Not All Prisons Have Four Walls

When you think of a prison, what do you imagine? The stereotypical concrete building with razor wire fences and bars in front of every tiny cell? Where everyone dresses alike and is told what to do and when to do it 24 hours a day?

There are other kinds of prisons, though. All kinds of them. Many of you have been in them. Perhaps many of you still are.

Those are the prisons you put yourself into. Or allow someone or some circumstance to put you in there. And keep you there.

There are no guards preventing your escape. The only person preventing your escape is yourself. You’ve gotten so used to living in that prison, you don’t think you could live any other way.

You honestly don’t realize you’re imprisoned. And that’s the saddest part. Because almost all of the prisoners in a brick and mortar prison know why they’re in there, and when their sentence will end, and they can usually tell you exactly how much longer they’ll be in there. Many of them have attorneys still working on their behalf, filing appeals and/or for parole. There’s light at the end of their tunnel, no matter how far away it may be.

But the prisons we put ourselves into because of our circumstances or our unwillingness or fear of changing our situation….those prisons can put us into a life sentence from which there’s almost no hope of pardon or escape. Our friends and family may give us advice to help us escape; they may give us wise counsel or support to encourage us to move on; they may even provide other creature comforts that we need, but in the end we’re still stuck in that prison of our own making.

Because we’re the only ones who can get ourselves out. We become our own attorney, judge and jury. The problem is, we give ourselves no mercy; only condemnation. As far as we’re concerned we don’t deserve anything better.

We sentence ourselves to these prisons for a variety of reasons. Many times we remain stuck in the past, a victim of someone else’s cruelty or selfish motives. We were treated so badly, that even when we physically escape we’re so caught up in that past victim mentality we can’t seem to put it behind us. And we remain a prisoner of our past.

Or we’re so used to our current unhappy circumstances we can’t seem to find the key to unlock the door that keeps us prisoner. And even when we’re handed the key, and given all the tools to get us out of that prison once and for all, we’re too scared to make the move. Like repeat offenders who keep returning to the prison life they know so well, we just don’t think we can adjust to any other life.

So many other emotions can keep us prisoners in our own mind, and prevent us from walking out and starting over into a new life, filled with the promise we do desperately want. The guilt, depression, anger, bitterness and unforgiveness that’s become our constant cell mate just won’t let us leave them behind. Because they’re not changing, and they won’t let us either.

And we’re stuck in that prison.

Until that day we take a deep breath, look around, and say I’m done with this cell! No more! I’m out of here! I want to live my life in freedom and happiness! And we break free and finally do it!

Sure we’re scared. Like an inmate who’s been released to the outside after years of incarceration. We aren’t sure quite where to start. But we know we don’t want to return to that life again. And once our mind is made up, we plunge ahead to
start that new life.

No, it’s not always easy. It’s scary at times. But the freedom, and actually becoming that person you always wanted to be is so much better than living in a prison of unhappiness and misery.

Right now, I’m handing you the key to unlock that prison door. The key that will help you escape, and help you start again.

It’s called faith. And hope. Self confidence. Determination. And the knowledge that YOU can do this! Sure, you may stumble a bit on the way, but who of us doesn’t? That only adds to our strength.

What prison are you breaking out of?

And what’s keeping you from doing it?

There’s no better time than now.

Because tomorrow may be too late.

Fear of the Unknown

We’ve all been faced with that time. For some of us, it’s been many times.

That time when we have to make a decision and actually act on it. 

We know we need to do a certain thing. We actually HAVE to do it for our own sanity and well-being.

But taking that step…that first step that can never be taken back…it’s sometimes scary. Sometimes very difficult. We know what we need to do, and why. But being human, and afraid of change, we sometimes put it off. And sometimes we put it off until it’s too late.

Why do some many of us hesitate for so long in actually doing what we say we need, and/or want, to do?

Simple. It’s that fear of the unknown. Being terrified to take that irreversible step that will change our life. Never mind that we know it’ll be for the best. Perhaps not immediately because after we take that first step, there are other steps to be followed to finish what we started. And those can be just as scary.

But think how worth it it all will be, in the end.

So how do you go about actually doing that thing you need to do? Without putting it off forever?

