Bright lights line our house and encircle our palm trees. Snowmen, tiny trees, letters spelling out JOY and Nativities fill our shelves. It’s Christmas time!
These symbols are outward signs of the celebration that’s in our heart.
It’s as if we’re celebrating with the world. Neighbors have their houses and trees lit. People seem brighter and lighter. We’re not the only ones who can feel this.
What is it about colored lights and tinsel that, as the song says, makes spirits bright? Is that all it takes t make us kinder to one another?
We may not all be celebrating for the same reason but I like these moments of feeling a shared joy. In a community where few know their neighbors, conversations are struck as we admire each other’s display of the season.
Could it be that these twinkling lights are a reflection of the Light? Is this a preview of kingdom come? A kingdom that will be diverse in language and tradition. A kingdom of believers who have shared little on the outside but cling to the Only one who is the true reason for celebration.
In our ever-expanding world, proximity matters. We are fooled to believe technology can fill the role of deep friendship. That being part of an online community can satisfy our need for up-close-and-personal.
I write those words as I plan to contribute them to just one of the online communities I’m part of.
Yes, I’ve developed friends with people I only know from a screen. No, there’s no way that can come close to living life with another.
The photography class I’ve taken online has taught me about still life photography and provided live interactive opportunities with others in the group.
Still, not a substitute for sitting around with others discussing whatever is the topic of the day.
We are even allowing the online church to substitute the gathering with others, messy as we are, to come closer to Christ.
I wonder if Jesus knew. In words written thousands of years ago, we were counseled to not neglect our meeting together. Hebrews 10:25
And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.
We live busy lives. We are more mobile and transient and it takes effort to get close to others. Efforts that can be exhausting. I get it. I’m part of it.
I lament a younger generation that may never know the depth of personal connection. The kind that comes from actually being in person. Or is that thinking passe?
We are living centuries after Jesus walked and might wonder how we can be close to him. Maybe it starts with gathering together. In any way, any form we can for the purpose of encouraging each other. To learn more about who Jesus is. And to let Him transform our lives.
Their independent living apartment was at the back of the property. A birdhouse stood in their bit of backyard divided from empty fields by a chain link fence. It was usually quiet enough to hear the flutter of the bird’s wings as they arranged moss in their nest. In the afternoon, the silence was split by military planes flying back to their Naval base.
In contrast, our neatly kept green backyard is noisy with the sounds of traffic from the 4 lanes on the other side of our privacy fence.
Our office sits on a busy street where road construction never seems to end and sirens blare past on a regular basis.
Is there a store or restaurant anywhere that doesn’t play music constantly? It seems we can’t escape an unwanted soundtrack for our daily life.
I was raised in a house where the t.v. supplied background noise. It was always on. Even if no one was watching it.
It seems to provide a comforting white noise for some. Or maybe it’s just a way to protect ourselves from a silence that asks us to listen.
The inside of my in-law’s apartment was as quiet as the outside. She would sit in the silence as her fingers worked the intricate cross-stitch designs. The tick of the kitchen clock seemed to be magnified by the silence. I don’t know how she could stand it. TICK – TICK – TICK – TICK….
Her Bible and devotionals were stacked nearby. I’m sure the words she’d read earlier in the day were the sounds she played in her mind as she worked in the quiet. She chose the sounds of truth over the noise of the world.
I’ve learned to appreciate the quiet more. To turn off the noises and open myself to what the heart needs to hear. I have a long way to go, but it seems to start with the sounds of silence.
To walk into the bedroom of our 10-year old granddaughter is to be on sensory overload. Her room is littered, I mean arrnged, with stuffed animals, clothes, shoes, dolls, Legos, more clothes and shoes, drawings, papers, books….did I say clothes?
It takes a lot of coaxing to get her to clean out what she doesn’t need.
I know the differenc between need and want but it’s still something I struggle with myself at times.
Writer, Emily Freeman, recently talked about the essentials. That’s a word with weight. It means absolutely necessary; extremely important. It’s a word that needs more than a 10-year old maturity to understand. American Girl dolls are essential to her like health insurance is to us. (Oh for the days of childhood!)
