Bliss.

Image result for beauty of leavesI am grateful for:

  • pretty rocks, especially the ones left behind by grandchildren.
  • a new roll of paper towels or toilet paper or a new box of tissues, or a new bag of chips.
  • a friend who understands the same kind of rejection I experience.
  • the privilege of having ice in my drinks.
  • belly laughs.
  • handwritten happy mail.
  • cool fronts in August.
  • moments when I can play the piano and no one is listening.
  • leaf individuality.
  • the story of John 8:1-11.
  • carbonation bubbles on the tongue.
  • Big Brother episodes on the DVR.
  • a surprise phone call from grandchildren

Talking to Ama

  • RadioLab.
  • the pain of remembering the past in order to never forget.
  • a shoulder rub.
  • a mourning dove so close I could touch her and just on the other side of the window but unaware that I am watching her.
  • no access to water all day long so that I am even more grateful for running water and toilets that flush.
  • silence after a day of tools, silence after the noise of news.
  • a long hug.
  • learning new words – exigent, kipitzer, and full tilt boogie, my words for today.
  • the sound of big rain drops on the windshield.
  • the hope I have that one day they will ask with open ears and mind and a softened heart, and I will have the opportunity to share.
  • potato chips that are not stale.
  • moments when Sam is Sam and feeling good.
  • the privilege of praying for friends and their children.
  • sharing a sandwich on a porch swing – with potato chips as the side.
  • this hymn.

This, all of this…is bliss.

 

 

 

 

Counting gifts changes my perspective… – Ann Voskamp

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I had a bad day yesterday. Actually, it wasn’t a bad day. I had a bad inner. My outlook was fragile and cloudy with overwhelm.

A few co-workers talked me through and emailed me out of the overwhelm. Well, kind of, anyway. They reassured me that there is room for grace when overwhelm takes over.

It was a beautiful and warm day outside. I sit at a desk with big old windows that look out over a huge and gorgeous yard. I had lots to do, so boredom was not an issue. I could hear the sounds of the air conditioner, the men on the first floor building a new bathroom, the sweet chimes singing in the light breeze on the front porch, the guys on the new patio out back cutting lines into cured concrete. I had the pleasure of watching sun-tanned little girls riding their bikes with towels draped around their necks headed to the pool, and high school athletes sweating their two-a-day running on this last week before school starts, young moms taking a morning walk with their babies in strollers, and dogs on walks with tails wagging happily.

And I didn’t see the gifts.

Last night, after a frustrating day of work in my overwhelming cloud, I went downstairs to sweep another layer of 100-year-old dust from the floors after the re-modelers left for the day. It was great stress therapy, that repetitive motion and visible evidence that my broom was making a difference.

And then I saw it.

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Do you see it?

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Evidence.

Evidence that I am so very blessed.  This tiny little heart sticker has been on the floor here in small town USA for over a month now, a tiny reminder that I am so very blessed. A reminder that the house was full of little feet and busy hands, sticky fingers and “Ama! Ama! Ama!” noise just one month ago.

This tiny little heart sticker shone through the cloud of overwhelm last night when I was feeling frustration and couldn’t see the gifts.

So today, I am grateful for a tiny heart sticker that refused to be swept. It’s still there, along with the fingerprints on the dirty front door and the fading chalk rainbow on the porch, and the crayon art on the door frame.

Evidence.

Gifts, all of them.

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“He Himself knows our frame; He is mindful that we are but dust.”
Psalm 103:13

“He heals the broken hearted . . . He counts the number of the stars; He gives names to all of them.”  Psalm 147:3-5

“Come to me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.”
Matthew 11:28

 

Well, hullo darlin.’

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Today, I am grateful for Sam.

I am grateful that he is the kind of guy who says “Hello” first and talks to anyone and everyone.

I am grateful for his reminders many times a day how much he loves me.

I am grateful that, with the exception of sports when the team is way behind, he is an optimist.

I am grateful that he cries during certain hymns.

I am grateful that he loves to work and isn’t a sedentary couch potato.

I am grateful that even though Sam loves to work, he also loves road trips and adventures.

I am grateful that Sam always wants to talk to our Texas grandkids on the phone and can’t wait for them to visit again.

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I am grateful that he is extra-sensitive.

I am grateful that he holds my hand during prayer.

I am grateful that he is an early riser and doesn’t like to sleep late. It has taken some adjustment on my part these past four years, but I’ve finally made it a habit, too.

I am grateful that Sam loves to go to church every Sunday.

I am grateful that when Sam hears “groove” music, he breaks out into Elaine dancing no matter where he is at.

 

I am grateful that Sam listens to me read out loud.

I am grateful that he has really nice hair.

I am grateful that Sam loves his family so much.

I am grateful that we catch each other thinking the exact same thing quite often.

I am grateful that he has different characters that he lets out sometimes to get me to laugh.

I am grateful that he is creating a beautiful home for us.

I am grateful that outside of Jesus, he is the best example I know of forgiveness.

I am grateful that he calls women “dear,” and refers to me as “sweetheart” or “darlin’” but always calls me by my name. He had me at “Rhonda.”

