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Extra Helpings

canstockphoto22451173We all know the feeling… that post-prandial somnolence after our Thanksgiving dinners – when our turkeys are not the only things who are stuffed!

How fortunate we are to be able to gather freely with family and friends and share a special meal to appreciate the blessings in our lives.

During the early years of our marriage, my husband and I would eat two Thanksgiving dinners; we grew up in the same town, and our houses were just a couple of blocks apart.  Our strategy was that each of us would eat more at our own family’s home, thinking that would prevent overconsumption.

Invariably, we ended the day uncomfortably full, having tried to graciously appreciate (i.e., chomp with gusto!) the culinary delights offered by the wonderful cooks in our families.

And as much as we told ourselves ahead of time that we wouldn’t go for seconds, we always succumbed.

Oh, our aching stomachs!

At the end of the day, we vowed that the following year would be different – but that only changed when my parents moved away, thereby relieving us of our double duty.

Foodies that we are, we still managed to overindulge – at only one dinner table – in fine style.

When it was my turn to continue the tradition of Thanksgiving dinner, I had new appreciation for the amount of time and effort it took our moms and grandmothers to prepare the meal.

As the years passed, I began to see that the plethora of organizational details and the largesse of the meal were distractions that diminished the real focus of the day – gratitude for even the least of our blessings.

Grateful for this realization, my holiday preparations took a new direction.

Delicious and abundant food, though still enjoyed, became secondary – and those around the table were the greater delights of the day.

This year, a new thought came to mind…

What about doing extra helpings as part of our Thanksgiving traditions?

The possibilities are endless, and needn’t break the budget.

Here are a few:

  • Call someone who could use cheering up, or someone you haven’t been in touch with for a while, just to say you’re thinking of them.
  • Reach out to mend a broken relationship.
  • Visit someone who is alone – or invite them to your Thanksgiving table.
  • Give flowers to the person behind you in the grocery line – just because. (A lovely lady did this to me once, and I have passed it on.)
  • Pray for someone you know who is hurting or suffering from health problems.

The ideas are endless; and you are all creative and resourceful enough to come up with some great possibilities.  Maybe you could even share your ideas!

I challenge us all to do some extra helpings this week, this season.

…And seconds at the Thanksgiving table are okay, too.

But above all, let’s fill the cornucopia of our hearts with love, grace and kindness for everyone in our lives, as we thank God for His overflowing Providence.

Let me shout God’s name with a praising song, Let me tell his greatness in a prayer of thanks. ~Psalm 69:30 (The Message)

Avoiding the Slips

img_1382After over 15 years of warmth, coziness, and comfort, I had to part with my favorite slippers. They were actually a bit of an embarrassment – worn out, and very tired looking. As sad as I was to say my goodbyes, this action was symbolic.

Relinquishing these old friends represented my efforts to dispose of some ways of thinking that had been firmly imbedded in my being – reactions to situations or words that were habitual, automatic.

And that were not necessarily the most empowering, positive, or peace-producing thoughts.

They ranged anywhere from feeling impatient and frustrated while in the longest checkout line at the grocery store to creating a three act mental drama from an relatively innocuous comment.

Sigh…

Can anyone else relate to responding to the “ouchies” of everyday life in ways we would rather not revisit?

How easy it is to start slip-sliding into old ways at the slightest provocation when we get distracted and a little off course in our daily doings.

Each time I find myself wrapped up in those tired ideas, I pray and ask for God to help me with a fresh new cerebral ensemble.

Thankfully, my repeated efforts to recognize my off-target, mistaken thinking and the reactions thereof have had mild success.

On occasion, I have even been able to rein in thoughts before they invade my mind at breakneck speed.

Suddenly, I can choose not to start slipping into my old ways.

Those runaway emotions lose their momentum, fizzled out at the start.

Refashioning our behavior is a lifelong journey, and one that, when successful, has great rewards.

And it certainly makes us even more aware that God is present, and ready to receive our cast-offs.

I am still searching for a pair of replacement slippers.

But in the meantime, I’ll enjoy the pleasure of being on solid footing as I follow His lead.

I cried out, “I am slipping!” but your unfailing love, O Lord, supported me.
When doubts filled my mind, your comfort gave me renewed hope and cheer.

~ Psalm 84:18-19 NLT

 

 

Unwrapping Presence

canstockphoto0678700If I checked in with God as as often as I glance for new information on my devices, I would have an amazing spiritual life.

Recent studies have shown that people check their phones between 85-150 times a day. Astounding, isn’t it?

And that doesn’t even take into account the hours we gaze at the computer screen.

I have to admit that trying to reduce my “device time” (or should it be divisive time?) poses a challenge.

God keeps nudging me though – with my guiding word for the year, Presence.

Little did I know how often this  word would appear in print –  and invade my thoughts.

