"For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead..." Romans 1:20

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Change of Scenery

I remember noticing how my children, as infants, would always take a huge leap in development whenever we took them on a vacation.  There was something about experiencing new places and people that brought this about.  


We've just returned from such an excursion at a beach along the Chesapeake Bay.  I'd taken a book to read, but found I was so overwhelmed with all the new things to look at I did not want to bury my nose in a book!  Between the pleasing sights, soothing sounds of the waves, the feel of the constant cool breeze and the fragrances it brought I could not settle.  The first morning there I sat on the 3rd-story porch and watched the sunrise (Sound Effects):





There was a different view from every side of the house:

And activities different from our daily norm, like walking on the beach:

Kayaking:

Catching crabs in the estuary:

Exploring the shoreline:


Bicycling down country lanes:


And sitting around a campfire making smores:

I always come home from a vacation with a change of heart.  I see things differently and therefore think differently, too.  I know more of what I want out of life because I've discovered there is more to life than just my own little spot.  I may encounter different kinds of people new to me and have my prejudices squashed because I realize they are just like me at my core.   And there's always something about home I've missed and therefore appreciate more.  

God provides changes of scenery for us in other ways, too, to help us grow.  They are not always as pleasant as the weekend we just had.  I can look back on my life and see many unpleasant situations that helped me to see things differently.  I'm becoming so adept now at understanding how God works in my life, I often have to give myself a good talking to in order to remind myself I have a choice.  "Just do it" or else God will find a way to "encourage" me to change my mind about something I'm resisting....and depending on how pliable I am it will either be pleasant or not so pleasant. 

Father, thank you for the wonderful weekend with my family, for the memories created, the new things learned, and the discoveries made.  May I not waste any of it. 




Sunday, May 20, 2012

Names Part II

Happy 33rd birthday, Jonathan!  Today is my first born's birthday.  


Jonathan at 8 months


When Ken and I were dating and talked about our future children we'd like the name Gabriel for a boy, but by the time our first child was to be born we were 12 years older and a little wiser.  I realized I didn't want any child of mine to be nicknamed Gabby.  All I could think of was the toothless Gabby Hayes of the Roy Rogers show fame!  


I was only a few months into my pregnancy when the name Jonathan came to me.  This confirmed for me that I was having a boy and when I looked up the meaning of his name I had no doubts where the name came from for it means "God has given".  After 10 years of marriage, this was a long-awaited child, and I was ecstatic!  But this was also a very sad time in my life because my father, who had waited those same 10 years for a grandchild by me, died within weeks of my telling him about my pregnancy.   This led to our giving Jonathan my Dad's name, Davis, as his middle name.  We had already planned to give him my maiden name as his middle name, so now he would have my Dad's first and last name sandwiched inbetween his first and last names. 


He grew up to look remarkably like my father did as a young man, complete with the wave in his dark hair.  This is my father with his first-born, David.




This is Jonathan in his and Bronwyn's engagement photo.



Davis means "son of David" and David means "beloved".  So Jonathan's name translates to "God has given the son of the beloved".    


All children are "sons of the beloved" in my estimation.  I love this Mary Engelbreit painting and quote because it expresses so perfectly what I believe.




Our babies are "fresh from God".  I felt that way, but unfortunately by the time I had another baby the lack of sleep and the weight of responsibility I felt often caused me to forget to express the love I felt for this child when he was being particularly strong-willed.  Yes, he took after my father in that way as well.  And it was one day when my little Jonathan was not being obedient and I was extremely agitated that I realized I was really expressing my anger at my father, having never done so to him while he was alive.  Yes, Jonathan had been given to me by God, to show me that anger should not be stuffed down, but should always be dealt with before the sun goes down as admonished in the Bible.  But, of course, when I was growing up children weren't "allowed" to express anger towards parents.  And this is why, I believe, teenagers often rebel.  Thankfully, because of what I learned from this first son before he reached that age, I allowed my sons, but always respectfully, to tell me when they disagreed with me.  Sometimes it actually helped to change my mind about the thing, but if it didn't they at least had been allowed to express their feelings and I'd been given the opportunity to explain my reasoning.    


