Saturday, December 30, 2006

Look at what's left

Excellent two-parter from Joyce Meyer's TV show about overcoming grief and loneliness. Go to her website and download it (December 27 and 28 shows).

I don't remember a lot of details from the months after my husband's sudden death (full story starts here). A few things stand out, like writing thank you notes while sitting in front of the TV on September 11th thinking that the world was ending. And then there were the looks on my new co-workers' faces when I told them entire story six weeks later in a staff meeting so I could get it all out and not have to tell it over and over.

But what Joyce's preaching reminded me of is a quiet moment at home (my new home at my sister's house). It was a few weeks into my widowhood, and my sister came into my room and gave me a hug. She was distressed because she didn't want me to have to live my life alone. I assured her that I would never be alone, since I was never moving out of her house (ha ha).

Jokes aside, I remember thinking at that moment how fortunate I was. I truly would never have to be alone. I had so many people loving me and praying for me, and not everyone has that. I had my faith, and by God's grace I was able to see all that was left, and not just what I had lost.

That doesn't mean it was easy to go through the grief. Some days even knowing all I had left wasn't enough...the loss overshadowed everything. I cried in my car. I cried in stores. I cried at work. Some days, frankly, I had to fake that everything was alright. But the "glass half full" moments gradually increased to where most of the time I realized my glass wasn't just half full, it was overflowing.

Those of you with new grief, please take heart. The days will get better, I promise. More importantly, that's God's promise. Look at what's left in your life. Cherish it, cling to it, and be grateful for all your big and little blessings.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Lo, How a Rose E'er Blooming

Today's Our Daily Bread talks about a Christmas song that I haven't heard at all lately. It compares the arrival of Christ with the blooming of a rose in the dead of winter. As the essay says:

The song speaks of a season when roses don’t bloom and of a night half gone, a time when people often give in to despair.

Imagine how God's people felt after all those years of waiting for their Deliverer. They might have been ready to give up. Then in the middle of a winter night, when they least expected it, their prayers were answered.

God knows the hour and moment of your deliverance from your burden.

Don't give up.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Mele Kalikimaka

My long-time readers may recall that last year my family had the first "theme" Christmas. It was "Pajama Christmas", and we had a great time!

This year the theme was "Christmas in Hawaii". Since we could not afford to actually go to Hawaii, we brought Hawaii to us! The house was decorated with flowers and masks and a plastic totem pole and a palm tree window cling on the patio door. Our special project was making leis from real flowers flown in from Hawaii. Here I am with mine (can't find my regular camera so this is from the webcam):

I know, Christmas doesn't really need a theme (it kinda comes with one built in). But it's just a way to add a little extra fun to the day.

As for dinner, everything was FABULOUS as always! We had ham, meatballs and rumaki (two varieties - liver and scallops) along with lots of side dishes including Hawaiian salad. Dessert was cookies and a tropical version of my brother-in-law's famous creme brulee.

It was an almost perfect family day. The only thing that could have made it better was to have everyone there. But alas, miles and other kinds of distance prevented it. But you were all there in our hearts.

Well, gotta get the leis into the fridge and get myself to bed (work tomorrow). As they say in Hawaii, Mele Kalikimaka!

Go tell it, any way you can

Merry Christmas, and God's blessings to you today and always!

Yesterday at my home church we had a special Christmas Eve mass devoted especially to children. There weren't many people there. Several songs got messed up. The pianist and the guitar player got their signals crossed on one, and another one the words were too small to read. I sang solo several times, and since I have a cold my voice cracked a few times.

This morning I walked to the big church in my neighborhood. It was beautiful and almost full (and the place seats about 600). The orchestra played wonderfully. The soloist sang like an angel. Everything seemed to go off without a hitch.

And you know what? I LOVED both services!

Worship is one of those rare things in life where your intentions matter more than the results. God knows your heart, and if you sing loud and off-key but you are sincere it makes Him smile! He doesn't care if we make mistakes, as long as we come to Him.

Both services ended with a rousing rendition of "Go Tell It On The Mountain". Well, there are no mountains around here, so I'll have to settle for the internet.

JESUS CHRIST IS BORN! May He be born again in your heart today.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Shopping surprise

It was a quick trip to pick just a few last-minute items for Christmas. And the first thought that entered my mind when I saw this was "NOW I've seen everything".

Yes, that is a Hello Kitty Coffee Maker!

I've got nothing against Hello Kitty. It just seems to me that kids are growing up so fast these days (geezer moment here) and it pains me to think of a kid young enough to love Hello Kitty looking for their java fix first thing in the morning.

But then something else occurred to me. What if it was thirty-somethings buying this just trying to put a little memory of their childhood into their morning routine? Picture a young executive about to leave for her high-stress job. She's got a meeting with her toughest client at nine and performance reviews to finish after that. For most of the day she will have both feet squarely in her adult world.

Nothing wrong with stepping back into childhood for a little while and a little smile. As long as you don't try to live back there.

But then what's next? A Polly Pocket radar detector?

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Be a blessing

A friend of mine was trying to get a gift for his wife the other day by taking a quick lunchtime trip to the nearby mall. He was working on an important project and couldn't be away from the office for long.