Sometimes it’s quite simple. You get into a situation where you suddenly have no choice, and before you know it, you’ve taken that irreversible step. At first you think “what have I done?” And then slowly you realize you’ve just changed your life in the direction you’ve wanted to go for quite sometime. And it wasn’t as hard as you’d thought.

Sometimes you have to make plans for what you’re going to do as soon as you say those words that you’ve been putting off. And that’s not bad either, but putting off making the plans only prolongs your situation and makes you more fearful, more hesitant, and in the end, you may never even go through with it. 

And you may miss out on something wonderful that was waiting around the corner for you.

Fear of the unknown is natural. We all hesitate in making those life changing decisions that we’re called to do from time to time. Getting married; leaving a secure job to start a new business; moving to a new place for a job where you know no one; leaving an unhappy marriage; calling off a relationship that’s going nowhere…all of these decisions and more are made by other people every day.

So what’s stopping you?

You’ll never know what the future holds for you unless you jump into it. But you know what the present is, and since you know you need to change it, what are you waiting for?

 Do you want to live the rest of your life thinking, “I wonder what would have happened if…?” Or do you want to think, “I’m so glad I made that move. Because it was so worth it.”

The only thing stopping you from conquering that fear of the unknown is you. 

What are you waiting for?

Shattered Hopes…Shattered Dreams, Part 2

Yesterday’s blog discussed the way we handle life changing events…those events that shatter everything in our life, and cause us to basically start our lives over, usually in a sometimes different direction.

 However, my blogs do not always go in the direction I start them out in. And although I liked the way it worked out, this one was a prime example.

 It was actually based on an incident which happened well over ten years ago; one I hadn’t thought about for a while. But as a writer, certain ideas hit me at certain times, and usually the final finished product is a bit different than I thought it would be.

 But it’s important to describe the incident which inspired Part 1 of this blog, because it’s still the basis for what was written. So here we go.

 Several years ago as our daughter was cleaning the house for us, I got a call from her. I could hear in her voice she was upset to say the least.

 “Mom, you know that vase that was on the shelf in the dining room? The brown and yellow one?”

 Yes I knew it. It was my grandmother’s. And probably over a hundred years old.

 “Well…..it fell off the shelf when I was dusting. And…it broke. I’m sorry.” And I knew she was. I could hear it in her voice.

 Not trying to convey how really upset I was over the phone, I told her to sweep up all the pieces and put them in a plastic bag. Every one she could find. Use the dust pan and get all that you can.

 “But Mom, it’s smashed. Most of the pieces are really, really small.”

I cringed. “I don’t care. Just get as many as you can and put them in a bag and l look at it when I get home. It’s ok. It was an accident.” Did I feel that calm??? Absolutely not!!! But I couldn’t tell her. I was very upset. Yes, it was only a thing, but it had been my grandmother’s, and it had been one of her favorites.

 When I got home my worst fears were realized. There were a few larger pieces, but oh, so very many little ones.

 I really didn’t think anything could be done, but I had to try.

 So I called several places trying to find someone who could possibly put the vase back together. And after several tries, the Chrysler Museum here in Norfolk told me about a porcelain restoration specialist who they highly recommended, but couldn’t guarantee he’d take on the job.

I must say I was a bit scared to call the man, but was expectant when he agreed to have us bring over the pieces so he could take a look. I had no idea what to expect.

When we got to his home, he first of all showed us a number of pieces he’d been working on, and several that he’d successfully restored. You couldn’t tell that any of them had ever been messed up. Then I pulled out the bag of pieces and handed it to him. “What about this? Is there any hope?”

He looked at it, opened the bag and pulled out a few of the pieces. Turning them over in his hand, he said, “This is a challenge. Do you have a picture of it?”

I sadly shook my head. “No, I don’t. I wish I did…” I just knew it was hopeless at that point.

“That’s OK,” he said. “I can fix this without a picture. The pieces will come together and they’ll tell me where they belong.”

“But I don’t know if I have them all,” I answered.  “ What will you do then?”

And he turned to me with a look of confidence like I’d never seen before. “It doesn’t matter. It’ll be all right. It’ll be a beautiful piece again. It’ll just take some time. Probably two or three months. You’ll never know it had ever been broken.”

I left the pieces with him, still not totally convinced the vase would ever look anywhere close to what it had been.  But yet, he was a master restorer, and highly recommended, and somehow, I knew it would be all right.

