From my kitchen to yours, best wishes for a very Merry Christmas! May you be blessed by the love of Christ.
Merry Christmas December 24, 2021
#GlobalForgivenessDay July 7, 2021
If you follow my Facebook page, you know most days I’ve posted about random celebrations designated for that day. Most of them are fun and many revolve around food, but others are more serious. Today, is Global Forgiveness Day and as I worked on the post, my thoughts went deeper than a social media post.
I see a tremendous amount of pain in the world, particularly when I watch the news. Rioting, violent crime, verbal assaults, all these stem from a place of anger and hurt. No amount of government intervention or additional policing will solve this problem. Forgiveness is needed to begin the process of healing in our homes, our local communities, our countries, around the world.
Our Father in heaven,
Hallowed be Your name.
Your kingdom come,
Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
And forgive us our debts,
As we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
But deliver us from evil.
That part is well known, but Jesus continued: “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”
Holding on to hurt and anger only injures the one carrying this burden. Quite literally, refusing to forgive can damage our physical bodies. A University of Wisconsin study regarding forgiveness found forgiving people suffered less from certain illnesses. On the other hand, less forgiving people suffered a higher number of health problems. Withholding forgiveness causes stress, which can lead to physical symptoms like – anxiety, high blood pressure, and depression.
The amount of relief and freedom that comes when we choose to release that burden and forgive the person who has hurt or offended us is immeasurable. It’s often easy to say we’ve forgiven but much harder to mean that in our hearts and allow the healing to begin. Forgiveness doesn’t always mean reconciliation, either. There are some offenses that damage relationships beyond repair and make it unsafe to return to them. Forgiveness doesn’t mean we allow the person to continue hurting us, either physically, verbally, or emotionally. We may need to depart from those relationships as part of the forgiveness and healing process.
I struggled for many years with unforgiven hurt from my childhood that grew into bitterness and stunted my emotional growth. When I began releasing the pain, that process that took longer than I even realized at the time. Choosing to forgive isn’t always easy and doing so doesn’t guarantee the hurt will disappear overnight. Sometimes we need to make the choice daily to forgive the other person, to pardon them in order for us to begin our healing.
That early hurt shaped how I dealt with subsequent offenses until I realized I hadn’t completely dealt with it and sincerely cleared the debt of an apology I felt owed by that person. When that came to light, my eyes were opened to other hurts I had held onto and used not just as bricks to protect my heart, but offensive weapons to ward off potential offenses. Who here hasn’t used a past hurt in a current argument even if the two instances aren’t linked at all? We do that because we aren’t dealing with the hurt at the time and allowing true forgiveness to complete its healing work in us.
How much happier would life be if we could wake up each morning free of resentment, grudges, emotional debts we expect to be paid. Instead, we would wake up with peace, trust, and an open heart. I wish I could say I’ve reached that point, but there are still days I struggle with anger and resentment about certain things. Being aware of them, though, and making the choice to forgive them once again brings me one step closer to complete healing.
Tomorrow is a new day March 24, 2021
This last premise isn’t something I learned in 2020 but it did serve me well. In 2003 I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia, a diagnosis that wasn’t well understood then and even now is still a mystery in many aspects. Everyone experiences it to different degrees and the symptoms include joint and muscle pain, trouble sleeping, brain fog, fatigue, emotional swings more unpredictable than any roller coaster, and a wide variety of other challenges. The way I feel from hour to hour can change, making it difficult to commit to plans with friends or feeling guilty if I do plan and have to cancel at the last minute because the pain is too bad.
Some mornings I wake up with muscles so tight I can’t stand up straight or turn my head. I’ve learned over the years tricks to ease the tension but there are days when nothing works. I just have to bear it and tell myself, “Tomorrow is a new day”.(more…)
Learning from History March 17, 2021
I’m a student of history. It always frustrated me in school when each year we would only cover the same time periods. We rarely made it to World War I and never beyond. I took it upon myself to read about the events not covered in class.
The magnitude of devastation the world has seen and survived helped to keep the events of 2020 in perspective. The “Black Death” swept through most of the known world in the mid-1300s and lasted seven years killing an estimated 200 million people. There was no known cure or treatment. This plague came on the heels of a famine about thirty years earlier, which is estimated to have killed anywhere from 30%-60% of Europe’s population.
