The Strength of the Pine
The thin pine swayed and bent in the violent wind gusts pushing her against cluster of fir trees behind her. She was fully exposed to all the elements now that her diseased southern neighbor had been removed months prior. She looked so weak and alone. I thought she might snap from the pressure. I watched spellbound, scarcely breathing, until she bounced back aright after each harsh blow. On one side her branches were stunted from their years in the shadow her neighbor had cast. Now, off-balance and without protection her handicap evident as she tipped.
Suddenly, I realized why I was so concerned about this tree’s ability to survive through this raging storm; we were fighting similar battles. I too had lost my front man, my covering. The death of my husband a few weeks prior, and the challenges of this past week had me leaning heavily on my spiritual family.
I found myself staring out my window, rooting for her, as she bobbed back and forth throughout the day. So grateful for the strength of those behind her preventing her from a fall. I was sure those trees were the primary reason she didn’t break. What a relief it was when the wind finally eased to see that she was still standing.
As I closed my shades for the night I thought ahead to the coming spring. Surely sunlight would help her stunted side to grow even again, giving her better balance. Like me, she needed to lean a bit now, but would soon grow strong again. Perhaps even someday becoming a sturdy buffer for those who were now supporting her.
Storms are meant to challenge us, to grow us, in new directions. This tree’s struggle brought an awareness of just how important support people are in one’s hour of need. I’m sure if the tree could speak, she’d add her thanks to her fellow fir trees for the strength of their entwined roots; and an encouragement for people everywhere to rise up and stretch out to the hurt and needy with hands of love.
A side note: I’m so glad to be back in my writing chair.
Blessings always, my friend.
2 Corinthians 1:3-4
Cusp of Change
Sometimes it’s desire that brings change, and sometimes it’s born of necessity.
Seasons change and boy, over the winter my body did too! I had to get back to working out. I overheard an older woman at the health club tell a friend she hadn’t exercised in years. Watching her copy the stretches of the young instructor, I could just imagine how she’d feel later. A beginner trying to keep up with this trained mass of muscle is in for a world of hurt tomorrow. The key is in taking baby steps. That trainer didn’t get toned overnight. It took slow, daily growth. And that’s the key to staying healthy and fit. Start slow, keep building, and when you reach your goal maintain it.
Building internal qualities takes time and practice too. Today I’m focusing on my inner spirit. I’m taking a few minutes to read a short devotional and some scripture. Like regular exercise, I plan to increase my quiet time with the goal of gradually reaching an hour a day. I need to be prepared to push back against busyness. To hold firmly the value of time management. To sit up and recognize a holy nudge. And to run the race especially marked out for me.
I may not ever become a super athlete, but I can be a healthier one. I have a firm foundation. Watching my words, my thoughts, and actions are great building blocks. So it’s essential that I know what the Word says so I can battle better.
Whether you’re facing a physical, emotional, or a spiritual challenge, meditation on scripture helps us dive deep and lets truth ripple forth. Basking in His light warms our spirit and prepares us for flight. And like the butterfly enjoying nectar we can taste and see that His words are sweet for the soul.
Are you facing a challenge today? Have you overcome one? If so, please consider sharing it in the comments. You never know whose life your story will inspire. And we’d love to join you in prayer. After all, if faith comes from hearing the Word, I believe we can find hope that way too!
Wishing you strength in the journey. Blessings, Debbie
#Change #Growth #Strong #Health #Hope #inspiration #Time Management #Challenge
Simplicity in Stillness
I love this time of the year. Winter has exited. Spring has sprung and a vast array of colors dot the landscape. And oh, so many fragrances. So many sounds. Bees buzzing, birding chittering, and children out of doors squealing. Yes indeed, this is a most favored season.
I’ve spent the last few weeks cleaning out winter’s remnants in preparation for all that summer offers. Boating, swimming, picnics, walking in the park, nature hikes, and camping. For me, being out of doors is invigorating. Contrasting blue sky against chalky cloud formations. Gentle breezes. Nature sounds, usually muted by the insulating cocoon of busyness. Time to quietly rest in the sun’s blessed rays streaking through the trees as a small animal pauses in your presence.
