Joy in the Journey

11 Dec

Ever spent a week or more traveling with your kids over summer vacation? Amid the many, “Are we there yet?” “I have to go” and “When are we going to be home?” conversations of travel it is no wonder so many parents feel they need a vacation to recover from their family vacation. I recall summer trips to an amusement park with my family. Mom would plan well in advance and sew matching outfits for each of us. Her theory was that it would be easier to keep track of her large brood if we all looked. alike. I don’t ever recall getting separated from them so she may have been on to something…however,
The need for conformity sometimes overshadows the joy that is found in experiencing the journey. There is that sense of security in submission to conformity. Yet, handing over the control of life choices comes at the price of independent thinking. Every action has a reaction all part of the orchestrated plan to reach a defined goal. If you–or I, agree 100% with that desired outcome then all is good and well.
It’s easy to be part of the cultural norm, to follow blindly as sheep are apt to do. Have you ever wondered why humanity in God’s word is compared to sheep? It’s because sheep are dumb followers. Without someone to follow sheep will wander off a cliff. For years I identified with the collective group of sheep. Believing if I did the right things, dressed the right way, etc. it would be pleasing to God. Finding myself thrust outside that fold was devastating. It wasn’t long before I found someone to follow. I was back (or should I say baaa.) inside a fold of a different kind.
Several decades later and I find myself alone. Sadly my life choices fail to meet the standards of some “folds”. My expectations of the fold mentality have somewhat diminished. The journey is all I have. Those who travel on my same path and getting from point A to point B in my travels is up to me–choosing to enjoy as much as possible of each day of this journey. That continues to be my hope for the coming year. Travel well.

Life is like a Box of Crayons

28 Nov

No matter your age there is nothing quite like opening a box of new crayons and spend time enhancing the pages of a new coloring book. Wouldn’t it be great if discovering your purpose in life was as easy as selecting the right crayon? Most of us started out like a box of new crayons…bright, whole and sharp. Unlike crayons we are not labeled with clues as to our purpose. Brick red, sky blue a host of yellows from buttercup to saffron.

Tightly clutched in eager fingers causes some of the favorite colors to weakened and break. Others after finding their way to the floor may be stepped on and added to the broken pile. The broken pile is the death sentence in the life of the crayon. No one seems eager to use those coloring implements that require the extra effort of removing the wrapper in order to be used. Attempting to use a “built in” sharpener that is included in some boxes is also problematic due to the shortened condition of the crayon. Somehow as the points wear down the novelty wears off.

There are now a vast number of “extra” colors. Forget the primary 8 colors originally sold in 1903, or the secondary and tertiary colors in the box of 48 from my school days. Crayons now come in a host of unique shades. (there is even a Crayola crayon color called INCHWORM)

Over the years, surprisingly, there have been relatively few name changes, “Flesh” one of the original 48 was changed to PEACH. “Prussian Blue” became MIDNIGHT and “Indian Red” became CHESTNUT. Regardless of the name there seem to be a certain percentage of colors that for whatever reason remained in the back of the box unused.

Feeling like a crayon is an apt description of my life. Some days I feel sharp, bright, alert and ready to get started on a project or two. Sometimes I feel squeezed, pressured and ready to snap while on others I may feel worn down but satisfied–a sense of accomplishment at a job well done. There are crayons with names that are confusing–did you need BLUE VIOLET or VIOLET BLUE? Much like the diagnoses of Fibromyalgia, since it encompasses nerve, joint and muscle. (Or misleading, like those students surprised to discover the crayon labeled Indian Red was named for the soil in India and not a commentary on Native American skin tones.)

Friends, don’t judge everyone by what you see on the surface. Just like that box of crayons there are nuances, complexities and diversities in every soul, if given the chance. Remember, no one wants to be discarded or “left in the box” Take the time to experience all the colors life has to offer. May the sunset of your life be a vivid reminder of living and loving the journey.

Choosing Life…

28 Nov

Originally posted on makingreatime:

Life, in the eyes of a medical professional, is determined by beats and breaths. This is true wheather the patient is a newborn babe starting out or a loved one taking their final breaths after a long and happy life. Pro-life and Pro-choice supporters can argue their views on when life begins. But most will agree when it comes to life’s final hours there is a great difference between having a life and living a life.