He never made it into the mall, but perhaps his real mission for the day was accomplished. A woman was stuck near the entrance to the parking lot in her stalled minivan. He helped get her vehicle off the road. What a wonderful blessing he was to that woman! By the time he was done he had to turn around and get back to work.

Helping her was an inconvenience, not to mention a difficult and dirty job. But to a guy like him it was a no-brainer. He saw several other men in cars pass this woman by on their way into the mall. None of them stopped to help.

It reminded me of more than one occasion when I chose not to help out somebody when I could have. In particular was the time I saw an older woman trying to shovel her car out of the parking space where the snow plows had buried it. I was running late for a church meeting and quickly decided that the meeting was more important. Turns out that particular meeting started a half hour late. But even if it didn't, stopping to help her would have certainly been a good use of my time.

Every day we encounter situations where we have the opportunity to be a blessing. Sometimes it's pushing a dirty minivan in your good work clothes. Sometimes it's as simple as giving a smile instead of a frown (especially to store clerks at this time of year).

When that little voice inside gives you a blessing alert, listen to it. You can make somebody's day, and add a little light to your own.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

The hidden 'fense

I watched those last two Joyce Meyer TV shows about how damaging taking and giving offense can be. Before I go on let me just say...podcasting is SO COOL! I don't have TV right now (a personal choice), but I can get some shows over my computer if they are available via podcasting, which Enjoying Everyday Life is.

Besides giving and taking offense with others, they talked about "offending yourself". Huh? What does that mean? At first I thought it meant hurting my own feelings then apologizing to myself (sorry, Judie). It's sort of like that, only not so "split personality".

Not loving ourselves is offensive. After all, if God (the Creator of the Universe, the Big Guy, Numero Uno) loves you (and He does whether you believe it or not) then who the heck are you NOT to?

What a radical thought! I have wasted a good portion of my life not loving much about myself for various reasons (no time to list them all). Somehow I got the notion in my head that "loving yourself" was vanity and therefore a sin. But a quick look at the Thesaurus gives us synonyms for vanity such as arrogance, conceit and narcissism. That's not love.

What we're talking about is believing in your worth as a human being, and loving yourself, even if there are things you currently don't like about yourself. That's not to say that we don't have anything to improve upon (that would be vanity). But right here today, as you are, you agree with God.

It never occurred to me that not loving myself meant that I disagreed with God. But I was in effect saying "well, You might love me but I have higher standards". Higher standards than God? Yikes!

So it's very important for me to break my habits of telling jokes at my own expense, putting myself down, and being super-critical about the things I want to change about myself. I need to remember that each step I take in the right direction is progress.

Time to knock down those 'fenses once and for all.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

The other side of the 'fense

OK, let's say we are able to turn our thinking around and make the choice not to be offended. There's another side to this. What about the things we say and do that offend other people? Shouldn't they be cool like us and just let it go?

Well, sure, in an ideal world. But we don't live in that world. We live in a world where some people's first reaction upon being offended is to kill. Or start a riot. Or call a lawyer.

That reminds me of one of my favorite TV shows - Ally McBeal (1997-2002). It was about a law firm. One of the partners was Richard Fish, who had a clever way of offending people and assuming forgiveness from them in the same breath. He would say something outrageous, knowing it would offend, and follow it with a single word - "bygones" - short for "let bygones be bygones", meaning to let past offenses stay in the past (as if two seconds was "the past").

In a TV show, that's funny. In real life, Richard would more likely have been slapped or worse before he got the "bygones" out. We have to be as careful not to offend as we are not to take offense. I almost think this is more difficult, as we cannot always know what might offend somebody. But let's be honest, we usually do know. How often are we like Richard? We say something then follow it up with "I was only joking". Or "they shouldn't be so sensitive". The point is, we are ultimately responsible for every single word that comes out of our mouth.

For one summer back in the 1980's I worked for a man who always (and I mean always) took at least several seconds to form his thoughts before speaking. This was weird and sometimes very annoying, since the concept of thinking before speaking was completely alien to me. He had to have consciously developed that skill. And although I don't remember much else about him, my guess is that he rarely said something he later regretted, since he always preceded his words with so much thought.

We cannot change other people, only ourselves. And I'm not saying that is easy to do. But if we learn to stop and think first before speaking, and before reacting to other people's words, we can build new thought habits that will lead to a more peaceful life for ourselves and those around us.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Offense: take it or leave it

What kind of fence only exists in the mind of the beholder? Offense.

Not my best word-play, I'll admit. But it came to mind recently as I was talking to a group of young people about an ongoing hurt-feeling situation amongst them. The idea didn't originate with me...I read so much that I pick things up and sometimes forget where they came from. It might have come from several sources. But it boils down to this:

Being offended is really our own choice.

Think about it. Somebody does or says something and you "take offense" or "are offended". Both those common terms reflect action on our part. The way I see it, when we feel offended one of three things is happening:

The person intends to offend us. In this case, if we choose not to be offended, we have taken away that person's power in the situation.


