In With The New

Happy 2018 to all!

I heard something funny on a television news segment about traditional good luck foods eaten on the first day of a new year. This chef said that pork is traditional because pigs can only move forward. They cannot walk backwards. I had no idea. I have not fact checked this, but I choose to believe it to be true and think it there is something to be learned from these amazing creatures.

We had something of a watershed end of the year in my family that I think is going to lead to healthier relationships amongst all of us. Sometimes it takes an outsider coming into a tight knit circle to help give clarity and perspective to the very small worlds we build for ourselves. The exact details are not important, but what is important to share is that, at the end of the day, we have very few people with whom we share our lives. It behooves all to make the best of those relationships…as is possible. And when it is not possible; when the damage is so severe that separation is the only thing possible, then I believe God brings a new “family” into our lives to help fill the hole in our hearts.

Now…Back To The Future

I believe that when we stay connected to God we become sensitive to His movement in the universe around us. For me this becomes evident in my attitude. When I am disconnected I look at the world through an ever darkening lens. It is as if I am going blind…and in my blindness I panic. And trust me, I can panic with the best of them! Those who know me intimately have seen Sheryl panic up close and personal it isn’t pretty. But how can panic ever be pretty? It can’t be. It shouldn’t be.

Sometimes a bee or a wasp sneaks in the back door when it is opened to let the dog in or out. Those poor things fly all around but always come back to the light shining through the window. They bump into the glass, buzz back and forth, then (I imagine they are exhausted but who knows) they rest for a while before the cycle begins again. I feel bad for them. I don’t want to kill them – nor do I want to be stung – so I open the back door, fan it back and forth trying to create a suction of air to pull them out. When it works and they fly out and off into the world, they are free. No more panic.

In Whom Do I Trust?

Misplaced trust can be devastating. But God assures me that trust in Him will set me free from panic…”The one who trusts will not panic.” Isaiah 28:16. The key is in whom that trust is placed. Isaiah refers to the “cornerstone.” That cornerstone is our Lord, Jesus Christ. “In God We Trust” is printed on the currency of the United States of America. I don’t think this was an accident on our founders’ part. Without God it is so easy for other things like money, material possessions, and the pursuit of both, to become our gods. We are to always remember and only trust the one true God.

So, let’s move forward together. Stay connected…stay free…pass it on.

Until tomorrow…

Reflection

It is nearly the end of 2017. This has been one doozy of a year, hasn’t it?

Everything I thought I knew seems to now be wrong, bad, or something for which I should be ashamed. Some days I turn on the television and I am blasted with all sorts of nastiness and I just feel like I should go take a shower. I’m not going to recount the issues and then provide a counterbalance. That is someone else’s job. I’m just here to share the only way I know how to cope.

I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.      Ephesians 4:1-3

Lead A Worthy Life

I used to tell my oldest granddaughter to “Take care of yourself it is a full time job.” She, being the first for many years and oldest believed that it is her job to manage other people. She was quick to tattle, and find fault with everything other kids (especially her sisters) did while ignoring her own situation. Isn’t this an applicable life truth for all of us.

In a world where we are obsessed with what sins other people have committed, and all the wrongs that were done two hundred or more years ago, I think we need to stop pointing fingers and feigning outrage and just take care of our own life. Look inward more than outward. I know for me there is plenty of junk I need to deal with long before I even think about pointing fingers at someone else.

Characteristics Of A Worthy Life

Humility

Some days it seems as if the self esteem movement has wiped humility off the face of the earth. They do not have to be mutually exclusive. Remember the Golden Rule?

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

That is humility in action. Having a strong self esteem means living in a way that says you have intrinsic value, God given value. Life circumstances can chew us up and spit us out, but this truth never changes. What changes is whether or not we choose to believe in the Truth.

What an amazing world this would be if we all just went back to kindergarten and lived by The Golden Rule.

Gentleness

Oh my goodness how we need this in our world. Be gentle with your words and actions. Our politically correct environment has made it difficult to have conversations with folks because we are so fearful of saying something that might offend them. We have managed to make the most vulgar of curse words everyday language while at the same time overthinking the simplest of phrases. I return to the Golden Rule, if you wouldn’t want it said about you or done to you, don’t say it to or about someone else, or do it to them either. Be gentle.

Patience

In our “got to have it now society” the ability to be patient with one another has been replaced with road rage shootings and blatant acts of aggression. Put up with one another. Let others do and be who they are; stop requiring they behave just like you think they should.

