Friday, December 30, 2011

A birthday post

Last Spring a friend gave me a gift that changed my life.  I remember opening that gift in my car and sobbing.  A simple act paved the way for the leap of faith that needed to happen and that I had been trying to put off for a long, long time for many different reasons.  That one gift lead to a big decision and I haven't looked back.

Tonight I sat across the table from a couple of good friends (who have also been a huge part of some life changing moments in my life), next to a 4 year old friend who is so precious I can't stand it, down the table from a 12 year old friend who has a smile that lights up the room and celebrated my life-changing friend. 

Much has happened in her not-so-many years on earth.  I've only walked through a few of those years with her.  But I'm grateful for for those few years.  I'm grateful her friendship, for her smile, her generosity of heart and fierce protection.  I'm grateful for the random notes, pictures and texts that she sends and her willingness to receive some pretty interesting ones from me!  I'm grateful for the fact that she is a survivor, a fighter, a mama bear, a fragile woman with a core of steel, a woman of faith and one who inspires me to just keep moving even when life feels like it's shattering around me.  I am blessed to call her my friend, a sister of my heart.

Happy Birthday, my friend.  Love, love, love you!  :)

Around the table

There were 12 around the table, not including me.  12 that span the range of my youth career really.  There were the ones that were in the first group and the ones were in the last group.  There were many missing but these 12 represented 11 years of my life as youth director.

I sat back for a moment and took a few pictures with my phone but mental pictures as well.  I listened to them laugh and chatter.  I listened to conversations flow back and forth and it felt good.  One of them looked up at one point and said "we need to make this an annual thing!".  I'm pretty sure that can be arranged.

Sitting around the table tonight, I was reminded of the good that has come into my life from following God...and vowed to hang on, to continue to follow God down this winding road. 

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

I do not take after Uncle Pat

Papa Bear tells a story every so often about my Uncle Pat.  He's one of Papa Bear's best friends and as long as I can remember I've called him Uncle Pat...though sometimes not to his face.  Anyway, there are a plethora of stories about Uncle Pat.  He lives life to the fullest...when he's not working all the time (boo!).  The one story that is told every so often is about Uncle Pat at the casinos. 

I'm probably not going to get all the details but there was one time that Uncle Pat and Papa Bear were at the casino's.  Uncle Pat was doing quite well at whatever he was playing, up several hundred dollars.  Papa Bear, knowing Uncle Pat, tried to convince him to hand over some of the money for safe keeping.  Uncle Pat refused and wound up losing all of it.  His mantra after that was "easy come, easy go".  I do not take after Uncle Pat.

G.G. and I headed to the casinos to play her $6 in quarters.  We seldom go to the casinos but when G.G. said she had quarters for the casinos, I knew we had to make a stop.  They don't take quarters anymore, BTW, so I cashed in her quarters for bills and we sat down at the penny slots.  I put my five dollars in (my own, not hers), she put her 1 dollar in and we were off.  Within a minute my machine started making that sound that says "you've won!".  I hadn't figured out all the details on the machine and didn't know how much I had won but the sound just kept going...past 10 dollars, past 20 dollars, past 30 dollars, past 40, past 50...I scanned the machine looking for anything that would tell me what I had just won...and then I saw "7325".  Wow!  $73.25

I'll tell you, right now how casino's make money.  It's on people who can't resist playing after they have won money because it was really, really hard to walk away from that place but I did.  After playing a few more machines I walked out with $66 more dollars than I had walked in with.  G.G. won a buck sixty five and we stayed only 20 minutes from the time we walked in the door til the time we walked out.  Lunch is on me tomorrow, G.G.!

Easy come, I easy go!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas

When I was in High School I remember getting a pin that said "Jesus is the reason for the Season".  It was all the rage back then.  I was a teenager who took people at their word, who didn't do much exploration for herself and went along with the flow for the most part.

I am no longer that teenager.  I believe in the beauty, the magic and the wonder of Christmas.  As a Christ follower, I celebrate the season remembering the birth of Christ and wanting to share what I have been given with others, namely those I love.  I love the mystery and wonder of Santa Claus.  I love Christmas stockings (my favorite part of Christmas).  I love the smell of the Christmas tree, the lights that sparkle from homes and a good reason to make a lot of really-bad-for-you food--White Chocolate Fudge with Apricots and Pecans anyone?  I love Christmas.

I don't, however, believe that December 25th is the ACTUAL date of the birth of Jesus.  I do believe it is a date that is symbolic.  I do believe that before Pope Julius 1 declared December 25th as the birthday of Christ that there were many other reasons that people were celebrating around that time, including the winter solstice, Saturnalia and Yule (see ).  Makes one wonder...did Christians hijack a "holiday" from other belief systems for their own purposes?  

I believe that the significance of Christmas comes, not from a day on the calendar, but from the heart of the person celebrating.  My own heart brings the significance to Christmas, not what a department store, commercial, TV personality, magazine, radio announcer, or any other person says about Christmas.

