Hope and why I love it

I remember as a child asking my mother for something I really wanted. The second best answer was always “maybe”. “Maybe” soon became my favorite word because it gave me hope. “No” was final, a dead end which led to a young girl’s despair. But “maybe” was something I could handle. It wasn’t “yes” but it wasn’t “no” either. I really didn’t care how long it took to get the final answer. The longer, the better. I let my hope stretch out as far as it could go.

As an adult, even a much older adult, I find myself attached to “maybe” in the same way. Hope. It means that all is not lost. There is still a chance I could get what I want or have a certain outcome. I often hang my hat on it.

Are you someone who believes that if things look bad it means that they will end badly? This is typical and completely normal. But it doesn’t make you feel good. It can lead to depression and a negative approach to life. When things look bad or scary, know that the outcome isn’t necessarily going to be what you imagine. There is always hope. “It isn’t over until the fat lady sings.” (Not very p.c., is it?)

With God all things are possible. I remember hearing about someone who needed a lung – a lung! I immediately thought, Oh, this is really bad. He’s not going to make it. Then it dawned on me that I am very limited in my understanding of what is and what is not possible. I have a human brain. There is still hope because God has the final say. What happened? He got his lung and is alive and well.

Don’t ever decide how things will turn out until they’ve turned out. Hold onto hope until it slips away  and you have to let it go.  Sometimes things don’t work out but sometimes they do. There is a certain mystery in not knowing the outcome. And there is always hope that in the end you will get what you wanted anyway. God bless.

 

Filling up and spilling over

The other grandparents of my newest grandchild are visiting her in Oregon for the first time. She texted me a few pictures. I asked her if her heart was filling up or spilling over. The image came to me at that moment and I really liked it. It suited the situation so well.  Then I started thinking, what else in my life would cause my heart to fill up or spill over? How would you answer that? Here is what I came up with.

When I listen to certain music. Lately I would have to say it would be Christian music, the modern kind, like they play on KLOVE. Some of it is so inspiring and it always connects me to God. Other music, especially certain classical pieces, do the same thing. My all time favorite is Rachmaninoff’s Concerto No. 2 in C Minor. It takes about an hour to listen to the entire piece and always brings me to tears. There is some music that is so beautiful that it hurts. I don’t know how else to explain it. Maybe you have experienced music like that. I hope so.

Hugging my children and grandchildren. When they were babies, my favorite thing to do would be to lay them on top of my chest as they slept. There is something about their heart being so close to mine. It is definitely a spilling over moment.

Hugging my husband, anytime. He makes me feel safe and loved. It doesn’t get any better than that.

Petting my cats while they are in my lap. Loving on my horse. Riding my horse and having a moment of being one creature, moving in complete harmony. It doesn’t happen often, but when it does the feeling is amazing. If you are a horse person, you will know exactly what I am talking about.

Anytime I am with my children, especially if they are both with me, something extremely rare.

Laughing with my sister over something we did years ago.

Singing in church.

I’m sure I have forgotten some very obvious ones. You can think of some. Be aware the next time your heart is filling up or spilling over.  My old drama teacher told me that whenever  I was having one of those awe inspiring moments in life, I should open up all of my senses and take it in. Really experience it, hold onto it and then remember it. They are gifts. Enjoy them and be grateful.  Let your heart fill up and spill over often. It’s good for the soul. God bless.

Thank you, God, no matter what

Every morning I spend about ten minutes with God in prayer. I offer up my requests  and end by saying thank you for the answered ones. Recently I started making Mondays my “Thank you, God” days. I don’t permit myself to ask for anything. I merely think of everything possible I can thank Him for. Throughout the day, no matter what happens, I say “Thank you, God.”

Sound crazy? I understand. But if you try it, you will soon notice that things start changing. The first thing that changes is you – your perspective, your mood. The little irritating stuff that happens becomes less bothersome. Even larger issues take on less significance.

