was a particularly difficult holiday season desiring a mate –someone special to share these life marker, time line events with—that prompted a silent sadness upon my return to an empty house… but then…my wandering blasé thoughts enroute home proved false.

Someone met me at the door and soothed my heart. That someone was Sam, my yellow Lab.

With Sam there I didn’t feel lonely. He was ecstatic to see me, per usual and followed me to our room, where my evening gown would fade into a photo album memory.

Sam there I had someone to wake up to who cared about me. With Sam there… I could make it without the empty feeling I would never meet anyone I could relate to or live with 24/7, someone I hoped to share the coming years activities with, to plan and dream together.

No matter how many long seasons I would navigate while waiting for Mr Right, I could live without the gape of isolation in my home. I had someone special to plan with, to be with. I had my dog.

No, but I returned to Sam…my old faithful.

The disappointment ebbed. The cheer bubbled up again.

I was not alone. I had someone to wake up to and who would accompany me as I took out the garbage.

Who would be there when I returned from the next dance, as loving and loyal as he was tonite?

And yesterday. And would always be.  I could count on that. He belonged to me. My dog is reality. We are bonded as Family.  Our home feels safe. We are blessed.

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Knights of the Light, a Star Wars devotional

shield

Knights of the Light

The Jedi knights in the Star Wars films  are brave guardians of the Universe destined by blood lines, they train from youth at the Jedi Academy through the power of the Force to defeat the tyranny of the Dark Side.

Recently while my husband and I watched the series, spiritual parallels surfaced.

In the New Testament Jesus states, “I Am the Light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness…” (John 8:12)

Who is the Prince of Darkness? Satan. Deft at mental warfare, he throws fiery darts of doubt, fear and unbelief to keep us from completing God’s purposes. He intends to stamp out the Light of God’s presence, diminish God’s goodness and benevolence to man and steal the peace and health God gives His people.

Targets of the Dark Side

The Emperor taunts Luke Skywalker to react emotionally when he attempts to do what is right. If Luke reacts in rage, fear or pride, victory is aborted. In the same way Christians daily gird our minds to overcome the Accuser who lurks at every turn. Not until the End of the Age will we be free from Satan’s strategies to sideline us from accomplishing God’s goals.

We are Satan’s targets. He is like a “roaring lion who prowls” (I Peter 5:8) seeking to devour us. We call upon God to warn us internally, by the Spirit’s nudge, to avoid traps and temptations the enemy uses to weaken us.

How the Spirit Leads

Paul, out martyred leader of the faith, aware of his own tendency toward pride taught young believers, “Be strong in the Lord and the power of His might.” (Ephesians 6:10)  “In your hearts, set apart Christ as Lord.” (I Peter 3:15)

When we decide to follow Jesus, we experience the force of His love and power of His words. Only then, will we obey what He says instead of what we feel. We trust Him more than ourselves.

When we walk in the Spirit, God may lead us in ways we can’t understand. The Jedi closed their eyes, shook off fear and doubt and let the Force lead them. We must shut off our barrage of thoughts. Stop the anticipation and internal conversation and ask God to lead us, and help us to hear the voice of His Spirit. Often His principles and ways may not sync with our human reason or the timing of those around us.

Those closest to us, even our leaders, can crumble with fear under duress. All can drift from the truth found in the pages of the Book, from the Father of heavenly lights who does not change like shifting shadows. (James 1:17) We all face dark principalities that seek to undermine humanity and destroy God’s Kingdom. But each of us are equipped with divine spiritual armor.

Saber Lights and Teamwork

Jedi’s pursued the discipline, focus, and skillset to handle their saber lights—amazing laser-like swords which deftly destroy creatures of any composition. The Believer’s sword is the Word of God. To grow strong in their faith and deft with their sword, they must desire to know the Word as a baby craves milk. (1 Peter 2:2)

Unity, teamwork and trust within the Jedi Council is imperative in decision making and a successful mission. Suspicion causes hesitation and can undermine a timely strategy. Guided by the will of God to serve Him and His purposes, we will care for one another and refuse unhealthy competition and pride.

Maturity helps us to share our victories and exalt our Commander. Our motives are transparent, our actions reveal integrity.

Obedience to God’s command to wait or stay, rather than move out of His will provides peace and safety when pricked by darts of restlessness. The discipline of restraint produces composure in anger, reason in conflict, and effort over ease. It creates the character necessary to persevere through crisis and challenge.