I find myself getting impatient with folks who just stroll down the isles of the grocery store, stopping in the middle, leaving their cart blocking the way. An entire conversation rolls through my head as I complain about how self centered they must be to think they are the only person in the store. Fortunately none of this comes out of my mouth, but the truth of the matter is they aren’t doing this simply because they are rude, they are likely as focused on their shopping as I am on mine. So, I allow them the space and if I am in a hurry I will smile and say “Excuse me.” What a simple solution. This, too goes back to that one simple rule.

Love

This is another over used thus trivialized word in today’s society. The love required to live a worthy life is transformative and begins with the love shown us through Jesus Christ. He loved so that we can love. This is not romantic or even parental love. This is a love that literally changes us from the inside out. It is the only love that can change the world. I believe that what we are seeing in our world today is the result of God’s people not being this kind of love to the world. Our light has dimmed as we become more like the world around us. I include myself in this – no finger pointing happening here.

How To Acheive A Worthy Life

So, how do we as mere mortals live in a manner such as I have outlined? Our humanity often prevents us from acting in such a gentle and loving manner. I know that I am unable to do it under my own power. If I don’t have a loving and kind influence, my mind can get very dark and vindictive.  Without the love of Jesus I am powerless to live up to this standard. But because of God’s love for me I can (and should) extend that love, patience, kindness, and gentleness to others.

We, as believers, should be living in unity with one another, in a peaceful and loving manner so that we can show the world what a worthy life looks like in action.

We shouldn’t publicly argue doctrine or spend our time pointing fingers at people who don’t live the way we think they should. That’s not our job. Our job is to love like we are loved. Jesus showed love and compassion to everyone and we should do the same.

As we celebrate the birth of our Lord and look ahead, I have three goals for the new year.

  1. Fill your heart and mind with God’s word so there is no room for the ugly stuff.
  2. As you encounter people – in all situations – pray that they “be rooted and grounded in love.”
  3. Practice The Golden Rule in all aspects of your life.

Imagine, if we all lived this way, what a wonderful world it would really be.

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Life Not Fiction

No Chapter Two…or any other chapters for that matter. Now is not the time in my life for fiction writing. I’m not sure there will be a time for that. I love the idea, and maybe that is still in my future, but right here and right now is not the time. So, I will just write from the heart, the funny, the sad, the real stuff that happens to me. I’m just an ordinary woman trying to live life while keeping my neuroses in check.

Lately I haven’t been doing such a good job with the psychological stuff. I was on a roll and then circumstances beyond my control popped up and bit me in the ass. And there is a great deal of ass here to bite. Ever been where I am?

You know, that place where life just hums along and everybody who matters are just doing their thing, predictably and then, suddenly they change course and your like, “Whoa, wait a minute, you’re supposed to be doing this, living here, being this kind of person. What do you mean making changes in your life that affect me?” I know it sounds petty and childish, but don’t pretend you’ve never thought those things!

The problem is, they have every right to make changes and if those changes are for their good, who am I to feel this way? The word selfish comes to mind. I really don’t mind change…as long as I am the one doing the changing. I know, back to that selfish thing. I am baring my soul here, give me a break. Despite my advanced years, I still have quite a bit of growing and changing to do. I want to work on these things before I get so old and set in my ways I become that person no one wants to be around because she is always complaining. Back to my ample ass…I give you (and you know who you are) permission to kick me in it if I get too out of control and maudlin.

I’ve always reveled in being the unpredictable member of the family. The one that doesn’t do things according to family norms and lives life by my standards and enjoys being impossible to pigeon-hole. Anytime anyone tries to label me as any certain thing I am determined to prove them wrong and fly off in the opposite direction. There is nothing worse for me than my mom telling me “You’re just like your mother.” I detest that not because my mom is a horrid person, or because I don’t like her or love her. No, I detest it because I know I am like her and I accept that; what really gets to me is this sense that “Can’t something just be mine?”

“Mine.” This is a running theme in my life. I know it is a toddler like mentality, but why do toddlers behave in this manner? Control. They want something in their lives over which they can exercise control. Good parenting teaches them how to gradually handle this intoxicating power.

Please, for the love of all things good, tell me I am not the only sixty-something that is still dealing with things like this.

What I do know is that God is the ultimate parent. The all loving all knowing Father who does and allows whatever is necessary for our own good. I have more to say on the subject, but I’ll let you digest this and then tomorrow I’ll flip the page and we will talk about the positive side of this dilemma.