I am not saying it isn’t challenging. It is. It is certainly counter intuitive. You get ready to leave for work only to find that you have a flat tire. Thank you, God? You stub your toe on the corner of the coffee table. Thank you, God? Your washing machine stops working mid-cycle. Thank you, God? You’re in a car accident….. You get the idea. I may be crazy. I just know that it changes me. It makes me trust God more. It convinces me that everything will work out, no matter what it looks like now. My all time favorite movie quote (from the movie The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel) : ” Everything will be alright in the end. If it’s not alright, then it’s not the end.” I love that.

And that’s the key. Trusting that God is there for both the little stuff and the big stuff and the really big stuff. You are not alone. He will see you through it. He is in charge and is working all things together for your good. It takes faith, persistence in your belief, surrender in your need to control and guts.

I am suggesting that you try it. See what it does to you, if it changes you and how. Try it for one day. My goal is to carry it beyond Monday. I’m not there yet. Maybe I never will be, but it’s a start.

You are not thanking God for bringing problems or pain into your life. You are thanking Him in advance for helping you get through it, for letting you grow, for giving you the tools to fix whatever it is (keeping in mind that some things cannot be fixed) and for being your comfort and your guide.

God is there for all those who love Him and want Him to be there. Never doubt that. Sometimes we put ourselves in a bad place, having nothing to do with God. If we ask for help, He will help us. Saying thank you in advance clears a space within you for the guidance and love to come in. And isn’t that something to be thankful for?  God bless.

 

It’s about time

I’ve been sick with bronchitis for the last two weeks. It kept me away from the barn and my horse for nine straight days. It is also the reason I did not write my blog last week. :((

The above phrase popped into my head the other day when I made the decision to go to the barn and exercise my horse. I also wanted her to know that I hadn’t deserted her.  I think about things like that in my spare time. I have no idea if horses even think that way. In any case, I needed to reassure her that I was still around and still her mom. It’s about time you went back to the barn. It’s about time you took care of your horse again.

It’s about time that….

you got your lazy butt off of the couch and participated in life again.

you started tackling some items on your to-do list.

you stopped feeling helpless.

you got back to your bible study group.

you carried your weight around the house.

you felt normal again.

you ran errands that have been piling up.

you wrote your blog!

you let the world know that you’re back!

you gained control over your life again.

I get sick 3-4x a year. I know that sounds like a lot. My doctor isn’t worried. I’m basically pretty healthy. But it bothers me because my very busy life gets put on hold for almost two weeks. Appointments must be re-scheduled, other meet-ups must be cancelled. My husband must do most things around the house. Someone else has to take care of my horse. I lose valuable lesson time. Things don’t get done the way I would like them to.

I’m not in control! Maybe getting sick so often is a gentle reminder that I can survive without being in control for two weeks. The world carries on without my input. I have to depend on others which is also hard for me. I’d much rather do it myself. Sound familiar?

I see commercials on TV with old people being cared for, driven around, cooked for, etc. It makes me cringe. I don’t want to ever be in that position but someday I could be.

“It’s about time”, a common expression. How would you complete it? It’s fun to play with. When I’m not getting things done as I should, I often think of that phrase.

It’s about time to forgive myself for the days on the couch, for not getting everything done, for depending on others, for not being in control. I think I’ll go rest now for a bit. I’m tired. The couch is calling my name……. It’s about time!  :))

Blank screen

I wrote last time about a clean slate for the new year. Is that the same as a blank screen? No, not in my mind. The former refers to a new beginning, a fresh start, a chance for a do-over. A blank screen is what I am currently facing, as I ponder what to write about this week.

Usually ideas are all around me, flooding my brain, vying for attention – “Pick me!” “No, pick me!” Not so much today. I didn’t write a blog the week of Christmas. My head was full of holiday to-do lists. I had no space in there for creativity to bloom, or even bud.

And here I am, trying to come up with a good topic but to my dismay nothing in my brain is raising its hand to be chosen. Writer’s block? The dreaded nemesis for writers. It truly hasn’t happened to me much since I began writing on a regular basis. I’ve been fortunate, I suppose. So what’s up with this? Why now?