Many of you have probably heard the statistics of the Spanish flu that began in 1918 as WWI was still grinding on. Somewhere between 20-50 million people died from this illness and again there was little doctors were able to do. Just over forty years later, in the late 1960s, my grandmother was stricken during the Hong Kong flu epidemic. Thankfully she survived but her lungs were damaged for the rest of her life. Treatments had progressed, though, and this outbreak’s death toll declined to between 1-2 million lives.
Most recently, in 2009, the Swine Flu swept across the globe creating panic and causing around 200,000 recorded deaths. My dad contracted this illness and was very ill. He survived, but again his lungs were damaged and he’s suffered breathing issues ever since.
Disease is not the only thing that has claimed lives through the centuries. Wars, famines, natural disasters, tyrannical leaders, unchecked gang violence, and everyday car wrecks have laid claim to millions of victims. When the media is bombarding us with one story all day and facts are evolving on a frequent basis it’s easy to get caught up in fear and become paralyzed, desperate for any action that offers protection.
I have family members and acquaintances that contracted COVID. Some were very sick, some died, but most were minimally ill. I have gone through the gut wrenching pain of watching loved ones die of incurable diseases. I don’t discount the suffering of those who have experienced loss. It took a period of anguish for me to come to terms with what my heart has known since childhood. God knows all the days of our lives. He knows when we will be born, all we will do and the day we will die. It’s an inevitable part of life none of us like to think about but cannot escape. Remembering that along with the lessons of the past helped me keep the year in perspective.
If you don’t know Jesus in a personal way, it’s difficult to see light or experience hope in this fear filled time. If you need hope, I encourage you to take time to read the New Testament of the Bible, the words of Jesus himself. Start with the book of John. If that is intimidating, watch Season 1 of The Chosen, which follows the calling of the disciples of Jesus. It makes the life of Jesus relatable, understandable, and real. Season 2 will begin streaming on Easter Sunday, April 4, 2021.
Humanity has suffered great turmoil before and we will do so again until the day Jesus returns. What a glorious day that will be!
The Art of Tuning Out March 10, 2021
Before the pandemic, I worked in an environment with plenty of distractions. One wall of my office was shared with a busy conference room and another with the main breakroom for the floor. When the refrigerator door opened it would often hit my wall and threaten to shake loose anything hanging from it. People often hurried past the door or dropped in to see what was going on and my office mate being an extreme extrovert, people-pleaser, engaged them all in lengthy conversation. I became an expert at tuning out what was happening right beside me.
Transitioning to a home office stripped those distractions, but replaced them with new and, for a period, more interesting distractions. What time did the mailman come? How many deliveries did the neighbors receive each day? Would the construction across the street ever be finished? Who are the new neighbors moving in? Is the handsome new guy single? Yes, I became the one drawn to the window at any new sound or rumbling delivery truck. I’ve seen enough mysteries where the nosy neighbor gets killed, though, to know not to buy a pair of binoculars for a better view.
All I learned about tuning things out in the office started to come in handy at home. I didn’t need to see which children where playing outside or what the handsome young man was wearing when he left. I could have the TV on for background noise and when one of the podcasts I follow wandered into the now repetitive and pointless topics, I hit fast forward.
As the weeks passed, I started to see more families riding bikes or taking walks. I wonder how many of them were outside hoping to escape the pervasive doom and gloom. It was good to see families out together, enjoying nature and time together. There is a wonderful drive through a wildlife refuge a few miles from my house along with a maze of tiny dirt paths that meander along spits of land in the Indian River. I took these drives several times and saw more people enjoying them along with me than I have in all the years I’ve lived here.
It’s healthy and often necessary to tune out the noise in life. I don’t mean just the news and social media, but the things that nag at you and keep you from spending time with family. The house will always need to be vacuumed, the dishes or clothes will always need to be washed, there’s always another conference call or report to write. It’s important to draw boundaries and stick with them.
Keep work at work and home at home. Of course emergencies can arise with either, and those can be handled as needed, but other than that, focus on where you are and who you are with at that moment. Turn off the TV and computers. Put your phone on silent or Do Not Disturb and take a walk. Tell your kids stories they will roll their eyes at, but years down the road they will remember and realize how right you were.