 

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Chapter 1

Voices swirled around me like a cacophonous fog descending over me until I disappeared.

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Well, This Is Embarrassing

My brother doesn’t get the blogging thing. While watching television, the Progressive commercial where Flo tries to gain access with a secret code word came on which led to the following conversation:

“I wrote a blog post using this commercial, did you read it?”

“Yeah” the brother replied, “but I don’t get it.”

“Get what?” I asked, not sure I really wanted to know the answer.

“The personality type that feels it necessary to tell the world embarrassing things. Who do you think reads it? Who do you write for?” He was genuinely perplexed. I don’t think he meant it as accusational as it sounded. I surprised myself by having an immediate and polished comeback.

“I write for myself, and if what I write, and the experiences I’ve had help someone else, then a little public humiliation is worth it.” I could tell my explanation did nothing to help him understand why I’m driven to do what I do. But that’s ok. I’m finally beginning to accept my “weirdness” and that in that difference, I have something to offer. If nothing else, I crack myself up on a regular basis. Silence is isolating. Sharing builds community. If I can persevere past certain things then so can you. I’m nothing special.

It isn’t only the funny or goofy things I want to share. I want to share the darker side of being me. I struggle with anxiety and depression. This was not diagnosed until I had been through some tough places but in time to save my life and allow me to have the life I have today. I hope this helps someone who has felt as I did in a time of great stress or crisis.

The past two weeks have given me much material to contemplate as I mindlessly scroll through posts on various forms of social media. Hurricane Harvey left a path of wind and water destruction throughout much of the coastline of southeast Texas. Rockport, where the hurricane made land fall, is one of my happiest places. We owned a small home there for a while, and the degree of devastation there left me heartbroken. Living in suburban Houston my neighborhood did flood, but our home was not damaged. We were blessed beyond belief. 

When the county judge issued a mandatory evacuation for our area, we decided it was time to go. Our daughter came closer than ever to telling her parents what to do. She was very concerned we would be those folks determined not to leave then end up being rescued with their dog in the middle of the night in their underwear. Not ever pretty, but survival doesn’t care about pretty. We navigated our way out of town and stayed with friends about fifty miles south of here. We will be forever grateful for their hospitality. 

Once we got home and life for us began to return to normal, I noticed that I was not right. I know what those of you who know me well might be thinking about now, “How could you tell you’re not right…you’re not right on good days.” That’s OK, sometimes the truth hurts, but in this case, I own it. One of ways I deal with my anxiety issues is to talk…and talk…and talk. When I’m not talking these things roll through my brain like the perverbial hamster in a wheel. I try to spread the joy, but know that I wear folks out. Sorry to those I have burdened with my long winded diatribes. Sometimes to protect you I just withdraw. So, don’t take it personally. I’m really just taking care of both you and me.

But, I digress. I was trying to figure out what was going on with me. So many people I know were suffering and I couldn’t force myself out of the house. All the rationalizations only sounded like hollow excuses. Why didn’t I go help move and clean? Why didn’t I reach out? What kind of lousy person am I? Instead of doing that I sat at home watching the devastation on television feeling overwhelmed and sad. 

People who had lost everything were thanking God. I laid on the couch. I donated some money but never left my house. Stories all over the news of the selfless giving around me…and I laid on the couch.

Then Thursday night Chey called me upset because she desperately wanted to go with a church group to help flood victims. She said, nearly in tears, “We just sat here during the storm doing NOTHING while people were suffering.” We continued to talk and ultimately she was able to go help and had a great time doing it. But this conversation made me really think about somethings about being authentic and unapologetic. 

I believe that God gives different gifts to people to be used to help others and show them His love. For many years I forced myself to do things foreign to my gifts and personality because it was what I thought I was supposed to do. I was miserable and I’m pretty sure my efforts were not as effective as if I had waited for the thing I was supposed to do. I don’t understand Chey’s activist personality. She will be the person marching for social justice and fighting the system so that things will be fair. Bless her heart. God has given her an incredibly strong sense of right and wrong and the drive to do something about it. I don’t have that. It doesn’t even cross my mind to be upset. But I do have other gifts and abilities which would go wasted if I spent my time chasing after the wrong things. 

Suddenly yesterday the metaphorical clouds cleared and sun shone through my fog. I left the house gathering with friends for a small knitting group. One had been flooded and one had been in the thick of things helping her and other folks as well. I was embarrassed and a little afraid they would ask me why I hadn’t been around. They didn’t ask that, they asked how I was doing. It was simply a time to support friends. A huge group of National Guard soldiers came in for lunch and we applauded them for their service and sacrifice. It was a good afternoon.