It’s as if by focusing on beauty, on the sounds of earth, that somehow pressing concerns are erased. That being simply present and aware is a gift that this day offers. Being grateful for the simplicity of shade. For the gentle refreshing rain. For the life cycle of the winged creatures. Remarkably, appreciation helps wash away the cobwebs of accumulated worry. And when we move from our place of observation our hearts are so much lighter.
The days ahead are filled with possibilities, uncertainty, and hope. Isn’t stillness a perfect way to prepare for a season budding with change? Peace for this moment. Grace for this day. Hope for tomorrow.
Wishing you an excellent quietness today.
I love reading cozy mysteries with a little clean romance thrown in. I mean, the term ‘heart flutters’ is something I can relate to. It’s the feeling similar to the movement of a butterfly on your finger. A soft motion that may cause you to catch your breath. I love it. There’s a similar term in the medical journals called palpitations or in layman’s terms a flutter. It can be a bit unsettling to notice that your heart is doing something different. With me, it also caused the perception of a shortness of breath.
The good news is that my heart is fine, my lungs are clear, and my blood levels reveal no problem. Later today I get to wear a 24 hour monitor to see if they can catch these palpitations, seeking to discover if there is an underlying issue.
I am amazed that there is a device that can hug you and monitor every heartbeat. One that can detect a need for further medical care. Technology has surpassed my ability to understand much of how it works, but I appreciate the brilliant minds that have created this tool. I’m sure it has saved many lives.
Like a romance novel, don’t we all long for someone to pull us close? One who can sense when we aren’t okay? Someone to help discern a problem?
I’m so glad there’s Someone who’s known me forever, who holds me close on my hardest days, and points the path to peace. I trust in my faith journey, and His plan for my life even when facing hardship. I run to His safe arms and He holds me close to His heart.
Perhaps my internal ‘butterflies’ are just me, drying my wings, and preparing for flight. All I know is that there is a breeze, and sweet nectar ahead. Trusting that He will carry me exactly where I need to go.
How’s your faith journey, my friend? Praying for you in your challenges.
Isaiah 40:11 He tends the flock like a shepherd. He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.
Breaking into May
It’s May! How did that happen? There are so many things I didn’t get to do last year that I’ve been busy trying to cram them all into the last few weeks lest the world is tipped on its axis again.
Have I enjoyed a soft ice cream cone? You bet! Barbequed on the grill? Yup, a couple of times. Eaten a meal on the patio? Of course. I cleaned the yard from the dregs of winter weeks ago. And I have even made reservations for a summer family gathering. (Deep sigh.)
There’s something I’ve noticed, and perhaps you have too. People seem to be making an extra effort to connect. My elderly neighbor has stopped over to visit several times this week. Bumping into a friend at a store led to a half hour delay in my schedule as we caught up with one another. Plus I’ve had several text messages, and two phone calls this week from people I haven’t spoken to in months. It is so revitalizing to connect with those you care deeply about.
My roses haven’t bloomed yet, but some of my other flowers have, and I guess this is a reminder to take a break. Enjoy the beauty around you. Call a long-time friend. Visit a neighbor. Swing in a hammock. Listen to the bird’s song or steal away and experience a sunrise. Let’s appreciate the last days of spring while we can. You know, if May is here already that September is just around the corner. The advantage of slowing our pace today is that it can bring us memories to enjoy tomorrow.
I found a bird’s nest. How was your day?
Fits and Starts
The heaviness of winter has melted into a glorious early spring. The birds sing of their love as nests are woven. And I have shed my winter wear to don lighter, more cheerful fabric in solidarity with my feathered friends to announce, “Yes, SPRING is here!”
Fragrant, colorful blooms broadcast festivities and all manner of flying insects join in carnival games. The lawn is cleared of fallen debris in preparation for the mower’s maiden tour around the property. Much like a birthday party, anticipation has now exploded in a crescendo of sun, heat and busy revelry.
