The right time to get the most out of life.

Today, I am grateful for the past year. There were so many good times and so many sad times, but I reflect on the beautiful words of Ecclesiastes 3:1-13, from The Message:

There’s an opportune time to do things, a right time for everything on the earth:

A right time for birth, and another for death, a right time to plant and another to reap, a right time to kill and another to heal, a right time to destroy and another to construct, a right time to cry and another to laugh, a right time to lament and another to cheer, a right time to make love and another to abstain, a right time to embrace and another to part, a right time to search and another to count your losses, a right time to hold on and another to let go, a right time to rip out and another to mend, a right time to shut up and another to speak up, a right time to love and another to hate, a right time to wage war and another to make peace.

But in the end, does it really make any difference what anyone does? I’ve had a good look at what God has given us to do — busywork, mostly. True, God made everything beautiful in itself and in its time — but He’s left us in the dark so that we can never know what God is up to, whether He’s coming or going. I’ve decided that there’s nothing better to do than go ahead and have a good time and get the most we can out of life. That’s it — eat, drink, and make the most of your job. It’s God’s gift.

I am grateful that even though I don’t know what tomorrow holds, God knows, and He is holding my hand.

I am grateful that I’ve been able to carry so many memories of Mom with me all year long. I am afraid that I will begin to lose those memories, so please forgive me when I continually write about her. I’ve begun to lose memories of my girls and my grandchildren, and I’m holding on for dear life to the ones I have left.

I am grateful for the time I was able to spend with Mom and Dad in January before she passed away.

I am grateful for the many friends and family who joined us in February to celebrate her life.

I am grateful for all of the trips Dad has made to Kansas City since Mom went to heaven, time that is so precious to me. Priceless…

I am grateful for the temporary reconciliation that took place with my daughter that allowed me to grasp a few more memories with her and with my grandchildren.

I am grateful for a year of fun times with a group of kids and a great choir director who gave me the opportunity to play the piano again.

I am grateful for a year of beneficial counseling that has been instrumental in my healing.

I am grateful for occasional visits from friends who took time to see where we live and spend time with us.

I am grateful for letters, cards, texts, phone calls, and emails from friends and family who want to stay in touch.

I am grateful for 12 friends from The Gables who play Bingo with me every Tuesday evening. They have enhanced my life and added another layer of fun to this adventure.

I am grateful for the opportunity to drive to Colorado and spend 24 hours with my daughter and her beautiful family before they moved further away.

I am grateful for an amazing job that I love, for employers and co-workers whom I love, and for the joy that I have every morning to go to work. Find a career that you love and you’ll never work a day in your life…it’s true.

I am grateful for my church home, for my pastor, for the relationships that have been formed because of church, and for the opportunities we’ve had to serve.

I am grateful for Abbie, Ian, Fabien, and Tara, my four piano students and friends. They teach me so much more than I could ever teach them.

I am grateful for a home, a vehicle to drive, a new life insurance policy that I purchased on my own, and a sense of safety and security.

I am grateful for my grandchildren who have made me smile, laugh, and cry, all at the same time, and grateful for the occasional pictures that came in the mail. And I am grateful for a DVD that I am saving to watch tomorrow.

I am grateful for my brothers and sister, aunts and uncles, and my cousins who have hugged me, prayed for me, supported me, cared about me, and didn’t abandon me when I needed them most.

I am grateful for Sam. God knew. God healed. God made beauty out of ashes. God brought this man into my life and created a relationship that is built on a solid foundation. He is my best friend, and I am so grateful that we are walking this journey together.

And I am grateful for the discipline, grace, mercy, and unconditional love of my Father. I am grateful for the growth in my relationship with Him this past year…Oh Love that will not let me go, I rest my weary soul in Thee. I give Thee back the life I owe, that in Thine ocean depths its flow may richer fuller be.

And finally, the best song I could possibly think of to end this year is one by Michael Gungor.  God has taken the experiences of this year and with the pain, the joy, the loss, the gain, He is making life sweeter, richer, more beautiful, with every passing moment. I LOVE THIS SONG.

You Make Beautiful Things

Happy New Year’s Eve.