Today I received the following in an email from a friend who got it from our local Kiwanis club.  It says just what I thought about this so called "war on Christmas".  As you celebrate Christmas, for whatever reason, I will be celebrating as well...the gift of a tiny baby with a world of responsibility on his shoulders, the wonder of Santa Claus and all.  Merry Christmas.

Letter from Jesus about Christmas
It has come to my attention that many of you are upset that folks are taking My name out of the season. Maybe you've forgotten that I wasn't actually born during this time of the year and that it was some of your predecessors who decided to celebrate My birthday on what was actually a time of pagan festival. Although I do appreciate being remembered anytime.
How I personally feel about this celebration can probably be most easily understood by those of you who have been blessed with children of your own. I don't care what you call the day. If you want to celebrate My birth, just GET ALONG AND LOVE ONE ANOTHER.
Now, having said that let Me go on. If it bothers you that the town in which you live doesn't allow a scene depicting My birth, then just get rid of a couple of Santas and snowmen and put in a small Nativity scene on your own front lawn.  If all My followers did that there wouldn't be any need for such a scene on the town square because there would be many of them all around town.
Stop worrying about the fact that people are calling the tree a holiday tree, instead of a Christmas tree. It was I who made all trees. You can remember Me anytime you see any tree. Decorate a grape vine if you wish: I actually spoke of that one in a teaching, explaining who I am in relation to you and what each of our tasks were. If you have forgotten that one, look up John 15: 1 - 8.
If you want to give Me a present in remembrance of My birth here is my wish list. Choose something from it:
  1. Instead of writing protest letters objecting to the way My birthday is being celebrated, write letters of love and hope to soldiers away from home. They are terribly afraid and lonely this time of year. I know, they tell Me all the time.
  2. Visit someone in a nursing home. You don't have to know them personally. They just need to know that someone cares about them.
  3. Instead of writing the President complaining about the wording on the cards his staff sent out this year, why don't you write and tell him that you'll be praying for him and his family this year. Then follow up. It will be nice hearing from you again.
  4. Instead of giving your children a lot of gifts you can't afford and they don't need, spend time with them. Tell them the story of My birth, and why I came to live with you down here. Hold them in your arms and remind them that I love them.
  5. Pick someone that has hurt you in the past and forgive him or her.
  6. Did you know that someone in your town will attempt to take their own life this season because they feel so alone and hopeless?  Since you don't know who that person is, try giving everyone you meet a warm smile; it could make the difference.
  7. Instead of nit picking about what the retailer in your town calls the holiday, be patient with the people who work there. Give them a warm smile and a kind word. Even if they aren't allowed to wish you a "Merry Christmas" that doesn't keep you from wishing them one. Then stop shopping there on Sunday. If the store didn't make so much money on that day they'd close and let their employees spend the day at home with their families.
  8. If you really want to make a difference, support a missionary-- especially one who takes My love and Good News to those who have never heard My name.
  9. Here's a good one. There are individuals and whole families in your town who not only will have no "Christmas" tree, but neither will they have any presents to give or receive. If you don't know them, buy some food and a few gifts and give them to the Salvation Army or some other charity which believes in Me and they will make the delivery for you.
  10. Finally, if you want to make a statement about your belief in and loyalty to Me, then behave like a Christian. Don't do things in secret that you wouldn't do in My presence. Let people know by your actions that you are one of mine. 
Don't forget; I am God and can take care of Myself. Just love Me and do what I have told you to do. I'll take care of all the rest. Check out the list above and get to work; time is short. I'll help you, but the ball is now in your court. And do have a most blessed Christmas with all those whom you love and remember:
Author unknown

Monday, December 19, 2011

A book

Okay, so here's the deal.  Awhile back Opinionated Friend asked if I would be willing to be a part of a year long blog where 6 single women in ministry wrote a blog post, at least once a month, about life.  The idea was to read each other's stories, encourage each other and at the end of the year see what we had and maybe see if it could be published.  I thought it a good idea and jumped on board...never really thinking about the publishing part.

For a year, I wrote blog posts on there.  At the end of the year I had traveled a great distance in life, had some amazing and hard experiences and had made a major life change.  Opinionated Friend came back from her Roman Adventure and began to compile all that we had written (only 4 of us really kept it going) and started seeking a place for it to be published.  I'm going to admit, I'm not a very good friend.  I was skeptical about the chances of it being published.  Sure, I had written about my life but who would really want to read it?  Opinionated Friend pressed on, though.  She edited, compiled, searched out publishing houses, went to a seminar on getting books published and has spent hours and hours working to get this blog-book together.

The result is this:

Available only on Amazon, only for Kindle or other e-readers (IE, there is no hard copy book available).  I'm extremely proud of Opinionated Friend and all the work she has done and glad to have been a part of this project.  I can't take credit for anything other than having thoughts and feelings and writing them on a blog...which is now a book.  Crazy.