Sentimental Journey and the Moments that Count

pinecone 4 wdp - Copy

I’ve felt sentimental lately.

A dear aunt of mine passed away on Thanksgiving.

The older I get my aunt’s age of 77 doesn’t seem that old.  Of course I know that younger (much younger) people or children pass away and the reality is that death is no respecter of age.

Either is illness.  My aunt actually left her family a few years ago as Alzheimer’s snatched her from her loved ones and kept her captive until being released and set free on Thanksgiving.

She was a big part of my childhood~and even into my adult years~so the memories of the lovely person she was with her beautiful smile and contagious laughter are washing over me like a stream from a waterfall.

I’ve felt the need for stillness in the days that followed the news.  I’m sensing a holy hush, a reminder of how fleeting this life really is.

Not only am I visiting memories of my aunt but memories of other loved ones, that have passed on.  I’m brought back to different places in time recalling the moments spent with each one, who they were, their personalities, their quirks, their uniqueness and how they mattered.  How they mattered to me.

I’m sitting here, in my pajamas (as noon approaches) with my third cup of coffee, and a half eaten bowl of steel-cut oats, clicking away at my keyboard.

computer 3 wdp - Copy

Then out of nowhere my husband approaches and says, “Your brother, Frank, got us hooked on steel-cut oats, remember?”

I slide my glasses down my nose and look over them, “Yes, I remember.”

And I’m transported to another time; another memory.

Frank made a big pan of steel-cut oats for us, on one of our last visits with him, before his death.  Coffee, oats and laughter filled our morning.  Frank always made us laugh with his quick wit and funny stories.

You’ve been there too, I’ll bet.  I mean the journey back to those sentimental places for a visit.

Then after a brief visit, we return.  We come back to here, now, the moments of today and hopefully begin to savor each one.

I savor through photography.

Some people may think that taking pictures doesn’t allow a person to truly enjoy the moment.  For me, just the opposite is true.

My camera engages me with my surroundings so much so that I become aware of things that may go unnoticed by others, especially in nature.

“Some people say they prefer living life instead of taking pictures of it.  That’s missing the point.  Photography gets you more involved in your environment.  Most of all, it gets you out of the house and into the sunlight, where a lot of what I call “present-moment living” happens in the first place.”   Jim Miotke

My camera has been a gift from God to help me focus on the blessings that surround me.  One by one I see them, frame them with my eye and then snap them.

I don’t have to have a camera to savor the moments and either do you.  We just need an awareness of how precious they are and give thanks for every gift.

The point is we often rush through our days without savoring much but when we make a conscience effort to savor we become engaged in the moments without letting them slip by.  And we engage with the people we’re with making the time with them count

During this busy season of December, taking notice of when we’re harried, hurried, stressed (and with a deep breath) remember what really matters–the moments–the people–that’s what will help us refocus again and again.

“Sometimes you will never know the value of a moment until it is a memory.” Dr Seuss 

Let’s savor and value the simplest of moments now–the everyday blessings–even before they become a memory.

Written by:  Nancy Janiga©2014

When Being Thankful Seems Hard

mum3 wdp - Copy

If you look back on my last few posts, you’ll discover a pattern.

I’ve woven the word steal into my text a few times.

In the article I wrote for FullFill Magazine I used the word rob–same thing.

My point was to help us realize that nothing can rob our joy or steal our thankfulness.

I mentioned in Don’t Let Them Steal Thanksgiving (part 1) and Don’t Let Them Steal Thanksgiving (part 2) that in the world of advertising and retail–the focus is to get our attention on the next best thing to buy and they zip right past Thanksgiving and into Christmas often before the end of October.

I’m a true fan of Thanksgiving.  It’s a holiday that isn’t surrounded by purchasing gifts and commercialism.

For me Thanksgiving means gathering the family around the table, with a delicious spread of food, conversation, laughter and love.  When I sit back and enjoy the day, all I have to do is look at the people who are sharing it with me and give thanks.

However I realize that for some this whole season, beginning in November through the end of December, is the hardest time of year to make it through.

Recently I spoke to a woman who is contemplating divorce.  She has a fractured family and her pain runs deep.  The Norman Rockwell images of family and home can haunt a person in her circumstances especially at this time of year.

My husband knows a young man who lost his father at the tender age of 15 mo. and struggles in a difficult relationship with his mother.  His feelings of loss and abandonment are real and they intensify starting in mid-November.

Some people are separated from family by miles and can’t make it home.  Some are estranged from family for various reasons.

Those who have lost loved ones, during this season, carry that reminder with them every year while trying to wear a smile.  A loved one’s passing (at anytime of the year) can create a deeper void during the holidays.

I’ve heard people gloss over others’ pain with the trite remark, “God doesn’t give us more than we can handle,” as if somehow those words are ointment that can heal a wound.

First of all that statement cannot be found anywhere in the Bible.  This imperfect world sometimes gives us more than we can handle and if we rely on “The God doesn’t give us more than we can handle” theology then the question becomes “how am I going to handle this?”  The emphasis is put on I.  That sort of ointment doesn’t work.

So what works?  The healing ointment of grace and mercy from Jesus–that works.

Jesus Himself told us, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)  He said we would have trouble not that we might have trouble.

His overcoming power is available to help us through any obstacle, hardship or painful situation and that’s something we can always be thankful for.

give thanks flw 3x wdp - Copy

When we are weak He is strong.  That’s what 2 Corinthians 12:9 tells us.  In other words, when we tell the Lord that WE CAN’T HANDLE IT–whatever IT is–that opens up the connection for His resurrection power to flow.

That’s the key.  It’s how we lean and how we wait during the blackest of days that gets us through them.  Leaning on God, waiting on Him and looking for even the tiniest things to give thanks for restores hope and joy.

If we keep seeking Him through prayer–even when we doubt that he is there–even with our questions–our load becomes lighter, because in the seeking and the waiting we start expecting.

We become expectant for the arrival of an answer, a direction, a change in us, a change in circumstances, and just plain help.  Whatever form it takes, it will come and we start believing that truth while we seek and wait.

Sometimes taking a look back at our lives helps.  Pause for a moment in that place that seemed dark at one time.  It’s good to recall how God took the ashes (adversities) and made something beautiful out of them.  This practice always helps me when I’m in a troubling season, because it reminds me that what He did once He will do again.

In Isaiah 61 He promises a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.

So this Thanksgiving I hope that we can all find something that we are thankful for even if it’s just giving thanks that God has seen us through difficult days before and He will do it again.

Written by: Nancy Janiga ©2014