A bitter spirit is a poor companion for a renewed heart. – Charles Spurgeon

 

Trust the past to God’s mercy, the present to God’s love, and the future to God’s providence. – Augustine

 

I am grateful for the opportunity to pray for an adopted grandchild to get to know and love this next year. Maybe, just maybe, God will allow.

I am grateful for the beauty of a swarm of black birds.

 

I am grateful for time spent with Dad and Dwight over the weekend.

I am grateful for a job to go to every day so that I do not have the opportunity to put myself into a fetal position and wallow in self-pity on these types of days.

I am grateful for the simple pleasure of counting jet trails at sunset.

 

I am grateful for a phone call from Katrina last night and grateful that she allowed me to hear Parker and Reilly’s voices.

I am grateful for the handful of Christmas cards we received over the weekend.

I am grateful for the beautiful surprise of seeing Delores on Friday evening.

I am grateful for the simple phrase, “Get over it,” that we heard from Joel Osteen on Sunday morning while getting ready for church. 

I am grateful for this simple message that went along with his three word phrase:  A bitter root produces bitter fruit.

 

Your future is not bigger than God, nor are your limitations larger than His grace.
Your faith in Him means your future is with Him.

 

I am grateful for memories of Delores and Mom collecting miniatures for their boxes.

 

I am grateful for the character trait I inherited from Mom – the strong desire to be needed.

I am grateful for this funny youtube video that Dwight shared with us on Friday evening:

Old MacDonald Had a Deformed Farm

I am grateful to have seen my Dad in a new sweater. 

I am grateful that I have an outlet to be grateful so that the bitter root within dies and I can work on getting over it and live the message of Romans 12.

And I am grateful for a new macaroni and cheese recipe that was very, very good, if I say so myself:

 

Macaroni and Cheese

1 16 oz. package of macaroni noodles, cooked in salt water

At least a pound of medium cheddar cheese

About half a pound of muenster

1 pint of heavy whipping cream

3 eggs, beaten up in the whipping cream

About 1/2 stick of butter (butter is better than margarine)

Boil the macaroni until tender. Taste it and if it’s too salty, just rinse the noodles under running water in a colander.

Melt a couple of tablespoons of butter in the bottom of a large casserole dish, and put one layer of noodles in. Layer about half the cheddar and muenster and a few pats of butter on top. Then add another layer of noodles, more cheese, and a few more pats of butter. Mix the eggs in the whipping cream and pour it over the entire casserole. Dot with any additional butter on top.

Bake uncovered at 375 for about 20 minutes. Check to see if it’s done by sliding the back of a spoon down one side of the casserole. It should be congealed, not runny at all. If it’s still runny, continue to bake and check every 5 minutes until you get that custardy consistency. Serve it hot because it’s not nearly as good if you let the cheese cool too much.

 
Romans 12:14-21, New Living Translation

14 Bless those who persecute you. Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them. 15 Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all!

17 Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. 18 Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.

19 Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say,

“I will take revenge;
    I will pay them back,”
    says the Lord.

20 Instead,

“If your enemies are hungry, feed them.
    If they are thirsty, give them something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap
    burning coals of shame on their heads.”

21 Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good.

 

 

 

I am grateful for miles without reception. A perfect opportunity to talk, or listen…

 

I am grateful for a morning to get things ready to go to Hutchinson this afternoon.

I am grateful for the smell of fresh baked banana bread.

I am grateful for a warm afternoon to ride in the vehicle and enjoy the winter scenery outside the window.

I am grateful for a clean windshield.

I am grateful for new pants that are very comfortable.

I am grateful for a kind UPS delivery man who delivers to the office and to the house.

I am grateful that I am not hooked on daytime TV anymore. Watching those talk shows and court TV shows for even a few minutes now makes me very grateful I no longer fill my mind with the content.

I am grateful for the anticipation of planning Abbie’s birthday party next month. Another huge hole that God is filling in another way that I could have never imagined…

I am grateful that New Year’s Eve will be spent babysitting for three little boys.

I am grateful for lotion for my dry hands.

I am grateful for a McDonalds iced tea this afternoon.

And I am grateful for trash service and the guys who perform this thankless job.

H.O.P.E. = Hold on, pain ends.