Living is in part what one chooses to do with the span of time between that first lusty breath and that final feeble gasp. Recently, a 29 year old female made the decision to die on her own terms. Facing an abbreviated life from a terminal disease she chose to live her final year without treatment. She made national news by announcing she had chosen to choreograph her own final breath. The date was…

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The Four Little Tears

28 Nov

The day dawned bright and beautiful. The one day we set aside to offer thanks for our numerous blessings. Arriving at my daughters home anxious to see my precious grandchildren, I crept into the room adjoining the living room. Observing the pair I waited for them to notice me. The smiles and exuberance was worth the wait. “Happy Thanksgiving, Nana!” they chorused, arms spread wide for hugs. Little man returned for a second squeeze.

Having been warned that my daughter’s household was a bit under the weather I didn’t know how long the celebration would last. Excited to be seated at the tables end I observed my grandson as he contemplated the fare placed before him. After attempting a bite or two he paused, clearly not interested in the food, yet not wanting to leave.the table His gaze returned again and again as if to say, “Don’t leave, Nana.” Finally mommy suggested he might need to take a rest. Turning to me I was saddened to see his eyes well up with unshed tears.

Reaching out to me for a hug, my Nana heart melted. There, on his cheeks, were four little tears quietly making their way down his face. Encouraging him to come sit on my lap I held him several long moments, rocking side to side. His willingness to leave the table and take a nap testifying his fatigue he made his way to his bedroom. All that remained were the four little tears that dampened my shoulder.

It is much later as I ponder this, my own heart breaks. Yes, I did get to spend a bit more time with my grandson before leaving; I could not erase the image of his saddened face from earlier. How many times have I broken your heart God when time or convenience have interrupted my quiet time with You. I can only imagine the holy anticipation of shared time between Heavenly Father and child–only to have it cut short or abandoned.

Social Media has passed around a phrase the past few weeks. “Only in America do we trample others for a sale one day after being thankful for what we already have.” Do you fall into this category? I have been so very blessed. Yet have I shown an excitement in anticipation of spending time with You? Lord You patiently wait, knowing Your time will come–at a cost. I imagine in my heart the tears You shed at the tomb of Lazarus resembled those left on my shoulder.

My friends I trust you have had a blessed Thanksgiving. Did you over indulge on scrumptious food, share the excitement of a football game or two? Amid tears of laughter or joy, and maybe a few shed for those loved ones no longer here to share, I hope you have taken inventory of your blessings.

As you travel along your journey my friends and fellow travelers, take time to notice the beauty around you. Refuse to allow pettiness and opinions of others ruin a single minute of your day. Should this prove to be a challenge I suggest you make thanks giving become a daily habit. At a loss for where to start? How about gratitude for those who protect and serve and work your way from there.

Live loving the Journey my friends. May your heart remain tender and attentive that you not be so hasty as to miss the tears shed for you.

Choosing Life…

25 Nov

Life, in the eyes of a medical professional, is determined by beats and breaths. This is true wheather the patient is a newborn babe starting out or a loved one taking their final breaths after a long and happy life. Pro-life and Pro-choice supporters can argue their views on when life begins. But most will agree when it comes to life’s final hours there is a great difference between having a life and living a life.

Living is in part what one chooses to do with the span of time between that first lusty breath and that final feeble gasp. Recently, a 29 year old female made the decision to die on her own terms. Facing an abbreviated life from a terminal disease she chose to live her final year without treatment. She made national news by announcing she had chosen to choreograph her own final breath. The date was set and after saying her good-byes, she quietly left this world.
Reading many comments on countless articles, before and after her death, left me wondering. No, I am not an advocate for –or against those states providing this death with dignity statute. I am also not a 29 year old cancer patient facing a death sentence.
Some say her decision was selfish, others applaud her actions. She chose to live in the short life span she had and end that life on a day of her choosing. Her actions define clearly the difference between life and living.

Finding myself facing one of life’s challenging change points–in no way near a comparison to what Brittany Maynard faced…I find myself wondering if my current life path will leave a legacy. No, I’m not suicidal, just taking inventory. Am I truly living or am I just alive? This question was posed to me yesterday as I was being examined by a new doctor.

After baring my back in order to listen to my lungs he paused. I assumed he may have been warming the stethoscope so as not to place the icy device against my warm flesh. He was not…he was reading my newest tattoo. Turning to look me in the eye he responded, “‘Live Loving the Journey’ (what is now inked on my back) That is a very good philosophy to have. Let us hope this evaluation will allow you to do just that.”

There was a feeling of peace as the exam continued. Much later his query returned…discovery came to me slowly. After years of role playing through dysthymic relationships, my new life philosophy emerged. I gambled, and took a risk in order to learn how to feel…to live being real for perhaps the first time. Was it the best decision? I will never know. What I do know is what it feels like to share passion, to listen without words and how to let go.