But the story's not over for the name Gabriel.   Four years ago, with my last son in college I was experiencing the pangs of an empty-nest and decided a dog would help.  After all, they're perpetual toddlers--that time when children still need you more than anyone else.   I had already decided to call him Gabriel so when I called that September day about the 4-month-old Westie advertised for sale in the paper and asked when he was born, I knew it was to be. His birthday?  May 20th.  


Gabriel




Father, children have much to teach us, not only through their love, but what we must learn and unlearn in order to love them as dearly as You do.  Thank you for each of my children and what they have brought me from You.


Link to scripture: http://bible.cc/psalms/127-3.htm


Take action: Care 4 Kids

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Time


Yes, why is that?!  Now that we're retired we have lots of free time, but because we're on a "fixed" income (which, between social security and investments, is not even guaranteed) and because we don't know how long we'll live, we have to parcel it out more carefully.  We don't want to run out of money before we run out of life!


Money.  It is said to be the root of all evil.  But that is not what the Bible says.  It says it's the LOVE of money that is root of all evil.  Jesus uses money in several of His parables because how you deal with money IS an indication of where your heart is.  Today we have sayings such as "put your money where your mouth is," "money talks,"  "a fool and his money will soon be parted," "money attracts money" and so on.  I love this one I just found on the Internet:  "Money can’t buy happiness, but it can buy you the kind of misery you prefer ."  How and what we spend our money on does tell us a lot about ourselves.  For instance, when I travel I'd rather spend less money on food so I can have more to spend on the room I stay in.  I know that wouldn't be true for some people.  I would also rather stay home and use the money to make my home more like the places I want to travel to so I wouldn't have to travel to the places I want to stay at.  And speaking of homes, I gave up lots of vacation trips so I could have the kind of home I'd want my children to grow up in.  


Priorities.  That's what money tells us about ourselves which brings me back to my original theme:  Time.  It takes time to make money, and for some of us it takes more time than it does for others.  Just look at the money an athlete or successful actor makes compared to what most of us make in the same amount of time.  Lifetimes (plural)!   But, in the end we all have the same number of hours in a day.  Time is where we have equal footing.  Yes, we all have to earn a living in order to feed, clothe, and house ourselves, but we here in America certainly overdue it!  We could very well live on much less--albeit not as comfortably. 

So what to do about the time/money quandary.  I think this Beatles song says it all:  Can't Buy Me Love

When you think what's most important--Love--money no longer enters the picture.  What people want most is your time.  Of course, if you've been raised to think money = love, then you won't see it that way.  Too often overly busy parents buy things for their children to fill up their time or to assuage their own guilt.  


So what's one to do to break that cycle especially when it means changing a whole belief system?  I've read stories like this one where the parents sold everything they owned, bought a boat, and sailed around the world together as a family for seven years!  The most drastic thing I ever did was to tell my 5- and 2-year-old that the TV was broken--for nine months.  The only reason it got suddenly-fixed was we had two "snow days" (schools closed) in a row and I was pulling my hair out!  So I know it's difficult to change one's lifestyle.  But, if this post can even just get you started in the right direction of using more of your time for showing others how much you love them (and I don't mean by making more money to buy them more things), then the time it took for me to write this will have been worth it!


Father, thank you for the time you've allotted me with my loved ones.  May I not squander it.


Link to scripture: http://kingjbible.com/ephesians/5-15.htm


Take action: Family Time Together



Saturday, May 12, 2012

Secret Gardens

Frances Hodgson Burnett's classic children's book, "The Secret Garden", was published in 1911.


By the time Francis wrote this book she'd suffered two divorces and the death of her oldest son, Lionel (just 18).  She had bouts of depression most of her life as well.  As with all authors their books hold certain elements of themselves in them.  The garden in her story was said to have been based on the garden at Great Maytham Hall in Kent, England, where she lived off and on from the mid-1890's to 1907, and which probably offered her great solace.