  Shield and Helmet

Wear the shield of faith. When we accept His wisdom, and act and speak accordingly, we retain dignity. If others are given assignments we desire, fiery darts of jealousy or self-pity stop when we raise our shield of faith. When we deflect those poisonous darts—the enemy is disabled, unable to sabotage our trust in God and loyalty towards each other with lies, the way the Emperor poisoned Vader toward the Jedi Council.

“Now faith is being certain of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” (Hebrews 11:1 NIV) Similar to Jedi, each of us are open to attack through our mind. The helmet of salvation safeguards our identity when we are assaulted by thoughts of inadequacy. We belong to the One who has the power. “In the council of the holy ones God is greatly feared; he is more awesome than all who surround him.” (Psalm 89:7 NLT)

We must keep a strong mind when any voice assails our faith. When we are surrounded by unfamiliar people in new territories, we center our spirit by acknowledging the presence of our Master and positioning ourselves to listen.

Time is short—our eyes must rest on the Light of the World, His voice and instruction. Sharpen our sword of truth to forge our destiny as it once did for His disciples in centuries past.

“Go then, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything that I have commanded you, and behold I am with you ‘all the days (perpetually, uniformly, and on every occasion) to the [very] close and consummation of the age. Amen (so let it be).” Matthew 28:19,20  Everyday Life Bible

.                                                                              © Dee Aspin

 



 

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Following your Footprints…at times as these

A number of years ago, I wrote a poem when the world around me seemed to be changing too fast. incomprehensible. The peace only comes in knowing, He knows. He sees. All of it. All of me. All of us.

Following your footprints

I looked across my patio arch
Shadows cast across the street
Soon it would be getting dark
Time to walk the dogs… and me.

Time and again, these moments come
Somehow life keeps moving on
Sammy’s grown and Benji’s young,
No longer a puppy− I’m no longer a yuppy.

How many more nights will we walk these streets?
Smile at these neighbors, water these trees,
Cross these sidewalks, smell those roses,
Moments passing, into hours.

How many corners yet unturned?
How many pasts to yet move on?
Dreams still brim, still brew inside,
In spite of time and age and pride.

Again, around us Spring has sprung,
Again, the flowers bloom, they’ve come,
And I have never moved a thumb.
I’m just watching feeling numb.

Again, I need your grace,
Accepting changes in this place.
New songs my nephews play,
Old friend’s who’ve moved away,

New burdens that I shoulder,
In this body… I feel older.
And this house, I now call home,
How long here?
Am I to roam?

Lord, I’m searching for your face,
I reach to take your hand,
Each talk and new unraveling,
I seek to understand.

This time is it real? Is this coincidence or truth?
Enough’s been said , to turn my head,
I know you’ll give me proof.

You know that you’re my Man
The one who holds the plan
I’m willing if you take me
To walk those footprints in the sand.

©Dee Aspin

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after Job had prayed for his friends…JOb 42:10
After? When did this man of suffering start praying for his friends?

I love to swim and pray, but the praying doesn’t always happen right away. In swimming as in life, we often have to take care of ourselves, before we can really enter into prayer.

Not expecting the water temperature to be quite so low, today I jumped into surprise and a cold blast and began sprinting nonstop. I knew at some point, the laps would warm my limbs and core and shake the crazy chill.

Those first few laps of survival mode-I was consumed with strokes and breathing—acutely aware of my discomfort and waiting for it to pass.

Today was longer than usual. I lost track how many laps passed or how many times I stretched my hams at the bars … but finally, it happened. I was swimming comfortably—in the zone—flowing through the water unmindful of body temperature, breathing, or muscles.

It was then, the prayers could rise.I felt God’s presence. They surfaced to my mind one after the other…

A friend who may be putting her dog down today. Peace for an anxious parent. Young people in new relationships. Team players and boundaries at work for friends with job stress. Medical intervention for those with invasive health issues. Faith building friendships for college students. Protection for our soldiers and wisdom for our President.

Prayers flowed easily…when I was free of extreme discomfort to my body and felt safe. It made me appreciative of the verse to love our neighbor as we love ourselves—the Biblical principle of caring for ourself, loving ourself so we can love others. Interesting, yesterday I had read the last chapter of Job, when his prayers turned from himself apparently… to others.

… after Job prayed for his friends…(Job 42:10 )
After he prayed for his friends, then he was healed and his life turned around-all he had lost was restored by God’s providential plan.

