Thursday, September 29, 2011

Angel Art

Have you noticed that the artwork in stores today are either a choice of metal flower sculptures or inspirational sayings mounted and framed?  They say "art imitates life" and I believe we are seeing that now...a desire in the general population for encouragement to lift them from the financial and emotional crises they find themselves in.  (Though I will admit I don't exactly know what the metal flowers are saying...maybe that we can't afford real ones?!?)  Artists and graphic designers are definitely capitalizing on our need for inspiration - and good for them!  (Personal note to my niece, Amanda:  Now's the time, sister! You've got the graphic design gift and the degree to match...go for it!)

Anyway, I have succumbed twice to purchasing these flights of fancy.  Once as an anchor to a wall collage my kids and I made my husband for his birthday (see above) and once for myself.  Although I will admit the face kind of creeps me out, the words on the skirt of my angel speak to me joyfully:

My Angel Art
BELIEVE
Trust Your Intuition
leap fearlessly
EMBRACE YOUR TRUTH
Take Flight Toward Your Dreams
feel the abundance of your life
collect moments of kindness
Do The Thing You Never Thought You Could
celebrate the gift of today
NEVER GIVE UP.  EVER.

Today I was having one of those days lacking inspiration and excitement.  My son is home sick, I have 20 loads of laundry to wash, and a million errands to run - which of course, I can't because I can't leave my son.  I was feeling kind of down when my son said, "Mom, I'm so hungry."

"Eggs?," I asked.  "Ooohhh, yes please," he replied. 

"Scrambled or fried?"

"Thats a tough one...hmmmm.  Fried, please.  Overhard."

"Got it."  And off I went to play chef.  As I was waiting for the pan to heat, I glanced to my right and saw my angel...I hung it in the kitchen because I'm there ALOT - but I hadn't really noticed it for a few weeks.  I took a pause and read it.  That word "ever" at the end gets me every time.  And there I found my inspiration.

Never give up...ever...

...at finding the perfect moment to serve someone selflessly.
...at loving moments in your day no matter how seemingly small or insignificant
...at acknowledging the blessings God has given, even when they don't seem great...they probably would be to someone else.

My son loved his eggs and said, "Oh, thanks so much, mom.  You're the best."  There, a perfect moment...a moment to serve...a blessed opportunity I had because I am not working right now.  Perfect. 

Never give up...ever...

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

So Ya' Had a Bad Day

Okay, I’ll admit it.  Sometimes I’m REALLY cranky.  These times often come on for no good reason.  Or they’ll be brought on by something minor.  I’ll be on hold with customer service for too long and it ruins my day.  Or I’m having a great day and one of my kids will be especially ornery and again, bad mood Martha surfaces.  I was having a day like this recently and went to sleep that night thinking, “I’m so glad I can put this day to rest and wake up tomorrow to a better attitude.”  The problem was, I awoke the next day with the same frustration in my heart.

I was in charge of carpool that morning and listened to my teenage daughter and her friend chatter on the way to school.  Normally I would pipe in my two cents but this particular morning, I couldn’t muster the energy.  On the way home alone, I said to God, “Sorry but I can’t be in a good mood every moment of every day.  It’s starting to feel like too much pressure.  So you’re just gonna have to deal with it.”  (I used to try and hide what I was really feeling from God with nice language and carefully chosen words.  But He knows what I’m thinking anyway so I figure I may as well say the truth.  It’s bad enough to be belligerent…much less a belligerent liar!)

When I arrived home, I saw my morning devotional, “Your Best Life Begins Each Morning,” in the basket next to my bed.  I actually rolled my eyes after looking at it because I just didn’t feel like hearing anything positive.  But I had made a commitment to read it each morning so I opened the book and experienced a shove out the front door of my funk…”Living your best life now is downright difficult sometimes.  Many people give up far too easily when things don’t go their way…Instead of persevering, they get all bent out of shape.  Before long, they’re down and discouraged…”

I put the book down, laughed aloud and looked up saying, “Yeah, yeah, I got it.  I’ll deal with it myself!”