Today I’ve opened my back door several times to shoo away a pair of birds. It seems atop a light fixture positioned under our eaves is the perfect place for nesting robins. Perfect for them, alas is not perfect for all. This door is used frequently throughout the day, and a momma robin with hatchlings would be disturbed very often. So I dutifully remove the gathered straw and twigs and place an aluminum foil ball there as a deterrent. She has removed it three times today. Eventually she will decide another spot is better suited, and we’ll both be happier.
My writing has suffered much this winter. Fits and starts. Set-backs with much, much journaling. Indeed I, like my warbling minstrels, needed winter’s respite to regroup. To face harsh trials. To prioritize and to re-family after months apart.
In transitioning into this new season, I too must be aware of closed doors and be prepared to seek another solution. Perhaps the reason something isn’t working is because it’s not a good answer. It may be that a safer and wiser choice is already on the horizon and I haven’t seen it because my heart is set on something else. Like this winged pair I must be open to changing my plan. So today, I’ll journal my thoughts here and not hide them away in my notebook.
Is there something that is holding you back? Take a look around, perhaps the answer is waiting in the wings.
Feed the Baby
Dreams! It was my 3 or 4th baby dream… in this one I was solo parenting. I walked into my bedroom and was surprised to find a baby. If you know me at all, you will understand that without hesitation, I picked up this unknown child and attended to its needs. The real twist came when I left my room. There was another hungry baby at the bottom of the stairs. In fact, I found myself running room to room feeding babies. So many babies!
So what does ‘feeding the baby’ in these dreams represent? In real life I’ve raised my share of children and meeting needs comes naturally to me. My kids are now grown. I’ve moved from raising children to writing stories. I call these stories ‘my babies.’ So when I awoke this morning after caring for another hungry child in my nocturnal slumber, I knew I was being prompted to feed the baby. Today’s ‘baby’ is this blog.
Normally, I’d save this post until Mother’s Day as it’s about moms, but this is on my heart and it’s pressing.
I am unconventional. I first noticed this as a single mom. As a lover of children, I discovered a way to satisfy my desire to nurture more children through the foster care program. You see, I’ve led a blessed life. I was raised by two parents that loved me. Both of my grandparents raised a gaggle of kids. (That means there were a lot of kids in the families!) I admired my grandmothers and aspired to raise my own gang. So it’s not surprising that I not only had a couple of kids, but I also babysat for the neighborhood. I provided before school care and watched a few more young ones during the day. That’s when I realized just how deep my love for kids went. These children were beautiful, unique, and also very entertaining. I’d laugh at their silliness as easily as I was awed by how quickly they learned. Somewhere along the journey I decided that if I loved my neighbor’s kids this much, I might be able to make a difference by loving kids who really needed it. I became a foster mom.
These littles came to me one or two at a time. My first two lived with me for fifteen months before returning to natural mom. It was heart wrenching to see them go. I had to evaluate whether I was strong enough to continue. When I decided to go forward, I begged God, “Please, only bring me kids that I can keep.” Without promises or guarantees I stepped out in faith trusting that God knew my path and theirs.
From a variety of backgrounds and life circumstances, they arrived. A mere phone call could change not only my day, but the course of several lives. Within hours my doorbell would ring and I met the child I had heard described. Some came injured, some were only days old, and not one arrived with extra clothing. The common thread was a need for a safe place to live and to be loved. That was easy. Taking them in and loving babies… easy!
I don’t want to romanticize things, these were children with needs, challenges, and tempers. Real life 101. I had two kids already when I started so I had a clue of what to expect. It took a lot of energy and prayer. And in exchange I received years of hugs, kisses, whispered secrets, and for some reason noodle necklaces. If you mix those with trips to urgent care, late night illnesses, too many messy diapers to count, and house visits by caseworkers it’ll give you a snapshot of what those years were like.
As time passed these littles officially became my littles. God honored my heart’s desire and brought me children I could keep. Three different adoption days. Five beautiful children were added to my family.