I have a theory. I think my brain is overcrowded, thereby preventing ideas from taking form and eventually being expressed. What is the remedy? Clear my head. How? Meditate? Turn off all the distracting noise, both inside and outside my head. Easier said than done.

As writer’s block is a nemesis for the writer, a lack of focus is to almost any endeavor. In my world, that would be while riding my horse.  Not being focused prevents me from experiencing a productive lesson. Absolute concentration is critical to riding, especially in dressage. If you don’t pay attention,  you quickly become a passenger rather than a rider. The horse doesn’t mind but you should. In dressage, allowing your horse to run the show is never a good idea.

What is the nemesis that gets in the way of doing what you love? Distractions, other people, brain chatter, negative self-talk, lack of focus, fatigue, writer’s block?  Solutions: relax, get enough rest, stay focused, eliminate external noise (if possible), pay attention, still your mind, get away to somewhere quiet and peaceful.  Become relentless in achieving your goals. Be determined, single minded.

Creativity is alive and well in all of us. I spent years believing I wasn’t creative at all, until I retired and had the luxury of time and control over my schedule.  I was freed from the many responsibilities I had when I worked. My stress level had plummeted. I’m not suggesting you have to wait until you retire to find your creative side. I believe I’m an exception to the rule. Most people can access their creativity wherever they are in life.

Blank screen? I believe I have filled it up and hopefully given you something to think about. Honor your creativity. Allow it to bubble up to the surface and show you what you are capable of. It’s a soul-filler for sure. Don’t be intimidated by a “blank screen” however that shows up for you. Relax, take a deep breath and watch what happens!  :))

What do you mean I was wrong?

When I was a child my father warned me, “Don’t ever say to someone that you are positive, unless you know 100% that it is true. Nine times out of ten you will be wrong and then be embarrassed and maybe ashamed.” Although I took him very seriously when I was young, as I grew into adulthood I put that advice aside along with many other childhood lessons, believing I had outgrown them. I’m an adult, I know how to live my life.

But oh how it came back to haunt me! As I was telling someone I was positive about something, I would hear my father’s voice in my ear, Be careful.  I said it anyway and sure enough, on many occasions I would be wrong. Embarrassed. Ashamed. Time for some humble pie. What’s that?

The reason I’m writing about this now is yet another experience that reminds me of how flawed I am as a human. It was a barn situation involving me, my trainer and the rest of my barnmates. It was a she said-she did with complaints flying, fingers pointing and no one was happy. I immediately listened to one person, and without hearing anyone else’s side of the story, confronted one of the parties involved as if I knew I was standing on the higher ground. And boy does self-righteousness feel good, right? I backed off a little as I listened to her defend herself. Then I separately listened to another party. She sounded reasonable, although it is hard to say who is telling 100% of the truth.

Well, little miss smarty pants (that would be me), maybe your confrontation was a bit premature, if not unwarranted. I apologized to the person I confronted and listened respectively and with an open mind to the second. I walked away feeling pleased that I had “done my research” and humbled by how easily swayed I had been without listening to all sides. Lesson learned.

It’s so easy to jump to conclusions, believe you are right and act accordingly, even though more time should be taken to learn the truth. We love to be right! We love it even more when we can point it out to others, especially our spouses or partners. There! I’m right and you’re wrong! Hah!  (Time elapses) Wait a minute! How could that be? What do you mean I’m wrong? Prove it! And then they do. Ooops. Red face time.

The next time you find yourself in a situation where you feel certain, positive and self-righteous, take a break. Send your ego away and think about your position. Are you sure that you’re right? Is there something you should do first to clarify? Trust me, it will prevent some foolish arguments, hurt feelings and embarrassment on your part. Surprise, you can be wrong even when you are absolutely certain you are right. That’s only your ego talking and most of the time it’s best not to listen to it.

