All I want for Christmas is…

 

bunnies.

and finches.

and throw in a little Presidential sanity.

and I’d even take some quality family time with laughter and game playing.

but I think what I would really like this Christmas, is

a return to the simple life.

more time to fit in the important things that seem to get lost in the busy.

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and a renewing in my heart, deep down, of the reason we celebrate Christmas.

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and P.S…

I would take a big package under the tree that contains this birthday girl who is four years old today, along with her siblings and Washington cousins, so that I could hug them all and my heart would swell.

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I am grateful for Christmas lists. Even when they are not very realistic. They offer hope and anticipation and heart swelling and lovely things.

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Mishmosh hodgepodge and grateful for it all.

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I am grateful for…

  • a friend who took this picture of our Blessings spoon and sent it to us.
  • a weekend with good friends and the new experience of cotton harvest.
  • neighbors  and a stepdaughter who look in on Dad as he recovers.
  • early mornings waiting on the sun to rise.
  • evenings at my office window on the 2nd floor, watching the afternoon sky turn to pinkish orange and seeing the first stars.
  • my 2nd grandchild’s birthday, 8 years old today and so very beautiful.
  • entertaining video conferences with my co-workers.
  • Christmas music, except for the hippo song and The First Noel and Go Tell It On the Mountain. I could do without those.
  • the fact that I live here and not in Alabama tonight.
  • new sweaters.
  • anticipation of Sam coming home from his trip.
  • happy dogs.
  • phone calls with grandchildren who know me and want to talk to me, even when I cannot understand a word they say other than “Ama!” and “Yes!”
  • sweet stories from a friend who is fostering a little girl.
  • a dust pan.
  • new stamps.
  • a really good devotional.
  • work, work and more work that keeps me busy and productive.

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Soft hearts make friends.

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I know my heart still works when I hurt for someone else’s pain. It’s not fun to hurt, whether it is my hurt, or whether it is referred pain that we feel on behalf of someone else. But it IS a good thing when we are reminded that our heart still works and is soft and pliable instead of hard and brittle.

I’ve had opportunities this week to hurt on behalf of others – friends who are contemplating beginning life apart rather than together after many years married, a friend who finds herself in a tough situation after being rejected by her grown daughter, my dad who sat at the kitchen island this evening with a bruised and swollen face and eyes that look like he hurts all over, and he does.

I am grateful tonight for opportunities to hurt for someone else, reminders from the Holy Spirit to mention specific names in interceding prayer.

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I am grateful for my sister who stayed with Dad all day long on Tuesday and made sure he was okay.

I am grateful for an evening with a friend and conversation around the table to let him grieve a broken relationship.

I am grateful for text messages from a mom who is heartbroken and trusted me with her heartache.

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I am grateful for a hurting heart for others on this Friday evening as we drive south.

And I am grateful for anticipation of seeing my CBA friends tomorrow who have hurt with me and have interceded on my behalf. It will be a soft heart reunion tomorrow.

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He’s a big deal.

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I am grateful for serious discussion, because it means my opinion has value.

I am grateful for the smell of coffee in the morning, because it means that Sam is near.

I am grateful for surprise flowers for no reason, because it means that Sam knows I love flowers.

Sam and Rhonda at KState

I am grateful for road trips because they usually mean time with Sam and we enjoy the same things, so road trips are not for silence and sleeping and putting up with music or sports that does not interest both of us. And he puts up with me reading out loud to him.

Sam and Rhonda in Florida

I am grateful that one of our favorite things is going to church, that we both love the old hymns, and that we hold hands during EVERY prayer, always. I am grateful that God is our foundation and we’ve learned to live grace.

I am grateful that he makes me laugh and not care what anyone else thinks. Fanny packs and all.

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I am grateful that Sam knows no stranger and speaks to EVERYONE he meets. Life is an adventure, everywhere we go.

I am grateful for the heart flutter of anticipation to see Sam again after a week of absence.

I am grateful for the home he is creating for us.

I am grateful that he includes me in the finances, wants me to have charge of my own, and teaches me about taxes and financial retirement importance.

I am grateful that Sam loves my girls and our grandchildren.

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I am grateful that he loves to sing.

I am grateful that he loves to work – mostly grateful, that is. I’d rather he go overboard with his projects than go overboard with couching.