Tomorrow I’m helping someone who is moving into a new house after flooding and bringing food for her family so she doesn’t have to cook. Why now? Why am I able to do this now and not in the thick of the suffering? I think it is partly how my brain is wired. Despite the fact that nothing bad happened to our house I was overwhelmed by evacuating and being out of control of my life. I needed time to heal myself before I could do anything for anyone else. God was providing for folks in need with the people like Chey who respond in the moment of the crisis while he was helping me heal. Now, I can step in to help carry the load. I’m OK. I’m where I need to be and I am thankful to God for helping me learn this lesson.

Be gentle with yourself. Love yourself then you can love and help others.

~Sheryl

Limitation or Opportunity? You Decide

I have been short all my life.

When I was born to my four-foot-ten-inch mother, I was an average size baby. But then genetics kicked in and I only grew to my predetermined four-foot-eleven-inch height (but I’m taller than my mom!). I have to delve deeply into the family gene pool to find a tall person, so this was really not a surprise to me or anyone else. And, quite honestly, I’ve never viewed myself as a short person. I’m just me.

Part of the reason for my height perspective comes from one of those mom sayings, you those things you hate as a child but help for who you are as an adult. She would say, “I can do anything a tall person can do I just have to drag a stool with me.” Growing up with that kind of can do attitude had a profound impact on me and all the foot stools in my life. The only thing I really dislike about being short is that weight is a much harder issue to manage than for taller folks. I suppose if I actually took steps to do something about it – like, ummmm, exercise and make better food choices – I would be more successful in this area. Years ago I just accepted that I am built like my Irish/Scottish grandmother and, well, it’s genetics. I know this is a cop out but it is mine and I’m keeping it!


Fast forward to last week when we were house sitting for our daughter. Once I conquered the technology of the house and had a lovely afternoon and dinner with HG (my Hunter-Gatherer husband) it was my favorite time of the day: bed time. Let the dogs out. Wash my face and brush my teeth. Plug in the phone. Adjust the temperature. Ritual complete and time for a snuggly night’s sleep. There’s just one problem. The bed is tall, really, really, tall. I took a step back and evaluated the situation. I could give it a good running start and launch myself in the general direction of the mattress. Does anybody see a problem with this? I’m short. I’m not skinny. And, I’m old and unathletic. Nothing. I repeat nothing about this story is going to have a happy ending. So, I hitch up my jammy bottoms and try to hike my leg up onto the edge of the bed. I got my good knee on the edge but there was no way I had enough leverage to hoist the rest of my body up to the top. The entire time I am clawing and scratching the sheets to get traction HG is laying in bed reading a book! He rolls his head over and says, “Need some help?” I wanted to be snarky but I wanted a good night’s sleep more, so I just grunted, “Yes, please.” Being the gentleman he is, he flung an arm over to me like he was extending a tree branch to a drowning person. I latched on and pulled with all my might and finally landed in bed beside him, and that is exactly where I found myself eight hours later.

I had a situation. I did not want to repeat this scene the next night so in the morning I went in search of an alternative. I found this.

This stool has been around since my daughter was a small child and my youngest granddaughter now uses it. I love all the scratches and marks; reminders that life is meant to be lived and nothing stays pristine unless it remains untouched. Truth be told I worried that my round, adult sized body might be too much for this little stool to bear, but I was wrong. It creaked a little, but it did the job. I was able to get into bed all by myself. I felt proud.
I also used it when I had to get towels out of the washer. Oh, my that is one deep washing machine! 

I suppose I could view my height challenged body as a limitation. There are lots of things I am not good at because of my height and physique. I’ve chosen to not pursue those things in an effort to overcome, but that is a choice. As I said, I don’t really think about it often, but when I do I see my shortness as an opportunity to be creative, ask for help, and be relatable to many folks who would otherwise be intimidated by a tall person. I’m going through a huge life transition right now. Closing a business. Trying to decide what to do next and how that fits into God’s purpose for my life. Worrying too much. Overthinking everything. But when push comes to shove, this time is an opportunity to stretch, grow and discover new things about myself and this crazy, wonderful life I have been given.

Don’t we all have limitations? That is just life, get used to it. It isn’t the limitation, it is whether it is allowed to control or propel us forward…or just onto the bed.
Live, Laugh, Love, ~Sheryl