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Sparklers

Lights of Grace

The Beach

It’s been almost three years since I vacationed at the Emerald Coast Gulf Beaches in Florida.  How did I let this happen?

I’ve been here every year for the past thirty years.  Even in my depths of despair, pressured by work requirements, or tempted to go to Europe, I came, searching for and finding that big dose of peace.  beach

I had forgotten what those first few moments of reconnecting with sand and surf could do for my soul.  It is in this time when the sounds of the ocean’s waves lulls my spirit to calmness — a letting go…a release.

Soon the beach is filled with people.  A father and son throw a football to each other while they attempt to navigate the waves of the ocean. The ball spirals one to the other as the son shouts to the father, “You’re no Jalen Hurts!”  The father responds, “You’re no Peyton Manning!”  Eventually the ball is intercepted by crashing waves that giggle as it claims the ball and runs for shore.

Gentle puffs of  clouds rise over the horizon stirring my dormant inspiration, teasing with the promise of an afternoon rest.  My eyes grow heavy as the sounds of children drift to my serene state.  Little girls squealing as only little girls can, high pitched and excited as they shout, “Daddy, Daddy, Daddy!”

Mothers ensure their toddlers are covered in long sleeve t-shirts and hats, protecting their young skin from the dangers of the ultra-violet rays of the sun.  Yet they bask in those same risky rays clad only in bikinis, confident the sun will be kind to them now — and in the future. Didn’t we all, I think.

Two preteen boys walk by, deep in conversation.  “Are there sharks in the water?” one asked.

“Nah, there’s a blue flag flying today which means there’s no marine life sighted,” his friend responds.

“What about flesh eating bacteria?” the first one persists.

“That’s only in polluted rivers,” his friend responds.

Their audience, the seagulls weigh in as they dive toward the water, protesting over this sad state of understanding.  The boys continue down the beach.  No worries.

A solitary plane flies low, the droning of its engine capturing enough attention to pull the eye upward to the banner that flies behind it: “Floyd’s 50 cent Oysters.”  My taste buds tease me with the desire for those cool morsels covered in spicy horse radish sauce.  I quickly Google Floyd’s to see what time I need to get there before they run out of those fifty cent oysters.

The puffy clouds are closer now, expanding higher in the sky, their edges jagged as the grayness begins to seep across the sky. The waves are stronger as they slap the shore, leaving remnants of seaweed, a reminder of turbulence within the coming storm.

The young mother next to begins to gather her son’s toys, “Time to go Charlie,” she says.  Charlie is holding a fish net as he runs toward the water, a purpose to be fulfilled.  She catches him as he rushes by, “But mommy I got to…” he protests.

“You got to get these toys up,” she says.

But why?” he persists.  She points toward the darkening clouds rolling toward us as a steak of lightening sends a warning.

“Because that,” she said, pointing in the direction of the rolling clouds,” will soon be here,” she finishes, pointing toward the sand beneath their feet.  “Understand son?”

Dropping his chin to chest, he mumbles, “Un..der..stand.”

Since Mother Nature likes to keep us guessing, the storm  waited until 10:45 p.m.  It began with a hint of thunder in the distance.  Then heat lightening lit up the entire horizon which soon included jagged spears of lightening, illuminating the skies like a fourth of July fireworks show.  The thunder alternated from angry growls to booms of excitement as rain pelted the windows.

Oddly enough, my dog, Teddie, slept through this storm that normally would have caused him to shiver uncontrollably.  If he’s not worried, I’m not worried.

This is a good place to be on my first day at the beach.  How good is that?

 

 

 

Sometimes a pencil…sometimes an eraser

Source: Sometimes a pencil…sometimes an eraser

Sometimes a pencil…sometimes an eraser

 

Happiness means that sometimes you’re a pencil…and sometimes you’re an eraser…

The opposite of happy is not unhappy, it is just sadness. Saying you’re unhappy is diluting and hiding from the actual emotion of sadness that both our physical body and our spirit must recognize and process in order to release it. This allows us to once again feel happy, because happiness is not exclusive of sadness.  The expression that ‘Life happens’ is just a way to hide from this. Life begins and ultimately ends with various pauses in between that make up life’s journey. Understanding this is to help us better appreciate the nuances and depth of each person’s journey.

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I recently asked my Facebook friends a question:  If you are not happy, but you are not UNhappy, what are you?  Interesting responses include:

Complacent

Contented

 Numb

Bored

Indifferent

Medicated

Somewhat happy

Even keeled

Possibly accepting hopelessness

Happy and content with Jesus

Preoccupied and can’t think long enough to decide

Serene

Regardless of the variety of responses, each comes from our own individual perspective.  If each person were to expand on their response we could all learn more about when to be the pencil and when to be the eraser – either way, we would all feel happy in the doing. All of us are searching for happiness, but we need to know what makes us happy because often it is the NOT knowing that brings us sadness.