And it was.  I got a call from him two and a half months later that my vase was ready. “It looks wonderful,” he said. “You’ll be happy.”

I was. I couldn’t tell where it had been broken. In fact, it looked better than I remembered it looking. No trace of lines putting together the broken pieces, nor could I tell where he’d had to improvise and insert other pieces to fill in the gaps. It looked even better than before. I was totally amazed. And yes, our daughter was very relieved. And his work was certainly worth what he charged. At the time, to me, it was priceless.

Today that vase sits in a glass cabinet where it cannot be damaged again. Where it’s safe.  And a reminder that we never know what miracles can take place when a master is at work…when we put it in the Master’s hands.

Like that shattered vase, when our lives are shattered, and our dreams crushed beyond what we think can ever be repaired, the Master Restorer is waiting to fix what is wrong.  But unlike my porcelain restorer, the Master Restorer doesn’t charge us for His work. It’s totally free. All we have to do is ask. And be willing to follow His instructions, His leadership. To trust Him.

When we put our faith in our Master Restorer, He will come through, and He will put the pieces back together again.  And the finished product, like my grandmother’s vase, will be even better, even more beautiful, than it was before it was shattered.If your life has been shattered, your dreams crushed, do not give up hope. 

Because restoration is ready and waiting. It will take a while, and it will at times require a lot of faith, and a lot of courage, but in the end, the final result is worth it.

 Like my vase that I never expected to be whole again, your shattered life and shattered dreams can be restored.

What are you waiting for? What do you need to be restored? Don’t waste any more time. Your restoration is waiting for you!

 All you need to do is ask. And receive.

And that’s the story behind yesterday’s blog.

Shattered Hopes…Shattered Dreams, Part 1

There are victims and there are survivors.

There are those who give up, and those who overcome. Those who rise above their circumstances and rebuild their lives in a new way.

 There are several days in Jennifer’s life she remembers as if they were yesterday. Her wedding day, wearing her white lace gown and a bouquet of white roses clutched in her hands. Watching as she approaches the dashing young officer in his naval uniform. Making promises for a lifetime of love.

 She remembers vividly the birth of each of her four children, the first time she held them in her arms.

 And Jennifer remembers the day her husband of almost thirty years suddenly walked out on her, with no warning, leaving her with no money, no home, and a pile of unpaid bills.

Her life was shattered, her hopes crushed. Her dreams destroyed.

Jonathon remembers how life was…before. He was on top of the world, president of the company he founded several years before. Making a high six-figure income and living a life of luxury. Suddenly the bottom fell out of his industry. Bills went unpaid, paychecks bounced, lawsuits ensued, and within four months, his company, his employees, and his income were gone. His savings were used to pay off debts he’d incurred, and he suddenly found himself unemployed with he and his family living with friends.

 Everything was gone. His life’s work was no longer, faded into only a memory.

Then there are the hundreds of victims severely injured in the random acts of mass violence that is plaguing our country…and others. Victims who were gathered to enjoy a concert on a beautiful warm night; gathered to worship in their church on a Sunday morning; dancing with friends in a nightclub; running a marathon. And suddenly their lives were forever changed. Families were devastated and survivors incredibly injured and having to suddenly cope with their new normal, including loss of limbs, eyesight, and in many instances no longer able to care for themselves without help. Both physical and emotional trauma devastated their lives.

 Shattered hopes and shattered dreams. Having to put the pieces back together and deciding how and what to fill the missing parts with.

 It’s not easy, and it’s not quick. The pieces don’t fit like they used to, and the result is not like it used to be. It’s hard to adjust to that new normal. You cry out for answers, but no one replies. At least, no one replies like you want them to.

Especially when you’re asking, “why me?”

 It’s easy to blame God for letting this happen, without stopping to think that it could have been so much worse. Without stopping to think that the plans He has for us are still there.

 You ask yourself why you did this or that, why you made that decision, torture yourself with, “if I could only re-live that day and do this instead of that…”

 That doesn’t help either, because real life is not a movie set; there are no retakes and no re-doing the scene until it’s perfect.