The person did not mean to offend us. They said or did something that they thought was funny or harmless but did not realize it might be taken personally or the wrong way. In this case, if we choose not to be offended, we have avoided hurt feelings and a damaged relationship.


Someone is "pushing the envelope" for the sole purpose of getting a reaction. Vulgar movies and song lyrics, political cartoons and talk shows, hate speech, "No Fat Chicks" bumper stickers, pornography and the like would fall into this category. When we turn it off or choose to ignore it, again, we are taking away the power that person or organization has to offend us.

At work, I used to feel offended when certain co-workers would (seem to) ignore my emails. But not too long ago I realized that, among my peers anyway, I probably get fewer emails by far than anyone else. One of my co-workers can sometimes get 20 emails an hour! Most are real, must-read-and-respond emails (not just notifications of system activity, junk mail, etc). I realized that it's more likely that I'm being lost in a flood rather than purposely ignored. I've learned to adjust my communication methods (and my thinking) to get the answers I need and be more at peace at the same time.

I personally think that maybe 90% of the time we are offended, it is unintentional or a misunderstanding on the other person's part. How much better off would we be if we could dial-down our sensitivity to things and learn to summon peace in our own minds? What kind of affect would that have on the world?

One of my favorite preachers is Joyce Meyer, and she will be talking about this subject on her TV show this week with author John Bevere, who calls offense "Satan's bait". Can't wait to see that.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

The Thrill of the Chaste

The Thrill of the Chaste is the first book by our friend Dawn Eden at The Dawn Patrol. Ever since I heard she was writing a book on the subject of chastity, I knew it would be something I would want to read and write about here. For chastity is the lifestyle I have chosen (with some difficulty) since the death of my husband five years ago.

Although we are constantly barraged by sexual messages in television, films, magazines, newspapers, music and the internet, this is still (as it should be) a subject that one does not discuss lightly. Dawn makes her case for a chaste lifestyle effectively because she has the courage to tell us about her own experiences. Anyone who wants to someday have the most awesome human relationship possible--a spiritually and physically fulfilling marriage--should read this book and thank God for giving Dawn the calling, the talent and the guts to write it.

As I read, I used a highlighter pen and some of those little Post-It Page Markers to mark sections that really spoke to me and that I would want to quote. Good idea, except that I had used 30 of them by the time I finished Chapter 8.

So I decided to pick one thing to share with you here, and it comes from my 13th Post-It Page Marker. In Chapter 5, Dawn talks about the loss of innocence which starts not with the first sex act itself, but with the crossing of a certain boundary and what happens after that if you make sex part of your dating life:

Yet, as you explored further, you could never recapture that feeling you had before you took that first step--the feeling of hopefulness and unexplored possiblities. You might try to repeat the same thing you did before with a new man, but in your mind you would always compare your new date to those who had preceded him. Whether he was better, worse, or just different, he was coloring on pages that already contained the outlines of other men.

This is where I have to admit that there were "outlines of other men" on my pages before I married. I bought into the lie that it was alright as long as you were "in love" or that you at least "respected" the other person (whatever that means). And I was not my husband's first lover either. It still makes me sad to know that my husband and I were never truly the only people in our bed, because the memory of others would always be there (deep down and unconscious most of the time, but still there). Sex is such an intense, bonding experience that it can never really be "casual". Anyone who says otherwise is lying to themselves.

What I can tell you that Dawn couldn't is that, having experienced sex both inside and outside of marriage, I know without a doubt that there is simply no comparison. Saving yourself for the husband or wife God has picked for you will be worth the wait.

Since He designed it that way, how could it be otherwise?

Saturday, December 02, 2006

The Nativity Story

I did make it to the theater last night to see The Nativity Story. I have to agree with a lot of the reviews I read yesterday...the movie seems pretty slow and boring. But unlike them, I shed a few tears at the end.

I would have liked to see more character development, especially in the case of Mary, Joseph and even the shepherd. We are so far removed from the way of life in that time in history that it is very difficult to relate to the motivation of the characters. But in the end it is a very simple story. The real drama will come during Jesus's ministry and in His death and resurrection.

As a Christian, what made me cry at the end was watching that baby and family, knowing what they would go through in the next 33 years...the thought of God coming down to Earth to live in a human body, just to die a horrible death, for me.

And as for that 100 mile journey on a donkey? Mary chose to go with her husband, and the trip was not fun (to say the least). She chose to accept God's will for her life, just as we have that choice. We will never be asked to do more than we can bear.

Mary was truly blessed amongst women.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Supporting "good" Hollywood

With movies available on DVD sent to my home at my request (Netflix is so cool), I don't often actually go to the movie theater much anymore.

But unless it is closed due to bad weather (and it just might be), I'm heading to popcornland tonight to see The Nativity Story.

With so much junk coming out of Hollywood on a regular basis, it's not enough to avoid paying money for the stuff I don't want to see. I'm doing my small part to encourage Hollywood to make better movies by supporting them when they do come along.

And maybe when Mary is told she has to travel 100 miles on a donkey when she is about to give birth, this time we will actually hear her say "are you KIDDING ME?!?"

Or maybe not.