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Where does Joy come from?

I laughed right out loud today.

No.  Really.

I did.

The days were becoming stressful.

My daughter said, “Come stay with me.”  So, I did.

Then she asked, “Hungry?”

She prepared for our dinner the best pot pie E.V.E.R.

Then she asked if I wanted to watch a new show on Netflix called Nailed It.  It’s a baking show that I’ve never watched so I said sure.

At first, I thought this show is just silly.  My tense mind wouldn’t or couldn’t suspend this time of fear and grief.  Until.

Until, at one unexpected scene, I laughed.  I felt the laugh deep inside me, not bubbling out, but bursting forth.  This continued as we binged watched it late into the night.  I had the best night’s sleep in a long time; I even fell asleep in the middle of my prayers.

Where did that joy from?  It was like you know how when you wake up in the morning and you stretch.  You know, the whole body stretch arms overhead and toes pointed to the foot of the bed.  It was kind of like that – a burst of stretching where you get that feel-good feeling that comes from the stretch – science or no one else can explain where that feeling comes from; only that it does.

Then I knew.  All the sadness; the stress; the loneliness that I’ve carried for a very long time demanded attention as I saw, felt and grieved a doubling of these same emotions.  You know, the ones that we all are feeling – all of us from around the world – from the Coronavirus 19 Pandemic.

But it is so important to allow a burst of laughter, hope and faith to burst forth if it wants to.

Mine came from my faith, being safer at home, having food to eat, having my daughter and dogs close by and the realization that it feels good to feel good if for but a moment, even if we don’t know why.

Most of our county is under a Stay at Home (shelter-in-place edict).  Let’s use this time to remember to stretch those muscles of joy.  We can do this by focusing our attention on family, friends, pets – through thankfulness or helping virtually through our gifts of making face masks, donations, music, you know, – sharing what ya got!

Today, I share a show that makes me laugh.  It made me feel like I was watching an old I Love Lucy show – where you are both embarrassed for her while loving her humility.   I so want to be on this show!

 

God gave us laughter to cope with these times in our broken world with this promise:

“Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh.”  Luke:21

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Featured post

Thanksgiving is all about the serving.

In the early 1990s,  I  served as the Director of Human Resources for the Georgia Department of Labor (GDOL), located in downtown Atlanta. What a great career move huh? Indeed it was! I was soon to learn a great deal about so many things during my tenure there, and it was to be a lot more than upward mobility.

First lesson: the state of Georgia was the largest employer in the state, with many, many levels of bureaucracy and complexities dependent on the mission of the respective agency.

Second lesson: the cornerstone for all the agencies operated under the basic tenet of serving the people. But the lifeblood of those agencies were the people.

Sound like a civics lesson? Please bear with me.

I worked side by side, long hours, low pay, but good benefits with some of the best people I have ever had the honor to know. Day by day, my respect  for these dedicated and caring government employees deepened. They are the “hidden heroes” behind that bureaucracy, held up by that cornerstone tenet, that makes our country work.

One such person, Debbie Landers, is dear to me, as well as to so many others whose lives she continues to touch.  Her health is not as good as it once was, but her heart and spirit are stronger than ever as she continues to serve at a homeless shelter in downtown Atlanta for over thirty years.  During this time,  her daughter and granddaughter have joined her.

She often shares her gratitude for the large and the small things in her life. I have her permission to share the following which she posted a few  years ago on Facebook.

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Debbie LandersDebbie’s Way of Serving

“Today I am so thankful that folks will go the extra mile to brighten the lives of strangers. Last night, at the shelter I personally observed so many acts of kindness between the volunteers and the guys. A group of volunteers came to share a meal with our guests and their companionship with them was heart-felt.

These volunteers came from a little church in Carrollton, Ga and they brought with them a feast. There was an abundance of food and the guys definitely got their stomach full. Over and over I kept hearing, “thank you for coming”, “thank you for dinner” and “thank you for all that you did to make this night special.”

Later, I was talking with one of the guys who told me that one year ago, he had lost his wife to cancer and at that point he just gave up on life in general. He totally lost everything he owned and became homeless.

As we were discussing Thanksgiving plans, he told me that a young man on a motorcycle had stopped him and his friend, and asked what they were doing on Thanksgiving Day. He then invited them both to his home for dinner. I wonder how many of us would have taken this step and invited a stranger into our home.

