Wednesday, December 30, 2020

When God takes you out of your comfort zone


Today, I've reached full freak out mode. In just one day, I'll be standing before a group of a dozen people to teach them an art class. 

About a month before Christmas, a woman I'd met on our trip to Israel asked me if I'd be willing to teach some of her friends and family an art class. She said she'd paid me to do it. In haste, I gladly agreed not taking time to consider all that would be involved. 

For the past few weeks, I've been gathering the art supplies I'll need for the class. I've made a "lesson plan" and worked hard to perfect my teaching technique by using my youngest daughter as a guinea pig student. 

The practice lesson went well but took longer than I thought. By the time I was through teaching, I was physically and emotionally drained. My back was killing me from standing and bending to paint at the easel for 3 straight hours. I had a splitting headache from clenching my teeth and holding stress in my neck as we worked. I didn't realize it at the time, but I was a nervous wreck. 

After finishing the lesson with my daughter, I prayed that evening as I went to bed - "God, what are you doing? Why are you taking me out of my comfort zone???" I told Him I wasn't a teacher, especially an art teacher and that's when He reminded me I used to teach preschool and Sunday School for teens. 

The more I prayed and questioned His motives, the more I felt Him impressing upon my spirit that I needed to be taken out of my comfort zone because without this experience, I'd never grow. 

Yikes! 

Of course, I wanted to grow. My entire life I've done my best to continue growing in my faith, but I never dreamed I'd be put to the test this way. 

Standing in front of a group of strangers, I'd be putting myself at risk of failure and humiliation. 

When I shared my fears with my husband, he told me to relax. When I talked to my youngest daughter about it, she said, "Mom, it's supposed to be fun. Just enjoy yourself." Those were wise words I needed to hear from both my husband and my daughter. 

So, tomorrow is the big day. And even though I know God's ordained this, I'm scared silly. And even though I know I'm to be anxious for nothing, I'm shaking in my boots. 

What's the worst that can happen? I become the laughing stock of their little gathering. What's the best that can happen? I'll succeed at teaching the class, the students will complete their project and leave happy and fulfilled. I'm hoping for the latter. 

I guess I need to learn to trust God more and that's why He's using this opportunity to teach me to step out in faith. 

I could use a few prayers to boost my confidence. If you have a moment, would you lift me up? 

Thanks in advance and if you feel God calling you to step out of your comfort zone, I hope you're a more willing student than I. 

Remember, and I'm also speaking to myself here, God causes all things to work together for our good. All things - even art classes. 

So tomorrow, as I stand in front of a group of women I don't know, I pray God will give me the strength and courage to succeed. I pray He'll allow me to teach without fear or dread. I pray He will be my ever present help in times of trouble and that He'll go before me and prepare the way. Most of all, I pray He'll use this event to grow me into a stronger witness for Him.

Friday, December 18, 2020

It's the Little Things

 Today I've been super busy getting ready for Christmas and a beach vacation all at once. There's been so much to do and so little time. 

In order to keep myself on track, I started jotting notes yesterday of all the things I wanted to accomplish today. It seems the older I get the more it helps to unload information by writing it down. 

I was making great headway until a family member wanted to FaceTime. When I stopped to enter the call, I looked at the clock and realized it was almost 3:00 p.m.and I hadn't eaten lunch yet, so the timing of the call was perfect. 

After lunch, I crossed off the tasks I'd completed and looked at the next one on the list- making Sugar Cookie dough. I put it on the list so I'd be ready to cut out cookies with my granddaughter tomorrow. 

I pulled out the ingredients to make the dough, flour, sugar, baking soda, eggs, vanilla, and butter. Gathering my mixing bowls and measuring spoons, I got busy. Mixing the ingredients was cathartic. As I was mixing, I didn't think about anything until time to wrap the dough up to refrigerate. 

Ripping off sheets of wax paper, I divided the dough into two equal portions and wrapped it. As soon as I saw the logs of dough, I was reminded of my younger Girl Scouting days. 