He prayed for the friends who had misunderstood him and condemned him over thirty chapters of the book with agonizing lectures…producing thought-provoking contemplation, ebbs and flows of emotions as Job attempts to get his bearings in a new world. Thrust into his new normal, minus those he once loved and with a physical body covered with painful sores, a new distressing–season of his life driven by tragedy.

Job began to pray for his friends. So what’s the significance?

He prayed when he had more of his bearings. After God’s counsel freed him from false guilt and accusations from misguided human counsel and judgment. He heard God’s voice (Job 38) out of the storm.

When he reached a place of self-acceptance and learned to live with his disease and the losses. When time had passed from the internal and external havoc wreaked from a sudden change of debilitating circumstances.

In the storm God spoke. Job heard God’s voice again in these last chapters of this brutal season of his life journey…and the shock and trauma of his agony lessens. I thought how swimming lap after lap this morning, when the chill finally released from me this morning…I was able to pray.

Job prayed for his friends, following chapter after chapter of processing his life and pain before God and others. When it was time and he could and he found his bearings in his own pool of life…he began to pray.

Sure, circumstances turned around. But is it because of his prayer as it seems to imply?

Job did all he could with what he knew to stay alive. Satan had tried to squash him, friends had tried to help him (with the kind of help he didn’t need). Ultimately, he pulled through the quagmire even when he couldn’t see God or pray for anyone because he couldn’t get past his own trauma and need for survival. Sometimes we are in survival mode. It is all we can do to keep afloat. Why is it so hard to pray?

Not until Job steadied, and his spirit thawed could the prayers flow…sometimes we are in that place too.
When you are going through chilling circumstances, don’t expect more of yourself than you should, than others expect, or than God—who loves you, knows all and sees all—expects of you.

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Failing an Interview and Gaining Perspective

Today my friend asked us to pray for her daughter, a new college grad who has a panel interview upcoming for her first job.

A memory triggered of me as a twenty year old student who stood at the top floor of the university library. The best vantage point to overlook the treetops and see beyond the grounds of the campus surroundings where I wanted to obtain a degree.

A paper dangled from my hands, my second rejection letter in two years. I had applied the second time to our California State school, hoping for acceptance to the nursing program. This time, I had all points for completed classes but my interview points were lower. One point from the cutoff, to be exact. The struggle was knowing the previous year I had received those extra interview points. And I felt better about it this year!

Thoughts barraged me.

Should I keep waiting and apply again next year? Why couldn’t I score better at my interview this year as last? I would have gotten in… one point away?

I questioned God.

Couldn’t you cause one of the interviewers to subjectively give me 7 instead of a 6?

What is the wisdom now to my last resort, of accepting the invitation to the JC nursing program for an AA?  For the same time commitment to either program, yet two years of study at junior college and I will graduate with an AA, instead of a BA?

Disappointment. Dismay. Discouragement. Eventually, I pulled out the Bible I had begun to use three years before, when I accepted Jesus at seventeen. My life manual. Where God guided me and counseled me. Where I found courage hope and strength.

“Help me Lord to feel better about this.” I felt so heavy.

Opening to Psalms 75:2 , I read;  You say, I choose the appointed time; it is I who judge uprightly. When the earth and all its people quake, it is I who hold its pillars firm. Selah.

On verse 5, the words jumped from the page. I felt deeply God was speaking directly to me through His Word.

No one from the east or the west or from the desert can exalt a man. But it is God who judges. He brings one down, he exalts another.

I reread and pondered the Scripture. I had given God my life and asked Him to guide my path. He had heard – and He answered. No, to this place for me. If He wanted me in this program, it would have happened.

He did not… It was someone else’s spot to fill. The JC was the best place for me to learn and obtain my degree. My place in the program was already there waiting, and the people I would be involved with for the next two years. His reason and comfort lifted the weight of doubt.

I left the library that day and wondered if I might someday understand why I didn’t get in, but accepted the decision as sovereign. I now felt ready to pursue the path and course God had laid out for me at the JC.

Two years later I graduated with my AA, passed boards and moved to other cities and traveled, eventually returning to my hometown years later.

Then, I pursued another course of study at that same university for a different BA program that was terribly impacted. Many students complained waiting semesters for the class they needed. The people who did not already have a BA had first choice. I breezed through.

Now when I returned to that library floor I smiled. God helped a young college student grasp the message of His Word and the way He can speak through Scripture very personal and very real.