It turned out that the guy on the motorcycle works at one of the major trauma centers in Atlanta and a group from there were beginning a ministry to not only provide food, but an opportunity to move upward from their current situation.

Believe me when I tell you that there was love in the shelter last night.

So, my friends, as I think about the things I am most thankful for on this day, it is being able to see first-hand as folks offering a hand up, not a hand out, to some folks down on their luck and the rewards it brings.”

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Her words and her service touched my heart then and it still serves to remind me that in this confusing and chaotic world we live in today, it doesn’t take much to make it better…just a little help to our friends.

Debbie is a living legacy that I am blessed to call friend.  I am grateful to have her in my life in this season of giving Thanks.

Let’s all get busy serving!

 

“Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due,

when it is in your power to act.”

Proverbs: 3:27

 

A Do-Over Anyone?

 

Would of

Could of

Should of

…are mistakes. Have you ever found yourself writing any of these?”
Elizabeth O’Brian
http://www.english-grammer-revolution.com

Have you ever found yourself uttering those words of regret?

Would of you wanted a do-over, knowing what you know now? What could of been the difference it made?   Should of you regretted now what you didn’t know then?

I would of been a stay at home mom.

Would of my children been the better for it?

Would of I been the better for it?

I could of cherished the times spent on the front porch with my husband as we sat in our rocking chairs each evening,  sharing our day and watching the children play.

I could of left the dishes unwashed.

I could of not taken those times for granted.

I should of realized seconds, moments, days, weeks and years make up a lifetime.

I should of paid more attention to those times.

I should of thanked God for those blessings more than I did – I should of wanted Him to know.

As I ponder on the could ofs, would ofs, and should ofs I know this:   It is not too late to do it now.

would of could of should of

What kids do when parents aren’t around…

The unexpected sparkle from this year’s Halloween. His parents must be so proud!

Every parent wonders what their kids will do when they are not around.  They will also ponder on what their children will grow up and be. I did.

I wanted them to grow up – not to be rich and famous (although that’s nice too) – but to just be decent people.

As parents we do the best we can, and pray for guidance. I did. Still do. I suspect my own parents did as well.

I remember, at the age of six, doubling over in laughter, as I ran from my brother Paul. He could never run as fast as I could, which I always found hil-la-rious; after all – he was older. Although the reason he was chasing me was no laughing matter. We had been doing what children of our generation would sometimes do, making mud pies down by the pond when he thought I should take a bite.

I didn’t want to and ran away. Fortunately Granny caught us and put a stop to those shenanigans!

Today, Paul’s health takes him in and out of hospitals and when things look the worst, he is that same generous kid, wanting to give me a bite of the pie that life offers and making me laugh.

My kids are all grown up now and they have become more than I knew to pray for.  How did that happen? God’s grace for sure as I look back and remember a few defining moments.

When my son was in second grade, he would come home from school complaining about Mathew, one of the kids in his class. Matthew suffered from ADHD and sometimes would forget to take his medicine. On those days he lost control and my son would come home, upset and confused about Matthew’s behavior. I told my son that sometimes people have problems that we don’t know about and it was best to just be kind.

Several months later we were on a class trip and I was one of the chaperones. I had just gone to work for the Georgia Department of Labor and one of the other mothers asked me if I was the new HR Director there.

The lady introduced herself as an employee there and I assumed that’s why she wanted to meet me. Nope, instead she said,  “When all the other kids won’t play with Matthew because he’s having a bad day, your son always does. I just wanted you to know and to say thank you.”

Mother to mother.

Her words were a humbling moment for this mom. After all the complaining that my son did about Matthew, he had indeed been kind to him.

My daughter developed a love for the DCFS foster program. Each Christmas, after my coworkers had selected tags for the foster kids from the giving tree, I would take all of the remaining tags. Then, as was our tradition, she and I would go shopping and she would select the gifts. Her happy smile and twinkling eyes shined with her love for kids that she didn’t even know.

Years later, it was her first Christmas away at college. She called me, weeping, to tell me about a little boy’s tag she had selected from the giving tree in her dorm. “Oh Mom – he wants a ball!”

“What’s wrong with that?” I asked.

“He only asked for a ball!” she said, the emphasis on the word a ball. “Not a football, not a baseball and not a soccer ball – just a ball…” She said, stopping as she gasped for breath.