Happy birthday, Sam. I love you more today than ever before…

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“Love me like the Rock of Ages, she loved me…”

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I’ve spent a great deal of time this week thinking on these things. Things that have caused pain, things that have been a source of much sadness and regret and guilt and shame.  Things that have stirred up deep-seated anger and bitterness.

I’ve stared at the computer screen in the quiet of the early morning or the stillness of the late night, trying to compose something for which to be grateful, and I’ve had nothing but silence. It’s not that my mind was silent and empty – far from it. It’s that my mind was filled with the pain and sadness and regret and guilt and shame and anger and bitterness and worry and stress…

And then this morning, I woke up from a fitful night of sleep, and I prayed John Wesley’s prayer:

I am no longer my own, but thine.
Put me to what thou wilt, rank me with whom thou wilt.
Put me to doing, put me to suffering.
Let me be employed for thee or laid aside for thee,
exalted for thee or brought low for thee.
Let me be full, let me be empty.
Let me have all things, let me have nothing.
I freely and heartily yield all things to thy pleasure and disposal.
And now, O glorious and blessed God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
thou art mine, and I am thine.
So be it.
And the covenant which I have made on earth,
let it be ratified in heaven.|
Amen.

And I asked God very simply, to please use me for His glory today.

I got to work, and when I turned my daily calendar to August 10, instead of some profound quote from some famous person, there was a profound quote from a famous person:

Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies. – Paul (Philippians 4:8, The Message)

So I am back at finding the best and the beautiful in the midst of it all.

I am grateful today that my sister took such good care of my oldest brother this past year.

I am grateful for the warm feelings I have deep down for my oldest brother who had the biggest heart and loved his family but had a hard time showing some of them.

I am grateful that he carried pictures of his family with him all through his life.

I am grateful for the residents of his apartment complex who saw my oldest brother as a very sweet, quiet man, just like my sister and I did.

I am grateful for flowers and a beautiful card from my boss that were on our front doorstep.

I am grateful that my sister was able to grieve yesterday and wrote memories of our oldest brother.

I am grateful for her friends who sent her a beautiful arrangement of white flowers.

I am grateful that she has taken our oldest brother’s glass ashtray and turned it into a small vase.

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I am grateful that Dad and I were able to share with each other last night and let a little bit of our grief out.

I am grateful for the messages of sorrow I have received from friends and a few family members.

I am grateful for lighthearted moments in all of this. Natia the rat dog is happy 98.5% of the time and is so quick to forgive and forget; Paul Simon’s “Love Me Like a Rock,” the song that will not leave my swimming mind because I have ALWAYS associated that song with my oldest brother, and I just realized yesterday how fitting the words really are (look them up – you’ll see); my sister wanting to push the button “because he pushed MY buttons for the last year…”

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And I am grateful that my family wants to have a memorial service and that it will be in our church and will be a gateway to healing and closure and give my oldest brother some dignity in the tragedy of his journey in this life.

“What a wee little part of a person’s life are his acts and his words! His real life is led in his head, and is known to none but himself. All day long, the mill of his brain is grinding, and his thoughts, not those other things, are his history.” – Mark Twain

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No more night, no more pain.

 

I remember Mom wanting this song to be sung by Karissa at her funeral. Tonight, that memory fills my mind.

My oldest brother died sometime today. My sister, his angel on earth, found him tonight, quiet and still, in his new chair.

We knew this day would come. In some ways, we had expected it for a long time. In other ways, we were shocked to find out.

He lived a hard life, a life tormented by inner struggles, and the only way he could drown the struggle was through alcohol. Everyone who knew my brother knew him to be sweet and kind, always quiet and easy to be around. My parents lived with the pain of wanting to help him when he didn’t want help, not real help, anyway. That burden was passed on to my sister a year ago, and she became his companion and caretaker and “Mom” – an angel on earth. Mom and Dad knew what they were doing when they named her Angela…

I am grateful tonight for my sister. She is simply the best.

I am grateful tonight that I have some wonderful memories of my brother.

  • He was the best babysitter sibling and I loved when HE was in charge of my care.
  • He loved my little girls and gave them their first baby dolls.
  • He always sent a card for my birthday.
  • Even when he was drunk, he was kind. As he sat in a cheap motel in one of his worst predicaments ever, he held my hand and told me he loved me.
  • He loved his aunts, and by his chair tonight, he had the Johnson Family Address Book, keeping it close by.
  • He was my defender in my darkest moment and loved ME unconditionally.

I am sorry that I failed at being a better sister to him this past year, and I am wishing I had one more opportunity to give him a hug and tell him how much I love him and offer to help him get help.

But I am grateful tonight that Steve has no more night, no more pain, no more tears…

And I am holding on to hope that Mom and Steve and our sister Judy are reunited once again.

 

 

 

 

It’s all about perspective.

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Sometimes, I have a hard time with this word.

This past weekend, Sam and I were on top of the world. We were on a road trip, one of our favorite activities with each other. We were going to our favorite place in Colorado to make new memories. We were also literally on top of the world, at least the Colorado world. This picture is at the top of the pass, some 12,000+ feet above sea level.

Glorious. Breathtaking.

