Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Day 30 ~ Overjoyed Amid Sandy?

This morning we awake to the devastation of Sandy...

Looking at the television coverage...how can one be overjoyed?  Really? Three gifts overjoyed?


I could not help but think of the four newborns on ventilators at NYU Langone hospital who were evacuated and those valiant nurses who hand-bagged them down 9 flights of stairs to ambulance transports.  Those nurses were literally their life-breaths.

You can see the short video here.


Nearly 200 firefighters braved the elements, despite their concern about their own families and loved ones, spending nearly 9 hours to contain fire among 80 homes that were destroyed by fire at Breezy Point.  A lot of retirees of the NYPD/NYFD lived in that area...true salt of the earth folks.  Thank God those first responders continue to show up...day after day after day.

You can see the short raw video here. (Two-thirds down on the page - I apologize for the political ad.)


No matter what is going on in our lives, I can be overjoyed because of God's Word.  I think about 2 Corinthians 4:8-9:
We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair;  persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.
And Psalm 46:1-3:
God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.
2 Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
3 though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging.

Happiness comes and goes with emotions...but joy runs constant, deep, and consistently despite our circumstances.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Day 29 ~ Three Gifts On Time

Two days left...

Three gifts on time...does that mean "on time" or "about time?"  I think I will consider both...

Gift #1 ~

Over the past two weeks I have been struggling internally...with something that I knew was clearly not from God and meant only to discourage and defeat me.  God brought a dear friend, LB, my way who opened her heart and her ears to not only listen but also to share...even though she is in Chicago!  We've walked similar paths...and God brought her along my pathway...a gift!

Gift #2 ~

I'm not a big group person...never have been.  I'm not a "the more, the merrier" kind of person.  I like intimacy with people I trust...one-on-one...or a group of four...or me and Edster with another couple.  I work with a lot of extroverted folks...and while I can appear to be somewhat outgoing...I know that I am a deep, thoughtful introvert that requires quiet and solitude...to explore my passions (most of which are solitary), such as:  photography, writing, Bible study, genealogy, birding, solitude, creative expression.  Often quite different pursuits than my counterparts.

But God brought some wonderful women in my life "on time" who share similar passions and similar styles and pursuits, from my some e-courses I took...who expected this???  Bonus...and we fellowship daily and they are all such special gifts to me:  Viv, Sarah, Cathy, Madelin, Sherry, Terri, Stacie, GeetLee, Cheryl1, Cheryl2, Cheryl3, Julie, Elaine, Donna M, Donna C, Laurie, Sherri, Mary (I almost thre up), Helen, Leon, Catherine, Nancy Jean (I love that combo - we appalachians grew up with relatives that all had two names), Karla, Lissa, Martha, Carol, Debbie, Debbie2Debbie3, Joy, Roxi, Barbara, Lorraine, Diane, Kristina (mustache), Peg, Barbara H., Dotti, Naomi, Kate, Robyn, Justine, Sharon, Jessica (Lensbaby), Lori, Diana, Cindy, Sally (Radish), Lorna, Angela, Connie, RedWillow, Maria, Toni, BD, Kate T, Maggie, Michelle, Susan, Becky, Anne, Olivia (and probably more I missed)...and of course, Kim (I'm not a public speaker) Klassen!

Gift #3 ~

I have been in bed all day...leaving work after getting sick...sleeping off and on...the storm news droning on in the background.  But my Edster brought a gift my way...he filled the bird feeders yesterday, "on time", not knowing I would be home today.  I'm not certain if its the storm coming or what...but it's been birds, birds, birds, birds, birds...flying in and out and finding gems of seed for consumption.  Titmice, northern cardinals, house finches, carolina wren, black-capped chickadees, sparrows, american goldfinches, blue jays...all outside my bedroom window.

Praying for those all in the path of the storm...we will get some of it (mostly wind)...but there are many who are in harm's way.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Day 28 ~ Three Gifts in Christ

More gifts today...and how appropriate on a Sunday to select three gifts in Christ.

