Saturday, March 28, 2015

The Bucket List

Image result for bucket

A few nights ago I came home, after work in Springfield and then watching my angel and sweet baby, to find my husband deep in thought.  We ate dinner.  And for a few minutes sat quietly next to each other.  I was exhausted.  And was enjoying the silence for a moment.  After a while I broke the silence with, "What are you thinking about?".  He looked sad.  Earlier in the week he had heard of the passing of a co-worker who was five years his senior.  And this was weighing heavy on his mind.  He began reflecting on his on life, his goals and some of his past losses.  We talked for quite some time.  There were tears, smiles and a whole gamut of emotions flowing.  

Greg's parents both passed away before he and I got together. I never had the privilege to know them in a physical aspect.  But I have gotten to know them through the eyes of my husband, my inherited daughters, my sister-in-laws and many of Greg's, now mine too, Aunts, Uncles and cousins.  I often see a reflection of Grace and Richard in each one of them.  They were both so young they didn't get to see some of their dreams come to fruition. They missed graduations, weddings, births and so much more.  However, their legacy still shines bright in this family

Knowing that death is inevitable for each of us I brought up the concept of the bucket list.  I asked Greg to share about the things he wanted to accomplish before he died.  I smiled and laughed a little when he said he wanted to get a car.  And promptly I replied, "You should absolutely get a new car." After all the sacrificing he did for all of the kids and me throughout the years he should, at least, get a new car.

His list continued to grow with some silly and not so silly items. It was clear that he had been thinking a lot about his "bucket list".  Places he wants to see, things he wants to do, and little chores to accomplish.  But the most important things were deeply routed in his heart.  He told me that when Ashley graduated from high school he wished so deeply that his Dad, Ashley's Pop-pop, was able to share in that moment.  "Pop-pop would have been so proud of you, Ash" he remembered telling her after she received her diploma. With tear filled eyes he said, "I really want to be there for my grandchildren when they graduate from high-school so I can tell them I am proud".  Most of all he just wants to be there for the important things.

He asked me to share my thoughts about my list.  I don't have many things on my bucket list.  My silly and not so important items; write a book, draw again, and have a few great adventures with my loves.  But, just like my "better half", it's the things of the heart that are truly at the core of my list. 

There is one thing I know for sure.  I know that I won't live forever.  And God has a better "bucket list" a.k.a plan in mind (Jeremiah 29:11). When God chooses to bless me with a new day I want to reflect on the core items.  I pray that my husband, children, family, friends and future members know,  even when we seem disconnected, how deeply I love them.  My hearts desire is to know that my family feels God's love.  And that I, as His servant, can and will be a true reflection of His amazing grace.  And I pray that when I do "kick the bucket" that an abundance of love spills out and spreads far.  

"Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me and know my anxious thoughts; and see if there be any hurtful way in me, and lead me in the everlasting way"~Psalm 139: 23-24

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Smooth sailing

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My boat is rocky as the wind and waves begin to pound. My passenger is sleeping, I'm normally safe when He's around. On my knees I fall for it is courage I must find. As faith and fear begin to battle for my heart and mind. The waves seem to be coming faster as my boat begins to fill. I long to hear those precious words that will make my storm be still. Fear is holding fast and shouts, "you are lost at sea". But faith just whispers of God's grace and His peace for me. Wake up, my Lord, I need you to calm my every fear. With a smile He calmly wipes every salty tear. Oh, one with little faith, you must go through every trial. Storms will come and storms will go... I will be there every mile.

 I recently celebrated my two year anniversary at my current place of employment.  And I found myself reflecting back on my first days, weeks and months on the job.

In the first few days I was filled with great excitement.  I remember thinking how amazing this new v voyage was going to be.  I would be working, every day, with a group of people that started the workday with a prayer ( or reflection ). The first two days that is exactly what occurred.

On the third day I showed up at the branch that would soon become my "home sweet home away from home".  And, much to my surprise, there was no prayer or reflection, for that matter, on that day. So I quietly, at my desk, prayed for God's blessings and for my new work "family".  As the day progressed I felt like I was learning a lot.  I had spent the previous thirteen years managing a Wellness center.  And this was completely different for me.  Well, after the first week I went home feeling like I was on cloud nine.  I prayed every morning prior to getting out of the car.  And smiled as a soaked in all the responsibilities of being a "staffing specialist".

Then week two happened.  The branch that I was assigned to work in was, at the time, completely overwhelmed and understaffed.  I began to feel the stress of the young woman, Rhonda, that was orienting me.  It was so busy.  She couldn't even take a lunch break let alone train me properly.  Week three I found myself driving to another location to orient at a slower paced branch with Chris and Christal.  And eventually, after two weeks under their guidance, I was ready to return to the "home sweet home away from home" branch.

 In the three months that followed I felt moments of great success and great failure.  There were individuals that seemed to want to see me fail.  I was told that I wasn't doing what was expected of me. And there were a few individuals that felt I wasn't a team player.  I remember feeling crushed.  You see I have always given one hundred percent in any job I have ever done.  And I am always willing to go above and beyond the "call of duty".  I remember praying and crying out to God.  I felt abandoned. And I began to question the path I had taken.

Lord, why on earth would you have directed my sails into the heart of one of the most tumultuous storms?  I thought the months leading up to my getting into this new boat were difficult enough. And now, there I was, feeling like a failure and my boat seemed to be sinking fast.

Then I remembered something very important.  God was and has always been in complete control of this journey.  I just needed to trust in Him.  He was there.  Waiting for me to surrender it all.  So, I decided to let Him take control of the sails.  Occasionally I would tug a little (because I didn't like the direction He was taking me).  But, I realized that my faith grew stronger as I trusted in Him more and more each day.

