Celebrate!

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Red, white and blue.  I’ve seen it everywhere this past week.

If you live in the USA, you have too.

There are flags waving, crepe paper adorning, patriotic symbols flashing, celebration of the 4th. of July, our independence day, the birthday of America ring out across our land.

And the celebration continues into Sunday, July 5.

I celebrate my freedom to worship today, to serve the God I love, to live in a country where I can proclaim my faith without fear of persecution.  I celebrate that I can worship openly, not in hiding, like so many fellow believers do in other parts of the world.

Despite my freedom, at times I feel like a fish out of water or a fish in the water swimming upstream, going against the flow.

When I get weary and tired, God’s strength and power gives me the Spiritual muscles to keep swimming even when the current pushes against me.

And He gives me the power to live here, now, at such a time as this but to always remember who I am, where I came from and where I’m headed.

He gives me the power to LOVE. And I hope I will LOVE coming from a humble position.

To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable:

Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.  The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself:  ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men–robbers, evildoers. adulterers–or even like this tax collector.  I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’

But the tax collector stood at a distance.  He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his chest and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’

I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God.  For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”   Luke 18: 9-14

My prayer is that I will LOVE coming from the humble place of one needing mercy–ah, grace, mercy–I am nothing without it and everything with it.

I’m aware that as a Christ follower I am called to be different, live differently than our culture — to live counter culturally — but I am also called to love differently than is humanly possible in a world that is not my home.  That is hard and impossible without the power of Christ in me.

I don’t want to forget that this is not my home.  I don’t want to forget that I live in a world where I don’t really belong.  I don’t want to ever forget that I am a citizen of Heaven and that I am just passing through.

I am a sojourner.

If you are a follower of Jesus, you are a sojourner too.

We are not citizens of our world trying to work our way to Heaven.  We are citizens of Heaven allowing Him to complete His work through us.

As I look around at all the red, white and blue.  When I celebrate, join in on the festivities, parades, fireworks, I’m reminded that this celebration can’t compare to the one going on in Heaven when we open our hearts and lives to Jesus–the one who loved us enough to come down into this world to save us.

He’s the one who throws open wide the doors to the Kingdom of Heaven and welcomes us into a new and forever citizenship — a land with similar colors to remember and celebrate.

Jesus bore the red – through His blood, the blue through His bruises and we wear the white.

When God looks at us clothed in Jesus, He sees us as though we have never sinned.  White as snow.  Pure and perfect without blemish or stain.

As I celebrate my freedom here, I’m thankful for my liberty, the freedom to worship, the freedom to express myself.  I celebrate all that and more.

I celebrate the beauty, the glimpses of His glory that surround me daily and I’m truly thankful for all the good and perfect gifts that He’s given to me for my enjoyment.

But I also remember not to get too comfortable and to remember that I will be called to live counter-culturally at times, maybe even be ridiculed for that, possibly be misunderstood,  but I will remain joyful remembering that this is not my home, I’m just passing through.  The best is yet to come.

Blessings,

Nancy

Sometimes We Need To Go Back Before We Can Move Forward

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We had a large lilac bush behind my childhood home.  Every spring when I fill a vase with lilacs, their fragrance transports my thoughts back to that house where many special memories were made.

Memories.  We all have them.  Some good, some not so good but they’re stored somewhere deep within our brains.  Just like a computer stores information on a hard drive, our brains also have some sort of storage system.

I have wonderful parents and I have wonderful memories from childhood too.

But I believe it’s safe to say that all of us have some not so good memories whether from childhood, teenage years, young adult years or beyond.

Painful circumstances or trauma can occur at anytime or any age.

So what do we do with those nagging painful memories if they keep re-surfacing?

I don’t have a professional answer to that question but I can share a snippet from my own personal experience.

I believe that painful memories will hurt forever unless we find a way to release them and we can’t release them until they’re healed and there’s only one healer.

After I became a Christian, I took Jesus back with me to a painful time in my life.  A time period when I was too weak and consumed with circumstances to reach out to Him.

I talked to Him about it, showed Him the scene, the pain, the emotions, the heartache and relived it in His presence.  He knew all about it anyway but healing began when it came out of the darkness of my soul and into His light.