 Picking up the pieces and repairing those shattered dreams, and shattered lives requires more of us than we ever knew we had. More faith, more determination, and more self-confidence than we thought we could muster. Discouragement happens along the way, but every time we rise above it, our faith and our self-determination are strengthened until we realize we are no longer a victim, but a survivor!

 In Jennifer’s situation, she was fortunate enough to have family who gave her a place to live while she adjusted to her new life. She went back to school and earned her associates degree while working part time, and found a job in an industry she truly enjoyed. And yes, she did meet someone else, and has now remarried.

 While many of the victims of those acts of terror and violence are still putting back together the pieces of their lives, countless others have gone on to adjust to their new normal, and have accomplished things in their lives they never dreamed possible. Because with a strong faith and determination, they survived, and re-glued the shattered pieces of their lives back together in a new way, and have also grown to appreciate life in a totally different perspective.

 Jonathan, on the other hand, couldn’t deal with his circumstances. Wouldn’t adjust, and continued to dwell on the past, what he’d lost, and what he should have done differently. Although his family and friends tried to bring him out of his depression, nothing helped. And one day, he just disappeared. He gave up. No one to this day knows where he is or what happened to him. A shattered life still in pieces.

Who will you be? Jennifer or Jonathan? One of the victims who remains a victim, or a survivor who picks up the pieces of shattered dreams and rearranges them into a new creation?

 It’s up to you. It’s not easy to be a survivor.

 But it’s better than the alternative.

De-ornamenting the Trees

I think I just invented a new word. Maybe. But it sure says what I’m feeling right now!

De-ornamenting. Better known as taking down the Christmas trees and other holiday decorations. Returning to whatever state of normalcy we live in the rest of the year.

We actually have 6 Christmas trees every year. Well, if you want to be technical there’s actually 8, but the skinny white flamingo tree in the Florida room stays up all year with its clear mini lights and huge assortment of the various flamingo decorations we’ve collected over the years. Then there’s the lighted palm tree in the far corner of our family room, with its clear lights and eclectic collection of beach and a few extra flamingo ornaments that wouldn’t fit on the other tree.

And yes, putting up all those trees is a lot of work, along with hanging the stockings, setting out the silk poinsettias, and decorating the foyer ledge in a holiday theme. It takes several days, and this year the help of a couple of good friends, to get everything done and ready for the holiday season. But it was worth it. And it’s worth it every year.

Because there’s just something special about the beauty of Christmas decorations. The sparkling lights, the candles, the shiny ornaments on the trees, and the magnificent sight of so many homes lit up with colorful and imaginative lighted displays in front yards. It just gives each home a touch of brand new elegance, and when the only light in your living room or family room comes from that Christmas tree, it just feels different. Almost magical, with an air of expectancy. The perfect room for enjoying time with family and friends.

And then in all too short a time, it’s all over. It’s time to take everything down, pack it carefully away, and wait another year to bring it back and create those feelings all over again.

Many people say they’re done with it all the day after Christmas Day, and can’t wait to pull everything down and put things back the way they were. Before the decorating…before the transformation began…before the magical beauty entered their home and took over, just for an all too brief time. Maybe they just don’t feel that special sense of magic that some of us do.

I’m just the opposite. I dread taking down all the decorations. Not because of all the work involved, because my husband and I do it together as a team. But because I just don’t like giving up the sparkle…the glow…and the special feelings that all the decorations bring, not only to our home, but to our lives. There’s a special feeling in our home when all those trees are decorated and lighted that just appears for that one all-too-short time. I really can’t describe the feeling. But I know there are more of you out there that feel the same way.

A few of our friends have actually left their trees up and just changed the theme. One friend re-did hers as a winter tree with icicles, silver ornaments, and snowmen. (How appropriate with the blizzard we just experienced!) Another friend re-did hers in a Mardi Gras theme. Well, I do keep our flamingo tree up year round, so i guess I’m right there with them.

Spending the snowy weekend removing and carefully packing up ornaments was not fun. And it wasn’t just all the tedious work involved in doing it. It was thinking about all the memories so many of those ornaments evoked. My grandmother’s glass birds that have survived over 100 Christmases still intact. The ornaments that graced my mother’s tree when she still put one up. The special ornaments memorializing my husband’s and my first Christmas together…our daughter’s first Christmas. And the latest special one…our granddaughter’s first Christmas ornament.