Our retirment date is growing closer each day. Two years from now. Lord willing, we will be in another city, another house, another life. Even now, I am considering what our needs will be. The obvious ones are easy. We will need furnishings for the house. We’ve lived in furnished parsonages the past 23 years so this is a big thing. We will need to learn when the garbage is picked up and become familiar with new street names and directions.
But what is essential?
That’s not easy to answer a year and a half away. So I turn that question, as Emily did, to today. In this time of year that schedules get packed and to-do lists get longer, what is essential?
The answer is harder than it sounds. It may vary day to day. Can it even be answered for more than one day at a time?
Today, it’s essential I go to my dental appointment. It’s part of health/self-care. It’s essential that I eat and more beneficial if I eat nutriously.
Our basic human needs are just that: needs. And they are essential.
What is absolutely necessary, extrememly important to me is to know I am loved. To know I have hope. That’s what I desperately need and what I have in Jesus.
Most Friday’s I link up with other writers for Five-Minute Friday a 5-minute free write prompt. And most weeks I take more than 5 minutes. Sorry, not sorry.
Her words fell heavier than her feet when she walked into the room proclaiming impending disaster. Drama is her way and it’s a way I don’t accept.
Too many times I’ve stood in his office door and listened to words of self-pity, knowing it was my job to listen only. It’s not an easy one as words swirl in my mind of what I’d like to say. Not the time. Not his need.
Words are hurled, good, bad, hurtful, lies, false flattery, like a tornado they swirl about touching down in random places. We discern which to accept and which to let fall. Which do we allow to make their mark with pain or joy?
I wish it were as easy as only allowing the sweet-sounding words as truth. Growth comes with accepting the hard ones too. Our faith is grown accepting God’s way over our own. Transformation comes with accepting his grace.
Palm trees are built to weather the winds of tropical breezes and storms. Their root system looks like millions of thin strands that tend to go straight down. No matter the size of palm tree you’re planting, support braces are required for a minimum of one year. They need the support to keep them in place allowing the roots to grow.
There is one in our front yard. It replaces another that was damaged by lightning. Three 2×4’s are braced to keep it firm. The top swayed as the other palms lining our street did when the winds of Hurricane Irma swept through our city earlier this week. It swayed, but held firm.
I’ve sat on our porch watching the palms in back bend and bow to our fierce summer rains. They are a model of how we can weather the figurative storms in life. Even in creation, God shows us the importance of support. He shows us with the proper planting and care that we may bend and sway but still hold firm.
The past ten days, His support has been emails, texts and phone calls from friends. It has been words of concern and friendship. It’s come from unexpected people and places but He is there.
When we toured Rome, our guide helped us navigate the crowds through the Vatican. She kept us moving faster than we’d have taken on our own but there was so much to see.
In Turkey, our guide Jim answered questions on bus rides from one area to the next and cautioned us about buying things from street merchants that seemed to magically appear as the doors of our bus opened.
We’ve had tour guides in several countries and a guide on our first white water rafting trip. All of them led with confident knowledge and a patient understanding of the foreign culture.
One year we took a self-guided tour through Gettysburg listening to the audio recording provided.
Whether we are led by a professional guide or an audio one, having someone alongside to help us walk through life provides comforting assurance.
Most of my life guides have been friends and family. I don’t care much for the manuals provided with appliances, the kind that looks as if they’re written in my language but I can’t seem to understand a word. No, I need to see the words lived out. I need to be shown.
Perhaps that’s why Jesus spoke in parables when he taught. He used stories people could relate to. He talked about weddings and soil and being a good neighbor. He told stories about sons who left their families and learned hard lessons and stories about lost sheep.
His stories were a guide to people thousands of years ago and a guide to our lives today. His words are often gentle and I imagine him as a great story-teller with gestures and vocal inflections.
We’re all leading someone. People are watching our words on social media and seeing if they match our actions. What kind of guide are you? Do you lead with mandates or stories?
I need to do better. I need to soften my tone and firm up my actions. I want to be a guide leading others to one greater than me.
As parents and caretakers we urge children to try it; the broccoli, swim lessons, piano, and sleeping with the light off. We stand beside them, urging them through life. “Just give this a try, you never know”, we say.