I emptied myself first by confessing my own sins–making myself a clean vessel ready to receive all the healing Jesus had for me–I prayed, pondered, journaled, talked to trusted friends, prayed with friends and even talked and prayed with a Christian therapist for 6 weeks when I got stuck at one point in the process.

For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.”  Matthew 18:20

He is the God who heals, not only for today, but for the trauma of yesterday too.   What concerned me, concerned Him.

God is LOVE.  And Jesus is God.

Love is the balm that heals.

Emotional pain is just as hard to work through as physical pain.  Often it’s even harder because nobody sees it.

Others don’t always know when we’re suffering from emotional pain.  It’s easy to hide it but those hidden things are like razors cutting away at the fiber of our being.  It’s hard to keep it together when that’s going on so we may head into the safety zone of denial and just pretend it never happened.

Denial is a safeguard.  I truly believe that denial is a gift from God to guard us against the overwhelming rush of emotions that are too painful to deal with all at once.  But in the long run it’s not a healthy place to stay.   It’s a place to visit but not to live.  We weren’t meant to live in denial forever.  It will sideline us.  Stagnant us.  Bind us.  And it will keep us in chains if we pretend we’re okay when we’re not.

The buried hurt will come out eventually.  Most often through things like isolating ourselves from others, bitterness, anger, and unforgiveness, just to name a few.

We’re designed to go through life with God–allowing Him to help us through the valleys and the rough rocky places.  When we shut Him out, or if we were too young or weak to cope with the pain (when it occurred) we may try to soothe it through other methods.

There’s the obvious ones like over consumption of alcohol, drugs, risky sexual behavior.  Usually, it’s not the behavior that needs addressing first but the deeply rooted pain that causes the behavior.

But there’s less obvious ones too — excessive spending, excessive eating, excessive use of social media, busyness, workaholism, perfectionism, over-dependence on people to meet our needs, running here, there and everywhere, doing rather than being, trying to order our world outwardly because inwardly we’re bleeding.

I’m sure there’s more ways but you get the idea.

I’ve been there; done that.  I mean getting trapped in the mindset that things, other than Christ, would fill me up and set me free.  It may work but only temporarily.

Using the gifts of God to replace the holy presence of God is a bandage not a remedy and we will go through many bandages until the remedy is finally applied.

Jesus said…

“I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”   John 10:10

When I think of abundant living, I think of a surrendered and joyful relationship with our living Lord through worship, praise, prayer, with evidence of God’s Spirit growing in and through me like a harvest of blessings.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Galatians 5: 22-23

The fruit associated with abundant life is hard to experience when we’re hiding behind a facade, pretending that everything is okay.

God wants us to toss out the band aids and expose our wounds.  He wants to set us free.  Once we’re set free, the memories will be there but they won’t have the sharp sting that they once had.  They’ll turn from a bleeding wound  into a beautiful scar.

If the process seems slow, His faithfulness is not.  He’s there in the struggle and will bring us to the point where we can finally say,  “That memory is there, but it isn’t painful anymore.”

It’s not easy but when we finally get to the end of our grieving process with accounts settled and forgiveness extended (forgiveness is an essential part of healing–whether toward ourselves or others) there will be freedom.

The path ahead will clear.  No more getting stuck in one spot.  We’ll keep moving forward authentically with Jesus and others.

We won’t hide pain anymore, because we know life is hard and it’s okay to grieve safely anytime, anywhere in the presence and comfort of Jesus.

That beautiful scar I mentioned above?  It’s a reminder of what Christ has done, it gives us our story.  The wound becomes recycled into something lovely and useful.  It becomes a gift.  God gives it purpose, meaning and none of it will be wasted.  The byproduct is wisdom and doors will open to help others.

I know this is a simple way to describe emotional healing and some may not find it helpful.

However, I think what’s most important is that we are not alone and Jesus is the healer of yesterday today and tomorrow.

The journey toward emotional healing begins when we take our first step with Jesus and if that means stepping back before we can move forward it’s worth the trip.

Blessings,

Nancy

PS:  Whew! This was a lengthy post.  If you read this to the end, thank you.  I try to keep my posts around 800 words or less but as hard as I tried I couldn’t shave this one down.