Now there are empty spots in our rooms where the trees were. No, not literally, because the furniture we moved to make room for our Christmas trees is now back in place. But it still doesn’t look right, at least not yet. But it will. In a few weeks or so. And we’ll forget about all the beauty and “specialness” of those Christmas decorations until about ten months later until it’s time to start thinking about it again.

But then the cycle starts again as the next Christmas season approaches and we once again get to experience that special excitement, that magical feeling as the trees once again are dressed in their familiar splendor with, of course, a few new ornaments that we traditionally add every year.

Am I looking ahead already? Of course! Because I’m already looking forward to that special magic that starts to happen when we start putting it all back together again. Who knows? I may not wait til after Thanksgiving this year to start decorating.

Or maybe even Christmas in July? Maybe I can start a new trend with a beach themed masterpiece. Decorated shells and starfish…clear ornaments with sea glass and sand inside of them…some kind of beachy garland…maybe on a blue Christmas tree? What do you think? Who wants to help join in the fun?

Time for Snow Cream!

When I was a child/teenager growing up on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, snow happened a bit more frequently than it usually does now (except for this week’s storm…which may be sticking around awhile). Schools would almost always be closed for up to a week because we got so much, the road crews couldn’t keep up with it all, especially on all the back roads in the area. And that’s sort of the case here right now.

One year it snowed so much, my mother’s white car was literally impossible to see. She had parked it at the end of our long driveway, thinking she wouldn’t be able to get it out if we had a lot of snow. We did. And one of our neighbors had to dig the car out for her, but only after a couple of days when the roads were clear enough to drive on.

My friends who still live there still talk about how one of our friend’s fathers hooked all of our sleds up to his tractor one evening and pulled us around the field for at least an hour, had us warm up by a roaring bonfire (complete with roasting marshmallows on wire coat hangers!), and then his wife had us all inside for hot chocolate. I think most of us were sophomores in high school then, and of course, we were all invincible! I can’t remember how many of us there were, but it was a blast! Now…he’d probably be arrested for child endangerment…if our parents even let us go!

Yes, those were the days….we all had sleds, and would go to a hill in town and sled down for hours. We got chilled to the bone, our clothes got soaked…but who cared! We threw snowballs at each other, and at some of the adults unlucky enough to be in our way. And no one got mad at us. We were young and having fun.

So for those of you wanting to make some with this latest storm, here are several recipes to try. Which of course, you can only make when you have clean fresh snow and we still have quite a bit around here. But for those of you in Florida or California, you’re probably out of luck because I haven’t been able to find any substitutions for snow!

Basic Snow Creamsnow cream sprinkles
1 c milk
1/3 c sugar
1 tsp vanilla
Pinch of salt

Whisk ingredients together and add 8 cups of CLEAN snow. (Note: Be sure to pour the SNOW into the mixture; not the other way around!) Mix together; re-freeze, covered, if necessary, and serve. (You might also add colored sprinkles or colored sugar on top, or even mini chocolate chips)

NOW…that’s not all. While I was researching, I came across several variations of this basic recipe that sound extra yummy. So….how about these:

 

Chocolate Peppermint Snow Creamchocolate snow cream
14 oz can sweetened condensed milk
¼ c unsweetened cocoa powder
½ tsp peppermint extract

Mix together and add 8 cups of CLEAN snow. Cover, and re-freeze an hour or so til it’s the right consistency.

Amaretto Caramel Snow Cream
snow cream1 c white chocolate chips
½ c thick caramel sauce
1/3 c milk
½ tsp salt

Mix together in microwave for 30 seconds; stir and repeat until smooth. LET COOL (or you’ll have caramel water!) I’d put it in the freezer and check it often til it’s chilled.

Add 8 cups of CLEAN snow. And the best part, ¼ c amaretto. Resist temptation to try immediately; cover and freeze to desired consistency.

Cake Batter Snow Cream
snow-ice-cream-0131/2 c sweetened condensed milk
¼ c yellow cake mix
3 tbsp cake flavored vodka (the recipes just keep getting better…)
2 tbl milk
1 tsp vanilla

Combine above ingredients and add 8 cups of CLEAN snow. Take a taste if you must, then cover and freeze to desired consistency.