When I first began counseling, I was asked to read the book, “Truefaced – Trust God and Others with Who You Really Are.” It was all about my adult survival skills that included wearing a mask to hide my true self, and the book talked about exactly what I had done my whole adult life. I had chosen to try to please God every step of the way, rather than trust God every step of the way. And because of that, I failed, over and over again. I was never good enough, and no matter how hard I tried, I always felt like a failure. Early on, I began wearing masks. I put on these masks to show the world how Christian I was, how happy I was, how good I was, but on the inside, I was a miserable mess. I am so grateful for this Navigator’s book that was so enlightening and was like a slap in the face – that slap in the face was a good thing.

I am grateful that God directed me to my counselor who has been with me, with us, every step of the way. We were just talking on Christmas Eve about how she has such a way of getting me to see my issues, my sins, my shortcomings, without making me feel completely worthless and condemned. She leads me to realize my tendencies and encourages me to do the right thing, to rely on God, to TRUST God rather than hide behind my old masks. She has been instrumental in holding a mirror up for me to see my true face, and to bare my true self to the world, and she has led me to a place where I can say with confidence, “I’m okay with who I am now.”

All that to say that I am grateful for my devotion this morning:

I am the gift that continuously gives – bounteously, with no strings attached. Unconditional love is such a radical concept that even My most devoted followers fail to grasp it fully. Absolutely nothing in heaven or on earth can cause Me to stop loving you. You may feel more loved when you are performing according to your expectations. But My Love for you is perfect; therefore it is not subject to variation. What does vary is your awareness of My loving Presence.

When you are dissatisfied with your behavior, you tend to feel unworthy of My Love. You may unconsciously punish yourself by withdrawing from Me and attributing the distance between us to My displeasure. Instead of returning to Me and receiving My Love, you attempt to earn My approval by trying harder. All the while, I am aching to hold you in My everlasting arms, to enfold you in My Love. When you are feeling unworthy or unloved, come to Me. Then ask for receptivity to My unfailing Love.

I’ve thrown myself headlong into your arms—I’m celebrating your rescue.
I’m singing at the top of my lungs, I’m so full of answered prayers.
– Psalm 13:5 (The Message)

I am grateful to have remembered this video last night on the way home. Watching this little girl made me think of Parker and Zak, or Reilly and Zak. I hope they had the best Christmas ever…

Sweetest little bedtime song – You Belong to Me.

I just can’t quit listening to her sweet little voice.

I am grateful for Marlene’s kind words yesterday… Hang on. It gets a little easier.

I cried a lot yesterday – sometimes visibly, but constantly throughout the day on the inside. It has carried over some today. I’m still working on not letting my emotions get the best of my mood/tude. I can so easily slip into depression and dwell on the sadness and loss. Which is why, although I am EXTREMELY grateful for a DVD I received in the mail on Christmas Eve from Parker and Reilly and their parents, I cannot watch it just yet. I need to be alone where I can just cry for as long as I want.

I am grateful for little shiny confetti that has fallen off the artwork that was in the envelope with the DVD, and for a beautiful one-of-a-kind signature that spells P-A-R-K-E-R.

I am grateful for acceptance.

I am grateful that I was able to talk to Steve yesterday. He sounded so good.

I am grateful for cardinals and hummingbirds and bluejays and finches and orioles and all of the memories of Mom and Dad feeding their birds. I think I will save some money next month and make that a birthday present for myself – a bird feeder, so that I can feed Mom’s birds. It’s been quite a while since I last saw a cardinal.

I am grateful for memories of getting a parakeet for Christmas when I was a little girl.

I am grateful for memories of our canary that we had in Eagle Pass. She sang the most beautiful songs in the mornings although she drove our cat, Topo, wild.

I am grateful for Dwight’s email yesterday, another reason for my tears. Here is part of his beautiful gratefuls:

“On my very messy desk, laying right in the middle, are a few sets of tubing made for use with oxygen for patients. They are left over from the supplies for Mom. I am grateful for the daily reminder of her struggles to breathe, and the look on her face when she would feel that oxygen enter her body.

I am grateful for a job that involves helping to provide that oxygen for people to breathe. For over 30 years, I have made the comment that if I wanted an assembly line job, I would have moved to Detroit. Now, I sort of have an assembly line job. It might not be what I dreamed of as the “perfect” job. However, it does seem to be a good fit. On the days that it does not seem to be fitting as well, I am grateful for the desire to change me so that I fit better, rather than trying to change a large corporation to fit me. That simple change in perspective is what prevents the majority of my co-workers from enjoying their day at work.