Time to take the emotional training wheels off. I’m better having memories of one genuine relationship than to have countless, faceless, meaningless ones. Even if it means for now my heart feels wounded. Learning to feel takes energy and action and yes, is not without pain. Feeling is the key and a giant leap forward on my journey.

So for now…Walls up, heart a bit battle worn and alone but still living the journey and learning to love.

Too Hot to Handle

28 Oct

Recently I burned my hand while reaching for a very HOT curling iron. Some how I managed to grab the ceramic barrel instead of the handle. Leaving behind a palmful of skin for my efforts. In that moment a host of “home remedies” flashed across my mind…I remembered my mom saying to put butter on a burn. Now I love real butter and enjoy it on a variety of foods but somehow it just didn’t seem the right thing to do. Aloe is a natural wonder for burns…but only if it is available. Then I recalled the flour fix, and grabbed a handful of the white powder holding it tight in my fingers as long as I could stand. Rinsed in ice water I expected to see my pealing flesh. To my astonishment I had not a single blister. My palm was red and tender, as were my fingers, but not even one blister. What have I learned beyond the obvious? Some may say I must have desensitized my hand so the burn didn’t hurt. But let me tell you, if not for the “little ears” present I would have exhausted my vocabulary of every word of lament as a result of the burn. As I examine my hand I can sense where the blistered flesh had been. Yet beyond that. there was little to show for my blunder.
Now I had a choice to make. I could either learn from my experience or choose to never again use the implement or anything resembling what caused the pain. Sounds crazy right? My closed minded friends might argue their point that life is always BLACK or WHITE with no room to grow and change. It was not the device that caused my injury–it was my distraction. Life is filled with distractions. It is only by learning how to handle those hot topics that we grow. Mere avoidance, head in the sand, mentalities do little more than add to an already distracted mind. The journey is so much more enjoyable when faced head on full throttle. I know I do.
And friends, yes, I still use the offending hair care device. Each time I do it is a reminder to handle those hot situations with care. My journey continues as I live loving the journey.

The Shattered Jar

28 Oct

There has been an illustration about time management shared for many years. It involves a large pickle jar and a variety of items that fill it up: rocks, gravel and sand. And much debate over each addition as to whether it filled the jar.
The lesson learned is to put the most important things in first (big rocks) while letting the rest filter through. I have even used this concept while teaching. Contemplating this philosophy today I think the concept needs revisiting–and possibly revising.
I have often felt like my pickle jar was all used up with no room to take in anything. The obvious remedy was to change some previously made life choices. How to do this without upending the whole jar? Take out one thing and rearrange the remainder add something new. It is all a game of trial and error–choices and risks.
What games of chance are you playing with your life? Are you mixed up in something that needs pulled out of your jar? In need of changing some life paths? Is your pickle jar too full or ready to spill over? Maybe your life course, like mine. has been ripped apart to the point you need a brand new jar to start over. Shattering the jar of conformity and legalistic teaching I had previously followed was my new beginning. Making wiser choices I refilled the empty places in my life and heart with no regrets.
For you my friend, and fellow traveler I suggest you take steps to insure the big things get put in first and let the rest fall into their proper place. Then time to time revisit the jar, making needed adjustments to keep it safe by guarding your heart. Shards of the shattered pieces of starting over are messy and painful lessons. The journey is yours to make and live and love.

Bedazzled

21 Oct

Have you ever put a positive spin on a bad situation? Not to be confused with making the best of a negative. The battered wife, for example, who will defend her abuser by rationalizing he didn’t beat her nearly as bad this time. We fail to remove ourselves from a bad environment because we have bedazzled it to a point we believe our own delusion.
Grandmother stood at the door patiently waiting for the family pup to return following his evening constitutional. The little girl asked why the puppy was outside but not the kitty. Grandma explained that the puppy went potty outside and it would be very unpleasant if he were to do that inside. Understanding dawned as the little girl remembered the cat had a special box for that purpose, “Oh right the kitty has a glitter box.”
The two words bear little similarity beyond rhyming and were not interchangeable One would never confuse glitter for litter. Yet there are those who try to glitter coat the negatives in their lives often attempting to entice us to follow.
Have you ever been fooled by the allure of fairy tale promises? That ‘too good to be true’ deal being offered. Most will admit that such offers rarely deliver. Hence the concept of “If it sounds too good to be true, then it is.” Unfortunately, too many people only realize after the fact that the job promotion, the corner office, the sweet deal–is nothing more than used kitty litter.
There is no glamorizing deceit. No amount of glitter should entice you to stay in a position, relationship or situation you know is unhealthy to your soul, spirit, mind or body. Don’t be blinded by the glitter…Live loving the journey seeking out the real thing.