Don’t let sadness win!  Acknowledge it, feel it, then let it go however long that takes or in whatever form your individual circumstance requires. Expect the sun to come up each day, expect to love and to be loved; expect to forgive and to be forgiven; expect to be happy and to make others happy, if it is only to smile, to pray, to be kind, or maybe to share a “God Wink” such as this one from my good friend, Karen, by permission.

“Contentment is saying I’m okay with what I have and where I’m at.  I think contentment is a deeper level of happiness. Happiness (the ‘oh boy’ feeling of joy) is fleeting, but contentment is like a bed of hot coals. There are not flames, sparks or excitement, but there is constant steady warmth that warms your soul and still cooks your food.”

                                                                                                       – Karen Reed Woodcock

2017 Sparkles

Fog has been thick on this first day of 2017 here in Georgia.  As I type I look out, my view softened by the gray shroud worn by the trees as they share it’s caress with the mountain on this cold a…

Source: 2017 Sparkles

2017 Sparkles

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Fog has been thick on this first day of 2017 here in Georgia.  As I type I look out, my view softened by the gray shroud worn by the trees as they share it’s caress with the mountain on this cold and rainy day.  Yet I can close my eyes and see my beloved woods and mountains with the majesty of spring, inhaling the sparkle of newness before giving way to the laziness of a southern summer.  Or, I can choose to see the majesty as the sun touches each tree and bush bringing forth blazing colors, peaking in their beauty prior to the last phase of their yearly life cycle as winter descends, now stark with waiting.

I was cleaning my closet as is my tradition – if you are interested, it was a previous blog on De-cluttering the Soul, January 2016.  Today I paused in mid-toss, submitting to my worrisome thoughts on this New Year’s Day.   I knew I could not put them in that bag of “get around to it”  and that no amount of de-cluttering was helping because these thoughts were not in that closet.

Grasping my favorite gel writing pen and one of the numerous spiral bound notebooks that I keep handy, I flipped through my book of scribbles until I came to a clean page. With great enthusiasm I cleverly  wrote 2017 across the top, underlining it for emphasis.  Then I just stared,frozen into stillness.  I kept staring, waiting.  And waiting some more, eyes locked on the page until finally an amazing thought popped into my head, it’s a blank page!img_20170101_093238813_hdr

No applause needed.

I love a blank page because, well it’s a blank page.  One can write anything on a blank page. So, I began to write about the thoughts that were demanding to be written!

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Priorities

Pleasing/helping others

  1. Accepting what I cannot change
  2. Having only two speeds

I love to write and I love to write the way I want life to be – not how it actually is. I do this because I want to offer a sparkle of light, ever so bright, that meets a need of someone going through a dark time. I forget that what I think may not be what they needed after all, and just accept what I can’t change.

I’ve been told, far too many times, that I have two speeds: full speed ahead or off.  This is true and not without a cost.  I’m searching for that speed somewhere in the middle.

My Blessings

  1. My children
  2. Friends and family
  3. My health

My children have grown up to be what every mother wants – decent human beings. I am honored to share them with the world. Please know that my dog Teddie and my grand-dog Roxie are included in this classification; picture below and I am shameless yes…

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Friends are often family and family are often friends. ‘Nuff said?

I’m blessed with good health, but with anything worth having, it’s worth maintaining which gets harder with every birthday but I keep giving it a ‘go!

Things I’m sure of

  1. God’s unconditional love
  2. Teddie’s (my dog) unconditional love
  3. My own imperfections

Teddie’s love taught me about unconditional love and that in spite of my imperfections,  he loves me just for me alone.  It took me a long time to understand what God’s unconditional love meant and even longer to accept it, but I finally did — with no strings attached.  God loves us as individuals, as His child that He created. God, Father, Abba, Jehovah – it makes no difference in His unconditional love for us whether it’s for woman or man, child or adult, with light or dark skin  – one is the same as the other under His love. Might our own love given without labels get us closer to sharing that same kind of love?

Things I can do

  1. Prioritize
  2. Exercise/eat well
  3. Be a better person

Things I will do

  1. Find a true speed
  2. Find peace through accepting unconditional love
  3. Find joy and meaning in my life by living in an intentional way

I experienced quite a spark of awareness after I wrote on my blank page the things I can do followed by the things I will do. Honesty with self can be liberating!

Try free-form writing on your own 2017 blank page and please share them on this page and watch the sparks fly!