Just three? (Wow...hard to narrow down)...and only three more days to go...

As I sit here on this dreary Sunday afternoon in my favorite chair...speeches by the candidates for President of the United States seem to be the order of the day on the news channels...

Everyone has talked about what a pivotal election day this is on November 6...

Future uncertain...on the brink of insolvency...losing our moral compass as a nation...the economy...

While I am a good citizen, love this country, am a faithful voter...my perspective is a little bit different.

1.  One gift in Christ ~ Confidence.  The theme of this blog comes from Lamentations 3:22-24.

Because of the Lord's faithful love, we do not perish, for His mercies never end.  They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness!

I say: The Lord is my portion, therefore I will put my hope in Him!
Whatever the outcome, I am CONFIDENT in God's decision in this election according to His purposes.  I find this quote from Alexander Carson so relevant:

As God can protect his people under the greatest despotism, so the utmost civil liberty is no safety to them without the immediate protection of his Almighty arm. I fear that Christians in this country have too great a confidence in political institutions . . . [rather] than of the government of God.

2. Another gift in Christ ~  Direction and guidance.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
Do not lean on your own understanding;
think about Him in all your ways
and He will guide you on the right path.
~ Proverbs 3:5-6 (HCSB)

 3.  A third gift in Christ ~  Joy.

You have shown me the paths of life and in your presence is fullness of
joy; and at your right hand there are pleasures forevermore.
~ Psalms 16:11 (ESV)
And how do I enter into His presence for that fullness of joy?  Through His gates with gratitude and thankfulness!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Day 27 ~ Gifts Humbling, Honoring, Happy

Down to the last days of my October Joy Dare...

Has anyone else besides me having avalanches daily out of their mailboxes from catalogs?  Honestly...

I came out from the bedroom this morning...leafed through one from Pottery Barn...and then Dell...then one from Ballard Designs...

And I felt sick...

A gift has appeared of late that is extremely humbling.  We are such an excessive society...these catalogs were dripping with it. And our craving for more creates a pace and stress that is barely survivable.

As part of the Foundation for Hospices in Sub-Saharan Africa (FHSSA), our pediatric palliative care center has become a sponsor to the first pediatric palliative care unit in Kenya. Only 4.6 percent of the world's population lives in the United States, yet consumes 80 percent of the world's pain medication. 

I met Dr. Mburugu and his team via streaming video over a laptop in our conference room a couple of weeks ago.  I am humbled at how I see how this group is taking this huge venture, to make a difference for the children of Kenya, with so little...compared to all the options we have in our pediatric palliative care center at the hospital.  I'm sure as we grow our relationship, God will continue to humble me with this gift.

Continuing to talk about my work, I received recognition from supervisors for "going the extra mile" working with an amazing single mother whose young child had sustained a traumatic brain injury.  His survival was indeed tenuous...possible brain death.  During this time, I tried to take as much "paperwork" and "financial" burden off of her within my professional boundaries so she could focus on her child.  Six months later, she had him in the office...laughing, saying a few words, interacting in his 2-year-old way.  This gits was honoring...and also extremely humbling.  I was honored to walk with her through this miraculous journey.

My co-worker, Joanne (above, center), has been with us a year.  Just out of graduate school she came with her young self...uprooting from all her family and friends to work with us here in Ohio, as her first "big girl" job.  This is quite an undertaking...being apart from most you've known and go to a place where you know no one.  It was a happy gift to know that her parents were coming this weekend...she had not seen her father since May...it makes me smile.  It is also a happy gift to work with her.

Oh, may we learn to live grateful lives...to live simply...to do as God requires:

...to do justice and love kindness, and walk humbly with your God... (Micah 6:8)
I know I often fall short...

Friday, October 26, 2012

Day 26 ~ Three Gifts Extravagant

When I pondered this category...I looked up the word extravagant and came up with quite a few synonyms from the Thesarus:  crazy, flamboyant, exaggerated, expensive, unreasonable, unrestrained, over-the-top, extreme, fantastic, fancy, excessive, outrageous.