Memories

19 Oct

There is appointed a time for all to die, yet it still manages to catch us by surprise or at the very least unprepared when those we love make that final journey. For those who have yet to experience the death of someone close to heart—there is no formula to suddenly know how to grieve. Death is inevitable, loss is loss and everyone grieves in their own way.
The woman lay so very near death. Her journey had been one with tremendous joy and love but not without struggle. Disease fought hard to rob her of her joy…and often succeeded. Yet love covers a multitude of wrong. Hiding in the shadow of the disease—a death sentence no one would ever choose if given the choice. Robbed of physical control she fought to maintain her grasp on every thought.
Privy to her thoughts for a period of time I consider myself blessed to have known her. To know she loved deeply, appreciated much and feared the end more than any other specter–not in the sense of the finality death brings but for the toll it would take on her family.
The time neared and it seemed as if her worst fear was now a reality…body and mind ravaged yet with the knowledge that her care was a heavy burden. She often prayed that her end would come quickly so as to lessen the duration for those she loved…it did not.
Her breathing shallow family members gathered to say good bye—thankful she is at least resting free of pain. The vigil begins. Though death was near, her end allowed for a respite. Jamaican’s call this “traveling” as a loved one lingers. The mind recalls every happy moment to relive it once more—to return at the completion full circle. Only then will body and soul part company to be reunited with those who have gone before. For her a husband, a son, parents long gone.
Socrates is quoted as saying “Death may be the greatest of all human blessings.” Yes, those who remain grieve for their loss but not for her release of pain. Her young great grandson—perhaps too young some might believe to grasp what was happening, is already well versed. He has been here before. His prayer a final farewell, “Jesus, God… thank you for taking my Grammy to Heaven to be with Grampy and thank you for leaving her ashes here for us.”
Ashes to ashes, Dust to Dust. The time of remembering shared. Memory stones containing ashes of the pair were incorporated into each stone. Stories were shared amid laughter as jazz tunes played in the background.
The celebration had come to a close…the plan was to launch lanterns set afire to rise, soaring on the winds releasing the grief of those who remained. One went soaring as if to lead the way and the earth behind…the second faltered —then burst into flame as if to say, “I will not be quenched. My fires will always remain in the hearts of loved ones.”
Yes, Grammy was feisty and stubborn. As I watched the lantern burn I was reminded of the fire that burned inside this woman. She left a legacy and wanted her friends and offspring to know she was still keeping an eye on them and so they better behave. I imagine on every birthday as candles are set ablaze, thoughts will turn to Grammy and smile.

I’ve Got a Secret

17 Oct

No I’m not old enough to remember the television game show, by that name, but the title seemed appropriate for my thoughts this morning. On the show…according to Wikepedia, contestants appeared before the panel and answered yes/no questions. The panelists tried to guess the secret the contestant was hiding. I’m afraid if this show were revisited today it would be more like a Jerry Springer Show than a chat with Katie Couric.
Why? Because we all hide secrets. Some are better at playing the game than others. Children are notorious for spilling the beans. Yet, I’m sure there are others who hide behind the position they hold. Over the years I have learned how to hide. Not physically hide as if in a game of ‘Hide and Seek’ but hide in plain sight. The problem then becomes how to end the game. Unfortunately there is a growing population of the unseen who choose to take their own lives rather than live in their current condition or social standing. Secrets keep us from forward motion…in a word, Stuck.
Are you feeling stuck? I hear from many who, like me, have let the game play out only to find there is no endgame. It’s a battle held within to make a conscience choice to either quit or continue the game. To do neither is to remain stuck. My secret is to shout to the world, “Hey, world, I’m ALIVE!” You have thrown hardship and negativity my way, stripped me naked and left me hanging…but I win. I choose life. Let me tell you living is much harder than giving up. It requires intentional choices and action.
I recently had the tag line of this blog tattooed on my back. The reminder to “Live loving the journey” reenforced my decision to live proactively–to live on purpose. So I pose the question to you…has your journey taken you to a place where you have become stuck? It may be a nice place–offering comfort and rest…yet at the same time confining and preventing you from moving forward. If you are not loving the journey you are on… you are not truly living it. Join with me and claim back your life. Tell the world you too are alive and have a purpose beyond simply existing for the benefit of others. Be passionate, embrace life and take action. Be strong my friend and truly live loving the journey you are on.

Long walks and dark chocolate

Life as a wife, mom, nana and follower of Christ; hoping to share from lessons learned

A Word in Your Ear

Stories and Photographs of my travels, Tales of friends, family, animals and my life

Outside The Lines

Fun readings about Color, Art and Segmation!

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