I can still see our group of eager scouts dressed in our green uniforms gathered around the counter in Mrs. Stodghill's kitchen. Mrs. Stodghill was the mother of one of my scouting buddies and she'd volunteered to teach the fine art of baking to our group that day. 

Many of us had never had the opportunity to put together cookie dough. We had no idea the time and preparation it took to make it, all we knew was how good it was to devour raw or cooked. 

Each of the girls in the group was assigned a task. One measured the flour, one the sugar, one the baking soda, and salt. When the dry ingredients were measured carefully into the bowl, another girl had the honor of mixing. Mrs. Stodghill gave clear instructions throughout the process then turned to the other small group of girls and helped us combine the wet ingredients into another bowl. 

If memory serves me correctly, I was the one chosen to crack the egg. I'd never cracked one in my life and was petrified of doing it, but Mrs. Stodghill was so sweet and kind. She stood behind me, her hands on mine and helped me gently tap the egg on the counter then quickly raise and open it over the bowl. Tiny bits of eggshell fell in with the egg. I was so embarrassed. I'd failed the task completely, or so I thought. Mrs. Stodghill laughed and said, "Don't worry! It happens to all of the best cooks. All you need to do is take a spoon and get those little pieces out." I was so thankful she showed me how to remove the eggshells and I was happy she hadn't scolded me. 

When the wet and dry ingredients were mixed together into one large bowl, our adult guide helped us divide the dough and wrap it telling us we'd need to chill the dough before baking. As anxious young girls, I think I remember several whines rising from the group. None of us wanted to wait to make and eat the delicacies. 

Placing my own rolls of dough into the fridge, I had to smile. If my granddaughter had been with me while mixing the dough, I'm sure she would have reacted in much the same way. 

It's funny how I can remember days over 50 years ago but I have a hard time remembering what I did yesterday. 

I'm grateful God gives us the opportunity to pull special memories from our memory bank now and then and I'm thankful for the little things that help jog those memories into the forefront our minds, aren't you? 

I'm sure only a small handful of the girls in my group took time to thank Mrs. Stodghill after our baking lesson was over. I sure hope I was one of them! 

There are many wonderful, gracious ladies like Mrs. Stodghill that helped our Girl Scout troop through the years. They gave of their time and talents because they wanted to see us succeed as young women. It's too bad that kind of caring is rare in the generations growing up today, but there are a few of the priceless gems still out there, ones who were part of our group that day, I'm sure. 

We were raised to have strong morals and values. We were raised to honor and respect our elders. We were taught to be Proverbs 31 women. I'm so glad I grew up that way and I hope, my grandchildren will learn some of those life lessons from me.

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

A Different Kind of Christmas This Year

For the past several years, Phil and I have been downsizing everything in our lives, including Christmas giving. 

As we get older and our income is greatly reduced sliding the slippery slope toward retirement, it's not only become necessary, but it's also become natural. 

A wise person once said, "You can't take it with you when you go. Have you ever seen a hearse pulling a U-Haul?" Both of us had to admit it was time to let go of many of our material possessions and we made a pact to keep from adding more. We decided to do things differently. 

So, over the last few Christmases, we've gradually decreased our focus on giving material gifts to loved ones. Instead, we've given away treasured possessions throughout the year. We've tried to think of meaningful things to gift, things with a story behind them, and it's been fun doing that. 

We also stopped going Christmas shopping, to a degree. Instead of being out and about, in the midst of the Christmas chaos, we've simplified things by ordering online. It was so much easier and served the purpose. 

This year, with the Covid-19 virus running rampant, we've thought more about the true meaning of Christmas and how we want this year to take us back to a time when that was the one and only focus, which is as it should be. 

Of course, there are a few small gifts under the tree, but there are less there than ever before. And the gifts that are there are for a new tradition we've begun - celebrating Jolabokaflod, an Icelandic tradition of giving books on Christmas Eve.