But I would like to approach this word from the perspective of one of my favorite verses:

Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think...
Ephesians 3:20 (ESV)
God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or
request in your wildest dreams!
Ephesians 3:20 (The Message)
Doesn't that sound extravagant?
Day 26 ~ Three Gifts Extravagant
I did not dare dream, hope for, imagine that I would ever marry after a decade of singleness.  And I was okay with that ~~ content.  But extravagantly, over-the-top, the Lord brought Edster into my life, at just the right time.  I had no idea...no idea that when our paths providentially crossed on that Friday, June 6, 2008, that it would result into the love of a lifetime, allowing Edster and my dad to form a good relationship, giving my dad peace knowing God had bestowed a wonderful Christian man to his daughter for life.  Just over a year later from our meeting each other ~~ my father would be in heaven, entering the day before we married.
I know that same feeling my father must have felt.  Last December, my Lydia ~~ a single mother of two boys who are the heart of my heart ~~ she married a wonderful Christian man who adores her and the boys.  He could have only come along as an extravagant gift from her Savior.  And what a gift to me...peace knowing my daughter had a helpmate, a partner, a role model for those boys, and a godly man to lead their family.
Oh...before I go on to my third gift extravagant...with the gift of Edster came a bonus!  My stepdog Bruno!
I never dreamed that I would ever obtain a college degree and work in the field I so desired.  Caleb had taught me so much, and I was able to help other families facing some comparable challenges.  But I was an executive assistant full-time, doing good advocacy for others in addition to my job, wanting to make a difference...but I needed the credentials.  I had two years' college completed from thirty years' prior.  Single, sole-supporting...how could I, at age 46, work full-time, go to school full-time, and not only need to get my BSW, but I would also need to get my Master's degree? 
How do I explain that by age 49, I had graduated from Case Western Reserve University with distinction and am now in a position that is a dream come true?  A privilege?  A ministry? Making a difference...?  I cannot answer any other way except that God did it...an extravagant gift of love...He who makes the impossible, possible.
Yes, God's love, God's grace, God's goodness is extravagant...i.e., crazy, flamboyant, exaggerated, expensive, unreasonable, unrestrained, over-the-top, extreme, fantastic, fancy, excessive, outrageous...actually...
it defies words...
Watch for His extravagance this weekend!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Days 24 and 25 ~ Gifts Accomplished and Enjoyed

What amazing weather we've been having in Ohio...

Indian Summer...time after work to frolic in the autumn late afternoon sun...

Day 24 ~ Three Gifts Accomplished

My grandson, Noah, came over after school and spent the night...part of Mamaw's job was to help with his homework...before we could play.

As I heard him read, watched him write out spelling words...what a gift to see what he has accomplished.  This time last year, in kindergarten, he was just starting out.  He's grown and matured and learned...a gift of seeing his accomplishments and his hard work!

I had decided to order three canvas prints of three different photographs of mine.  They were a great deal...but I was still unsure how they would look...but took the leap.  Edster hung them up last night in our second bathroom...the combination of our accomplishments were special gifts yesterday, in addiition to Edster's previous work on the painting the bedroom grey, redoing the mirror and fixtures.

Every night when I get home from work...I go into our Master bedroom to get into "comfy clothes."  I have this beautiful golden yellow bedroom with white trim and white crowned molding that Edster remodeled for me (as well as the Master bath)...he is incredible in changing things for me according to my tastes...and what he is able to accomplish is a special gift to me.

Day 25 ~ Three Gifts Enjoyed

My final dahlias of the season enjoyed while sitting outside during the warm, early evening in October.

Enjoying Noah as he explores and finds his own gifts in the kale in the backyard.

Seeing Noah's delight as we celebrate his 7th birthday last night.

Wonderful gifts for which I am not worthy...

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Day 23 ~ Three Gifts Begun

After living 55 years, anything I have done in the past two feels like I am still at the beginning...