(Disclosure:  This is not a professional article.  The opinions in this piece are that of the author and aren’t meant to be used to diagnose or treat illness or psychological trauma or pain.  It is solely meant to be a thought provoking piece about faith, hope and love.  Every situation is different.  If you have memories that are severely painful (more than just nagging) It is up to you to decide what course of action to take whether seeking professional services or other avenues).

When Ink Drips and Camera Clicks

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I put my pen to journal and begin to write, I see an oriole outside my window and I grab my camera.  I click to capture the moment and return to my writing.

With my mind and emotions wrapped up in so much lately, I finally feel my soul return to its rightful place.

The uneasiness began last week with a phone call.  It was a peaceful day, we were enjoying the sunshine, the newness of spring and Bob’s cancer wasn’t in our thoughts.

My husband doesn’t let it define him and as I walk this journey beside him I won’t let it define me either.

We go on, not thinking much about it, finding joy in the simple things.  Then reality breaks through and we must face it once again.

Bob’s cell phone rang while we were having lunch at a small cafe.

“The Leukemia markers have increased a little in your blood,”  came the words over the phone.

“It looks like you may need another bone marrow biopsy but we’ll check again in a few months.  For now, just stay on the chemo med and we’ll explore further at your next visit.”

I study Bob’s expression, watch him for a few days.  He remains strong, steadfast (at least outwardly) and is hopeful that the markers will go down again, if not with the medication he’s taking now, then with another one.

My heart and prayers surround him and if there’s any way to test the oneness in marriage and to experience it at a deeper level it’s in times like this.

So together we wait, pray and wonder.

This past year has been like a roller coaster ride through the steep upward climbs and the wild racing down and then back up through the twists and turns of this crazy journey of medical tests and doctor visits.

After the latest blood test results, the what ifs, the uncertainty, fearful thoughts, the all-consuming questions race through me.

I get stuck there for a couple of days.

But today I grabbed my pen, my journal and a hot cup of coffee.

Here I sit writing my prayers, my thoughts, my dreams for me; for us.

One by one I write out the gifts that I’ve been given in life.

Not just the big ones like God, faith, family, friends, provision…those are obviously important but I’m recalling and writing down the little things today.

I’m focusing on all those small miracles that we often overlook and how in the overlooking we forfeit great joy.  It’s the simple pleasures in life that surprise us with the greatest joy.

So my focus shifts from the what ifs and fearful thoughts to being present in the moment and enjoying the gifts God has for me today…a gentle breeze blowing through an open window, waking up to the orioles singing on my deck,  spring flowers popping up all over my yard, the patter of rain on my rooftop, the sunshine poking through tree branches after the rain, barren branches finally sprouting leaves, the smell of coffee brewing and sugar cookies baking, the wonder in a child’s eyes, a child’s laughter, singing, praying, the sunsets… and on and on the list goes.

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Gifts.

And when we give thanks for all the little pleasures surrounding us our eyes open to glimpses of God’s glory everywhere.

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever.  Psalm 107:1

Even in the midst of this crazy, mixed up, messy, often painful world there is beauty and grace that moves us into thankfulness and being thankful produces joy.

The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him.  Psalm 28:7

We can’t give thanks and be fearful, angry or miserable at the same time.  A thankful heart doesn’t have room for that.

Daily we need to find those peaceful places where our bodies, minds, souls can rest.  At least I do.

I’m an introvert.  I thrive and recharge by being alone.

There’s been a flurry of activity surrounding my life lately and unless I can escape into moments of solitude I’m a wreck and when I’m a wreck I can’t fully be there for my loved ones and those I deeply care about.

This introvert finds solace and peace through being alone with her thoughts, her God and her journal.

I not only find peace as my pen drips ink into words on journal pages, I’m also drawn to give thanks through savoring moments with a click of my camera.

Both are gifts.

Whether I’m recording through words or photos, I’m drawn into the presence and wonder of God and, for me, that has become an act of worship.

…whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things…and the God of peace will be with you. (Philippians 4:8-9)

Blessings to you and yours,

Nancy

And Then He Speaks Peace

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It had been a rough few days.

They were cowering behind locked doors.

They couldn’t wrap their minds around what happened.

Broken hearts.

Trying to comprehend.

But it was incomprehensible.

Afraid.