Loving the DIY March 3, 2021
I’ve been pretty self-sufficient for as long as I can remember. I have put together all my furniture, even the Ikea stuff with the terrible directions. Watching HGTV demolition days always inspired in me a feeling of how satisfying it would be to take a sledge hammer to my kitchen cabinets.(more…)
Finding Solitude February 24, 2021
Solitude isn’t the same as isolation, at least in my heart and mind. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines solitude as “the quality or state of being alone or removed from society” and isolation as “the action of isolating or the condition of being isolated.” I find something relaxing and restorative about solitude, while I never associate isolation with any positive. Prisons have isolation cells, hospitals have isolation wards, horror movies are often set in isolated cabins, you get the picture.(more…)
Appreciate where you are February 16, 2021
2020 was a year like most of us have never experienced. Social turmoil, a pandemic, economic downturn, social isolation, and violent terror attacks. Conversely, there was also a resurgence of families spending time together, children playing outside, an awakening of faith, a renewed appreciation for many things we’d long taken for granted. Over the next several weeks I will share some of the things I learned and experienced.
The first thing I learned was to appreciate what I have. I was fortunate not to be furloughed from my job when many others were. I had mixed feelings, a little bit of envy. I can think of numerous projects I would have completed with all that time off, including editing my current work in progress. However, there were glitches with the unemployment benefits and some colleagues were still waiting for their first payment over a month later. Watching my meager savings account dwindle in an effort to keep the basic bills paid would have place tremendous stress on me. I thanked God for knowing what was best and keeping me where I needed to be during that period.
Merry Christmas! December 25, 2019
Warm wishes for a Christmas filled with love, joy, and peace.
Personal Correspondence November 19, 2019
Over the past few years, I’ve increasingly found myself thinking about the practice of writing letters and cards. Written correspondence has been a part of human communication for centuries; a way to share the news of the day and provide encouragement. After my grandmother passed away, my mom and I spent long hours going through her papers and found letters from her sisters. My grandmother was one of twelve siblings, most of who remained in North Carolina after she moved to Florida.
Often the letter was just a quick note to let my grandmother know they had made it back home after a visit to Florida and some kind words about their stay. Some were longer updates on what was happening with the family in North Carolina and inquires after my grandmother and the family here in Florida.
I have my own box of important letters that I’ll either need to deal with before I leave this world or they’ll provide entertainment for whoever is tasked with my estate. A few years ago I threw away hundreds of letters my high school best friend and I exchanged. We got to a point where we were writing so much we took to just transferring a notebook between us, using code names to talk about the boys we thought were cute. I still have a couple of those notebooks just for kicks and wish I could remember those code names.
I’ve started taking more time to purchase cards to let friends or family know I’m thinking about them. Phone calls are nice and have their appropriate time, but there is something about sending and receiving a card that, to me, resonates sincere consideration and care. A card of encouragement sent during a difficult time can be held onto and pulled out when the crush of despair washes over you, a reminder that there is someone out there thinking about you and loving you.
It’s a shame the US postage stamp keeps rising in cost. I might consider sending letters about the mundanities of life to some of my friends and family to keep in touch in a more personal fashion, without worrying about the prying eyes of hackers or the chance a social media platform is selling my “private” messages to the highest bidder.
Maybe as I get older I am becoming more sentimental, but I did come across an article in Medium a couple weeks ago advocating bringing back handwriting. The article referenced studies that show students who take notes in longhand tend to retain more information that those that typed notes. I can attest that I did better in school when I was handwriting notes, even writing practice essays before tests. I believe there is a connection between the brain, the heart, and the written word. I still journal in longhand and the act of doing so helps to calm me when I’m anxious or bring peace when I feel sorrow.
Working on this blog led me to pull my box of letters from the closet.
I opened it and found at some point I had taken time to bundle some of the letters and cards together. Those bundles were all from individuals with separate items thrown in at later dates. The oldest letter I identified came from my elementary school best friend, most likely over our summer break. I was surprised at how many letters I had exchanged with one of my high school friends who moved out of state during our sophomore year and even more shocked at the number of letters from one of my college friends. We continued paper correspondence even though email had come along (albeit recently). I loved seeing these names and glimpsing at some of the letters. I could sit for hours reading them and remembering the good times we shared.
Do you think hand written notes will make a comeback?
My friend, Mike, is an excellent photographer who recently asked me what I thought about notecards. I, of course, told him I love them (I actually have a stockpile from days of compulsive shopping). When he showed me the prototype of some cards he was thinking about selling, I thrilled with the possibilities. By the time we finished talking, I’d given him ideas for several collections of notecards using his photos.
In recognition of Mike’s talent, and in an effort to bring back personal written correspondence, I’m giving away a set of his notecards. If you’d like to see more of his work or purchase some cards, you can find his shop on Etsy at www.mtigreetingcards.com