“Which one did you get him?” I asked, hoping to calm her down.

She blew her nose in that disgusting way that you do after an ugly cry and said, “One of every kind.”

Another humbling moment for this mother.

It is those moments, when you are not looking, when you are not there, when your kids make their own decisions – those are the moments that highlight the people they will become, and proof of the people they already are.

Today, their love continues to be demonstrated when I’m not around, growing stronger in protecting and serving others.  Be sure to pay attention.

I would be honored if you would share humbling moments from your childhood or your kid’s childhood. These are the sparkles that give hope to our world.

“Train up a child in the way he should go; Even when he is old he will not depart from it.”              –Proverbs 22:6

 

A Kernel of Radical Anger

 

I can get so mad when people don’t take care of those who can’t take care of themselves (like animals).   I don’t like to be mad.  It makes me feel bad, therefore, making me madder at what made me mad in the first place!

Recently a woman was standing in a line at the DMV in Missouri and fired her gun into the air because the line was too slow.  I don’t know if she calmed down after being thrown to the ground, handcuffed, and taken to jail.  My point is that this example, in its most basic form, is radical anger.

When a kernel of radical anger is planted, it grows from what it’s fed.  Today, political issues (groan) feeds this type of anger whether from public sources or in hidden back ‘rooms’.   Social media and different slants provided by different news agencies are often the triggers.

The good news from this is that our freedom allows us to choose our party of choice:  Democrat, Republican, Libertarian, Independent, Green and my favorite, Humane (animal rights).  There are more than 100 additional parties to choose from.  How good is that?

Sadly, the kernel of radical anger is growing in so many different directions that chaos is feeding radical anger. Humans have lost our ability to be both different and united. When did we stop thinking and deliberating on issues?  Recognition of differences, even if it’s not “your thing”, in and  of themselves should unite us; sadly, they do not.

So, do we risk an extreme reaction like the woman in the DMV line; or do we can choose a different method?

Why?

To find common ground for common causes, while respecting individual rights.

What?

By not feeding our kernel of anger and use:

      Truth over Lie.

     Kindness over rudeness

    Accepting your way is not my way – love diffuses hate.

Evidence of Success? 

Feed the kernels of honesty, respect and love as we remember what our country, and many other countries,  were founded on, which is (for purposes of today’s blog, my reference to county is America):

I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible with liberty and justice for all.”

John Dickinson, Founding Father in his pre-revolutionary song, “The Liberty Song” wrote, “Then join hand in hand, brave Americans all!  By uniting we stand, by dividing we fall.”

We the people created this county. Let’s not demolish it.

America must maintain the identity of what God blessed America with.  We welcome all in our big ole’ melting pot, sharing, working, learning, and trusting our personal savior.  Every individual brings something to the mix, not to dominate, but by doing the right thing in the right way. 

conflict-405744__340

 Proverbs 15:18 “A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, but he who is slow to anger quiets contention.”

It’s just that simple.

Kernels are…

Kernels are seeds we plant as we journey through life, from season to season.”





We leave kernels behind like tracks in the sand that show our past seasons; but, like sand near the ocean, the seasons of wind and water erase them.  They become bittersweet memories or just bitter memories, leaving scars.  They come in the form of words, actions, behaviors, thoughts, emotions, intentions and often, ‘un-intentions’.

Each Wednesday, here on my blog, Sparklers: Lights of Grace, you will rise and shine, greeted by my ‘something to think about’ Wednesday blog called, Sparklers Garden:  Kernels of….  My greatest hope is that by planting our kernels we will reset our view about whatever season we are traveling in. 

A Kernel of Faith

A kernel of faith is all you need to get through the ups and downs of life’s many seasons.  Right?

Some seasons are crystal clear. The sky is blue, the varying hues of nature crisp and the heart is bursting with the joy of it all – we see it. For this, we give thanks with all our heart and soul.

But, sometimes it can be so bright that all you see is what’s right in front of you.  This makes it hard to know where the blessings came from, therefore making it easy to feel invincible. 

Meanwhile other seasons can be a mist of pain and darkness where there is no up, no down, and no side to side.

Either of these causes life to lose its luster.  Either also makes the world seem flat.  Our steps try to go backward to a bright and easy season in our life.  But, those footprints are gone and we eventually collide with a big rubber wall that bounces us right back to the present.