Afraid to move.

Afraid of the future.

Afraid to hope again.

Then he came.

The one they followed.

Their leader.

He could have said:

  • “Thanks guys.” (sarcastically)
  • “Why did you leave me”
  • “Why did you run?”
  • “Where were you when I needed you?”
  • “After all I’ve done, this is how you treat me?”
  • “Where is your respect?”
  • “When I spoke, were you even listening to me?”

He could have.

But he didn’t.

Instead he said:

“Peace be with you!”

And when we’re afraid.

When we’ve been hurt.

When we feel that we can’t go on.

When life is hard.

When burdens are heavy.

When friends leave.

When family is distant.

When life hurts.

When we don’t understand.

When tragedy strikes.

When illness invades.

When life gets messy.

When hope seems gone.

He comes.

And He speaks to us.

He speaks into our circumstances.

“Peace be with you!”

(Based on John 20:19-23)  To read the story click here ->Peace

Blessings,

Nancy

The church isn’t a building it’s a way of life

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But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind. Luke 14:13

It’s common to see a parade of wheelchairs being pushed the few blocks to the church from the nursing home and rehabilitation center down the street.

Once the parade strolls and rolls into the building, the wheelchair bound get seats front and center.

With arms raised they worship.  Boy do they worship.

I can learn a few things from their abandoned style.  Wholly free, carefree, free indeed.

Bound by their chairs physically but free in the Spirit.

I have observed this group and worshiped along side of them for several weeks now.

Then there’s the homeless people, from the inner city, whom can catch a ride on the church bus that travels through the city offering rides.

I’ve been in awe watching them worship too, some with arms raised, some with tears streaming down their faces, some with expressions of joy, some with shouts of joy and others more contemplative.

I listened to conversations with them afterwards.  They expressed gratefulness for being accepted and included many with tears.

Then their stories.  Why, how, when.  Some talked about church growing up and how worship was for them back in those days.

Yes, some grew up going church and then…

I listen.  I see.   I’m touched and I learn.

Many in the church know the names of the homeless and extend friendship.  When the pastor announced  that one of the men passed away on the streets one week I could hear the care, the grief and the loss in his words.

On Super Bowl Sunday the church gathered together for a Party.  That’s common.  Many churches gather their flock together all over the U.S. on that day to watch the game, eat snacks and cheer for their teams.   They party together.

This one was different.  The parishioners received an invitation to serve.  That’s right.  They were throwing a party and the guests of honor were the homeless.  A T.V., the game, a meal and a blessing–were all part of the evening.

I listen.  I see.  I’m touched and I learn.

These people, my extended Spiritual family welcomed Bob and me in when we wandered through their doors looking for a place to worship one Sunday and we stayed for almost 3 months.

Our last Sunday with them will be on Palm Sunday and then we will head back to our home church.

Last week two wheelchair bound worshipers were on stage with the praise team helping to lead worship.

Monthly the worship team from church heads down the street to the nursing home and rehabilitation center to enjoy a worship service together.  The gifts and talents exploded from the residence as some came out of the shadows to sing.

Now occasionally they will help lead worship at church.  They will become part of the team.

I listen.  I see.  I’m touched and I learn.

In the wake of the recent news reports when all seems so overwhelming and almost hopeless, I’m brought back to truth, just the simple truth that there’s still hope, love and a way to live differently to impact others one soul at a time.

As I approach Easter, it’s that message that I want to carry long after I have to say goodbye to this band of Jesus followers–the Easter people–the people of this church that Bob and I have grown to love and admire.

They don’t just go to church they are the church and they declare that statement weekly at the end of each service.  Their words resonate with me…”We don’t just go to church we are the church!”  And they don’t just say it, they live it.

Blessings!

Nancy ❤

Hydrate!

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I never thought I’d be that woman.  The one dehydrated and hooked to an IV, EKG, blood pressure machine, and God only knows what else all those wires were.

My family would be the first to tell you that I’m a health nut when it comes to the foods I eat but they could also tell you that they have spoken these three words to me often, “Drink more water!”

It was just a few days of being active in the sun to deplete me.

My husband and I took a break from our snow-covered state and entered a warmer climate and I was ecstatic about shedding the parka’s and boots for tennis shoes and shorts.