Gift one:  In July 2010, I picked up the DSLR I had bought over a year prior and decided to delve into learning it.  Prior to this, I was using it just for point and shoot.  Shortly after I purchased it, my father was diagnosed with glioblastoma, dying six months' later.  Little did I know that July 2010, God would provide an amazing gift...the gift of photography...as a way to heal from my grief.  I've barely scratched the surface, having learned so much this past year taking some e-courses through Kim Klassen and meeting some fellow "kindred spirits" all over the world, not just into photography, but blogging...reflection....creative arts.  The more I learn, the more I see I have to learn...and my appetite is insatiable.  Thank you, God, for this gift and the ability to use this gift to give to others.
Gift two:  This June, on Father's Day...Edster and I began attending a new church...Maranatha Bible Church.  This gift has just begun...and every week we know more and more that this is where we are to be.
Gift three:  The gift of a pay increase that just began this last paycheck.
What are some gifts that you've discovered this week?

Days 22 ~ A Gift Silent, Still and Strong

Can you believe it is the last full week of October?  It is...

And the mild weather we're enjoying this week will turn into highs into the 40s this weekend...

But that won't make me back down from wearing my flip flops...that takes snow!

So Day 22 ~ A Gift Silent, A Gift Still, and A Gift Strong

I am so grateful for the gift of silent solitude. 

I used to think myself "strange" because I do have a need for solitude...quiet time...time to remove myself from the clammer and yammer of our society.  It's not just something I like...I need it.

Jesus also found the need to be alone...alone in nature, alone with His Father, alone with His disciples.  And yet it was always a retreat from His ministry, His mission -- to be able to continue to do the work His Father game Him to do.

Such is the way with what I do...day in and day out...without the gift of silent solitude (especially spending it with Him) to which I can retreat ~ I would be faced with chronic burnout and be ineffective in all my efforts.

There were several nights when we were when on, vacation a strange thing would occur...the clouds would lower as we were high in the mountains...the stillness of the mist rolling in transformed the appearance and aviance of the landscape into a different kind of beautiful wonder...a site not seen where I live in Ohio.  What a gift!

And a gift strong ~ it can best be expressed by quoting Psalm 18:1-2:
I love you, God ~
   you make me strong.
God is bedrock under my feet.
   the castle in which I live,
   my rescuing knight.
My God ~ the high crag
   where I run for dear life,
   hiding behind the boulders,
   safe in the granite hideout.  (The Message)
If God is for me...who can ever be against me?


Sunday, October 21, 2012

Days 20 and 21 ~ Three Unconventional and Three Undervalued Gifts

It's hard to believe we're talking Days 20 and 21...didn't we just start this?

I sometimes think...when I am looking for gifts...I am looking for some great "aha!" moments...

Like the earth will shake and they will come announced, neatly wrapped...

Something out of the ordinary...

But not so...

Day 20 ~ Three Gifts Unconventional

Like this morning...(and I'm not being silly...)

A Q-tip to clean my ears...

A safety pin to fasten the part of the hem of my pants I noticed was torn as I was quickly getting ready for church...

This smooth-writing teal gel pen to take notes this morning as we pored over Hebrews 4:12-13.

Day 21 ~ Three Gifts Undervalued

Turning on my faucet with clean water readily available to drink...(how can we not value what 89% of the rest of world does not have access to?)

Speaking of access...do we realize the gift, the incredible gift, that we can connect from all over the world through the internet...although we may never meet face to face?

And did we value the moment that just passed...and the one we're in now...or are we looking ahead or too numbed to live in this very moment? 

These are the baby shoes worn by my Caleb...life, at best, is brief...it all goes so fast...

Value the moments...

Look for God's gifts...

Don't miss a single one...

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Days 18 and 19 ~ Daring On to Crazy Joy

The weekend is here...

In full disclosure, I'm sitting up in bed in my jams writing this on my laptop...

No alarm, no schedule today...shower and clean up at will...now THAT'S a gift!