The perspective I gained years before, how He alone is The Judge behind any human judge or court, brought an understanding to my heart and spirit,  beyond what my human eyes could see.

I would return to this passage in the years to come, in seeking acceptance quicker of His will…not only for myself but for those I love and rub shoulders with. After all, there is no end to opportunities afforded to all of us to step into new territory at any time of our life, and be at peace with whatever the outcome…knowing, God is in control.

He is the blessed controller of all things

 

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The Doggies Next Door

allie

I loved the little greyhounds, Allie and Sammie, who lived next door. They both shook like leaves on a stormy day in their natural state. Their breed is specific. The closest match with human behavior would be Barney Fife, better known as Don Knotts, the eccentric police assistant to Andy Griffith in Andy of Mayberry—a series that would offer us classic characters we embraced as household names. Their stories represented American family and community at it’s finest.

Recently I learned that Don as a gangly teenager, plucked chicken feathers from a machinery belt—one degrading unsavory job. Allegedly, he was skinny and jumpy—bullied by a brother and father growing up. He saved his hard-earned money until he could invest in a mannequin  to practice his passion as a ventriloquist.

He joined the military as soon as he could. Within weeks the army discovered his hidden talent —he could entertain a crowd of servicemen and make them laugh. What an asset! His popularity grew and launched a career. The attributes God gave him proved perfect for the roles he played before an even vaster audience on American television. Many of us boomers grew up in anticipation of hearing and watching the nervous little man who made us laugh simply by being himself— jerky and tremulous, unlike any other human personality most of us had ever encountered.

I had never been around tremorous, fragile Italian greyhounds, until I first met Allie and Sammie in my neighbor, Donna’s, kitchen. Curiously intrigued by their physical demeanor, their timid, sweet personalities soon won me over as they darted almost on tippy-claws, in and out, toward and away as I stood and watched—like a circling disappearing act.

It seemed they could be quickly overpowered and bullied by a big dog. I wasn’t worried about my fifteen pound mini schnauzer, Benji, but I was a bit concerned how they would fare around Sam, my rambunctious clumsy 120 pound Lab. Even one wrong step and he could crush their little legs.

The inevitable day came for their introductions. Since Allie was a rescue and mending from past abuse, Donna decided we would introduce her dog, Sammie, to my Sam. How would my Sam respond to her 8 pound Sammie? Would he dare to attempt to bully him as easy fare, just as young scrawny Don had experienced from older bigger males. Smiling, speaking softly to little Sammie, Donna carried him trembling out to our property line. I waited with my Jolly Red Giant.

What would they do?

Sam stood next to me, the top of his head at my diaphragm. His big pink nose sniffed Sammie’s tiny paws dangling from Donna’s arms.

Eyes bulging, face riveted toward my Sam, Sammie bent forward. A little red tongue appeared and swept over large pink nostrils. Friends. Laughter from us. Declarations and the same kind of pleasure we felt as children watching Mayberry episodes.

Even though we all live in a sprawling metropolis, maybe dogs with peculiarities as vast as their masters, still bring a wholesomeness to life and neighborhoods that remind us a little bit of a place we always wanted to live—a safe, pleasant community where people care and share… like Mayberry, USA.

sammy and allie

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Gals Time Out… A Quick SF Weekend Blog for Foodies…

I always thought it would be fun to be a travel writer…well I’m not. But here’s a memorable experience during my single days riveted around food that still makes me smile. Perhaps you can save up and enjoy a fun weekend too, or even an evening or day trip and use a couple ideas for food. Foodies of the world never get bored traveling,eh?

“I need a vacation!” my friend declared a number of years ago.
“OK, where do you want to go…and when?” I asked states away.
“San Francisco!” she half-hollered. “Now.” Perfect for me—an hour and a half car drive from home…

Two weeks later I picked her up on a TGIF at the Sacramento airport winging in from Nashville. So far, she had as much fun planning the trip as getting there.
“I googled the nearest route and it’s 113 to Woodland,” she directed me right out the airport exit as I headed my routine left.
“I know how to get to San Francisco.” I wryly stated native born to the Bay Area.
She insisted this was quicker…reluctant, I gave in. “Ok, I’ll try something new.”
Sure enough we hit Woodland and exited at Main Street connecting us with 113 to Davis and shooting out to 80.
We saved time- impressive.
“We have to stop at La Bou! I dream about their almond croissants every time I know I’m coming.” After a quick call, my crestfallen passenger lamented, “There’s no La Bou’s outside of Sacramento in this area.”  Seconds later she popped another request.
“I want to go to In and Out Burger! I’ve never seen them anywhere outside of California.”  Interesting this is my Dad’s favorite “healthy’ fast food

“Wow, really?!” I learned another reason why I love California.