Now to the mommas behind the scenes, the mothers of my children. I hold you in the highest regard. Their little lives began in you. You had the intimacy of hearing their heartbeat and feeling them move inside of you. Your expanding waistline evidence of your hidden treasure. It was your body that nourished theirs nestled beneath the safety of your ribcage. They were lulled to sleep by your heartbeat. Nine long, expectant, hormonal months you waited to meet them. Hearing their first cry. Holding their soft form to yourself. Counting their fingers and toes. It was your voice they recognized at birth. These were your moments. Moments, that as a mother, I treasure.
I cannot fathom what internal fortitude it takes to surrender a child. I can only imagine the emotional struggle you endured. I pray that meeting your now adult child and the relationship you have with them will bring you much happiness.
You, dear woman, you are precious to me. You grew a child that I love with all my heart. Your sacrificial act has forever changed my world. I am grateful. Your child changed my life and brought me joy. Oh, so much joy. The Bible says that children are a gift from God. I thank you so very much for sharing your gift with me.
Forever in your debt, ~Debbie
PS- Dear Reader, if this will bless someone you know. I’d ask you to share it with them. Thank you.
Baby Steps to Letting Go
I’ve graduated from raising children to having grandchildren. The bumpy path of maturing teenagers can take its toll on parents. How many teary prayers have been quietly shared or scratched between the pages of our journals?
My child’s self-sufficiency did not always arrive in a timely fashion, and there came a time that I had to step back and assess how best to parent my adult child. I admire people who are able to just let go. Some children mature and make life choices that sustain them, but what happens when everyone else’s kid has moved forward, but yours is still lingering in immaturity? What if they don’t fly or get a job? Do we consider ourselves a failure? Can we just let go and move on hoping that they’ll figure out life some day?
In raising seven kids, it’s been my experience that the answer lies in evaluating each young adult for who they are before we think about where they are in their life journey.
My style of parenting is what some may call hard or tough love. My kids were given their own laundry basket at a young age and taught how to wash their own clothes. I encouraged them to help me cook and do chores. And they were expected to get a job as we were teaching them how to drive. Allowances just didn’t work for us, but we have paid our kids to paint a deck or to do other jobs.
Our situation is unusual in that we had several children who saw therapists and took medication. Some developed at a slower rate emotionally so that even at 18 they were not ready to live independently even though they may have desired it. Each one was different. So, what’s a parent to do?
We found solutions according to their unique bent. One moved in with a grandmother. One moved in with a friend. Another one dealt with severe anxiety so when the transition came, we practiced alone time by renting a hotel room for a few days. * Our adult child learned a lot and so did we, about abilities and areas needing more focus. *Note: we did this alongside a counselor.
Several times our adult children bounced back home for a season. We always had the expectation that they would find work of some sort while living home. We’d help them move out when they had enough money saved up or when they found a roommate. And if they weren’t making progress in saving money, I had no problem charging them rent. Not a lot, but some money due each month. I saved every dollar they gave me in a separate account and when there was enough, we’d help them find an apartment with money they didn’t know they had. We’d help find furniture and household items to get them set up. Some people may perceive this as hard-hearted, but we knew that we weren’t going to be alive forever. We did what we felt was best for each unique child. Our goals weren’t to get rid of our children, but to teach them how to live without us.
It’s been a long journey. There were days when depression hit so hard that I staggered. Times when I was called to the ER; when I thought my kids weren’t going to make it. Times when their choices broke my heart. And occasions when I’ve been physically threatened by my child, but love continues to surround our family. We’ve gotten through each challenge one baby step at a time. Our journey has not been easy, but it’s been oh so rewarding to see our young adults mature and learn to do life on their own– their way.
Maturity isn’t just for our kids, it’s for us too. In life, we grow and learn alongside them. I’m pleased to be able to point out things they’ve accomplished that they never knew they could do. I am their biggest cheerleader. Hey, my kid rose to the challenge and grew… and so did I.
Peace and blessings my friend,
It was a silver pot, blackened by sulfur and tarnished by time. Someone had attempted to clean the old thing, so it had little collector’s value. Its owner simply wanted to clear space in her home and when I asked about it she passed to me as a gift.