So many of my devotional readings emphasize the value of 1. being aware and grateful for God’s constant, devoted Presence, and 2. the importance of spending time with Him.

We are often wrapped so tightly in our own lives that we can’t shed the thin veneer that covers us.

But oh, how sitting in God’s Presence can help us begin.

Just a few moments of quiet prayer, asking Him to help clear our minds so we can be more aware of His will and purposes can virtually expand our days, helping us stay calm and centered as we go about our normal routines.

God delicately unties the knots and loosens the pieces of tape that prevent us from opening ourselves to Him.

And think of this….God is always online…ready and waiting to hear from us, to be with us.

I’m thinking of opening a FaceLook account; one where I can set my sights upon His Face, where I can check in to see if my thoughts and actions are in line with His ways.

And where the only reinforcement I need is the knowledge that He.Is.There.

I pray that you can take a moment to be refreshed and recharged in His Presence.

And that He may surprise and enlighten you as you shed your outer wrappings.

The prize of a winning lottery ticket remains worthless until it is cashed in. The contents of a gift remain useless until it is opened. You have been given the most incredible gift of all: God’s guiding presence in your life.

~ First 15, Craig Denison

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You will show me the way of life, granting me the joy of your presence, and the pleasures of living with you forever. ~Psalm 16:11

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Holding the Fort(y)

canstockphoto25282880On this day, forty years ago, our first daughter burst into the world.

Meems, as we have affectionately called her, was blessed to have an entrance without complications.

Our obstetrician, upon hearing her middle name, burst into his rendition of the song Maria from West Side Story.

In the throes of labor, I found it only slightly amusing – but the memory now elicits a smile each time I recall it.

She was the first of our three beautiful gifts from God.  I am thankful for her and our other two daughters each and every day. (As well as for our three sons-in-law and our precious grandchildren!)

As I reflected on the passage of four decades, the word fortified came to mind. (Or should it be forty-fied?)

Hence, the definition….

~to make strong; impart strength or vigor to
~to increase the effectiveness of, as by additional ingredients
~to strengthen mentally or morally
Looking back on my fortieth birthday (which, incidentally, seems like yesterday), I have to admit there wasn’t a thought in my head about any type of fortification mentioned above.
The passing of years and the wisdom of age have changed all that.
We read so much about foods that are fortified with vitamins and minerals, among other things, due to the lack of nutrients in our soil.
And people add these supplements to their diets these in hopes of staying physically healthy.
Over the years, God has taught me about the reinforcements that help build a strong spiritual foundation.
 
Daily contemplative prayer, Scripture study, and a strong and supportive faith and friendship community have been the gifts that have invigorated my spiritual bones.
 Each of has our own favorite ways to fortify our hearts and souls.
 What do I wish for our dear Emily on her spiritual journey?
 ~That God will continue to strengthen her and inspire her.
~That she will feel His Presence in her life, and see Him in those around her.
~That His love will expand her heart, resulting in an even greater capacity for the compassion and wisdom she already has.
~That she will be gifted with relationships built upon unconditional love and encouragement.
~That she will be a mirror of His love to everyone she encounters.
Happy 40th, dearest daughter!
Thank you for fortifying our lives for all of these decades.
May God continue to bless- and fortify you – abundantly.
Be strong, be courageous,
    all you that hope in the Lord. ~Psalm 31:24
 

All Strung Up

IMG_1375I opened my eyes, and there he was.

Quiet, still.

Staring at me.

My saucer-wide eyes were astonished to see such an animal appear in our residential area.

Thankfully I was able to snap a photo before he sauntered away.

My encounter with the Ethereal Elk was brief; but the seconds that passed seemed expansive – and powerful.

During my daily prayer time since he appeared, I continue to remember that moment.

What struck me most was the tangle of ropes that hung from his rack.

Did I imagine that he looked helpless and forlorn, unable to discard them?

I so wish there had been a away for me to take them away.

My thoughts have churned about the jumbled mess that elk had to carry around.

And what God has shown me is that I have my own entanglements that need to be discarded.

Some of my doubts, fears and mistaken thinking have been part of my carry-on baggage for so long that they are in danger of becoming permanent accessories.

It’s time for some serious shedding.

Brené Brown, in her book, Rising Strong, talks about the stories we make up.

 We can actually become trapped in those stories – so deeply that our brains begin to compose a story (however untrue) that we expect to hear. (parentheses mine)

It would be so nice if there were a special “mind conditioner” that we could use to comb through our knotted thinking.

Alas, undoing our wayward thoughts isn’t so easy.

Here’s where we need God’s help.

Courage and determination may start the process, but He is the one who can unravel the twisted ropes in our minds.

And allow us to shed them for once and for all.

Imagine how would it look if all of us walked around with our gnarled strands of “stuff” hanging outside of our heads.

Quite an image, wouldn’t you say?