A few new reasons, surfaced beginning with our dinner at The Slanted Door located on Ferry One. It faces the lights of Treasure Island across the Bay offering a spectacular view of the Bay Bridge which grew more beautiful around 5pm, when the sky darkened into the black of night. The lights of the bridge flashed on resembling a swooping garland of lights suspended across the bay.
The dimly lit candlelight restaurant with the black walls and rich wood tables and floors hinted toward Asian design and corresponding cuisine. Since they serve family style ordering different main dishes means more to experience for all.

The scallops melted like butter. The filet mignon was soft and savory with an awesome sauce. The crunchy sensational jicama salad stole our palate; we were amazed to pull off to such a great start in our weekend of planned progressive meals in the City that crossroads all cultures and chefs into one dining dynasty.

We were surprised and delighted. The sauces were out of this world. Awesome sauce.
The pink bulb curled in our tea actually flowered as we waited for the hot water to cool. It was delightful to drink from our fragrant glass—like sipping a garden.

Following dinner our eyes feasted on grace and agility produced by the San Francisco Ballet Company, topped by the rhythmic rhapsody and engaging choreography of Divertimento no 15, truly a beautiful thing.

Saturday morning we bubbled with excitement decking out in our finest clothes for the weekend…at midday. Rumor had it this was a gala affair; it was dress up time. Eagerly we caught our cab and spun our gossamer dreams down to the lower floor of the Ritz. A couple rich paintings that resembled those decorating the walls of museums in Europe begged our attention. Otherwise the room we bequeathed did little to stir our imagination.

The $32 course of the Chef’s best further failed to deliver the dining wonderland we’d anticipated. Other than the sorbet cream desert, from the olive bread to the tasteless salad and the lackluster pumpkin sauce over ahi, we each left the Ritz much like Cinderella fled the ball, losing a slipper and as quickly as we could.

But that night a divine mistake led to a dinner spot as Delfina’s which was next door to Delfina’s Pizzeria (the intended). We encountered an unexpected surprise. I’ve never watched anyone mince garlic with a huge knife so quick and effortless…as their designated human garlic chopper.

Delfina’s delivered. First, the bread was “the best bread I’ve ever had in my whole life.” “Where did it come from?” The bakery on the corner makes it fresh everyday… it’s called the Country Loaf,” our waitress gladly imbibed. We just looked at each other wide-eyed as happy hungry monkeys swinging into a banana plantation. The half carafe’ of fruity banana pineapple and and Gavi di Gavi Villa Sparina 2005 Piemonte created a hearty toast of triumph. Once again we were on a good track…

Tips:

Check for specials. Amazingly, the rates for a hotel in SF can be cheap on the weekends. Our Marriott for 2 queen beds $87. Same with a Hyatt special once for 2 doubles $87.

It’s often cheaper to use hotel parking for $25- $35 for 24 hours… take taxi, bart and walk.

Cabs start at $3.50 in the city ½ mile. (beats looking for parking space and $$ if weekend)
Bring an envelope of dollar bills and fives for the taxi’s, buses and tips,
If you choose Uber download the app and set up your charge card on the smart phone ahead of time.
Travelocity for restaurant reviews.
Trivago works for comparing hotel prices.
Priceline for last minute specials, Hotel Tonight and vrbo.com provide options.

 

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Gaps and Grace. Growing in Marriage.

winding path in NZ

“You need to give each other more grace.“ Our marriage counselor intentionally looked each of us in the eye last week.

Gaps. My gaps stare at my mate. His stare right back at me. And our marriage counselor sees it all.

“Grace to focus on the motives and attempts. The grace to ease up on each other with patience and perseverance, instead of addressing the Gaps. “Lots of grace…” the message comes through no matter what the issue of the session.

“Honey, I’m sorry you’re having a bad day and I hope the rest of the day is better.”

This is the note I keep on my desk to remind me how to speak words of empathy.

Brilliant if I remember when the occasion actually arises

These are not words that spill from my mouth when my spouse is under fire from within or without. I have questions and advice or suggestions. Not this.