But my blog is on the itinerary...and my venture through the October Joy Dare!

Day 18 ~  One gift shared, saved, surrendered...

A gift from our good friends, Josh and Missi, sharing it with them and more than 54,000 folks, the inaugural Big 12 game for WVU against the Baylor Bears (I kept going "da Bears").  Several things happened that I had always wanted to experience:  seeing the Pride of West Virginia (WVU's marching band) form the state of West Virginia and then reverse it...marching down the field; staying til the end of a winning game to sing "Country Roads" along with the 54,000 others, along with John Denver; and hear Trace Adkins (who sang the national anthem).

On Valentine's Day last year...I was recovering from a medical procedure and went through these letters that had been saved for over sixty years.  I made this still from them.  They were love letters between my parents before they were married.  He was attending WVU in Morgantown (where my mother lived) but at the semester break, he went back to his home in Buckhannon, WV, two hours away.  It was a gift to read their playfulness with each other (my dad wrote almost the whole letter about returning back to Morgantown a few days later than planned...and then did a gotchya at the end.)  But the greatest gift was reading of their desire to serve Christ and to be certain their plans to marry was in line with God's will.

Wow...a gift surrendered! God has blessed me with legs I can use...legs that walk...legs that are sturdy.  And nearly every day I surrender that gift to Sidda, my cat, who loves to lay on them.  She's right there now on the other side of my laptop...sweet.

Day 19 ~ Three gifts unexpected...

Truly...I don't mean to bring Edster into every blog entry...but he was a much unexpected gift.  I was content and satisfied with a decade of singleness.  Marriage was not something I was expecting again...

Have you ever googled your name?  Well...I googled my son's name, who I introduced here and here, Caleb Smith.  Guess what...there's a Caleb Smith State Park...on Long Island, New York.  I never expected to go there...but here I am.  Ed took me there on way home from our honeymoon in Maine.

Caleb is involved with developmental disabilities county board.  Most often promotions are down with much higher functioning individuals.  And yes, it could feel hurtful. 

But I attended a bike race he and his pals participated in ~~ held in the parking lot of the county board.  It was a hoot!  They were paired up.  I remember one contestant who said to his female competitor, "You're going down!"  She SMOKED him! (But I digress...)  They were videotaping and because I was a parent there, they asked to interview me with Caleb promoting the county board (this is not the greatest photo).  Totally unexpected!!!

But we'll never see God's gifts if we don't take time to see...

What gifts have you seen today?

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Day 17 ~ Gifts Ugly to Beautiful

Onward to more Joy Dare...

Day 17 is to look for three gifts that were ugly but are beautiful.  Confused?  Take a look-see.

Gift One ~

This gargantuous, horrendous, painful-looking part of Edster's right leg is his knee...taken in 2008.

This all started in 2002, an ACL tear that my 6'6" not-yet-husband sustained while spiking a volleyball.  This ugly, awful injury that required 14 surgeries in six years...was a gift, despite the multitude of losses and suffering that continues.

A gift?

Because without this gift...there would have never been this.

We were six hours' driving time away...how would we have ever randomly connected?  It was through the gift of an ugly knee.

Gift Two ~

As the summer evolves into winter...when looked at individually, the changes, which are really death and decay, are in fact, ugly...one by one...

But, oh, what a beautiful gift from a different perspective!

Gift Three ~

It was rainy, gloomy, ugly...all day...

The lower barometric pressure brought on the "sleepies" this afternoon...

And although I was not looking outside while working inside a window-less office...it just felt dark. 

And I could have easily sunk into a "woe is me" as we go into the gloomiest seasons in a town that averages 202 cloudy days a year...

But look at what the ugly brought!!!!!!  This brillance on the way home from work with the backdrop of black, stormy clouds emphasizing it's glory.  I took this as soon as I got out of my car after pulling in the driveway.

I guess the take home message is...

God is always up to something...

no matter how it may look...

and it is for our good...

and it is good...

for He is good!

Count it all  joy! (James 1:2)