Honestly, the rest of my day was wonderful knowing that God loves me enough to steer me toward the good when I’m stuck in the bad, lacking the energy to maneuver myself.  Knowing I don’t have to climb alone out of my bad day is truly something to be grateful for.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Lord, I'm Tired

I'm about to fall asleep...literally...

I turned 43 last week and all of a sudden it's as if my body knows I'm older and is exhausted. My husband has been laughing at me the past few days. We have unexpectedly switched places. For the fifteen years we have been married, he has fallen asleep in the evening, on the couch watching TV or on top of the bedclothes, reading. And I have been the Energizer Bunny into the wee hours, wide awake, unable to sleep, mind racing, body wired. (Of course, he is a total morning person and I LOATHE to be awake before 7AM.) But lately, he will enter the room to find me holding a book in front of me - with my eyes closed. This change is a bit disconcerting.

There is a great Negro Spiritual that addresses the "tired" in all of us:

Precious Lord, take my hand.
Lead me on, let me stand.
I'm tired, I’m weak, Lord I’m worn.
Through the storm, through the night,
Lead me on to the light.
Take my hand, precious Lord, lead me home.

Sure, this is addressing world-weariness,not physical weariness. But they can become one in the same.



So this morning I awoke, again with exhaustion enveloping my spirit, and I said to my husband, "Why am I SO tired?" I needed an answer. Ten minutes later, I was reading my devotional and the words by Sarah Young leapt off of the page:




"Relax in My everlasting arms. Your weakness is an opportunity to grow strong in awareness of My Almighty Presence. When your energy fails you, do not look inward and lament the lack you find there. Look to Me and My suffiency; rejoice in My radiant riches that are abundantly available to help you."

Another knock on the head. Got it, God. No more lamenting or questioning. Perhaps my tiredness is not older age or lack of personal resources but the need in me to lean on You!

Luckily, God's abundance which is available to help me includes my morning cup of coffee...

Monday, September 26, 2011

Approval from Across the Years



I moved to California when I was seventeen years old...seventeen! Now as a mother of a 14 year old girl and an 11 year old boy, I cannot IMAGINE how my parents let me go at that age...by myself...across the country...with no supervision whatsoever. Were they nuts??? Of course, since I was 4th in the line of five girls, my parents probably thought, "Four down, one to go. Don't let the door hit you on the way out!"

I know they were scared and hesitant, but they knew I was following a dream that I had had since childhood...that of becoming a singer. And I was moving to L.A. to join an international music group, The Young Americans. Since I had always had a kind of "large and in charge" personality (as my sister, Margaret, has so aptly put it), perhaps they thought I could handle whatever came my way. Ultimately, I think they were putting their faith in God and in me to follow Him. Challenges along the way were great. But I kept a close connection to home and went to visit whenever I could. My parents' values always kept me grounded...even when I delusionally thought I was famous because I lived in LA and sang in a dinner theater for my supper!

Today, I miss my parents so greatly and long to be able to care for them as they cared for me. I do what I can from across the miles but it never seems like enough. There is just nothing that compares with a hug, a kiss, a laugh in person. But I am raising my own family here in California, and they taught me care of immediate family must come first.

Mostly my difficulty lies in the fact that my father...my mentor, my rock, my teacher...is now suffering with Alzheimers. Talking on the phone is not the best method of communication as so many social and conversational cues need to be visualized when one has this disease. He cannot see me or my reactions so conversation can be challenging. I carry guilt that I cannot go home more often so I can continue to communicate with him while he is still able.

One day I was beating myself up about this in a pretty serious way. I was cleaning out my storage unit and going through old papers and mementos. Suddenly, in the midst of my anguish, I came across a gift Daddy and Mama had made and given to me years ago...one I had held onto but had not displayed in my home for years. I held it in my hands as I grieved for my father, and I read the inscription:

"May your prayers be steppingstones to Heaven.
May your faith be as solid as this rock.
May an inner peace be the cornerstone of your life."

Now seeing these words in my father's beautiful handwriting brought me to my knees. But seeing the date inscribed at the bottom rocked my world harder than the inscription had. The date was November 5, 1984. November 5th...my daughter's birthday twelve years later.