Gaps. Gaps and more gaps. In bad times they expand. In better times they shrink.

Recently I ran into a boomer newlywed who asked how I was doing two years into my marriage.

 “My husband is my iron man,” I winked quoting a verse… “as a friend to a friend, so iron sharpens iron.”

“This is hard!” The second-time arounder’s eyes widened, “We are going from Bible study to Bible study trying to figure this out.”

A professional communicator told me awhile back, “It took me ten years to learn how to communicate with my husband.”

Why does communicating—talking, listening and understanding each other have to be so hard?

 “Men’s and women’s brains are different,” our counselor relayed again last week. When we forget—we judge incorrectly.

The male mind sequences events and words in order—one event and action followed by the next, logical. He processes one thing at a time well and focuses on one project at a time. That allows him to complete his work.

Women’s brains have neurons that shoot from side to side and connect both sides of their brains at the same time. They can multitask because of it. They can have a few things going at the same time, whether conversation or projects, leave various ones and pick up where they left off on others, easily. It’s a brain function.

Some of our adjustments are because we have different personalities and methods of assessment and decision making.

“You are random—he is linear.” No protest.

“Steve can’t understand you when you make comments aside from a spoken context or speak quickly and change topics. You need to slow down, pace yourself and give what you say a context. It’s not a group of women chit-chatting away and running off on a hundred rabbit trails that intersect and eventually wind up complete.”

“Don’t talk to me like you talk to your girlfriends,” my husband kindly reminds me…often.

One thought at a time?  Easy to say. It’s easy to think I can but as I’m thinking and speaking of one thing, other thoughts pop up that add reference. At least I think it does? My husband says they are another topic. Hmm. A woman and ADHD. God help me, because I have to change…and I have always been this way. And so I pray and ask God to change me. When I married Steve, I committed to be the best I can be for this man, for our marriage. And he, me.  We are both so thankful we have a person who gives us wise counsel and feedback we sometimes can’t receive from each other.

“You have a different style. You need to find a compromise. Your way is not better or worse than his/her way,” we have both heard this reminder multiple times. It means dying to myself and what I want, including waiting to address issues he is not at the moment ready to address! I am the spontaneous—not the diplomat. It means Steve bends also in his time and focus. Humility and pleasant words, promote instruction. It is the growing ground for couples. “I can grow. You can grow. We can grow together.”

When one of us is in a dormant season or having a bad day, the other will have spaces and gaps that are not filled.

We will fail to meet each other’s needs and feel empty spaces in those places. We need to forgive the neglect and forget the bleakness of harsh words and bad attitudes.

Grace from God who loves and accepts us in our crazy ins and outs—is what fills the void. His unconditional love and presence makes up the difference every time and carries us through to the flowers. To the love that blooms again.

A love that is intentionally voiced or texted daily in our marriage simply as “I love you.”

Why? Because as we decided in premarital counseling to take this advice. It restates commitment to each other in good times and bad. Loyalty. Perseverance. Dedication to devote ourselves to being present even when we don’t feel like it. Presence. 90% of life is showing up,” I have posted in my bathroom.

But the future of our marriage is more than being around. It is actively planting seeds of love and kindness, of talking and listening, of apologizing and weeding—when the time is right. Seeds planted today, irregardless years of marriage, will sprout and blossom into fragrance we can each enjoy season by season and flowers we can each touch. Sowing seeds reaps real life displays of colorful growth in our garden of love.

At two and a half years young we are feeling less gaps, as we give each other the learning time God gives us. When I feel the Gaps within myself (or Steve’s) are expanding—I spend more time with Jesus. And so does he. We each need our Mediator, our most Wonderful Counselor who is always available 24/7.

We receive His grace to say the words, “I love you” daily. As we allow the Lord to fill the gaps with His love and comfort, unconditional love we don’t always give to ourselves or each other so readily—Jesus gives freely. Our hearts needs are soothed. His grace fills the gaps as we grow closer to God… and closer and more patient with each other.

 

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Framing the Picture with Patience

I am quick to toot the horn at the left turn signal, to my husband’s chagrin, if the person in front of me doesn’t step on their gas pedal around three seconds into green. So I read again recently, The fruit of the Spirit is Patience. (Galatians 5:23)

A fruit of the Spirit? A virtue from God? How many times have any of us had to pray for patience because we have run out? Some people seem to have more than others, but I have noticed it is definitely not in me to be patient too long. Anything longer than 3—3 seconds, 3 days, 3 months… and the three of us have had it… me, myself and I.