Shortly after my one year anniversary I was informed that my job was relocating.  And, unfortunately for me, it was to a location that was too far for me to commute. Feeling the waves crashing against the side of my boat once more. I was so upset because I had grown to love my co workers.  I had prayed everyday for them and we had grown to be a family. And not to mention that, by the grace of God, I had become quite proficient in my job. We were given two options. Relocate or leave.  I was completely torn.  But I knew God was in control. Once again I handed the sails over. After much prayer I sat down and with the help of my husband formulated a letter.  I stated that I could not relocate due to my family obligations.  And that I was willing to stay until they hired my replacement.  However, there was one stipulation. I had to stay at my current "home sweet home away from home" branch.

It has been almost a year since I wrote that letter and I am still reporting to the "home sweet home away from home" branch.  I know that the end of my "staffing specialist" days are on the horizon.  This past week I have been training a sweet young woman named Rachel to do my job.  Each morning I pray for her as she begins her Mercy voyage.  And I believe, by the grace of God, she is going to be fabulous.  I want her to be one of the best staffing specialists my company has ever encountered. After-all the student should one day be just as good if not greater than the teacher.  I can only hope that it's smooth sailing for her.

My life has never been what one would call the reflection of perfection.  However, God has been truly faithful.  And I know that He has great plans for me.  His grace is new every morning.  My future is looking bright. And my days will continue to be full.   There will always be moments when I feel like the storm is never going to end.  But with great faith I can open my eyes to realize that a tumultuous storm has the potential of becoming a smooth sailing sea.

"God is our refuge and strength,an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear...." He is ever-present in this gusty storm too. He reminds me that even though I have a little faith, like that of a mustard seed, I can move mountains.(Matthew 17:20).

Saturday, March 14, 2015

The Apple Doesn't Fall Far From The matter how far it rolls.

The apple certainly does not fall far from the tree.

I got up this morning and, like most mornings, went to my bible and read scripture, prayed for God's blessings on my family and friends and for His grace to, once again, guide me throughout this day. I came down stairs only to find that my living room had been taken over by 21 year old boys sleeping comfortably in the place I had planned on planting myself for some internet surfing. And now here I sit, chomping on a red delicious, on the stool in my beautiful kitchen.

The first place I chose to surf was  I like to look at the blogs that I follow only to check in for new insights.  Earlier this week I was blessed to see that a very special blogger had posted her first blog since May 3rd, 2012.  I was excited to she what her "Last Hurrah" was all about.  As I read through her beautifully worded blog my heart was leaping for joy.  You see this blogger is my youngest daughter.  An apple that fell from the tree and rolled all the way to Manayunk, Pa. a few months ago.  Initially I was alarmed at the title of her latest blog, "I've Already Failed".  As a mother I see each one of my children as my greatest success stories.  So, I began to read through her post and after the first sentence my concern had dissipated.  Her idea of "failure" was a bucket of popcorn.

There have been many moments throughout my life that I too have felt like a "failure".  I once heard from an old friend that, "promises are made to be broken".  That was a harsh statement.  And I try very hard to not to break promises.  But that hasn't always worked out in my favor. I have made silly promises to God, myself and others.  The promise to eat right, exercise and/or do cardio everyday only to go an entire week without following through.  The promise to get to a game or event even when my work schedule doesn't permit.  And even some bigger promises.  One in particular.  The promise that I would read through the bible before picking up any other book.  One could say, or at least I have found myself stating, I am a failure. However, God doesn't see me that way. In His eyes I am a work in progress.  The apple of his eye. (Deuteronomy 32:10).  Praise God that His promises are true.  And as far back as I can remember He has kept His promise to never leave me or forsake me. No broken promise on his end.

Years ago one of my pastors told me that one day the wisdom that my husband and I planted in each of our children, biological and inherited, would one day shine.  And this morning I got a taste of that while reading my daughter's blog entry. It brought great joy when she, like her mom, quoted scripture.

We have five apples that have grown on our tree. And each one of them has been the "apple of our eyes"  We have protected them, cared for them and given them wisdom and godly advice.  Prayed for them to walk upright and go in the direction that God has paved for them.  And each one of our "apples" has taken a path of their own.  Our youngest, the spartan, is still hanging on to the branch gathering the wisdom and nutrients needed for his future. Our "blogger", the gala,  has rolled away and is currently developing her color in life not to far from home. Another, our pink lady, has planted seeds and now has a tree of her own with two beautiful apple blossoms. And two have rolled a little further than the others. One rolled to the west coast.  She was bruised and not quite ripe when she left.  However, she has developed into quite the honey crisp now that she is closer the the California sun. And our oldest, the adventurous one, floated across the Atlantic where she shines and has grown into a beautiful and well rounded elma.  Each one of them has developed their own character and flavor. As I sit back and observe them in their quest in life I see some of our, my husband's and my own, pulp running through their veins. They have taken some of our good and not so good traits and have intertwined them with other influences to become the beautiful individuals they are today.  I can only praise God for His faithfulness and His promise that the wisdom He graciously bestowed on us, as parents, has not returned void.  It is only by His grace that each one of them has become a fruitful adult.

Sometimes promises are unintentionally broken or made. And often bring us to feel like failures.  I can honestly say, as I sit here at this moment reflecting on the "apples of my eye" that I am not a "failure".  I have five flavorful success stories in the making.   There is a new dawn to each day.  So, to my sweet gala, enjoy the oreo's and have a handful of popcorn......"No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind.  And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear.  But when you are tempted He will provide a way out so you can endure it".  And to all of my "apples", I love you and want to say thank you for making our tree one of the best in the grove.