Our season may be murky.  We run to the right — smack into a hard wall. We try it again with a slightly different direction, ziz-zagging our way to the left, then to the right as if we can fool life into a different season.

There’s no fooling the seasons of life, so again we smack into a wall, this time staggering upright, bruises and all.  The only direction left is forward, but the swirling mist hides what waits for us there. Scary, huh?

Perhaps, much like the long ago theory that the earth is flat, our life too has become flat.  If we go forward, we might just step off the edge.  Then what?  Well, when a season in life changes, there’s no way to go back.  It’s also impossible to remain still. Stagnation becomes a living death. 

Moving into the next season is the only option.  But that’s scary.  It’s going to take courage and we can’t find it in the fog that surrounds us. Where can this much courage be found? 

Listen. 

Listen and hear those words in your head – the two words that provide direction. Those words are, “you know”. 

You know to raise your hands to heart level – yes both at the same time.  In one you speak your fear; in the other you speak your faith; both of the unknown facing you.  Then you put them together, clasped in prayer, releasing fears by giving them to God – and don’t even think about taking them back (remember that rubber wall?).

This is when the grace of courage is given.  Works every time –  in His timing.

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  It’s hard to to see evidence of faith in times like these when the entire world seems flat.  Let’s grow this Sparkler Garden! 

Please, share your own Kernel of… in the comments section in hopes that your kernel will touch at least one person reading it, and that one person is changed and in the doing, will provide a kernel that will grow in someone else. 

Luke 8:11

“Now the parable is this: the seed is the word of God.”

You know.

No Means No

Better life

 

Women don’t leave a relationship easily, even when it is one of pain. They tend to give the benefit of the doubt more than is wise – trusting that the other person didn’t mean to cause harm. She eventually learns that your damage, while difficult, didn’t reach her mind or her soul. This realization is her point of no return. She is finished with you.

Hers is a forever good-bye. Nothing you can say or do will change that. You’re fooling yourself if you think otherwise. Her trust has been destroyed. She is so much stronger because she now knows that she deserves better than what you could ever give her. She moves forward, totally detached from whatever space you had taken up in her life. She will never reattach to your kind of betrayal.

Ever.

You are only a fading dark spot on the horizon– a minor mistake made and forgotten. She doesn’t look back. Her eyes face the next season as life brings forth the joys and blessings that were meant for her all along. She has experienced the worst from you. She cherishes her new best life and is thankful for it.

You are not, nor will you be, any part of her life – ever. Civility and respect means that NO means NO. You don’t have a say in her definition of that word.  The best you can hope for is that she has forgiven you.

Take heed: Forgiveness does not mean reconciliation.

Understand these words… and go fix yourself.

Changing Hearts is God’s Work

Forgiveness
Proverbs 22:3 says, “The prudent foresees evil and hides”.

How does a person forgive something that — to them — is unforgivable?

Jesus, while in agony on the cross said, “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they do.” (Luke 23:34).

Often in our humanness we wonder, “But what if they do know? What if their actions are calculated and self-serving?”  Distrust replaces love and forgiveness and when this happens, it’s time to be honest with God.  The best way to do this is by going to His word for direction.

Proverbs 22:3 says, “The prudent foresees evil and hides himself”.  But sometimes forgiveness requires caution because it is different from trust, necessitating the dynamics of a relationship to change.    Until an offender has a true change of heart, and because we can’t see that person’s heart, wisdom says to limit our trust in that person.

Trust is a like a four-way intersection where adherence to the wishes, viewpoints, or beliefs of others must intersect with humility and acceptance, even though they may not be the same as yours.  Pretense of respect and honor, shrouded in hollow words are as transparent as a full moon on a cloudless night.   For honor to shine true, the respect must be real.  How do we know if it’s real? We must proceed with caution given to us by the words of Jesus in Matthew 10:16, “be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves”. 

Forgiveness doesn’t mean acceptance, or even forgetting of transgressions. It requires truth which means letting go of that which has caused hurt, whether forgiveness was requested or not.  This becomes a decision of the will – a conscious choice made in the name of Christ – to forget as much as possible and to move on with your life. It doesn’t mean we’re not to forgive.  Forgiveness may influence our world, but we must be humble and grateful for God’s love and forgiveness of us as we forgive others while maintaining the recognition that we are not God.

Changing hearts is God’s work.

 

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.

music

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

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