I’ll bet you thought I was going to write about Thanksgiving, didn’t you? Well I do have this to say, be grateful. No matter where you are in life right now, there is someone else who is worse off than you. Thank God for all you have.  Happy Turkey day! :))

Remember who you are

Yesterday I was deep into my morning prayer. There is so much suffering in the world, I thought to myself. There are so many who are troubled, in crisis or just very, very sad. A close friend of mine just lost a horse she has been working with for over a year. He had become a dear friend. A young woman who is pregnant is waiting to find out if there a health issue which could threaten her child. Someone else is presently not permitted to communicate with her grandchildren who live in another state. A young mother has a child who cannot eat and the doctors are struggling to find out why. These are just some of the people I pray for every day.

And then I heard these words: Remember who you are. The voice in my head (God?) said this to me as I was contemplating the trials that all of us must go through in life. No one’s life is easy or perfect. Remember who you are. The words flooded my mind. And that started me thinking. I am a child of God. What does that mean? It means that I am never alone, no matter what the circumstances are in my life. That yes, suffering is part of this world but there is hope because the next place I go will be devoid of suffering, pain and evil. We must hold onto that, knowing that this life is temporary, and so is the heartache.

God does not prevent all suffering, but he walks with us as we go through it. We just have to reach up for His hand, like we did as children reaching for our earthly father’s hand. It made us feel safe and secure. As a small child I would climb into my father’s lap, putting my head under his chin. I buried myself in his chest. I felt like nothing in the world could ever harm me. He was so big and I was so small. And isn’t that God compared to you?

Believe in Him. Believe in His awesome power to change you, from the inside out. To walk with you when you are troubled or frightened. To lift you up when you have fallen down. Remember who you are.

Love and Marriage

Relationships can be difficult, rewarding, exhausting, joyful, challenging, trying, fulfilling, loving and in my mind, better than two individuals living separate lives.

A friend of mine is struggling in her relationship. This is where Sarah the MFCC (Marriage Family Child Counselor) comes in. It was my almost career but I quit one year shy of my Masters Degree. I decided I didn’t want to listen to people’s problems all day. Now if someone comes to me for advice and sometimes when they don’t, I’m all over it, around it and through it.

I pulled everything out of the proverbial hat that I could think of. I even took notes before the phone call that I knew was coming. I was deeply invested in changing her mind. Did I? I don’t know. Time will tell. I’ve done my part, maybe more than my part and now all I can do is pray and wait. That’s so hard for me. I want to be in her face very day, spouting brilliant bits of wisdom. That sounds annoying, doesn’t it? Because it would be. I know that. But it doesn’t stop me from trying to control the situation. There’s that word again – control.

No matter how badly I want her relationship to work, in the end it will be her decision, not mine. I can only stand by as a friend and hope that she has weighed all of the options carefully and thought everything through, considering the consequences above all.

It frustrates me that my carefully chosen, well intentioned words may end up on the floor, only to be swept up and tossed into the waste basket. Nothing more to do here but be a friend.

I tried to explain that relationships (especially marriage) have an element of ebb and flow – changing, growing, ups and downs, challenges and even crises occur but that only means it’s time to go to work, as a team. That’s when you bring out the big guns. You use everything in your arsenal to fight for what matters most. It’s not the time to quit, not because things get difficult. Life is difficult.

Unpleasant? Painful? Out of your comfort zone? Not what you thought your relationship would be? No one ever told you things could get ugly, scary, messy and too embarrassing to share with anyone on the outside? Yes, to all of the above. But when you get through it, you come out on the other side stronger and wiser, both as individuals and as a couple.

Can most relationship problems be fixed with help, patience, love, forgiveness, courage and faith? Yes, again. There are exceptions but only a few.

It may be sad but it has taken me most of my life to figure this out and actually put it into practice. But then some people never do.

Here’s to solving problems, being patient with one another, forgiving and loving. There was only one perfect man and that was Jesus. The rest of us are flawed. We do our best. God bless.