Now….after finding all of these goodies, I can only say one thing…

WE’VE GOT THE SNOW! LET’S MAKE SOME SNOW CREAM!

A Blanket of White

Like most of the East Coast, we certainly had our share of snow in the Hampton Roads area of Virginia during this storm, waking up Thursday morning to a world of sparkling white where we’d previously seen grass and sidewalks. And living in an area where there’s not usually any more than a couple of inches of snow every winter, if that, having a foot of the cold wet white stuff dumped on us has been a bit of an experience, to say the least!

 Both kids as well as adults have enjoyed playing in it, and snowmen are popping up everywhere, with sticks for arms, stones or shells for eyes, carrot or even cucumber noses, and old hats and scarves to keep them “warm”. Families are making snow cream from Grandma’s recipe.

Although there aren’t many hills around here, there are a few small ones found on golf courses or construction sites, and all types of sleds, including trash can lids, boogie boards and other improvised items for sledding, have been out in full force! Even most of the family dogs are enjoying rolling and playing in this new and amazing stuff that’s covering their yards! (Except our little Yorkie, of course, who’s definitely not into snow that’s taller than he is!)

 Roads are still virtually impassable except for 4-wheel drive vehicles, and even those are having trouble on snow packed and icy roads; even plowed streets are still icy at night with the dreaded black ice a worry in the morning. Many homes are still without power in below freezing conditions. Most of us cannot get to our jobs, and unless we can work from home like I fortunately can, or the job pays its employees for such circumstances, they have to take a vacation day if they’re lucky enough to have them.

 But the first responders, the firemen, police officers, medical personnel, road crews in snow plows and salt trucks, power company employees, gas stations, and other essential personnel are hard at work trying to keep us safe and help get our city moving safely again. Thank goodness!

 School and college classes, many businesses, and hundreds of scheduled events have been cancelled throughout the last few days and into the weekend. The participants can’t get there, and even if they could, it’s not safe for anyone else to try to get there either.

 But it’s also brought out the good in many people. Neighbors with snow-capable vehicles have been helping out other neighbors who are stranded or need food or other necessities. Motorists with 4 wheel drive vehicles are stopping to help other drivers who’ve skidded into snow banks or gotten stuck in the drifts. Neighbors’ children are shoveling sidewalks and driveways for those who can’t do it themselves.

 Yes, it’s a mess, and it’s inconvenient, and even dangerous. It disrupts our lives as well as adds a twisted new ingredient to spice up a few days of regular routine. Adults as well as children, even adults who really don’t like the snow, still found themselves somewhat amazed and appreciating the beauty of freshly fallen, unmarked snow, shining like tiny diamonds under the streetlights or in the reflection of the sunset. The look on the faces of children seeing snow for the first time is priceless.

 And since we cannot control the weather, especially in this case, instead of complaining, let’s just stop for a little while and appreciate the beauty, the freshness, in that blanket of cold white frosting that’s filled our area, as well as many others, hiding all the detritus of our everyday lives that we normally see outside, and transforming it into something almost magical. It brings a new freshness that seems to clean up the world around us…even if but for a short time.

 We’ve all been taking pictures of the snow, and many of the photos I’ve seen are breathtaking as they perfectly capture a leaf, a flower, a tree, or other things we take for granted as they’re totally changed by this blanket of snow they’ve been given. Even the ocean and its waves take on a new perspective as the snow and ice transform nature’s everyday beauty into a work of art only a master artist could create.

 So let’s reflect on the snow, not as such a huge inconvenience, even though it has been, but as a special gift from above. Gifts are usually only given for special occasions, such as birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, and other similar events.

But once in awhile, out of the blue, someone surprises us with a gift. No special occasion. Just because they want to. Because the gift-giver thinks the recipient is special. And wants to do something unexpected for them.  Many of us may not have wanted this gift, but we got it anyway. And it’s not polite to turn down a gift, or complain about it.

 Snow is not just a huge pile of “stuff” that just suddenly dumps down on us. It’s made up of individual snowflakes, no two of which are exactly alike. It’s made up of individual snowflakes, no two of which are exactly alike.