Rainy. Cloudy.

And Sam likes to drive this way, with no windshield wipers to interrupt the view. No slap screech rhythm of the blades squeegeeing the water away.

Sometimes, I get so aggravated at the view. I want those wipers to clear the way and let me SEE what is ahead. Sometimes, I get a little annoyed with Sam’s “head in the clouds” vision and cannot understand why he doesn’t want to use those wipers.

Sometimes, I forget to sit back and quit worrying about not being able to see what is ahead. Sometimes, I neglect to see the beauty in the raindrops that make a pattern on the windshield of life.

I am sitting here in an almost-too-amazing-to-be-real resort room this morning, the sunbeams lighting the carpet, birds singing their morning songs, crisp, cool mountain air filtering in through not one, but TWO patios with doors open wide, and a fire in the fireplace because Rhonda likes the crisp, cool mountain air but also has a fondness for being warm and for loving a fire in a fireplace.

I sit here with this beauty surrounding me, and I have a pit in my stomach.  It is a pit that is screaming “WORRY MORE!” “REGRET EVERYTHING!” “YOU’RE WORTHLESS AND UGLY AND OVERWEIGHT.” “YOU ARE A FAILURE.” “YOU MAKE A BIG DEAL OVER NOTHING.” “YOU ARE SO NARCISSISTIC.” “YOU DON’T HAVE THE FREEDOM TO STOP WORKING ON THIS TRIP TO ENJOY YOUR HUSBAND’S ADVENTURE.”

Raindrops clouding my view of what is all around me.

“Come to me, all of you who are tired and have heavy loads, and I will give you rest. Accept my teachings and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble in spirit, and you will find rest for your lives. The teaching I ask you to accept is easy; the load I give you to carry is light” (Matt. 11:28—30).

Last night, I lost Sam’s chemotherapy dose. I was in charge of five little pills, and I lost them. And it tore me up inside. I don’t hide emotions very well, either, so an entire group of people knew that something was wrong and my emotions and failure affected all of them, as well.

“Come to me, all of you who are tired and have heavy loads, and I will give you rest. Accept my teachings and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble in spirit, and you will find rest for your lives. The teaching I ask you to accept is easy; the load I give you to carry is light” (Matt. 11:28—30).

This morning, we received a call from my Dad about wet carpet in the basement from a storm that happened a week ago. And it tore me up inside. We aren’t home to help. My Dad shouldn’t have to deal with this.

“Come to me, all of you who are tired and have heavy loads, and I will give you rest. Accept my teachings and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble in spirit, and you will find rest for your lives. The teaching I ask you to accept is easy; the load I give you to carry is light” (Matt. 11:28—30).

I am sitting here in this beautiful room, surrounded by beautiful mountains on a beautiful morning, and my husband is participating in a conference downstairs with other husbands and wives, all listening to amazing speakers and refreshing their souls, and I am sitting here in this beautiful room, surrounded by beautiful mountains on a beautiful morning…working.

“Come to me, all of you who are tired and have heavy loads, and I will give you rest. Accept my teachings and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble in spirit, and you will find rest for your lives. The teaching I ask you to accept is easy; the load I give you to carry is light” (Matt. 11:28—30).

Lord, help me to see what is right in front of me instead of what I WISH was right in front of me. Lord, remind me to be grateful for the raindrops in my view. Lord, help me to be grateful today for the warm fire and the cool, crisp mountain air that I am privileged to breathe. Lord, help me to appreciate the fact that the chemotherapy was found and work with me to let go of my failure. Lord, thank you for my Dad and for the fact that he called us, and even in his older age, he is capable to handle some things on his own. Lord, help me to be thankful that Sam is downstairs participating and enjoying his time instead of sitting here in this room not feeling well. Lord, remind me that I am blessed to have this job where I have been given the gift of working remote.

From a new favorite book, Only Love Today by Rachel Macy Stafford:

Just because I’m in the midst of a challenge doesn’t mean I can’t keep moving forward. Tiny steps count. Just because I face a giant obstacle doesn’t mean I should let it get in the way of living. Small actions make a difference. Just because I’m not out of the woods doesn’t mean I should stop looking for the sun. Minuscule efforts light the path. Today offers one empty box in the calendar of life. I will use it to perform one positive action that makes my heart come alive and connects me to what (or who) matters most.

If I just appreciate the raindrops and accept them as they are, I will be able to fully enjoy this:

Sunshine on just-washed jeans makes me happy.

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I am grateful for a beautiful Friday morning in small town USA, where the windows are open and I am surrounded by a cool breeze.

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I am grateful for an inviting unpainted porch swing, just begging for a visit at noon.

I am grateful for front porch evidence of grandchildren who visited, hanging on to the memories of fireworks snakes and chalky rainbows.

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I am grateful for a kitchen porch on which to sit with Sam each morning, serenaded by catbirds and cardinals and mourning doves, while he enjoys his coffee and oatmeal and I read our devotions and we both just “ahhhhhhhhh…”

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And I am grateful that in small town USA, we don’t care about impressions so much. We hang out wet jeans and robes on our makeshift clothesline, better known as the front porch railing, for all the town to see.