 

When your aging mind sabotages your self confidence

This summer I spent two occasions watching different grandchildren of mine swim and play in a large pool. I loved watching them. I shared with them how I used to swim as a child and young adult. I knew all of the strokes – the crawl, sidestroke, breaststroke, backstroke, the butterfly. I used to be able to swim underwater up and back, a full lap, in just one breath. Since then I have had no real interest in swimming, until these two occasions, when I was watching them swim. It struck a chord in me. So a few days ago, upon returning from the barn, I announced to my husband that I was going swimming. I’m sure he thought I had lost my mind. I never go swimming! But he politely said, “Okay.” I didn’t see his face. I should have. It might have been funny.

I put on my bathing suit which I haven’t allowed anyone to see me in in years. (Getting older will do that to you, especially if you are a woman.) I got in the pool slowly, then stood at the end preparing myself for at least one full lap of the Australian crawl. I was actually excited. Then I hesitated. “What if I have forgotten how? What if I get half-way across and run out of breath? What if I drown?” I’m no longer that young girl who could swim all strokes with grace and style. I’m an “old” woman now. And then it hit me. I’ve lost my confidence here. It’s a direct result of aging. I saw it in my mother and have seen it in my sister. As we age, we often lose confidence in our abilities and sometimes for no good reason. It’s a tragic by-product of getting older.

“What else has it stopped me from doing?” I wondered. I’m not as confident dancing as I used to be. Wait a minute! I ride horses for Pete’s sake! What’s wrong with you, woman? I took a quick breath and headed for the opposite end of the pool. A bit awkward at first, I soon got my rhythm and made it to the other end without drowning. I was out of breath, though. That could be fixed with practice, I tell myself. Now for the big test – swimming under water to the other end. I took a deep breath and dove under. I swam as fast as I could. I just made it to the other end with zero breath to spare. This, too, would improve with practice. I remembered that twenty years ago I was diagnosed with adult asthma. That might have something to do with it.  The last thing I did before exiting the pool was the sidestroke and I managed a full lap before getting tired or dying.

So here is my point. If you are over 50, don’t let your mind convince you that things you used to be good at are now impossible, even if slightly modified. Don’t believe you can’t do it anymore.

I’m not talking about some crazy stunt you could get away with in your 20s but probably not so much in your 50s or 60s. I’m not suggesting that you do anything dangerous or potentially life threatening. Try to recognize when your inner voice is out to intimidate rather than encourage. That it’s trying to get you to play it safe, stay in your comfort zone, rather than inspire you to do something you’ve always wanted to do or do again. Our aging mind can hold us back rather than cheer us on. Don’t listen!

There are certainly things made for younger people to do that we should give up as we get older, but not everything falls into that category, certainly not swimming. Live your life. Enjoy it. Participate. Don’t hold onto the rocks on the bank of the river as it rushes by you. Let go!  :))

 

My new favorite word

On the night of his arrest, Jesus sat at the table with his disciples for the last supper. Toward the end of his time with them, he said the following.

(John 15) “I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more. You have already been pruned and purified by the message I have given you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me.”

“Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.”

“I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love. When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow! This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you.”

In John 15 ( and I have not included all of it), Jesus says the word remain ten times. It is that important. This is how I use it. When I am having a bad day or when things are not going according to Sarah’s plan, I try to remember, remain in Jesus. It brings extraordinary comfort to me. It’s like having loving arms there to embrace you whenever you need them. Think about it, feeling alone when you are frightened or sad is the worst possible emotion. Remembering that Jesus wants you to remain in him and be close, changes everything for the better.

You are not alone. There is someone who has your back while holding you in the tenderest of embraces. Do you remember being held as a child? Feeling then that nothing could possibly harm you in this protected position? Jesus wants you to have that feeling whenever you need it. “Remain in me,” he said. “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)

Remain. One word that holds so much power, so much comfort and so much promise. “Remain in me,” he said to them. He told them that he would be leaving soon but that they were not losing him. All they had to do was to remain in him.

Remember this word – R E M A I N. Imprint it on your brain. Tattoo it onto your heart. Think of it often. Remain in His love. It will change you. It will lift you up. It will bring you joy. God bless.