God gets that, and so He sprinkles throughout His Word these pinpricking verses as, “The patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit.” (Ecclesiastes 7:8)  God pricked my conscience with that one once, before I  picked up the phone to call a friend—ripe to complain so they would prod their family member who was behind on a project. Did the verse work? Yes. I stopped myself and prayed for the person instead. In God’s time, the project completed without my help or ill feelings.

Patience is a bitter plan but it bears sweet fruit. There are rewards to patience. Recently, I watched a couple of young athletes impress their viewers as they championed their sport in playoffs.

Patrick Reed was 4th back at the 17th hole in January’s PGA Hyundai Tournament in Maui. “He’s just plodding along patient and steady,” the announcers mentioned as an aside to the other top three contenders at that point on the course. The time came and Reed tied for 1st with Jimmy Walker and plodded on into overtime. He won.

“I tried to stay patient” he said when asked how he felt through course and what he did to get to champion spot.

Later that night during the NCAA championships. the announcer stated the Ohio States sophomore quarterback had to take over the last 3 games of the season after the starting quarterback was injured during playoffs. He had given a remarkable performance and their team won, his talent shining through. How was his game critiqued by announcers?

“He displays patience—rare in a young quarterback. Seasoned vets learn that. You have to be patient enough to wait for the pockets of opportunity to appear as the game goes on. Wait for the receiver to appear that will give you a possiblilty that didn’t exist a second before. Patience makes the difference in a quarterback leading a team to victory.”

No matter what the goal before us the presence of patience is necessary for completion, whether in sports, work or in our personal lives. We must establish our hearts with patience (James 5:8) and continue to rejoice in hope staying patient in tribulation, (Romans 12:12). In other words keep a good positive attitude while we plod along, like the golfer, step by step, or the quarterback, play by play.

We must be patient to wait for God to move in the heart of a spouse, child or friend for goals we are hoping they succeed in. We give grace to ourselves to falter and learn from our mistakes as we learn and grow in becoming more mature and diplomatic individuals. We must be ready to respond with the deeper fruit of patience when opportunities arise to reach personal or relational goals

Patient perseverance reasons not to throw in the towel. Not to give up—drowning in doubt or apathy from ourselves, others or difficult situations. We must speak intelligently to ourselves and not let disappointment turn into discouragement. Instead, let disappoint keep us in the game, change our strategy and polish our performance. What tools can we use? What truth will prevail if we persevere and overcome being battered by impatience?Emotional and mental sobriety are gifts that are given by the Spirit of God as we trust in His ability to work in and through us, others and changing winds.

We want to know the outcomes of life. Of relationships. Of challenges. What will happen?We must be patient and trust God, and as James 1 says, “count it all joy when you encounter various trials….and let patience have its perfect work.

Patience is the frame around the picture. It is the finishing touch to times in life when no one, even ourselves, knows the whole picture and how it will turn out. We are not expected to know the outcomes in life. But we are expected to be patient and use the tools God has given us to move forward day by day responsibly and with trust.

The God who gives patience knows when its time to frame the picture.

 

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Getting Through the Holidays When Your MIssing those in Heaven or Dodging those on Earth

“I just have to make it through the holidays.” A single friend dropped these words annually about the same time the leaves began to fall in clumps. “I dread this time of year.”

It isn’t easy to forget the impending doom and feeling “less than” if holidays became a cycle for pain. If siblings were shown favor during gift giving. Or family gatherings invited a troubling party environment of disjointed relationships and ugly personalities rather than a festive celebration of support and love.  If estrangement and alienation continue into adulthood, the holidays can evoke a feeling of emptiness when the reality of a fragmented family haunts the air by absent invitations.

I have a friend now, who is struggling with the loss of her immediate family. The pain of Christmas past, Christmas’s that can never be relived the same. Because those who loved her so greatly for so long are absent. Her original family are all in heaven and the children are adults with lives of their own. The pain of loss begins about now.

“I struggled for years at the holidays,” a woman gave a knowing nod as a group of us reflected on the heightened grief during this holiday time for many.“It’s different now because I remarried and have a new family…but it took time.”

“I struggle.” The soft voice of a widow wafted across our table. She lowered her head.