I loved the shape of the little container. Its bent handle that fit through an ornate embellishment added to its charm. The fitted lid boasted an intricate overflowing vase of flowers with which to lift the top from the container. But the most attractive feature to me was the word ‘crackers’ engraved in a wacky font across the front. The meaning of the word wasn’t lost on me, and it certainly was a reflection of my life’s journey. (Some people think I’m a bit nutty.)
In accepting this cast off I felt indebted to its proper restoration. After researching various silver cleaning methods, I began with what I had on hand, ketchup. The article stated that the acid from the tomatoes worked wonders. Sounded good to me. I took an old kitchen towel and piled on a gob of the red sweetness then left the slathered pot to marinate for two hours. I must say it did work to remove a bit of the black, and with a lot of rubbing some parts of the lid began to shine through the grime.
I moved on to another process calling for household ingredients. Unfortunately the baking soda and aluminum foil didn’t fare as well, probably because of the previous cleaning.
I decided to give it last try. This time I went with a commercial silver cleaner which decidedly worked best. The pot cleaned up pretty well considering the condition I found it in. However, my arms ached from the deep polishing needed to achieve a semi-clean container where the word crackers was barely visible.
At this point I consulted a friend who was familiar with silver cleaning, and she said, “You’ll never get it all off. Just look at the pits on there.” Tiny pinhole-sized indentations covered my cracker jug. Apparently, this was normal due to its use and age. Considering that this project had already cost me hours of time and that it would never be use it to hold crackers, I gave up. This would be a conversation piece, and perhaps used as a vase for dried flowers. Even in its imperfect, mottled state, I still liked the little jug. Its pitting gave it character, speaking to its long and arduous journey. Its mere existence a testimony to strength and fortitude.
I am reminded that our lives are much like that little silver jar. Life’s adventures can enhance or mar our surface, but the testimony of our strength is in getting up each day and being willing to shine amid our imperfections.
I proudly display my silver cracker jar hoping to be asked its history. My simple answer is that it’s a treasured heirloom like me. As are you, my friend. <3 Debbie
I stood on my lawn and gazed skyward at the clouds. Each unique visible vapor in deepening tones marched silently past as if on a secret mission. Looking up from the earth we can only see the underside of clouds. In hues of blue gray, they can feather across the expanse or gather in tremendously large shapes of various forms.
As a child, I once read a book about the power of one’s mind. One of the suggested exercises was to lay outside on one’s back, stare at the clouds and to try to mentally dissolve the clouds. I spent a good portion of that day staring upward without success; although one cloud did seem to split in the center as it floated past. Reluctantly, I decided that I had no superpowers. I closed the book beside me and went indoors to console myself with cookies.
From a spatial vantage point, we can look down upon clouds. The wavy puffs of white, much like large cotton haystacks, endlessly fill the horizon. It’s as if earth itself has undergone a metamorphosis and the colorful world we know has been cleansed and awaits a painter’s touch.
But when traveling through a cloud there’s no opportunity to see anything. The window to the world is completely obscured in a bland oneness. It is at times like this that I long for a chance to look ahead, to look back, or to glimpse anything with variety.
On my last flight, the pilot warned of the turbulent weather we’d encounter. When the jet flew through the rain cloud the windows were pelted by the storm, the wind pushed and jerked our craft. The nose of the plane was aimed up, up into the rage surrounding us. Thoughts of the brevity of life passed through my head. I mentally sang a song of reassurance and I prayed. There was no panic, but the evening flight was eerily silent. I watched the lights on the wing disappear from view as the seat that held me shook. Long, long moments later the plane pierced the veil and a pocket of sky appeared, comforting my challenged spirit.
I was grateful that clouds have a top and a bottom. They are not endless even in the midst of a storm. Off in the distance I could see the red tint of the sun on the horizon faithfully setting between the clouds. Although earth-bound beings would not see it, my camera caught the promise of the day’s end.