I am grateful that people bring their children shopping at Target. While working there last Sunday, I had the opportunity to watch parents stressing over some fairly idiotic last minute Christmas shopping, and also watching kids who were completely oblivious to that stress. I chose to focus on those kids, and loved getting smiles from them.

In an hour, we will be leaving to go spend the day with my Dad. I am grateful to have that luxury, and opportunity.

While spending the day with Dad, we will be surrounded by reminders of Mom, and I am grateful for each and every one of them.

In case you can’t tell, I miss Mom. I look forward to one day teasing her again, about having two pairs of mismatched slippers.”

I am grateful that I have memories of shopping for Christmas clothes for Anissa, Andrae and Annistan last year, sending their Mommy pictures in the store so I would get the right outfits. It was hard to walk past the children’s department this year, and I don’t think it will ever get easier. But I am grateful for the memories.

And I am grateful for sugar cookies.

Get in here!

Those are words that I miss today. 

Knocking on the door, waiting with anticipation for the sounds of those footsteps almost running to open it, and then seeing Mom’s face and eyes sparkle as she growled/squealed/demanded, “Get in here!” followed by her attempt to “squeeze our guts out,” as she and Dad always described it.  It was always such a wonderful feeling to “come home” on Christmas Day. I miss her decorations, her spread of food covering the table adorned with the signature tablecloth, using the china for Christmas dinner, her insistence that the family get together and making sure that everyone was welcome at their table, relish plates, and although I never ate them, her cinnamon rings that she had to make every year, her peanut brittle that was sometimes a little burnt but always made with love, and even though we never had a fireplace, I miss her dryer lint egg carton gifts she gave to everyone who could use them.

I am grateful for memories of this day.

I am grateful that our family is a game-playing family, and I am grateful for memories of SkipBo, Oh No 99, Compatability, the Name Game, Rook, Dominoes, Curses, Golf, Phase 10, and Bananagrams.

I am grateful for Pegues gold coins that Dad always gave to Angela and I. 

I am grateful for being able to imagine my grandchildren’s excitement on Christmas morning now that they are a little older.

I am grateful for reenactments of the Christmas story by the girls when they were little.

i am grateful for Christmas sweaters with cardinals on them.

i am grateful for the small handful of Christmas cards that we have received this year, and for the joy it gives me inside to see “Sam and Rhonda Scofield” on the envelopes. Mom would have written about it in her 2013 Christmas family poem, I’m sure.

I am grateful to have spent an hour and a half with 17 three year olds last night while their parents heard the message of Christmas. 

I am grateful to have spent six hours at church last night volunteering during the services and seeing so many people spend their Christmas Eve in worship.

I am grateful that my brother and his family are with my Dad today.

I am grateful for a quiet day to grieve and reminisce.

Merry Christmas, Mom, Dad, Karissa, Katrina, and the rest of my family. I miss you and wish I could squeeze your guts out today. 

 

Again! Again!

Yesterday, we ventured out in the ice and snow to go to church, and I am so glad we did. I wasn’t sure I was going to enjoy the message, knowing that our pastor would not be delivering it, and knowing that the message was going to be taken from the movie, “Elf” starring Will Ferrell. I just couldn’t envision how you could get a message about the real meaning of Christmas from that movie…

Like I said, I am so glad we risked the drive on the ice.

Steven Blair based his message on Galatians 5:22-23, But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!” and Luke 18:15-17, One day some parents brought their little children to Jesus so he could touch and bless them. But when the disciples saw this, they scolded the parents for bothering him. Then Jesus called for the children and said to the disciples, “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of God belongs to those who are like these children. I tell you the truth, anyone who doesn’t receive the Kingdom of God like a child will never enter it.”

and on the three rules of the North Pole:

  1. Treat every day like it’s Christmas.
  2. There’s room for everyone on the nice list.
  3. The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear.

The message was about bringing the joy and the happiness and the hope back into Christmas, and becoming child-like in our faith once again.  He showed a few clips from the movie that made everyone laugh, but I loved the quote he used from G.K. Chesterton’s book “Orthodoxy:”

“Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, “Do it again”; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again” to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.” 