As adults, when the urge to try something comes from outside sources, the resistance is still there. The stubborn woman that I am, I’m more willing to try something that’s my idea. Don’t force me, don’t push me and don’t make me. The old childish behavior speaks up with grown-up resistance.
I want to know the end result before I try something. I want to know that putting my face in the water won’t burn my eyes. I want to know the calamari will be delicious and that I’ll be pitch perfect in the church choir. Fear of failure pushes against trying the fullness of life.
I’m a mediocre swimmer. Putting my head underwater burns my nose and I just can’t get the breathing right. But I love how the water refreshes on hot summer days. I can back stroke across the pool and feel the joy of swimming.
Calamari is meh and I’ll never be the soloist of anything. Those won’t stop me from enjoying a good meal with friends or blasting my favorite music to drown out frustrations of traffic.
My mind keeps going to the verse that says ‘taste and see that the Lord is good’. Try it and see. Just a taste of God’s goodness and you’ll know that His ways are good. You’ll know his love is forever.
“Taste and see that the Lord is good. Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in him!” Psalm 34:8
I’m trying to get back into the practice of sharing a What we Learned, or learning, post. At one time, Emily Freeman had a monthly link-up of these type of posts on her blog. I found them helpful in recognizing things I’d learned or discovered. We go about our lives on auto pilot that I liked acknowledging the specifics filling my days.
This will be a compilation of learning and favorites. Though not limited to July, they are recent.
On my ‘thumbs down’ list:
Hanes thigh-high stockings
Basically, any stockings are on my thumbs down list but since I’m required to wear a uniform in my role as a Salvation Army officer, stockings are part of that when the skirt is required. In South Florida, I find the thigh-high style to be cooler (thanks to my cousin who recommended them). However, I went through two pairs in two days at $7 a pair last month. Not good.
This is related to the above. I haven’t ever been able to find a pair of comfortable, uniform-compliant, heels. I try for special occasions but they hurt and when I hurt people around me hurt. Enough said.
Makes life easier department:
Walmart Grocery pick up – WIN!
I’ve used this free service three times and each time has been a positive experience. They have my order ready earlier than requested time. They call ahead to notify me and give clear instructions on where to pick up. I’ve had few substitutions which have never resulted in more cost. Once the didn’t have the small size I requested, replaced it with the larger at no extra cost. I don’t even go inside the store. Did I say mention this service is free? 🙂
Scan to Digital
I was asked to make a video for a special celebration for friends. She presented me with nearly two hundred photographs that would need to be scanned. YIKES! There was no way I or my Administrative Assistant could spend the time scanning these so I looked for a service and found this one. Their price is lower than most and the quality was excellent. They kept the digitals in the same order the photos were sent which was important in this case. My order was completed in less than two weeks including mailing back and forth. The total was well under $50.00. Another win!
I expected a book about tips on slowing down. It wasn’t what I expected. It was better. This isn’t a book filled with tips or how-to. It chronicles a part of the author’s life that seems to be a continuing struggle for her driven, creative type. I enjoyed her relatable writing style.
I have no plans to disconnect from the internet. However, I am intrigued as to the why’s and how’s of this decision. I’m not too far into her story and it’s interesting to see how far she takes this year-long experiment and the ramifications it has on her life. Emery includes the use of credit/debit cards and a cell phone. Definitely a book to consider.
The Perennial Gen blog is a new discovery for me. It’s also a fairly new blog. As the title hints, it’s target audience is described in its tagline: “Growing deeper roots in the dirt and light of midlife (and beyond)” Yes, it’s for us baby-boomers. I discovered it from an editor of another blog who told me my writing might be a good fit for them. I think she was telling me I’m old but in the nicest of ways, of course.
Grammarly is another free tool recommended by Kate Montaug from Five-Minute Friday link up. Once you download (free) and install it, it will highlight spelling and grammar issues. It’s available for MAC and PC. I’m not including a link since it would be specific to Apple products.
Share something you’ve learned this summer in the comments. Thank you!
I am not an affiliate for any products, books, websites, services, etc. I included links to make it easier for those of you who may be interested in the things I’ve mentioned.