Coffee in the morning, a sip of water (here and there), coffee in the afternoon, a sip of water (here and there) and wine with dinner didn’t add up to enough liquid to sustain me through the hikes and all of our outdoor activities in a warmer climate.

By the way, the nurse informed me that neither coffee nor wine counts!  They are diuretics.

So there I sat for half a day in the emergency room while the doctor on staff ordered tests to determine why I collapsed that morning.

Long story short, they hooked up a bag of fluids and pumped it through me.

I was back…ready to put my hiking shoes on and go…

I’ve gulped down water like crazy everyday since and I’m feeling great.  Infusing the water with citrus helps too.

I was a woman in need of water.  I was thirsty and didn’t even know it.

infused water 2x - Copy wdpThere’s another woman who was thirsty and didn’t know it.  Let me tell you about her.

She was trying to fill the empty places in her life with temporary solutions but the solutions weren’t quenching her deepest soul-thirst.

When the women in town went to collect water from the well in the morning, she stayed back.  Maybe they didn’t want to associate with her and she knew it.

Most likely an outcast and shunned by the people in her town, she waited until noon (the hottest part of the day) knowing others wouldn’t be around to fill their jars in the heat.  That way she could avoid their glaring stares.

She was, most likely, ashamed but didn’t know how to solve her problem.

But Jesus knew and He cared.  So one day at noon He met her at the well.

Jewish people would steer clear of Samaria and take the long way around to get to their destinations.  The Samaritans were not full-blooded Jewish.  They were a mixed race and considered unclean by the Jews but Jesus thought differently.

On His way to Galilee, Jesus went through Samaria and stopped at the well to rest.

He waited for the Samaritan woman and asked her for a drink.  What a surprise that was.  First of all she was a woman.  Men didn’t talk to women in public.  Secondly she was a Samaritan (considered a half-breed and despised by the Jews) and Jesus was asking her for a drink of water?  That was unheard of!

But Jesus always surprised people and went to places others refused to go and spoke to people whom others wouldn’t think of talking to.

Jesus reached out to her and ultimately offered her a drink from His Spiritual well–the well that never runs dry and even bubbles up to eternal life.

Jesus set up that divine appointment.  He knew she was coming and made sure He was there right on time.  Jesus never misses an appointment.

He confronted the woman with her lifestyle by simply saying, “Go, call your husband and come back.”  “I don’t have a husband,” she replied.

Jesus tells her that she is right and goes on to reveal the truth about her life.

She was a woman who had 5 husbands and the man she was living with then wasn’t her husband and Jesus offered her the solution to escape her circumstances.  The solution was Him.  He offered her His Living Water so she would never be Spiritually thirsty again.

The thing is we don’t really know why she had five husbands or why she was living the way she was.  It could have been by choice.  Maybe there was abuse in her past and she didn’t know what a healthy relationship was.  It could have been that she was left by her first husband and then tossed from man to man.   Women were completely dependent on men to care for them, in those days, or they wouldn’t survive.  Maybe she held out hope that someday the right man would meet her deepest needs and solve her loneliness.

We don’t know the back story, but what we do know is that Jesus cared enough to go to Samaria to meet her and offer her true love and hope and the best part of the story is that she accepted it.

She not only accepted it but she left her earthly jar behind and ran into town with her Spiritual Living Water splashing joy on others and many believed because of her testimony.

It’s truly amazing and the story reveals the depth of Jesus’ love for everyone and His willingness to go out of His way to find one lost soul.

We can’t fill our lives with temporal things and think that it will satisfy our Spiritual thirst.  There’s no person, place or thing that can take the place of God.  As much as we try, our divine thirst cannot be quenched by anything but Living Water.  That Living Water is the Holy Spirit.

“If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink.  Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.”  By this he meant the Spirit…   John 7: 37-39

I need water to survive physically and if I’m not hydrated my body lets me know.  Ignoring my physical thirst or thinking something else (like coffee or wine) will satisfy my thirst can result in a medical emergency.

But just as important, I need to quench my Spiritual thirst daily too.  If I don’t drink deeply from the well that never runs dry and ignore my need for the Living Water of Jesus, I will collapse Spiritually.