Just thinking that God is saying, “Again! Again!” like Parker, Anissa and Andrae always said after I spun them around in circles, makes me smile. Just imagining that He takes complete pleasure in creating a sunrise every morning and the beautiful moonrise in the evenings and in making each daisy individually, makes me want to cuddle in His lap and feel so secure and content, knowing the Creator of the world is MY Savior and Lord, and that He enjoys presenting this beautiful world to me each day.

In the middle of the message, Steven shared this window sticker from the parking lot:

And he modified it at the end of the message:

   more,     less.

I am grateful for a wonderful message about sharing the Light of the World at Christmas and every other day, too.

I am grateful for super soft socks and really great Bath & Body Works coupons that enabled us to get big bottles of lotion for our Christmas gifts for Bingo tonight.

I am grateful for memories of giving and receiving Lifesavers books at school from Christmas gift exchanges.

I am grateful for those memories of spinning Parker, Anissa, and Andrae around in circles, making us all dizzy. Oh, how I loved their giggles and insistence that we do it again and again and again.

I am grateful for memories of this time of the year when we spent two weeks at Grandma and Grandpa’s house during Christmas break, and my girls would wake up in the morning, their hair all messy, sitting at the glass table all warm in their footy pajamas, waiting on Grandma to make them snowman pancakes.

I am grateful for a young woman who pulled up beside me while I was waiting in the McDonald’s drive-thru this morning, got out of her SUV, and asked me if I would like these two McDonald’s gift cards – she doesn’t go to McDonald’s very often and decided to give them to someone else. She handed them to me and said, “Merry Christmas!” got back in her vehicle, and drove away. I began to cry.

I am grateful for a phone call with Dad last night, and for being reminded of the memories of Mom’s Christmas poem letters that were always created with love. She was so good at writing the year’s activities in rhyme. I saved them, and now I wish I had them to read again.

I am grateful that I have a Dad who loves to read.

I am grateful with anticipation for tomorrow evening. Sam and I will volunteer in the nursery for the 7 pm service, and Sam will volunteer as an usher for the 9 pm and 11 pm services while I warm up with my choir in order to lead the music for the 11 pm service. I am grateful for the opportunity to serve at church in a new capacity. Last year, we handed out candles for two services, and this year, we will be privileged to hold babies so their parents can attend the Christmas Eve service. God knew what I was missing, and He is providing a way…He is so good to me.

I could so easily slip into a depressed state this week, but I want to focus on the blessings in my life rather than the losses. I want to remember that the tiny Baby that came to save the world, saved ME. I want to Elf more and Grinch less.

A Joy that’s shared, is a Joy made double. – English Proverb

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Today, I am grateful for Reilly Joy Caldwell. She is three years old today and a most beautiful little Christmas angel. Her name is perfect for her – she is pure joy. Such a happy little soul, and so full of life.

I do not know her very well, but when I talk to her mom on the phone, Reilly can almost always be heard in the background with a delightful shrill scream. She screams at just about everything, I think.

My favorite memory of Reilly took place in July when we went to Colorado to help the kids pack for their move. I spent the night at the house and was privileged to put Reilly to bed on Saturday evening. As I quietly walked out of her darkened room, I heard this very sweet, tiny voice say, “I love you forever!” I never want to forget that sound…

Happy birthday, sweet Reilly Joy. Ama loves you so, so much.

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I am grateful for the smell of Kirkland’s. I wish I could permanently afix that smell underneath my nose.
I am grateful for a woman who waved us into her parking spot this morning so that we wouldn’t drive right by it and miss front row parking.
I am grateful for cornbread.
I am grateful for a fire in the fireplace while it is icing over outside.
I am grateful for a wonderful Christmas party last night with Sam’s employees.
I am grateful for jeans, a soft sweater, two pair of socks, and a pair of boots to keep me warm today.
I am grateful for people who are kind and think the best of their family members.
I am grateful for little ones who wear Santa hats and hide behind their mom’s legs when they are embarrassed because we notice.
I am grateful for young adults who are working their way through school and have learned some valuable life lessons early in life. 
I am grateful for people who give generously to others.
And I am grateful for cable TV on a day like today. But if there were no cable TV, I would be grateful for books. I’m still grateful for books.
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