It was as if, from across the years, Daddy knew what was in store for me. He also knew I would have this moment of sadness and was saying, "I know, child, how you're suffering. But we know great things are coming for you." If I hadn't moved here, I would not have met my wonderful husband and that date, November 5th, would not be one of my greatest celebrations but just another date on the calendar. And Mama and Daddy would not have had all the blessings my child has brought to them.

Thank you, Daddy, for your foresight...for your belief in me...for your belief that God's hand is at work in my life to bring about His plan for us all. Your prayers were steppingstones to Heaven.

And thank you, God, for this message when I needed it the most.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Cereal Serial

Do you ever need a good, swift kick in the pants to hear God's message to you? For years, I have loved reading books, devotionals, articles on God's word written by other people, instructing me on the way to listen to His voice and distinguish it from the voice inside my own head. As inspired as they have made me, however, these writings always left me feeling a bit inadequate, a bit unenlightened, a bit...well, dense. I'm just a normal, 4' 10" working mom dealing with an Irish/Italian temper after all...

My dad, an ordained deacon for over 25 years, used to say in his sermons, "...and I'd be sitting in a pew, reaching for God's hand and listening for His word and I'd say to Him, 'Lord, you're gonna have to KICK me off of this pew with your message because otherwise I'm gonna be too dense to hear it.'" Now, as a parishioner, I would love to hear those words because it made me feel better that this man of God, this chosen speaker, thought he needed some lightning flash of communication in order to be certain of the Lord's intention for him....and commoner as I was, I ALWAYS felt that way. As his daughter, however, I would be puzzled at how he could possibly be praying for illumination since he was one of the most intelligent men I ever knew!

Today, as a grown woman, I understand how he sometimes remained at that crossroads. He knew that his desire for what he should do as a man would often conflict with the path God was laying out for him. I feel like I experience that each day...aarrgghh...

So this morning I was rushing around, getting the kids to school (curse the water polo coach for the 5:30AM practice!), making my bi-weekly call to my parents, doing laundry, paying bills, feeding the dogs, reading my devotionals, and making sure it was all finished by my first appointment at 10:00am. Lo and behold, in the middle of my phone call with my mom, my 10:00am appointment called to tell me it had actually been a 9:00am appointment. Now, part of me was frustrated with myself for needing to reschedule and missing the appointment, but part of me felt like I had won the lottery because now I had an extra hour in my morning! "What to do?" I prayed, knowing the answer but not wanting to listen.

The dedicated and disciplined woman in me would have gotten down to business, finished paying the bills (I had no interest!), started the laundry, etc. But the fun, creative child in me decided to first sit down, have my breakfast and spend 20 minutes watching an episode of The Office. "I have to eat, after all and I can't really DO anything productive while eating," I reasoned. So I prepared my daily breakfast - Fiber One cereal with blackberries and a healthy dose of cinnamon with 1% milk - and no sooner had I sat down to enjoy myself but I (somehow, I still haven't figured out how it happened), knocked my bowl with my wrist and was immediately soaked in cereal and milk.

Normally, I would curse my clumsiness and lack of attention but this time I burst out laughing. "Okay, God, I've got it. No Office, no break, no vacation...I will get back to it and take care of business!!" I quickly stripped my milk stained clothes, changed, washed out the upholstery and started collecting the mail to sort. Yes, God knocked me off the pew...

So there it is...my message for the day. Fun and relaxation is great, of course, whenever there's need for it...God wants us to enjoy life often, I truly do believe. But just frittering my time away rather than taking care of my responsibilities was a waste.

Sometimes God's word to me is filled with peace...usually when I'm anxious. Sometimes God's word to me is strong and clear...usually when I'm about to take a turn on a hurtful, dangerous path. Most of the time, God's word to me is humorous...a playful nudge in the right direction...and I believe that is because he best understands how He created me...joyful, laughing, childlike, ironic. Whatever the delivery, though, I'm so grateful that I understand I must listen and carry out His plan for me and my family so that we will one day be able to hear His message from His own lips. Then we can have a great laugh together...

Hope your day is filled with joy and meaning in whatever way you experience His voice! Have a great one!