I am grateful that he is quick-witted, rarely grouchy, always kind, and the best living example of forgiveness I know.

I am grateful that he got me back on a motorcycle after so many years of fear.

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I am grateful that he insists I drive the tractor, use a drill, and know the ins and outs of the projects.

And I am grateful that he calls me sweetheart, and darlin’, and dear…and Rhonda. I am grateful that he calls me by my name. He knew it was a big deal to me. In fact, he pays attention to what is a big deal to me. He holds my hand because that is a big deal to me. He tells me he loves me many times a day, because that is a big deal to me. He’s a big deal to me. 

Happy anniversary, Sam. You changed my world for the better, and I love you more and more with every passing day. Life is too short…and I am so glad we are better together.

Sam and Rhonda 2016

 

Crowned with Grace.

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I walked into the kitchen this morning and began my routine.

  1. Let the dog out.
  2. Turn on a light.
  3. Get a treat for the dog.
  4. Let her back inside.
  5. Go change the Love Does calendar and read the lesson before heading back to the bedroom to get ready for work.

I saw that yesterday was November 28 and immediately thought, “Awww, today is Mom’s birthday. Happy birthday, Mom.”

And then I turned that calendar, and this is what it said:

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I was reminded last week of my flaws and past failures in a conversation about my role as a parent many years ago. I wasn’t the best Mom and I left many emotional scars on my daughters, I am sure. I have wished so many times for mental do-overs, and if I had a superpower, I think I might like the ability to erase bad memories from my brain and others.

I have been thinking about today’s verse all morning. Thoughts have swirled around in my head about my own childhood and the many times when Mom wasn’t cool under pressure, when she reacted physically and vocally in anger instead of responding with grace. I hadn’t thought about those experiences in forever but when I do, I understand my Mom. She lived for many, many years with regret and shame and she wished she could re-do so much of her past.

But as I am at the doorstep of sunset years, I have learned that we are our experiences – good and bad, those experiences shaped us into the person we have become, and we choose our focus. We can focus on the horrible, or we can focus on the memories that bring a smile to our eyes.

I choose to remember Mom as she would want me to remember:

 as a sister who loved her family deeply

She was like a little girl when it was time to see her sisters or her brothers – get out of her way because nothing was coming between her and that door if they were just inside.

 a wife who adored her husband

Her eyes lit up when he walked into the room in later years, and one of my most favorite sounds in the world was hearing her say, “DEL-marrrr!” when he teased her about something.

 a mom who shone with pride

Each one of us was her favorite child when she spoke about our accomplishments or our experiences or our travels to someone else. She cheered the loudest at ballgames, clapped the longest at concerts, and cried many, many tears of joy and sorrow on our behalf. Annoying memories have turned to very fond ones when I think back to the “Yaaaaaaa-hooooooos!” that were embarrassing to a junior high and high school ball player and the dozens of duties I had to perform when I heard, “Rhonda, come play your recital piece for _____.”

a grandma and great grandma who had “perfect” grandchildren

And she made sure everyone knew it, too. Pictures COVERED her refrigerator and albums were full. It was like heaven on earth to see a grandchild sitting in her lap, listening to a story or her singing, “I love you, a bushel and a peck…” so softly and sweetly in her alto voice. Her hugs were breathtakingly tight and her love for each of them was unconditional.

I, I am the one who wipes out your rebellious behavior for my sake. I won’t remember your sin. Summon me, and let’s go to trial together; you tell your story so that you may be vindicated! – Isaiah 43:25-26

I am grateful for my Mom.

I am grateful that she taught me and shaped me through good experiences and the bad ones, too, how to love Jesus, how to forgive and forget, how to love unconditionally, how to choose my focus, and how to be a grandparent.

I am grateful for all the happy memories that bubble up to the surface and allow the painful ones to rest at the bottom.

Happy Birthday, Mom.  If I could give you a morning sunrise on the Oregon or Florida coast with a sister or several, I would. I love you as much today as ever…

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Happiness is…tupperware burps.

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I am grateful for plastic containers with lids that are not melted or deformed.

I am grateful for a card from Geri and a picture of Melissa and little lady.

I am grateful for sharp knives as opposed to dull knives, but I sure wish I knew how to make dull knives sharp again.