Gifts and Adventures

All who know me also know that my dog, Teddie, consisting of 97% poodle and 3% foxhound, is a perfect dog. This unique hybrid is sometimes called a Foxhoodle (better than PooHound I guess). They are affectionate, gentle and loving at home. They are also brave and intense warriors in the hunt and are known to take off after interesting scents if presented with the opportunity. Also known for their elegance, brains and energy, they have superior agility and hunting instincts (this last item I did not expect). Teddie’s abilities also include not only surviving a tenuous start in life, but in the doing, helped me heal through a difficult part of my life – each rescuing the other.

There was the time he inspired a five-year old selective mute to speak again; and of course going from being the neighborhood greeter to being the Mayor is old news. But, today I want to share a new aspect of this most perfect creature. Yes, this Teddie:

Life Is Better With Teddie

As the primary duty of his mayoral job in our neighborhood, Teddie must not only greet but to also allow everyone to pet and adore him. His most amazing skill is his ability to influence most people in about five seconds on proper mayoral etiquette. Today, I allowed him out of the gate long enough for him to greet the neighbor for five seconds, remember, I didn’t know about his intense 3% hunting gene.

Just as Kay was bending down to perform her proper mayoral acknowledgement, a rabbit ran through her soon-to-be fenced backyard. In that instance Teddie ran in pursuit of this creature he had longed observed from within his fenced yard or from the end of his lease.

I called him to come back, but he abandoned his mayoral duties, succumbing to his God given instincts with the absolute knowing that he must follow this creature. Teddie became nothing more than a white fluffy streak as he ran across the yard, down the dirt path leading to a dense thicket of pine trees, honeysuckle vines and blackberry bushes. When he entered the thicket, I, dressed in shorts, t-shirt and flip-flops ran after him, entering the same thicket with no thought of danger, only of Teddie’s safety.

I pursued him, calling in all the pack-leader voices I possess – sweet, cajoling, firm, mean, frightened – and still he ran. In sync with my glimpses of just a bit of the white fluff that was Teddie, my voice grew louder, echoing back from the hills surrounding this peaceful community. I ran harder, assuming that Teddie had indeed lost his hearing. He continued his pursuit of the rabbit and I continued my pursuit of Teddie, knowing that the deeper we ran, the thicker the undergrowth would become and the greater likelihood I would lose sight of him as he runs much faster than I can.

Finally, as he descended the bank toward the creek, he stopped suddenly and hunkered down. I will never know the reason he stopped, perhaps a snake or a coyote; best I don’t know. I scooped him up and knew we needed to get out of there. It was this ‘getting out of there’ that presented a new problem. In my rush to keep sight of him, I had been oblivious to the bold tree branches, the briars of the blackberry bushes and the rocky surface of the ground. Plus now I had this squirming twelve pound animal in my arms who continued to look back over my shoulder, straining and hoping for another chance at the rabbit.

My quiet community had gathered, hearing my screams, confident that I was in mortal danger. As Teddie and I emerged from the pine thicket, cheers went up and Kay punched the end button on her 911 call. The cheers stopped as we grew closer – my face, arms and legs were scratched and bloody.  Teddie had bright red spots of blood on his white fur and I was grateful to discover that it was mine. This story has a happy ending, but it is also a reminder of how life can change in a second and that each of us must make our seconds count by doing what we were created to do, just as Teddie did in spite of the danger of the unknown.

“Teddie, Teddie, Teddie,” I whispered, holding him tight. “My love, my heart, my gift from God.” This story demonstrates the importance of being thankful and of doing good things with and for the gifts God gives us. I kissed the top of Teddie’s tiny head, giving God all the glory for his safety.

But the worst thing about this story?

This Teddie wasn’t even sorry!

Teddie in Sunshine

 

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variables, neither shadow of turning.” —James 1:17

Words

Bill says of himself, “Just a God loving country boy.”

Source: Words

Words

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Family is a dichotomy of love and hate – especially true in the relationships of siblings.  Both emotions are steered by the conditions of their lives as they grow up.  There were six of us children, growing up as “army brats”.  That meant that every two years we moved to a new state.  As a result, we became each others best friends because we had to depend one-on-the-other to be the constant in our lives during our formative years.

Then as we grew up we drifted into forming individual lives, only coming together as a family unit on holidays.  That is until life began to bring us back to those feelings from our childhood when we were the only ones who recognized and who truly understood what the others were feeling.  It is those very feelings that cause us to join in God’s word in Isaiah 40:1 “‘Comfort, yes, comfort My people!’ says your God”  bringing forth the unconditional comfort of family.

Today, my guest blogger is my oldest brother, Bill.  When we were kids, he let me stay up late and watch The Twilight Zone with him on Friday nights, followed by those scary Godzilla movies on Saturday mornings, and laughed with me while watching Bugs Bunny cartoons, enabling me to face fear with the knowledge that better times always come.   When I was only nine and weighed 75 pounds, a bully at school stomped my foot, causing me to cry.  The next day at school, Bill walked up to the bully, stomped the bully’s foot and said, “Don’t ever do that to my sister again!”  And the bully never did, nor any other bully because words do get around.