For those who can't be with us in person, we chosen to give consumable gifts and we've made charitable donations in the honor of our grandchildren. We felt those were practical ways we could celebrate the tradition of giving without going into major debt, while expressing our love to those most important to us.

I never thought I'd say I was thankful for Covid-19, but I am because it's caused people to hold tightly to what matters most and to rethink our lives. 

Worldly materialism has caused many to lose focus at Christmastime. Maybe this year, we can all learn to refocus our attention on the reason for our future hope. 

It will definitely be a different Christmas for many this year. Some have lost their livelihood, some have lost loved ones, some have suffered greatly due to the forced isolation, but whatever the case, Christmas will always be a time to seek the Savior and in the seeking, we're promised to find the best and most priceless gift of all, Jesus Christ.  

One thing I've noticed since we've begun to reduce our material possessions is the extra room it's created. I'm loving having all this extra space. And when you really think about it, we all have much more than we could ever need. Too much clutter produces a whole lot of stress and no one needs that. 

I hope your Christmas will be different this year, too. You may not choose to make the drastic changes we've made, but perhaps you can look for ways to hone in on keeping the main thing the main thing. 

Let's never forget that without Christ, we'd have no reason to celebrate Christmas and that would be a very sad thing. 

Covid-19 has stolen so much from us, let's not let it steal our Christmas joy. 

Yes, this will be a very different kind of Christmas this year, and that's okay by me. I'm looking forward to the difference because I think it's going to be one of the best Christmases ever as I don't pay attention to what is or isn't under the tree. All that matters to me is who's in the manger and who's on the throne.

Sunday, December 13, 2020

Fresh Air - the cure all

Beautiful Starr's Mill near Senoia
 It's been days since I've been outside enjoying the fresh air, so when we woke up today and noticed the overcast sky, I assumed we'd be inside another day. 

Hubby settled down to read his Bible with a steaming cup of coffee while I finished up the last of my Christmas cards. 

I was antsy. I needed to go somewhere and do something, so I asked my love if he'd be willing to visit one of of our favorite picnic spots - Starr's Mill just outside Senoia. 

He was quick to agree so we stopped what we were doing, loaded up the car and headed out. 

I'd grabbed my camera, as I normally do on our adventures, and had gently thrown it into the back seat of the car. 

When we arrived at the park, there were only two other cars there. A woman and a young couple were making engagement photos. The other vehicle belonged to two fishermen who were unloading their boat and getting ready to enjoy an afternoon of fishing. 

Phil and I went to my favorite photo spot and he held my camera bag as I snapped a few shots of the waterfall and the mill. Then we hiked over to the other side of the river and enjoyed a walk along the water's edge. 

It was so peaceful as we walked through fallen leaves and over downed branches. The only sounds we heard were sounds from birds. There were 4 Canada geese, 3 ducks, and one Great Blue Heron. The heron didn't make a sound but the other birds were a bit noisy. 

A beautiful Great Blue Heron

I found another great photo spot and climbed over some large rocks and through a marshy area. When the ground started to feel as if it were sucking at my shoes, I stopped and yelled to Phil that I wasn't going to go any further for fear of trudging into knee deep sludge. I got my shot and moved back onto the path. 

As we rounded the bend, the men were about to launch their boat into the water. We stopped to speak to them and I asked what kind of fish they were hoping to catch today. The elder of the two said probably Bream or Crappie. I nodded and asked if he knew if there were any Gar in the river. He said there were and I think he was surprised I knew anything about fishing. 

We talked a few more minutes and then said our goodbyes and moved on. It was nice to see people out and about without masks on. I think everyone is sick and tired of having to wear masks! I know we sure are. 

We enjoyed our lunch and chatted a bit about our future before heading back home. 

The sky was clouding up more and we wondered if it was going to rain soon. 

It's amazing how a simple day outdoors can refresh and revive the soul. I'm so thankful we took time to go outside. We both needed it.