That pile of snow that’s blocking your door, or still resting on your car, or made up into that snowman in your front yard…all of that snow is made up of individual tiny snowflakes, each with six identical arms poking out from a center ice crystal, and all those snowflakes sticking so closely together you can’t tell where one ends and another begins. Thousands and thousands upon thousands of them. Each one individually formed and designed by a master artist and gift giver to create a special event just for us.

 Think of what it must’ve taken to create each one of those individual snowflakes. No cookie cutter molds were used there. No assembly lines were stamping out the same design over and over. Each one is unique and unlike any other before or after it. And this gift of snow has each of our names on it individually as the recipient. Special delivery, we might say.

 But it’s a gift that can only be treasured and enjoyed for a short time. Usually the snow doesn’t stay around very long, but it seems this one will be here for awhile. Perhaps to remind us to slow down, take it easy, and appreciate the beauty around us. To remind us to help out others in need.

 And to remind us that every day is a new gift from the master gift-giver. It all depends on how we look at it, how we approach it.

 And instead of dreading and disliking the snow like I have been known to do, this time I’m looking at it with a new perspective and a promise of wonders to come. I’m going to appreciate it while it’s here. And I’m going to thank the master gift-giver and look ahead in anticipation of the new gifts that are certainly being planned for us, even as we enjoy this one.

 And maybe…just maybe…I’m going to go build myself a snowman! With a pink scarf and a flamingo by his side!

And then maybe make some snow cream!

 

Resolutions…or Not?

Traditionally almost all of us make at least one or two New Year’s resolutions. We say we’re going to lose weight, exercise more, get our financial lives together, or spend more time with our families instead of our jobs.

We really mean it when we make those resolutions. But by the end of the first couple of weeks, or at least by the end of January, all of those resolutions are forgotten. Discarded. We just can’t seem to make them work. It takes too much effort, or we lose interest.

Personally, I hardly ever make any New Year’s resolutions, because I know I won’t keep them. What’s so special about making a change in our lives simply because it’s a new year? If we don’t change ourselves and our way of thinking, turning over the date on the calendar isn’t going to do it.

And once again I didn’t make any resolutions. Instead of making resolutions I’m going to continue to be thankful for the things I have. The things that really matter to me. Because that’s what it’s all about.

In fact, I can almost bet that a lot of those resolutions many of you made Sunday evening on New Year’s Eve have already gone by the wayside. Or are already close to being gone and forgotten.

So here’s what I am thankful for.

Health – My husband’s as well as mine. He’s had a number of medical issues over the years…heart, high blood pressure, a cornea transplant, lung issues, and sleep apnea. But he’s still going strong, and all of the recent doctor reports have been good! I am still extremely healthy. I may be stressed, but who isn’t!? I’m not overweight. My cholesterol and other bloodwork are fine. Although I did have some issues after a serious auto accident which resulted in surgery for a broken wrist, I’m still quite healthy. With a number of friends and family members going through some serious health problems right now, good health is a huge deal!

Friends – Ben and I have several very close, very dear friends who are always there for us when we need them, just as we are there for them. They are not acquaintances. They’re our family, and we love each other dearly. I wouldn’t trade them for anything.

Our home – I may grumble about having to cook and clean, but we have a comfortable home. It may need fresh paint and new carpet here and there, but it’s our home, where we raised our daughter, entertain our friends, and just enjoy being together.

A loving and helpful husband – Ben helps me around the house without my ever asking. He brings me coffee in the morning, does the grocery shopping, helps clean and do the laundry, and usually has dinner almost ready when I get home from my job, since he is now working part time. He is a gem, and I would not trade him for anything in the world.

Our children and our grandchild – Our daughter Ashley and her husband Chris, who we consider our son, presented us with our first granddaughter Rachel a year and a half ago who is a constant source of joy to us. What could be any better? Except maybe another grandchild in a year or two?

Our pets – A friend of ours had to find a new home for her beloved Yorkie last year and we were only too glad to volunteer. What a difference that little guy has made in our lives! And we’re already talking about trying to find him a “sister” Yorkie to keep him company. As if our two cats aren’t enough to keep him occupied!

Our country – We live in a country where we are free to worship as we please without fear of being arrested because of our beliefs. We are also free to voice our opinions without fear of being imprisoned. Is it perfect? No. We still have a lot of problems to reconcile. But our country is so much better than all of the rest.