My challenging flight reaped a wonderous insight. As I journey through this day’s challenges I am learning, like the pilot, to aim upward no matter my view. I am reassured those storms do eventually end, and like the sunset hidden above my view, there is a promise of tomorrow. I move forward in hope, trusting in the lesson of the clouds.
Be encouraged. Blessings my friends.
Breaking through the storm clouds. The hidden sunset above the storm.
Rainy day regroup
The sky is gray and heavy. As the storm presses in I set my distractions aside, and find a good window to watch the incoming deluge. I absorb the smells from an open window. The sound of the leaves sighing in refreshment stirs my memories.
My mind wanders back to my childhood when this exact scenario played out. At that time, I was frustrated, angry that my plans to build a fort, or climb some imaginary mountain; soaring high with my conjured-up wings to a place of untold adventure had been foiled by this dreadful set-back.
Today, I may be discouraged that my plans for the sunny day I had envisioned will not transpire as I had hoped, but I take heart as I have learned much from my childhood rainy days. This day, I push aside the week of concerns that had gathered. I allow myself the freedom just to be. To sit and ponder the birds, the squirrels, the beauty in the storm. And after some time, I find myself refreshed, better able to conquer those challenges, and face those imaginary giants of my week past. The funny thing is that they don’t seem so large and looming now. The rain has refreshed my spirit and I feel stronger.
Perhaps the hidden purpose of a storm is that it provides a place of respite from our troubles. It may sound counter intuitive but resting as the battle rages around us affords us time to stop worrying. We can just slow down and enjoy the beauty surrounding us.
That’s my encouragement today, my friend. I have a pretty picture that reminds us that all storms do indeed end, and there is sunshine ahead.
Sending you a blessing in the midst of your storm. Debbie
A Small Ceramic Horse
It is so small, a remnant from my childhood. Just a little ceramic horse with a lingering star sticker on its saddle that I placed there the day I claimed ownership. It probably was a yard sale purchase or something my grandmother no longer wanted, but somehow it became mine, and oh the magic it contains.
Holding the sleepy, cold porcelain pony transports me back to a place of innocence. A land where I felt safe, care-free and loved. A world where tragedy and disaster rarely entered; play was expected and where four kids in empty field often morphed into a kickball game. The outdoors was my playground and the setting sun was my clock.
Many days the morning dew would wet my bare feet as I chased butterflies across the lawn. Green grass clippings, which I imagined heaven smelled like, stuck to my skin. Dangling yo-yos, balancing hula hoops, jumping rope, picking up jacks, flying kites, and shooting marbles were all courses of our summer feast. Sunscreen was rare, and dark summer tans with sun-bleached hair came naturally. You’d find me sitting on concrete steps mimicking the birds in trees or the watching the clouds float across the sky while thinking deep thoughts like, ‘If I run fast enough can I fly?’
In this realm a neighbor’s pool or simply finding a swimming hole meant an afternoon of screaming fun. Picnics, long walks, and laying on my back at night staring at the stars filled my imagination with fresh dreams. A filthy bathtub ring was my badge of a day well-spent.
In the spring I’d watch my brother pull fat frogs from the ditch or scoop polliwogs into a kitchen pan to see if they had legs. A measure of string on a broken tree branch with a hand-tied hook made us grand fishermen in our eyes; and the occasional use of an actual fishing pole with worms- wow, that was the ultimate outing! Not that I ever caught much, although I do recall a very heavy catch that turned out to be a whopper of a boot. This was sadly followed by reeling in a small turtle. I felt pretty bad about the little guy and fishing lost much of its appeal for me after that.
Making up stories, singing to record albums, putting on our own theater show, and riding my bike as far as I wanted to go- these were all entertainment for those long days of summer.
These recollections are my ‘days of yore.’ The era before adulthood emerged seasoned with pain and hardship, crowding out the days of ease. I can get lost in these thoughts. I am so thankful that I was blessed with such a childhood, and grateful that a hand-sized relic can bring me such wonderful memories of lazy summer days.
How about you? Do you have something special that transports you back to favorite memory?