Indeed, we are all lugging something around that we would love to dump.

Unfortunately, the Ethereal Elk had no choice. He was stuck with his ropes.

But, thankfully, we are not.

I pray that, with God’s guidance, we can all be brave enough to determine what we can dispose of.

And in doing so, enjoy the peace and serenity that result.

 

 

The Incessant Thump

IMG_1291There’s a party going on at any given moment in Riohacha, Colombia.

Blasts of music throughout the day (and often all night!) are part of everyday life in this city.

And we’re not talking about background music, either.

No ethereal Muzak tinkling overhead in these parts.

The volume level of the throbbing bass is enough to make your heart shake, not to mention the hotel walls!

Personally, I loved it when music blared in the late afternoon, just as my energy was flagging.  Naturally, my walking then began to have a bit of a lilt.

And I would smile to think of the people having fun, wherever they were.

We went to Riohacha with an eye team of 62 people from the US and Canada to do a project with Medical Ministry International Canada .

As we begin our work each year, I ask God what He intends to show me during the course of our time of service.

And He never fails to answer.

Miracles were prevalent, as always. Cataract patients who hadn’t seen for many years had their sight restored.

IMG_1128When Maria’s eye patch was removed, she exclaimed in Spanish, “Brilliante!”, and thanked God in the midst of her tears.

Children and adults with strabismus (crossed eyes) had the gift of having their eyes straightened – and no longer had to feel self-conscious about their appearance.

IMG_1134Ilona was thrilled that she would no longer would have to endure teasing from her classmates.

Thirty-two patients were fitted with prostheses for otherwise empty eye sockets. The results were dramatic, and their lives were changed as well.

The stories are endless.

One young man was brought in by a woman who had taken him in at age 7. He was deaf, and he had very poor vision.

This young man was 17 years old, and had never had a pair of glasses.

Imagine how different the world looked to him when he first put them on.

Sometimes God appeared in the smallest ways.

One day as I was trying to carry three cups of coffee, I heard a voice asking if I needed help.

IMG_1293After I said yes, I looked up at a man smiling at me who had only one arm.

Alexander graciously took one cup from me and delivered it to my co-worker.

My eyes welled up with gratitude for his generous help.

During our two weeks, the music played on.

What I came to realize is that the everpresent booming bass was merely a representation of God’s heart…beating nonstop, bringing light and life.

It was as if He wrapped His arms around the people of Riohacha and our team, and He was so very close that we could hear and feel His heartbeat.

God’s loves ripples through every project and every patient.

And we never know how far and wide the effects of His Presence will be.

What we do know is this…that the reverberations of God’s heart will never cease.

His steady beat will go on.

And I pray that we are always able to feel it.

I will give thanks to the Lord with all my heart. I will tell of all the marvelous things You have done. ~Psalm 9:1

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The MMI team will return to Riohacha, Colombia,  January 14-28, 2017, as the need for vision care is great. Volunteers are always needed, both medical and non-medical. For more information, visit the MMI Canada website: http://www.mmicanada.ca/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Present Tense

canstockphoto28940300Life in today’s world requires multitasking in order to process the  information that comes at us from all directions.

Just being can be such a drain – not to mention all of the doing that is required to stay constantly connected.

At times, the minute-by-minute communication punctuating our days, though affirming  – (we are worth keeping in touch with!) – can also be a drain on our focus, even anxiety producing. (What if I didn’t respond quickly enough?)

We are training our brains to continuously anticipate the next thing.

Why can’t the present moment be enough?

My word for 2016 floated in – and remained. No other word surfaced as I considered my guiding intention for the year.

Presence.

Plain and simple.

Just thinking the word brings calm, and invites me to exhale.

Two of the many definitions of presence resonated with me:

  1. the fact or condition of being present
  2. something (as a spirit) felt or believed to be present

For this oft-distracted damsel, living in presence is a perpetual challenge.

(Truth be told, the words for this post came in spurts – between making breakfast and doing laundry!)

I think God is asking me to be relentless in my pursuit of presence. 

He is inviting me to be awake to the world and the people around me, fully embracing each moment.

Noticing, as opposed to anticipating…what a concept.

This would certainly a be worthy departure from my task-oriented regimen.

I am guessing He will nudge me when the pull of messaging mania threatens to dominate.

God is also beckoning me to spend more time in His Presence.

When I begin my day with quiet moments of prayer and reflection, I do feel an inner peace that imbeds itself into the hours.

Both time and my soul expand as the day unfolds.

I am so grateful to be aware that God is always here, willing and ready to be with me.

His Presence is life-giving, illuminating.

How God will weave presence into my life this year?

I hope to notice every nuance…..

It is through gratitude of the present moment that the spiritual dimension of life opens up. ~ Eckhart Tolle

Do you have a Word For the Year?  Please share!

 

 

 

 

 

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