I’m staying hydrated physically now but my recent trip to the hospital reminds me that my Spiritual thirst is just as important and I need to have Spiritual Living Water running through me daily too.

And like the Samaritan woman I hope I will always be just as excited to lay down my earthly jars and run and tell others about the Living Water of Jesus that Spiritually hydrates me.

If you click this link:  John 4: 1-42 you can read the amazing story of the woman at the well and Jesus’ encounter with her.

Blessings!

Nancy

Safe and Secure

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He sat at the round bistro table, feet dangling from his chair.  His white socks stretched to his knees, legs swaying, eagerly waiting for a slice of pizza to satisfy his little appetite.
His tiny mouth puckered around the tip of a straw sipping orange soda while his big, round, dark eyes looked sideways toward his daddy.  He sipped then spoke, sometimes placing his little face in front of his daddy’s eyes.
Deep in conversation they were.  The little one asking questions about many topics.  He had an array of queries about history, math, sports — you name it — he was covering everything and his daddy paid close attention to every detail of every sentence.
Never once did I see a smart phone sitting on their table or in the hands of the father.  Not even to record the special moment with a snap of the camera.  His undivided attention focused on his son.  The little one with the dark spiked hair and toothless grin was of utmost importance to his daddy and the little guy was comfortable in his presence.
If he squirmed or got restless, his daddy responded with gentleness for his son to stay patient for just a little longer.
He watched his father closely and emulated him.   Where his dad placed his napkin, his fork and his drink, the boy did the same.
After sinking his teeth into his first bite of pizza the little boy’s big dark eyes grew bigger.  Glancing at daddy, he tapped his shoulder and said a simple, “Thank you.”
The daddy leaned toward his son, smiled and wiped a little sauce from the boy’s face.   The loving affection for his son was clear and the son sat securely and comfortably in that love.
Their exchange was inspiring.
Is my relationship with my Father in Heaven that comfortable?
Jesus called God the warm; intimate child-like Aramaic word,  Abba Father, a tender, endearing name (like papa or daddy would be).  It’s a perfect example of the affectionate, dependent relationship He had with His Father.
And He wants that for us too.
No lofty prayer, no special words, no cleaning up is necessary before we sit in our Father’s presence.  He’ll wipe our stains clean through Christ.
We can just be ourselves.  We can ask questions.  We can share our needs.  We can say thank you for His unconditional love and for His constant encouragement to reach higher and become better.
And even when we don’t speak, He reads our hearts and responds to our deepest needs.
The good Father challenges us to let go of indifference and to reach, stretch, share and love — like He does.
The hard places discipline us under His careful watch and lead us to say yes to His yes instead of shaking our heads in defiance.
When we say yes to His yes, I bet He smiles.
When He says no to us, I hope we understand that He has only our best interest in mind.
When we ask Him for our heart’s desires, sometimes His answers come as YES, sometimes they come as NO and sometimes they come as NOT NOW — just wait.
But it’s not about the answers.  Not really.  It’s about Him and our relationship with Him and when we realize that’s all we really need, it becomes enough.

Blessings!      Nancy © 2015

Expressions of Love

heart sunset 2 - Copy wdp“Because there’s nothing more beautiful than the way the ocean refuses to stop kissing the shoreline, no matter how many times it’s sent away.”  Sarah Kay