I’m just praying we can all get through the holidays with as little stress as possible and as much peace that all is at should be at this moment, wherever we are.  But how do we feed our souls the good stuff that will stick in our mind and carry to our emotions to help bridge the gap of our heart and our head? It starts with the Word of God. True. Tested. Timely.

“Your Word is my comfort in my affliction,” the Psalmist declared in Psalm 119:50 as he endured his personal desert by writing songs and prayers to God that filled his heart and mind with chords of strength

This morning, a dear friend sent a verse, a melody. “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing that you may abound in hope , in the Power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13

Our peace comes through trusting God, His faithful presence, His promises.

Jesus walked amidst illness and death just as we do. It’s the same world. He is in heaven now and He is coming again. (John 14:1-6) One day He will make all things right. How? Because He is our Savior. As Christians, we celebrate the same good news the angels pronounced at Christmas. “Today in the city of David, a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord,”(Luke 2:11) Today, we experience His love. He is alive. It gives us hope in our journey toward the Heavenly City just as it did for the saints of old. (Heb 11:16)

The Fog of Numb

Isn’t hope a blessing? It’s the light of God in our darkness—like a Lighthouse beacon when we’re nosing through the fog on a dark sea knowing the shore is ahead. Knowing what we are experiencing now is not what will be.

So, the holiday season resurfaces feelings of grief and loss from our human brokenness and mortality. (and our pets) We need the Heavenly presence of God to see us through.

It’s as if we stood on the ship deck inching ahead, there is nothing we can do. We can’t hurry time and make the ship go faster. We have to ride out the days and nights and just stay afloat. Until the ground is at our feet, we must focus on the beacon that keeps us steady—we are able to wait. To navigate the rough waters of memories and “missing”—the fog of numb.

There will be a morning after. We will walk again on solid ground, soon. The haze will soon pass into a new year and new beginnings.

How to Get Through the Holidays Halfway Decent

Rest through the season, as much as possible. Cut out the extras that spell s-t-r-e-s-s.

Do what you can. No need to plop guilt on yourself if you can’t make a function—If it’s too much energy just to get ready, don’t go. (and stop worrying what people will think- endless pit) Is there something you can attend that would relax you and you are interested in? a play, a symphony, a community fundraiser?

Be thankful as much as possible. For anything and everything. Lights. Fragrant pines. Heat. Shoes. Good books. Work. Friends. Family. Critters. Refrigeration. Sight.

Make Someone’s Day Better. Be aware of others in your daily rounds. Let the guy bagging your groceries carry them to the car and ask him how his day is going, or what he’s doing for the holidays. Wave to your neighbors or stop and say hi. Tell a child they have a beautiful smile. Or they are smart. Feelings rise when we show care.

Evaluate – Is it solitude or isolation? Solitude recharges so you can be with others. Isolation steals—you away from yourself and others. No man is an island. If gregarious groups are too overload, pick up the phone and arrange to meet someone whether planned or spontaneous. If the phone takes too much energy, email or text.(if you send to more than one person you have a better chance of connecting with someone if it’s unplanned) Coffee? a walk or movie? Can you invite someone over to watch a game or movie at your house? Make popcorn or throw a pizza in the oven. It doesn’t have to be fancy.

Exercise, Engage. Get out even if a ten minute walk a day. Bike to the haircut. or library. Go to the gym. Walk the dog. Build a planter. Garden.  Is there a parent who needs to run errands, or have a break. Can you watch their kids? That will burn calories. Children bring a trust and candid curiosity—a genuine character that refreshes.

Serve others in some way, if possible. However you do not need to serve to be loved by God or prove you are a good person. Only serve because it is something you feel God wants you to do for others and for your emotional health. Contributing, whether in the form of service or financial, must be given without resentment. God loves a cheerful giver. There is a time to give and a time to receive. Be mindful of enough. Volunteering for one thing at one time slot is okay. More is not necessarily better.

Know you are greatly loved by God the Father, Jesus Christ His Son and the Holy Spirit. (John 3:16, 14:23) You are never alone. There is a family of God that you belong to. Meet with them, whether in homes or at church. The Lord is with you.

Read God’s Word. The Psalms. Luke. John 14-16. Romans 8. Hebrews, 1 Peter 1  or           Listen with Bible Gateway (free app). Charles Stanley, InTouch.org or Chuck Swindoll InsightforLiving.org (podcasts, radio)

Faith comes from hearing the message and the message is heard through the Word of Christ.    Romans 10:17

 

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