Our Lord and Savior – who loves us unconditionally, who answers our prayers, even when we don’t like the answers, and promises us the gift of eternal life, just because we love him.

With blessings such as these, who needs New Year’s Resolutions?

What blessings do you have that you may take for granted every day? Stop and think about them. Even if your life may not be as perfect as you’d like right now, I can almost guarantee if you stop and think about it, you can think of at least five, if not more, blessings that you enjoy that many others wish they were lucky enough to have.

May each of you have a blessed and Happy New Year! Count your blessings rather than your resolutions, and if you wish to share those blessings, we’d love to hear them!

Goodbye to the Old

2017 started out as a great year. Lots of promise and excitement ahead, as, let’s admit it now, each new year brings. 

 We wake up on each January 1 with a renewed purpose for our life, new energy, and a new determination to accomplish all that we didn’t accomplish in the previous year.

 As the saying goes, each new year brings 365 blank pages to write on. Make each of them special. And like almost every one of you, I was determined to do that! Ready to go! Ready to take on whatever came my way!

 And as fate…and life…would have it, in 2017 those promises and excitement were (sometimes too quickly) replaced with anxiety, setbacks, disappointments, and for many of us, even life changing events.

 In the blink of an eye circumstances changed. And many of us will never be the same again. Unexpected medical issues. Sudden deaths of friends or loved ones. Accidents. Tragic acts of terror resulting in deaths and physical conditions that will take the victims months or even years to recover from or adjust to. Worshippers and concert goers gunned down in senseless acts of violence. And let’s not forget divorce, job loss, and betrayal by friends or family.

 And that excitement and determination was lost; put away in a box on a dusty shelf to hopefully be pulled out again at another time and actually used. 

 Personally, the year was not nearly as bad for me as for others we know. Although I was involved in a serious accident which resulted in among other things, surgery for a broken right (of course I’m right handed) wrist, all things considered it could have been much worse. Even realizing now that I most likely had a mild case of PTSD as a result, I am putting that behind me as well and finally becoming more of my old self. And I realize how much I’ve missed that “me”!

 Many of you aren’t so fortunate and may still be struggling with things from last year. And you may be struggling for some time. But the important thing to remember is that the struggle will end. Yes, it will. It’s all a matter of how you deal with it. That’s not to say it’s not a struggle. I know that it is. But your perspective has to be positive. You have to make a conscious decision to change how you look at your circumstances…and how you deal with them. If you need help doing it, get it. There’s nothing wrong with that.

 It’s really easy to sit and feel sorry for yourself. And sometimes that’s the best thing to do. But only for awhile. Get it out of your system, because only then can you really begin to move on. 

 And unless you move on, you’re going to be stuck in a rut…in a bad place you don’t want to be in. And you’ll never be able to move on. You’ll never reach that point of healing. You’ll never feel like yourself again. And you’ll miss out on the life that was intended for you.

 That’s not what you want to do. Because there’s more to life.

 This is a new year. A new opportunity. A new chance to begin, or to pick up the pieces where you left them, and put them back together. They may not fit exactly like they used to, or like you might want them to,  but pick them up anyway. And make them fit together again.

 This is another new year of promise, of hope, of new adventures and new opportunities. There are 365 blank pages to write on. 

 What are you going to do with them?

 As for me, I’m starting to get back into my writing, which suffered severely after my accident. I just couldn’t seem to get motivated, because I didn’t think I had that gift anymore, and I didn’t think anyone would want to hear what I had to say. I lost my confidence as well as my motivation. 

 But I’m determined to get that back and keep it.

 What do you need to be determined about? 

 Perhaps it’s recovering from a devastating accident, far worse than mine. Perhaps it’s recovering from a total lifestyle change, like a job loss or divorce or death of a spouse or child. Perhaps you’re feeling like there’s no hope any more. And that’s just not true.

 You have an opportunity ahead of you to make this your best year yet. That’s not a cliché. This year is going to be what you make it. A blank slate ready to be written on; a new story to be written; a new life ready to be lived. An adventure ready to happen.

 It all has to begin with you. And your attitude and your outlook on life. What’s it going to be? More of the same? Or a new chapter? A new episode?

 It’s not just a resolution. It’s a life changing decision.

 And one only you can make. 

 Make it now. Before another day is over.

 What does the first page of your 2018 look like?