I’m not sure why I was having a bad day.  It was several years ago.  All I remember was there were tears and I wanted a little slice of time to myself.
Bob left the house and returned later with a box of Good and Plenty, handed it to me and said, “I thought this might make you feel a little better.”
I smiled, opened the box and we went for a walk while I ate my candy.
And you know what?  That simple gesture of love lifted my spirits.
He could have brought home a dozen roses, a box of chocolates and a diamond ring and it wouldn’t have had the same effect.
I’m not saying those gifts would be meaningless but there’s a time and place for everything.
The little box of Good and Plenty was perfect.
Why?  Because it came from someone who has studied me, therefore knows me and my husband picked a simple, thoughtful gift for that day.  Knowing that Good and Plenty was one of my favorite childhood candies, he went out and bought a box.
It was just an ordinary day, with me needing a little encouragement and my husband decided that Good and Plenty may do the trick.  I couldn’t remember how long it had been since I ate that candy–it was many years ago so it was a special surprise.
Silly, huh?  But you know what?  It’s often the simplest gestures of love that mean the most.
As hard as I try to remember, I can’t recall why I was so sad that day and either does Bob but we both remember the gift of Good and Plenty and how it made me feel.
That’s important information for many of us to remember, especially during the month of February when images of love abound as we approach Valentine’s Day.
We can start by studying our loved ones, making mental notes of their likes and favorite things, listening for clues of what may lift their spirits, bring them joy, put a smile on their face and then follow through with a simple gift.
It doesn’t have to happen on Valentine’s Day.  Actually, an unexpected gift expressing love on any day has even more meaning and impact.  However, Valentine’s Day is as good a day as any to express our love to a spouse, child, friend and even a stranger with a random act of kindness.
Sometimes bigger isn’t better and less really is more.  One simple rose (in a favorite color) placed in beautiful vase instead of a dozen roses — a box or boxes of favorite childhood candy instead of a box of expensive chocolates — think, study, explore, put thought into purchasing a simple gift and then share your love.

I took the photo of the sunset, at the top of this post, on February 13, 2014 in Florida on the Gulf of Mexico.  My husband and I were walking the shoreline when we noticed that the sparkling reflection of the sun on the sand looked like a heart.
I refer to that photo as the night that God kissed the shore with a heart for us just in time for Valentine’s Day–a reminder of his love for us.
His love cost everything he had — his only son and his very life.  That’s truly the only BIG GIFT worth receiving, because that’s how we learn how to love even in the smallest of ways.
We love because he first loved us.  (1 John 4:19)
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. (1 Corinthians 13:13)
The greatest gift is LOVE–go out and express it in creative ways and give someone a Happy Valentine’s Day.

Blessings!  Nancy ❤    © 2015

One Word

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As this year draws to a close, I haven’t made one resolution for the upcoming new year but I did pick one word.  My word was actually an umbrella word over 2014 that protected and sheltered me.

ENCOURAGEMENT.  That’s my word.  It had the most overarching effect on me and it brought me to the threshold of 2015 with a sense of being supported and loved.

As a writer, I sometimes wonder if stringing words together on a page is worth the effort, because for me it’s not about using big impressive words or strutting my writing abilities around.  It’s about trying to inspire and move hearts.

At times I look back on my writing and cringe.  As I write on, I’m amazed at how I would choose my words differently just days after I write a piece.

Then a card comes in the mail.  Someone took the time to hand write a note to let me know what my words have meant to them.

ENCOURAGEMENT.  And so I keep writing…

Whether it’s a comment in person, writing or in an uplifting email, I’m always humbled by the encouraging words from people who tell me they’ve enjoyed or been touched by my words.

ENCOURAGEMENT.  And so I keep writing…

I haven’t arrived at a place where I’m completely satisfied with my writing but the beauty of life is that we are in all in process.  No matter what we’re doing or how we use our gifts, we haven’t arrived.  There’s always more to learn.  I change and grow daily and I’m learning to be okay with that and enjoy the process.

ENCOURAGEMENT.  It has pointed me back toward my passion and to remember why I write.

As some of you know, 2014 hasn’t been an easy year for my family.  Cancer came into our life this past summer when my husband was diagnosed with Chronic Myeloid Leukemia.

I’ve shared some of our journey in the following posts:

Again the encouragement that we have received from family and friends through the storm has been like a ray of sunshine through the dark and like a flower breaking through the winter.

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God uses people.  All the encouragement that covered my family brought with it the confirmation that God cares and that He will never leave us.

Yesterday we got test results from Bob’s oncologist that the markers for the Leukemia are decreasing in his blood significantly.  At their highest the markers were 89.  In September they were 49.  Yesterday the good news was that they are 6.9.

The goal is to have Bob’s chemo medication reduce the markers until they cannot be seen by the human eye anymore.  Then they will call it remission and he will take the chemo drug for life to try to keep it there.

ENCOURAGEMENT.  I know how much it has benefited me and I want to focus on being a better encourager in 2015.

Words have the power to build up or tear down.  I’d rather be a builder upper!

I will have my eyes open through the new year to look for those I can buoy up and support.