Thursday, December 10, 2020

Looking to the New Year with Concern

Yesterday I had an annual visit with the cardiologist. It was the first time I’d been to the hospital since the breakout of Covid-19.

 I knew I’d need to wear a mask before entering the building, since most businesses have adopted this policy since the virus began to spread.

 Entering the building, I walked to the bank of elevators. Pushing the button, I chose the floor for my doctor’s office. When the doors opened, I saw 4 large blue circles on the floor inside. In each circle, the words social distancing appeared. I was caught off guard, realizing, even in elevators, people weren’t allowed to be close.

 Stepping inside, I obediently stepped on a circle. Right behind me, a man entered. I spoke to him through my mask offering a muffled, “Good Morning.” He did not respond although I knew he heard me. Our eyes locked and his fear was evident as he moved to the far corner of the elevator. I felt like a leper.

 When we reached our destination, we both exited the elevator. I went one way and he the other.

 Walking down the halls, I glanced into glass windowed offices. Inside each were chairs spread apart, many of them numbered. Signs outside office doors notified patients of limited capacity and without an appointment, one could not be seen.  

 I went in to register, my temperature was taken, and I was asked if I’d been exposed to the virus or if I had any symptoms. Answering in the negative, I took my seat.

 When the nurse called my name, I was taken to an exam room where I waited for the doctor. Before he entered, the nurse explained I’d need an EKG. Since I’d never met this particular nurse before, I gave her a heads up. I said, “When you attach the leads, you’ll be surprised.” Her questioning look said it all, that’s when I informed her, I was a “flattie,” a breast cancer victim who’d chosen not to reconstruct. She laughed and said, “I’ve seen everything, honey. Don’t you worry.”

 The EKG only took a few minutes and the doctor came in to perform his exam. I received good news and was told I didn’t need to return for a year. Before he left the room, the doctor and I talked.

 “You know,” he said, “I had Covid-19 for 2 weeks in late March. It was terrible.” Wondering why he was sharing such personal information, I listened as he continued. “Are you going to get the vaccine when it is released?” I gave him an honest reply, “I don’t know.” He said, “You really should, you know. With your compromised immunity, you should be among the first to get it.”

 I was surprised to hear I was considered to have compromised immunity, especially after 6 and ½ years of fighting cancer, but he insisted it was true.

 I left his office feeling conflicted. My doctor was advising I receive the vaccine when it became available but I was concerned. In the first place, the vaccine had barely been tested. In the second place, I had lymphedema, which made receiving inoculations difficult. Instead of being able to receive vaccines in my arms, I needed to receive them in my buttocks. Most nurses gave me a hard time when I tried to explain.

 I wondered if the majority of breast cancer patients were being advised to take the vaccine and if so, how many would comply?

 I also wondered if many women might forego visiting their doctors during COVID-19? Would they skip having suspicious lumps checked for fear associated with catching the virus? And would all of this contribute to an increase in the number of breast cancer cases next year?

 The new year is filled with uncertainty and while we wish we could see COVID-19 completely disappear; it seems it will be around for several more months. Will the vaccine offer hope? Should everyone receive it? The decision is one that must be weighed individually but for those with compromised immunity, like those affected by cancer, it seems a no brainer, especially when doctors recommend it, but I've already made up my mind. I'm not taking it, no matter what. 

The reasons I've decided against taking it are varied, but the main one is due to the lack of time given to trials. There's no hard evidence about potential side effects and I'm not willing to be a human guinea pig. Some may say I'm crazy, and that's okay. Everyone has a right to their own choices concerning immunizations and other medical procedures. I hope you'll take time to weigh yours carefully. 

Stay safe and well.

 

Sunday, December 6, 2020

Visiting Relatives

Yesterday was a great day for visiting relatives. 

Before the end of the year, we always take time to visit those we don't see often and yesterday, we traveled to Griffin to see my Aunt, Betty June, and cousin, Karen. 