I am grateful for a few moments this morning in the bathroom as I got ready for the day. I stopped to pay attention to the sounds I heard from the open window: children laughing and yelling on their way to school, the hum of a drill, bleating of calves, singing of a chime in the breeze, and a dog barking.

I am grateful for Quaker worship. I miss that silent time of waiting and then witnessing the moving of the Holy Spirit.

I am grateful for running water and a brand new sink and faucet in the kitchen!

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I am grateful for the best soundtracks in the history of the world: Dances with Wolves and Schindler’s List.

I am grateful for overwhelm in this season. I don’t have it all together, and overwhelm is a reminder that I am not alone, that God is for me not against me, that nothing can separate me from His love. Even in the chaos and the uncertainty and the loneliness of busy and disorganization and deadlines and all that causes my worry, I have a Dad and a sister and two brothers who love me, and I have Sam, my best friend and the one who holds my hand and talks to me and is walking through life with me. All of that is reason to be grateful for overwhelm, or at least be grateful IN the overwhelm.

I am grateful for text messages from Lori and Katrina last night. They brought happy tears in my sentimental moment.

I am grateful for the glimpse I had this morning when I sat up in bed at 5:45, of the first hint of the morning sky.

I am grateful that I know how to do research on LinkedIn, but I don’t have to know how to install a new dishwasher.

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I am grateful that every morning I have my devotion time and I have a choice of devotions that help me to dive into scripture. Too often, I skim the scriptures that I think I know by heart and get to the message that follows. This morning, I was convicted to slow down and spend time reading and re-reading the verses so familiar to prepare my mind and my heart for the message to follow.

I am grateful for stress. It makes the easy days that much better, and it reminds me to take an aspirin.

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I am grateful for cloud designs and jet trails.

And I am grateful for a little guy named Asher who made me laugh today because he has the cutest pronunciations and his mama sent me a personal video so I could listen to him all day long.

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Purge = a funny word. Funny and necessary.

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Tonight, I am grateful for meals with conversation. For too many years of my life, I ate meals in total silence or to the noise of a tv. My world has changed for the better, and now, meals are spent accompanied by conversation. Sometimes it is serious, sometimes it includes laughter, but usually it is thought-provoking or just sharing about the day’s events. No matter the topic, I feel wanted, needed, and very loved.

I am grateful for stacks of paperwork and mail and stuff gone through and purged.

I am grateful for all of the help we are receiving as we build a home for our future. Cosmo, Paul, MJ, Hong, Dave, Dad, Mike, Jamie, Fletch, Maria, Tim, Ron, Allen, Duane, Dana and her boys, and now this coming weekend – John and Linda, David and Julie…

I am grateful for all of the love that is going into this home, evidenced in every room, through gifts given to us by Ken and Karen, Dwight, Angela, Michelle, Dad, Mandrae and Karissa and their children, Elaine, Linda, Geri, Delores…

I am grateful for a mailbox with a flag – old school and traditional, and I love it, rust and all.

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I am grateful for the sound tires make when rolling slowly over a rock driveway.

I am grateful for hand-written thank you cards sent in the mail. This is a good month to start that practice of just telling someone “thank you” for the simplest of things.

I am grateful for cleaned-out drawers.

I am grateful that all it takes for me to have God’s ear is to speak to Him. I don’t have to go to a certain place, I don’t have to prepare myself, I don’t have to ask permission. I just have to open my mouth, or my mind, or my heart, or my thoughts. He hears me even when I have no audible words.

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I am grateful for a little 2-year-old prayer on the phone this evening, mostly unintelligible, with the exception of “Ama’s house,” “Amen,” and “Wuv you.”

I am grateful for a boss who understands gratitude.

I am grateful for bandaids and tissues and dryer sheets and baby wipes, and an abundance of them.

I am grateful for that feeling I get when I am opening an Amazon box of something I ordered as a gift for someone else.

I am grateful for that feeling I get when giving a gift to someone, and I am grateful for the feeling I get when I can see or hear how happy they are to receive it.

And tonight, I am grateful for living examples of negativity. They show me who I do not want to be.

Purge the negativity. Talk more about your blessings than you talk about your burdens. And write someone a “thank you,” just because.

 

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