I’m going to scope out my surroundings and attempt to become conscious of:

  • the downtrodden
  • the sad eyed
  • the dejected
  • the ones who have lost hope
  • the struggling
  • the ones who have given up on:
    • their dreams
    • their gifts
    • their talents
    • themselves

I know from my experiences in 2014, just how the right words at just the right time can spur a person on and keep them from losing hope.

Lists of resolutions can seem daunting, most get broken anyway, but one word to carry into the new year is possible.

Now I’d like to ENCOURAGE you.  If you’ve tried making resolutions and said “Eh, that didn’t work,” why not join me and pick just ONE WORD to apply to 2015?  Then let me know what it is and how you’re using your word.  I’d love to hear from you.

Happy and Hopeful New Year to you and yours!

Nancy Janiga©2014

It’s the little things

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Christmas is over but there’s still remnants left.  There’s a bag of crumpled wrapping paper tucked behind a stool in my living room.  The lights still twinkle on my decorated tree and there’s a few cookie crumbs on a plate sitting next to me on my dining room table.

My fingers click away on my laptop amid all the signs of the Holiday and my thoughts drift back to when my living room was full of chatter and laughter just days before.

Family gathered around our decorated home on Christmas to share a meal, share gifts and share memories of years past.  Lots of the memories hang from the branches of our Christmas tree.  It’s always fun to look at the ornaments and recall the memory attached to each one.  And finally we shared an indoor snowball fight with a pail of forty synthetic snowballs.

I think the best purchase, hands down, that I made this year was that pail of indoor snowballs.  They actually feel like the real deal minus the cold.  I grabbed one and threw it at my son.  Startled he sat back in his chair, smiled and said, “What?  Are those snowballs?”  Then came the laughter while snowballs, being tossed at one another, filled our living room.

In those moments, watching, listening, observing nothing was wrong and all was right in the world.

A few days before Christmas, I was making my mom’s traditional date nut bread–a recipe that she handed down to me.  As I mixed the batter, I watched a couple of neighbor boys, through my kitchen window, playing catch in the street.  As they threw the ball their dog ran along side it trying catch it in his mouth.  The sun was shining, it was 45 degrees and they didn’t have jackets on.  It’s unusual in this area to have such mild temps at this time of year.  What’s even more unusual is seeing kids running and playing outside at anytime of the year in this electronic age.

As I watched the game outside and prepared the nut bread, my thoughts went back in time–a time that seemed a little simpler–with my mom baking the bread and the streets filled with kids throughout the neighborhood and usually in the snow at this time of year.  Being inside the house for too long, wasn’t that common back then for kids.

Then I burst into song.  A song that I wouldn’t ordinarily think of.  I can’t carry a tune and you won’t catch me singing out loud in front of you but alone I’ll belt out anything…

I see trees of green, red roses too
I see them bloom for me and you
And I think to myself what a wonderful world.

I see skies of blue and clouds of white
The bright blessed day, the dark sacred night
And I think to myself what a wonderful world.

The colors of the rainbow so pretty in the sky
Are also on the faces of people going by
I see friends shaking hands saying how do you do
They’re really saying I love you.

I hear babies crying, I watch them grow
They’ll learn much more than I’ll never know
And I think to myself what a wonderful world
Yes I think to myself what a wonderful world.

Louis Armstrong ©1967

…and I think to myself it’s a wonderful world… and I hummed it for the rest of the day.

The hum carried on through Christmas and there was nothing wrong in my world.

But we all know there is something wrong.  We read the headlines, listen to the news, hear the stories, hear the cries, see the suffering, hearts get broken, tears flow…

We’d like it to stop.  We’d like to see peace on earth and good will toward men.

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Christmas began in the manger but it didn’t end there.  When we put away Christmas, let’s not put away Jesus.  That’s where hope starts.  That’s where love begins.  That’s where joy originates and that’s where peace flows.

Among the chaos of the world, that little child in the little manger brought us God. And He brought us the potential, through our dependence on Him, to have peace on earth and extend good will toward men and women.  It can only begin one heart at a time.

May we embrace it.  Embrace Him.  And in the midst of it all find joy in the little things in life–like those blessings mentioned in the song, “It’s a wonderful world” because the little pockets of joy that we find in the chaos of life are really the big things.

Written by Nancy Janiga @2014