Bill is the one who, when I was home with a very bad case of the flu, signed me up for cheerleader tryouts; not something I had even considered.  He then became my campaign manager by again signing me up to run for student council – also not on my “bucket list”.  He helped me write the words to my campaign speeches and encouraged me to reach all the way to my toenails and to pull up the courage to share them in front of the student body (I was very shy).  Imagine my surprise when I succeeded at both and both are two of my best high school memories.

He is the one, as I struggled with the decision to go to college after getting married said, “Just try it.  Take one class, make it your favorite subject – and if you don’t like it, you don’t have to go back.  You just need to know what it’s like.”  As usual, he knew me better than I knew myself.  Not only did I graduate cum laude from his favorite – The University of Alabama, I went on to obtain my Masters Degree.

He is the one who is calm in the storms of our lives as siblings today – all with words of peace, faith and hope, – and a whole lot of prayer.  I want to share the words of this man who backs them up with actions, making a difference.

 

BillWords by Bill Brewer

“I guess, just about everyone has heard the saying “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” I, for one, have never embraced this saying, because words do have meanings and they do have consequences.

What if you had printer in your home and as you went through each day each word you spoke was printed from the printer, page by page? What would be there for you read when you got home? Would you share it with everyone or just shred it?

Then, what if for one day each word that you spoke would travel across the screen of all television sets in your hometown? Could you then go out and walk in public with your head held high? Or would you hide and only come out when it was dark?

In a spiritual way, each word we speak appears on the screen of God’s television. When each of us talk to people we meet each day, we should always strive to use words that God would approve of.  Always remember that a word of kindness and encouragement, especially to a child, could give hope to a person that had none before, or give that child the needed encouragement to excel.

A single kind word or act to someone close to you, or even to a stranger, could show them that someone cares. So as you start each day ask yourself. “What will my printer say about me today?” But more importantly, when the day ends, we need to ask ourselves, “What would Jesus say about the words we spoke today?”

Bill, husband to Kathy, father to two daughters and grandfather to five grandchildren, brother, friend, veteran, refers to himself as “Just a God loving country boy.”

And so he is.

 

Promises Kept

ted's walk

The evening twilight brings a quiet time for reflection. Today is the first day of spring so Teddie, straining at his leash in excitement, and I went for an afternoon walk, his favorite activity other than snuggling in my lap. The sun shone brightly at times, defying the cold winds that gusted making the Westminster wind chimes in the garden play excitedly, while other times, clouds of ominous darkness hid the rays of the sun and its promises of spring.

This first day of spring is eagerly anticipated marking the end of the dreariness of winter, allowing us to rejoice in the newness of the flowers blooming, the greening of the trees and the warmth of the sun. It entices us to go outside enjoying the daffodils as they meander across yards, up and down the slopes as if the path to their destination is just part of the joy. The branches of the forsythia bushes cascade, dripping in fragile yellow blooms as their green leaves tease with hints of summer. The dogwood trees have buds that are waiting for that right moment to burst forth in bloom, just on the cusp of celebrating this Holy Week as Easter day approaches.

For today is also Palm Sunday – the day that Jesus entered Jerusalem on a small donkey, His feet almost dragging the ground. People welcomed Him with excited cries of “Hosanna” for the King of Kings was entering Jerusalem! Power had arrived through this King, bringing not might, but mercy not revenge but redemption. This first day of Holy Week, a week of terrible events leading to the last supper, Jesus’ arrest, conviction and brutal death on a cross, His burial in a dark, cold tomb, and His resurrection on Easter day.

Life is difficult but we must not lose hope.  The past few weeks have been difficult as loved ones struggle with critical health problems and with suffering that they do not deserve. I spend most days in prayer for these loved ones, holding in one hand fear and in the other faith, clasped so tightly it is difficult to know which hand holds which, as my prayers give me hope for His grace to comfort and heal them.Palm Cross

I hold the cross you see in the picture. It is a cross I received on Palm Sunday seven years ago; given out by the children just before service. I was told it wouldn’t last long because it would dry out. Yet, it has not changed and remains a gentle reminder of His promises kept. Just as spring is a time of renewal, Easter is a time of rebirth. God will deliver us from our imperfect self through His son Jesus Christ, who died on the cross for us that we might be forgiven.

“Let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad;
Let the sea roar, and all its fullness;
Let the field be joyful, and all that is in it.
Then all the trees of the woods will rejoice before the Lord.
For He is coming.
He shall judge the world with righteousness,
And the peoples with His truth.”
—–Psalm 96:11-13

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