While there, we enjoyed catching up. We looked through old family photos and talked about precious childhood memories.

It was a much needed respite to the craziness going on in our world today. I'm so thankful we had the chance to spend time with family. 

There are so many we don't see on a regular basis and it's always amazing to see changes that occur in the span of time between visits. 

It seems like Covid-19 is trying to steal everyone's time together, but we're determined not to let it! Phil and I have purposed in our hearts to keep on doing what we want to do and do it when we want to do it. No virus is going to stop us from living our lives. Of course, we're cautious and don't purposely put ourselves in harm's way, but you can't just hole up and stay inside. There's too much living to do and time waits for no one, as a wise person once said. 

 

Me, Aunt Betty June, and her baby
Karen and I in front of the tree

Saturday, December 5, 2020

Where to begin?

It's already the 5th of December and it seems like we're on a fast slide to the end of the year. I think many would agree, we won't be sad to see 2020 end. But thinking about the end of the year also brings about feelings of trepidation for the New Year. While I want to feel hope and excitement, I can't shake this feeling of concern. 

Of course, no one knows what the future holds, and I'd certainly never want that responsibility, but as Christ followers, we must place our trust where it belongs - with Jesus, no matter what may come our way. I tell myself that every single day. Proverbs 3:4-6 has become my motto: "Trust in the Lord with all your heart. Lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths." 

Those verses offer comfort even in our current days of uncertainty. They speak directly to our needs, both emotional and spiritual. I'm so thankful for God's Word. Without it, I'd surely be lost. 

Okay, enough preaching! Let me tell you about our most recent mini-vacation. 

Phil and I drove up to Mineral Bluff, Georgia, on the last day of November. We'd planned a 4 day spiritual retreat in the beautiful mountains of North Georgia. We'd never stayed in Mineral Bluff before but were pleasantly surprised that the cabin we'd chosen had a spectacular view of the Appalachian mountains. The view was so stunning, we couldn't help but stand on the large porch and ogle for hours. And while we did, we could only think, if this is how majestic God's creation is here on earth, imagine what it will be like when we see heaven! 

Sunrise over the mountains

 

While there, we received the gift snow and lots of it. We ended up with about 3 inches. It was absolutely wonderful to watch the large, feathery, powder soft flakes fall while we sat by a roaring fire watching the movie, Little Women. It certainly got us into the Christmas spirit. 

We didn't do much over the next several days other than read, eat, pray, and play a game of pool. 

The trip had been purposefully planned to consult God about our future. There are so many things looming in front of us and we wanted to make sure we didn't jump ahead of God on any of our plans. 

At the end of our stay, both Phil and I had peace about several large decisions we needed to make. I'm so thankful we're both believers and desire most of all, to always put God first in our lives. 

Our beautiful view each day
 

Now that we're back home, we're smack dab in the middle of reality. Our focus is on so many things- especially the health of friends and loved ones. We have much to pray about every day. 

We did manage to get the Christmas tree up and decorated, and I started thinking of ways to use all the apples we bought in the mountains. So far, I've made three loaves of Cinnamon Apple Toasted Pecan bread and I plan to make Apple Butter, Apple Jelly, and Applesauce soon.  

I have several doctors appointments coming up in the next two weeks. I'll see the cardiologist, my oncologist, and my primary doc. I'm praying everything is good and I won't need any scans or tests before the end of the year.

Along with Christmas plans, we also have another vacation before the end of the year. This time, we'll be at the beach and we're so looking forward to it. Jamie, my youngest daughter, will be joining us. It should be a great end to this otherwise challenging year. 

God has been so good to us and blesses us each day. We are grateful. The future is in His hands. No matter how crazy our world seems, He's still on the throne and still in control. I'm so thankful for that.


Don't Waste Any Time

Frances McDormand as Fern Today I finally watched the acclaimed movie, Nomadland. I'm always a day late and a dollar short, it seems, wh...