I'm enjoying my garden this year immensely!  We, I should say my husband, dug up all the grass in the front yard last Fall, and we put down pea gravel around several circular garden beds.  I helped sift the rocks out of the dirt and planted and transplanted lots of flowers that are coming up this Spring.  Now that I've fenced in the area my little Westie can enjoy it with me.  Here he is looking at the newly-installed gate wondering if there's a way to get through it so he can explore further afar.  He hasn't been enticed to jump off the wall because his little legs are too short.  He's too smart to risk it.... so far:
   
I also have my own little Secret Garden in the back yard.  We'd fenced in the side yard some years ago and with the existing plants there it was a natural place to close in with a couple boxwoods and an arbor trellis.  I made a brick walkway in the form of a cross and planted periwinkle:


I also built a little stone bench to sit on.  It's a place I can go to when I want to be alone.


Years ago a friend gave me a lovely framed poem called "The Secret Garden" for my birthday which, that year, happened to fall on the day I was flying to my mother's funeral.  I'd taken care of her in my home for the previous year, but she was being buried next to my father in a different state.  The poem held great meaning for me at the time.  My relationship with my mother had had it's difficulties and I had come to realize that taking care of my mother, with all it's attending problems, had been a blessing to me.  The experience was quite eloquently expressed in the poem my friend had just given me:


The Secret Garden

There is a secret garden
Where the issues of life take root.
We choose the seeds we sow,
The seeds produce their fruit.
In your appointed time to tend,
To play the gardener's part,
What will you sow?
What will you grow?
In the secret garden of your heart.


The poem and the experience of caring for my ill mother for a year  made me realize just how important my "heart" was--what I planted there is what would grow and bear fruit.  If it was resentment, then that is what I would reap.  If it was forgiveness, then the fruit would be love.  


What will YOU sow in the secret garden of YOUR heart?


Father, thank you for the reminder that my heart is a very important place!  It's the garden where infinite possibilities lie.  Help me to tend it carefully.


Link to scripture:  http://niv.scripturetext.com/psalms/15-1.htm

Take action:  Create your own secret garden

Friday, May 4, 2012

Becoming Real

“Real isn’t how you are made…” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.”  --"The Velveteen Rabbit"


The "Velveteen Rabbit" is a classic children's book from 1922 by Margery Williams.  This newer edition is my favorite of the various illustrators over the years:


It's the story about a stuffed rabbit that becomes real to the little boy because the boy loves him.  On his way to becoming real he asks the Skin Horse if it hurts to become real. “It doesn’t happen all at once.  You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in your joints and very shabby."


Eventually he becomes really real when the nursery magic Fairy kisses him and takes him off to live in the land of rabbits.


Alan Cohen says that the world most people consider real "is fraught with illusions...money, fame, power, sex, and material security."  Those things never really satisfy for long.  How often do people achieve their goals only to feel like it isn't enough.  Cohen says the real world is "the world of kindness, caring, vision, and and service" because these are our divine attributes--our true, i.e., real selves.  


In "The Velveteen Rabbit" the boy's love made the stuffed rabbit feel real, but it wasn't until the nursery magic Fairy kissed him that he actually became a truly real rabbit.  I think those who have looked for a spiritual meaning in this story have missed the point if they do not take the analogy this further step.  Yes, our earthly relationships can make or break our feelings of whether or not we feel lovable and therefore "real" in the sense we are worthy of being here.  But our true worth comes from being "kissed" by God--that is to say, redeemed and thereby made worthy.  It is only then, that we truly become authentic because Christ reconciled us with God who created us to be One with Him.


Father, I prefer Your real world of kindness, caring, vision and service.  Help me to keep my eyes on what is good in this world so that I may be a part of it rather than a part of the illusion.


Link to scripture:  http://mlbible.com/philippians/4-8.htm

Take action:  Reaching Souls